Harris Moore is one man who will readily admit he needs his space.
And since July 2014, he has been quietly playing host to others on Long Island who feel the same way — creatively speaking.
During a 2014 trip to Detroit, Moore visited a “makerspace” — a place where people gather to create, invent and tinker with projects using 3-D printers, laser cutters and other hardware tools and supplies they might otherwise be unable to afford or access.
“I was impressed by the work being done there; however, when I searched, I saw that there was nothing similar on Long Island,” said Moore, who works at his family’s Plainview factory Howard J. Moore Co. “And while there were a few in the city and in Brooklyn, they were small and very inconvenient to get to.”
Moore realized that his family’s 17,000-square-foot factory had all of the makings for a makerspace. He created an online Meetup.com group to gauge the level of interest, and at his first event, 40 people from across Long Island showed up eager to exchange ideas, troubleshoot prototypes and problem-solve.
“What you find is, there’s a generation of young people who are really into making things and helping each other,” George Hart, a sculpture and engineering professor at Stony Brook University, said during a recent event. “There are book clubs, painting clubs, all kinds of resources in the humanities, but not in the technical world.”
At least, Hart said, there didn’t used to be.
NIGHT OUT TO MAKE
“I have found that the appeal of the space is very diverse,” said Moore, 27, a Jericho resident. “On a typical night, we will have college students, retirees, teachers, software designers, jewelry makers, mechanical engineers, graphic artists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs all in one room, working on and discussing their projects and techniques, and bringing their own unique perspectives to technical problems that we’ve all dealt with.”
Making has always had an inherent appeal and is nothing new, Moore said. People have kept small workshops in their basements and garages for generations. The factory where Moore hosts his makerspace has been family-owned and operated since 1945, when his grandfather started it as a die-cutting business. Moore’s father, Eric, expanded it to specialize in custom plastic and rubber fabrication to make precision components for aerospace, defense, commercial electronics and medical device companies.
What is new, Moore said, is that in the past few years, there has been a rise of digital manufacturing. Now people can program their designs using a 3-D printer or laser cutter and produce things more rapidly — and at very little cost. Key chains, party favors, ornaments, leather goods and wood products are among the many small-scale projects people commonly work on at open houses. Others tinker with trademarked creations.
Economically, makerspaces are great for people who cannot afford the machinery. The majority of Moore’s Plainview space is focused on using a laser cutter and 3-D printer, which cost $30,000 and $20,000, respectively. Belt sanders, sand blasters, drill presses, vinyl cutters and hand tools also are available. For the uninitiated, Moore offers an introduction to laser cutting class that teaches newbies how to get started.
Guido Bonelli, 39, of Holbrook and Jillian Festa, 38, of Northport are among Moore’s most loyal “makers.” They have been a part of his space since its inception. Bonelli and Moore have spent more than 800 hours perfecting a prototype of Bonelli’s — an interactive grandfather clock and board game named The Gooniebox.
Bonelli relied on Moore’s 3-D printer and laser cutter to shape the wood and etching for The Gooniebox. Bonelli is in the process of trademarking the device, which he said is a modern-day time capsule.
“The board game portion was inspired by the game The Room on Android and Apple,” Bonelli said, “while the game play feel came from my favorite movie, ‘The Goonies.’ ”
Festa, a woodworker and furniture maker whose specialties include flat-pack side tables and modernized family crests, said she usually works alone, so she looks forward to the feedback and criticism she receives from fellow makers at the open houses.
“I’m always trying to find ways to form a community,” Festa said. “I think it’s better to work on a project with collaboration.”
Moore has found that people are very respectful of the factory space, the equipment and each other.
“It’s amazing to see," he said. “Especially because, in a lot of cases, these are people who, despite having a tremendous amount of overlapping interests, would probably never meet without spaces like this.”