• Tue. Aug 16th, 2022



Export Maker Space will feature a blend of old-school, modern technology

58 minutes ago

If someone in Export has a good idea for a project, Tom Spears wants to give them the tools to make it happen.

“We want to hit all the ‘maker’ markets,” said Spears, who will open the Export Maker Space on Kennedy Avenue in the fall.

Spears has taken the former home of International Motorcars of Pittsburgh and replaced the BMWs and Mercedes with table saws and tool benches.

“My day job is a lot of staring at computers and sending emails,” said Spears, who works as an electrical engineering manager for Westinghouse. “But I work on projects all the time, and I’ve been steadily collecting equipment.”

When W.A. Hoy Construction put the space up for rental, Spears knew he’d found a spot.

“It’s perfect,” he said. “We have the bike trail right here, and a lot of traffic going past.”

Spears plans to operate the maker space similar to a gym membership. For $75 per month or $100 per family, users will have access to the space and its tools. “I see a big social aspect to it,” he said. “I had a family contact me that wants to build Skee-Ball machines, I’ve talked with a retired blacksmith and a retired machinist who are interested in hosting some classes.”

Becky Zajdel, president at the HackPGH maker space in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, couldn’t agree more about the social benefits of a maker space.

“The community aspect is probably one of the most important things,” she said. “I never expected for this place to become my family. And the collaboration that has happened among makers has only been magnified through (the covid pandemic).”

Zajdel joined a maker space because “I wanted to get my hands dirty,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to weld, I wanted to learn to build my own computer.”

The latter task has served her well in her job, running nonprofit Meta Mesh, which builds wireless networks in low-income communities. The company was actually borne out of the HackPGH maker space.

“That’s why I joined in the first place,” Zajdel said. “The idea of a community in a maker space transcends the idea of just having a tool library.”

But as with any project involving heavy machinery, safety comes first.

At Export Maker Space, Spears will require safety classes for each piece of equipment.

“Everyone who works in here will be trained on using the equipment safely,” he said. “And I’m working on getting together a group of instructors who’ve shown some interest in doing classes and helping out.”

And while Spears had nothing but praise for the well-oiled 1910 band saw that will be part of the shop, the centerpiece — a CNC plasma cutter that uses an accelerated jet of hot plasma to cut through electrically conductive material — hadn’t been delivered as of Sept. 9.

“You’ll be able to make signs up to 10 feet long, we’ll have equipment to move sheet metal onto the tables, if you have an art project and want to cut out metal you can do that,” Spears said. “We’ll also have a CNC wood router, which offers a lot of opportunities for things like custom furniture. There are plans online that you can download, drop into a CNC machine and get them cut out to make custom chairs, cabinets and things like that.”

Spears plans to have the Export Maker Space open later this fall, but has not set an official opening date.

For more, see ExportMakerSpace.com.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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