What is The Foundery?
We are very excited to announce that we have officially moved into The Foundery!
The Foundery is basically the ultimate maker space that provides access to industrial grade tools and education, with the goal of sparking innovation. It is located in the Port Covington area of Baltimore. We already have some amazing stuff here such as CNC plasma cutters, laser cutters, water jet cutters, full welding, full metal shop, full wood shop, 3D-printers, all sorts of sewing equipment, and it's pretty much a dream world.
It's an honor that I was asked to participate in the Maker in Residence program, where as a "Maker" I will be able to teach people the skills that I know, help others out, and get them excited about their craft and pursuit of building things! I'm able to maintain a small workspace in this shop and at the same time, help out, contribute staff time, teach classes and do a variety of other things to make this a really successful operation.
As of the writing of this article, The Foundery is not yet open to the public; there's still a lot of build-out left to do, but it's all coming together! In the short time I've been here, a lot of the machines have been hooked up, they completed the electrical work, air hoses are being run, and benches and furniture are being welded together. There is really just a million things going on around here at once!
We were able to move in ahead of the official opening, and set up the new workspace. Once I was surrounded by the very cool and accomplished staff it didn't take long before I was inspired to "up my game" and build out an improved workspace that better fit with the Foundery aesthetic, as well as addressed all the little, accumulated problems in my last shop. The rest of the article details our move and shop build-out.
Prior to this move, my previous workshop took over the whole lower floor of my house. If any of you reading are familiar with my Baltimore row home, you know that I had turned part of it into a makeshift mad scientist lair. You also know just how relieved my partner, Lauren, is that our house is no longer filled with hundreds of tools!
We had a huge raft of shit, shown below; all of our parts, tools and everything just wrapped up in boxes and shoved into a corner. (That old table saw is not part of our stuff.)
Unfortunately, not everything made it over in it's original form. My Oscilloscope (pictured below) was brand new and was smashed by a table leg; but on the bright side, we have it sent out currently to be repaired and returned as good as new!
The first thing that we did once we moved in was set up a temporary workspace. We pretty much just threw everything back together, plugged it all in, put the tools up, put parts in every possible location, and just made sure that we could resume business as normal as possible since we had a lot of client work to do.
It didn't take long with the disorganization for me to start thinking "you know, this is the perfect opportunity to build an organized, well-appointed, clean workshop that fits with all of my aesthetics and philosophies of building." With that in mind, I set out to design something that would better fit the space. It was actually beneficial that the temporary workshop was set up in the area where the Makers in Residence "lives" because it helped me realize where the light was and what worked versus what didn't.
The corner area gets a lot of sun, which is awesome for natural light purposes, but if you're sitting facing away from the windows in the afternoon, the light just blasts into your computer and you can't really get anything done. So I kept moving the desks around until I eventually settled on an idea for a large central desk that's basically 3 desks put together where I could sit facing into the corner.
From where I'm currently sitting writing this, I'm basically looking into the corner of the shop and all I really see is a beautiful massive window showing the blue skies and clouds. The walls are a clean white cinder block, and so you can almost forget you are in a massive 20000 square foot wonder world.
I wanted my workspace to be as serene and minimal as possible. I designed a workspace where everything would be put away and it wouldn't be just about the utilitarian aspect of getting a task done, but more of an inspiring, contemplative area for ideas. I wanted to have as much stuff behind shelves and drawers as humanly possible so that you wouldn't see anything that might to cloud the mind. Simplicity at its finest.
All of the benches that we had in our old workspace were the Ikea butcher block tops with these little screw-on white legs that were pretty boring and not very sturdy. The tops on the other hand were inexpensive and matched the numerous butcher block benches filling up the rest of the location.
Audrey, who also works at the Foundery, is a beast of a welder, and when I saw how fast she was able to put together some of the other benches they were making, I thought it'd be a great idea to make some frames that roughly match the rest of the frames here, have Audrey weld them for me, and they'll be like brand new desks! Below, are the frames I mocked up before bringing them to life.
All of the desks have the same general design; the table legs are flush with the edges so that in the event you needed to clamp something, there wasn't an interference with the tabletop and the sides.
