MakeLocal at the Autodesk Forge Developer Conference

fusion cnc cut board

Autodesk Forge DevCon 2016

Last October at the NY Maker Faire, 100kGarages collaborated with Josh Worley of Opendesk on an event we named MakeLocal. It took all the steps that go into shopping for a product and having it fabricated locally, specifically for you, and compressed that big-picture concept of local digital manufacturing into a 10’x20′ space.  It really got a lot of attention and helped Maker Faire attendees understand what the “New Industrial Revolution” is about, so when our friends from the Autodesk Fusion 360 and Forge teams asked us if we would be interested in participating in their Forge Developer conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco, we realized we had a great partner for another round of the MakeLocal experience.

The sort of fabrication-on-demand that we had done in New York is a big part of the distributed manufacturing story, but another important facet is customizing products so that they are uniquely suited for an individual customer. Since in New York we had taken local manufacturing story through all of the steps from design to product, we decided that at the Forge event we would instead pick one design and work with the Autodesk team to create a customizing interface from within Fusion 360. One of our favorite pieces was the Johann stool, designed in France by designer Johann Aussage of Nouvelle Fabrique, so we decided that it would be the perfect product to use for the Forge event.

2016-05-25 09.02.47


Since personalization and customization was the story we were telling this time and not the fabrication of the stools, I pre-cut the stools parts into a stack of 24″ x 30″ x 5/8″ Baltic Birch blanks in my shop, leaving the pieces still held in the sheet with tabs. The 24″ x 36′ cutting area of the Desktop MAX was the perfect size to machine the designs that attendees would create for the seats of their stools. And just like in New York, one of the Shelter 2.0 designs was assembled as a stand-in for a full fabrication shop.


makelocal layout


To help pull all the pieces together we had two great partners at Autodesk, Patrick Rainsberry and Brian Ekins. Patrick is a Business Development Manager at Autodesk, working on developing partnerships for the Fusion and Forge platforms, and is passionate about the power of software to make real things. You can see some of Patrick’s projects on his YouTube channel. including this very cool start-to-finish parametric bookcase created in Fusion 360 and fabricated on a ShopBot.

Brian is an API Designer for Autodesk, one of the authors of the Mod the Machine blog, and luckily for us an avid woodworker. Brian created an add-in for Fusion, written in the programming language Python, that created the user interface for customizing the design and creating Sketch data. These scripts also created gcode toolpaths from that Sketch geometry and send those toolpaths directly to the job queue on the Desktop MAX using the new Fabmo API.


stool and circles





We could only do a limited number of the customized stools because of the time the process took, so we duplicated the same process with 2 Handibots in an engraving station. Attendees used the exact same customizations in 3″x4″ badge blanks cut from 1/16″ engraving plastic. A custom vacuum holding jig was created for each Handibot station, using brake bleeder pumps as a simple vacuum source.


Screenshot 2016-07-10 17.14.39


Screenshot 2016-07-10 17.14.21


2016-06-15 17.52.55


badge speaker


Although this was a developer conference with talks on topics like “Building Data Centric Applications on Forge” and “Integration and Extension of a Cloud Security Model within Enterprise systems”,  Josh and I were invited to speak on a topic that we are both pretty passionate about, “The Power of Communities for Design and Manufacturing”. It was a great opportunity for us to  talk about our experiences with 100kGarages and Opendesk, our thoughts on the future of manufacturing, some of the struggles that we’ve encountered, and how we see the Forge Platform and the developer community becoming a critical part of solving these problems.


Autodesk Forge DevCon 2016

Autodesk Forge DevCon 2016


We’re really not sure where our work with Fusion and Forge will lead, but are looking forward to more projects with them in the future.

FS16 Craft/Facturing – 2016 Furniture Society Conference


The 2016 Furniture Society Conference was held at the University of the Arts in Downtown Philadelphia, June 23rd – 25th. ShopBot’s role as a sponsor was to bring along a tool to be used for a workshop called “Exploring the Fourth Dimension” that was being led by a team from the University of Minnesota. The workshop functioned as an open forum for anyone interested in 4-axis machining to participate and learn more about the process of going from CAD to CAM to finished part.

There was a strong emphasis on digital fabrication at the event this year, with topics ranging from integrating carbon fiber into hand-crafted furniture design, to an overview of Rhino’s parametric modelling platform – Grasshopper.

The tool we brought along was a Desktop MAX with a 6” Indexer mounted along the tool’s X axis, allowing for stock to be turned up to 36” in length and 8” in diameter. While the setup started out as an experiment on getting a larger Indexer onto a Desktop sized tool, we were pleasantly surprised with the results and have big plans for the configuration in the future.

