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Picking Up Tricks of the Trades

In Makerspaces workshops, you can make most anything

North County High School juniors ­Carlton Atephor and Jaden Franklin, top, ­fulfill their community ­service requirement by ­helping to build shelves for the CAC Makerspace.
     My latest project is building a steam engine for a model railroad. 
     For project-hounds like me, each new ambition means new tools, which are fun but pricey. That’s a big commitment for a beginner. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to try a project, get some guidance and use some tools and supplies before having to buy your own? 
     Now there is.
 
Makerspaces? Places to Make 
     “A Makerspace is a shared workshop where members work on projects, collaborate with others and learn skills,” explained Russ Miller of the new Annapolis Makerspace. “Think of it as a gym where members pay a monthly fee, but instead of weight machines, members have access to many types of tools and equipment.”
     You might first take a Makerspace class to learn basic skills and safe operation of the tools and machines. Likely you’ll find other people with similar interests.
     Each Makerspace has its own facility, organization, specialty and funding, with monthly memberships discounted for students and seniors. All are reasonably priced considering what you get.
 
The Annapolis Makerspace
     “Everyone has their own interest, and they are varied,” said Jack Warpinski, president of the group of electronics hobbyists, programmers, 3D printer enthusiasts and woodworkers who merged their skills as the nonprofit Annapolis Makerspace. They rented a space off West Street by the National Guard Armory, donated or loaned tools, built workbenches and, by early August, were up and running. 
     “Right now we’re in startup mode,” Warpinski told me.
     Facilities include a computer lab with CAD software, an electronics station with test equipment, 3D printers and a wood shop with a CNC (computer-numeric-controlled) router. Membership is by the month, and classes are offered.
     “The Annapolis area is large enough to support a more substantial organization,” said Warpinski, “so I see us growing in members, square footage, tools, equipment and programs.”
     Microcontroller open houses Thursdays at 7pm, general meetings fourth Tuesday each month at 7pm: 42 Hudson St., Annapolis: www.makeannapolis.org. 
 
Chesapeake Arts Center Makerspace
     The Chesapeake Arts Center, housed in the old Brooklyn Park High School, since 2001 has been northern Anne Arundel County’s Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Now it’s broadened its plan to include technical arts.
     “It meshed with our community’s blue-collar roots in manufacturing and ship building,” headwoman Belinda Fraley Huesman told me. “There were a lot of things made in this area. We wanted to embrace who we were, who we are and lift up the neighborhood.”
     The new Makerspace has its grand opening Saturday September 30. It offers instruction and tools in wood shop, metal fabrication and welding, screen printing and textiles and electronics. There is also a computer lab, laser cutter, a CNC router and 3D printers.
     Mollie McElwain, the center’s education director, is in the thick of preparing for operations.
     “The curriculum for all the safety training is designed,” McElwain said. “We’re now looking for instructors with the specific skills and putting out a call for proposed classes.”
     Anne Arundel County and the state made grants of $90,000 for design and renovation of the space plus $100,000 for fit-up. Annual operating costs will be supported by Makerspace memberships and the Arts Center’s operating budget.
     Open house Saturday Sept. 30, 10am-5pm; open weekdays 10am-6pm, Saturdays 10am-noon. 194 Hammonds Ln., Brooklyn Park: www.chesapeakearts.org/makerspace.
 
Unallocated
     Unallocated is what Annapolis Makerspace could be seven years hence. In 2010, eight people with a shared interest in information security met in a local bar. Today Unallocated is a non-profit, membership cooperative with a facility in Severn and an extensive calendar of talks, seminars, classes and interest-group meetings, many open to the public.
     Stocked with some of the same tools common to other Makerspaces, like woodworking and 3-D printers, Unallocated focuses on all things computer: hardware, software and security, microprocessors and gaming, to mention just a few. There is a large server farm and many computers where members can tinker with both hardware and software. Unique offerings include ham radio and analog — traditional board — games. Most supplies were donated or loaned by members. Various levels of membership available, providing different levels of access
     Open houses Wednesdays at 7pm; check website for additional openings: 512 Shaw Court, Severn; ­www.unallocatedspace.org/uas.
 
The Foundery
     The Taj Mahal of local Makerspaces, The Foundery is a flourishing private enterprise. The facility is huge and very well equipped for a wide variety of hard and soft projects. The wood shop is extensive, and the metal shop well equipped with both machine tools and fabricating tools. Also on-site are a finishing shop with paint and powder coating booths, a blacksmithy, 3D printing, laser engravers and textile working, with embroidery and sewing machines and dress forms.
     The Foundery has recently switched from monthly memberships to pay-as-you-go. With discounts, a day pass can cost as little as $5. 
     The Port Covington area of southern Baltimore, where The Foundery is located, is an easy drive up Rt. 97, only a half hour from the Annapolis area.
     Bi-monthly open houses; open weekdays 9am-10pm, weekends 10am-5pm: 101 W. Dickman St., Baltimore: http://foundery.com.
 

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