Do you think 3D printing can help you with upcycling? You should! Upcycling can be frustrating - you get your newly acquired prized possession at home, only to find a part of it is missing. What can you do to rectify the situation? Use custom 3D printing, of course!
This is the story of how I saved a dressing table from going to landfill, upcycled it, and gave it a new life through 3D printing.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Just like most people nowadays, I am working from home, and constantly looking for ways to elevate my work space. I have gone through all the usual work-from-home 'locations' - I tried the kitchen table, I tried the sofa, I did some great work from bed, but all of it just made me realise how badly I need to set up a real work station, and finally get a desk.
Quickly after that, I decided a brand new desk would not be the right choice for me, so I started searching the internet for secondhand options - local selling pages, Facebook Marketplace, even Ebay. I couldn't quite find what I was looking for, but I knew I'd recognise it when I saw it.
And once I found it, it came from a rather unconventional place - a local Facebook group, focused on sustainability through exchanging and reusing items! Everything listed in the group is completely free, all someone needs to do is request the item and collect it!
This is how a nearly 20-year-old dressing table/desk came into my possession.
Image of the desk/dressing table, taken by the previous owner
READY, SET, UPCYCLE!
As you can see, it clearly needed some work to return it to its previous beauty, but it was big, it had storage, and it somehow was exactly what I was looking for! Having never upcycled anything before, I was ready for a challenge!
And a challenge it was.
The previous owner quickly mentioned that they were not able to find the mirror supports but assured me they'd keep looking and let me know if they reappeared so I can collect them. I didn't think too much of it at the time, I was just so excited to be getting a desk, and thought that the mirror supports aren't essential. I was wrong.
Before I realised my mistake in underestimating the importance of the mirror supports, I had to carry out the usual upcycling activities any devoted Upcycler and DIYer is familiar with - clean it, sand it, clean it, paint it, clean it... Pretty much in that order, followed by cleaning it again for good measure.
My efforts resulted in a beautiful desk. I was happy with my handiwork, but a beautiful desk is only half of what I was going for, I wanted a 2-in-1 dressing table and desk.
And I realised my mistake - without the supports, there was no way of attaching the mirror and keeping it stable. And it happens to be a very big mirror, so it was a huge safety hazard to just try and balance it on top of the desk.
The desk after initial upcycling - sanded and painted
This is where 3D printing entered my upcycling project. The mirror supports were gone, and I wasn't even sure what they were supposed to look like. I tried following the serial number written on the table in hopes of finding it listed anywhere online, so I could at least see what I'm trying to recreate. I had no luck with that. Who would've thought it'd be difficult to find information on something made in 2003?
The only way forward was to fully embrace my inner DIYer and do-it-myself. What I had to work with is that the desk has two small holes for the mirror supports, while the mirror itself has 2 hinges where the supports attach. I measured the diameter of the holes, I also measured how long the supports would need to be, and voilà, I had the measurements and a plan for re-creating the supports myself.
Hole on top of the desk
Hinge on the back of the mirror
Now that I had everything I needed, it was time to embrace another new experience - CAD design. It's rather lucky all I needed to recreate is a long thin cylinder, or this part of my adventure might have not worked out as easily.
I hadn't used CAD software before, but thankfully TinkerCAD is designed with usability in mind, so it is very intuitive and easy to use. TinkerCad also has a Ruler tool, which helped me make sure that the measurements within the .STL file were accurate to what I needed for the supports.
If you're thinking of using 3D printing for upcycling, try your hand at designing the missing/broken part. If it's way too elaborate, at 3D Print Works, we have professional CAD designers with over 20 years of experience who can create the .STL file for you. This is charged at £50/hour though, so you might want to look online for cheaper CAD design work. We can't guarantee it will be as skillfully made as our designers can do it, but there are low-cost options out there.
Creating the mirror support in TinkerCAD
The finished design - 3D View
3D PRINT WORKS TO THE RESCUE
Having created my first .STL file, I sent it off to get 3D printed, and soon after I was holding my creation in my hand! The moment of truth arrived. Had I measured everything correctly? Was my CAD work up to par? There was only one way to find out, so I started putting everything together.
The 3D printer mirror supports fresh out of their packaging.
View of the dressing table with the mirror supports now attached.
The mirror supports when attached to both the table and the mirror itself.
That's it - project complete! My desk was elevated into a gorgeous dressing table, and I couldn't be happier with the final result. It wouldn't have been possible to finish this upcycling project and return the dressing table to its former beauty without 3D printing. This adventure proved to me that upcycling and 3D printing truly are besties and go hand in hand! So, from now on when I think about repairs and DIY and upcycling, I'll always think of how 3D printing can help - because it can!