Who's Letting You Use a Laser Cutter and a 3-D Printer?

TechShop – which has even more industrial tools for your projects.

      Technology lends a helping hand.
      Technology lends a helping hand.

Listen: The lack of access to tools might be what's been holding you back from creating what you want.

Because, really, what sort of marvels could you make if you had one of those fancy laser cutters? What manner of odd gewgaws, prototypes, or models would you fabricate with a 3-D printing machine? What would you do if, in fact, you had access to tools ranging from embroidery-dedicated sewing machines to hardwood lathes, to an impressive range of metal-machining equipment, to the sort of industrial maker-things that are like a high-school shop class on steroids?

Because that's what you're going to find at TechShop.

[Note: They have a waterjet, for crying out loud, a waterjet that can carve solid granite. In case, you know, that's one of the things you've been jonesing to do.]

Oh, wait.

You know something about some of that equipment … but you'd need, like, a bit of training to be able to accomplish the projects you have in mind? With a laser cutter? With a waterjet? With all that electronic arduino stuff?

That's another thing you're going to find at TechShop: Classes to teach you what you need to know – and what they need you to know before letting you loose on the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment stationed in the clean, well-organized, and brightly lit space that's up there just off I-35 in Round Rock.

[Note: My daughter Angelica, one of 2014's Chronicle cover artists, hipped me to this place a while ago. Because I'd been looking for just such fabricating possibilities, and her stepfather often uses TechShop for the projects he's doing, and Angelica said, "Oh, hells yeah – you can make just about anything there, and it's a real professional outfit. It's like Build-A-Bear for grownups."]

Now, TechShop is a chain – there's eight of them around the country – but when manager Shane Nestle gave me a tour of the Round Rock site, he showed me one of the things that's unique about that location: The new Round Rock place is right nextdoor to an outlet of the hardware giant Lowe's. In fact, they've cut a goddam passageway from one building into the other. And Lowe's, in turn, has dedicated a section of their vast emporium to stocking materials that no other Lowe's in the country stocks – just to have those items available for TechShop members.

(You know that business buzzword "synergy," right? This is one of the times when that word actually means something.)

I'm not going to go on here now, pimping this place's myriad industrial and crafting wonders, telling you about the cost of membership – but, for what you get? the various levels are a bargain – and how they've got a complete suite of AutoDesk softwares that they'll familiarize you with and that can control many of the more complex machines.

No, see, because it's Gift Guide time here at the Austin Chronicle – as it is everywhere else in the country, yes – and so I'm just going to suggest that you might want to buy a gift membership for that special someone. That special someone who is always making something. Always tinkering. Always crafting. Always complaining that he or she could do so much more if only y'all had the proper tools.

And, hey, if that special someone is you?

No judgment. After all, I'm buying a membership for myself before the year's out.

Because there is much to be done.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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TechShop, laser cutter, waterjet, machining equipment, maker culture, shopbot, crafting, industrial projects, metal shop, wood shop, Round Rock, Gift Guide 2014

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