One of the most wonderful things about MakeICT is the wide array of experience levels in our makerspace. We have brand new makers who’ve gone from knowing nothing to making art with a plasma cutter in six months. We have highly experienced makers who’ve been creating great things since before MakeICT was around. Allan Bacon is an experienced woodworker whose tables caught our eye, so I sat down to talk with him about how he got started and where he finds inspiration.
Allan has been woodworking for 22 years. He originally started in to make martial arts weapons when he wasn’t satisfied with what was commercially available, and diversified over time into different wooden styles. A few years ago he saw a live edge table and admired the juxtaposition with the natural edge and the glossy, smooth top. He had just retired from the aircraft industry and had time for bigger projects.
Inspired by pacific northwest artists like Greg Klassen and George Nakashima, live edge tables retain the outer bark of a slab of wood. Some have natural holes to fill in, other tables are made by splitting the slab in half lengthwise so the bark edges are turned to face each other. Allan has used different techniques to fill in the center: resin fill, acrylic or glass tops, LED lights, even phosphorous powder mixed in to casting to glow in the dark.
Allan gets his supplies from Richard’s Wood Shop in Kechi, Cook’s Woods online, Intermountain wood, and friends around the Wichita area. For one table he used an antique singer sewing base. There was a lot to learn in taking the treadle table apart, cleaning it, and re-assembling the cast iron parts to work together just as they had since the 1890s.
Like many of our members, Allan has his own shop at home but he joined MakeICT in its first few years because we had some tools he did not have, like a 15″ planer and CNC shopbot router.
He says he recommends it to people all the time and has talked with plenty of woodworkers in other cities who are jealous of what we offer for $25 a month. “For someone who would like to get started in wood, the MakeICT project classes are a great intro to the world of woodworking. The projects use several of the machines in the shop and the instructor is right there to help along the way,” he says, “Plus you will meet other people with similar interests, so it’s a good networking opportunity. The people there are usually more than willing to answer questions and are glad to show you their projects.”
“For me, MakeICT offers access to machinery that I couldn’t begin to afford. And with a fob/card you have 24/7 access. You don’t have to schedule around “Open” hours. Plus there are machines that I’ve thought would be interesting to learn, but had nowhere to do so. How does the average person get access to a laser cutter, much less learn how to use it? Or a CNC plasma table? Or a 4’ by 8’ ShopBot? Only at MakeICT.”
Our February featured maker is Malissa Long: Fiber artist, fashion designer, sewn product developer, pattern maker, technical designer, and finally MakeICT board member and textiles area lead. She has taught classes in sewing, dying, printing and lots of other forms of art. Malissa moved to Wichita from Austin in July 2015.
“I moved to Austin shortly after the new airport opened and the Greater Austin Area had 500,000 people. I moved to Wichita shortly after the new airport opened and the Wichita Metropolitan Area had 500,000. Wichita reminds me a lot of those early days in Austin. If great things could happen there I can’t wait for what’s in store here.”
Malissa is seen at MakeICT a lot but one great time to catch her is at Textile Tribe on the second Sunday of each month in the afternoon. Textile Tribe is a casual come-and-go event where anyone can bring in Unfinished Fiber Objects (UFOs) to work and collaborate on.
“I love MakeICT for the community it creates, the knowledge that is shared, the creativity it invites. The fact I know nothing about electronics, yet my son is obsessed at the moment and we can take classes and learn together. That he can come in and ask what a flame diode is and some one will take the time to explain it to him in terms that a 9-year-old can understand.”
Malissa brings a great depth of knowledge in the world of fiber arts and is always trying something new. “I discovered Boro recently, it basically simple running stitches used to mend or repair thin spots in fabric by adding a patch. I’m actually using the stitches to surface embellish a dress I’m making out of old jeans.” She’s being sewing since childhood, with two sewing machines by the age of nine and a family of makers who sewed her clothes.
Her class called “Know Your Sewing Machine” invites curious beginners to bring in their own machines to gain the technical background to run their machines properly. “Driving a sewing machine is like being in stop and go traffic,” she says, “it’s not an open highway where you maintain speed. You Pump the foot pedal, let the machine pull the fabric, and use your hands to lightly guide the fabric.” I know it a lot to remember even I forget sometimes.
MakeICT’s Featured Maker for this month is David Springs. David rents space in one of our front cubicles. “Our makerspace is like Disneyland for anyone who is creative,” he says. “It’s a place that enables folks who like to make things to actually make them!”
Being a maker is a big part of his life. Among other things, to him MakeICT means access to top-notch equipment, making dreams into reality. “It means a nice, warm wood shop instead of a dimly-lit, freezing garage, equipped with a contractor saw on a rickety stand. It means ideas and advice from other members when I’m trying to solve a problem.”
David is often at the space working on the many projects he has in development. “There’s nothing quite like taking an idea that’s in your head and turning it into an object that you can hold in your hands and share with others. I’ve always got about ten projects in various stages of development. Every time I come up with some idea, I write it down and put it on a plastic bin in my studio. Then I start collecting the materials I need, adding them to the bins as I get them. Eventually I have enough stuff to actually start building.”
Some of the projects you might have seen him working on around the makerspace:
Last year while driving through western Kansas, David was inspired by the many metal whirligig-type sculptures that turn our state’s wind into moving art. He designed and completed his own gear-driven model of Godzilla eating Tokyo. “This project is probably a one-off,” David says.
And just like every project, he learned new things while working on it. This time, he learned “that sometimes things don’t work in quite the way you envision them in your head!” David used many of the resources available at MakeICT to put the whirligig together. “I’ve used the wood shop for the structure, the laser for Godzilla and the buildings of Tokyo, one of our 3D printers for some gearing and adapters, the electronics lab to give the buildings of Tokyo and Godzilla’s eyes LED lighting and sound.”
Thanks to Gordon Murray for contributing to this post.
This month, our Makerspace Program Director, Tom McGuire, is MakeICT ‘s Featured Maker. We asked him about MakeICT and his favorite personal project.
“I don’t get a chance to really work on it too much, but the foam cutting machine is my primary project right now. It can take a drawing that you make on a computer and cut it out of 1/4 inch thick Styrofoam sheets,” McGuire said.
He has six machines now and is working on two more.
McGuire started the foam cutter back in 2008 when he was asked for help working with foam. The project continued to evolve into other projects during the years since.
He has used the resources at MakeICT to help him further refine the design and function of the foam cutter.
“I’m still working on it and MakeICT is a big part of the progress, both with software development and seeing how other people like to use the thing.” McGuire added, “Dominic is working with me to make the software better. It’s looking good.”
McGuire says that giving other makers advice about starting their own foam cutting projects has been problematic.
“It’s always been too complicated to expect other people to try to do. Someday I hope to tell them to go to Instructables.com and learn everything they want to know to make one. That’s still in the works, but the advances we are making on it will make that possible.”
McGuire has been tinkering with things since he was very young.
“I never did mess with cars too much, but I did get hooked into electronics and made a career out of it. Now I work at WSU showing students how to learn and make things.”
McGuire is also thinking about future projects.
“When I retire I want to build a machine that makes some of the strangest and most beautiful music.”
When asked about MakeICT, McGuire says, “It’s always fun to be a part of something that is growing. I make friends there that I never knew existed before. It’s like a big flower pot full of really good dirt.”