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Monday, July 4, 2011

TechShop San Jose: A DIY Workshop for Designers, Inventors and Dreamers

What is TechShop?
It's a membership-based workshop that provides members (including me*) access to approximately $750,000 worth of tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative support so you can build the things you've always wanted to make.

Along with a monthly membership fee, there are free and paid safety and educational classes available (some are required before using the big machines) but once you know what you're doing you simply sign up or show up to work on different pieces of machinery to complete your projects.
"TechShop is perfect for inventors, makers, hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don't have the tools, space or skills."

The newest TechShop just opened last week in San Jose, CA

Yeah, it's for anyone and everyone (including newbies like me) who have ideas of things they'd like to make, regardless of skill level.


There are three TechShop locations in the Bay Area (and one in Raleigh, NC) with the newest just down the street from the entrance to San Jose State University. It's next to the McDonalds on Second Street and across from the Camera 3 theaters and. . .


Psycho Donuts! Hubby loves donuts so we arrived early for the San Jose location's grand opening last week for him to get a donut for breakfast. It's a fun donut shop that kind of feels as if you've walked into a comic book when you step inside.

They have all kinds of crazy flavors like flavored glazed donuts encrusted with breakfast cereals or crunched up cookies.

Rumor has it they're creating a special "Tech Shop" donut that will soon be available at the downtown location.


And then it was time for the grand opening!


As you step inside the main doors the first thing you'll see is the conference room which is available for members to use for meetings. I LOVE TechShop's slogan above the door!

The Work Stations

The Sewing Stations

For textiles and arts & crafts there are sewing, vinyl cutting, stained glass and silk screening classes.

Sewing classes range from Basic Sewing to learning how to use a Serger or for the more advanced there's the Industrial Serger, CNC Embroider Machine, Industrial Sewing Machine and CNC Digitizer Pro Software.


There are several small offices for rent. Perfect if you're using TechShop to produce a product line for resale. There's even a class for patenting an invention if you've got a really great idea you want to take into production.

There is also onsite project and equipment storage available for an additional fee.

Computer Workstations

I counted 11 computer workstations available where you can work with 2D and 3D Design Software to design your project.

Every TechShop Offers Free Popcorn and Coffee

The Computer Classroom

Along with other design programs TechShop offers a three hour Autodesk® Inventor® class free to members:
"Autodesk® Inventor® products offer a comprehensive, flexible set of software for 3D mechanical design, product simulation, tooling creation, and design communication. Inventor takes you beyond 3D to Digital Prototyping by enabling you to design, visualize, and simulate your products or even works of art."

There's a Lasar Lab
"Would you like to be able to cut intricate designs or engrave images at the press of a button? You can do it in minutes in wood, most plastics, and paper with a laser cutter! TechShop has an Epilog Helix computer-controlled 45-watt CO2 laser to cut, etch and engrave designs in a variety of materials up to 24" x 18" by 3/8" thick including plastics, woods, paper and cardboard, fabric, leather, and even chocolate! "
For the DIY Bride imagine how TechShop's laser cutter can take your wedding decorations and favors to a whole new level!

And an Electronics Lab

From soldering basics to understanding electronics and adding basic automation using and Arduino board as a microprocessor there are several electronics classes available to get you going.

The Wood Shop

The Wood Shop is large and loud! For beginners a variety of classes are offered from safety to how to use hand tools to large machines like the wood lathe.

Wood working machines include:
  • ShopBot 4' x 8' CNC Wood Router System
  • SawStop Professional Cabinet Safety Table Saw
  • Panel Saw
  • Wood Planer
  • Wood Jointer
  • Wood Band Saw
  • Wood Sanders
  • Wood Scroll Saws
  • Wood Lathe
Hm, I know someone who might want to learn how to make his own wood lathe bowls. *cough, cough, Carl Mindling*


Air Compressors for I can't remember what...

A Tormach CNC Milling Machine

If you've been wanting to learn about Computer Numerical Control devices there are CNC classes available:
"This seminar will present the whole CNC process, from CAD (computer aided design) to CAM (computer aided machining) to CUT (cutting your part). Learn the essentials of calculating Feeds & Speeds. Understand the uses and differences between Climb cutting and Conventional cutting."
Among other things you can make using CNC devices are vinyl banners, vehicle signs, paint masks and machining tool paths. Tech Shop's CNC equipment include a CNC router, milling machine and water jet cutter.


Here's another machine that I don't remember what it does.

A Jet Metal Lathe

If you're looking for a metal shop where you can use machining and welding tools you will love everything Tech Shop has to offer.

A Jet Vertical Milling Machine

The Welding Stations

There are welding classes galore! Want to make a robot, metal furniture or sculptures? Welding may be a necessary step and you can learn how with classes like Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding, Oxy-Acetylene Torch, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding Aluminum, TIG Welding Steel, Making Better Welds or Thin Wall Tubing.

The Finishing Room

I'm planning on taking the Sandblasting and Powder FInishing class where you can sandblast metal then apply a baked powder coat finish to metal. You can also use the sandblaster to etch glass!

Fabrication classes include:
  • 3D Scanning and Editing on the NextEngine
  • Vacuum Forming SBU
  • Sandblasting & Powder Coating
  • RTV Moldmaking & Casting Basics
  • Injection Molding SBU Carbon Fiber Basics
  • Aluminum Sand Casting
The FlowJet 4' x 8' CNC Water Jet Cutter

And perhaps the largest most unique piece of equipment you would never have in a home workshop is this huge water jet cutter. It can cut through sheets of steel, concrete, or stone like granite using water under high pressure. It's a "green" method of cutting because it produces no toxic waste and less waste overall allowing larger remnants of salvageable materials to be repurposed or recycled.


After our tour we walked about a half a block to The Pita Pit, one of my new favorite restaurants. I ended up eating at The Pita Pit twice in one week both times ordering a hummus pita with tzatziki sauce, spinach, cucumbers and fresh onion that is so good it's my new favorite place to eat a pita.


TechShop has limited parking spaces for members. There is also metered street parking and paid lots all around. I will probably use public transportation in the form of the Light Rail when I go to TechShop. According to the VTA website an 8 hour Light Rail pass is only $4 and will drop you off just a half block away. It will beat driving in traffic and dealing with parking if the lot is full. I've never used the Light Rail before and am looking forward to my first trip on it.

A bonus for me, The Pita Pit is right across from the Light Rail stop so it'll be easy to grab a bite there on the way in or out.

An Amphicar is just the kind of car you'd expect to see in the TechShop parking lot!

Tech Shop San Jose
300 South 2nd Street (at East San Carlos Street)
San Jose, CA 95113

TechShop San Francisco
926 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

TechShop, Inc.
120 Independence Drive
Menlo Park, CA 94025

TechShop Raleigh
5905 Triangle Drive
Raleigh, NC 27617

CLICK HERE for Membership Information

TOLL-FREE 1(800) 640-1975
LOCAL PHONE 1(650) 521-9027

*Disclosure: Because we invested in the San Jose location of TechShop hubby and I are now lifetime members.

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