@ewertz: The training that you mention is definitely NOT free [...] If I was made of money, I'd definitely join again. In the abstract, I really, really like the concept -- I hope they can make it work.
Thanks for the info -- I stand corrected -- my problem about joining would be lack of time -- but there is a local MakerSpace that's started here in Huntsville -- I really shoudl take the time to at least stick my nose in through the door to say "Hello"
all the members pay a fixed monthly fee -- for that you get access to everything in the building, plus free training by their on-staff experts. Some devices that are expensive to run - -like the water cutter table -- might incur an aditional fee.
The training that you mention is definitely NOT free, but to a first approximation the rest of your statement is correct. Training, or a formal exemption from, is mandatory for almost every class of device that's there. Certain devices may require multiple classes, each priced <insert adverb here>. This is definitely an extra expense that you may not fully appreciate beforehand unless you do all of your homework. The training may or may not have value to you, but it most cases it will have some, if nothing else as a welcome refresher. The required classes' focus is first on safety and to a lesser extent on function. Classes may not as available as frequently as you'd like, so you may have to wait a few weeks to get into a class, only after which can you use the equipment. You pay for this because you're still being charged the monthly fee while you're waiting. In a few cases you can delay your sign-up by taking classes in advance without being a member, but you can't touch the equipment again until you pay and the clock starts ticking.
To actually learn how to use a device effectively there are lots of other classes you can take, but past the intro class, they may (or may not) be optional. If you don't take the classes, you're probably going to waste time and material, but one way or another, you may have to invest a lot to get to the point you want to be. Some hardware and some software can take a LOT of time to learn to accomplish your particular goals. It is *easy* for a novice to grossly underestimate how much time (a.k.a. money) it can take to become functional on any device/program. The expense can add-up very quickly.
Many/most of the consumables are on the subscriber to supply, or pay for there on-site at some <insert your adjective here> markup. Once you get past the exploring stage, you want to start thinking about bringing your own blades, bits, etc. because there's no guarantee that what's freely available will fit your needs.
Whether or not any given piece of equipment works on any given day is always an open question. Some machines don't work for weeks or months at a time. Other popular machines have to be reserved in advance and you may never be able to get as much time on them as you'd like. The laser cutters are particularly popular. Once demand gets high enough for long enough (and maybe once enough people complain), more equipment can (and sometimes does) get acquired. Some machine types seem never to get used, and a few are busy dawn to dusk.
One probably can't appreciate all of the ins-and-outs of setups like this until one has tried them. But I can tell you first-hand that it's pretty easy to drop a cool grand or two and end up without much to show for it. In hindsight I would have been better off buying my own equipment for most of what I wanted to do. However, your mileage can easily vary greatly depending on your own usage patterns. In some cases it can be a decent deal, it depends on what your expectations and needs are. If you have absolutely zero space to work at home, this may be a pretty good fit. But hauling all of your stuff in and out every visit does get pretty old, pretty quickly... :-(
The employees may be the best thing about the place. They're generally very knowledgeable and friendly. Getting specific help in specific areas can be a little challenging, but eventually you'll find someone that probably knows exactly what you need. They don't mill around asking you how they can help you, you have to go and corner them yourself. Many seem to be working on their own projects (or or off the clock, I can't tell), but they're all very approachable. A good, domain-specific user group on the intertubes is still going to be a necessity for many people though when you're in your design stage.
The only flat-out "lie" is the old "prices will never be this low again" nearly annual pitch. I've seen this not be the case multiple times, although I'll grant that it may be true more often than not (see also, "Sales Trick #1").
If I was made of money, I'd definitely join again. In the abstract, I really, really like the concept -- I hope they can make it work.
Oh, so you probably actually learned something? Nice. I slugged parts for my old man when the real help was busy doing the important things that you learned to do. So all my knowledge came via osmisis. Literally, I think it got into me through the cutting oil.
@C VanDorne: Btw, I know all too well how a machine shop works, being that there was one in the garage during my youth.
I did metal work (shop) at high-school. Later, my degree was a type of co-op thing -- 12 months in, 6 months out type thing -- one of my two periods out was at Rolls Royce during which I (and a bunch of other students) went through a 3-year apprenticship program in 6 months -- lathes, drills, mills, grinders, welding (argon arc, electric arc, oxy acetylene), hydraulics ... it was wonderful stuff
@C VanDrne: Good for you. And on a different subject did you happen to inquire the owners how they're making money at these places? Is it an hourly rental fee for each station, time in the door, or maybe flat rate by the project?
Are you talking about the TechShop/MakerSpace places? If so, my understanding is that all the members pay a fixed monthly fee -- for that you get access to everything in the building, plus free training by their on-staff experts. Some devices that are expensive to run - -like the water cutter table -- might incur an aditional fee.
Good for you. And on a different subject did you happen to inquire the owners how they're making money at these places? Is it an hourly rental fee for each station, time in the door, or maybe flat rate by the project?
@C VanDorne: And from the days when America used to manufacture stuff, I bet there a hundred old machinists around who would take the gig of manning this machinery for peanuts.
I think some of the TechShops and MakerSpaces might have this sort of stuff -- I saw one with a huge water table cutter. I agree that it would be GREAT to get old machinists in there teaching.
I just got back from a quick trip to an antique furniture restoration and reproduction place down town -- just three guys -- two older ones and a 26-year old who is learning the trade -- I told the 26 year old that he's learning a trade that will keep him going the rest of his life.
Not everything wants to be plastic. Metal and works better for some things, so how about the basics of a machine shop: an engine lathe, a Bridgeport mill, a surface grinder, a band saw, an upright drill and a few sheet metal bending machines. And from the days when America used to manufacture stuff, I bet there a hundred old machinists around who would take the gig of manning this machinery for peanuts.