Space for makers to work their do-it-yourself magic

German carpenter Till Oliver Kautz, 30, and his girlfriend, Ms Fiona Wong, 37, at Home-Fix DIY's "maker space", located at its Tai Seng headquarters. -- ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO
German carpenter Till Oliver Kautz, 30, and his girlfriend, Ms Fiona Wong, 37, at Home-Fix DIY's "maker space", located at its Tai Seng headquarters. ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO

Those who like to make their own furniture or toys now have a new place to get their fix.

Hardware retailer Home-Fix DIY is converting two floors of its Tai Seng headquarters into a workshop and co-working space with specialised equipment for hobbyists and professionals to put things together.

It is the newest "maker space" here, a term said to have originated in the United States in the mid-2000s. It refers to shared spaces, often furnished with things such as specialised tools and equipment, that people can use for a fee to design and create objects.

It adds to at least two other maker spaces here: Social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab, which opened in Yishun in 2011, and Mettle Work, which opened in Geylang last October.

Besides providing infrastructure, they are also where hobbyists gather to exchange ideas. The concept stems from the maker movement in the US, which encourages the do-it-yourself, or DIY, culture and innovation.

More people here are becoming interested in making their own things, said Mr William Hooi, 41, an event and creative consultant who organises "maker gatherings". About 300 people showed up for a meet-up two months ago, up from about 20 at the first one in January last year.

"We usually invite speakers - from scientists, to designers and educators - to talk about projects which show inventiveness and resourcefulness. After that, people tend to stay late to talk, discuss and 'geek out'," he said.

At the Home-Fix maker space, a day pass costs $20, while a monthly one costs $120.

It can accommodate only about 12 people now, but is being expanded to fit 40 to 50 people.

Since its soft launch two weeks ago, about eight people, including German carpenter Till Oliver Kautz, 30, have signed up.

Mr Kautz, who has a monthly pass, has been visiting the centre's wood workshop almost daily for the past two weeks to build a coffee table for the apartment where he lives with his girlfriend.

"I have no space at home for this kind of work. It gets too dusty and there is a smell. This place is good as it is very big and there are good tools," he said.

Other projects that users are working on include the building of speakers and 3D printers.

Home-Fix managing director Low Cheong Kee decided to set up this $500,000 space last year when he heard about the maker movement. "Most of the population lives in HDB flats and we do not have garages to tinker with things," he said. "So we decided to convert some of the underutilised space in our industrial building into the maker space."

At Sustainable Living Lab, students and people keen to try hands-on projects do not pay. Instead, the social enterprise supports itself via a start-up grant from Spring Singapore and activities such as paid classes and corporate team-building events.

Said co-founder Veerappan Swaminathan: "In exchange for using our space, people help us out and also contribute to the community via their projects."

Mettle Work is a 12,000 sq ft co-working space geared towards professionals, from designers to architects. It cost between $150,000 and $180,000 to set up and is fitted with equipment such as power tools, drills, saws and a welding machine. People pay between $399 and $900 a month to use it. Founder Daniel Tay, 39, says the workshop has a six-month waiting list.

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