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On Wednesday Night I made the drive into Chicago in order to attend Pumping Station One’s monthly DIY CNC night.

The idea behind the monthly gathering is simple: Open up the makerspace to anyone (members and non-members alike) interested in DIY CNC, give them a short guest speaker, and then let them mingle among themselves.

This month’s guest speaker was Bart Dring, of 2.x Laser (and more recently MakerSlide) fame. He talked for about 20 minutes on his 2.x laser and general considerations of building a DIY laser. After the presentation was over, the crowd dispersed from the main table and began forming ad-hoc groups around certain areas of the space, that mood continued throughout the night. All in all there were probably close to 15 people in attendance and several more coming and going throughout the night.

PS1 has a pretty nice setup. A spacious main room with a big table, chairs, whiteboards, tardis, and shelves of surplus computer components. Off to the sides of the room are separate areas defined by their surroundings. An embroidery area, a silkscreen area, and a loft above the back corner with a large flat panel TV, game consoles and lounge out furniture. Under the loft is the “electronics” area. Scopes, meters, components, three or more 3D printers all in various stages of working-ness, and the piece de resistance; an Epilogue laser! Through the double doors you’ll find a hallway with a classroom towards one end, and the wood and metalworking shop at the other end. Like I said, the place is legit.

The part that amazed me most about PS1 was the people. Even with all the cool stuff around, people are what make hackerspaces/makerspaces actually tick, and PS1 is a great example of that. Several people (including myself) brought their homebrew CNC machines along, one even brought their Thing-o-Matic! With such a niche hobby, I can’t tellyou how nice it was to be in a room full of other people who both understood what you were doing and why you were doing it, but also had the passion and understanding to jump right into your project and lend a thoughtful suggestion or ask questions beyond the typical “what is this thing…?”. Like I said, it was really nice.

One of the things that came out of the meeting was a more definitive understanding of *why* people are drawn to shapeoko. The long version will have to be another post, but the short version is this: It’s inviting, it’s friendly, it’s not intimidating. Most of that is attributed to it’s physical appearance with laser cut edges, and a common box joint design. But mostly, I think it’s the size. I literally walked into the room holding it in one arm, set it down on the table, and needed only to plug it in* before it was ready to go. What do you think? What is it about ShapeOko that is appealing to you? Leave me some comments if you’re inclined.


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