My Maker Journey : Thoughts and Considerations

As I mentioned in my previous post about starting my maker journey,  I’m really interested in making things and home fabrication.  Here are some additional thoughts about how I’m going about this and what is behind the decisions I’m making.  Depending on what your goals are you may make very different decisions than I have.

First things first.  If I’m going to go down this path I have to have a real place to work.  I live near New York which means space is an expensive commodity.  I have two kids which means it just isn’t safe keeping chemicals in the house.  My garage is fairly secure in that my kids don’t go in there, it is climate controlled and I can lock up anything dangerous but it isn’t ideal for spending long periods of time.  I’ve decided to convert a small utility room in my house for the cleaner aspects of my projects and to have a place in my garage that I can use for everything else.  Ideally everything should be compact enough that when I’m not working on something I can close it up and it won’t be very noticeable.

Given my space and safety concerns I have to figure out how to build this workshop efficiently.  Planning is going to be critical to make the space work for me.  First, I have to identify exactly how I want to use this space.  At a high level I want to be able to do chemistry and physics research as well as fabricate various robotic and electronic devices.  More practically, I’ll probably be doing the following;

  1. Prototyping. Mostly electronics but ideally I’d be able to prepare a single unit of anything I can think of.
  2. Repairs to stuff in my house
  3. Computer assembly
  4. Programming and general computer usage
  5. Building tools like a CNC mill or Fab@home device
  6. Working with my wife and kids on various projects

I really have to pay attention to things like cleanliness, climate (humidity, temperature, etc), and good quality air flow.  This last one is really important since I may be working with some volatile chemicals.

What is going in the shop? Tools, Tables, etc

Wood Working

Woodworking is going to be tough on my goal of creating a clean place to work.  I’ve been reading a lot about making sure that I keep an eye on air quality.  Since I’m going to separate the dirtier side of things (wood working, CNC milling, etc) from the cleaner things (circuit work and computing) I should be able to control how much the two environments interact.  There are many different systems for extracting dust, fumes and larger debris from your workshop.  If I let the garage get messy I’m sure my wife will kill me.  I’ll have to keep an eye on this.  I think I may be able to get by with a portable multi-purpose desk that I use for wood working, tool storage and assembly.

After a considerable amount of research and advice from the guys at Tool Town in Paramus NJ I’ve been convinced to go with the Festool line of equipment.  While it is definitely a premium line of tools I think that the storage and compact tool design is worth it.  These are apparently some of the best quality tools out there so I hopefully won’t have to replace them any time soon.

Two features stood out most when I was looking at these tools.  The first is that they are all integrated with a very small system for keeping dust and debris out of the air and off the floor.  In fact after experimenting for a little while I can honestly say I could use these in my living room without worrying about dust.  They are seriously efficient in this regard.

The second feature that I really like is that they have a very nice integrated set of accessories such as the workbench and guide rail system that will make it so that I don’t need to get tools that would typically take up a much larger space.  For example, for about 500$, the TS55EQ circular saw and produce incredibly accurate cuts that would typically require a dedicated table saw such as the SawStop 10″ Cabinet Saw.  You can easily see what I mean when you look at them side by side.

FestToolTS75SawStop Table Saw

OK so here is a pretty complete list of the basic tools I think I’ll need.

  • At least 10″ Circular Saw (Festool TS 55 EQ and Festool Rail Guide System)
  • Table Saw ( I think I can get by with the Festool circular saw and guide rail system.  We’ll see.)
  • Jigsaw (Festool PS 300)
  • Cordless Drill (Festool TDK 15.6 CE).
  • Dust Extractor (Festool CT 22 E)
  • Orbital Sander (Cheapo one that I already have)
  • Router (Festool OF 1400)
  • Workbench: I’ve decided that I’m going to take things slow and build my own tools.  Basically I’ll be following the guys at  You can get the plans here and video here.
  • Dremel ( I already have a pretty good one with a drill press type of setup as well)
  • Chisels (I have a good set that my brother gave me as a gift)
  • Lots of clamps
  • Drill Press (I’ll decide later.)
  • 12″ or 13″ Benchtop Planar (I’ll decide later.)
  • 10″ or greater Miter Saw (I’ll decide later.)
  • 8″ or greater Joiner (I’ll decide later.)
  • Band Saw (I’ll decide later.)

I’ll post the prices of everything soon so you can check back if you are interested in the cost.

CNC Milling

These are the CNC Mills that I’ve found online and think make the most sense.  Following the Guerrilla guide to CNC machining and resin casting I’m sold that additive fabrication just isn’t there yet.  I’ll probably play with that more later.  For now I think that one of the following CNC mills will work for what I want to do or I may just design my own.  Let’s see how the wood working setup goes first ;).

For the software I figure I’ll use EMC2 which is an open source package for controlling machine tools.  If I end up building my own then I’m going to have to build the breakout boards, motor controller board, etc but I’m sure I can use one of the designs available online.  As for the modeling tools, I will have to update you later on that.  I’ve been looking and quite frankly I am not sure if any of the open source tools out there are really ready yet.

Print 3D Objects

As I mentioned, I’m following the Guerrilla guide which focus’ more on the resin casting method with a normal CNC mill.  When I do get to this point I’ll probably look into one of these projects;

Laser Cutter

Just how cool would it be to have your own laser cutter.  I have a friend who has a $40k laser setup but I’m just not prepared to drop that kind of cash on a laser just yet.  All in due time.


So this is going to be a lot of fun and a lot of work.  I’ll be posting updates from time to time so check back if you are interested.  I’ve just started to build my worktable and laying out the space.  I’ll be posting my writeup with photos of that work in a couple of weeks when I’m finished.

John Rizzo

Technology, problem solving, learning, business, society and where those things intersect is what I am always thinking about. From my hobbies to my profession I attempt to combine those interests in a way that makes the sum greater than the whole. Find out more about me at linkedin,

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  1. Victor says:

    When are we going to get some updates. What project are you working on now? Did you finish your work shop?

    1. John says:

      Well, as you can see life has a way of taking your plans and making them its own. I’ll update the remaining photos tonight.

      Things are actually going well if not slow. I finished the desk. This was a huge learning experience. Anyone with any skill or know how will certainly laugh at the craftsmanship but you have to start somewhere.

      I’ve been drafting plans for my CNC machine based on a lot of material I’ve found on the internet. The hard part is figuring out how to adapt the plans for the material I have available to me. Once I’m comfortable that I have all the plans right I’ll update everyone on the build.