Yesterday, about 40 or so people gathered at TechShop Portland in Beaverton for our second venture into the wild and wooly suburbs.
Unfortunately, we conflicted with the opening day of InnoTech so many of the usual suspects weren’t able to make it.
I did see a lot of new faces, just like at Lunch 2.0 at the OTBC in January, which is a good thing. It’s always nice to meet new people or people you follow on Twitter but never see IRL because they live way far off in the ‘burbs.
TechShop is almost complete and ready for its official opening this coming Saturday, April 25. The warehouse area seems to be done, with only a few finishing touches and furniture remaining in the front office area.
To get us started, Denney Cole, our host, gave a quick intro about what is TechShop. The short version is it’s like a health club, for DIY people. You sign up to be a member, then you bring your projects.
What projects you ask?
Pretty much anything from soft goods (sewing, embroidery, upholstery) to wood-working (cutting, gluing, planing, sanding) to metal-working (melting, welding, grinding, cutting) to painting to robotics and electronics in any combination.
You could conceivably construct a couch from scratch, including the woodwork and finishing work at TechShop, or as Denney says, cut up the aluminum wheels on a junker, melt them down, and resurrect them as door handles and cabinet knobs.
Did I mention they have a laser etching machine too? That, apparently is the crown jewel of the original TechShop, in Menlo Park. I saw one of those in action at Web 2.0 Expo 2008, and that’s a fun toy to have at your disposal. The urge to etch can be strong.
Beyond providing tools and space to store your stuff, TechShop has classes. So you don’t kill, maim or embarrass yourself.
Wm Leler also talked about Open Tech Space, which is housed within TechShop.
Open Tech Space is a freely available gathering place for anyone interesting in creating prototypes, sharing and mentoring, and promoting business development in the technology and art communities. Even if you’re not a TechShop member, you can go to Open Tech Space and hang out with like-minded people. The goal is to put people with ideas together and encourage them to grow those ideas.
That’s really TechShop’s goal too.
After the talking, came the tour.
It’s probably best that we didn’t get a full crowd, since even with 40 people, it was a bit tough to hear Denney in the warehouse.
As we walked around, you could see the wheels turning in people’s heads. We like to build things, take them apart, improve them, and TechShop is full of the tools you need for that kind of learning. I overhead a few ideas flying around, and that’s the great thing about TechShop. It removes the sunk cost of buying and storing tools.
It also removes the spousal reminders to clean up your mess and finish the project already.
When we went outside to check out the furnaces, we got a sweet demonstration. One of the furnaces got a bit cranky and decided to shoot flames about ten feet in the air. Not as dangerous as it sounds and very cool. Don Park took some video of a different furnace that gives you an idea.
As the tour wrapped up at the laser etcher, Amye pointed out this friendly reminder on one of the large cutting devices, a Pexto Jump Shear, used to cut large pieces of sheet metal.
After the tour ended, the lunch wound down as people wandered around more to soak in the awesome collection of toys, erm tools.
Thanks to Denney for having us. TechShop Portland officially opens on Saturday, April 25, and there will be an open house at 3 PM complete with demonstrations and ideally, fewer geysers of fire. Although, I enjoyed that.
Don’t forget these Lunch 2.0s, coming soon:
If you’re wondering about the WebVisions’ lunch, it will be open to anyone, attending the conference or not. There’s also a rumor that Open Source Bridge may be hosting a lunch before the conference (June 17-19) sometime. Any ideas on venue? Drop a comment.