Author: Carter Jenkins

josh in mask

Metal Maestro: Josh Leslie

Introduction

josh in maskJosh originally went to the School of the Arts in Chicago for aerospace engineering, with the intention to learn “how to make things.” But after two years, he realized that the field wasn’t for him. So halfway through his college career, Josh made the decision to switch to industrial design. He later graduated with a degree in object design, which is a similar field to industrial design but is based much more on conceptual design rather than more reality-based and pragmatic design.

After moving to the Bay Area several months ago, Josh found Ace Makerspace completely by chance and decided to join for two main reasons. One reason was that Ace offered easy shop access for a recent graduate itching to do some work. The other is that Josh wanted to share his experience with others and spread the knowledge that he has gained both in college and on his own.

Josh’s Work at Ace

Josh primarily maintains the metal shop and is part of a movement to make the entire space more user-friendly. Right before Josh took over as metal steward, the metal shop at Ace was rearranged by a few other engaged members. The main purpose of this was to make the space more friendly towards a wider range of users rather than only those who were already experienced.

In early August, Ace plans to have the storage area and actual work area flipped in the metal shop room, and Josh is a big supporter (and soon to be facilitator) of this change. As of the writing of this article, when you enter the metal shop you’re immediately met with the member storage space. All of the tools are kept behind all the shelving units in a much smaller area. The idea is to put the tools up-front to make it more user-accessible and to make the metal shop more friendly to the people who walk by it.

In terms of more instructor-oriented work, Josh is part of the Ace movement to change up its teaching style. The new style has three varieties, called Access, Exposure, and Experience-based education. In essence, it’s a 3-part process of learning how to use tools properly, doing something constructive and fun with the tools, and offering more elaborate projects for those seeking more experience. In Josh’s words, “Instead of ‘hey, just cut this block of metal,’ we’re developing project and skill-based classes of varying levels so that you’re not banging nails into a board, you’re actually making something.” One of those ideas was instead of just randomly cutting metal for a class, why not make some basic windchimes that you might actually keep? Another is crafting simple metal jewelry.

Even though Josh has only been at Ace for a few months, he has already made an impact on the community with his friendly personality and willingness to help others. When he isn’t in the metal shop, he can be found helping in mutual aid projects around the Ace space such as the 500 filters project. Keep an eye out for the metal shop revamp later this year.

This article is part of an Ace Makerspace interview series by Carter Jenkins.

pink fistbump icon

June 15th Town Hall

On Tuesday, June 15th, Ace held a virtual town hall meeting to discuss a couple of things about Ace’s near future. I had the pleasure of attending this meeting so that I could report on what went down.

A lot of the meeting had to do with dealing with a new, not quite pandemic but not the post-pandemic environment. With Ace’s membership numbers slowly going up to pre-pandemic levels, there were a lot of clarifying questions about relaxing old protocols such as key fobbing and stricter counting of how many people are in a room. Rachel Crafty, Ace’s executive director, asked for input on the new system for keeping track of who’s in the building. This system is called the booking system, and it allows members to claim time in certain workspaces and also see who else is going to be there at what times. Even though this is essentially a more refined version of typing a message in Slack, a couple of things still needed to be sorted such as who has access to older data and how user privacy should be protected.

There was a lot of talk about how masking protocol and vaccination should be considered in a time where both are inconsistent and hard to measure. Ace uses surveys and protocols to keep an eye on these things, however, some meeting attendees thought it would be best if this data was made public. That way, both instructors and members alike could have more information about who they were with and how careful they would need to be. This discussion was eventually tabled after a lot of discourse didn’t result in a clear answer. The newly reopened guest policy was also a topic of discussion, more specifically how member policy and guidelines should apply to the guests they bring. It was eventually determined that the member who brings in the guest is responsible for whatever their guest does during their time at Ace.

