posts tagged with the keyword ‘tools’



I recently heard the word “potluck” applied to a makerspace. So what exactly is a potlock and how does it work?

A potluck is a gathering where each guest contributes a different and unique dish of food, often homemade, to be shared.

(Okay, ignore that bit about food.) Many spaces are started by groups of people who come together to form a community around making. Making usually requires tools. They may be traditional tools like saws, and drills, and sewing machines, and may include laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC machines. While you may own a few tools, chances are you don’t own all the tools. Typically there’s two reasons you don’t own all the tools. You probably don’t have space for them all, and you probably can’t afford them all. This is where makerspaces come in.

The “potluck” style makerspace encourages everyone to bring the tools they have, together, in one space, and share that space, and share the tools. No one owns everything there, but everyone owns something. Now, there are spaces where a single person or small group provides all (or a majority of) the tools, or where the space itself (as an organization) owns all the tools. It can certainly work in many different ways.

Milwaukee Makerspace operates to a great deal like a potluck. When we started, everyone brought in whatever tools they had. We tried to avoid duplicates in most cases. If we had a table saw, but someone else said they had a better table saw, we’d evaluate and discuss and see if we wanted to “upgrade” by bringing in the new tool. Now, the question comes up “What if Bob decides to take his chop saw home? Then we have no chop saw!” and yes, this is true, and it does happen. I’m pretty sure within the last year the chop saw disappeared because the owner moved away, or took it home, or some other weird reason. Typically we’re without a tool for a short time until someone else brings one in, or we find another way to replace it.

One of those “other ways” is a group buy. Sometimes a member (or more likely a number of members) want a new tool. They basically “crowdfund” the money needed to purchase the tool and the tool the stays at the space. Occasionally there is a majority stakeholder who might have paid for a large percentage of a tool. If, in this case, the member who is a majority stakeholder wants to remove the tool, they would have to buy out all the other members who pitched in for it. This is a rare occurrence, in fact, I’m not sure it’s happened more than once or twice.

Occasionally a member who owns a tool wants (or needs) to sell it, perhaps due to financial strain or needing money more than they need the tool. Often members have bought tools from other members so that they can remain at the space. And yes, we’ve also seen group buys so that tools could remain at the space. (This was the case with one of our laser cutters.)

The largest example we have is the Tormach. Larry wanted a vertical milling machine, and was looking at a Haas, or another larger used machine. Since we didn’t have luck with the previous used machine we had, many members were in favor of something a bit newer, and easier to use. The Tormach purchase was funded by over 30 members. Some contributing as little as $10, and a few contributing close to or more than $1000. Larry covered $5000, which was close to half the cost. I personally pitched in $50 and I still haven’t even used the machine! I’m okay with that, because I’ve seen other members make awesome things, and I know that if I have the need, it’s there and I can use it.

What about when things break? Well, each area has a budget for purchases and maintenance (I’ll cover that more in another post) but we also follow the “crowdfunding” method in this case. When the laser tube died pretty much everyone who ever used the laser cutter was willing to pitch in some money. Occasionally someone orders a spare lens, or new saw blades, or whatever other consumable there is because we don’t charge for machine time, but if you’ve used a machine a lot, we expect you to be awesome and contribute in some way. (And yes, there are other ways to contribute, again, that’s a future post.)

Anyway, I hope this helped explained the “potluck” method we’ve used over the last seven years or so. It’s not perfect, but it’s worked fairly well. When we orient new members, we let them know that every tool in the space belongs to someone, and that someone is another members, so respecting and taking care of the tools is just one more way to be excellent to each other.


Hakko Soldering Iron Fix

Once upon a time at the museum we found an old Hakko FX-888D soldering iron for Sam to use. He tried to solder things, but it did not work. I tried soldering things with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it worked great! I looked at his iron and declared it “not working properly” and then we stopped using that one.

This week I tried using my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it just did not work. I ‘raised’ the temperature and it still didn’t work. Meanwhile, Becky soldered about a dozen buttons while I was still trying to do one. The solder would melt but not stick. Weird, and then I discovered that I probably managed to “adjust” the temperature instead of “change” the temperature. Yeah, confusing, right?

This is (sort of) explained in the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron manual, very poorly, but start on page 5 and see if it makes sense. If not, watch this video.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the procedure for resetting the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron to the factory defaults, which totally fixed my problem of it not getting hot enough to make good solder joints.

  1. With unit turned off press both UP and ENTER buttons
  2. Turn the unit on while continuing to press both UP and ENTER buttons
  3. The display will flash the letter “A”
  4. Release both the UP and the ENTER buttons
  5. Press the UP button
  6. The display will show the letter “U”
  7. Your iron is now reset!

I’m posting this here because future me will probably screw it up again, and then I’ll read this post and know how to fix it. Also, if Becky ever screws it up, she can look here too!


Glue Gun Repair

I spent some time after class in the Physical Computing Lab repairing the hot glue guns. During class students told me that the triggers didn’t seem to work, and they had to push the glue into the gun by hand to get anything out the hot-end.

I removed all the screws (about 8 of them) and opened one up and it’s a lot of plastic inside, besides the hot bits. There’s a plastic piece that snapped, due to (I’m assuming) pulling the trigger too hard. It’s a poor design, but I was able to repair it by drilling holes in the two pieces and adding some wire through the holes and twisting it tight. This was enough to pull the pieces close together. (I contemplated using cyanoacrylate, but didn’t have any, and wasn’t convinced it would work.)

