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Creators build and collaborate at MakerSpace

Royal Alworth bends a glowing piece of iron in the metal shop. (Photo by Richard Thomas)1 / 9
Fred Underwood demonstrates the use of a plasma arc welder. (Photo by Richard Thomas)2 / 9
Ezekiel King with a star made from the 100-watt laser cutting/engraving machine. (Photo by Richard Thomas)3 / 9
Joe and Miranda Durbin own the building that houses the Duluth MakerSpace. (Photo by Richard Thomas)4 / 9
Troy Rogers with his "robot rickshaw," a musical machine he uses to perform around the country. (Photo by Richard Thomas)5 / 9
Rick Umpierre with his ice boat, which other MakerSpace members refer to as the “insane ice skate deathmobile” since it will be able to travel up to 60 mph. He has a larger ice boat that can go 120 mph. “I’m not into racing. I just like to go fast,” he said. (Photo by Richard Thomas)6 / 9
Danielle Rhodes designed and built this plywood robot, with moving wheels and arms, the night before the grand opening. (Photo by Richard Thomas)7 / 9
MakerSpace member Max Elfelt, right, shows the 3D printers to grand opening attendee Tony Hart. (Photo by Richard Thomas)8 / 9
Oldie but goodie industrial-strength Singer machines sew through thick material such as leather. (Photo by Richard Thomas)9 / 9

Duluth MakerSpace, a cooperative workshop that offers access to 3D printers, laser cutters, wood and metal-shaping machinery, computer technology and more, held its grand opening Sept. 18 at 3001 W. Superior St. The co-op is for hobbyists, artists, inventors, teachers and anyone who wants to create but needs the know-how and the equipment. It's also for those who have such assets and want to share them.

Actually Makerspace has been open since 2014 — The grand opening was announced as "Finally!" — but it took two years to "polish up" the building, said Joe Durbin, who co-owns the site with his wife, Miranda.

"Makerspaces" are growing in popularity throughout the country, getting people to bring their skills out of basements and garages and use them cooperatively. There are three such spaces in the Twin Cities alone. The Duluth MakerSpace currently has 30-50 active members, Joe said, adding that he wants to bring it up to the "sustainable" level of 70.

The Durbins became interested in starting a makerspace and found a group already existing in Duluth, but without a building. So they bought a closed repair shop, formerly PDQ Engine & Machine, and along with other members and volunteers, went through the arduous task of cleaning it up — "a lot of power-washing," Miranda said — to bring the place up to code and bring in equipment. Much of the equipment is on loan from members; some has been donated or loaned by local companies and others purchased at auctions.

Joe's background is in computers, but "I enjoy doing things with my hands after all the programming," he said. Miranda is a naturalist on the staff of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, a field she acknowledges is "far removed" from the industrial setting of the Makerspace. The Durbins previously created the online fantasy game "Horse Isle."

The space offers classes in topics including glass engraving, industrial sewing, Arduino microcontrollers, 3D printing, metal shop, welding, stone cutting and polishing, rock engraving, electronic soldering, watercolor and "the Big CNC," the last referring to the 8-by-10-foot Computer Numerical Control router.

Memberships with full access to the space are $45 per month (or $450 per year) and $60 per couple. Members must be 18 or older, given that much of the equipment is not exactly kid-friendly — "too many sharp things," said Joe — and children in the shop must be accompanied by adults. Classes are available to both members and nonmenbers. There are also "volunteer forced labor camps" in which people are invited to work together on larger projects.

More information may be found at or at Duluth MakerSpace on Facebook.