Introduction: DIY Mr. Potato Head Throwback
I recently came across an old commercial for the original Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys and, well, I enjoyed it for a lot of different reasons. If you haven't seen it, it's a vintage classic (watch it HERE).
The history of Mr. Potato head toys is wonderful. The potato head itself wasn't included in the original concept. Instead, old school potato head kits were meant to be used on actual potatoes and offered full bodies and even cars for the potato family to get around in. And, the product wasn't limited to potatoes! Other vegetables were used as hilarious sidekicks in their promotional materials.
While the original toys may be hard to find, components that could be easily inserted into your own potatoes are simple and fun to model and 3D print. As a mom and an engineering teacher, this opens up the door to both formal classroom projects about additive manufacturing and silly summer activities for my kids. This Instructable will give you files you could simply print to use for your own Mr./Ms./Mx. Potato Head, but will also give you ideas for how to do this project independently or with students.
- Tinkercad (or similar 3D modeling software)
- 3D printer
- Filament (I used PLA but anything would work fine)
- An assortment of potatoes (or other firm vegetables)
Step 1: Gather Your Potatoes (or Vegetables)
Any potato (carrots, zucchini, turnip, etc.) should work for this project, so don't feel like you need to buy something specific.
Potatoes are super cheap, so I recommend buying a whole bag or at least enough so you can have fun testing out your pieces on different shape and size "heads". The amount of "heads" you need will also depend on how many parts you plan to design and/or print, so if you are making lots of different options you'll want lots of potato "heads" to design.
(If you are using this in the classroom, just buy a few bags of potatoes so kids can pick and choose. Potatoes are great for classroom projects because they last a long time and cost next to nothing. And even if they start sprouting eyes, that will only add to the personality of the final product!)
Step 2: Design Your Features
This step is optional since I am including files that will allow you to simply print standard parts in the next step, but in my opinion this step is what makes this project fun and useful in a classroom setting.
Making eyes, ears, or hair accessories for the potatoes is a great introductory Tinkercad project that gives users practice creating and modifying basic shapes in a creative and fun way. Plus, since Tinkercad is free and web-based, students can easily work on their designs remotely if needed.
To make your own parts (or have students design parts as a classroom project), I recommend the following approach:
- Measure a potato you have gathered (something that is somewhere in the middle of your whole crop, size-wise, is best).
- Model the potato roughly using the OVAL tool, making sure the length and width measurements match the potato (see picture above). This will be used as a visual reference to scale the components you create.
- Using the basic shapes and/or scribble tool, create basic facial body parts (such as eyes, ears, mouths, etc.).
- Then, using the cone tool, create a ~Ø5 mm x ~15 mm cone that will be used as the support that you stab into the potato to attach the components. (If you need to modify those dimensions slightly so you are able to attach it cleanly or hide it from view on your components, that will be fine. I don't recommend going below 5mm for the thickest portion, though, to avoid it breaking if you are using a firmer object like a sweet potato.)
- Join your shape with the cone.
- Repeat steps 3-5 as needed to fill up your potato-face-making tool kit.
- Reminder: You may need to use the mirror option to make a left and right side of some features (hands, ears, etc.)
(For a fun classroom extension, have students each design a few different parts that can then be combined to make a classroom set to enjoy.)
Step 3: 3D Print the Body Parts and Accessories
One you have created or selected the parts you want to use, the next step is simply to print them!
If you have used Tinkercad to create your own parts, simply export each accessory as an.stl file and open them in your 3D printer control software to begin printing. If you are using the parts supplied here, simply download the .stl files included and print away!
Whether or not you design your own parts or print the parts supplied below, here are a few things you should consider before printing.
- Feel free to scale up/down the given files to make them better work the head shape you have selected.
- Make sure to print the shoes with an infill of 50% or greater to make them a bit heavier (to help keep your potato people from tipping over)
Step 4: Make Potato People
For younger kids, putting the pieces in the potatoes and imaging a potato world to play in may be the final result of this project. For me (at 38 years old), however, I simply cannot stop thinking of hilarious (...at least to me) new pieces to add to my collection so I can create different scenes with my potato family of characters.
I'd love to see someone remix this into a stop motion video project, so if that is your niche, please get in touch! I'd love to make more parts for you as needed. :)
Runner Up in the
Potato Speed Challenge