Glue Gun Repair

Two of the guns were in good condition, except for the snapped piece of plastic, but the third one must have been repaired before, because the rubber retaining ring and a tiny spring were missing, and the larger spring had been replaced by a not-quite correct replacement spring. The third one (once assembled) didn’t do a very good job of pushing the glue forward. I may have to try further repairs, but at least we have two working better now.

Glue Gun Repair

The other issue, which may have cause some of the problems, is a “HIGH/LOW” switch on the handle. When I held the gun, I ended up switching it to LOW. If someone had been using it on HIGH and accidentally switched it to LOW, they might have kept pressing hard on the trigger while the temperature dropped, and snapped the plastic bit inside.

Glue Gun Repair

I added some tape to the switches so they don’t get accidentally set to LOW. We only have high temperature glue anyway…

Glue Gun Repair

The third gun, which doesn’t work very well, got labeled “Not Great” so we remember which one is the crappy one., which can still be used, as long as you don’t mind (possibly) pushing the glue forward with your hand.

Glue Gun Repair

Reminder: Hot Glue is Hot!


Tiny Drill Press

I rambled on a bit about Dremel-compatible drill presses back when I was working on my Learn to Solder Kit and I came close to building my own last month. I had some smooth rods that I considered cutting down and I took a bunch of scrap wood and cut it into pieces to form the body of the press. Fortunately I got too busy and I never cut the smooth rods, and then I found some nice drawer slides on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace.

I’ve been sick the past few days but finally started to feel better on Sunday. I had planned to start doing a shop clean up and organization but I figured what better way to procrastinate than by building a tiny drill press!

Tiny Drill Press

This really was slapped together in a matter of hours. I did try to get things straight and aligned, but I didn’t obsess over it. I’m pretty sloppy at traditional woodworking and building in this fashion and that might be part of the reason I tend to like using CNC machines and software, as they change how things are measured and cut (or extruded, etc.)

(And yes, the photos are terrible because I never got around to clearing off the photo table. Because procrastination.)

Tiny Drill Press

The most difficult part was determining how to hold the round Dremel tool in place. I ended up using some 3D printed nut knobs from my CAMS system to hold the Dremel into a channel with precisely placed blocks of wood and some 1/4″ bolts. I’m able to turn on and control the speed as well as change out the bit while the Dremel is mounted. It works. This is fine.

Tiny Drill Press

I tested it with the tiniest bit I had and it worked. No bit snapping occurred, the drawer slides worked well, and I used a rubber band to hold up the Dremel. What? Yes, I don’t yet have a proper spring mechanism or counterweight, and there is currently no handle for moving the Dremel down, but it can make holes in things, so that’s something.

I’ll revisit the drill lifting mechanism another time, and I’ll figure out some sort of handle mechanism as well… at some point. For now, I can make tiny holes, and I call that progress.

Enjoy this wonderful video of Tiny Drill Press in action. I tend to post in-progress things on Instagram, in case you are interested.

One Day Tiny Drill Press is done enough for one day…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

Z Axis…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on


Screwdriver vinyl

My pal John McGeen posted a challenge for February. The challenge was to design a screwdriver. He also said we should “Push the boundaries of what is possible”, and while I’m normally a hammer guy, I figured I’d try a screwdriver.

While John was busy making a real screwdriver I thought about the challenge, and at first I thought about designing a 3D model of a screwdriver, and then I thought about making a nice screwdriver shaped sign using a large piece of wood, and ultimately being overloaded with projects in February I ended up doing something different.

Craftsman Screwdrivers

I started this project by thinking about screwdrivers. The first screwdrivers I ever used when I was a kid belonged to my dad. He had nice Craftsman tools. I remember him telling me that Craftsman had a lifetime warranty on their tools, and if you ever broke one, they would replace it. I still have a few Craftsman screwdrivers, but over the years I seem to have collected many other brands. None of them are probably the same quality of the old Craftsman tools, and none of them hold a memory for me like the Craftsman do.

I found a photo of some Craftsman screwdrivers and used them as a basis for tracing the outline I wanted for my silhouette.

Screwdriver with text

Once I had my screwdriver shape drawn out in Inkscape I added the word CRAFT using the typeface Adobe Naskh Medium. I wanted a contrast from the original CRAFTSMAN type which was a simple sans-serif typeface. I also flipped the screwdriver horizontally so the handle was on the left.


Detail of the handle and the CRAFT text. I also colored my illustration green because I planned to use green vinyl, again as a contrast to the red and blue of the original Craftsman screwdrivers.


After the text was added I changed it to outlines and then exported it as a DXF file to load into the Silhouette Studio software to be cut.

Screwdriver Silhouette

In Silhouette Studio I scaled it to an appropriate size for my laptop screen, which ended up being 242mm long (or 9.5″ for you non-Metric folks.)

Screwdriver vinyl

The vinyl was then cut and weeded. I also cut a small piece of transfer paper to attach to the vinyl to hold the islands from the text in place.

Screwdriver vinyl

Yes, it’s finally time to replace the Imperator Furiosa skeleton arm. It had a good run of more than six months before the change. (It took a Simple Green scrubbing to get the lid clean before I applied the screwdriver vinyl.)

Screwdriver vinyl

Here’s the 13″ MacBook Pro with the screwdriver vinyl applied. Overall I’m pleased with how it turned out and it feels good to have some new artwork on the old laptop.

I hope this is enough of a screwdriver for John’s new site GrindstoneMKE. I’m expecting that a bunch of different screwdrivers are going to show up there in the coming days. (I’m not sure if anyone besides me will have a vinyl screwdriver though!)

Screwdriver vinyl

Screwdriver vinyl

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