Machinists in the Social Makerspace – “Look What I Made”

Worker operating manual lathe

Ryan Zellars goes by his web handle “Allted” when sharing his projects and inventions with fellow “makers” on Thingiverse. Thingiverse is the go-to social platform for machinists, engineers, hobbyists and weekend inventors. Allted is one of thousands of makers who share their awesome creations with others online for the joy of participating in and contributing to a community of makers.

Makers are not a new phenomena. People have been tinkering with machines in their spare time since the first machines were invented, spurring innovation through curiosity. In recent years, these weekend tinkerers have been gathering in physical spaces to work on their projects together, sharing tools and machines, along with rent and often significant electric bills.

What’s new is the emergence of virtual makerspaces like Thingiverse, MakerSpace and social communities like Reddit’s /r/Machinists. In these forums, makers like Allted proudly upload descriptions, images, videos and even specifications of their creations for the broader makerspace to appreciate, comment on and to collaborate on improving.

Here’s how Allted describes the LowRider Full-Sheet CNC Router he is developing on his Thingiverse project page: “As I finish up the full assembly I will be releasing the parts here. As soon as the parts are done I will start the assembly instructions. No ETA yet, ASAP. At this point this is more of an alpha release. I am the only one that has used it. It works well for me. Chances are very high most parts will get updated, print at your own risk. I am slowly gathering the harder to find parts and have them in the shop. Questions should be answered as parts and info are updated and released.“

His share is made more compelling by seeing his full-sheet CNC router in action, in what he calls his “quick test video” below. Allted also invites interested makers to join him in discussion and collaboration on his own website, where the conversation thread around his full-sheet CNC router gets even more specific.

Reading the comments on Allted’s project post reminds us of the many other threads by makers that we’ve explored online. The urge to share among makers is clearly as strong as it is contagious and collaborative. In our experience with makers — from machinists, mechanics and welders, to engineers of all kinds — machinists seem to be the most social in their making and sharing.

For many machinists, the connection around the things they make is an essential element of their professional growth and personal gratification. The excerpt below from an r/Machinists subreddit post by a veteran machinist on the role of sharing in the process of building skills, gives a sense of how machinists get hooked into the makerspace and the professional comradery it fuels.

“[I] Mostly posted this for the sake of discussion — to benefit folks with less experience. This is my "monster frame" way of making small parts… I see a bunch of posts from folks newer to the trade. I remember when I started it seemed like a black art, because it feels like the ‘how it's really done doesn't get written down in a book. I think it'd be great if we can all share how we pull off some of this stuff for the benefit of newer folks, and to enlighten each other. I'm probably going to do these again, but better. This was a quick proof. I'll try to remember to really get in to the details on doing it well… I can't wait to see your post!”

If you compare the tone and spirit of makerspace sharing with the more typical content we all encounter each day in our own social networks, you’ll note the distinctly supportive tone. It’s as refreshing as it is curious, and we tapped into our Aerotek recruiters to get their take on what makes these makers tick.

Kit Nelson is an Account Manager working with some of our top machinists in our San Diego office. We asked Kit what’s going on with machinists across these virtual makerspaces online. “We all know the feeling of pride we get when we share something we’ve accomplished — the ‘look what I did!’ satisfaction that goes back to our earliest days of childhood. Well that’s part of it. But I work with these people every day, and I know that many of them are drawn to trades like machining and welding by the thrill of making something new, different — something of value to the world. And by the world, especially when it comes to their personal projects, I mean the world of like-minded, gifted creators that share their passion for making. In my office we spend a lot of time in this world because it gives us a deep appreciation for what these skilled people are doing when they’re not at work. Here in San Diego, we have clients making airplane engines and medical devices, working on important projects that people rely on every day. Our insight is this — the ones who spend so much time on their own projects, tend to be the more skilled and creative in their day jobs.”

As Kit’s comments convey, we at Aerotek immerse ourselves in the world of the contractors who we help every day to accelerate and advance their careers. When it comes to machinists, what was once just a world of warehouses and garages has expanding into a virtual community of makers across a diverse range of social networks and sites.

If you’re a machinist with the creative and inventive chops to accelerate your career by working with us, we’d love to hear from you. Create or update your free career profile and check out current opportunities.