Desktop MAX with 6″ Indexer.

Another new feature of the setup was a fixed z-zero plate shown mounted in the vice below, which allowed for auto-zeroing to the stock’s axial center, as well as an automatic clearance height calculation to avoid maxing out on our z-height for larger diameter parts.

desktop max machining a walnut 3d scanned bust

Cantilevered 3D scanned bust – machined from walnut without a tailstock.

The workshop culminated in a John Henry style carve-off between a team of mallet and gouge wielding hand carvers, who competed against the Desktop MAX. Check out our design and final (sadly unfinished) cut below.

shopbot competition in progress

The scene of the competition.

carving competition trophy design

Animation depicting the trophy design used for the “carve off.”

carving competition final trophy

Final collaboration between man and machine.


Thanks to Kevin Groenke of University of Minnesota for the pictures.

Contributed by David Preiss

ShopBot CNC the “most profitable woodworking tool I’ve ever purchased”

buddy playing his hammer dulcimer

Buddy Warner with the hammer dulcimer he designed and built


If you’ve called ShopBot to ask about our tools, the name Buddy Warner may be familiar to you. His day job is to consult with prospective ShopBot customers, helping assess their needs and pointing them to appropriate CNC tool solutions (a fancy way of saying that he works in sales!). One thing is certain. Buddy comes by his love for ShopBot’s tools honestly. A woodworker since his teens, Buddy has owned his ShopBot since the mid-1990’s and considers it to be a great addition to his traditional tools….”the most profitable” in his shop.

Buddy explained, “When I’m on the phone with a woodworker who’s been using only ‘traditional’ tools, interested in CNC but also unsure about the idea of investing in CNC, I talk to them about my own experience. In my work, whether it’s signmaking or furniture, I’ve found that the ShopBot makes harder processes easier and less time consuming. This means I’m freed up to work on other tasks, such as hand finishing, while the CNC is running a file. It’s not a case of ‘either or’ — traditional or digital — to me it’s ‘both and.’ Don’t give up your hand tools. Just view the ShopBot as another tool in your shop. With its power to make me more productive, the ShopBot has paid for itself many, many times over.”
dulcimer detailed carvings

Detail work on the dulcimer including engraved lettering

Buddy’s journey into woodworking.
“I first fell in love with woodworking when I was in the 8th grade,” said Buddy. “I had a shop teacher who taught us to make detailed chair and table legs, and I was hooked instantly.” After college, Buddy began his career as an educator, teaching English and Bible studies. Moving into his first home, he hunted around for bookcases but didn’t find exactly what he wanted — which led to his first adventures in woodworking. “I started buying the tools… a jig saw, band saw, table saw, hand router, etc., designing and building a variety of wood projects, including furniture, sign work, and musical instruments.” Buddy started taking his work to craft fairs and slowly built a home-based business.
cnc made built in cabinets

Samples of cabinet work

kitchen cabinets made from cnc woodworking

 rolltop desk
After a few years he left teaching and took a position making furniture at the Village Woodshop in Quakertown, PA. Some time passed and he moved to North Carolina, bought a home in Burlington and worked at Bishop’s Custom Cabinets in Hillsborough. He began what turned out to be long career at Woodworker’s Supply in Graham, NC. He worked there 24 years, eventually becoming their National Sales Manager. All the while Buddy continued honing his skills and practicing his wood craft.
While at Woodworker’s Supply in the late 1990s he met a customer who was in the midst of purchasing a ShopBot. Buddy joined his customer on a trip to ShopBot in Durham, and it wasn’t long before he decided to buy his own, a 4′ x 8′ gantry tool with a router.
“Back ‘in the day’ — the 1990’s — it was quite the learning curve for me to use the software of the time. But the software solutions available now make it much easier to get started and be quite successful quickly,” Buddy said.
custom sign for henry's farm

The vast majority of Buddy’s work is sign making

fleet feet sports sign

three picture collage of wooden bible anchor carving

As time has passed, Buddy has found that the ShopBot has reduced the need for him to use the majority of his hand tools — “it’s just that efficient of a tool.”  But he hasn’t stopped using his sanders, pocket drill, handheld jig saw and table saw. “You use the right tool for the job — for me, that’s meant relying more and more on my CNC. I tell my customers, if you want to make money in woodworking, then you should look at incorporating CNC. It’s the most profitable tool in my shop.”
architectural millwork collage

Some of the architectural millwork Buddy has done with the help of his ShopBot

Makers of All Ages – Come One, Come All!

two young girls smiling at maker faire  cnc carved symbols

The National Maker Faire in Washington DC, June 18-19th, was the kick off event for the National Week of Making which included, among many other activities, a Nation of Makers Kick-off Meeting; the White House’s Champions of Change for Making; and a special Capitol Hill Maker Faire for members of Congress and the public.

