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  • 21 Nov 2020 11:06 AM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    One of the driving forces behind the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace is giving individuals a chance to learn new skill sets and experiment with new methods of creation. This couldn’t be more true for our November Member Spotlight, Jim Rowland. He started turning by taking a couple of classes and them playing with the tool on his own. Just a year later, he is considered the Firelabs’s resident expert.

    The concept of turning on a lathe is fairly simple; you take a piece of material, spin it quickly, and slowly shave off layers until you have it in the shape and design you want. The reality is a bit more complicated than that, so here are some tips for anyone interested in getting into lathework.

    What exactly is a lathe?

    A lathe is a motorized tool that mounts and spins a wide variety of materials. It rotates the piece on an axis to allow the user to shave, sand, or otherwise refine it into the desired shape. It’s commonly used for a number of project types, such as bowls, spindles, wine bottle stoppers, pens, and even rolling pins.

    What sort of material is best to use with a lathe?

    Lathes are extremely versatile, and so are the materials that they can be used to refine. A great place to begin is with wood. Jim suggests starting with a piece of scrap wood to play with and get to know the machine. The type doesn’t matter - lathes can handle both hard and softwoods without issue. The center of wood tends to be weak, with an outer piece without a lot of knots. You can also turn soft metals and rock such as copper or soapstone for inlays and epoxy to give your project that extra special element. We’ll be focussing more on epoxy projects in a later blog.

    Where to start…

    When beginning a lathe project, it helps to get your piece as close to round as possible. If you are using an epoxy project that’s been cured in a mold, no problem! A wood, metal, or stone project may be a bit more difficult to start round on, though. In that case, it’s recommended to cut it down until it has 12 sides, which will get the projects close to round. Once you start turning, you can test the roundness of the piece by laying the flat side of the chisel over it as it spins.

    Okay, it’s spinning. Now what?

    Lathes come with an adjustable bracket to brace the chisel against. This keeps it steady as you shave away layers. Start slowly to get a feel for both the chisel and the material you’re working with, and be sure that you have the chisel on the side of the material that is spinning down - NOT up. The Roswell Firelabs has quite a few different chisels, so experiment with which ones have what effect on the piece. 

    Crossing the finish line!

    Once your piece is turned, there are a few different ways to finish it. Jim recommends using a friction polish, which cures immediately due to the heat of the spinning. For wine bottle stoppers, pens, and other items that require non-turned bits to finish, he orders kits from Penn State Industries - a woodworking supply store. Building off of a kit is also a great way for someone just getting started to practice with a fun, easy project.

    We’re looking forward to seeing what you all ‘turn’ out!

    Have you heard? The Roswell Firelabs Makerspace is hosting classes again! To see what we have on the books, visit our class calendar. Make sure you never miss an update by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or joining us on Slack if you are a member.

  • 10 Nov 2020 7:43 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    November’s member spotlight shines on Jim Rowland, who spends much of his time using the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace’s lathes for turning projects. He creates bowls, wine stoppers, rolling pins, and more. Just last Saturday, he was working on a lidded box of purple heart, maple, and walnut that would become a gift for his grandson. Those who have seen his work will agree; he creates some truly incredible works. Few would guess that he’s only been turning about a year, after joining the Roswell Firelabs.

    Jim’s first ever turning project was making a bowl for a class at Highland Woodcraft. Though he wasn’t able to finish the bowl in the class, he took it home to finish on his own time and it inspired a deep fascination and enjoyment of the art. Jim’s biggest piece of advice for those wanting to learn turning with lathes is to just jump right in and play with the tool and different materials to see what they will do - which is exactly how he expanded his knowledge. He took another turning class, this time at Woodcraft, and got together with others at the Firelabs who were familiar with turning, and learned more and more.

    For those wanting to learn turning, Jim recommends starting by making simple spindles and beads, just to get a feel for the process. “Start with a piece of scrap,” he advised with a grin when we spoke, “because you’re going to make scrap the first time, no matter what.” And Jim knows a thing or two about working with scrap. One of his favorite things to do for a project is to find wood on the side of the road, dry it, and make it into something amazing. He was able to show me pictures side by side of a tree he had chopped up and the projects that he made from it.

    Aside from an enthusiasm for creating, though, Jim has an open willingness to share that knowledge - which is good when you consider that using the lathes at the Roswell Firelabs requires being trained on them. In fact, Jim recently bought a brand new lathe, a Legun Revo 1216, and brought it to the space so that others could use it as well. This particular lathe allows the space for larger projects that the makerspace’s lathes could not accommodate.

