I went to the open house for TechShop Portland the other night. For those that have not heard of TechShop (I hadn’t until just last weekend), it is a sort of co-op machine shop. They described it something like “start out with a gym, then remove the useless stuff like exercise equipment, then bring in machine tools.” You pay a monthly or annual fee and have free access to the machines. They have everything from laser cutters, CNC machines, 3D printers, lathes, welders, woodworking tools, and whatnot. The machines that are dangerous enough that you might damage yourself or the tool require some basic certification. Additionally (and I’m especially looking forward to this), you can take classes there without being a member. In that way, if you like the idea of TechShop but are not sure what you would build or how you would build it, you can learn more about the tools and methods first before sinking money into a membership.
I think that I am mainly interested in the laser cutter and 3D printer. I remember seeing an iPhone stand made of plexiglass on Make a while ago that was laser cut and thinking to myself that it’s not too different from a lot of the paper-folding stuff I’m into. It’s just a matter of tab A into slot B. Of course, there are places like Ponoko that you can send your files off to have cut for you, but the turnaround time on a laser-cutter a few miles away is appealing.
Do you know what else is strangely appealing? The thought of taking classes in something extremely low-tech, like blacksmithing–which they will, of course, offer.