The final minutes of the meeting were spent talking about the co-working space at Ace. 15 months ago, the space was reconfigured to make it more COVID protocol friendly, but nowadays it’s more awkward than helpful. Ace is planning to introduce a “rent-a-desk” program, where people outside the Ace community can rent a desk at the Ace building and use it as a personal workspace. Co-working is the ideal place for this program, but at the moment it’s at a weird spot. Besides the obvious rearranging of desks, a few attendees suggested adding lockboxes to the rented desks to guarantee some more privacy to those renting the desks. What privileges these renters should have relative to members was also discussed. It was eventually decided that renters should have similar abilities to members and should be valued at the same level. Ace at the moment wants to diversify who comes to their space, and this desk renting program is part of that plan. It will hopefully get the renters interested in the tooling at Ace, and the members interested in the working space at Ace that will offer a fresh alternative to the year of at-home work we’ve been doing.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a little more about what’s going on behind the scenes at Ace.

Lasering in on Patrick Davies

Introduction

Patrick has been an Ace member for about 4 years. However, in that time he has quickly grown proficient with laser cutting, served on the Ace board, and has become a beloved member of the Ace community. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to talk with Patrick about what he does and why he does it.

History with Ace

Close up of wooden dividers labeled "rock"
Some of Patrick’s dividers in a store

Patrick’s story begins after he finished school at the California College of the Arts. Having studied industrial design, he was on the lookout for a place to use the skills he’d learned. His search eventually led him to Ace, located in a neighborhood that Patrick used to live in. Patrick quickly found that Ace fostered a very creative and friendly learning environment that he enjoyed. The close proximity to his home was a boon too. Soon Patrick was working on social media outreach with fellow Ace members as well as doing his own personal laser cutting work. He even served on the Ace board for a year.

Nowadays, Patrick does a lot of laser cutting and is a part of the maintenance crew for that machine. He enjoys working on the machine and likes to see it working well. As a precision-based instrument, he likes fine-tuning the various parts of it in order to get it into tip-top shape.

Patrick’s Work

Multiple pictures of wooden, engraved disks
Examples of Patrick’s work

Over the years, Patrick has created a small business based on the laser work he does at Ace. This whole thing started back in design school when Patrick developed a liking for vinyl record collecting. He made his own plywood inserts for jukeboxes, eventually selling them to small record stores as a side business. Word of mouth spread his work, and now Patrick sells custom-made inserts and dividers to all kinds of record stores. This isn’t the only work he does, however. Even with a name in record-making, he is open to all kinds of design work. Check out his Instagram page to see his work and even get a commission at https://www.instagram.com/fluidcut/?hl=en.

Patrick’s process is simple. He works mostly with plywood to create the products he then sells. He has experimented with different kinds of materials like acrylic and solid wood, but there are a couple of reasons why he has stuck with plywood over the years. Not only are some materials not environmentally friendly, but Patrick has found that the material type he uses doesn’t always make the impact he wants. When his customers see one plywood product and one solid wood product, they don’t see the craftwork that went into making it. They see two identical things with different prices. Patrick continues to use plywood, a material that can do any job at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

This summer, Patrick is looking forward to being in a less covid-restricted environment. With no major projects in mind, he will continue to work with the laser in order to fine-tune and make more creations. After all, the more enjoyable moments of his life happen when a piece of work comes out exactly as he envisioned it.

The Captain's Chair

Ted Huller: 3D Printing Master

Introduction

Ted Huller is a long-time Ace member and also Ace’s resident 3D Printing Steward. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to talk with Ted about his history with Ace as well as some recent work he has done.

Ted’s History with Ace

ted hullarTed is a long-time friend of Ace Executive Director Rachel Crafty, but Ted’s story begins before Rachel was in that role. Ted works in a laboratory, and throughout his working process, he sometimes finds that he needs to make custom-built parts in order to fulfill certain jobs. He normally would make these parts out of wood, (Ted is a master woodworker) but one day the job required a small beaker holder that was too fine to make with wood. Hearing about Ace’s 3D printing workspace, Ted decided that he should learn some basic skills in 3D printing so that he could handle situations like these. He admits the process wasn’t very smooth, but in the end, he had a working product, and that experience made Ted very interested in 3D printing as a whole.

