It’s easy enough to go down to the shops and buy a comb, of course. But where’s the fun in that? And what do you do if you’re about to go out and you don’t have a comb in the house? There are many reasons why printing your own comb is a good idea. We’ve looked at six of the best as published on Thingiverse, and tested them to see which perform best.
We asked Michael Ptootch, creative director at the Flaxon Ptootch hair salon and art gallery in London’s fashionable Camden Town, to evaluate each comb from a professional’s point of view. His comments are at the end of each entry.
The combs are rather tricky objects to print, as there’s a lot of going back and forth up each tooth. You’ll need to ensure your printer is retracting properly, to avoid getting strings of filament stretched between each one.
Here are our results. Printing times are based on our own machine, and will vary depending on the equipment you use. The timings are given for comparison only.
1 Engineer Comb
Time to print: 58 minutes
BEST FOR: LONG THICK HAIR
Download This comb, says its designer, is especially designed for “the engineer’s magnificent head of hair (i.e. long hair paired with the absence of hair care)”. Whatever your views on engineers, it’s certainly a great comb for those with long hair, behaving at times more like a brush.
We particularly like the engineering-style lattice construction of the handle, which adds a lot of strength without using a lot of filament.
Michael says: “It’s a little too flimsy, and the teeth are too blunt – they need to be more tapered. But the size and general smoothness are good, and it’s probably the best of the bunch.”
2 Combtastic! Tapered
Time to print: 39 minutes
BEST FOR: THICK HAIRDownload
This comb is a collaborative effort – based on a design uploaded to Thingiverse by Wicked Andy, this version by MacGyver has tapered teeth that make it glide through thick and often twisted hair that much more easily. It certainly makes a good job of sorting out tangled hair.
Our only problem with this is the word Combtastic set into the handle. The lettering lengthens print time considerably, as it’s a long and fiddly word that involves the print head having to make many detours; and we found it hard to make the word print effectively, with stringing occurring even when retraction was enabled. Remove the word, and we reckon it would be a much better comb.
Michael says: “The best with regards to rigidity, but the hard edges make it a little uncomfortable to use. The cutout word would harbour bacteria, which would be considered inappropriate in a professional environment. The teeth are also a little too sharp.”
3 Hair comb
Time to print: 37 minutes
BEST FOR: POCKET USE
DownloadThis design is the closest to a traditional comb, and it’s a solid, chunky implement that’s easy to print and which would slip easily into even the smallest pocket.
We’d prefer to see a little more tapering on the teeth, to give them a slightly sharper leading edge: as it stands they’re perhaps a little blunt, which can make it difficult to use on thick hair.
Michael says: “The teeth are too wide and too blunt. The teeth are as wide as the spacing between them, which means it skips over the hair rather than going into it. It looks like it has potential, but it’s hard to get it to go through your hair. Nice clean, long teeth, though.”
4 Wallet comb
Time to print: 40 minutes
BEST FOR: VERY FINE HAIR
DownloadWe like the idea of a comb that will slip into a wallet, and 2Robotguy’s slim design is about the size of a credit card. Without any tapering of the teeth, though, it can be hard to slide it into all but the very finest hair – and this isn’t helped by the fact that while the teeth are fairly wide, there’s only a tiny gap between them to allow the hair to slide in.
If you have fine hair, and a wallet, then this would be a great item to keep on you, but those with thick hair will want to look elsewhere.
Michael says: “The length is good, but they’re way too close together. The design is more like a nit comb. If the teeth were tapered, and the gaps were bigger, it would be a lot easier to use.”
5 A usable comb
Time to print: 16 minutes
BEST FOR: CAREFUL PRINTERS
DownloadWe really liked the idea of this comb – a tiny, pocket-sized implement with teeth that curl up off the print bed, providing a neat and elegant way to part your hair.
But, no matter how we tried, we were unable to get this comb to print correctly. The main body of the comb printed fine, but when it came to those raised teeth we simply found there wasn’t enough base for each tooth to build on, and we ended up with something of a mess.
We do think there’s real potential here, though, and if anyone reading this has any suggestions for how to print the comb effectively, do let us know.
Michael says: “The print quality makes this unworkable. Even if it were printed better, it’s really too small to be a serious comb.”
6 Butterfly knife comb
Time to print: 72 minutes
BEST FOR: AMUSEMENTDownload
There are several “butterfly knife” combs available on Thingiverse, but we reckon this is the most elegant. If you haven’t come across a butterfly knife comb before, think switchblade without the blade: this is a comb designed for show rather than serious use. Because the “blade” has to be enclosed inside the folding shell, it can’t be very wide. Instead, this one has a row of sharp, shark-like teeth that beat your hair into submission.
We’d prefer it if the comb were 100% printable: as it stands, you have to use a paperclip or piece of wire to hold all the parts together. You could try a nut and bolt, but that would mean drilling out the holes in the blade as they’re significantly smaller than the holes in the handle.
This comb doesn’t perform very well as a comb, since the blade tends to wobble about when the handles are open, but it’s designed more for show than for use.
Michael says: “The concept is all right, but it’s let down by its inability to function properly when it’s open. It’s a gimmick, but too much functionality has been sacrificed for the sake of a cool-looking object.”
Michael felt that there was real potential in these combs, and that there’s a good comb to be made from all the ideas here. They’d all be a lot better if a professional hairdresser had been consulted. So, in conjunction with 3D Genius, Michael is going to start again and see if we can design a comb that fits the bill – and that will provide the functionality demanded by a professional. Watch this space!
Flaxon Ptootch is located at 237 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2JT.