I’ve joined the Milwaukee Makerspace

Last Tuesday I signed up as a new member of the Milwaukee Makerspace, and I’m really pleased and excited about it.  What is a Makerspace? To be honest, until quite recently I had never heard of such a thing.  But here’s a little of what the Milwaukee Makerspace has to say about it :

Milwaukee Makerspace, at its heart, is a social club for people who like to build, invent, tinker and/or collect new skills and expand their minds. We have a wide range of skill sets in our membership and you’re likely to find someone who can talk about most any technical concept with you in a meaningful way. We are also a physical space where you can… have access to wide array of equipment you are not very likely to have at home… Plus, there are folks around the space that can give you tips and pointers on operating that equipment effectively.

We aim to foster a community of makers by providing an environment in terms of people, equipment and space that supports the creative process and personal growth…

In our space you’ll find people into electronics, robots, wood working, embedded software, metal working, music, art, video, photography, electric cars and much more. We’ve found that having such people pursuing their interests in close proximity to one another leads to a lot of productively, personal satisfaction and some amazing collaborative projects…

laser cut pattern in wood, detail
laser cut pattern in wood, detail view, my first makerspace project.

Pretty interesting, if you ask me. But here’s the part that’s really the hardest to believe. They just moved in to their new location… a building across the street from my house! This unmarked red-brick building that had been essentially unused all these years suddenly sprang into life, but with what?  I didn’t know.  I just knew that suddenly there were people working on it like mad…

Well now I know what it actually is, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  You see, for the past several years I’ve been working on this pattern project, and before that with simpler geometric mandalas.  On one hand learning how to make them with my computer (completely self-taught in computer graphics) while suspecting that the things I was working with were well suited to some technology I didn’t have access to.  Not to mention my earliest roots, where I was cutting out discs of wood to paint.  I’ve been tempted by that again as well.  But all those things were out of reach.. “if i had tools and a space to make a mess”, or “if I had a laser cutter or a cnc router…”.

The fact that a solution to all that just moved in across the street blows my mind.  They have tools and a place to make a mess.  They have laser cutters and a cnc router.  Already I’ve been able to actually USE a 60-watt laser cutter to try my hand at engraving / cutting one of my patterns into a piece of thin wood.  I think it looks amazing, though it didn’t quite come out perfectly.  Not bad for a first run though. The bigger one is actually cut right through, with just a thin lattice of wood left. You can see the pile of bits & pieces that fell out as the laser did it’s work:

laser cut pattern in wood, first test
First test of laser engraving and cutting thin plywood.

But what I really want to do next (and I will very soon) is to cut a stencil in cardboard so I can transfer a pattern to a larger surface for painting.  I have an 18″ x 24″ board ready to go and there is potential to be able to get significantly larger.  I’ve been working with 8.5″ x 11″ since it’s what I could work with easily.  The time to work bigger is approaching.  Stay tuned!