    If you’re interested in turning, stay tuned to our blog posts this month. Each week, we’ll focus on various aspects of turning - from the basics of what materials work best and how it works to using epoxy to bring a real wow factor to your project. And, of course, you can always request training through the form on our website.

    Have you heard? The Roswell Firelabs Makerspace is hosting classes again! To see what we have on the books, visit our class calendar. Make sure you never miss an update by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or joining us on Slack if you are a member.

  • 13 Sep 2020 12:23 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    September is National Sewing Month! To celebrate, our member spotlight is on Judy Howard, a professional seamstress and avid cosplayer. She also leads up our sewing area at the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace and teaches classes for both new and experienced sewers. Judy began sewing twenty years ago in 2000 after she made her own costume to go to Anime Weekend Atlanta as Ryo from Ronin Warriors. For that first creation, she painted a shirt to wear with jeans, but that small taste ignited an appetite for crafting clothing and costumes of all kinds.

    Using her mother’s Husqvarna Viking II sewing machine, Judy taught herself the basics of sewing. In 2001, she became friends with a group that came to call themselves the ‘Scooby Gang.’ They would get together every week, sewing and helping one another to get better and better at crafting elaborate garments and costumes. Over the years, Judy crafted dozens of cosplays, each one presenting its own challenges and new techniques to learn and try.

    Professionally, Judy has also worked on a wide variety of projects - everything from making drapes and curtains for model homes to fabric-based art pieces for the Porsche dealership on Mansell Rd. Recently, she has been sewing unique fandom face masks during the pandemic. Her ultimate goal is to join a costuming department in the entertainment industry, working on theatrical productions or movies.

    For those trying to learn sewing, Judy quite enthusiastically points toward YouTube. It isn’t a resource she had when she first started out and can be a huge help in learning all sorts of techniques. She encourages new sewers to take their machine out of its box, read the directions, and just start sewing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Professions who have been sewing for thirty or forty years will need to rip out their stitches and redo projects. So, what are you going to make?

    Have you heard? The Roswell Firelabs Makerspace is starting to host (limited) classes again! To see what we have on the books, visit our class calendar. Make sure you never miss an update by joining us on Slack or following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

  • 18 Aug 2020 7:57 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    There is so much going on at the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace that we end up with a lot of scraps from various projects: scrap wood, vinyl, fabric, and even glass! Rather than throw it out, we do our best to find other ways to use it. We used some of that scrap fabric recently as we reupholstered the stools in our lobby area. (Sometimes our ‘scrap’ pieces can be pretty big!) Members are also free to use any of these scrap materials - just be mindful that they are in the scrap areas and not something set aside for another member’s project!

    In another pandemic project, Roswell Firelabs member Bill Reif used some of the scrap glass from his stained glass classes to create a mosaic birdbath! While glass pieces can be used in a lot of different ways - such as for glass fusing, which we’ll talk about in next week’s post - mosaics are a great way to use up pieces that are too thick to hold in a stained glass frame well, or have irregular thicknesses, or even just ones that you think are pretty enough to include!

    There are many options for how to form the base layer of a mosaic. Some can be done with clay, cement, or even metal. Bill formed his birdbath using premixed grout. This is a great medium to work with because it’s less messy than traditional grout and still dried fairly quickly. Plus, it’s easy to find! Most hardware stores will carry it by the bucket. Once you’ve picked out your material, it’s just a matter of shaping it into what you want from your mosaic. For beginners, a good place to start is a simple stepping stone. This helps avoid some of the complications that come with needing height for your project. For a project like a birdbath, you can also purchase or reuse a stand that already exists and simply apply the grout to the area which you want to decorate. (This is definitely my preferred method!)

    The glass pieces must be applied to this base material while it’s still wet and pressed in so that the glass surface is flush with the surface of the base. Additional grout can also be added in between glass pieces as needed, but it runs the risk of covering up the edges of the glass. Keep a damp cloth or paper towel handy for wiping off the glass. Once the grout dries, it becomes much more difficult to remove. Then all that’s left is letting the base material set. From start to finish, BIll’s birdbath took about 20 hours to complete. With a good chunk of that being dry time, mosaics are a great weekend project!

