You may have seen the term Hackerspace thrown around here and there. Hackerspaces are DIY clubs, supported by modest membership fees, where hobbyists and enthusiasts meet to work on various projects.
Makerspaces are similar, but focus on offering creative and educational project opportunities for youngsters. I’ve been following news behind the nascent Makerspace movement with great interest, but cannot say that I’m pleased with their recent tool and supplies recommendations.
What Not to Buy for a Hackerspace or Makerspace
Stay away from cheap tools. Inexpensive tools are alright, but cheap tools will cause problems. If the club organizer has to go out and buy a replacement tool that fails the second time it’s used, there’s a drain in time, effort, and resources, not to mention lost time for anyone waiting for the tool.
Professional tools aren’t necessary, but stay away from super-cheap brands and retailers. All but the most specialty tools will be used often in a Hacker/Makerspace, and many homeowner-grade tools are not designed to meet such demands. Spending a little more upfront will greatly reduce replacement costs down the road.
What to Buy, and How Many of Each are Needed?
This is a tough question to answer, and I am working on preparing rough guidelines. The Makerspace list is a good start, but I disagree with many of their examples.
For general-purpose tools, such as pliers, cutters, and common screwdrivers, there should be one set for every 5-6 people. In a Makerspace setting built for 25 students, there may be times when the group is split up into smaller groups of 5. You want to ensure that each group has a set of tools.
For necessary but less frequently used tools, such as ball pein hammers, cordless drills, hacksaws, and wrench sets, perhaps start with one each for every 10-15 people.
For more expensive tools, those that won’t be used often, or tools that take up a lot of space, such as miter saws, drill presses, and scroll saws, plan to buy just one as space and finances allow.
Compromises can often be made if not enough tools are available. If a line regularly forms behind the scroll saw, you can purchase several coping saws or fretsaws instead of a second unit.
Look for Deals
If you’re buying $1000 or more in tools, there’s no reason to pay full retail prices. Look for quantity deals, and check out industrial suppliers as well. Smaller distributors will be more likely to cut you a break on pricing than large big-box retailers.
Share Your 2 Cents!
Please share your own opinions and recommendations! What would you do if tasked with choosing and buying tools for a 25-seat Hackerspace or Makerspace?