A new interest of mine is metalworking – machining, welding, even forging metals. I’ve spent 30+yrs doing software (and bit of electronics hardware) with home owner repair stuff but never got into doing real metal work… or serious carpentry either. I have plans to get into 3D printing (Makerbot CNC on order), and other CNC stuff that is a stable of Fab Labs and other hackerspaces. I figured I should learn a bit about it. Turns out Simi Valley Adult School (SVAS) offers training in Basic Machinist, CNC, CAD/CAM, and Welding. The programs are fairly respected (from what I hear), so I figured I’d check them out (being unemployed helps).
The SVAS classes are open enrollment – you sign up for 3 months, start any time, go as often or little as you want, and if you dont complete the program in 3 months you sign up for another 3 months. School is open 9am-9pm M-Th and some people are there 8+hrs/day, while others make it only a couple hours a week (day jobs, etc). The Basic Machinist (BM), CNC and CAD/CAM are a series and if you finish one part way thru a 3 month gig, you just start the next. They figure if you go 8hr/day daily, you have a good chance to finish one certificate in 3 months.
I started the BM program back in August, shortly after I got laid off. Its been fun and interesting learning how to run a lathe and milling machine. It gives a good understanding of the basics that will be useful for CNC, etc. The program has you build 8 projects – generally tools you can add to your tool box for later use machining other things.
Welding is an area I’d like to learn and practice more. I took the Safety Basic Use (SBU) classes at Tech Shop for MIG, TIG and Gas welding last fall with my son Brian. We have a small MIG and Gas rigs but havent done much with them. The MIG was not cooperative and I’m leery of Gas welding. Having a small learning project would be good ‘driving problem’ to get going better.
I’ve also looked into Forging a bit. You can make a smelter for aluminum pretty easy using charcoal (got a book on it). Casting is a bit more work, but 3d printing and desktop cnc boxes are often used for making the initial parts for molds used in casting. Jewelry and small parts for other machines are an option.
Supporting these interests may be harder in a hackerspace than electronics and textiles. Space needs to be dedicated to them as dirty and dangerous (fire, injury hazards). But they could be a great asset to other projects.
Are others interested in these aspects of hacking? Sheet metal work is another related area (metal forming).