    Make sure you never miss an update (like when we’ll start in-person classes like our stained glass class again) by joining us on Slack or following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

  • 11 Aug 2020 7:56 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    Last week, we featured glass artist Bill Reif in our member spotlight. Now, we’ll explore some of his projects and the methods he uses to create them; like the incredible Star Wars R2D2 lampshade he made while in quarantine! This may not be a project for beginners to jump into, but the method he used is a popular one. The Tiffany Method, or copper foil method, is a stained glass technique wherein copper foil tape is soldered together between the pieces of glass to hold them in place.

    Different projects call for different thicknesses of copper foil. Why? There are two main reasons: wanting a thicker line of metal or in reaction to the thickness of the glass pieces. The first is mostly an aesthetic choice and definitely plays into the artistic vision. Just remember, it’s fairly easy to complete a project with thicker lines than necessary, but it’s important to ensure that they are not too thin or the piece could be at risk of collapsing. That’s why it’s absolutely vital to get an understanding of what copper foil thicknesses correspond with which stained glass thicknesses before beginning to play with the rest. As with anything, make sure you have the basics down before moving on to the more difficult techniques.

    Most stained glass that’s made today is mass-produced in a factory somewhere. This ensures that the product is standard industry-wide, though there are always exceptions. With that in mind, you’re most likely to work with stained glass pieces that are about 1/8” thick. In response, copper foil with a thickness of 7/32” should be sufficient. For glass pieces of varying thicknesses, as is common with older glass, you may have to use more foil in the thicker portions and less foil in the thinner ones. This can make it difficult to keep the lines looking even. Practice on glass pieces with a uniform thickness to get your soldering technique down pat.

    Applying the foil is fairly simple, but be sure that the glass pieces being used are clean and free of any oils or other debris that might prevent the foil from adhering correctly. Then you just need to wrap, crimp, and burnish! Wrapping is the placement of the copper foil around the edges of each glass piece. One side of the foil is adhesive, so it’s easy to apply - just arrange it so that the edge of the glass is centered on the foil strip. The crimping, or folding, stage is exactly what it sounds like. Fold the edges of the foil strip down over each side of the glass so that it cups the edge. Burnishing is then taking the extra step to make sure that you press those edges down as smooth and flat as you’re able. This pushes out all of the air bubbles that could be caught underneath. 

    Once each piece is surrounded by copper foil, the project is ready for soldering. Soldering stained glass requires the solder itself as well as a flux - a flowing agent to help smooth the solder and adhere to the foil. By heating the iron, the solder liquefies and it is possible to ‘paint’ it across each copper foil seam by brushing the iron over it lightly. Being able to avoid clumps comes with time and practice, so there’s no need to worry if there are a few on the project. The piece will also need time to set after the solder is made, which will depend on the thickness of the seams. 

    In the end, the stained glass piece is left with gorgeous, translucent colored glass pieces held together by lines of metal. As is shown with Bill’s inventive lampshade, there’s no shortage of what can be created once a maker knows what they’re doing. Stained glass is a hugely versatile medium with beautiful results, but it’s far from the only thing that can be done with glass. Come back next week to see the next glass project featured by the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace: mosaic sculpting!

    Make sure you never miss an update (like when we’ll start in-person classes like our stained glass class again) by joining us on Slack or following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

  • 4 Aug 2020 7:14 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    If you’ve ever taken one of the stained glass classes at the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace, you’ve met Bill Reif. Now we’d like to help you get to know him a little better. Though he is a physical therapist by trade, Bill has been interested in glass for quite a long time. He uses glass for a wide variety of projects, from mosaics to beautiful stained glass works. He has created inventive lampshades, such as a replica of Star Wars’ R2D2 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and eye-catching window hangings.

    Bill first started the hobby in 1982, when he took a class similar to the type we offer at the Firelabs. Over the next eight years, he practiced the art and his passion continued to grow. He even acquired quite a bit of equipment for his personal use! When Bill joined the Firelabs as one of the founding members, he donated much of that equipment. That, along with other donations of equipment and materials, is what members and class participants continue to use while in the makerspace. 

    Though many can find working with glass intimidating, Bill makes it seem easy. In his stained glass classes - assisted by Gordon Meyer, who also teaches his own glass fusing classes - participants are guided through the basics of working with glass and creating their very own suncatcher. More than that, they learn that working with glass is a hobby that anyone can do, despite its sharp edges. 

    Throughout this month, the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace will be taking a closer look at some of Bill and Gordon’s projects. We’ll go over what techniques were used and provide information on how to better understand the process. Several of the projects have been completed during the pandemic, so who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up something you’d like to do, too. 

