Makers in the Mall

My local mall lost a large, two story corner-store. Sad that they made it so far into the economy dive just to die now. On Main Street of the same town, half the shops are closed, including a knitting store.

I think that making the large empty retail space into a maker/hacker space would be an interesting idea. The food court is nearby, there is already a Radio Shack, Book store & Sears (hand tools) on site.

A maker/hacker space is a space where you can get together with other people with common interests and make stuff. There is tools and materials available on location that you may not have at home. You pay a monthly fee ‘dues’ to support the space.

Member Area

On the 2ndfloor I would put the main maker/hacker space. The center area, where the escalators & elevator go would be the common area. Couches & tables for sitting and talking smack about each other’s projects. Also rows of work benches for doing various projects.

Equipment and tools with safety considerations (basically all power tools) would be behind a glass wall where members can ‘badge’ their way in once they have been safety certified for all gear in that room. This would allow people at the mall to see what’s going on, but be kept away from the power-saws. (hey, insurance & liability is a big thing) This would also help with noise from things like the wood working power tools from drowning out the people doing musical electronics. The space is big enough to have dozens of ‘shops’ set up like this. Glass fronts so people can safely watch all the making. The glassed in workshops would be a fire-break in case somebody starts something on fire. It would also keep the saw-dust out of the pottery wheels. I’d have a couple of classroom/conference rooms as well.

Some of the ‘shops’ I’d see having:

  • Hand tool only wood working
  • Basic power tools wood working
  • Advanced power tools wood working
  • pottery area with kiln
  • electronics lab
  • programming lab
  • basic metal shop
  • intermediate metal shop (basic power tools)
  • welding booths
  • blacksmithy
  • sewing shop
  • demonstration kitchens
All the workshops would be RFID/barcode badge controlled. Each member has a ‘reputation’ based on how they interact with other members as well as a ‘patch’ system where they can show off all the things they have done (think girl/boyscouts). Members would need to get safety certified before their badge will let them into that shop.  Hand tools would be ‘checked in/out’ with your badge kinda like a self-check-out at a store. Power tools would be badge/card activated like a slot machine to both verify ‘safety certification’ as well as to gauge the rate of  any ‘consumables’. Logging tool usage would help control people from using up $1k in welding gasses a month. They’d have to buy any extra stuff that they used. Shop time/tools could be reserved ahead of time with your badge. People can also ‘rate’ the shop/tool ‘state’. If there is a problem, such as a shop was not left clean, a tool was worn out or damaged you could report the issue and the previous user would get ‘dinged’. Reported safety violations or failure to clean the work space could prevent you from renewing your membership or result in higher dues. Things like worn out saw blades would be ‘graced’ if they are at their expected end of lifetime, but if it was new and you ate a nail with it, you bought it (debited against your consumables alotment.)
There could be ‘tiered’ membership. Basic membership gets you full access to all common areas and most work areas. Work areas that have a high-cost of consumables would require a ‘premium’ membership that you could opt into on a month by month basis or maybe an a-la-carte usage- like the welding stations.
Non Member Area
On the main floor, I would have many small ‘crafting boutiques’ and repair shops.
The repair services would be a common location where people could bring their stuff to get it fixed. Stuff like a jewelry repair shop, electronics repair, small machine shop for metalwork, carpenter for wood-work repair, upholsterer, electrician (fixing lamps, etc.). Again, these would be glass fronted workshops where people can watch craftsmen do their thing – Like the bakery with all their mixers & such in the window. The craftsmen won’t have to stop and answer a million questions while they work. They could have a common ‘register’ person or their own. They can also sell their products in the ‘craft shop’ located on the floor by the main entry to the mall.
The boutiques would would be small specialized shops that may or may not have their own work area. They serve 2 purposes, non-members can buy and build right there and the members ‘upstairs’ have a ready source of raw materials. I could see things like a pottery glazing place, stained glass, beadery, hobby shop(s), various craft stores, etc.
A store like a bead store could have a few tables outside the store where people could sit and make the bracelets on benches that are designed to catch beads that rolled away. The beadwork isn’t happening inside the store so inventory is less likely to ‘disappear’ but the instant gratification of making something also occurs right there. Also the item can be finished with a quick purchase of that 1 more item inside the store.
The ‘craft shop’ could sell items on consignment from both the vendors on the main floor as well as ‘stuff’ made by the members. Possibly also stuff from ‘outside’.
There could be a exhibition ‘hall’ – display cases to showcase member & vendor’s creations. There could also be a demonstration arena for public presentations, robot demonstrations, etc.

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Bella’s play barn phase one.

A trailerload of pallets & shipping crate, half tore down and ready to re-use.
A trailerload of pallets & shipping crate, half tore down and ready to re-use.

I was offered a bunch of wood at work, pallets and a shipping crate. Once I got them home, I got to looking at that shipping crate and thought that I should make something useful out of it.

Like a play house for Bella.

So I started planning one. Rolling the idea around in my head. I came up with a really fancy idea of a little house, porch, shed, etc. Then I decided I wanted to make all the hardware with my blacksmithing skills. It kinda went overkill in my head. Then I decided that a barn would look really cool with hand made hardware. So, a barn shaped object is now the plan. Water and Ice for the roof, maybe a few shingles from the bundle I found in the garage. A sky-light so I can see in and check on the trouble brewing in the play barn.