There were ashopbot employees posing at the national maker fairebout 15,000 attendees at the National Maker Faire this year. ShopBot’s booth was located in the midst of all the outdoor activity. We cut, carved, and drew for 2 days straight to the delight of both young and old. Our booth was staffed from various departments within ShopBot: the marketing department (Jeanne Taylor), web development (Brendan Collins and Aaron Wiggins), and production (Al-Solo Nyonteh) were all represented. A ShopBot Desktop cut pre-designed signs that were run from the new FabMo motion control system – allowing us to work wirelessly from our tablets and phone. With the Handibot tool in our booth, we used one of the apps that comes with the tool called ‘Smooth Sketch.’ The app allows visitors to draw with their finger on a tablet then carve their drawing into painted boards. We also used one of our favorite accessories for the Handibot, the pen holder. It was big hit, especially with the grade school crowd.

We’re looking forward to participating in this year’s World Maker Faire in New York, October 1st-2nd. Stop by and see us!

two shopbot employees

Are you a ShopBot user/owner? Is there a mini Maker Faire near you? Would you like to participate and represent ShopBot? Let us know. We’d love to work with you to help show off what you make. Contact us at

For 20 years, ShopBot Tools has been proudly helping makers make!

 "#1 dad" sign being cut by shopbot routerarmed forces member at national maker fairealamance makers guild wooden signred maker faire logo being cut by a handibot

boy wearing helmet at national maker faire handibot demonstration at national maker faire

Heirloom objects commemorating military life

Command Performance_Mcguire Shadowbox

Shadow Box for a retired Master Chief in the Navy

In recent years, the word ‘heirloom’ has crept into the vernacular of everyday speech. From heirloom vegetables at grocery stores to home décor magazine touting heirloom objects found at flea markets, often times the intention is more buzz than substance. There is no history or story being told. But how does something become an heirloom? And what about the creation of new heirlooms, an object specifically intended to begin its life cycle today, to commemorate the current life yet to outlive us all in the hands of great-great-grandchildren and beyond?

Command Performance_Double Decker Hat Box

Double decker hat box

ShopBot users Tim and Lalane Haenisch’s military objects represent this new heirloom era but possess sincerity and are tailored to a family tree. The military, specifically the Navy’s foundation, reflects a tradition of objects weighted with meaning, and particular gestures, significant and historical. Tim and Lalane know all about this having lived the military lifestyle while Tim completed 21 years of active duty in the Navy, retiring as Senior Chief. For years their side business, Command Performance, has made many objects such as custom pens, tap handles for a San Diego-based hard cider company, and other one-off items, but their heart and true passion lies in creating shadow boxes for military personnel, from hat boxes to plaques to sea chests for retirees. Each as personal and built with intention as a quilt sewn from a loved one’s weathered clothing. “I want to capture the summary of a person’s career, to tell the complete story of a person’s military life and their service to our country,’ says Tim.




Command Performance_In work1

This current project, a shadow box end table, Tim is finishing within a tight 7-day deadline for a retiring coast guard officer.

The shadow box tradition is very old, and Tim and Lalane carry on this tradition, but with modern day tools and processes. One project they completed was a 4’x’2’x2’ solid wood sea chest with an array of 3D military insignias carved using Aspire and their ShopBot Desktop. As Tim tells it, back in the day on wooden ships, crewmembers would assemble a trunk (or box) full of objects from a retiring sailor’s ship life—memorabilia that reflected his lifetime at sea. When the sailor ‘went ashore,’ that trunk would be physically carried off the ship: The object and action representing  the containment and then passage of the person’s narratives.

Tim’s background in woodworking and custom cabinetry combine effortlessly with Lalane’s eye for design and assemblage. They gain new clients mostly through word of mouth, so they rely on the objects to speak for themselves. “I want people to say, ‘Wow, where did you get that?!’ when they see the boxes at retirement parties,” Tim explains. They pride themselves on listening to each client’s stories, knowing that they have to retell that story through the object.




Command Performance_Navy Diver Coin Rack

Tim and Lalane’s Challenge Coin holder was a new product they introduced after purchasing their Desktop. Challenge Coins are given in response to going above and beyond call of duty. Most officers have their own personalized coins. Tim and Lalane have received a quite a few as a thank you.


