At Dallas Makerspace, All the Tools (and Friends) You Need to Make the Stuff You Want

Sandwiched between a (possibly abandoned?) animal hospital and some empty warehouses in Northwest Dallas is a little nerd haven that's easy to miss if you're not looking for it: Dallas Makerspace.

Makerspace is like a hippie collective, but instead of sitting around and playing the banjo they sit around and play with laser cutters. It's a nonprofit where $35 to $50 a month buys you a membership, licensing you to do crazy cool shit like this:

It's a laissez-faire organization where committees (aerospace, 3-D fabrication, etc.) are formed by simply signing up, and committee chairs are verbally appointed. It's open 24/7 to its 200-plus members, but the public can attend any one of the offered classes, including Foto Friday and robot building.

I stopped by on a recent Wednesday and stumbled into a subversive knitting class called stitch-n-bitch, where an eclectic mix of women were learning about yarn bombing -- knitting that involves clandestinely taking measurements of an object, knitting in secret, then covering said object, usually a statue, tree, etc.

It was a little confusing, actually: Makerspace likens itself to a hakerspace, a community where people with common interests, typically techie interests, share ideas and tools. Knitting doesn't scream "technical."

But as Robert Davidson, one of five elected board members, gave me the official tour, I learned to expect the unexpected.

First stop was the new bio space. Makerspace is expanding and just acquired three new classrooms with hopes of taking over the whole building. In the bio room, Andrew Floyd, the bio committee chair, explained that he's working on making kimchi, a type of Korean pickle, and the committee is in the process of brewing their own mead. Three donated fish tanks are on the way, so Makerspace can start growing moss on the building and grow algae for biofuel.

Next we passed through a storage space that houses a pottery wheel, giant fan and computers, among other things. Storage leads to a giant garage-workshop. The workshop is sectioned off into areas like automotive, where members can work on their auto repair skills via donated cars. There's a woodworking area with more than dozen saws, a metalworking section complete with a plasma cutter and a blacksmithing section. There were about a dozen dudes hanging around, working on projects, and it was clear most of them are friends.

Moving indoors, we came to the electronics rooms, where the motto is, "If you want to build something, build something." (Like, say, an oscilloscope.) There's a 3-D printing room, arts and crafts room and a laser cutter casually situated in the hallway.

If you're well-read thief and are thinking about ripping the place off, think again: Makerspace has a security system called Mother that can lock the doors and talk to you. Plus, why steal it when you can just show up and use it with fellow nerds?

Stop by Makerspace at 7 p.m. Thursdays, when meetings are open to the public; no previous tech knowledge required.

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