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Using Blender For Real

Blender 3d article


It is pretty common to run around the Blender community and see some really nice renders and animations and fresh tutorials and all that on a daily basis, but it isn’t so common to see models that are made into physical objects. No, I’m not talking about 3D printing. I am talking about hands on building. With wood. And nails. And a handful of tools. Here’s the story:

Last weekend I built a horseshoe pit in my parent’s backyard and when it was done, we promptly whipped out the stakes and shoes and started playing. Everything worked out great and everyone was having fun. Anyways, the point of this is that I did my planning and my mockup of the each end of the horseshoe pit all in Blender.

This wasn’t just where I whipped out cubes, made something that looked like a horseshoe pit, decided I liked the design, and then did it. No, this model was to have precise measurements that I could use when putting it all together. Also, I only had 2x6 inch boards (which are really 1.5x5.5 inch boards) recycled from an old tree fort, which were previously recycled from an old deck we used to have.

This brought up the first challenge in Blender. I wanted to use inches, but I personally despise the way the Imperial setting treats integers as yards rather than feet. Even then, inches and decimals don’t work well together. I thought about using each Blender unit to be equivalent to an inch, but when you have 48 inches on one side the model gets really huge. But then I found a neat solution.

I modeled a board with the right proportions and then scaled my new board down in object mode to 1/12th it’s size and locked the scaling. I also figured that out too: If you are scaling, grabbing, rotating, or whatever and you enter “12 /”, that’s 12 then a forward slash, you’ll get 1/12 and the value is calculated out for you.

How does this solve anything? Well, when you go into edit mode and look into the Properties sidebar (N) you can find an Edge Length checkbox in the Mesh Display section. That allows you to see how long and edge is when selected in edit mode. But the great thing about scaling down in object mode and locking it was that now I could easily see the length of each edge in either feet or inches just by changing the transform values between local and global. Local was inches, Global was feet. If you download the model from the resources section, you can see what I mean.

After that, it was modeling away. Using Blender allowed me to make it look nice and use what knowledge I have about wood working to create a realistic mockup. I made tons of changes between what I had in my head to what came out in the model. For instance, I made few extra 45 degree cuts to make it all fancy and I resized the whole pit to make it more manageable. Plus, after simulating the dips in the dirt that will inevitably appear after some use, I realized my beams in the middle needed to be cut in half the long way (hot dog style!) to give enough room. That’s something I probably would have never noticed until too late had I just used my head, pencil and paper.

Finally, I just copied all the measurements down onto paper, scavenged wood from my tree fort and everything went smoothly from there! Check it out!


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  •  irascibleone / 2543 / AAA
    My bad. I tried updating the email checker to allow a larger variety of email types but broke it and I guess I didn't change it back. Should be working now though.
  •  anacraiga / 2 / unranked
    Really nice to know you can get edge measurement from prop panel.
    Great looking pits.