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MODESTO — A kitchen island, car speaker boxes, a custom guitar and jewelry are just some of the projects “do-it-yourselfers” are constructing at Downtown Tinker Tank, a new business that brings the makerspace concept to Modesto.
“It’s part of what’s called the maker movement. It’s all like DIY, instructables,” said Downtown Tinker Tank owner Brie Parmer. “There’s a whole maker manifesto that says if you can’t take it apart, you don’t own it,”
Makerspace businesses provide shared workspaces for customers but vary in their creative focus. Parmer decided to base her makerspace around tools and equipment clients wouldn’t typically own themselves.
“What was really important to me is you can learn coding and stuff like that on a computer at home, but all the stuff we have in here is stuff people don’t have access to generally just for financial reasons,” said Parmer.
The 3,000-square-foot space in downtown Modesto houses equipment such as a Shopbot 5-horsepower router and cutter that can handle wood, plastic, rubber and acrylic as well as a 54-inch vinyl printer and cutter. Standard sewing machines, an industrial leather sewing machine, serger, 3-D printers, and soldering and welding equipment also fill the space along with a multitude of hand and power tools.
While Downtown Tinker Tank hopes to attract hobbyists, one of its main purposes is to promote building. That’s why the business is a California Social Purpose Corporation.
“It means we have goals and our goal is to teach the community and empower the community through building, to give them better jobs or to get them back into the workforce or to teach children about engineering,” she said.
One way Tinker Tank hopes to meet these goals is through client membership. Members pay a monthly fee that gives them unlimited access to the space, equipment, tools, computers and literature onsite. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Tuesdays, Tinker Tank’s hours satisfy a wide variety of work and school schedules.
“We have space for homeschooled children who want to come in and learn things or if it’s the entrepreneur. We have some that are trying to make a patented product. They can come in during times when no one is here or they can come after work. There is ample time for that,” Parmer said.
The business currently has 32 members including families, students, professionals and retirees, but it hopes to grow to 150 during its first year.
Member Samantha Irizarry enjoys using the laser etching and cutting machine to fabricate gifts for friends and family. She enjoys the space and availability of tools to do her work.
“At home you often have to dig through your garage for an hour to find or get out the tools you need to accomplish a simple task,” she said. “Here, I walk in and I can pull anything I need off the wall, and get going without obstruction. When I enter the makerspace I find a nice open space where I can spread out and start working.”
Tinker Tank’s classes provide another avenue for promoting creativity and building. While all clients must take Check Out classes prior to using any piece of equipment or tool, Skill Development and Make and Take courses offer builders in-depth knowledge of a specific tool or discipline.
Parmer and her two employees currently teach those courses but the ultimate goal is for members to gain enough expertise to become paid instructors as well.
“We want to be creating employment for them. We also want people to work out of this space. You come in here, you build stuff, you sell the things you are making and you can teach out of the space. It’s a shared workspace in addition to a school,” said Parmer.
In order to keep membership and class fees affordable and accessible, the company also takes on building projects.
“The idea behind the custom jobs is if you can’t get that done somewhere else, we can do that,” Parmer said.
Justin W. Capp Engineering and Design of Modesto contracted with Downtown Tinker Tank to build furniture for the firm’s downtown office.
“We have used them to build some shelving units for our engineers and designers, and most importantly our desks for our entire staff. So we have these phenomenal crescent-shaped pieces of art, really, that are fully functional,” said Justin W. Capp’s business administrator, Michelle McKinnon.
Not only does McKinnon appreciate her firm’s new furnishings, she enjoys taking advantage of Tinker Tank’s downtown location.
“Personally, I get to spend my lunch break and after work, learning and exploring and discovering my creative side,” she said.
Downtown Tinker Tank future plans include adding a second larger campus that will enable the firm to offer forging and glass blowing capabilities. Parmer also hopes to provide space for customers who want to rent an office for the day.
Parmer is committed to remaining downtown.
“We wanted to be where it was centrally located, and also I feel that a place like this is good for downtown,” she said. “It fosters art, it fosters creativity and it’s a thing to do. We need more things to do downtown.”