The Humpback Whale Project

I don’t recall exactly how I came up with this idea, but it was probably while I was trying to think of ocean-themed decor for the great room. I toyed with having the base of a glass-top coffee table be a whale, a la Robert Wyland, but figured it would be too much for the room. And sculptures for sale online were just way out of my price range, from $16,000 to $48,000. Right.

Now, maybe I’ve overreached here, but I found a 3D print file of a whale I really like and downloaded it (free!), and I had it printed at a shop near San Jose. I wanted it big – she’s 30 inches from nose to tail. They had to print it in 3 parts, she’s so big.

My ballena being printed

3D printing is done in layers, and it leaves horizontal rings with each layer. I spent a lot of time Googling the best way to smooth it down. Mine is made with PLA plastic, and it doesn’t smooth out with acetone like ABS plastic does. And I was hesitant to use the heat gun on it, afraid I’d wreck it. So. First I worked it with the Dremel, then I took Bondo Spot and Glazing Putty and worked it into all the rings. Then I sanded it down, which took several hours.

I plan to make a base out of epoxy resin that will hopefully look like water rising with the whale, something like this photo here…

…and she’ll be suspended on a clear acrylic dowel. Mark and I held her at different angles to determine the best one, and Mark drilled the hole for the dowel and inserted it. I sprayed on a layer of primer so I could check the surface. She’s still got too many print lines showing, so I’ve got more work to do. And she still needed more Bondo at the seams where they pieced her together, so I did that today. More Googling later, it looks like the best thing to do for the rings is to give her a coat of epoxy resin, and paint with acrylic paint (which I planned to do anyway).

So this is where I’m at. I need to order a few more materials, but for now I have enough epoxy resin to coat her with to get rid of the last of the print lines.

Check back for progress!

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