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A Quarantine Hobby

One student's 3D printer provided relief for hundreds of people.
John Ewing, NKU student
John Ewing was on a plane home from Florida when he received an email that Northern Kentucky University would immediately transition to an online-only environment. As his spring break came to an end, his quarantine began.

When the pandemic took hold and citizens were required to wear masks covering their noses and mouths to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the first-year marketing student found himself stuck at home in Edgewood, Kentucky.

“I have pretty severe asthma, so this hit close to home for me,” he says. “My doctor was worried about me going anywhere, so I was quarantined at home for several months.”

On top of that, John was furloughed from his part-time job at Best Buy in Florence, Kentucky.

But John didn’t let the pandemic slow him down. During the many months that he spent quarantined at home, he found himself using his 3D printer often to create new things every day: a charger mount, hooks for car keys or hats and a holder for his watch bands.

“None of us had worn masks for an extended period of time—or at all. It’s uncomfortable. The whole point of these clips was to get stress off the ears.”

“I’m a big nerd basically,” he says. “I love designing and figuring out how things work. I swapped the transmission in my car in a day. It’s not work for me. I enjoy it.”

During the earlier months of the pandemic, John heard that nurses working with COVID patients were having trouble with the constant rubbing of the elastic from masks on their ears. His neighbor, a nurse, also had trouble fitting masks around her curly hair. John used his 3D printer to make masks clips for her and several other nurses. Those clips allowed them to clip the two bands behind their heads and release tension off their ears.

“I won’t take credit for the design,” he says. “None of us had worn masks for an extended period of time—or at all. It’s uncomfortable. The whole point of these clips was to get stress off the ears.”

John was also still in contact with his boss at Best Buy and other employees who were working at the store, and he made masks clips for them as well.

“He liked it so much that I made clips for my store in Florence,” he says. “And then he showed someone else, so I ended up printing nearly 500 masks clips for employees at two other local Best Buy stores in Eastgate and Western Hills.”

He also made clips for more than 80 employees at a local Chick-fil-A restaurant.

John was able to make hundreds of mask clips during the first few months of the pandemic, and each clip only took approximately 20 minutes to make.

“When I first started making the clips, there weren’t products on the market yet,” he says. “There was a big community behind these 3D printers.”

Now that more popular rubber clips have come out on the market and John has returned to work at Best Buy, he’s not making them nearly as much. It’s more of a hobby for him, but he enjoys making custom mask clips for family and friends with their names or favorite superhero, like Captain America.

Using his 3D printer started out as a favor for a neighbor, but it made a huge impact on the community.

“I was really lucky to have the materials and the printer here to do this at home,” he says. “Everything was out of stock once the pandemic hit. I was much happier that I was able to make things while I was at home for months on end.”

About This Article

Jayna Morris
Jayna Morris
Editor, NKU Magazine
Published March 2021
Photography by Scott Beseler

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