Well, not really the plan, as there are no plans. Just cut wood until the pieces fit together nicely. I picked the nicest pallet – a solid red oak one it turns out – and tossed it on the ground. That’s how big my barn will be.

I measured the pallet, and the broken down bits of shipping crate. I grabbed a piece of soap stone and drew out a ‘barn’ shape on a sheet of wood. Katie liked it except it was too tall. So, adjusting it down, I laid two pieces down on a saw horse and measured out my barn sides.

A pallet as the base of the play house
A pallet as the base of the play house

A few minutes with a circular saw and I had my two ends! I screwed them to the pallet. I scrounged a few 1-bys to hold the two end walls apart. I cut another sheet down to the side walls. I screwed them on, and it’s looking pretty good, if I say so myself.

I screwed the two pieces together so I could cut them both at the same time
I screwed the two pieces together so I could cut them both at the same time

 

I got to looking at the roof, and I think I am going to make the whole roof out of some dark smoke colored Plexiglas I have. Water proof & easy to see inside.

The front and back scewed to the pallet & two pieces for the sides
The front and back scewed to the pallet & two pieces for the sides

So, the front end is to come off, and the door cut. Some small windows cut into the sides. The floor needs to be put in and maybe a small sit/work bench along the back wall.

Just needs a roof & doors & windows!
Just needs a roof & doors & windows!

I am contemplating a working hay-mound door with a pulley to a pull cord across the top of the inside of the barn. Hinged door main door? Maybe a slider? 1 piece or two? All good questions. The answers will likely come after I cut out pieces and seeing how they fit together.

That’s just how I roll..

Curtain rod mounts

We tried to hang a curtain rod on the living room window. The blinds made it challenging. The mounting hardware was too short to allow the curtain rod to be hung, so I needed to shim it out. I figured it was a good time to break out the new router bits a good friend bought me!

The finished curtain rod bracket.
The finished curtain rod bracket.
Gotta love raw materials and tools!
Gotta love raw materials and tools!
I screwed the block to the wood and clamped it. This way didn't work - no support for the router. I had to do it another way.
I screwed the block to the wood and clamped it. This way didn't work - no support for the router. I had to do it another way.
The finished shim. Notice the inset for the metal bracket. It would have been too thick otherwise and not fit behind the blinds.
The finished shim. Notice the inset for the metal bracket. It would have been too thick otherwise and not fit behind the blinds.
Good thing it's behind curtains and blinds. Not a very good job.
Good thing it's behind curtains and blinds. Not a very good job.
A lesson learned about routers, they ought to be named wood wanderers.
A lesson learned about routers, they ought to be named wood wanderers.
All that work to make 3 brackets, and it looks like hell. The curtain rod is too short.
All that work to make 3 brackets, and it looks like hell. The curtain rod is too short.

Get everything put up, and the curtain rod is too short and looks all wobbly. We are going to try to find something to make the rod longer. The curtains will hide any ugliness that may ensue..

The Feburary 2011 Blizzard

Hopefully it will prove to be ‘the’ blizzard.

We just had the first blizzard in the new house. It was an experience! We stayed warm, eating freshly picked lettuce from my basement aquaponics system – can’t beat that, eh?

Tuesday afternoon, I went home from work a couple of hours early. I cleared the 3 inches of snow that had fallen thus far from my drive and the neighbors drive – mostly to clean up the snow-plow heavy stuff at the ends of the drives.

The power sagged a bit Tuesday night, and we came back up, but across the street was without power for a few hours. We lost power again for about half an hour, and when it came back up, both us and across the street had power. ComEd must have patched something together in the middle of the blizzard.

Wednesday morning, I had a text to work from home from the boss. Sweet. So I watched the neighbors across the street dig themselves out.

Late morning, I took a break from work and figured I would spend an hour with the snow blower. I made one trip from my garage to the street and then helped the neighbor across the road clear the last 3 feet of snow. That snow-plow packed snow is the worst when you only have a shovel. I had just about got him done when one of the belts on my snow blower broke.

Broken Snow Blower Belt
Broken Snow Blower Belt

I went back inside and tweeted the broken belt and the neighbor responded on facebook that they may have one. Sure enough, they did! So I took my broken belt over and the neighbor was snow-blowing. So I grabbed a shovel and helped out. I did around the vehicles, and along the building and up the walk where the blower won’t go very well.

After some more work, I went back outside and put the belt on. Just as I tightening the bolts up, the neighbor came over with his blower. The two of us made quick work blowing out my drive.

Lessons Learned

  • Having good neighbors makes all the difference between an easy dig out and a miserable one.
  • Dryer vents can be easily covered with snow, so make sure they are clear before you use the dryer.
    • High efficiency stoves have the same problem and will shut down (hearsay, my furnace is old)
  • The doors can get drifted shut
  • The snow blower is 6 inches too short – it’s a lot of work to muscle that heavy machine around all stooped over.
  • The snow blower needs spare drive & blower belts. It also needs a good going through with a wrench to tight all the bolts.
    • Bobcat Alternator belts will work in a pinch, but they check pretty bad pretty quickly.
  • Waterproof gloves, once wet, stay wet.
  • The city likes burying the fire hydrants with their plows.
  • If you ship live fish from CA, they WILL be shipped during a blizzard.
  • Somebody will call the cops on you if you go out and look at all of your windows in the middle of a blizzard.

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