This week’s post is from Emily.
I’m in the business of makerspaces. I run a makerspace, and I am also part of the Southwest Ohio Makerspace Alliance. I spend most of my time professionally advocating for publically accessible makerspaces, such as stand-alone makerspace businesses or non-profits, or makerspaces within schools, libraries and even inside companies and other organizations. However, something I don’t usually have the opportunity to talk about is starting your own personal makerspace – in your home. Let’s face it, there are times when you really do need a public makerspace. Public makerspaces are a lot like joining a gym – they have the tools and equipment that you just don’t have the space or money to have at home, plus other makers around to motivate you and assist you with your project. But, just like sometimes you’d rather stay at home and work out to your old Richard Simmons video than go to the gym, there are times when you’d probably rather stay in your jammies and work in your own personal makerspace. So what are some things to consider when setting up your personal makerspace?
First, I would consider who will be using the space. Is this a place where you will work alone on your hobbies, or is the whole family joining in? Different ages, skill sets and interests will require different equipment and supplies. Anything from soldering irons and Arduinos, to construction paper, glitter and glue can be part of your family makerspace. You don’t have to be working on the same projects as other makers in your family to make together, but the projects should be compatible! My husband and I are both makers, but we have incompatible hobbies for a shared space. I like to sew, crochet and craft while he prefers woodworking and electronics. It wasn’t ideal for us to have sawdust and sewing machines in the same room, so we have separate rooms across the hall from each other in our basement.
Second, do you have a dedicated area in your home for a makerspace that is set up all the time, or do you need to create a portable makerspace that can be set up on the kitchen table or garage when needed and stored away when not in use? For a long time, I have not had a dedicated makerspace in my house, so I’ve had to get creative with how to store my works in progress. There are some great ideas on Pinterest and other places online on how to make portable convenient storage for various tools and supplies. My problem is that I’m not good about putting my toys away when not in use, so a dedicated room where I can close the door on my mess was an important part of keeping making a part of my home life. Electronics projects, knitting and crochet, drawing, and other small-part focused projects tend to be easier to work on in a non-dedicated workshop or makerspace.
Third, what is your budget? Do you have most of the equipment and supplies you need, or will you be investing in some special purchases? A 3D printer is a great investment for some makers, but others don’t have the space or budget to have their own and would rather join a public makerspace to get access to one (Ahem.). A good quality soldering iron is fairly inexpensive and does not take up much space. My philosophy is that I would rather use a public makerspace for large, expensive or complicated equipment that I need infrequently (think laser cutters, CNC mills, and 3D printers) while investing in quality smaller scale equipment that I use regularly (think sewing machines, hand tools, smaller power tools).
Supplies are also a consideration. We’ve all done it: you get halfway through a project and realize you needed M2 screws or turquoise thread or CA glue to get the job done. You run to the store, get the things you need (and probably a lot of other things you didn’t set out for too!), maybe swing by the grocery store, and by the time you get home the time you set aside to finish the project is gone. Keeping a reasonable stash of the supplies you use most often is a good idea, but it can easily get out of hand and veer into maker hoarding territory. Setting a budget and allocating only a certain amount of space for your stash ahead of time is a good way to keep the makerspace under control.
Bonus Points – consider making yourself a convenient carry-all for your projects so you can take them from your home makerspace to your favorite public makerspace! Sew a tote bag, build a wooden crate, upcycle a cigar box or even just decorate a plastic storage tub. If it’s easy to get your project from point A to point B, you’re more likely to reach out to your local public makerspace when you need help on the next step or access to specialized equipment.
What are your tips/tricks for creating your personal makerspace? Let us know in the comments.