The tour of this makerspace just outside Denver and Boulder, Colorado took place in September 2019, long before COVID-19 flipped spaces like these on their heads. However, as of today, TinkerMill is open for business, albeit with several precautions in place.
Take a peek inside this massive, and well-equipped space in the video below with our delightful and most excellent tour guide, Joe Augustaitus.
I’m very sad to report that Joe unexpectedly passed away March 9 of this year. More on him can be found at the end of this article.
For the most up-to-date information on precautionary measures surrounding the coronavirus, you can check this page. As of today, some of these rules include wearing a fabric face-covering and maintaining 6 feet of separation from others at all times.
It’s so incredibly important that everyone do their part with isolation, social distancing, and mask wearing. I’m so proud of all the TinkerMillians who have pulled together to keep our community safe.Ron Thomas, Executive Director of TinkerMill
In-person tours are back on, although with a very limited capacity and with the new COVID rules applying to all participants. However, for the most up-to-date information, it’s probably best to drop them a line here before stopping by.
Now, onto the good stuff.
I’ve been to quite a few makerspaces and fablabs around the world, and TinkerMill is definitely one of the most impressive. They have all the typical tools you’d expect. Plus, if you have an urgent need to do some glass-blowing or to forge a metal sword, as we all do at times, they have you covered.
Filament for the 3D printers is supplied by TinkerMill and users weigh what they’ll use and pay by the gram.
The current list of available machines includes the following:
- Da Vinci 1.0 -2 units
- Flashforge Creator Pro – 2 Units
- Flashforge Creator (Makerbot Clone)- 1 unit
- SeeMeCNC Rostock Max Delta Arm- 1 unit
Those with an amateur FCC radio license can get approval to come into the “HAM Shack” and use it at any time. The site at Tinkermill is registered and has its own call letters, which has been used to make contact with over 70 countries.
You can find out more on the Wiki page here.
Here, you’ll find 2 photo printers with a color-corrected display screen. You can also develop old-timey black-and-white film at TinkerMill, capture the negatives digitally and produce prints from those negatives. Plus, Adobe Photoshop is available on the computer in this space.
Electronics and Robotics Lab
Basic electronics fabrication gear like soldering irons and oscilloscopes can be found here.
In a separate building, there’s also a pick-and-place machine if you want to assemble a bunch of boards. Additionally, you might find their very active robotics group skunkworks-ing it up in the lab.
Laser Cutter & Engraver
The 80W laser cutter is one of the more highly-used pieces of equipment.
Time can be reserved on this machine in 4-hour blocks, but if you need to use it right before Christmastime, you might be out of luck. Joe told us he didn’t think it ever stopped during that season.
Torches are available and members pay for the oxygen used during their session.
If stained glass making is more your bag, there’s a separate workshop for that.
- SawStop Table Saw
- Miter Saw
- Router Table
- Small Drill Press
- Numerous hand tools and materials
There’s all that and a bag of: 8-foot x 4-foot PRS Alpha ShopBot. On the TinkerMill site, it’s described as “…a gantry-based, industrial-strength CNC milling machine for cutting, drilling, carving and machining. Spindle speeds of up to 1800 inches per minute with cutting speeds of up to 600 inches per minute. It’s capable of milling wood, plastics, aluminum, and other materials.”
Textiles and Fabrics Shop
- Industrial Straight Stitch Sewing Machine
- Embroidery Machine
- Several Standard Sewing Machines
- MIG Welder
- TIG Welder
- Oxygen-Acetylene Torch
Metal and Machine Shop
Joe advised us to bring our own drill index and bits, as the one you’ll need will likely be the only one missing. Otherwise, this space is packed with goodies!
- Mitek CNC Mill
- Bridgeport Mill
- Nardini Lathe x2
- Drill Press
- Vertical Bandsaw
- 20 Ton Air/Hydraulic Shop Press
- Gauge Table and Measuring Tools
- Sheet Metal Brake/Roll/Shear
This space is in a trailer in back of the main TinkerMill building. Joe mentioned a periodic drop-in class that will get you some clay and couple kiln firings for about $20. Glazes, a variety of small tools and a couple of electric wheels are available. More information can be found here.
This might be one of the areas that has some additional ‘Rona restrictions, but at the time I visited, this full kitchen was open for all to use.
There was even a community beer section in the fridge for all those of-age, funded by separate donations.
Classes and meetings can be found on TinkerMill’s MeetUp page. There, you can find safety courses on using the available equipment as well as classes to pick up new skillsets. Below is just a taste of some of the classes you can find.
Robotics/Self-driving Bots: our tour guide mentioned there are self-driving bot races in a lot across the street! You can find more on that including the course diagram on the TinkerMill Wiki page here.
Glass-blowing: how many makerspaces do you know of that will teach you about this?!
Blacksmithing: again, as with the glassblowing class, how cool is this?!
Advanced 3D-Printing: if you want to turbo-boost your 3D printing skills, I guess this is the class for you.
TinkerMill had one robotic gadget I’ve never seen before — a self-driving mop! Or maybe it was a dog. I don’t know; it was getting my ankles wet. OK, it was probably a dog.
Yeah, and here’s another one. So, I guess they’re dog-friendly!
How the Space is Run
TinkerMill is a member-run, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with $50/month membership fees as of today. In true community-spirit fashion, everyone is expected to help out wherever they can, clean up after themselves, and adhere to the honor system. You can find more on membership here.
I was also told when I visited that you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you don’t: 1. discuss politics, 2. discuss religion, and 3. sleep there overnight. Sounds pretty straightforward to me.
Some of the more dangerous tools are protected by special locks. Members are given RFID key fabs that are only encoded with the ability to unlock machines after the member passes a safety course for that tool.
Board meetings where all members are usually invited happen once a month. These events help to let all members be a part of building and maintaining the organization.
More About Joe Augustaitus
Ron Thomas, Executive Director of TinkerMill had this to say about the late Joe Augustaitus:
Joe was deeply involved with TinkerMill even before there was a TinkerMill. He was one of the five people at the very first Meetup that Scott Converse, our original founder, held in 2013 to feel out if Longmont was ready for a makerspace. He was incredibly generous with his time; always eager to help anyone at any time. He helped host nearly all of our Sunday open houses and gave tours to thousands of visitors. He served on the board of directors since 2017 and was always walking around the space taking care of important little things like refilling the soap and paper towel dispensers, printing blank waivers and membership agreements, and even did the vast majority of the data entry for completed new member agreements. Joe personally impacted nearly every TinkerMillian in one way or another and we’ll all miss him terribly.