Command_Performance- box3

A sea chest has 3-d carved panels custom fit together to create 4 feet of artwork. The customer didn’t want a traditional shadow box so Tim suggested a sea chest with a 4-inch deep front panel. The inside is cedar, which stores old uniforms.


When Lalane first meets with a new client, they bring all of the items they wish to be presented in the piece Command Performance is creating, which is sometimes 35+ years worth of items. Over the years, Lalane developed ‘style books’ to show new clients since some aren’t sure how to present their life stories. Others walk in with a clear vision. She also shows them the assortment of lacquers and stains available.  If they want their ship’s emblem or their previous or current rank’s logo, then Tim works with CNC Military Emblems to create the 3D file. Often their customers may be off at sea, so being able to utilize Aspire’s features to email them a virtual rendering has been invaluable, especially for fact checking dates and names before creating the final piece.

Creating everything by hand and power tools, Tim began his research for a CNC system in 2012 after a friend did some 3D carvings on his company’s industrial CNC machine for Tim. First he came across the CarveWright system, but after reading reviews he realized it wasn’t a good match and neither were commercial grade machines. Then he began to see ShopBot’s name. Tim reflects, “at that point, I’d been doing woodworking for 15-16 years and had been blessed that every time I invested in a new tool it paid for itself.” This stayed true: Since purchasing their machine, it’s paid for itself threefold. He has integrated 3D carving into almost every product and has added to their repertoire. Even his 2D process has changed. “Using my scroll saw to cut out military emblems used to include around 150 blade changes. An eagle’s wings could be around 70 changes”. Now he can setup the Desktop and run it while making the rest of the shadow box.


Command_Performance- Julian Hard Cider

Julian Hard Cider tap pulls commissioned by the company for every location their hard cider is available.

Tim and Lalane plan to purchase a laser to continue to expand their product line. He’s also got his eye on the new ShopBot Desktop MAX. Knowing that a laser may increase business, and given that his actual full-time job is as a systems engineer at a software company, he may need the extra robotic employee.

“It’s not about the woodworking. It is about what’s inside the box and how it is presented. The woodworking is just a nice cover on the book,” reflects Tim, “We want to touch people’s hearts.” That’s pride: knowing the new heirloom reflects Navy Pride and tradition and the sacrifices made to earn the ribbons, the uniforms, and Purple Hearts. A family’s military life bundled into something that reaches far into the future.


Command_Performance- Ammo Box Style Hat Box

An ammo-box stylized Hat Box

Command_Performance- Lalane2

Lalane completing the final arrangement of a shadow box’s objects.












See more of Tim and Lalane’s work or to get in contact with them, see their Facebook page: Command Performance

Elderwood Academy Elevates the Culture of Gaming



Hex Chests from the first Kickstarter campaign in 2014

Spellbooks from their second Kickstarter campaign in 2015

Spellbooks from their second Kickstarter campaign in 2015


Elderwood Academy, like many young entrepreneurial companies, has its roots in the makerspace movement. When Quentin Weir and Dan Reiss fulfilled the orders for their first successful Kickstarter campaign, the two CNC machines required– a ShopBot PRS 4×8 and Epilogue Laser– were easily accessible at their local makerspace. And when they launched their second successful Kickstarter campaign, they decided it was time to invest in their own CNC systems.

But let’s back up a bit. What is Elderwood Academy and how were they able to launch two successful Kickstarter campaigns in 2 years, the second of which received $280,000 from an initial request of $5000?


Quentin and Dan use CNC and traditional methods to create their products: An old foil embosser was purchased to give the Spellbooks that extra touch of personalization.

Quentin and Dan met through the ‘gaming world,’ role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and board games. At the time, Dan was in medical school at the University of Michigan and Quentin, who had majored in biomedical engineering, was working at UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute) where he prototyped and built research equipment. Dan asked Quentin to prototype a project he was working on, so Quentin showed him Maker Works, a makerspace in Ann Arbor, MI, which had all the equipment needed including a ShopBot PRS 4’x8’. Dan was blown away by how financially accessible CNC equipment suddenly became. Quentin reflects, “Pairing shop skills with my engineering degree set me up to where I am right now… and my experience with mentoring FIRST Robotics. I learned the CNC at Maker Works.” It was then that Dan showed Quentin his “Hex Chest” idea, a decorative container for carrying gaming dice, which became their first product successfully funded on Kickstarter. Using a PRS 4’x8’ Standard and an Epilogue Laser, they tapped into a niche market that sought individuality. Both tools easily met this demand for customization. They got featured a few times, which boosted their audience.

