Let’s Talk Tools

One of the first questions that folks have, when coming together to create a makerspace is, “What kind of tools should we be offering?”

The answer to that question has a few layers. For example, who do you have in your space that has experience with the tools you would like to bring in? What kinds of things do the people coming through your doors want to do – and want to learn how to do? What are the goals of the makerspace that you are running, and what kinds of tools can you reasonably accommodate?

There is no exact right answer or wrong answer to the question of which tools are best – but there are certainly tools that get used more than others. We wanted to give you a glimpse at what others are doing as far as tools and services go.

More important than any of those, even, is the question of “how do we maintain this tool if it breaks down – and who is going to be able to fix it?”

We combined tools and spaces in the survey because with tools like a band saw or a hand drill, it just makes sense to put them in a larger category like “wood shop”. That said, some tools are bigger, more complex, or more versatile than others. Laser cutters, for example, are hugely popular at the makerspaces that have them.

It is notable that “Sewing” is the third most common type of space inside of the makerspaces surveyed. While traditionally sewing has been thought of as a feminine art, it has become increasingly popular and practiced by men and women alike. The popularity of cosplay and the ease of access to the tools needed to sew may be a large part of the reason for this.

Tool and service popularity varies slightly based on the type of makerspace. The wood shop, 3D printing, sewing, laser cutting tools, and computer labs were among the most popular of the tools and services available in all of the spaces.

For the Survey of Makerspaces, we segmented the respondents into five categories:
• Non-profit (including registered and unregistered)
• Privately run makerspaces (for-profit businesses)
• Makerspaces that exist inside of accredited academic institutions
• Library/Museum makerspaces
• Government makerspaces.

Private and Non-Profit makerspaces were more likely to include services such as art galleries, office or studio rentals, and shops for selling member-created products. These spaces are often workspaces for small businesses, and they are especially valuable to folks who live in urban environments, who may not have a garage, a basement to create in, or the space to hold the tools they need for their craft.

Of course, there are things that the survey may have missed. For that reason, we gave an open response field in the survey. The “Other” column is one source we will be looking at for future editions of the survey. For example, there are makerspaces that engage in biohacking, some that have dance studios, and some that offer video and multimedia production tools.

Tools don’t make the makerspace, though. The most important thing about these spaces is the community that they bring together. The next few posts will focus on the time and skills of leaders who run these spaces. We’ll look at their work and educational backgrounds, at the demographics of makerspace leaders, as well as how much time they are working and volunteering so that they can make their communities more vibrant places.

If you want to have a voice in the Annual Survey of Makerspaces, please sign up for the Nation of Makers Email list. The next round of the survey will be live from October 1-December 31, 2019.

The Data Working Group works all year round, to produce these posts and the PDF one-pagers that accompany them. It takes between 20-30 hours of data analysis, design, copywriting, and proofreading to create just *one* blog post. If you love what we are doing, please donate to Nation of Makers and support our work! We would LOVE sponsorship for this project on a larger scale as well.

If you have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see covered, please let us know!