Frequently Asked Questions
The first questions here are general in nature followed by some very specific questions. You might also want to check the Frequently Asked Questions on the Teaching Classes#Frequently Asked Questions page. We are asked almost weekly for advice on building a makerspace like TinkerMill. Here are some of the exchanges we've accumulated.
"What is TinkerMill?"
- TinkerMill is a 501(c)3 community nonprofit makerspace in Longmont, Colorado.
- We have roughly 600 paying members and several thousand who follow our meetups.
"How does TinkerMill operate? Are you at Tinkermill primarily volunteer based, paid staff or a mix?"
- With one exception, we are all dues paying community members, many of who volunteer time to make the community great. The one exception is our excellent executive director, Ron Thomas- who is our one and only employee. :Our board of directors is unpaid, elected from the TinkerMill membership, and includes a few external board members from other community non-profits.
"What makes TinkerMill so successful?
- Our members & volunteers are highly skilled and have a lot of passion. We would like to better leverage our volunteers to teach classes, work on machinery, web development, and more.
- To really describe how we sustain a vibrant community would take a bit of dialog. If the following information is not sufficient, feel free to contact email@example.com with specific questions. We have folks who will respond to specific makerspace startup questions and actively seek out and (when possible) visit other spaces to learn how they operate.
- You'll see the word "champion" used at TinkerMill a lot. A champion is anyone who can organize volunteer efforts to get great work done, but not someone who necessarily has the skills to do it themselves. Champions are organizational, motivational volunteers: they do not need any experience in electronics or motors to build a wheelchair lift, and they don't need a background in project management. All a champion needs is the desire to see something get done.
- Community involvement
- Members join relevant communities - For example, our Director has been active in the Nation of Makers group which formed when he and other makerspace organizers were invited to visit the White House a couple of years back specifically to teach them about makerspaces and maker mentality.
- Participate as a makerspace in local business and arts events
- All classes are open to the public
- Shop organization
- We have a shop captain system that, when it works well, contributes to teaching, volunteer efforts and encourages the socialization that keeps the fabric of our makerspace welcoming. Each shop has a captain or a committee of captains that manage the shop's operation. The captain is often the person who championed the shop to begin with; a potter bringing in a wheel, a blacksmith bringing in an anvil, a textile expert advocating for an industrial sewing machine, etc. Shops enjoy some operational autonomy and function within minimal TinkerMill guidelines. The Metal Craft shop offers weekly open studio times for exposure and exploration, the textile shop started by offering basic sewing lessons free of charge; the potter charged $10 for a two hour workshop whereas the blacksmith charges $240 to teach basic safety along with an introductory 4 hour, hands-on lesson, supplies and fuel use included. The TinkerMill keeps half the fee, outside of the supplies cost, and the instructor is paid the rest.
- Shop captains meet monthly with the Executive Director and they discuss policies, safety issues and what is going on with their shops. This is where cooperation between shops often begins.
- Any member may ask to become a class organizer who then becomes authorized to schedule a class on Meetup.
- We encourage people to earn their membership fee by teaching what they know, whether or not it is related to a specific shop; they can teach knitting booties or higher mathematics, in accordance with their expertise.
"How has TinkerMill built a thriving community from its disparate membership?"
- We have grown steadily and encourage new members to mix, teach and volunteer. Here are a few examples
- Social events for mixing. Unsurprisingly, the most successful ones happen when there is food, beer and time to spend together.
- Weekly, hour-long membership meetings. These are open to the public and frequently extend well past the hour into an unofficial networking opportunity.
- Scheduled workdays on Saturdays. Lots of people show up and work. Crank up the music. Many start the day as strangers and are friends by the time the pizza and beer come.
- Acknowledgement and recognition for efforts. Such efforts are the backbone of a successful and sustainable volunteer makerspace.
- One online meeting place for sharing passions, ideas, plans, resources, and proposals. We use SLACK.org.
- We have roughly 25 different shops that are cheek by jowl with a few exceptions. As such, opportunities abound for folks to be exposed to neighboring activities, knowledge and skills. They will watch, ask questions, and often decide they want to learn that skill. Lately, this has begun to spawn cross-shop collaborative projects. Many captains have advocated for multi-shop joint projects and all are glad to cooperate with other shops. For instance, the 3D printer captain made a mold which the metal working captain used to make silver roses by lost wax casting. A laser cutter user did the same for a medallion and it was cast in bronze. People with a lot of experience in one area, don't always take on being captain, but they are willing to help with maintenance, teaching classes and being generally helpful.
