Monthly Archives: March 2016

Here at the Foundery we want to provide our members the tools, education, and encouragement to build anything they can dream. And while we will do our best to educate and support members in their endeavors, it’s all meaningless unless we provide the right tools for the job. To that end we have amassed quite a collection of tools. From the simple, but versatile, hammer all the way up to the Abrasive Waterjet, and everything in between. Today’s post, however, will pull from the higher end of that spectrum and aim to educate you as well.


CNC Plasma Cutter

What you see here is a CNC plasma cutting system. And while I already know your first question, why is it red, I’m not going to answer that question just yet. But what I will do is answer the first question you should have asked, which is what does CNC mean. CNC stands for computer numerical control, which is just an elaborate way of saying that a computer controls this machine. This, of course, is only half the puzzle to understanding this machine. The other part being what is plasma cutting.

I could go into a long explanation about how plasma cutting works and an even longer explanation into plasma (The Fourth State of Matter), but I’ll leave you to research those topics for yourself. But in the simplest technical sense, plasma cutting utilizes an accelerated jet of hot plasma to cut through any electrically conductive material. In layman’s terms, super hot gas slices through metal like a hot knife through butter! Pretty cool, right.

Photo by Brown Photography – Retro Systems LLC (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Photo by Brown Photography – Retro Systems LLC (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Putting this all together, what we have here is a machine that is computer controlled and can cut through metal. Basically this machine can be used to cut almost any 2-dimensional shape out of metal.  Again, I already know what you are going to ask, don’t you already have a machine that can do that. Yes we do, but there are major differences in the capabilities of these machines and that is why we have both.

Plasma Cutting System Abrasive Waterjet
Faster Slower
Can only can metals Can cut just about anything
Cheaper to operate More expensive to operate
Lower precision High precision


Beyond the basic differences of the two systems, there are more specific differences in our machines. For example, our plasma cutter cannot cut metals thicker than half an inch. While the waterjet can easily cut materials which are much thicker.

This post is getting pretty long and I still haven’t even covered the question I know you want answered, why is it red? The answer is quite simple; to make it watertight. However, the explanation for why we decided to do this is a bit more involved.

When using a plasma cutter, a lot dust and smoke is generated in the process. This dust and smoke must be captured and redirected away from the operator and occupied spaces. Our plasma system had a downdraft ventilation system. Basically, the bottom of the table had a large hole which was hooked up to an external exhaust system used to pull all the smoke and dust away. When Jason purchased this used system several years ago our current location and facilities didn’t exist. Once the new location was established Corey and Jason quickly realized that using a downdraft ventilation system was not a viable option. But fortunately for us there is more than one solution to this problem.

Corey, having personally built a smaller CNC plasma cutter in his garage several years ago, already had the solution. Convert the system to a water table. A water table will capture the dust and smoke before it’s able to leave the cutting area.

There were, however, several issues with this approach. Firstly, filling the table will 1,000+ lbs. of water would exceed weight capacity of the table. So Audrey put on her welding helmet and welded several additional support members to the table and frame.

Secondly, what should we use to make the table watertight? After much research and debate, we decided to use an unlikely material. RedGard® is a membrane typically used in construction for waterproofing under tile flooring. (That is spelled RedGard not Redguard for all you Elder Scrolls fans out there) But, as it turns out this product was perfect for our waterproofing application. So we plugged the bottom of the plasma table, leaving only a small drain hole, and proceeded to add several layers of RedGard. And finally we ended up with a watertight and very red plasma cutting system.


The first coat

Ok, this post has gone on long enough, and you should now know why we have a red CNC plasma cutter. I also hope you learned something about plasma cutting systems. I know I didn’t cover any of the motion control hardware, software, or general repair of aspects of the system that we performed to get this used equipment back up and running. If you’re interested leave a comment and I can always write another post on those topics.

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So I called “dibs” on writing bios of our team…and I’m really excited about this, because I get to write my own bio! I’ll also try to stay around 80% accurate on what I write and let you readers decide what 20% is not accurate.

