TechShop, the membership-based machine shop for DIY gearheads, has been a favorite of us here at Core for a while, getting glowing mentions here and here. The biggest criticism we've always had of the place is that there's only one of them, and it's in Menlo Park, CA, which is great if you're a Silicon Valley tool nerd but annoying if you're a tool nerd anywhere else.
Thankfully, that's starting to change: after more than a year of anticipation, several of the planned expansion locations are starting to see some action, first at the Durham, NC Techshop, whose building was previewed in July, and just last week in Portland, OR, where Core contributer Molly Purnell hopped on a bus to the industrial section of nearby Beaverton to check out the new space, and talk to some other excited makers. Here's what she found:
On the bus I get to know Dave, a self-proclaimed inventor and maker who's excited about TechShop's CNC router. Dave builds Fretted Dulcimers which are apparently coming back into fashion in the Japanese hand-made instrument market, and he needs access to the shop in order to build prototypes.
Dave seems to be the typical clientelle of TechShop; a maker with big dreams, little space, and no equipment. TechShop's goal is to remedy this situation for the 300 or so potential members that came to the opening event. TechShop plans to have milling machines, lathes, welders, a laser cutter, an electronics shop, blacksmithing tools, a finishing room, workstations, a 3D printer, and of course the coveted CNC router. Along with all of this equipment there will be a tool and materials shop, a small library and a communal kitchen.
The greatest benefit of Techshop will be the probable development of community. The owner of TechShop, Jim Newton and the Portland shop manager, Denney Cole, claim that the community is one of the greatest drawing powers for continued membership. Most builders know that another's experience and knowledge is the best tool available.In addition to the tools and community, TechShop will offer offices for rent so that businesses may be based out of the shop. This will include access to the machines and tools as well. The monthly cost for a membership is $125 while a yearly membership is $1000. There may be a special rate if you get in now, which I would recommend since there are only 500 available memberships. The anticipated opening date for TechShop Portland is December 15, 2008 and the hours will be 10am-9pm, 7 days a week. Eventually Denney would like to have the shop open 24 hrs a day. Jim and Denney hope to open an annex on the East Side as soon as possible, sparing us more long bus rides.