Zheng’s Garden Guardian

zhengs garden guardian

downloadNecessity! Mother of invention and all that. One could, I suppose, just jam a wooden stake into the ground to prevent a garden hose from raking over one’s flowerbeds, but that would lack panache and, worse, deprive one of an opportunity to use a 3D printer and Bondo on the same project.

The first step in this design is grabbing a horse head off Thingiverse and modify it to suit my purposes. The original is almost exactly what I need, and with just a couple of tweaks I can have it atop my new garden guardian.

knight original

First, that mane! This chess piece was designed as part of an OpenGL chess application, and is by necessity low-polygon. Selecting just the mane and deleting the faces is pretty easy, and then it’s just a matter of closing up the holes.

remove mane

I’ll add a lattice to re-pose the horse so he’s got a more regal bearing: less Mr. Ed and more Seabiscuit. Normally the overhang under the chin would be a huge printing problem, but I’ll be splitting this model in half down the middle before printing. The only overhang I’ll need to be concerned with is the ears.

knight lattice

And it probably makes sense to smooth the model a bit at this point. Sometimes a one-size-fits-all smoothing algorithm can obscure important details, but I need some extra vertices so I can bump out the cheeks and nostrils.

knight smoothed

I’ve always been partial to the stylized manes on Tang Dynasty horse sculptures, so butch mohawk of awesome it is for this piece. Now he looks like Kallark the Gladiator as I start to sculpt his cheeks with Maya’s sculpt geometry tool.


Scratch that, I think he’s starting to resemble Benedict Cumberbatch. Must be the flared nostrils.

cumberbatch 1

The mane is looking a little blah and not very Tang dynasty, so I add some detail and some stylized bristle.

fancy mane

It’s easy to whip up a fluted cylinder for the base, and I rob a few bits from my Curtain Rod Bracket, +1 for the coiled rings at the top and bottom of the cylinder. They’ll help to catch a garden hose and keep it on the guardian.


Then I’ll split the model down the middle and carve out a nail-shaped recess before printing.


You can get one of these spikes at pretty much any hardware store.


Once the halves have been glued together, all one needs is a little Bondo to fill the seam before painting.


And then of course there’s sanding and buffing, and undercoating and overcoating and a second coat of paint and all the stuff one needs to do to make this look less like plastic. The rest of the post-production process is well-documented on my Instagram, including but not limited to the old straighten-out-the-PLA-by-putting-the-model-on-a-warm-skillet trick.

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