I’m really happy with our team. We’re a diverse group of people with strengths and weaknesses that all complement each other. Below is a short intro to each team member so you can get an idea of the experience and expertise members at The Foundery can leverage when using the space.

Let’s start with Jason!

Jason “Roll the Dice” Hardebeck:

Jason…what to say about Jason. Jason is kind of the Patriarch of the group. Not just because he’s a lot older than the rest of the team but also because he has legit experience in the world of start-ups, engineering and TCB’ing (Taking Care of Business). Jason graduated from the Navy academy back in 1987 (before Audrey was born) and entered the life of a midshipman as a nuclear engineer. If there’s one thing I have picked up from Jason’s days as a nuke, it’s that you need to know your s**t to work anything related to nuclear energy, which is really comforting to know.

Jason grew up in Montana, I’d like to believe that all of his friends and family from home make fun of him and call him a “city slicker” when he visits.

After Jason got out of the Navy he bounced around working for a couple start-ups and then landed a job here in Maryland working for DeWalt/Black and Decker as a project manager. Jason only worked at DeWalt a few years but for some reason every time we note a cool feature about a DeWalt tool Jason goes “I was the guy who thought of that!”…right.

Jason started a software company, WhoGlue, back in 2000 which gave him legitimate credentials as an official Entrepreneur. Rumor has it, Jason missed the birth of both his kids due to conflicting board meetings.


Audrey “The Resident Bad-ass” Van de Castle

Audrey graduated from Hampshire College in Massachusetts where she studied art and gained experience in many fabrication methods. Audrey joined The Foundery back in 2013 as our lead instructor, teaching our welding and CNC laser classes. To date, Audrey has taught close to 1000 student between both classes.

I remember when I first met Audrey at The Foundery. I was welding at one of our fux core stations, Audrey approached me about using our welders for a project and she asked if she could demonstrate her skills. I replied “sorry, you’re not wearing long sleeves” and Audrey said “neither are you”…touché! She was hired about 30 minutes later as our welding instructor.

Audrey is a passionate metal artist who’s always up for a challenge! Check out her art at She’s also a hardcore feminist so when people taking her welding class say things like “women can weld?!” she might take it personally…don’t be that person.


The Jester

The Jester remains adamant that we are not to post his name or photo on the internet. Some people think he’s just an overly paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I want to believe it’s because he owes a ton of back child support for kids he’s fathered across the county.

The Jester has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UMBC where he spent many years as a core member of the SAE Baja Team. Although his degree is in ME, The Jester has taken his love for robotics and electro-mechanical systems to a level well beyond a hobby. The Jester has many years of real world engineering experience related to micro-controllers (Arduino etc.), data acquisition, electro-chemical design and evaluation.

The Jester continues to try and get people to address him as The Singularity…don’t do it, it’ll just inflate his ego even more.


Corey “That’s Good Enough” Fleischer

Fueled by caffeine and a hardcore thirst for competition, Corey Fleischer is constantly proving his theory that human adolescence doesn’t end until your mid 30’s. Corey received his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from UMBC where he spent 8 years stretching out the college experience, and building mini-baja vehicles, a mini-trike and a motorized barstool.

In 2013 Corey won the Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius – Corey is still bitter that they never gave him his championship belt that he claims they owe him. Corey is also an undefeated demolition derby champion who will one day defend his title when his current daily vehicle hits the 200,000 mile mark.

Corey worked for 10 years as a mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin where he racked up about 15 US patents related to kinematic designs, super-capacitors and UAV recovery systems. Despite all these accomplishments, Corey claims his greatest moment was “the time I found Bigfoot in my backyard making plaster castings of my footprints.”

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I wanted to tell everyone about the welders we will have in the new shop! We will have 6 Miller 211 MIG welders as well as 2 Miller Diversion TIG Welders.

