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Thursday, November 15, 2012


Have you heard about TechShop? If not, you should know. The first rule of TechShop is not that you do not talk about TechShop, although like that other famous club, it is badass. TechShop is to quote their wesbite, "a vibrant, creative community offering access to tools, software and space... a playground for creativity."

From the Clarion Content's observations, all this and more were true. It is an all-in-one, do-it-yourselfers club with every tool that you could imagine. For one reasonable membership fee of $83.25/month, you can use it all.

Laser cutters, plasma cutters, a wood shop, welding, a C & C plasma table, a forge, a vacuum former, a paint spray area, an electronics lab, a metal and machine shop, lathes, routers, every basic hand tool you can imagine, a conference room you can use, a photobooth, a kitchen where members built the cabinets themselves (with the on-site equipment), and a high performance computer lab where each of the twenty plus machines is loaded with anywhere from $25k northward worth of design and engineering software.

To say is an inventors paradise is hardly overstatement.1

The Clarion Content and our friend, filmmaker and correspondent, Ned Phillips, were given a wonderful, free tour of TechShop Raleigh/Durham last month. The magnificent madcap list of machines and stuff we rattled off above is hardly comprehensive, some of what our generous and patient guide was saying simply washed over us in waves of data.

We did note that there are only six TechShops in America and one of them is in Durham correction "minutes from Durham" (three in CA, one in Austin, one in Detroit, for those of you scoring at home). We also caught the part where he said, he had personally moved from Brooklyn to Durham. TechShop employees seemed remarkable happy, stoked to be doing their jobs. Our tour guide's official job title is, "Dream Consultant." How good does that sound for work? How close are these folks to the nexus where the boundaries of free play and work mesh into the beauty of invention?

TechShop offers classes (in fact, mandates classes for new users) on all of its machines and equipment. Word is, if you know what you are doing, it is not hard to get certified to use the machines, and if you are a beginner, it is a great place to learn.

We were told that there is a hardcore cadre of inventors who use TechShop to make prototypes. We met and will have a longer feature on one such inventor, Luis Freeman, owner and president of Plastibot, a 3-D printer company. Freeman is an engineer by trade, in person he is a creator, a designer, and a teacher. It was while we were filming Plastibot's 3-D printers that we heard about TechShop. Plastibot built the acrylic cases for their printers at TechShop.2

There are, according to our Dream Consultant, also a bevy of tinkerers, hobbyists, folks dabbling beyond their day job, as well as a number of younger members who use TechShop. Overall current membership numbers are between 350 and 400 total. The hours of operation are extensive, Mon-Fri 10am to midnight and Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm, makes it feel like you can go in, almost any time, seven days a week, ninety-four glorious hours of machine and tool heaven.3

The Clarion Content's editor, given books before blocks as a child, hasn't mastered tools more complicated than the screwdriver and the hammer. But for those of you who have, TechShop will blow your mind. It is an unbelievable community resource.

They are holding an open house all day today, Saturday, November 10th. And if you can't make it today, free tours are available any time TechShop is open.

1Some members use TechShop as their business address, shipping and receiving packages here, holding meetings in the conference room.
2We also noted, smart folks abound, that immediately adjacent to TechShop's facility was the Roth Brewing Company making and selling "Beer for the Masses." It looked like a popular watering hole for the local creative talent.
3TechShop was remarkably clean and well-maintained, would even go so far as to say it was nearly pristine.

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While Tech Shop may be serving the Raleigh and Durham areas, Your readers may want to know that Tech Shop's physical location is actually in Raleigh.
- Heather Darnell, Durham Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Hi Heather-

Thanks for the heads up. Didn't realize we'd crossed over into Raleigh out there on Hwy 70. TechShop is very near Durham, but not in Durham. TechShop #5905 Triangle Drive Raleigh, NC 27617. ---ed
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