I’ve been following the TechShop post-apocalypse makerspace landscape. A year after TechShop’s sudden closing, there’s a wave of good news to be found. By now, new organizers have stepped forward to create for-profit and nonprofit makerspaces, motivated to serve the makers who were displaced by the closure. Also, many of those who gained experience working at TechShop have found new jobs in other spaces. It’s a good sign that the maker community is able to rebound from such an unexpected failure.
Today, I visited TheShop.Build in San Jose. Owner Dan Rasure is from Kansas and came to the Bay Area to open the TheShop.Build in San Francisco in February and in San Jose in August.
Sure, there’s lots of equipment in the 56,000 sq. ft. of space in an office park. A few pieces of TechShop San Jose equipment were bought at auction in June. However, Rasure is also bringing more industrial-grade machines to TheShop.Build in addition to the kind of equipment that hobbyists often use. Rasure knows his way around the machines. He says that the woodworking area is the most used.
What I enjoy most about visiting makerspaces is seeing the surprising projects and meeting the people behind them.
Wyllis Greenway started a company as a 13-year-old in Sacramento and he recently moved to the Bay Area. He had been making and assembling his product at home but now he has the proper space to do the work. His product is named Zatoba, and it was first suggested to him by his Mom who is a baker. It’s a wooden handle into which a razor blade fits and is used by artisan bakers to score loaves of bread. He now sells about 10,000 units a year at $25 retail. In addition to selling the knife off his own website (zatoba.com), he sells it through Williams & Sonoma as well as Amazon.
He began making this product while in high school and then went to college. Eventually he dropped out to scale up his business, which he said allowed him to buy his first car and now supports him working on it full-time. At TheShop.Build, he was getting ready to pack his knives in small wooden boxes for shipment during Christmas, his peak season. Taking a break later in the morning, he sat in the common room thumbing through a large book on 19th century tools.
Michael Randazzo needed a cane after a recent hip replacement. As a Star Wars fan, he had an idea for a light-saber cane. He said that he checked out Sharper Image, which had them for $300-$400 and he thought “I can build it myself.” So he did it, machining the aluminum handle with great care and skill. The handle has a hidden seam that I could not detect except by twisting it open. By day, he works in finance at HP but he has discovered that he is also really good using machines to make things.
Gaia, who works at TheShop.Build, was busy adding colorful fabric to some of the cubicles in the common area. She was described to me as a creative person who can do just about anything. I saw another staff member, Darius, who also helps out at Maker Faire. Vinnie DiMare, who is a sales manager, shared a big project idea that he is socializing with other members in hopes of getting it built. John Hunt is the general manager. At a makerspace, you might come for the equipment but you’ll stay because you belong to a community of interesting people.
Here’s a short video based on photos I took on my visit:
If you live in the area and would like to see TheShop.Build yourself, there’s a “Maker Homecoming” on Saturday, November 10 from 11am to 7pm. There will be tours, tool demos and a few hands-on projects — one of them a cardboard turkey construction.
Maker Homecoming at TheShop.Build in San Jose on November 10.
- Free Pizza and Drinks
- Discounts for Members and Friends
- $25 off of 1 class for friends that members bring
- 2 For 1 Classes: Sign up with a friend