Here is the Miller 211:

These welders are super versatile. They have pretty user-friendly controls. Another cool feature on these welders is that you can change the plugs on them from 120 to 240, something that has definitely come in handy while we are still getting our electricity in the new space and running most of our tools off of extension cords. I’ve welded over 30 table frames with these welders in the past few months, and they are extremely reliable even running on 120. Highly recommended if you’re in the market for a welder, or if you are in the market for a welding class taught by yours truly 😉

Here’s an example of some of the welds made on these welders:

(disclaimer: I found this image on google images! Not my welds!)

These MIG welders are a H U G E upgrade from our previous flux core welders that we were using in the old space which give you welds that look like the image below:

Not to hate on flux core welding, but I am so happy we get to use these new welders in the new space and with our new welding class! I know my previous students and future students will enjoy the ease and precision that comes with these Miller machines.

We also will have 2 TIG welders in the new space! TIG is great for aluminum and thin/thick metals – as well as standard steel. TIG allows for way more manual control than MIG and many people prefer it! There is virtually no cleanup needed with a TIG welder (once you get good at it).

Here is the Miller Diversion that we will have:

And this is an example of a TIG weld on mild steel with the Diversion:

Wowie! *_* That’s a beautiful weld! TIG has a lot steeper learning curve than MIG – but once you get good it is a lot of fun! Kind of like learning to drive a manual transmission car when you are used to an automatic!

What do you think of the welder upgrades? Have you used any of these welders before? Are you as excited as I am to get time in on these machines?!

*** A big shout out to our welding equipment partner, Earlbeck Gases and Technologies. If you want to go 211 as well, tell Jim and Joe that the Foundery sent you! ***

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It’s official.  We are now the owners of a shiny new domain.  Introducing…

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be migrating everything over from our old website as well as our build blog to a brand new website with a permanent home at  That means our email addresses are changing too. Just change the to

Stay tuned for the launch of our new site!

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It’s been quite a while since my last post. So many things are happening so quickly that I could post several times a day and not run out of topics, but I never seem to find the time to write something in the heat of battle.  I’m making a promise to myself to do better.  Perhaps the last thing I do before heading up to bed is to share a few of the amazing things happening every day during our buildout.

One of our goals is for the Foundery to be the place to go when you need a special tool or capability to accomplish a task.  A good example is our new spot welder/soldering station.

Our new combination spot welder/soldering station

Our new combination spot welder/soldering station

This machine makes it easy to weld tabs to batteries.  I used it to repair the lithium battery pack in one of our portable AEDs (defibrillator).  A new battery pack costs $150, but instead I just bought replacement cells for $15, cracked open the case, and used the spot welder to rebuild the pack.

Closeup of some tabs I spot welded onto new batteries.

Closeup of some tabs I spot welded onto new batteries.



How to save $135 in 20 minutes

I would have loved to have this machine when I rebuilt about a dozen 18 volt cordless tool battery packs a few years back with a soldering iron and a roll of electrical tape.  It would be difficult to justify buying one just for my occasional use, but now every Foundery member will have access to it any time they want.  That really hits the spot!

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We have made a few posts about the used tools that we have been purchasing. We are pretty happy with how our acquisitions have turned out, but we are definitely aware of the extra work that needs to go into some tools to get them to a clean and shiny functioning state. As an aside – we have also bought a TON (literally) of brand spankin’ new tools and machines, but that is for a later blog post… once I take pictures of them all.

One of the first (and only?) blog posts that our fearless leader Jason has made was about our used Dake band saw. View that post here. This baby is awesome, a 41″ throat, an auto-feed table, and a blade welder all in one neat package that pretty much matches our existing color scheme! Here’s a nice picture of it:


Looks great! Right? There were, however, a few minor issues with the bandsaw. Nothing to dissuade us, though! There was a mysterious leak from somewhere inside of the base, a few knobs missing, and the e-stop button was missing.

After a few phone calls in to Dake – which has great customer service – we found that they had some parts that we needed and they also did not have some parts that we needed. So in true makerspace form…we decided to make our own! Okay, we bought a replacement e-stop, but that’s all!