    Make sure you never miss an update (like when we'll start in-person classes like our stained glass class again) by joining us on Slack or following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

    Happy making!

  • 29 Jul 2020 4:03 PM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    A lot has been happening with the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace in the last few months, including a global pandemic that shut everything down for several months. Now, members are back in the space and we are beginning to take steps to open back up to groups and classes over time - but that doesn’t mean leadership wasn’t busy while the Firelabs were closed. There were efforts to produce and provide PPE to medical professionals, new equipment acquisitions, and updates all around the Firelabs.

    With new members joining and returning members settling back in, we wanted to take a moment to (re)introduce the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace’s Operational Leadership Team.

    William Strika - Executive Director /  Operations Manager

    William’s face is probably one of the most well-known ones at the Roswell Firelabs. He’s almost always around and happy to answer questions or help resolve an issue. As Executive Director, William is responsible for the day-to-day functions of the space, leading the Operations Committee, fundraising, and community relations. During the Covid-19 shutdown, he coordinated with the City of Roswell to allow for the space to be used for PPE and also connected the Firelabs with Atlanta Beats Covid to accomplish this goal, overseeing the production of over 5,000 units of PPE. He also led fundraising efforts to procure a laser cutter, supply and financial donations, and grant awards.

    John Hinkel - Shop Manager

    John can usually be found in the 3D-printing area of the Roswell Firelabs or restoring brass pieces for resale. John is uniquely suited to his role as Shop Manager because of his keen organization and attention to detail. He juggles incoming equipment requests - both for new equipment and repairs for anything damaged or worn out - and works with each area’s SIG lead to make sure everyone has what they need. He also facilitates Shop Committee meetings and represents the SIG leads in matters that need to be brought to the entire Operations Team. 

    Mary Hannaford - Communications Manager

    Mary is a self-described collector of hobbies and can be found poking around at most any corner of the Firelabs, but her passion and background lie in communication. The Communications Manager of the Roswell Firelabs is responsible for the makerspace’s website, blog, social media, class orchestration, running the Communications Committee meetings, and community involvement. Several of these tie in closely with the Executive Operations Manager’s goals for fundraising and community relations. With the pandemic currently hampering classes, her focus has been on the Firelabs being featured by various news outlets and exploring grants.

    Kevin Strika - Treasurer/Finance Manager

    Kevin has years of financial experience under his belt and brings all that knowledge to bear for the Firelabs. As an expert in his field, he has gone above and beyond as Treasurer. He manages both the monthly and yearly financial reports for the makerspace, but also provides invaluable recommendations and insight. He coordinates with John as Shop Manager and the rest of the Operations Team both on day-to-day expenses and larger, specialty purchases. The Roswell Firelabs has him to thank for a lot of the stability and proactive financial planning that got us through being temporarily closed for several months because of the pandemic.

    The Operational Team of the Roswell Firelabs strives to ensure that the makerspace doesn’t just survive, but that it thrives. And you can be a part of that effort, too! If you are interested in learning - or doing! - more, please attend one of our virtual committee meetings on Slack or contact us at info@rowellfirelabs.org.

  • 22 Jul 2020 10:15 AM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    Continuing the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace’s series on welding, here is an introduction to the arc welding method of stick welding.

    Stick welding is a method that relies on a welding rod or welding electrode (the ‘stick’) that is charged with an electrical current. This is typically AC or AC/DC. When the welding rod is held close to the piece of metal being welded, which is also charged, the current leaps between them and completes the circuit. The process heats the electrode material to the point of melting and allows the weld to be made.

    Most stick welding projects are done with iron or steel, which react most favorably to the method. This makes it ideal for outdoor projects when coupled with its forgiveness of rusty or otherwise contaminated metals. While other methods, such as last week’s focus on TIG welding, are quite sensitive to contamination, stick welding has a lot of wiggle room. The most essential part of ensuring success for a stick welding project is to pick the right stick. 

    Welding rods come in a variety of sizes and metals. Each is covered in something called a flux coating. This coating ensures that the metal doesn’t burn up during the welding process. Athlon Outdoors but it well: 

    Electrodes come in dozens of sizes and types, each for a specific job at hand. The 6010, 6011 and 6013 are common electrodes for welding steel. The first two numbers (60) identify tensile strength in pounds per square inch times 1,000, or 60,000 psi in these examples. The third number (1) indicates the position in which the rod can be used. A “1” indicates any position—flat, vertical, horizontal or overhead—and “2” indicates only the flat, horizontal position. The last two numbers together (“13” in 6013) indicate the type of flux, which will affect the amount of slag or corrosion that builds up around the weld, as well as the liquidity of the bead or puddle.