Creating two new dust feet allowed for interchangeability not only between their PRS and PRT but also for their various products.

“Pretty much all sports have something. If you want to buy $200 basketball shoes, you can do that,” says Quentin. But the world of gaming is different. As Quentin explains it, a lot of gamers are used to carrying their items around in bags or Tupperware containers. This includes dice, playing cards, a pen for tallying points, a miniature that represents one’s character, and coins—a lot of small pieces. Quentin and Dan understand this culture’s obsession with uniqueness: gamers thrive on their ability to create their own character and nuanced worlds. Elderwood Academy complements this need for self-expression by creating functional objects that bring a level of professionalism to the gaming world.

After launching a second Kickstarter to create Spellbooks, they purchased their own CNC machines. “We didn’t bother looking at other CNC routers. We knew ShopBot could handle the volume while allowing for the customization we required,” says Quentin. They already knew VCarve Pro and how to modify the SB3 software to suit their needs. It gained them another employee that could work 24/7—though it wasn’t a smooth transition.



They are currently updating their dust collection system, so ignore the wood chips!

Quentin and Dan purchased a used PRT 4’x4’ from University of Michigan’s Property Disposition that came with no background history. Its controller ended up having a failed repair, and it was missing the proximity switches and dust collection. Quentin struggled to fix it until he realized it was just a ‘big robot.’ Drawing on his FIRST Robotics experience he got it moving, but not before purchasing a new ShopBot PRS 4’x4’, too.

“We launched the second campaign before we nailed down our production process. I was still in the prototyping phase. We learned our lesson,” Quentin states. With so many customizable features, they had to figure out a solution. Quentin set up a server that stores all the variations in cutting files, which means there are a lot of files. Just look at their website and see all of the options to choose from! If small edits are made to fine tune a file, it automatically gets re-uploaded into a software program he wrote located on the computer running both ShopBots. Their machinist can walk up to the computer, select the features for a customer’s order, and the program opens the correct SB3 files.

Two of the many options available for the inside pocket


Previously working at the makerspace, they also had trouble with ‘missing comm errors’ because of static, and kept throwing out half-completed projects. One solution was to take advantage of SB3’s editing capabilities: They wrote their own header and set up the code so each project gets fully pocketed/cut before moving on to the next one on the jig setup. They can machine 40 complete Hex Chests in about 5 hours while completing other tasks. Because the final steps in making a Spellbook involves hands-assembly, their 2 ShopBots and Trotec laser enable them to deliver a fully personalized product for a fair price in the volume they need.


Currently Dan commutes back and forth between Ann Arbor and San Francisco, where he is an internal medicine resident at San Francisco State University, and Quentin divides his time between Elderwood Academy and a board game company he co-owns with another colleague.

Quentin articulates that the “value a D&D player gets from their own Spellbook… it adds to the charm of the game.” Though not a gamer, having held one of the books in my hands, there’s a conscious craftsmanship to them, from the wood selection to the gold clasp to the foil embossing. It speaks to the success Elderwood Academy has achieved in bringing a heightened professionalism to the gaming community.


All the pieces organized and ready for the final hand assembly

They have two hand assembly stations and have hired several employees.




Popular startup Keyboardio chooses ShopBot Desktop for prototyping

Kaia and Jesse

Keyboardio is a startup founded by Jesse Vincent and Kaia Dekker. “We’ve spent the last couple of years designing and prototyping a unique keyboard for uncompromising typists,” said Jesse. “Keyboardio has an advanced ergonomic layout, premium mechanical keyswitches that are a joy to type on, custom-sculpted keycaps that guide your fingers into the right place, and a pleasing maple hardwood enclosure.”

Jesse also noted that Keyboardio Model 01 features ultra-customizable open firmware, making it unlike anything else on the market today. Kaia said, “When we think of our inspiration to create Keyboardio we had in mind serving the needs of people who ‘live and die’ by their keyboards: programmers, journalists, and writers.”

keyboard front

Keyboardio began as a hobby project in the summer of 2012.

Jesse gave a bit of background: A SaaS startup he had been working on was failing. He was pretty burned out and decided to take a bit of time off to play around and figure out “the next thing.” While he was experimenting with new software startup ideas, Jesse procrastinated by trying to build himself a keyboard.

“When we started out building our first keyboard, it was very much a hobby project. After the second or third prototype, we started having trouble using our keyboards in public–people kept interrupting us to ask where they could buy the keyboards we were using.”

