Solve 3D Ltd Accepted Into the Guild of Master Craftsmen

Solve 3D Ltd & The Guild of Master Craftsmen

We are delighted to announce that Solve 3D Ltd has been accepted as a corporate member to The Guild of Master Craftsmen. Membership serves to distance our offering from that of a Bureau & continues to emphasise our fuller skill set as both model designers & craftspeople.

Solve 3D Ltd achieve Corporate membership of The Guild of Master Craftsmen
Solve 3D Ltd achieve Corporate membership of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Throwing off the bureau tag.

Because of Chris Hill’s 30+ year association with product design & development, Solve 3D has in recent years been inadvertently slotted into the same category as rapid prototype bureau’s. This has been detrimental and resulted in general & poor quality enquiries that don’t take advantage of our range of skills. What we offer is unique & quite different with a strong emphasis on a highly creative, ‘artisan’ based skill set. This is fundamentally different from the mainly ‘technology’ based offerings. By being able to display the Guild Mark we hope to emphasise our ability to service a broader field of specialist project genres.

Museum, Heritage & Bespoke.

Since moving to our Yorkshire studio & workshop 2 1/2 years ago, we have experienced significant changes in the nature of our work. We have undertaken some very specialised projects in the luxury products sector, while transport work has kept us busy on the engineering side of things. The majority of Solve 3D’s work has been in areas such as Bespoke Furniture, Museum Exhibits (static & interactive), Scale Yachts, advertising & display & luxury packaging. As experienced and resourceful craftspeople, we have been engaged to undertake some more unusual restoration & heritage work.


Working in this location is inspirational and a real privilege. I believe this has a significant influence on the nature of the projects we seek & agree to undertake. For me, product design & development for the mass market lost its spark around 2008 when ‘time to market’ became the preeminent driver, rather than good, well-conceived products. Our diversification into more creative, artistic & artisan driven project work is certainly revitalising enjoyment in what we do. The Guild Mark is a real benefit and reinforces our intentions for the future.

Living & Working in the Yorkshire Wolds
Living & Working in the Yorkshire Wolds




Traditional Design Models: Tableware Study for theDivision.

It’s been a while since I posted anything in News & Views. I am pleased to say we have been extremely busy with some very interesting museum models. In general, 90% of my work is shrouded under a cloak of secrecy, very occasionally I can show a project.

New Work for theDivision
I am delighted to show these reference models of a new range of houseware for ‘theDivision’ design consultants. The models were created to demonstrate the exact form & finish expected of the final product.

Design Evaluation for theDivision.
Design Evaluation for theDivision.

I have worked with UK product designer David Tonge since 1992. At that time I was immersed in making concept GPS handsets, white goods & general consumer electronics.

David is a keen advocate of traditional model making as a serious tool for design evaluation.  Of all the designers I have worked with, only a handful truly understand that traditionally made models still represent the benchmark for 3D design evaluation.

The value of traditional model making is very much underplayed in this age of ‘rapid’ additive technologies, but I would argue that the skill is as relevant than ever. Having the knowledge & experience to select materials & processes most appropriate to each task, model makers are more able to produce models of consistent accuracy, form & finish. A significant number of our models have served as a reference for many years.  I know of models I made back in 1986 that still exist in the archives, but it was only when seeing models made by Le Corbusier on a visit to  MoMa in New York 4 years ago that the importance really hit me. Longevity is important, it reinforces evaluation & evolution, it serves to provide a clear reference point, & we learn from history right?

Form Finish & Materials
Traditionally made model demonstrating form finish & materials.

The Value of Traditional Skills in Design.

I am fascinated that the automotive industry still predominantly use clay modelling for their concept work. There are very real reasons for this but in my view, the major reason is having a ‘hands on’  understanding of the form and developing the subtleties on the fly. Ultimately, physical human interaction through every stage of design development generates emotional responses. Whether negative, positive or indifferent, understanding what triggers them throughout the process is an important function of good design. Form, texture, ergonomics detail & materials are such important elements that it is vital they are appreciated at all stages. Reference models put everything in context.

Machined & Finished High Density Epoxy. Oiled English Oak, Polished and Satin Stainless Steel.
Reference models machined & finished in high-density ceramic epoxy, oiled English Oak, polished & satin Stainless Steel.

The need for Model Makers to be Masters of all trades.

Reference models such as these, require mastery of a number of key skills. Every project requires mastery of different skills. In this case, precision metalwork, woodwork, CNC machining & finishing to perfection. An eye for form, how the light picks up on details & have those details been executed with sensitivity. I hope you agree we have hit the target?

CNC Machined model in authentic materials

Handmade – Richlite Clocks for Surface Matter


I was  recently Commissioned by Surface Matter to design & make a pair of quartz clocks to demonstrate the versatility of ‘Richlite’. As one of a number of ‘Artisan’, created pieces, they were exhibited  at the launch of their new showroom in London.

Typical Applications for Richlite

This bonded paper product is typically used in architecture, interior applications &  some very exciting furniture creations emerging from a small number of exclusive makers.

Material Characteristics

I have worked with this material on smaller scale products for some time and have developed a fascination with its it’s decorative properties, in particular its lack of uniformity when used for smaller objects. This simple design is hand made using ‘Rainier’ & ‘Diamond Black’  with brushed copper detail. The face presents a simple elegance while the reverse reveals a decorative surprise. The Richlite is finished with a furniture oil.