Fast forward a few years, and Ted became a regular Ace member. He still did woodworking at home, but the Ace makerspace had become his new home for metalwork and some 3D printing. Ted quickly got his own 3D printer at home, meaning that his interactions with Ace slowly dwindled as his needs for printing materials shrunk. One day, however, former 3D printing steward Matt stepped down, leaving the position open to anyone in the Ace community. After some deliberation, Ted decided that he should give something back to the Ace community, and with his new expertise, Ted became the printing steward.

The 3D Printing Space at Ace

The 3D printing space is shared with a multipurpose space that houses the electronics lab, a couple of workstations, and the big format paper printer. This room is known as the Clean Fabrication room. There are two Prusa-brand 3D printers, which Ted calls “the Ford F-150 of printers. There’s a lot of them, they’re not the most sophisticated, but they’re pretty darn reliable and thought out.” There’s also a nearby computer dedicated to preparing files for the printers. The printers don’t need a computer to run, but makers will often find that it helps to be able to do last-minute manipulations to the 3D object files.

The Slack community for 3D printing at Ace has members in the hundreds, and pretty much all questions and discussions happen over Slack. Ted considers it the most efficient way to ask, read, and answer questions; he encourages new members to use Slack for almost all of their communications.

An Example of Ted’s Work

Metal plating placed in the Ace metal mill
Some in-progress work being done at the Ace metal mill

Ted and his wife recently bought an old minivan so they can go camping without having to deal with tents. The Toyota they bought was almost perfect for this purpose, except for one thing. The two of them both found the minivan to be a little too small to have both front seating and bed arrangements, so they looked into having adaptable seats that could swivel and lie down to make beds. The Toyota’s seats, however, were bolted to the floor in such a way that commercial seat-adjusting kits wouldn’t work. With no other options, Ted turned to his making skills to fabricate a “captain’s chair,” similar to those found in commercial RVs.

Ted started with drilling out a swivel plate and holes in the floor of the van, making sure to line them up precisely by means of the metal mill at Ace. The actual process of making the seat swivel wasn’t that difficult, but Ted encountered another problem soon after. Modern-day seats in cars and vans have lots of electrical wiring leading into them, whether it’s for operating a heater or controlling the seat’s back-and-forth movement. Ted found that the wires in the seat were dangerously close to shearing themselves on some exposed metal left by the drill holes, which would cause all sorts of maladies if not addressed properly. To solve this problem, he 3D printed a large plastic washer that bolts onto the wire hole. This means that instead of the wires dragging on sharp metal edges, it’s protected by a layer of comparably soft plastic. There were other little 3D-printed objects that Ted made, such as protective sheaths for the wire connectors.

3D printed swivel bushing used in the seat
An example of a bushing used in the project

Interestingly, Ted’s neighbor was going through a similar process with a van of their own at around this time. They had also encountered the same wire-cutting problem, and since Ted had just fitted the washer he offered to print a duplicate for his neighbor. With about a dollar’s worth of filament, Ted solved his neighbor’s problem.

Closing

Ted will continue to make and create at Ace for a long time. There are no big projects in his immediate future, but before our talk ended Ted told me that he was looking forward to, “training some more people, getting them ready, and seeing what people are going to 3D print.” I’m Carter Jenkins and thank you for reading.

An interview with Victor Lane, Ace Instructor

Who is Victor?

victor with CatVictor Lane may live in Sacramento, but he is still an active member of the Ace community. At Ace, Victor did a lot of woodworking with joinery, and over the past few years, he’s eventually made his way to becoming an instructor. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Victor to find out more about him.

Victor’s relationship with Ace began in a similar way to a lot of other members: finding an affordable and welcoming maker space. In his search, he found plenty of alternatives, but they were mostly for-profit organizations with narrowly defined communities that did not have a diverse environment. “You go to a lot of ‘maker spaces and it’s white guys my age making robots or 3d printing…” as Victor put it. He found that Ace fostered a group of people that was full of people that you wouldn’t find in those other maker spaces. Ace also had different technologies that you wouldn’t find in other maker spaces, such as fabric arts. He appreciates the fact that these “non-traditional” making practices have dedicated homes at Ace.

