Renting or sharing shop space and tools is not a new idea – cooperatives have been around for ages with varying degrees of success.
We’re now in a transition from hyper-consumerism to collaborative consumption – sharing or renting goods and services as we need them.
This not only helps to keep costs down for individuals, it’s helping to rebuild the trust and community relationships that have eroded over several decades. The DIY movement will continue to evolve and grow as we shift to more sustainable economic growth in the sharing economy.
There’s no doubt that things in the world have shifted dramatically since the 2008 economic crisis hit. And individuals, businesses and community groups aren’t waiting for the politicians to sort it out, they’re taking advantage of the disruptive change to build the foundations for a new economic model.
"Whether it’s about setting up a co-op to buy energy that creates a whole new market relationship with providers or about DIY-producing our own furniture, this is the new behaviour of society and it will fundamentally change the nature of production, the relationship between consumers and producers, and the nature of investments. We are in a great restructuring, a great transformation. Technology, culture and human consciousness – how we exist in the world – are changing."
Indy Johar – co-founder of architectural practice 00:/
Less is more
Studies and statistics show that millennials are not going to "buy into" the consumer binge that’s defined our lifestyle since the 1990’s. They aren’t all that keen to buy homes, cars and "stuff" that will tie them down to one location. Besides the fact that many will be paying off student debt into their forties, millennials are more inclined to look for sustainable alternatives when it comes to energy, transportation and lifestyle choices.
Owning thousands of dollars worth of shop tools that will sit idle for much of the time doesn’t make sense to a generation connected to the world through a mobile phone. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn how to use the tools and make their own stuff.
Two shop-sharing models
I’ve been thinking about how a community woodworking shop could thrive for many years. Most of the groups that I found on the internet seemed to wither away after a short period of time – probably because they were woodworking "clubs" and not businesses. But that was also before things went sideways in 2008.
I recently found two business models in the US that had the foresight to open their doors to people that are interested in woodworking and need "access" to a fully-equipped shop.
Location: Seattle, Washington.
This community shop is run by master woodworker, John Blunt as an extension of his full service commercial woodworking and design business. This is a really interesting cooperative model. They offer everything from free "Open shop days" to shop rentals by the month, week or hour. They even have a one-on-one training program that enables you to pitch in and work along side the pros to help build your own kitchen cabinets or furniture project.
They also offer collaborative design services so you can participate in the design process with guidance from professionals. Another big advantages of community woodworking shops is having access to professional power tools like panel saws with the capacity to cut full sheets of plywood and drum sanders that can sand assembled doors – tools you’d never find in the most well-equipped home shop.
Location: Dublin, Ohio
This community workshop enables a wide variety DIY opportunities in woodworking, metalwork, robotics and design. They have a just about every power tool going from metal lathes to a CNC Vertical Mill that can shape parts from almost any material. You can join for a monthly fee or rent shop space and tools by the hour.
In order to reduce the risks for everyone, a safety training course must be completed by all members. This makes a lot of sense and is a great way to ensure everyone learns how to use the tools properly and safely. They also stock commonly used materials and hardware which means you don’t have to waste time driving to the hardware store to buy screws if you run out.
Sharing the benefits
As someone who has limited shop space and equipment, I’d be keen to sign up for access to one of these community shops. I’d keep my own little basement shop, but it would enable me to take on larger projects or more elaborate woodworking operations that I know will never be practical to undertake in my home shop.
I think this is going to be a great way for more people – young and old – to learn new skills, try new things, and exercise their creativity in ways that will help them make their way through these uncertain times.
What do you think – are community workshops for DIYers going to become more common in the coming years? I’d love to hear your comments.