Sunday, February 10, 2013

What's it take to create a hackerspace?

Hacker Space Brussels (HSBXL)

So, in case you haven't figured it out, I'm really getting into this hackerspace area.  I'm a member of denhac ( and on it's board of directors.

I'm working with my town to try and get them to create a municipally sponsored hackerspace (which I'm calling a makerspace because the word hacker, still, makes some of the more conservative types cringe).

I'm trying to figure out how this can fit into a communities educational system, it's local businesses, it's civic structure and the overall infrastructure of the town it exists in.  And it should exist in every single town.

At first, some people thought hackerspaces where just a fad.


This is a major societal trend.  It's related to community, education, the high cost/debt created by and questionable value of college, the end of unions (and the end of things like guilds and apprenticeships), the desire by many people to start their own businesses and needing a place to prototype concepts into products (software, hardware, whateverware) and it's a place where students and elder/experts come together.

It feeds our need, as humans, to create, to learn and to teach.

First, watch this video (seriously, watch the whole thing; he's a true geek so keep that in mind.  He nails what a hackerspace is, embodies the enthusiasm of it and defines nicely where we're going with them).

All done?  Good.

He seems a bit out there doesn't he.  This guy reminds me of all the guys that started the personal computer revolution.  All of them.  These are the types of people it takes to create large shifts in how society works.  These are the people that can (and have) literally, changed the world.

OK, get time to get started.

Now, get a group of 4-5 people together and start meeting on Tuesday nights (why?  Because, that's when all the hackerspaces have open house night, it's random, but you have to pick a night so it might as well be when everyone else is doing the same thing).  No agenda needed other than all 4-5 need to have watched the above video.  This little group of founders will figure it out.

Find a space to rent.  It'll need at a minimum a workshop, a classroom and a kitchen (like) area.  A lounge, computer room and office would be good, but not required.  It should be as nice as it can be, but at the same time, as cheap as it can be.  It needs as much internet bandwidth as you can get.  It can be smallish at say 1000 SF, or largish at 5000 SF.  Our space at denhac (3D render of the space below) is in the middle of that range.

Start accumulating tools that can be shared among the community (see below for a good hackerspace tool list).

Decide what it costs to have a membership.  This can be anywhere from free (you've got a sponsor or rich member willing to cover costs) to $150+ a month (as an example, one for profit hackerspace type space called TechShop operate this way).  I'd suggest a tiered membership with something for students (say, $10-25 a month), regular members ($50 a mo) to a 'patron' type membership (people that want to give more to support the space) of $100-250 or more a month.

Apply for 501c3 status.  Most other hackerspace have done it already and have been approved.  This is NOT required to get started, it's a nice to have and makes it easier to get donations.

Make very simple rules.  I like the one and only rule the hackerspace the video speaker helped found made:

Be excellent to each other.

That's it.  No more needed to get started.

Open your doors.

It really doesn't need to be more complicated than that.  A community will form.

Thats it.  Now get to it.


Here's denhacs floor layout (thanks to Matt Yoder):

It's about 2500 SF.  It has a large garage door (front right)- wanna pull in a truck?  You could; cement floors on the first level (perfect for shop gear, etc.).  A computer/server room (front left).  A lounge area with couches and tables (middle left).  A utility room. A Bathroom (unisex).  Classroom (back 1/3 of space) and a sort of loft area above that perfect for work stations (electronics, 3D printer, radio/recording station, It's workspace.. basically all the less messy stuff that would require a cement floor goes upstairs).

List of tools to consider (but not limited to) for a hackerspace (thanks to

  • Bench space
  • Clamps / vice 
  • Screw drivers  
  • Saws
    • Woodwork 
    • Metalwork
  • Hammers
    • Metalwork
    • Woodwork
  • Files 
    • Woodwork
    • Metalwork

Machining and Power Tools:

  • Band Saw
  • Laser Cutter
  • drill press
  • CNC router
  • 3D Printer
  • water cutter
  • Routing
  • Welder
    • A basic arc stick iron/steel welder + sticks + auto dimming welding mask to contribute 
  • Angle Grinder
  • Industrial Vacuum Cleaner
  • Domestic Vacuum Cleaner 
  • Disc sander
  • Hot glue gun
  • Air compressor 
  • Plastic injection moulding rig
  • Engraver
  • Jigsaw
  • Sandblaster
  • Orbital Sander 


  • CRO
  • Digital Osc
  • Logic Analyser
  • Hot Air Soldering Station
  • Bench Power Supply
  • Multimeter
  • Solderi
  • Solder Stations  
  • Rework station
  • Microscope
  • Spectrum analyser to 6GHz
  • Prototype PCB cutter
  • SMD soldering equipment
  • Eeprom programmer
  • Components
  • signal generator
  • Frequency Counter 
  • PCB etching gear
  • UV Exposure box & photo resist developer
  • Video camera 
  • Colour TV 
  • SMD oven


  • Internet
  • Water
  • Power
  • Gas


  • Programming setups (various languages)
  • Private Cloud setup (VM's and related services for members)
  • Server (file server/web server/proxy) 
  • Laser Printer
  • Projector
  • Motion capture rig
  • Wifi 

Mundane Misc:

  • Badge maker
  • White boards
  • Power extension cables 
  • Work lights 
  • Storage systems
  • Lockers
  • A sofa bed
  • Speakers (even cheap ones, for playing music) (@predakanga;
  • Amp 
  • A water feature for the foyer
    • Copper waterlilly I made while back with pump & base


  • Coffee/Caffeinated Drink
  • A fridge for Red Bull/Mother(the new one)
    • The space has a fridge, it will require decontamination...
  • Stove
  • Kettle  
  • Microwave (if it's wanted/needed - Big)


  • Lectures and experts in Arduino 
  • Reference books
    • Cocoa programming book
    • Many "Gingery" Series books on furnace/metalworking
    • Several PIC/Micro books, electronic theory books 
    • Several Airbrushing and painting technique books
  • Magazine subscriptions - e.g. make and Circuit Cellar
    • most issues of make plus new ones as they come out 
  • Bookshelf for communal books and magazines
    • 5x7 foot bookshelves
  • Magazine holders


  • Silk-screening supplies and "wet area" (to conduct silkscreening) + vacuum frame (~24x40 inch silkscreen)
  • Letterpress equipment and engraving machine
  • Vinyl cutter
  • Sewing machine

Art Material

  • Airbrush & small compressor 
  • Paints
    • Acrylic 
  • Photographic Lights

Loan Kits:

  • Different microcontroller  
  • SBC prototyping 'kits'
  • Library of dev kits


  • Perspex/Acrylic and plexiglass
  • Thermoplastic (HIPS) offcuts 
  • Woodworking tools + wood store
  • Pigments
  • Assorted square/rectangular steel tubing 


  • Hoist
  • Engine crane(s)
  • Dyno


  • First aid kit
  • Fire blankets
  • Smoke detectors
    • As fitted in the space, require new batteries, and wiring into the space.

Performance / Film Making:

  • Blue screen
  • Stock of standard clamps / bar extensions
  • Cheap dimmer racks waiting for the lighting desk you bring with you
  • Electric piano keyboard


  • Change counting machine (surely we could make one)
  • Two cash boxes (helps for managing floats, excess cash, running simultaneous events)

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...