Print a new crescent wrench in your RV

author image

September 2, 2012

By Bob Difley

In high school I took a date to see the 3-D movie House of Wax with Vincent Price, one of the scariest actors around then. Axes and other lethal devices hurled at us from the screen, so real we all ducked and screamed and my date clung to me like I was the hero that would save her. That’s the part I liked.

The 3-D movies have changed quite a bit since then, but it’s still all a visual and not real image that appears coming at you. But if you talk 3-D in financial circles, it’s about 3-D printers. This is the next big thing that will change how we design, build prototypes, and manufacture just about anything.

It sounds like science fiction, a printer sitting on your desk that will print out a fully operable crescent wrench while you surf the web or have lunch. But i’ts for real.  Except for one tiny factor. The first 3-D printers cost in the 10s of thousands of dollars, a figure that your RVer budget might not cover.  But that was last year.

As things happen in the technical sphere, the more popular or acceptable a new technology becomes, the lower and faster it’s price drops. And in the case of 3-D printers, the drop is precipitous. You can now find the low end printers for $1,000. But it’s still a lot less expensive to pop out to Ace Hardware and buy a new crescent wrench than print one.

But wait. Just like zippers, cell phones, smart phones, tablet computers, and a host of other things that are now commonplace, 3-D printing will someday be there too–it’s not just conceptual, it is for real. Take for instance the latest accomplishment by 3-D geeks, a group of Belgian students that printed out parts of a race car. From design through assembly it took only three weeks and they have now raced it in Germany.

So what does this have to do with RVing. Nothing right now, except to see what is to come. Soon every RV will carry a 3-D printer on board, download designs and software for just about anything from the internet, order the required materials from Amazon, and then make their own stuff as needed. Need a solenoid for your furnace, print it. Need a new TV antenna because you just knocked the other one off your roof, print it. Want to add a solar panel to your system, print it.

Fantasy? Many scientists say not. Wouldn’t that be cool to be sitting out in the middle of a forest boondocking by a stream and you print out a fishing rod and reel–and the frying pan too to cook up your catch. You can read more about 3-D printing at Make Use Of, the racing car at Energy and Capital, and from Public Knowledge. You can also read about it at Wikipedia.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road. NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

Leave a Reply


  1. 3d movies give us some new way to see the movies in which we can feel the movie people. First time i saw this movie when I was in 8th standard.

  2. Pingback: The Unemployed Mom

  3. I would cut out the middle man and print the fish. Probably would be mighty tasty.

  4. John Dough

    This technology is currently being use to produce car parts for vehicles that have long been out of production and no spares are available. On a recent edition of Jay Leno’s Garage he used this technology to design a replica of a water pump for a car that stopped production in 1917. The factory part had a thin mounting flange that often broke. Jay replicated the water pump but added a thicker flange. Naturally once the plastic cast is made it must be sent off to a foundry for metal fabrication. But Jay’s said that this process cut his hand designing efforts by 95% reducing production costs by a wopping 80%. ‘More, Better, Faster”

    Who knows how far this technology will go to advance civilization. Having read the book “JOBS” about Apple’s Steven Jobs, it’s amazing how many people, often technical people, ridiculed his attempts to bring computer technology to the home in the 1970’s. Their comments were “how will the average person use this new technology”. So as you put down you iPad, iPhone, iPod. think about the shortsightedness of those “Experts”.

    I just happen not be of the “Luddite” (if you don’t know who a Luddite was, look it up) persuasion as many are when something new comes along..

    Having said all of this… I enjoy my Cougar TT in the wilderness. My wife an I do a lot of Dry the “outback”, sans humans. But we’ll set back to watch an episode of the “Modern Marvels” from a Satellite Dish receiving a signal from a machine orbiting high above the earth.

    OK…. I’m putting my soapbox away

  5. Florida Boy

    Never fails Butterbean must have something to say and as usual it is negative. I don’t know what has made him have such a negative outlook on life, but I have never known anyone who is this way every day.

  6. Per non essere dentro il capire il più delle volte, sono propenso a non gradite i messaggi su questo tema progressivamente ulteriore considerazione si sta scrivendo in modo, inoltre, i mezzi personali, dobbiamo dire che è davvero uno di quelli da ricordare bella pubblicazione.

  7. Gary Lee

    The technical things being printed are very impressive, although the person who printed parts for an AR-15 shows that there is an even scarier side. However, theya re also now testing this technique to print live, working, implanatable organs. Yes, you can apparently load a jet printer cartridge with living cells, and even living stem cells, and simultaneously print both the surgical foam matrix to support cell growth, and the various types of cells to construct things like an implantable liver.

    Sophia Loren is not that far away.

  8. Ron Butler

    Oh Bob, if I wanted to print something out in 3-D it sure wouldn’t be a fishing rod or tools!! How about something like Sophia Vigera or a Lindsey Vonn!!

  9. butterbean carpenter


  10. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Guru Bob,

    Did anybody ever tell you you spent too much time alone in the forest? PRINT A ROD& REEL, catch a fish, then PRINT A SKILLET to fry the fish!!!! You been hitting
    the wacky-backy tooooo much!!!! I’m agonna print me up a New Ford F350 dually and a coool Keystone Montana Mountaineer 5th wheel and come see you, OUT IN THE FOREST!!!!!

    EVEN FARFETCHED it’s a good article!!!!!!!

  11. richard7072

    This is more than my mind can fathom.

  12. Doug

    It’s one thing to print out a plastic crescent wrench—it’s quite another to print one made of hardened steel. Still, these are indeed exciting times we live in.