Makerspace Budget Worksheet

Over the last ten years I’ve built three successful (and widely different) makerspaces. I’ve gained insight into purchasing for and outfitting these spaces by making mistakes and finding out what works. This free worksheet solves a common problem that many people looking to build a makerspace encounter right off the bat.

After answering countless questions at conferences and in consulting sessions, I decided to make a simple, easy to use resource to help others. Anyone familiar with spreadsheets can use this worksheet to select their own tools and purchase them. Just plug the quantity of the thing in that you want and out comes a budget.

The sheet includes hundreds of machines and consumable items, purchase links, prices (which may vary for you), and brand choices. It covers general tools, woodworking, metal working, electronics, textiles, computers, 3D printers, vacuum formers, laser cutters, and CNC routers.

To get access to the Makerspace Budget Worksheet just sign up to my mailing list below. I will never share your information with anyone else.

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Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus


Innovation has come to mean building on top of. Building on top of old systems and old ways of doing. Disruption, too. Name a disruption that did not build on top of an already-made system? That challenged underlying assumptions about how we do Big Things?

No. We need to dig deeper.

“What we really ought to fear is not oblivion but irretrievable decline… and in order to avoid that fate… we need to tear into the world of artifice… we need to rip root and branch into the previous industrial base and re-invent it, re-build it.”

— Bruce Sterling – Shaping Things

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Niagara Falls & the Niagara Escarpment via Bruce Peninsula / Manitoulin Island

We recently went on a journey through Canada by way of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Escarpment. Beautiful country in all; particularly the trip to Manitoulin islands and the hikes along Bruce Peninsula. Some pictures follow.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Extinction of Experience and Making

“I believe that one of the greatest causes of the ecological
crisis is the state of personal alienation from nature in which
many people live. We lack a widespread sense of intimacy with the living world. Natural history has never been more popular in some ways, yet few people organize their lives around nature, or even allow it to affect them profoundly. our depth of contact is too often wanting…”

— Robert Pyle, Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland

An article in EurekAlert caught my eye this week when it mentioned something coined “the extinction of experience.” Specifically focusing on nature, the piece describes how our increasing disconnect from nature has contributed to the climate and biodiversity crises that we face today. A deeper connection to a thing leads to a stronger desire to protect and preserve it. Growing up in a city or suburb, closed off, indoors, does not engender that kind of connection, and leads to a lack of understanding about what must be done in order to protect and preserve that thing.

It’s easy to apply this idea to other areas of deficiency in our current culture, and the one that immediately leapt to my mind is the experience of making. Similar to nature, an engagement with making helps us connect in meaningful ways to the physical world. Listening to people describe their engagement with nature strongly parallels how we describe our engagement with making; both experiences draw connections to encouraging flow-like states of mind. The extinction of “making” as a popular act has, arguably, exacerbated the consumerist problems that we face today.

Through consumer culture, we lose our ability to connect to the world through the ritual of creation. More than that, we lose our ability to understand how the world around us works and leave that job to an elite few who are left to control and manipulate it as they see fit. The extinction of the making experience, in other words, leads to a lesser understanding of self and self-situated in a larger context.

If lack of experience leads to an extinction of the thing, then it must be the experience with that thing that creates a stronger sense of empathy and bonding toward it. By experiencing nature, or by engaging in the making process, we create personal experiences that connect us to the act and lead to understanding. One of the biggest problems I think we face is finding ways to re-connect people with these experiences so that they can find value and, ultimately, a desire to save the things that connect us to a reality grounded in a tangible engagement with the rest of the universe.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Warren Dunes State Park

I’ve been trying to take more pictures of my family adventures and personal adventures around national parks, state parks, forests, and other places. As my Sierra Club work begins to ramp up, I’ve noticed myself further drawn to document some of these places to help share them with others and hopefully encourage people to get outdoors more often.

I took these pictures on a day when the heat index was 104, so the family stayed behind at the Warren Dunes beach while I went on a four mile hike over the dunes and into a nearby forest. The sand was scalding hot, and all I’d brought were my hiking sandals, so eventually I had to turn around and head back to the lake. Not a bad option on a hot day.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL End of Year Compendium

I’ll be keeping a rolling compendium of articles, blog posts, videos, etc. produced about and for the Idea Realization Lab Year 2017-2018 over at my main portfolio website.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Rocky Mountain National Park

I recently returned from a six day (five night) trip in Rocky Mountain National Park as part of my training to become a Sierra Club Outings Leader. Along the way, I took some pictures with my trusty Sony a5100 camera. Here are a few of my favorites.

More pictures here.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Friday Five Links

The link round-up this week includes a STEM class, odd origin stories, a pretty fun tip on keeping track of the mail coming to you from the USPS, and a cool blog post on hacking the Thotcon 0x9 badge. Enjoy!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

HAM Radio and Understanding

Yesterday I took an amateur radio technician’s class test and passed it to receive my license. Getting that license has been something on my bucket list for quite some time. There are some less significant reasons I can give for wanting it: being able to use the license to communicate with my near space balloons, or using the radio in the backcountry while hiking with the Sierra Club, but the truth of the matter is that I saw getting a license like this as something of a Shibboleth. A rite of passage, a symbol that I appreciate where we came from, and a way of understanding a system that is vital to our everyday lives.

