Your complete 3D building system

Successful building of 3 dimensional shapes with a 3d pen requires some gravity defying strategies. One of them is a simple 3D support system consisting of the 3D Mate mat and two simple supplemental tools which make it easy to build a variety of three dimensional shapes. While the mat is a ruler for the first two dimensions, the stand and a set of spacers is a guide for the third. Fortunately both tools are easy and inexpensive to make yourself and time spent making them is well worth it considering the possibilities it opens. You will be using these over and over again, possibly as often as your mat.


The dimensions of the stand can be customized to your preference and the size of your projects. The one shown here is 8” x 11” board with a 12 “wire and it is handy to have several longer interchangeable wires for taller projects.

If you don’t have access to a drill you can use 2” styrofoam pad covered with a heat proof surface instead of wood. However wood is preferable for durability and precision. It is important that the wire stays perpendicular to the work surface at all times.

You will need:

6” x 6”x 3/4” (15 cm x 15 cm x 2 cm) or bigger wooden board Wooden plaques from craft stores work well for this purpose and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

12” (30 cm) sturdy wire (approx. 1/16” dia.) Steel wire is preferable. Do not use wire that bends too easily. Alternatively a very thin knitting needle (US Size 0) with a trimmed end also works nicely and comes in convenient 14” length.

electric drill or drill press equipped with a drill bit the size of the wire



You will need:

156 skinny craft sticks  (5.75” long x 0.25”wide x 1/12”  thick)

Wood glue

Clamps or rubber bands

Colored markers 

Making your 3D building system



Locate the exact center of your board and drill a hole the size of your wire. Ensure the hole is as perpendicular as possible to ensure the exact centering of your projects. Insert the wire into your stand. Do NOT glue the wire in since you may choose to have several different lengths of wire for different heights of projects to use interchangeably.


Create stacks of craft sticks starting with a single one, going to 2 (3, 4, etc.) until you reach a stack of 12 which equals approximately one inch in height (if using the skinny sticks). Glue the stacks together and secure with clamps or rubber bands until dry. Spacers are usually used in pairs so make two sets.

Mark the glued stacks with numbers and color code them with colored markers to easily locate the matching pairs.

You are now ready to go 3D.

How to use the complete 3D building system

The 3D building system is a way to vertically join the components created by the 3D Mate mat - building the final shape upward layer by layer.

Make all your component shapes by starting with a small ball of the adhesive tack (or a small glass bead) in the center of your chosen template.  This will reserve an opening to slide the component onto the stand wire during the assembly process. Make sure the plastic from the pen ends up surrounding the bead completely creating a solid small circle with a round opening the size of the diameter of the stand wire.

Work from smaller shapes to larger ones (or same size to same size). Slide the bigger shape onto your stand rod first until it securely rests on the wooden surface, place the pair of spacers of a desired height on top of it and slide the smaller shape on until it rests flat on the top of the spacers. For a greater stability secure the sticks to the surface with small amounts of adhesive putty. With your 3d pen connect the point on the small shape to the same spot on the bottom larger one. Let the first connection cool enough to solidify the plastic completely and make another one on the opposite side. Once the first two opposite connections are stable it is safe to pull the spacers out. The shapes will now remain suspended in space over each other at the height determined by the spacers. Continue to bridge to connect the shapes at all the desired points. Bridging refers to connecting two points in space with your 3d pen. Whenever possible bridge from top to bottom to work with gravity and not against it.

The shapes in this example are now safely connected at 16 points but if a more solid surface is desired just keep adding connections dividing  the empty spaces in half and half again. Work around the shape in circles to prevent overheating any particular area too much which could lead to collapse of the unsupported upper parts of the project.To attach the next layer run the spatula under the bottom shape to loosen it from the wood and remove the first two connected shapes from the stand. Slide the next size shape on, top with spacers of a desired height and slide the first part of your project back on. Attach the same way now working from shape  #2 to shape #3.

You are now ready to try to build a project using this method. The lidded basket is a good introduction to the various aspects of this process.

Have fun!