Kaia and Jesse, who are married as well as business partners, first encountered folks from ShopBot at the Bay Area Maker Faire two years ago. There they saw the ShopBot Desktop tool in action. It wasn’t long after that they decided to purchase a Desktop for their prototyping work.

Jesse explained their reasoning for purchasing a ShopBot Desktop. “We were having to spend about $1000 in Shenzhen each time we wanted bespoke milling of a prototype base, with a turnaround of about two weeks. We needed a better solution.” Kaia said, “Using our Shopbot, we can do a similar prototype project in a day.  The tool quickly paid for itself.”

Jesse noted that a 3D printer was an early prototyping tool for them, but it had serious problems, including a heating plate that caught fire. “After visiting with Shopbot, we became convinced that CNC was the way to go. The Desktop enables production quality work.”

Asked why they decided to choose ShopBot for CNC, Jesse answered, “We chose Shopbot for its access to customer service; the ability to quickly get someone on the phone who was knowledgeable and helpful.”

Jesse shared some thoughts about the Desktop, now that they’ve been using it for a while. “It’s in a sweet spot of being both a very usable at-home tool and a real production tool. The tool provides good value for the money.”  Jesse said that he considers himself a junior machinist, still learning, but the curve has not been too steep.

For their prototyping process, they were initially using Partworks 3D, but have switched to Fusion 360. “Autodesk has been a great supporter of the project,” noted Jesse. “We’re now at a point where we can cut a prototype in about an hour instead of five hours.” In addition to support they’ve received from Autodesk, they sought crowdfunding via Kickstarter, which was a hugely successful campaign. Their many fans (in the 1000’s) are eagerly awaiting their Keyboardio keyboards from a first large production run.

keyboard w hands

The Production Journey
Jesse said, “When looking for a manufacturer to perform the custom milling of the maple enclosure, we requested bids from companies in the U.S. and Canada, but the best bid from North America was four times the cost of having the work performed in China. This is due to the labor cost, as well as the fact that there are many Chinese manufacturers who already have the infrastructure in place for large scale CNC production.”

They’d been told by several keyboard manufacturers that using wood was not feasible. But it was key to their concept for Keyboardio, and the two are on the verge of beginning production, using ethically sourced maple from Canada, shipping it to China for milling. The journey to secure manufacturing partners hasn’t been a cakewalk, as Jesse freely admits. In fact he writes about these adventures on the Keyboardio blog — it makes for an interesting read.

Lessons learned so far?
Kaia: “It has been fascinating to see how many disciplines come into play in a very interconnected way…industrial design, electrical engineering. It’s been a great experience.”

Jesse: “Going into this, we had the desire to make this product, but not all the skill sets. Certainly by working with a Shopbot tool we’ve been enabled to just jump in and start making, going from CAD to CAM quite easily… trying, failing, redesigning, making a new iteration. It’s a great process.”

Here’s a bit more background about Jesse and Kaia:

Jesse Vincent

Jesse’s spent most of his career working on open-source software. In 1996, he created Request Tracker (RT), an issue tracking system that’s used by everyone from tiny nonprofits to Fortune 50 corporations and Federal agencies. He’s the original author of K-9 Mail, an open-source email client for Android with a couple million active users. Jesse was the project leader for the Perl programming language for the 5.12 and 5.14 releases.

Kaia Dekker

After graduating from MIT with a BS in Physics, Kaia worked as an investment banker, helping startups get themselves bought by giant megacorps. From there, she went into strategy consulting, helping some of those same megacorps maximize shareholder value. Figuring that the next step was to go to work for a megacorp, Kaia went back to school, picking up an MBA from the Tuck School of Business in scenic Hanover, NH. Upon further reflection, she’s decided it’d be more fun to just build Keyboardio into a megacorp.


To learn more about Keyboardio, visit their website, and their Kickstarter page. Find out more about the ShopBot Desktop here.

Shelter 2.0 – An Open Design Project

I’ve been making things with ShopBots and sharing designs for ShopBot projects since the early days, almost 20 years ago. There have been boats, furniture, and design tools like Open Source Joinery, but the thing I’m most proud of is a side project, Shelter 2.0, that I work on with my friend and collaborator Robert Bridges. Robert and I have known each other for years and have collaborated on all kind of design and fabrication projects. This slideshow shows some of the things we’ve worked on together:

One trait Robert and I share is a pretty strong drive to help folks, and the Shelter 2.0 project grew out of that desire. It evolved from a design Robert entered in a contest hosted by the Guggenheim Museum and SketchUp that was inspired by a barreled ceiling that we had worked on.


