Sometimes DIY projects make you want more than a hot glue gun. How about stepping up to a table saw?
Don’t want to shell out half a grand or store that sucker in your home or garage? Join the club. Really. Kansas City has club membership opportunities for those who want to build without buying.
A bonus is the educational and social environment. You can learn how to use tools and machines from a lathe to a 3-D printer for your personal projects while making new friends and collaborating on your designs. Whether you want to turn a bowl or print one, it’s easier than ever to get the right tools and knowledge for the job.
Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild, 3189 Mercier St., has a plethora of machines from table saws, band saws and scroll saws to sanders, planers and jointers, “and a lot of people that know how to help you,” says George Rexroad, director of membership. “That’s probably the biggest thing we have is knowledge.”
Anyone of any ability can walk in and sign up for a safety course, then get a badge that allows them to use any machine available during open shop hours, and a foreman is always around to help with technique or even ideas.
Sharon Pugh didn’t even know how to correctly hold a hammer when she became a member in 2008. Now she’s the board secretary. She took a couple of woodworking classes at the Kansas City Art Institute first, but what she really needed was for someone to take her under their wing.
Mentoring and training are a part of the guild’s philosophy. “Everyone here has been so supportive. If they laugh at me, they do it in front of my face,” she says with a smile. “They’re very nurturing, although the guys wouldn’t want to be called that.”
A recent visit to the guild’s monthly meeting showed a wide range of attendees, young to old, male to female. Some members are professionals, others hobbyists. “They do it because it’s relaxing and enjoyable,” Rexroad says. He’s now working on a sewing table for his wife. “When I joined I made a great pile of sawdust. Now every once in awhile, something nice turns out of it,” he adds.
During the show-and-tell portion of the evening, members shared finished projects, which included a Shaker-style dining table, tool chest, art frame and superhero nightlight. One desperate homeowner made an appearance, bringing a cabinet drawer she wanted to have remade and asking for any member to help.
Guild members often are called on for assistance, as is the case with Steve Eikos, who showed a beer caddy that Hallmark wants to produce. The product originally was sent to China for production, but the quality wasn’t up to snuff, so Eikos, an electrical engineer in the new product division who also happened to be a guild member, took it down the street to see what could be done by local talent.
Members drive from as far away as Wichita and Des Moines, Omaha and Minnesota.
KC Woodworkers’ Guild is just one such resource. Those interested not just in woodworking, but in metal, crafts, art, electronics and digital projects can find their groove at Hammerspace Community Workshop, 440 E. 63rd St. Owners Dave and Beck Dalton operate the shop like a gym, but members exercise their minds and creativity with robots and lasers.
Hammerspace opened four years ago to supply neighborhood woodworkers, artists and entrepreneurs with space and tools to create anything imaginable.
“It’s always interesting to see the projects that come through here,” Beck notes.
“It’s fanatics of differing interests cross-pollinating disciplines,” Dave adds.
You don’t have to feel obligated to invent the next great thing; you can simply use the sewing machine if you don’t have one.
Hammerspace’s allure is its versatility and the availability of a comprehensive number of tools, but the shop’s six 3-D printers are a huge part of what has fueled the growth of the business. Dave likens the machines to an Etch-a-Sketch and glue gun with a robot. All you need to do is load model specs into software and hit print.
“If you can draw it, you can make it here,” Dave says. In fact, he is a big proponent of members adding drafting to their skill sets. “Art is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent drudgery. Computers take the work out so you can focus on design,” he says.
Members in this community range from teens to octogenarians. The Daltons’ sons, 7 and 14, often hang out at the shop, and there’s a kids playroom set aside for parents who want to bring their children. Hammerspace also recently started offering soldering events for those looking for a different kind of birthday party.
“We just had a group of 13-year-old girls in, and they said it was the best birthday party they had ever been to,” Dave says.
Part of Hammerspace’s success is Dave himself; he’s the passionate shop class teacher you never had in high school.
“He’s always wanted to teach people everything he knows,” Beck says. As with the KC Woodworkers’ Guild, classes and mentoring are available for learning or mastering skills.