TechShop is what is known as a ‘maker space’. There are several of these types of places across the country that offer people access to shop equipment of all sorts that they either could not afford or don’t have room for. I looked at joining a few years ago. Back then, my primary focus was woodworking, and after touring the facility here, I saw that the only woodworking machines they had that I didn’t were a lathe and a CNC router. Since neither of those interested me at the time, I decided to pass.
A few years ago I started working more with metal. It started pretty innocently with a borrowed MIG welder and one simple repair. Now, I find that I want to spend as much time doing projects with metal as I do with wood, and my space hasn’t gotten any larger. So it was time to revisit my options. I took another tour and focused on the non-woodworking tools. The stuff they have includes, manual and CNC mills, CNC router, CNC Waterjet cutter, laser cutters, injection molding machine, blacksmithing furnace, powder coat oven, sandblaster, industrial sewing machines, 3D printers, a full sheet metal shop, two welding stations (mig/tig/oxy), and several other machines.
The catch: it was $1600/year, and you are required to pay to take a class ($80-$120 each) in the operation of each machine type, regardless of your experience level. Ouch.
Well, after some soul searching, I decided to take the plunge. Today I finished my first class, Basic Metalworking.
My takeaways in no particular order:
- The instructor was very knowledgeable. He was not a staff member, but rather a volunteer who taught in exchange for his membership. He had quite a lot of experience and was very easy to talk to.
- The classes were small. Max class size is usually 4 – 6, depending on the subject.
- The equipment wasn’t in the best of shape. Not really a surprise. It only takes a few people who don’t take care of things to make it harder on everyone else.
- The staff was pretty good about taking care of things once they were pointed out.
- The vertical bandsaw had a very dull blade. It did get replaced after we were done with it.
- The horizontal bandsaw had tracking issues, and the clamp was stripped in places. Staff member said they would ‘look into’ fixing it.
- The cold cut saw quit working after a few cuts. Staff member came and repaired the switch while we waited
- The hand tools and tooling was pretty sub par. Plan on bringing your own files, drill bits, and such.
I didn’t really learn anything new, but I did get a refresher on a few things and it was good to get a feel for how things work there. Tomorrow I’ll be actually learning something new: how to use an Edwards Ironworker. It should be fun.