First up: The missing knobs.

For those wondering why a bandsaw has a welding option – there’s a few reasons. The main thing that we will probably use it for is to buy blades in a bulk roll, and then cut them to desired length, and weld together for both of our metal cutting band saws. You can also use the bandsaw welder to cut center holes in metal: drill a hole bigger than the blade, thread the (broken) blade through the hole, and weld it together to cut!

Back to the matter at hand. In the above image you can see the left hand knobs are missing. Good thing we have a 3d printer! We realized we could just print those babies out instead of ordering them and waiting for them to arrive. We’re all about faster-than-shipping gratification over here. Plus, how could we call ourselves a makerspace if webought something we could make?? So, our new addition to the team, Jess, made up a knob file that pretty closely matched the existing ones. Then we sent the file over to the Flashforge printer and voilà! We had some knobs.

Here is a video of the printer in action:

The piece that is chipped on the bottom is part of the raft that the printer lays out as a base (we chipped it when trying to pry the piece off the bed). Eventually the whole raft came off of the knob. Once the knob was cleaned up, we printed a second one and put them on the machine! They look and function great! We were super excited to put our 3d printer to practical use – and plan on doing it much more!

Now I will speak briefly on the leak in the base of the machine. We made parts to fix this as well. I had some 1/8″ acrylic laying around the shop, so I used our laser to cut out a perfect little washer for the coupling:

Then, we put the washer in place and used RTV (room temperature vulcanization silicone) to seal the plug.

There you have it! Now all we need is to get power to this machine and we can really admire all our repairs! The electricians have been hard at work wiring up our space, and we are chomping at the bit to be able to plug in all of our toys machines. Patience is a virtue! I should really win an award for how patient I have been with all this construction!

How do you think we did on the knobs? Have you used a 3d printer to make replacement parts for a tool or machine that you own? Let me know in the comments below!

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Hey everyone!

Wow, we have been seriously slacking on the blog front. That’s okay because on every other front we have been kicking ass! We are just about halfway through construction on the space, so I thought I would update everyone on our progress thus far.

Part of our goal with the new space is making it open to allow for ideas and concepts to flow between members and work areas. We don’t want to divide people up and section them off, we want woodworkers to see what’s happening with metalworkers and think “hey, I can add some metal in this project” or vise versa. So, our main shop area is pretty open to facilitate that crossover.

That means that wall building is pretty minimal, but there are still plenty of things to construct. First off, bathrooms! I don’t think I need to explain why bathrooms are important. Needless to say, I can’t wait to have bathrooms in the space, peeing outside during the winter is getting pretty old (I’m kidding). We have a lot of the plumbing in – we just need to add walls and fixtures! It might seem like not much right now, but believe me, this is after a LOT of work, including digging up the concrete floor and then re-pouring it.

Moving right along we have our entrance area. This is going to be the first place you see when you come in the front door. If you are a member (which we hope you are) you will check in here. If you want to become a member, you will sign up here! This area also has space for some retail. We will be providing a lot of necessities for building right in house so that you don’t have to run to a store to grab wood glue, filler rod, nails, arduinos…the list goes on!

We are calling our multipurpose room “The Garage,” where we will have a kitchenette area, along the front wall pictured above with all the receptacles on it. The kitchenette will have a fridge, dishwasher, coffee station, and a HOT DOG MACHINE! That’s right, our members will get free hot dogs. All day. Everyday. The rest of the space in The Garage will be lounge area and modular classroom/computer desk space. We envision this area being used to CAD a file, then you can come out onto the shop floor and load the file you just made up on the waterjet, router, or plasma and cut it out!

We are also installing an awesome interactive, modular barn door. I’m not gonna go into more detail about it, but stay tuned for another blog post from Corey that does!

So there you have it! Those are the spaces we are working on right now. Hopefully construction is done in about a month (please, cross your fingers for us). After that comes inspections and the real crunch time when we will hash out class syllabuses, place our tools, and put finishing touches on it all!

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