We were both impressed with the inherent strength and aesthetic appeal of that rounded shape, and since with a CNC machine it’s just as easy to cut a curve as a straight line, Robert designed a structure that used the same curved form.

shelter contest entry

Robert didn’t win the contest, but we both liked the concept well enough that we decided to build one next to my shop to see what the space was really like. We were pretty pleased with this first prototype and decided that we would share the files as an Open Design project, so that others can build the same–or similar–structures. Though originally conceived as an option for transitional housing in emergency situations, the Shelter 2.0 design has as been used as housing for the homeless, as team-building projects in schools, and as a possible option in refugee housing. So far we know of 30 or more that have been built, and every week or so we see pictures of ones that we didn’t know about.


We’ve learned a lot over the years about sharing projects, and our designs have evolved as we have. Here are a couple of principles that have guided the modifications and changes we’ve made:

  • Make it easy to duplicate. Not only with documentation, but also with design details. No matter how precise your tools are, it’s hard to design for and cut something out of an imprecise material. Rather than having to constantly modify files and models, we’ve worked on construction methods that are as close as we can get to being material agnostic.
  • Share in helpful formats. We share in several formats so that folks can use them no matter what software they use. Our go-to design and toolpathing software is VCarve Pro so we include files in that format, but also include .dxf files which is a pretty universal format for CAD software. We like to supply documentation using Google docs or other web-based formats.
  • Make sure it serves the need. Keeping costs down can certainly be important, but not at the expense of solving the problem at hand. After 5 years, there are still people living in tents after the Earthquake in Haiti, and the average length of stay  in the larger refugee camps is 17 years. People need more than just a cheap and temporary “shelter”—it might be their home for quite a while.
  • Encourage others to explore options in housing—building design shouldn’t be limited to architects! We feel like this design has a lot of things going for it, but it’s not by any means the only solution, or the best solution in every case. We hope though that by promoting it and keeping the conversation going that we’ll encourage others to come up with innovative solutions to all kinds of problems and needs.
  • Explore options in design, materials, and construction. Although much of what we do these days involves digital tools, we both have a pretty strong foundation of analog skills… me as a boat carpenter and Robert as a carpenter and contractor. In many cases cutting everything with CNC machines makes a lot of sense, but we’ve also explored creating precise CNC-cut templates that can be duplicated on-site with traditional hand and power tools. This combination of digital and analog skills shows a lot of promise for areas that have limited infrastructure and skills, but lots of excess labor.

Recently we were invited to give a presentation about the Shelter 2.0 project at the DC FabLab, to share these ideas with community leaders interested in exploring solutions to DC’s housing problems. Many thanks to Phyllis and Alex for helping us spread the word about Shelter 2.0!

Shelter talk

You can read more about the Shelter 2.0 project on our website and find files on Github at (files for a new 8’x8′ version will be uploaded soon, so stay tuned). We encourage you to look around for similar projects that you might want to get involved with, and we’re particularly excited about a new project,, that was founded by our friend David Ott from the International Red Cross.

Intermediate Digital Design and Fabrication at Port Townsend



This year Port Townsend is offering an intermediate CNC course called Intermediate Digital Design and Fabrication beginning July 18th. I am Andy Pitts, and I am teaching the course and thought you might like a bit more insight into my plans.

My philosophy goes along the lines of teaching people to fish so they can eat for their entire lives, so I want to stress how to use the software and machine (strategy and technique) and use small projects only to demonstrate. I’m sensitive to the fact that most students (and myself) might be flying in and any projects must be easily transportable, as well. I also want to provide some flexibility so each student can pursue avenues of the most interest when it comes to actually making projects.

Here’s some on the course specifics:

First, I want to make sure everyone has a firm grasp of 2D and 2-1/2D work in Aspire, but then quickly move into 3D modeling and spend some time getting you comfortable with the tools in Aspire. Using a standard wedge hold-down jig, we will model on small wooden blocks. I want you to learn to import models and make your own relief models, VCarve onto a model, let a model into a dish (with the multiply command), and cut parts of a model to make new components as a way to make a new model from an existing one. Again, the project part of all this is simply to demo the techniques and experiment. The take-away parts will be small and easy to fit into a suitcase.

