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  • Sully

3D Printing History

On May 20, 1860, artist Leonard Volk created a plaster cast of Abraham Lincoln's hand after the Republican Party nominated him for the presidency. At the time, Lincoln's right hand was swollen from shaking hands with supporters, so he cut off a piece of broom handle to use as a steadying device while his hand was being cast. The resulting plaster cast has since become an iconic and historical artifact, representing a significant moment in Lincoln's political career.

The original casts of Lincoln's hand from the Smithsonian Collection

The plaster cast was digitized and added to the Smithsonian 3D collection. The 3D digitization program aims to create digital 3D models of artifacts and specimens from the Smithsonian collections.

I downloaded the model and printed a model of Abraham Lincoln's right hand, which held the piece of broomstick. I used a Lulzbot Mini 3D printer and some ColorFabb bronzeFill, a material made of 40% bronze and 60% PLA. It took several attempts to get the settings right, layers to thin, a clogged nozzle, and I even ran out of PLA.

A incomplete print showing the cross-hatched fill pattern. Photo by Marc Sitkin

Eventually , I was able to replicate the hand successfully.

The final print with support material on the printer bed. Photo by James Sullivan

After some post-processing to clean and shine up the model, I had a model of Abrabram Lincoln's hand. After examining it some and thinking about how this model had traveled forward in time, I did what only came naturally I picked up Lincoln's hand and did a fist bump.

The final print of Lincoln's hand. Photo by Marc Sitkin

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