- How can I request a class?
- Post a request to the appropriate Slack channel. If none seem appropriate, use the General channel.
- Someone is giving a class in a space and using equipment I needed to use today. How can I be informed of when classes will take resources I need to use?
- Check the MeetUp calendar. Bookmark it. Refer to it when equipment needs are critical to you. Scheduled classes have precedence.
- How do you know if I'm certified - how can I check if I was certified on the most current equipment?
- Some shops keep records of those who have been certified. Check with the shop captain.
- Can anyone use the soldering tools whether they are a member or not? How does one know if a tool requires certification?
- Good questions. The easy answer is to ask the shop captain. Anyone can use the electronic soldering irons. (Gas fueled soldering torches always require certification.)
- I am not a member of TinkerMill but I'd like to take classes there. What is the policy?
- As a non-profit, TinkerMill makes all classes open to the public. However, you will find that members always will pay the same or less for a class than non-members.
- I am not a member but have taken a TinkerMill class that certifies use of a tool (laser cutter, e.g.). Can I now use that tool?
- Related: I am a jewelry maker and am away from my home shop temporarily. I am not a TinkerMill member. Is there a way I can use the flex-shaft at TinkerMill for a few hours to finish a piece?
- Non-members may use a tool during the certification class at the instructor's discretion. To use it at any other time, you must also be a current TinkerMill member. Consider joining the starving hacker/student membership level for $25/mo. Upon submitting the documentation and paying your first month's fee, you are a fully-fledged member.
- I am not a member but I have some projects for which I'd like to use the TinkerMill space. I'd do it at home, but I don't really have a good working space. They're craft things, no tools necessary besides a glue gun, a paint brush, and a razor. Is there a chance I could bring my stuff and work on it there? What do I need to do?
- As a non-profit, we are open to the public provided a member is present. As long as you bring your own materials, you can work on the tables in the main room. Dues are only $50 a month and starving artists are $25 a month with a couple hours of community service. Non-members wishing to use the space are highly encouraged to sign up, if only for one month. The classes are also open to the public. You must sign a waiver at the front desk before coming in.
- Is the Tinkermill space available for meetings or small groups? I.e. are we able to rent out a room or a space?
- Yes. As a non-profit, we are open to the public provided a member is present. There may be a small usage fee depending on the situation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What is the appropriate use of trash and recycling dumpsters at TinkerMill?
- Dumpsters at TinkerMill are intended only for disposal of refuse generated at TinkerMill. They should not be used to dispose of refuse brought from home or other non-TinkerMill locations.
- We have two dumpsters; one is for recycling and another for garbage. There is no composting service available. Western Disposal charges an additional $50.00 for each item that does not fit inside the dumpster. This includes any items sticking out of the dumpster or items left in the dumpster area. Please break down all cardboard boxes. Standard garbage bags are not recyclable. Please dump loose recyclables in the recycling dumpster and dispose of the garbage bag in the garbage dumpster.
- Some equipment has an "RFID" access. How do I get that access?"
- All TinkerMill members are asked to attend a New Member Orientation. This is where we discuss some of the more important points of being a TinkerMill member and where we provide you with an RFID badge and a TinkerMill.org email address. If you have already submitted your new member paperwork and your first dues payment, you should sign up for the next New Member Orientation. They're typically held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month and you can always see when the next one is scheduled by checking the TinkerMill Meetup Calendar. Then you must take the certification class and your RFID will be added so that you can use the tool.
- I joined and would like to use the space after hours, what’s the situation when no one is there?
- We expect all new members to RSVP for and attend the next new member orientation session that fits within their schedule to get their very own RFID key fob that provides access to the building if the front door is locked. If you have immediate needs for after-hours access, please contact the membership management team via email@example.com for information on entry and shutdown process.
- What is that loud chirping or squealing sound I occasionally hear in the parking lot?