Once 3D work is in hand, I want to talk about and do two-sided work in 3D models. Some students may already have some grasp of two-sided work from the beginner course, but I want to work on the modeling aspect of it. For this we will probably use slightly larger stock and perhaps make a two-sided dish, but for practical purposes each student can design something unique if desired. There are always options of importing a two-sided model and working out how to actually cut it, but more useful I think is learning how to make the two-sided model itself and then cut it. As you are well aware, there is real challenge in the Aspire work and the strategy of toolpathing, so we will spend time really understanding what is going on with two sided work on a 3-axis machine.

I would like to spend some time working with the tiling function of Aspire, making tiled toolpaths so a small machine can cut on stock larger than the spoil board or assemble a large piece from smaller parts. Due to time and material size constraints, I don’t think we will actually cut large pieces (who could ship a large piece home?), as the real excitement is in figuring out the tool pathing and how to index the work for continuity in the finished piece.

An interesting twist on 2D work is inlays. Getting a good fit can be challenging. There are two techniques I’ve found useful, and learning to make a cutting board size object with an inlay will demonstrate the concept(s) and give you a take-away that is easy to pack in a suitcase.

Part of the beauty of CNC is carving into unusual surfaces to get interesting effects. Laminating material before carving it is one of those. A project some students may want to explore involves this, much like how I carved the holly crab onto the walnut box top by first laminating the holly and walnut (here’s a video). Another technique is to first veneer stock, then cut through the veneer to get an interesting effect. Depending on veneer thicknesses and the number of layers veneered, one could really design some interesting pieces, and some students may want to pursue this.

There are other techniques I want to touch on, such as digital probing, using the indexer head, and using vacuum to secure work to the table, but these may have to be extra-curricular, after hours discussions due to time constraints. My goal is to make myself very accessible so you can glean as much as possible from me while at PT.

Hope to see you in July!

Get more information on this training, at the Port Townsend Website.
Contact Andy Pitts directly for additional information or visit his website:

Camp ShopBot San Diego: April 9 at The Old Globe Theatre’s Technical Shop

Attendees of Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Attendees of Camp ShopBot San Diego.

When planning camps, ShopBot tries to collaborate with hosts whose spaces offer curiosity and interest beyond just their ShopBot tool. This April, the San Diego Camp ShopBot location hit all the proximity switches on queue: The Old Globe Theatre’s Technical Shop situated east of downtown San Diego. Having outgrown the theatre’s available build space, the technical production shop expanded into a huge warehouse a few years back. Gillian Kelleher, their Master Carpenter, reached out to us about hosting a camp after attending one in 2014.

Camp attendees heard presentations on best practices in 3D carving, calculating feeds and speeds, finding hidden gems in the SB3 software, uses for the Donek Drag Knife, and more. Gillian Kelleher, our host, talked about their design to construction process and gave us a tour of the painting department, which had very tall tree trunks laid out, and the expansive props department that housed items from every era and other strange vestiges salvaged from past shows.

Though camps are typically presentation-based, this particular camp had several other components that made it a little different than the usual. For example, ShopBot’s Sallye Coyle had the opportunity to demonstrate a tool tune-up by reseating the pinion gear into the rack on one of the X motors on the theatre’s PRSalpha. With a lot of attendees that are active in San Diego’s various maker scenes, there were some discussions and conversations about makerspaces and the maker movement.

There were also some impressive Show and Tell examples, including highly detailed garden railroad kits and custom pieces made by Sue and Ross Piper for their business, Rainbow Ridge Kits. Tim and Lalane Haenisch service the military community with custom boxes and plaques for heirloom and commemorative military objects in their spare time, though they told us that they’re in need of more hours in the day for their expanding hobby.

Sample of work created by Sue and Ross Piper of Rainbow Ridge Kits shown at Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Tim Haenisch discusses his work at Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Sample of work created by Tim Haenisch shown at Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Sample of work created by Tim and Lalane Haenisch shown at Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Our furthest-distance-traveled award went to Brady Fulton who flew in from Phoenix, AZ and is Shop Fabricator for ADAPT at Southwest Human Development. He presented a model of individual designed seating they create for kids with disabilities age birth to 5 years. ADAPT recently had a custom ShopBot built, which included a tangential cutting knife and spindle. Our youngest-ShopBot-attendee award went to Marissa Gilbert who attended with her dad, Gene, and used FabMo installed on Sallye’s phone to move the Handibot around.

Brady Fulton, Shop Fabricator for ADAPT at Southwest Human Development, presents a work sample at Camp ShopBot San Diego.

Marissa Gilbert running a Handibot, with the help of Sallye Coyle, with her father Gene looking on.

Thank you to our host, Gillian, for the great space and warm hospitality, and to all 35+ attendees for your questions, knowledge and enthusiasm.