TechShop is a tool shop with a gym style membership. It costs $125 a month, but they have a special right now for $1000 for the year. Their price went up recently, but I am paying $100 a month.

I get full access to their shop, and all of the tools in it that I have taken the safety and basic use class on. On many accessory type tools (like a horizontal band saw for metal) the safety and basic use is free. But on tools which will take more than 10 minutes or so of instruction, the class costs money. Sand blasting and powder coating class was about $60 and took 2 hours. Sheet metal and misc machine shop was about $60 and took about 3 hours. Lathe classes (I have had 3) take about 4 hours each and cost $100 each. I have also had almost all of the welding classes, Lathe classes , and several milling machine classes. These classes each too about 4 hours and cost $100.

In addition to the milling machines they have some CNC milling machines, a water cutter, lathe tables (which get lots of use), a complete wood shop with several ShopBots, table saws, a lathe, band saw, drill press, planers (flat and edge), and the list goes on.

For the tools they supply most of the blades, tooling, tool holders,etc.  On the metal working tools, like the lathe, the liquid lube can create a halo of slick concrete flooring (they have rubber mats to keep things safe). These are tools that even if I were able to afford them, I would not be able to run in my apartment.  I would never get the deposit back for the carpet damage alone.

In addition there are work tables in each of the areas, vent hoods for welding, dust removal in wood working, separate negative pressure air areas, so that wood dust doesn’t get into the oiled metal tools, and metal smells doesn’t go into the classrooms and textiles areas. There are large work areas so you can lay out your project, and it will not be disturbed.

Besides the cost, the only downside is that you have to clean up after you use the tool, but you should be doing that anyways with your own tools. Another downside is that some of the drill bits, or lathe cutters are not the highest quality (these tools tend to be consumed by people learning the tools). So if you do specialty work, it makes sense to purchase a small quantity of bits in the sizes that you use heavily. For instance I have some high grade steel lathe bits for some metal working that I ground (and their grinding room is sound and dust isolated from the rest of the machine shop).  I also have some of my own sewing needles for the regular home and industrial (juki walking foot) sewing machines.

They don’t supply the consumables, but they do have a shop where they sell some consumables, though they also encourage you to get the consumables elsewhere. They also sell stuff that you might want to get your own for like safety glasses and welding gloves (though they also supply these). They keep a limited stock of plexiglass, wood, and metal, and small quantity of  powder coating powders. The stuff in their store pricing is competitive with amazon prime, and it is really convenient in case you forgot something.

They currently have locations in San Francisco Bay Area, Raleigh, North Carolina, Allen Park, and Detroit,  Michigan. And they are planning to open shops in Round Rock, Texas and Brooklyn, New York.

-- Michael McMillan  


Available from TechShop