Machine Shop

Can I walk in and use the Big Machine Shop Machines (tools)?

If you’re “checked off”, yes; you’ll be issued a key that unlocks the power switch for the big tools. Otherwise, you must use them in the presence of the Shop Manager, either during his twice-weekly “help session” hours, or by appointment. For more details, inquire at

How do I get “checked off”?

By demonstrating your proficiency to the Shop Manager.

Are the introductory classes a mandatory prerequisite for using these tools?

No.  If you’re already familiar with machine tools, you may forego these single-evening classes. If you’re not familiar with metal machining, we highly recommend them; they’re a good way to get a running start.

Do I need to bring my own cutters, measurement tools and safety glasses, etc.?

Not necessarily. The shop endeavors to have a reasonable facsimile of everything you need to do basic machining, but if you’re serious about turning your own metal we recommend you purchase and bring your own cutters (particularly for the mill). If you plan to cut hard steels or exotic hard materials (see next FAQ), you MUST use your own cutters.

What materials can I cut in the Machine Shop?

If you’re using the Hack Factory provided cutters, plastic, aluminum, bronze, brass, and mild steel are fine. If you really must cut hardened steel, stainless steel, spring steel, titanium and other hard metals on the mill and lathe please do so ONLY with your own cutters. If you HAVE to use the band saw to cut hard metal, please leave a note indicating the event so we can check the blade for sharpness and replace it if necessary. If you kill a blade, we’d love it if you’d replace it. Again, we’re about getting things done. Sh!t happens. We know this.  But if we all work together as a community, we can keep the good stuff going strong!

Is there a stash of raw materials available for the community use?

As described just above, we’re a “can do” place, so of course there is! We have a motley but often useful assortment of long(ish) pieces on the wheeled stock rack, and several cabinets filled with flat stock, screws and bolts, and various bits and pieces that might be exactly what you need. Feel free to browse. If you use the last or nearly last of something… please note it on the whiteboard or send an email to

If I “break” a tool, or discover an “issue” with one, what should I do?

Please please PLEASE report it to …we promise not to bite your head off, but we really DO need to know when (and ideally how) things go wrong. If the tool is unusable, please tape a “Borked or Broken” slip  to it (these slips are available at the doorway to the wood shop).

I notice the shop needs or is out of (insert item(s) here). What should I do?

Drop us a line at

I’d like to donate a tool or two to the machine shop. What should I do?

First, put on your halo. If the tool is small, drop it in the appropriate toolbox drawer and let us know so that we may thank you enjoy the benefits of your generous contribution! If it’s larger than a breadbox, please send us an email first; since our space is limited, we may not be able to field all donations. Also, you can make a wish come true by perusing our Amazon “Hack Factory Wish List” and purchasing an item or two for us! (google “hack factory wish list” to get there.)