After the nightmarish experience I had carving stainless steel by hand with the Combat Knitting Needles, I decided to investigate other ways of creating complex non-rectilinear shapes in steel without resorting to casting (which I don’t have the facilities for). Eventually, I found my way to Shapeways, a 3D printing company that allows users to upload and print their CAD’ed objects in a variety of materials, from plastics to glass to steel, and even silver.
I first experimented with Shapeways’ production capabilities when making a small necklace pendant. I created the CAD model in AutoDesk Inventor (I’ve found that Inventor’s 3D text capabilities are better than Solidworks’, but that may have changed since I completed this project), using extruded letters as the basic components. My primary concern with this design was to keep the features as small and light as possible while still staying within the manufacturing constraints that Shapeways specifies for stainless steel. The pendant wound up being slightly larger than I had originally intended, but not excessively so – it measures roughly .75″ x .75″ x .125″.
I ordered 3 copies, so I could experiment with different finishing techniques. Shapeways tumble-polishes all stainless objects, but the surface finish still left something to be desired. I used a Dremel with a diamond-tip engraver to pick out details, followed by sanding with a flap wheel and polishing.