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Here at MAKE, I get the pleasure of working with some really talented and inspired people. One of them is John Baichtal. John came to us via GeekDad, where he still blogs, and he quickly gravitated to two areas of coverage here on Makezine: Lego and hackerspaces. He shows us the many colors of adult Lego fandom, and their amazing plastic brick masterpieces, in his recent The Cult of Lego book. And hot on the heels of that, he maps his travels, both real and virtual, through hackerdom in his highly-recommended Hack This! 24 Incredible Projects from the DIY Movement.

Hackerspaces are people! John Baichtal understands this and does a fine job of covering the 24 spaces featured in the book. You get a profile, details of the space, photos, and other fun and useful tidbits. But hackerspaces (and successful DIY books) are projects, too! John describes a project (or two) from each hackerspace, who worked on it, and what the outcome was. There are 24 main projects in all, from a sandwich making robot to a book scanner, to a blast furnace. There are also brief Build It details and links to more info online. There are also sidebars of the key tools used in hackerspaces, and supportive info (like glossaries and etymologies) in brief FAQs. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here. There’s even a sort of hackerspace playbook in the back, covering the basics of what you need to know to start your own hacker/makerspace.

If I had any criticism of the book, it would be that the projects aren’t really buildable solely with the information provided, but you’re at least given enough to whet your whistle and there are usually links to online project pages provided. All in all, this is a really fun book; a perfect introduction to community-based making. You will find no better Virgil to guide you through the realm of DIWO (Do It With Others) than John Baichtal.

To celebrate John’s great work, the book’s publisher, QUE, has graciously given us three copies to give away. To be eligible, please share a fun story about your local hackerspace in the comments below. Or if you don’t have a space, what would you like to see in a hackerspace if you had one? (And then you can win the book and use the info in it to create your space!) We’ll keep the comments open to eligible entries until this Sunday night, 11:59pm PST. And then we’ll announce the winners on Monday (Feb 20).

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. Like most people I am frequently frustrated by instructions on DIY websites when I come to the step that says, “Next, cut out your parts on your CNC mill or laser cutter.” Easy enough, if you HAVE a $3000 piece of furniture in your spare bedroom. I also have limited space for things like a table saw or a carving lathe, but that sort of thing does come in handy from time to time.

    Hackerspaces provide a community resource for people like me through which we can collectively invest in large, expensive tools like laser cutters. At the same time this community gives us a place to meet and socialize and bounce ideas off each other, get help with our 3D printer projects, or show off our latest robot and get ideas for improvement.

    There are a lot of technical colleges and aerospace industries in my region, as well as a lot of retirees. I figured that meant there would be a pretty vibrant community of HAM radio operators, model train enthusiasts, hobby electronicicsts and the like, but when I searched around for hackerspaces in my area I found surprisingly few. There was one that only seemed interested in actually violating other peoples’ privacy and performing criminal trespass against others’ property, so I begged off.

    I’d really like a genuine hackerpace in my area. Maybe then I could finally make all those things that require me to “simply make use of my laser cutter and then…”

  2. David Rhoton says:

    Our family maintains what i would consider a hackerspace. When we have something that needs to be done, created, or fixed we get together at the table: Dad (Master’s level chemist), Brother-in-law (great auto mechanic), uncle (AC/VAC repairman and machine shop supervisor), myself (home remodele/carpenter) to come up with a solution. Its not always the prettiest of sites. We do tend to argue about the most productive means to create or fix something, before we even get started. But we have done a lot of great things with what little we have between us. Some of the projects that we have finished included: hydraulic log splitters using a old trash truck parts, blower fans for the old Craft wood stoves, and an old aluminium water wheel that generates electricity.

    There was a saying that neccessity is the mother of invention. I would say we are most productive when neccessity warrants it.

  3. Gerrit says:

    There are not much hacker spaces around here in the Netherlands. But I agree with Edward Hickcox that when Ham Radio enthusiasts (like me), RC Helicopter hobbyists (like my suns), Robot builders (like me with my colleagues) and lot of other technically
    oriented hobbyists work together they might be able to setup a hackerspace.

    Is it a good idea to work together with educational institutes?
    There is a large lack of technical educated people in our country, a hackerspace at a local high school or college could sertainly help to raise interest for technical oriented studies. So please the Hague, its your turn!

    1. A very old thread, I must admit. I stumbled over your remark about a hackerspace in The Hague. There has been one since 2009! You can find all info you need here: https://revspace.nl

  4. Sky Turtle says:

    I am not a hacker. I am a wannabe. I “repaired” my Walkman when I was 9, then unsuccessfully tried to make it a plug and play device. I’ve repaired a few mobile phones in the same manner. They were old anyway! I cleaned and oiled my sewing machine so well it stopped working. It was too relaxed, better than a spa.
    But really, no matter what others might think, one day I hope I will be a hacker in the real world as much as I am in my heart.

    Maybe a step by step book will inspire me to destroy more things in my house. Long live hackers, I bow to thee :)

  5. David Owens says:

    I would love to set up a warehouse space for the community kids to be able to come and tinker. My method would be to follow a child’s interest and teach math, logic, science, relational skills, and hope all come from building a computer or robot.
    Our community is economically, racially, and educationally suppressed. The tinker warehouse could build not only more competent and confident children but a better, closer-knit, true community of all people.
    That is my vision and what I am working towards creating.

  6. Louis says:

    My university has lots of small shops that are run by each of the different departments, but you need seperate authorizations to be allowed to use each one. They also have a laser cutter and a 3D printer, but you need a budget code from a department to use them which means no personal projects. I just wish my school had a unified shop with enough space and equipment for people to use (and not just for school work).

  7. Jacob says:

    If I created a hackerspace, I’d start off with a good set of power tools, table saw, power generator, etc. I would the existing tools to create new tools, until I had everything I could possibly want. I’d start with a CNC router, laser cutter, and 3D printer. Then I’d work my way up to a mill and lathe.

  8. A hacker space is just getting started in my area. What I love about it is the enthusiasm everybody has for creating things. Also for helping each other. It is a great community to be involved with. Ask a question on the email list and you’ll get answers or help finding the answers no problem.