Two coasters with engravings of California
Two custom made coasters designed by Victor

Victor’s New Class at Ace

Victor is hosting an in-person woodworking class for a small group of people at the maker space. It’s a class he has hosted pre-lockdown, but luckily not a lot about the class had to change. Like before, he’s teaching how to make a basic cutting board out of a single piece of wood, teaching how to properly cut and finish the material. The main purpose of the class is not to walk away with a perfect cutting board but to rather learn how to use the tools properly. As Victor said, “If you are not scared of the power tool you are using, you probably shouldn’t be using it.” He believes that gaining a sense of respect is the most important thing that a maker should have for their tools. The class employs the use of the chop saw and table saw, which Victor hopes to make his students comfortable. For the most part, mask protocol isn’t affecting the class. Most of the time, the people in the class were wearing filtered dust masks, so modified masks are being used.

Talking with Victor was a blast, and the Ace community benefits greatly from having a guy like him in it. His charismatic personality and great communication skills make him an excellent teacher and should make for a great workshop experience.

Lead to Life: An Ace Collaboration

What is Lead to Life?

Lead to Life is an Oakland-based organization of black and queer artists, ecologists, and healers. The group is primarily focused on reversing the effects of violence against black people. They turn the metal from guns into tools that are then used to repair ecosystems, specifically in black neighborhoods.

Lead to Life’s goal is to empower racial and environmental justice through artwork. Their commitment to removing systemic oppression is done through what they call “applied alchemy,” or in other words using nature to provoke new ideas for justice. The group intends to create connections between restorative and environmental justice. The organization also aims to reconnect people to a more natural and peaceful life.

“A people’s alchemy for regeneration”

Lead to Life’s main purpose isn’t just to make gardens and have shovels with words on them (though those are both things they do). Lead to Life was created to foster peace in chaotic places, to provide a grounding factor that many people could use. It was because of this main driving force that Ace decided to collaborate with Lead to Life.

How Ace is Involved

David displaying 2 completed handles

Lead to Life and Ace Makerspace are running a joint project where Ace used its in-house tooling to create a fresh batch of shovel handles for Lead to Life. The three main people who spearheaded and worked on this collaboration were David Perry, Rachel Sadd, and Greg Habiby.

Rachel worked with the laser cutter, sanding blocks, and finishing chemicals, creating the shape of the shovel handle as well as polishing it. David was the primary user of the laser engraver that put the words into the side of each shovel handle. Greg took the role of photographer for the project, taking all the pictures that were used in this article.

Rachel answered a few questions about the project for this blog, ranging from what was challenging about the project to how being a part of this collaboration changed her.

Rachel’s Experience

Multiple shove handles stacked on each other
A selection of the finished handles

As stated, Rachel worked on laser cutting the handles and polishing them. While working with the irregularly sized wood pieces and modifying the lathe to work properly, she had time to think about what the project meant to her. Lead to Life works with organizations she has a connection with, one of them being the Segoroea Te Land Trust. Both organizations work with community gardens and building relationships with nature, which are values that Rachel holds deep in her heart. Working with Lead to Life was a form of direct action that reminded Rachel of her connection to the Oakland community.

If you want to learn more about Lead to Life, check out their website at https://www.leadtolife.org/

Bob’s Guitar Journey

Introduction

Out of Ace’s list of members, Bob M is definitely one of the more unique people to walk through the workshop doors. Nowadays, Bob is most known for his custom-built guitars and basses, and the reason why this is goes back all the way to his high school days. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to speak with Bob about what he does at Ace as well as a little more about how his life has led him to this point.

The Beginning

In high school, Bob originally aimed on becoming a violin craftsman. However, that path didn’t work out and Bob had to explore other areas. For 20 years, Bob held a job as a professional juggler while still exploring his passion for playing guitar. One day in 1989, he paid someone to do some repairs on a bass he had. The job was completely botched, leaving Bob thinking, “I could do so much better than that.” After a little mechanical ingenuity and some tinkering, Bob quickly discovered a new skill.

In the early 90s, Bob opened up a hand-crafted guitar shop to both satisfy his guitar fix and to have a career. Unfortunately, he soon shut down the operation. The money wasn’t the biggest problem, rather Bob “couldn’t stand the sales relationship that the job required.” Wrangling what you love into a money-producing machine isn’t a great feeling, and after only a few years of operation, Bob walked away.