- Just few hundred feet away from TinkerMill is a company developing systems that very precisely measure the physical properties of the atmospheric column above it. This system uses short bursts of audio and radio signals to probe the atmospheric column. One system sends a warble of spread spectrum audio every 50 seconds, one system sends a 1 kHz, 100 millisecond beep once every 900 milliseconds, and one system sends a 1.1 kHz, 100 millisecond beep once every 1000 milliseconds. The two beeps are slightly out of sync, with a beat frequency of 0.5/minutes (every 2 minutes they match). TinkerMill is fortunate to be located in an industrial zone which allows us and our neighbors to make sounds and smells that wouldn't otherwise be permitted by the city.
- Do members have to pay any extra fees for equipment usage?
- Yes, depending on the shop. The laser cutter has an hourly suggested donation. The blacksmithing shop suggests donations for use of gas in the forge as does the glassworking area for use of gasses in the torches. Some shops don’t charge but you bring your own materials. There are charges for certification classes on most equipment. These donations and fees help to pay the cost of keeping the individual shops running.
- How do I change the credit card used to pay my membership dues?
- TinkerMill doesn't store or directly use any of your credit card information. To change the change the payment method used for your automatically recurring PayPal payment, please access your PayPal account at https://paypal.com
- How do I cancel my membership?
- As outlined in the membership agreement, we request 30 days' notice in advance. Please contact the membership management team via firstname.lastname@example.org to request a cancellation.
- I used to be a TinkerMill member and I would like to rejoin. What do I need to do?
- Welcome back! It's possible that some things have changed while you were gone, so please follow the current process at http://www.tinkermill.org/membership.html. When you submit your new membership agreement, please note that you're a rejoining member to help streamline the process.
- I've just restarted my TinkerMill membership. Do I need to complete the new member orientation or take the certification classes again?
- When possible, we don't typically require re-joining members to start over with tool and shop certifications and the orientation when they return. However, if there have been substantial changes to the machinery, shops, certification curriculum, or orientation while the member has been gone, we might require them to complete the current certification/orientation process for the relevant components.
- If I sign up for a class and am put on the waitlist, will I move to a seat automatically if one opens up? Will I be notified?
- If a Meetup has an attendee limit and charges an event fee, a waitlist will be enabled. If spots open up, those waitlisted are automatically RSVPed to the event in the order in which they joined the waitlist. They will receive a notification if they are moved from the waitlist to 'attending'.
- What is the "charrette" I keep hearing about?
- The charrette is a long, multi-year organizational process by which TinkerMill is reallocating shop space. TinkerMill changes to fit the needs of its members, as as certain areas become in need or more space or different amenities, we organize strategic plans and volunteer days to move the process along.
- What's with the King Soopers cards?
- King Soopers has been an amazing avenue for TinkerMill to raise some funds. Here's how it works: You purchase a King Soopers gift card from us at face value (you pay us $10 for a $10 grocery card), and use it as you shop at King Soopers or buy gas at a King Soopers gas station. When you run out of funds on the card, reload it at the customer service desk, and TinkerMill gets a donation of 5% the reload amount from King Soopers. The whole process costs you nothing!
- Is TinkerMill closed or are classes canceled because of the weather?
- At the facility and organization level, TinkerMill doesn't have snow days. Our weather policy is that we leave it up to each individual (instructors and participants) to decide for themselves if the weather would preclude their safely getting to and from the space and we encourage everyone to do what they feel is safest for themselves. If an instructor feels that they can't (or shouldn't) hold the class, they will cancel the event on Meetup (https://www.meetup.com/LongmontHackerSpace/) providing as much notice as possible. If you're curious about a specific class or event, we encourage you to reach out to the event host via Slack, email, or Meetup messaging.
- I already know how to use a particular tool or shop that requires certification. Do I still need to take the regular certification class?
- Yes. The intent of the classes for certification-required tools and machines is to make sure that everyone is on the same page for general safety, to provide individual familiarization with the specific tools and machines TinkerMill has on hand, and to share the policies and general operations of that particular shop. We intentionally keep the cost and duration of our basic certification classes as low as possible to make sure everyone can participate.
The above questions came from email@example.com, Slack, and other discussions. Some questions posed may not have posted answers yet. This is "Frequently ASKED questions" after all. 8-}