    Once you have the proper welding rod picked out, you’re ready to go! Just don’t forget your safety gear!

  • 15 Jul 2020 11:06 AM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    Time to go over another welding method with the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace! In last week’s article about MIG welding, it was described as a good place to start for beginner welders. Well, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding is the ideal method for versatility. Its adaptability requires a good understanding of welding methods, though. If you’re just starting to learn, it may be best to stick with MIG welding until you have a better understanding of welding basics. 

    How it Works

    TIG welding, just like MIG, is a type of arc welding. The electrode for TIG welding is made from tungsten - hence the name - which is the same as lightbulbs. This electrode heats the metal being welded using electrical power while a shield of argon gas protects the melted metal from contaminants. This gives the metal a chance to harden enough to be safe from contamination. Contamination can come from solids, like dust, or even from some chemicals in the air. A contaminated weld is a weakened weld and can cause problems for the project later on. 

    Because TIG welding uses electricity, there is also an element of grounding involved. Grounding is the process of channeling away excess energy so that it can dissipate without causing harm. This is done by attaching a grounding cable either directly to the welding project or to the table. Since electricity travels through conductive objects and can be extremely dangerous, this is an important safety feature.

    All welding relies on how deep the heat of the torch penetrates the metal. After all, metal that isn’t heated to the proper point won’t liquify. One of the best things a beginner can do is keep their heat on low. Yes, this requires more time to complete the weld, but it also offers more forgiveness and an opportunity to correct mistakes before it’s too late. As comfort level with the equipment and process grows, the more a welder can explore. (And, of course, this can always be helped along by asking questions or having a more experienced welder give advice.)

    Safety First

    It’s important to remember that welding can be quite dangerous. All due safety precautions must be taken both for the welder and others around them. With any type of welding - not just TIG - always follow proper safety procedures. Always wear a welding mask to protect the eyes and work gloves rated for this use. Gloves from the garden aren’t going to help much. When working in a communal space like the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace, please also be sure to pull the special curtain that surrounds the metal work area to protect anyone else who might be working in the shop.

    Please note, the photos used for this article are not specifically TIG welding, but are simply meant to illustrate aspects of the welding process and environment.

  • 8 Jul 2020 9:59 AM | Mary Hannaford (Administrator)

    Last week’s blog post spotlighted Roswell Firelabs Makerspace member and journeyman ironworker Jeff Spoor. This week, we’ll delve a little bit deeper into the world of welding to provide a better understanding of the process and possibilities for all those interested in learning.

    So, just what is welding?

    In simplest terms, welding is the act of melting two pieces of metal to fuse them into one solid piece. Of course, doing so depends on the type of metal, temperature, technique, speed, and distance. The techniques mentioned in last week’s post were all types of arch welding. They were MIG, TIG, and stick welding. 

    Let’s consider MIG welding

    MIG welding is largely considered to be one of the best techniques for beginners to start with. This is because certain aspects of the process are already regulated without the welder having to worry about them. The MIG technique involves electrode wire. The wire is fed through the equipment at a set speed, rather than the welder having to worry about how fast or slow they are going. The wire is then melted at the intersection of the two (or more) pieces of metal that are being welded together to create a strong bond.

    MIG welding, like all arc welding types, involves a shield of gas that surrounds the welding tip of the equipment. This is gas that is used to push away everything else from the welding area - such as sawdust, air particles, or other contaminants that could weaken the weld. Unfortunately, using this method does require the weld to be done inside a closed space or at least somewhere without wind. There are gas-less ways of MIG welding, but they require flux-core wire. They are also usually more expensive and lead to a messier welding finish. 

    For more information, check out this video, as recommended by our very own Jeff Spoor.

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Roswell Firelabs
1601 Holcomb Bridge Rd

Roswell, GA 30076

Roswell FireLabs is managed by Atlanta Maker Alliance, Inc., a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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  1. I am aware and understand that some activities conducted at Roswell Firelabs are inherently dangerous and involve risk of injury, death, or property damage. 
  2. I acknowledge that I am voluntarily participating in the activities and/or facilities operated by the organization, and agree to accept all risks. 
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