What To Know About Shared Makerspaces
Essentially a DIY cooperative, it's easy to find one near you to affordably share tools, space and knowledge to make most anything you want.
I was a wannabe DIYer for decades because I didn’t have tools or space to take on projects. I was afraid I’d spend a small fortune buying tools and creating a workshop and never get a return on my investment, because I lacked confidence in my skills. Then I worried I’d have to spend more money to hire a pro to finish the projects I botched.
The good news is, I found a job where I had access to whatever tools and workspace I wanted! I finally experienced the glories (usually) of the DIY world.
Today’s wannabe DIYers are lucky that shared makerspaces are opening all over the world at a rapid pace. What’s a shared makerspace? In a nutshell, it’s a community workshop where members share tools, space and knowledge. If you want to make a table but aren’t sure how, a makerspace can guide you start to finish.
What Do Makerspaces Offer?
“We operate a lot like a fitness gym, sharing equipment and space,” says Chris Smith, owner of Minnesota Makerspace in Brainerd, Minnesota.
“If people don’t have space or the $30,000 to $40,000 to invest in a CNC [computer numerical control] machine and other tools in a shop, they now have the ability to use tools and equipment for a small monthly fee. It’s a low cost/low risk option.”
There are all kinds of makerspaces for hobbyists, students, inventors and entrepreneurs, according to Makerspaces.com. They can feature woodworking, metal fabrication, 3D printing, laser cutting, screen printing, electronics, robotics, sewing and whatever else members are interested in.
The basic concept of sharing tools and workspace applies to all makerspaces, and Smith says these are growing in the U.S. by about 60% per year.
Smith took out a $50,000 loan to start his makerspace that focuses on woodworking. All makerspaces offer the following:
You can pay daily, monthly or annually. Requires orientation and training to become familiar with tools and equipment.
At Minnesota Makerspace, you’ll find these tools and more:
- Drum sander;
- 3D printers;
- CNC machine;
- Drill press;
- Table saw;
- Basic hand tools;
- Miter saw;
- Panel saw;
- Scroll saws;
- Wood lathe.
Know-How and Classes
Besides access to equipment, Minnesota Makerspace and other makerspaces offer:
- Free education through training videos on the website;
- Discount rates on materials and classes;
- Knowledge from other members;
- Opportunities to be a part of community projects.
“We allow people to enter with an idea and leave with a completed project,” says Smith. “It can even be a space for entrepreneurs to use as a stepping stone to their own business.
“The best part is that maker spaces are communal. We strive for a friendly and ‘there are no bad questions’ -type of atmosphere. The mission is to work together to learn, collaborate and share.”
How Much Do Makerspaces Charge?
Membership fees vary by location and services offered (see examples below). Smith says the ballpark monthly cost is usually $25 to $100. His most popular fee is $100 per month, but he offers a daily fee of $25 and a two-day $50 option.
How Do I Find a Makerspace Near Me?
Check out the Makerspace Directory, which lists locations all over the world.
Smith says the best way to find a makerspace near you is simply searching online. I found three that way in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
- Twin Cities Makers allows members 24/7 access to its workshop, and offers classes like laser cutter basics and CNC orientation. A recurring monthly membership is $65, but a new membership system is coming.
- Mpls Make provides an 8,500-square-foot workshop with a 20-foot ceiling and a full dust collection system. It features a sawmill and metal shop, and offers classes in welding, cutting boards, coffee tables and Scandinavian knives. Membership starts at $230 per month.
- White Bear Makerspace offers classes and a chance to sell your creations in a craft fair. You can also work on commissioned and wedding products. Membership starts at $387 for three months, and there’s also a five-day/$125 option.
Comparing the Minneapolis-St. Paul membership prices with other parts of the country, I found:
- 757 Makerspace in Norfolk, Virginia, is $175 per month;
- Area 515 Des Moines (Iowa) Makerspace has a $40 monthly membership fee;
- Eugene (Oregon) Makerspace membership starts at $35 per month.