8 parts and tools I plan to make with my new 3D printer

As an early Christmas present to one other, my wife and I finally pulled the trigger on a 3D printer, something we’ve both been wanting for quite a while. (It’s an Artillery Sidewinder X2 in case you were wondering.) I had kept seeing all sorts of tools, parts, and knickknacks that looked fun to make and tinker with, and I like the idea of designing parts and either printing a mold or using the lost PLA method of casting to be able to make parts in aluminum. That is a long-term goal, but for now, there are plenty of fun pieces that will be just fine printed in plastic. In the week or so that I’ve sifted through the .stl files on Thingiverse I’ve found several promising leads; here are the eight functional parts that I’m likely to print for myself, or in the case of the more universal parts, print as stocking stuffers this holiday season.

Garage tools and storage

My garage is tiny. What little pegboard space I have on the wall is already in short supply. This hammer rack is a lot more efficient than my current solution and it’s totally modular, so I can try just one to see if it works as designed before I use up a lot of filament.


Another place where my tools are scattered more widely than practical? Inside my toolbox. There are plenty of solutions to this common dilemma, and I could buy some for $8-10 each of course, but printing these simple angled organizers would take just a $1 or so of filament to produce.

Wrench Organizer

Plenty of other storage problem solvers can be found on Thingiverse, and this magnetic tape dispenser seems like a good solution for keeping a roll handy and ready to dispense.

Masking Tape Dispenser

Another item that’s great to have on hand, especially if you’re using masking tape not just to mask, but to label, is a Sharpie, and this magnetic mount holds a trio of them. I usually wish I had a black and silver on hand for marking most items, along with a black fine point. Because you can find plenty of variations on the same theme, a Thingiverse user has also shared a pegboard-mounted version that is labeled.

Sharpie mount

Parts specific to my daily driver

One of the greatest things about how affordable 3D printers and 3D design software have become is that users can design and share parts for vehicles that are long out of production. Even vehicles built in the late ’90s can have parts that are no longer made and/or difficult to find in junkyards. One such piece is the center console latch for 1997–2001 Jeep Cherokees. I know, because I own one.

Thingiverse user johhhnnie has designed a part that looks nearly identical to the factory plastic latch, but it has been, “thickened and gusseted in areas prone to failure on OEM parts.” Perfect!

Center console latch

More XJ parts include switch adapters for the center stack. Jeep switches are tough to find, but Toyota switches, which are slightly more narrow, are easy to come by. This small adapter allows those Toyota switches to mount into the factory Jeep switch panel.

Switch adapter

Just in case there’s a need for even more switches, there’s a 3D print for that as well. This panel holds six switches and keeps just one 12V socket, which is fine for me since I have no use for a cigarette lighter. That one circular opening for a 12V cigarette that remains on this design can be filled with a fused USB port to move the XJ Cherokee a bit closer to the 21st century,

97-01 Jeep Cherokee XJ Switch Panel

Speaking of not needing a cigarette lighter—I certainly don’t need an ashtray. On an XJ it’s located just aft of the shifter and is also another spot that’s perfect for switches, perhaps for front and rear electronic lockers that I want but don’t yet have. I think this simple panel with raised and angled switch pads is a nice solution if you need some extra real estate.

Ash tray replacement

As I’ve only had my 3D printer for about two weeks, the possibilities are just beginning to dawn on me. If any of you have suggestions for parts, tools, and trinkets that you’ve printed for your automotive hobby, please share in the comments.

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