The eyes have it

Generally speaking, a project more exciting than this rarely comes across my desk. The client,, simply said: here are the specs for the wheelbase of our new ground drone, now go and make whatever you want. Oh, and it has to be fire, bullet and bomb-resistant. And stealthy as well. But other than that, go wild.

My big question was: “But what will you call it?”

To which came the reply: “The Azrael MkIII”. Now that I would be persuaded by. So I designed something I would want to buy myself. Sadly, only three models will be made for civilian use, so get yours now while the going is good!

I like vents. Vents are good. And look cool.John C render 20eI wanted to put a remote-operated gatling on this. Client said no. Oh well. I didn’t quite get to design everything I wanted, in the end.Azrael MkIII



Wooden Bentleys with brass tyres

This might surprise you: not every Bentley is made out of steel. Or has rubber tyres. Not, that is, when they are pianos. Be comforted by the thought that I, too, had no idea that there was a brand of wooden instrument which rolls on brass instead of rubber that basks in the shadow of that famous marque.

My ignorance was dispelled by a good friend of mine, Eric Sievers of EMS Piano fame, who had run up against a sticky problem. He was in the process of repairing a piano of the aforementioned brand when the standards – the bits that hold the action in place – simultaneously split in two. Within the piano tuning and restoration trade, this sort of thing is not regarded as a good omen.



These parts are made of some kind of composite whose ingredients are as mysterious as the Mona Lisa’s smile, and repairing them proved to be an exercise in futility. Fortunately Eric knew of my CAD and 3D printing skills, and so popped over for a chinwag.

I sadly do not possess a 3D scanner, and please contact me should you wish to donate one to the cause, therefore some lateral thinking was required. Eric pointed out the critical dimensions and then left me to my devices.

This was a bit of a head scratcher. It’s very tricky to measure up something like this successfully without specialist equipment, and there was very little wiggle room. The piano was located beyond my meagre means of travel, my old mare being rather flat-footed these days, so it was case of reverse-engineering the damaged parts I had at hand and working with the piano restorer to ensure they would fit correctly.

Working around the lack of a 3D scanner (all donations towards one gratefully received) I scanned the standards on my trusty flatbed scanner, and used that as a starting point to model the new standards in Blender, the open-source 3D studio-in-a-box. This is not a flawless method, but comparing the scanned images with measurements taken with digital calipers, the results were pretty good.

full standard persepctive full standard top view full standard

Printing these beauties, however, was a bit of a challenge on my Ultimaker 2, both because they were slightly too large for the bed to be printed in one piece, and because they required support all over the show even if they would fit on the bed in the first place. To resolve that issue, I split each standard into three pieces which were glued together after the print. No support was therefore required, and they fitted into the printer really nicely.


IMG_6511 IMG_6510


Red filament was selected for the print simply because it was the soup-de-jour, i.e. that was what the machine was eating at the time. It’s no better at doing the job than, say, hot pink – which I don’t happen to stock anyway.

All in all, it worked out quite nicely and saved a dear old instrument from the Dreaded Doom of Destruction – chalk up another success story to open-source software and open-source 3D printing!

A wee dram of controversy

It’s not every day a client of mine hits the headlines, but this happened to Lehman Brothers whiskey, who had approached me to design their bottles.

I’m always up for a challenge, and had a stab at something just to get the ball rolling.

whiskey bottle v1.6

OK, it was nothing exciting, but the client had asked for something quiet and understated, and had provided the layout for the label.

The customer, of course, is always right, but in my usual forthright manner I told them that the whole thing looked really boring.

“You need to bold,” I said. “Wild. Shouty. And classy. All at the same time.”

After these deep and ponderous words, I held my breath until the client said cautiously: “Let me see what you have in mind.”

Thus was born a range of whisky bottles that are already gathering their own legend.

Ashes of Disaster

Ashes of Disaster





Preview your 3D prints

Recently I was approached to produce a cloak clasp consisting of two buzzard’s heads. Well, that part was easy enough, but in this case I realised the client needed something more than just render to look at.

Buzzards cloak clasp

So using the powers granted to my by sketchfab, I uploaded the model to a password-protected page for him to preview at his leisure, and here is the clever bit: in 3D, in any modern browser (i.e. Chrome or Firefox) without installing any additional software.

Marvellous what these new-fangled machines can do.

