MIT HOBBY SHOP ASSISTING AND INSPIRING STUDENTS WITH A PASSION FOR WOODWORKING

By Maryann Valentine

                We recently had the pleasure to speak to Coby Unger from MIT Hobby Shop, who was kind enough to sit down with us and tell us a little about MIT Hobby Shop and how each director is inspiring woodworking natives to use CNC technology. Stunned by Unger’s design website, we had to interview him to hear his thoughts about his very own Techno CNC. Coby Unger is a staff member at MIT Hobby Shop, the go-to facility at MIT if you have an interest in woodworking. The most frequently used CNC tool in the shop is the Techno CNC 4×8 router that they have had for over 5 years now. It runs pretty much every day on different projects by students, faculty, staff and other community members. The MIT Hobby Shop is one of three woodshops on the MIT campus, yet it is the only one that is not a part of a specific academic department. Basically, anybody with an interest in making things can go, and take advantage of the amazing tools and facilities this shop has to offer. The shop allows for students, faculty, and alumni to come, design, program and build whatever they want, with no additional costs. The shop charges a small membership fee, but the rest is basically free and Unger is your go-to man when designing. He is there to help and guide you to build whatever your project may be.

                “Students usually come in and work on class projects or research projects, but some students come in to build their own custom furniture for their dorm rooms, and we assist them with whatever they need. Normally, students do not know how to use the Techno CNC when they come in, but it is our job to teach them. It is such an easy machine to teach students how to use.” Unger discussed how the shop currently has 300 active members, and is constantly expanding. “We are the most flexible shop on campus that focuses on using the router and other tools to teach with. Half of the shop is CNC equipment and the other half is manual tools. I find it really important to teach students to use both hand tools and the router, because they go hand in hand. You will be more successful at designing and routing what you want if you already know how to make it using hand tools.” This was such a great tip for other woodworkers!

                Coby talked about the 2 classes he and his colleague were teaching back in January. “I taught a custom skateboard deck building class, and he taught an eclectic guitar making class. The primary tool we used in both classes was our Techno CNC router, and it was great. The students were able to learn how to make a skateboard by first designing molds in Autodesk’s Fusion 360, followed by creating the curvature of the skateboard deck. Next, we cut out the skateboard mold with MDF on the Techno CNC router. Then we used the vacuum bag to laminate the deck and put it back on the router to cut out individual curves for the skateboard. Each student then designed custom laser cut veneer inlay graphics for the bottom of the decks. It was an awesome project and class!”

Unger discussed how the MIT Hobby Shop is different from day to day since most students come in with projects and ideas of their own. “The projects are always different which definitely keeps it interesting. Just yesterday we were working on making a trophy for the intermural sports championships here at MIT, and then today we were just engraving some text for a student’s project. Recently, somebody was making a knife block, while another student was designing some furniture, while another student was cutting out a prototype for an assembly line for their research project in engineering. Each project is unique, but the Techno CNC router makes it very efficient and easy.”

While Coby discussed the successes of MIT Hobby Shop, I was curious to see why he enjoyed their Techno CNC router so much. “I really like that it is so easy to jump between designing a part in CAD, programming a CAM file, and then cutting it out. It is a really quick turnaround and it is such an easy machine to teach to the students that come into the shop every day. The shop has a few CNC mills and a water jet cutter, but I would have to say that the Techno CNC is the one that I find to be easiest to teach with because it is logical and works very well.”

The goal of the MIT Hobby Shop is to allow students to learn to make in a flexible learning environment, and learn more about the interface between digital technology, the physical world, and how things are made to go together. The shop houses tools building things with wood, plastic and metal, for the students to use like, but the Techno CNC is focused around mostly the wood projects. Lastly, Unger discussed how much the Techno CNC router is used in the shop. “The machine literally is used, almost every day. We are all very satisfied. The quality is great. The finish is great. The longevity of the machine is great (the shop has had the machine for over 5+ years now… running it consistently!) The accuracy is great. I am very pleased with it. Overall, our Techno CNC 4×8 machine is a real asset for our shop.”

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