2 partially completed guitars

More Recent Years

In between 1997 and 2017, Bob didn’t do a lot of making or tinkering. However, in 2017, he went to the Ace Building for a Fusion 360 CAD software meeting. During his visit, he took a guided tour around the facility where his attention was caught by the CNC machine and the woodshop. While Ace wasn’t the entire reason he got back into making, seeing the necessary tools that Ace offered with an affordable membership compared to other spaces Bob had looked at was a big part of it. Nowadays, Bob still makes custom guitars, no longer for the money but rather for the affection he has for the craft.

The silver bridge of a guitar with a cartoon character drawn into it
A bridge with a drawing inscribed

Advice for Other makers

Towards the end of our meeting, I asked Bob for any advice he had for makers looking to turn a passion into a business. Bob says that if you have a passion, don’t try to monetize it unless you know you can succeed. Take guitar building for instance. The market for that kind of thing is heavily over-saturated, with new builders investing all their money into a business that will last a few years before shutting down.

Bob got out of the business for a reason, now he spends his days doing what he loves, not doing work. If you have something you want to pursue, he recommends finding a group of people that have a similar interest to you and then finding opportunities to put your skills to work through there. A big enough community will be able to supply you with answers to your questions and will also help you grow as a person.

Mauricio’s Big Build

Overview

Mauricio Salmerón has been working on a project recently. What started as a joke request to a friend has now spanned into a multi-month project that is now nearing completion. I got a chance to speak with Mauricio over a weekend and he shed some light on what other workshop members saw as two large pieces of wood glued together.

Mauricio has been an off-and-on member of the Ace Makerspace for a few years now. He used to own a furniture-making shop called “The Furniture Space,” where he did woodworking to create all kinds of custom furniture such as tables and sideboards. After that, Mauricio found Ace to be the best place to continue honing his craft.

A while back, Mauricio was talking with June, a friend of his. The conversation eventually drifted to June’s need for a new bed. After discussing how June’s search hadn’t been successful, Mauricio jokingly offered to build her a bed frame. The two laughed, and the conversation moved on. However, a month or two later June took Mauricio up on his half-serious request.

A half completed bed frame
The bed frame, later in its construction phase

Mauricio worked on the project on and off, but many months later it’s nearly complete. Throughout his build process, Mauricio used many workshop tools to complete the project. The table saw, chop saw, router, drill, and planer to name a few. He estimates “another 10 hours of work and headboard assembly” and the new frame will be ready to send to June. The entire assembly consists of 5 main parts that can be put together to complete the full platform-style bed. June, of course, will have to provide the mattress, but it seems that the bulk of the work has been completed.

Process

  • Early pieces
    • Oak boards were surfaced through the joiner and planer, then dimensioned with the table saw
    • The boards were clamped together and glued to make the large sides of the bed, the tops to the sides with pocket screws
    • The three main pieces were completed by now, each with its own plywood support frame
  • Later pieces
    • The surfaced boards were put together with pocket screws and clamps to create the headboard
    • The last piece, the middle mattress support, was made with plywood, glue, and pocket screws
  • Final assembly
    • The three large oak pieces were attached with latches, the headboard had cleats and bolts to attach to the side pieces, and the middle mattress support piece

Tools and materials

  • Tools
    • Table saw
    • Chop saw
    • Router
    • Circular saw
    • Drill
    • Planer
    • Joiner
  • Materials
    • Titebond III wood glue
    • Pocket screws
    • Plywood and Oakwood
    • Cleats
    • Bolts
    • Latches
Bristle Bots at the library

Pet Robots at the Library

Bristle Bots are adorable critters made of googly eyes on a bristle-brush body that wiggle and dance their way across any smooth surface. Through a basic motor, these little guys vibrate their bristles and move!

Families joined us at the Golden Gate Library to make their very own Bristle Bot pets. We built the bodies using toothbrushes, hand saws, hot glue, soldering irons, and sandpaper, then each person decorated their dancing pet to give it its own unique personality. Then, participants got to race their bots against each other!