It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t know what a Makerspace was. You can think of it this way: imagine that you have a neighbor with a really cool, well-equipped wood shop. Take your conception of “really cool and well-equipped” and go nuts with the idea. This wood shop has nice heavy duty versions of the standard machines, a dust collection system that leaves the place spotless and in the back corner a CNC router. Oh, and your neighbor is into creating with other materials too, so there is also a similarly equipped metal shop and machine shop. Wait, because we’re not done yet. On the premises there are also a couple of laser engravers, a 3D printer, a vacuum forming set up for plastics and last but not least, programmable sewing machines.
Last week I visited The Manufactory here in Cincinnati. It’s a great concept, one that’s been around other parts of the country for the last several years. It operates in a similar way to a health club; you take a few classes in safe use of the equipment, then you can decide how often you want to make use of the facility. Fees are reasonable, especially if you want to consider the cost of putting a Bridgeport mill in your basement, a plasma cutter in your garage and a CNC router in the shed. You can work for a day for $35, or pay $120/month. There are discounts for students, seniors and active-duty military members, as well as a special rate for family members.
A makerspace membership can replace a shop at home, or supplement it. It can also expand your capabilities and feed your imagination. Part of that is access to great equipment, but more important is the sense of community. Makerspaces are full of skilled, creative and imaginative people on staff and the members. Adding other materials to wood furniture is an idea I’m taken with. In my own shop that idea doesn’t go far because I don’t have access to the proper equipment, and my pockets aren’t deep enough to get set up. At the Manufactory, the cutting/welding shop is across the hall from the wood shop, and the machine shop is right next door.
Look around your neighborhood. Chances are pretty good that a makerspace has sprouted somewhere or is in the works. It’s worth a visit and an idea worth supporting. Making stuff is a wonderful thing, and places like the Manufactory make it a lot easier and a lot less of a solitary pursuit.