‘Richlite’ Hand Made Candle Holders by Christopher Hill

Reworking a 26 year old design, I happened upon the perfect material while making a lighting product. I noticed that it’s durability and machining characteristics were complemented by it’s unique aesthetic. Although the paper product Richlite has been around since 1943, it was not widely known outside the USA. The characteristics of exposed layering & discoloration add a unique visual character to the material, particularly when enhanced by the application of oil to the surface. While the boards are consistently manufactured to offer uniformity at larger ‘architectural’ scales, Richlite’s lack of uniformity when worked at the smaller scales delivers a truly unique character. Customisation includes the use of either precious metals such as 18K Gold or Platinum or base alloys such as bronze or naval brass.   The addition of the peelable silicone wax catcher offers both a practical & aesthetical, fully customisable solution. Each pair is hand made in England carries my makers mark.

‘Jaz’ is one of a series of  hand made Bespoke Editions. Demonstrating an evolution of this 1990 design and this extremely flambouyant version shows the surface quality of Rainier Richlite.  Pieces are hand made to order with a 12 week lead time and prices are confidential and only available via personal expression of  interest.

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Design Model for theDivision & Sunstar

Delighted to showcase this reference model, one of four designs,  made for product design consultants theDivision & their Client Sunstar. The model is CNC machined & hand finished and fabricated in Polyurethane & Acrylic. Sunstar has now launched E-Treatment for the Equitance brand in Japan.

The Division’s approach to design values simplicity, exquisite form, exceptional finish & precise detailing. It is always a pleasure to work on such great projects with David, Nicole & the team.

Read more about the story of this product on The Division web page.


Model Showing Precise Detail and Graphics
Front View
This semi-functional model deals with the subtle combination of soft feel coating and high gloss details.
Polished White Nozzle detail
Model Showing Polished White acrylic Nozzle detail
User Experience
Ergonomic Model

2016 New Design Yearbook / Traditional Model Making

year2Happy to have an entry in this year’s New Design Year Book showcasing some of the more unusual work I have engineered and made.

This seems to be my main area of work these days as the more traditional product models occupy the world of 3D print or are made cheaply in the Far East. I am finding that the model making, my primary focus is giving way to more design and engineering. Certainly, where projects rely on a complex mix of material and technologies the expertise of the traditional model maker seems to be a logical solution. I do worry that the new breed of model makers are not building the same knowledge base for the future, and that the drivers of the technology don’t believe this knowledge to be relevant. It is interesting though that technology has led to the ‘democratisation’ of prototyping through the use of 3D print media but has also spawned the democratisation of design, much the same as ‘Pro Tools’ has allowed anybody with a lap top to be a music producer. I can’t help but feel that the days of the large consultancy may be numbered but many, including myself would argue that should not be the case. Why? At the end of the day, throwing people and technology at a problem will not necessarily achieve the best result. It’s common sense that in the creative industries, the fundamentals of understanding, what adds value, is in the head of the creator. Creative restraint and tapping into the psychology of what makes a product truly great (and why people buy it) is still very much a human instinct.

Custom Stair Case By John Reeves

I love to showcase excellent craftsmanship and my Old friend and Colleague John Reeves has recently completed this superb oak stair case, custom fitted in the recently restored house of one of his friends in Hertfordshire. Apart from the geometrical challenges this piece is completely custom fitted with individually cut joints and lots of awkward angles.  A demonstration of fine craftsmanship combined with elegant solutions to challenging problems.

John has worked professionally as a traditional model maker since 1984 and in the late 80’s early 90’s we worked together producing models for the designers, advertising agencies and furniture makers from the Hackney Workshops of Forum. Over the years John has kept his traditional skills in our ever changing industry by creating a significant number of exquisite hand crafted pieces of the highest quality and working in a wide range of materials.


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Flying start to 2016

Glad to say, I am off to a flying start in 2016. The unpredictable nature of model making makes each year impossible to plan. You are lucky if you can see 4 weeks ahead! The projects that look to be on the horizon seem to be moving away from the ‘bits and bob’s that defined 2015, the parts of projects that for whatever reason (price or uncertainty) end up taking far longer than the time you are charging for. While these projects put food on the table (Just) they don’t hold the interest for me that a full projects does. Last year I had 3 great full design projects working with fabulous clients from overseas. Clients with balls and vision are hard to find and I found 3 new ones last year to add to my exclusive band of loyal and appreciative UK clients. Their enthusiasm and drive is quite inspirational and lifts one’s spirit from the day to day drudge of supplying a ‘segment of a project’! I am really looking forward to contributing to more design history this year.

Glasgow School of Art Archive Piece

Delighted to have one of my models included in the Glasgow School of Art Archive.

The Award winning Aurora Forecast Station by Designer, Gemma Lord. A real pleasure to work with Gemma and a fabulous Idea.


Traditional Model Maker Required

I am seeking a talented traditional finish model maker with a minimum of 1 year commercial experience.

The position requires the candidate to have 1st class hand finishing & spray painting skills with exceptional attention to detail & hand/eye coordination. Problem solving skills & experience in the use of basic workshop equipment is essential. Experience in the use of CNC milling/turning an advantage. Must be able to work at YO25.

Competitive Rates

Please send details, CV and examples of work via the contact page.