DIY design – artisan pizzeria


Artisan pizza store design

One of the most empowering facets of CG and the one-man-studio like me is that it allows clients to explore areas they would have never considered before.

A client recently approached me do help out with designing his wood-fired artisan pizzeria. It’s early days yet, and saving money is crucial for him. So we hashed out some ideas, and I lurched back into my cave to see what would appear.

Since I was able to show him exactly what I was thinking of, this allowed him to make some rapid decisions and save a huge amount of money over what he had originally budgeted.

The result which you see above took me all of one day to do. You can just imagine what an interior designer would charge for such a job, how long it would take to deliver and how much it would cost to have a place like this outfitted professionally.

Instead the client is simply waving around my renders to a carpenter, builder and a builder’s merchant and watching his vision coalesce into perfectly baked slices of Italian heaven. All by himself.

The new black for gold

GC render 14

Bling has evolved little over the millenia. It’s still lumps of gold or silver with optional chips of polished rocks. For absolutely ages, each piece of jewellery was a unique hand-made, one-off piece that was cherished by its owner and handed down to the next generation to be lost, pawned, broken or have it stolen.

Then the industrial revolution led to the mass-production of ugly baubles, and here we are today with the likes of Argos filled with gaudy baubles that lure the tasteless masses, built to last – oh at least a couple of years or so. I do not blame the aforementioned company, since they are merely selling what they know their customers will buy.

Today, though, a new revolution has been born, that combines mass-production with personalization – and that is the power of 3D printing.

It allows a designer to free their shackles of mediocrity and allow their design juices to flow freely and make things of wondrous beauty. Well, up to a point, anyway, becuase 3D printing is still quite pricey.

More importantly, it allows non-designers, ordinary people from all walks of life, to have work with a designer to create the piece they have in their minds but cannotdesign themselves.

One such client of mine, Christian Genco, was so thrilled about the whole process, he wrote a long post that makes for some quite interesting reading for the neophyte.

If you are after something unique, then why not contact me? Who know where this will take you.

CGI is the new real

For quite a while now I have had clients approach me to re-create existing products that they have failed to had photographed well. They are selling these products on Ebay, Amazon, their own websites and other online outlets and require high-quality, bright, sparkly and above oh-so-real images.

They can range from high-end watches to simple plastic utensils, with just about everything in between. CGI really is the new real these days…

LC gc render au01 CL render 09 JC cam render 15 0001 milkshake bar coffee RC render 15


Furniture design

When it comes to bespoke furniture, most people have only a vague idea of how to express what they want. This makes the carpenter’s job difficult, since not only do they have perfect their craft, they also have to somehow pick on the psychology and dark art of interpreting their client’s scribbles and grunts into something that is both aesthetically pleasing and practical to them.

This is where CG really brings this ancient craft into the 21st century.

The client wanted a fancy bookshelf, but wanted to see what it would look like before they ordered it; a good trick if you can do it.

In the end the result was quite successful, and the client received a preview that matched their expectations and the final result.

bookshelf preview front perspective bookshelf preview side perspective bookshelf delivered

Hmm, not what I expected, but cool nonetheless

This does happen on the odd occasion, and it is rather like receiving an unexpected gift, which I suppose it is in some way.

At the time, I was modelling a small gummi-bear type model. Having created the material for the small creature, I pressed the render button without thinking about where the camera was. What a surprise to see this.

red cut gem wallpaper

It warrants some serious experimentation, but will have to live at the bottom of a fairly long ‘to do’ list.

The material is really simple, but will need an HDRI environment to make this really work.

gummi bear material

Just create a simple model, apply the texture and place your camera inside your mesh. Voila! Magic. Now fiddle around with the camera’s lens length and scale your model in different directions without applying the scale.

Product magic

When Liz from wanted to preview the new models of their range their were working on, she new this was going to be a tricky one.

Created for

Created for

Created for

Created for

All of their products are made of perspex, which is a nightmare to photograph, and even harder to render. Numerous designers had a go, and not one of them managed to deliver anything near what she wanted to see.



Once Liz saw my glasses, however, she knew that her worries stopped right there. Clearly, when it comes to materials and lighting, I really know my stuff.

The only problem was that she was in a hurry. Big time. Three hours later, though, I had finished waving my wand, and there was another happy client.

Created for

Created for