a visit to makerspace, newcastle, now with added lasers

I recently embarked on a new exciting venture, Martin Raynsford and I setup up a small part-time business importing laser cutting equipment, in a geeky film reference taken too far we called it Just Add Sharks! When we started out at the beginning of the year I emailed ALL THE HACKSPACES… taking full advantage of my years of helping the UK Hackspace Foundation, doing dead-podcasts and generally making sure when I go to a place I visit it’s Hackspace and trading on my dubious status of founder of Nottinghack. Long story short, the excellent hackers and makers of Newcastle MakeSpace took the bait. An exciting pledge drive bust their £3k target in days… leaving them wanting a bigger laser cutter than we could supply them. Not wanting to lose this important sale Just Add Sharks decided to trial a bigger A2 laser cutter and a deal was made to ship one to the Geordies ASAP. Through a series of co-incidences the laser landed in the UK and was ready (following testing and checking) to ship to Newcastle, just in time for Just Add Sharks to commission it onsite during their visit to the Maker Faire UK! That’s another story though so I’ll not go into that here.

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The Newcastle MakerSpace is well situated on New Bridge Street West just a stones throw from the shopping area of Newcastle city centre. It’s easily accessible by public transport and there is a large (though expensive) NCP car-park next door. The Makers occupy the ground floor shop front of what used to be (according to Google Street View) an estate agent’s office. The advantage of this is that they have a proper shop window. Better still they actually use it as a shop window showing projects that the members have used. Some wise soul has resisted the urge to blank the windows out meaning the general public (who pass in droves) get to see what the MakerSpace is.

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The space has a strong RepRap and 3D printing contingent with a couple of properly working machines on display. A good selection of hand-tools and work benching as well as a “dirty” workshop with lathe and other larger tools. This area was in a bit of a state of flux when I saw it but plans were afoot to sort it out. If the rest of the workshop space is anything to go by it should end up reasonably tidy and sorted.

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The MakerSpace also has a “comfy” room with sofa seating and a projection screen. It was also laid out in the corner with a knitting machine and textiles kit. This area lacked the natural light of the workshop room and felt a little directionless on my visit. I suspect it comes to life for social events. There was a “computer room” which I suspect is really just a place to hide from the constant glare of the public through the shop window. This room contained several computers and monitors and some desk space. Parts for making stuff were well labelled and organised on shelves down the workshop wall. Members use a box system for storing their projects too.

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The MakerSpace crew made excellent hosts for the UK Maker Faire, which since 2009 has been held annually (excluding 2012) at the Centre for Life just up the road. The Makers offered emergency repair facilities to makers in need of a last minute tweak to projects and took us to a considerably better Indian buffet for the After-show meal than we went to last year (and half the price too).

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The MakerSpace has around 40 members as of this post, their membership fee is monthly and can be as little as £10 a month with a small additional charge to access to some of their big ticket tools like their awesome Just Add Sharks Greyfin A2 Laser CutterIf you want to visit them try the following. they run a regular “Welcome Wednesday” from 6pm for visitors and prospective new members as well as a 3D Thursday for additive printing enthusiasts and many weekend-workshop events. I was delighted to find that I had my Hackers Passport on me and that they had a stamp and ink, that’s 2 for 2 including HackLab the week before. The only fair thing on Cambridge MakeSpace to say about Newcastle MakerSpace is that they too (Newcastle) have the MakerSpace domain (in one flavour of TLD) i.e. they aren’t Newcaslte-Upon-Tyne MakerSpace but MakerSpace one-of-one… I’ve ranted about this before…. look at the soothing laser pictures below and calm down… IMG_8384

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