As the manifesto says: If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it. But you don’t truly appreciate how much you own until you need to move it.

Moving our nine-year-old hackerspace turned out to be the major project of 2018.

A daunting amount of hacker junk, ready-to-move.

I mean sure, you know intuitively it’s a lot of stuff. Even after culling the obvious junk, there’s still a great deal of mass. There’s Milly of course. That old laser cutter. Even the Tesla Gun has a not inconsequential bulk and weight.

But the effort of physically moving stuff (while considerable!) was utterly inconsequential compared to the time and effort spent on prep and paperwork.

When the project started in earnest way back in June, seven of us wanted to move into a space with a long-term lease. Our process took about four months, and went something like this:

  • Define requirements.
  • Troll Craig’s list and LoopNet looking for deals.
  • Tour prospective sites.
  • Marvel at Seattle commercial rates and scams.
  • Revisit our requirements to make sure they’re really required.
  • Get used to finding places that are PERFECT except for that one deal-breaking aspect (usually no long-term lease, exorbitant cost, or impossible location).
  • As the deadline for the old lease begins to loom large, find and employ a commercial real estate broker.
  • Find a surprisingly excellent lead only a few blocks away from the old space!
  • Get all of us to tour the space and get a thumbs-up.
  • Negotiate a lease. <<< This step alone took about a month.
  • Arrange for sufficient funding, insurance, organizational restructuring, bank accounts, all applicable licensing…
  • And finally, sign the lease!

With all of that out of the way, we could finally move the stuff! That meant laying down tape on the floor to mark people’s spaces, procuring pallet rack, doing the build-out, arranging for trucks, lifters, and moving muscle, and ultimately renting a surprise forklift.

What do you do when the SEM won’t fit on the truck’s lift gate? Rent a fork! This move taught me that “rent a fork” should be the first step in any serious logistics project.

Just getting the SEM out of the basement took about 8 people, a chain winch, a pair of Rol-A-Lifts, and two come-a-longs.

It’s now a couple of months into our lease, and we’re starting to feel like a shop again. The new shop has significantly more room and amenities, and we’ve grown from 7 to 13 members. After months of effort and worry, it’s starting to feel like we’ve arrived.

In some ways, “moving the shop” has been the ultimate team-building exercise. It did not break us, and it’s hard to deny the feeling that it’s made us a hell of a lot stronger.

I’m excited for the next decade of shenanigans with this incredible crew.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the move. Enjoy!

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