Two of the desks are slight variations on the basic frame. One of them (on the left) has an extra set of legs, and that's for mounting my computer components to a rack mount frame. The other one (on the right) has a large support structure in the back, and that's going to be for mounting shelves for a new electronics bench.
Above, you can see the in-progress of the electronics bench coming together. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures when I was building this because I was just trying to hammer through it, but you can see in the background of the picture some of the normal desk frames as well as the computer desk frame in the mid-ground.
Above, you can see all of the shelves attached to the electronics bench. It is pleasing to have plenty of shelf space for various electronic test tools. The adjustable shelves are birch plywood, cut to fit, with a edge band veneer. I was surprised how nice they looked, and it was much less expensive to build them myself rather than modify purchased shelves.
One of the main reasons I wanted to have a large metal frame for the electronics bench was to support grounding. A lot of the electronic components that I have have ground connections, and there's also the anti-static mat, and I just wanted everything possible to be grounded in the electronics bench so that all static electricity could be dissipated. As I fit out the bench I could drill holes where needed, run a tap through them, and screw ground connections right onto the frame. The frame itself is then grounded to the main power strip, which in turn is grounded to the main power service.
Above you can see all the toys put away and the bench in a very rare, clean state. In the future I'll detail the specifics of the electronics bench as while building it out I've manage to distill a ton of information and would like to share the research I went through, and which components that I think are necessary to have.
I'm pleased with the finished bench, it's very clean (although it still has a lot of visual clutter) it's the one place that I couldn't put everything behind closed doors or shelving because when I'm using it, it's nice to have everything out in front of me. Now if I had infinite time, I think it would be cool to build shelves that had little stow away drop-down garage-style doors, but there's only 24 hours in a day!
Putting Stuff Away
One of the other tasks that we did was getting these 2 big cabinets. Once Haley stopped fooling around and got out of the cabinet, we could fill it up with all of our parts and gadgets.
We used a bunch of bins that we organized and individually labeled so that everything is put away and doesn't have to be seen once the doors are closed!
A Home For Tools
Over the years, I had accumulated numerous tool chests that were used, second-hand and pretty old. Between some discounts, and money from selling the old tool boxes, it didn't cost that much to upgrade to two larger tool chests that allow all the tools to be organized in one place, with room to grow.
I decided to go all out and ordered some cork, which I cut to fit each drawer, and stuck down with a spray adhesive. This way, all of my tools have a nice cork layer to sit on so they won't get scratched up or bounce around.
Then, we labeled each of the front of the drawers to know what's in which drawer for easy finding. The labels are a nice white on black so it's a very clean look against the already black tool chests.
I figured it was worth spending some money to have all of the tools organized in one place and take care of them really well. The tools were finally all put away and it's fantastic!
There's even a couple of empty drawers which is amazing because it used to be just piles and piles of tools. Now they're all comfortable in their own places! Once everything else is taken care of, I'm going to cut some dividers to further organize and really maximize the space I now have.
A Home For Parts
In the last main section of our workspace, we dedicated one of these rental shelves to further storage of parts and doo-dads.
Finished Work Area
And at last, here is the finished work area! We have the large desk and I also used the vinyl cutter to post the "What Is To Be Done Next?" on the cabinets. I used to have a piece of paper hanging in the old shop with this question, and now it's big enough for all to see!
I thought it would be nice to unify the desks and hid the cables and things underneath by attaching a simple facade of reclaimed pallet boards. We trimmed the boards to varying lengths and screwed them to the edge of the desks. Perhaps in the future a water-jet cut logo may grace this wood wall.
A couple of aerial views of the workspace below.
Below, a close-up view of the reclaimed wood.
The large desk space makes it easily to spread out, and all of the computer gear is housed away beneath in a rack. Though the space is rarely perfectly clean, when the desk is bare, it is very peaceful and inspiring; a blank slate that begs for the creative process to begin.
That's our new and improved workspace in a nutshell! We're all moved in and I've already started building a little work cart to push all of my tools around the shop. Stay tuned, and be sure to check out The Foundery's website for listings on classes, updates on the opening and we'll try to get more information about any other projects we're working on here out to you ASAP! So much to build, so little time...