derby silk mill re:make project

I’ve been involved with the Derby Old Silk Mill museum now for nearly three years. It’s been a great relationship for me having done some paying gigs for them over the years. Late last year the Mill reopened after a major refurbishment of the ground floor. My event, the Derby Mini Maker Faire in late November, was to be the grand opener. The Mill has had most of the large ground floor exhibits removed keeping some of the better ones in the form of the working Grasshopper steam pumping and winding engine, the Rolls Royce RB211 and a couple of other famous airplane engines. The opening out of the space makes the Mill a beautiful and inspiring place to sit and work on something.


A couple of autumns ago I found myself involved in a clear out of the old workshops at the Mill. These were backs rooms filled with tools and abandoned projects where museum elves had formally built exhibition stands, mended vitrines and tinkered with the collection. Though well tooled it was very out of date and not a suitable space for the making public.

Last night I went along to one of the RE:MAKE I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The evening took the form of a very useful workshop induction. The Mill has now been kitted out with a very large format CNC router, a very large laser cutter, it has various 3D printers and a long vinyl cutter. Good work benches and retractable power sockets, a thicknesser/plainer, table saw, band saw, morticer, a could of decent floor mounted sanders, biscuit jointers, plung and chops saws and a good router to mention a few. In addition to all this gear they have Steve, the workshop technician. Steve is a veteran of wood-shops in schools and colleges as well as having been a pattern maker and furniture maker for many years. As he gave us a safety brief I was interested to see this 50-something with all 10 fingers (though we later compared battle scares a la Jaws).


I was quite keen to try a thicknesser and plainer machine as we’d had debate and general interest in one at the Nottingham Hackspace, though we’d be unable to secure a massive one quickly enough before an auction ended and naysayers pooh-poohed a smaller one. Steve showed me how to set it up, talked about why we use the tool and for what and when, then ran a few length of cut pine through it before letting me do the same. I let getting experience of as many tools and techniques as possible. It would be great to have a similar standard tool at Hackspace and a general investment in woodworking as it is such a useful and cathartic skill.

I hope to go again to the Silk Mill to get an induction on the huge 10’x12′ CNC router. I have a few ideas for furniture and my friend and colleague Martin who I run (in our spare time) with wants to make a few large scale versions of his projects too. We’ve been told we’ll need to wait until after RE:MAKE… fair enough.