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Casting an 18th Century Spoon: Digital Techniques

by Bernard K. Means

On Friday, February 1, 2019, the Virtual Curation Laboratory was visited by Scott Sholz and James Stewart of Dumbarton House. They were in Richmond, Virginia, to pick up a ceramic sculpture I had 3-D scanned at Wilton House for an exhibit by artist Michelle Erickson, as well as a 3-D print made from that 3-D scan. This will be part of an exhibit featuring 3-D scanned and original objects at Dumbarton House. Another object that will be part of this exhibit that we 3-D scanned was from George Mason’s Gunston Hall, a brick with finger impressions perhaps from an enslaved laborer that made the brick. During their visit, I 3-D scanned a brass spoon mold with the express purpose of digitally casting a replica of an 18th century spoon, also for the forthcoming exhibit.


Each half of the spoon mold was 3-D scanned during this visit using a NextEngine Desktop 3-D scanner. They were then edited using the ScanStudio HD software and exported as STL files.


Digitally casting the spoon involved using the free program MeshMixer. First, one half of the spoon mold was imported.


Next, the second half of the spoon mold was imported into the same file. It is advisable to save at each step to avoid losing work in case the program crashes.


The second half of the spoon mold was then moved to line up with the first half of the spoon mold.


Both halves were digitally combined into a single file.


A cylindrical shape was then added using the MeshMixer program.


Using the Boolean function, the combined mold halves were subtracted from the shape. Editing tools were used to remove the extraneous aspects of the cylinder from around the spoon.


The result was a spoon that still had attached the pour spout that would have been useful when pouring lead into the original mold.


The selection tool was then used to remove the pour spout.


Now we have an 18th-century spoon, ready for 3-D printing.