The Milwaukee Makerspace, an Urban Community Workshop
This guest post comes from Pete Prodoehl, a member of the Milwaukee Makerspace. When he’s not making things, Prodoehl runs the second oldest blog on the internet.
When I was growing up, my grandfather had an amazing basement workshop. It was filled with all sorts of hand tools, power tools, jars full of nuts and bolts, plenty of wood, and a giant workbench that could fit multiple projects. My father also had a nice workshop, slightly smaller, but still filled with plenty of tools to get the job done. Besides fixing things around the house, he built furniture and crafted some great-looking wooden cases. He had taken some night classes in woodworking when he was younger and throughout the years became skilled with the tools available to him.
I inherited their passion for building things. And, I was lucky enough to take a few shop classes in high school, but my own workshop is not as impressive as my predecessors. It’s in a little corner of my basement with a portable workbench and a small selection of tools. I do have an old table saw and a few other nicer power tools. But, I can’t really utilize it as a proper workshop because the basement is also home to our laundry area, arts & crafts area, a small photo studio, and our primary storage space, so I can’t exactly send sawdust flying everywhere, and even if I could, I don’t think I could fit anything larger than a few 6 foot 2x4s down there.
Now imagine your dream workshop… only instead of being in your basement, it’s in a large, wide-open building. Maybe you’re more interested in metalwork, like welding or casting, or you might be into 3D printing or need a place to create large-scale art, or wish you had a laser-cutter or a computer-controlled router, or the ability to etch your own circuit boards and use a well-equipped electronics lab with oscilloscopes and logic analyzers.
These dream workshops do exist. In cities around the country, these “makerspaces” are popping up wherever people come together with a desire to share knowledge, tools, space, and ideas. Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and Madison all have such spaces, and we’ve even got one right here–Milwaukee Makerspace.
Even if you won the lottery and decided to trick out your home workshop with every tool you could image, you’d still be missing the the most important element of a makerspace: the community. At the Milwaukee Makerspace there are over 40 members willing to share their varied skills with you. Maybe you’ve got a project idea that requires welding, but you’ve never welded before. Not a problem! There are many members who can give you a lesson and show you how it’s done. The story is the same for the woodworking equipment, the electronics lab, the laser cutter and the CNC router. If you’re not quite sure how to do something, someone will give you the direction to get started and give you advice along the way. (And hopefully you’ll be willing to do the same for others…) One thing the members believe is that we learn better when we learn together.
Milwaukee Makerspace is a member-based organization, and the members include artists, engineers, designers, scientists, software developers, hardware hackers, builders, tinkerers, and the curious. The term “skill collector” has been used numerous times to describe folks who love to learn new skills and add another item to their list of things they can do. For access to the space (and to pay for all the tools), there is a monthly membership fee, and you can think of it sort of like a gym membership, but instead of treadmills and personal trainers, there are tools, people who know how to use the tools and who can help you get started in making pretty much anything you can think of.
Milwaukee’s urban dwellers may love being in a downtown apartment or a well-maintained condo, but those places may not have a space where you can fire up a table saw or plug in a welder. So, if you’re looking for a space to work on your projects or a group of people you can learn from and collaborate with, consider stopping by Milwaukee Makerspace any Tuesday night at 7pm for the weekly meeting. You’ll find members discussing projects they are working on as well as group projects to get involved with, or you can take a tour and see what the group has to offer.
The Milwaukee Makerspace is located at 3073 S. Chase Ave, in Bldg 34. It’s a member-based organization with various levels of membership, and we’re always looking for new people to join us in making amazing things right here in our amazing city. Find out more information about us and our projects on our website: www.milwaukeemakerspace.org.