Amateur radio (HAM radio) is the Ur of modern making. Talk with any HAM radio operator, and you’ll recognize the same spirit, drive, and insatiable curiosity that you find in a maker who’s passionate about 3D printing, or building interconnected objects, or wearable electronics. The drive, I think, comes from the amateur who’s fallen in love with a hobby and brought their outside knowledge to bear on it. It comes from someone who’s taken a passion, and used it as another way to meaningfully connect themselves to the world around them.

Before makerspaces, there were HAM radio clubs in the early-to-mid 20th Century. Organizations that taught people the basics of electronics, Morse code, and radio transmissions. These amateur clubs are still around, and continue to spread the joy of tinkering with your own radio, building your own antenna, and practicing countless other hands-on activities within their communities.

It’s important to remember where we came from, whether that be as a maker, a crafter, an engineer, or anything else. Knowing where you came from helps you further clarify what your values are and map out what your trajectory might be based on past learnings. It connects you with a wealth of knowledge that, if you choose to ignore it and pursue your own interests without respecting the past, is lost forever. I just happen to think that this knowledge, in part, exists in HAM operators.

It exists in the stories they tell. In their sense of humor, the way they so effortlessly approach their craft, and the way an experienced operator reminisces about a world that was interconnected not by fiberoptic cables, but by radio waves traveling through the air. Uncontrollable, wild, and impossible to stop.

It’s the Wild West mixed with technology that, at its time, was well ahead of what anyone else was doing. It still is to some extent, and is certainly less understood and appreciated by the masses — even if the principles it functions on undergirds the technology we all rely on (much as RSS is disregarded as old technology, even though it forms the backbone of the internet).

And so, if we choose not to learn about it, it becomes lost. Another fundamental building block in our systems that becomes a mystery. Something that we build on top of without understanding. Another component in a system that becomes magic.

Or we can choose to study it.

Amateur radio is a part of our history, and if we learn to value the continued understanding of systems around us, part of our future as well.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Subjecting Yourself to Criticism with 360 Reviews

I recently learned about 360 reviews after reading The Right— — and Wrong — —Stuff by Carter Cast, and decided to conduct one on myself. The basic idea of conducting this kind of a review is to subject yourself to the criticism of people who you work with, and who work for you, and discover the weaknesses that you don’t see. Weaknesses are, after all, the things that we’re often ignorant of, and they’re also often the things that cripple us from moving forward and growing as individuals.

A 360 review is typically done in a survey format, with a large amount of Likert scales measuring things like the kind of feedback you give to employees, how clear your instructions are, how reliable you are, etc. There’s also some room for more qualitative forms of data which, for my review, I found quite revealing.

My review revealed a few things that I need to work on. Here are some of them:

  1. I need to work on balancing the amount of work I handle. Or, more importantly, the amount of work I handle and how I let it affect the people around me. I tend to take on lots of tasks and, while I actually handle them quite well, allow the stress levels that I experience as a result affect my management of others and relationships with others. This means, to me, that I need to focus a little more on delegating and taking deeper dives into managing others instead of tackling tasks myself.
  2. While I’m actually pretty good at providing positive feedback, I need to work more on giving constructive feedback on how others can improve. This, I think, is something that I’ve been low-level aware of for a while: I don’t like having to tell people they aren’t doing a good enough job. But, I need to learn how to do that, and do it in a way that doesn’t ruin the spirit or the energy that I try to engender: a positive, forward-looking, get your job done kind of attitude.
  3. I should try to remember why I’m so passionate about the things that got me where I’m at in the first place. While I’ve recently poured some energy in developing custom hardware games, getting a HAM radio license, and other personal projects, very few of these things are “without purpose” like the near space project I worked on a few years back. I need to get back to making things, and to making things without purpose or cause or intent: just for fun. This is a kind of “North Star” statement.

What was interesting about running this review was how revelatory it was about weaknesses I wasn’t aware of, and also, how it highlighted some things that I already knew but had been putting off. Asking others around you what they think you need to work on, and doing it in an anonymous way where they feel they can be honest, is a pretty scary thing to subject yourself to. But it’s also quite liberating to know what people think about you, and if you approach a review like this from an honest angle of self-improvement, can help reveal weaknesses that you’ve never noticed.

It’s also an opportunity to help you get back to the basics: I hadn’t realized that I’d left some of my passions by the wayside in my pursuit of “getting the job done,” but people who work with me had. I also had no idea that it was so clear when I was experiencing moments of high stress, but the interesting thing about this is that it’s a critique of a symptom, and it forced me to look further into what my causes of stress were, and how I might rectify them (through delegation and smarter choices in work).

My takeaways here are that it’s important to solicit honest feedback of yourself. It’s also important to understand what that feedback is truly telling you versus what it says on its face. Finally, if the feedback from a survey like this reinforces something you already knew about yourself, it’s time to get working.

If you’re interested in getting started with your own review, look no further than this free template.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus