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WhateverLab & HeavyMachinery Guide

The Whateverlab (WEL) and the Heavy Machinery (HM) primarily provide space, material and equipment for DIY projects and hardware hacking. As such it is a vital part of the Metalab being a hackspace. There is a variety of things you can do in the workshop areas – among them are electronics hacking (including SMD electronics and PCB edging), micro controller applications, laser cutting, vinyl cutting (t-shirt and stickers), ham radio hacking, CNC milling, wood working, metal working, welding and more. This guide is serving as an introduction on how to make those areas a nice experience for everyone. Read it carefully because most violations won't be taken lightly and the least that will happen is that you lose respect of the community.


The workshop areas of the Metalab are places to work and hack. As such there is a set of guide lines to consider to make it a nice and productive experience for all of us. Etiquette isn't a luxury, it is a necessity.

  • Keep it tidy: When people come to the Metalab to use the workshop areas, they expect to find the workbenches clean and the tools in their designated locations/drawers/cupboards. Please always plan ahead for cleanup so you don't end up being too tired or not having enough time. Messy workbenches are one of the major reasons to get very frustrated about the Metalab. No one wants to spend hours cleaning up and looking for tools before they can get to work.
  • Curiosity is a virtue but peace and quiet is bliss: The WEL and HM are undoubtedly the places where most of the interesting hacks are happening. People are working on their projects and it's only natural to be curious about what they are doing. But please give people their peace and space to work. And if you do decide to show interest for their projects please ask kindly if it is OK to interrupt to ask some questions or watch what they are doing. Under no circumstances lurk behind people and shoulder surf unannounced.
  • You gotta do what you gotta do but not at the expense of others: Often it is necessary to engage in activity that might disturb others. Noise, smell, dust and other disturbances sometimes are necessary, but please try to think of ways to improve or even avoid such situations (for example: going outside or not doing it a prime time). Additionally there are situations that might cause major disturbance like triggering the AC circuit breaker. Please inform the people around you before starting to plug in devices you suspect they will trigger the circuit breaker.

How to be a Smart and Responsible User

Smart users aren't users who know everything (or think/pretend to do so). They are smart by using the space and equipment in a fashion that benefits all. That includes knowing when to ask questions or consult the internet which makes you appear a responsible person that knows his/her limits and therefore earns the respect of the community. The following guide lines are designed to give you some tolerance in applying them, but please always consider the value of the equipment you are using – the more it costs the more conservative you have to apply the guide lines.

  • Mishaps:Even if you consider all of the following guide lines and apply them stringently, something might go wrong and break. It is very important that if something breaks that you do report it on the mailing list or if you don't have access, report it to someone who does. That rule is most importantly designed to prevent frustration among fellow hackers. So please report broken equipment, so we can either fix or replace it. Don't worry to much about the cost – though of course you should pay for broken equipment, no one is going to sue or condemn you if you can't.
  • The unknown:The workshop areas are full of all kinds of materials and equipment – it is only natural that you most certainly you don't know all of them or don't know exactly how to use them. So when you encounter a tool/a piece of equipment that you haven't used before please ask other members what it is and how exactly it is supposed to be used – even if you think that you have a pretty good idea of how to – the big mistake is in the detail, for example: there are a lot of different types of screw drivers. Using the wrong one (or even the wrong size) will damage the driver and the screw.
  • How to successfully re-purpose: We are hackers, that also means that we like to re-purpose technology and equipment for fun and profit. But that practice comes with the risk of breaking things – especially if you don't know how to do it properly.
  1. The first rule of re-purposing is: Don't do it if it isn't absolutely necessary! A lot of times there is a specialized tool for what you want to achieve that will do a much better job and also won't break – again, smart users know when to ask people or the internet.
  2. The second rule: Tools and equipment are designed for use with certain materials and operation conditions – never stress those limits! For example: if a tool is designed for use with wood never use it for anything harder then wood!
  3. The third rule: If you can't afford to replace it don't risk it – rather ask the Jour Fixe to approve buying the right tool.

Classic examples of tools being re-purposed unsuccessfully (aka. breaking them) are: Using wire cutters to cut anything else then wires, using screw drivers as drill/spatula/crowbar and using the wrong drill for the wrong material (rendering them dull).

Aside from there designated use tools need maintenance and proper handling – Even if you use the right tool for the right job in the right fashion you might end up breaking it. That is because some tools need special handling before and after using them.

Examples include:

  • untightening saw blades after use to prevent wear out
  • carefully putting files back into the drawer and not stacking them on top of each other.

Please, if you are not 100% sure you know exactly how a tool is handled and maintained, ask!

Bad and very bad habits

This following list contains common mistakes and misuses - this list is not intended to be exhaustive, those are merely examples. Don't do it – you are destroying our equipment or endangering yourself and fellow hackers!

  • Borrowing equipment from the Metalab. This is generally not permitted and exceptions are very rare – Please ask if you feel an exception should be made. Never do it without asking!
  • Melting, scorching and burning materials other then solder with a solder iron
  • Using force with a solder iron (they easily bend)
  • Using the wrong screw drivers (they are many types and sizes – using the wrong one will destroy the screw and the driver)
  • Cutting materials other then threads and wires with a wire cutter (we do have heavy duty cutting tools in the HM!)
  • Cutting and engraving PVC, artificial leather. fiberglass and food stuffs in the laser cutter (this is not a complete list of forbidden materials – ask when in doubt!)
  • Cutting anything else then the designated materials with the vinyl cutter (it will blunt the blade. ask when in doubt!)
  • Using screw drivers as a spatula, drill, crowbar or to scratch residue off hard surfaces
  • Using ‎wire strippers for anything else then wire stripping
  • Forgetting to untighten saw blades after use (they will wear out)
  • Not using the right drill or saw for the corresponding material (for example: we have drills for stone, metal and wood)
  • Not using cutting oil when drilling and cutting metal (drills and saws will overheat and become blunt)
  • Using solvent based paint indoors

Restricted Equipment

You need an approved user to either execute or at least supervise the of operation of the equipment in this section. If you want to use the equipment on your own you need to attend a workshop or get an introduction by one of the designated admins. After you had an introduction or attended a workshop you need to be approved by one of the designated admins – please be patient, it might need a few guided jobs until you get approval. Some equipment is even protected by iButton locks. Please note that only members are handed an iButton.

  • Laser Cutter (iButton protected)
  • CNC Mill
  • Electronics Lab/Pick & Place Machine (iButton protected)
  • Vinyl Cutter
  • Welding Equipment


There is variety of materials stored in the workshops. Some are for sale, some are for public use and some are private. The rule of thumb is, if it isn't labeled or in a private box or designated compartment it is for public use. If you are new to the Metalab you are advised to ask more experienced members if the material you are interested in is actually in the public domain, just to prevent misunderstandings. Material that is definitely subject to a charge:

  • The Electronics Assortment
  • Vinyl Cutter Foil
  • The Screw Assortment
  • Welding Material (Argon, TIG rods, electrodes)

Examples of Material that is free to use (fair use):

  • Gaffer Tape
  • Soldering Tin
  • Wire
  • Shrink tube

Note that equipment like pincers and screwdrivers are free to use, but not to be removed from the venue.


For members, it is possible to store your active projects in the WEL. Please make sure you use as little space as possible and remove old projects! Also, only one project box per person – though it is tolerated to use more if absolutely necessary though only for a short duration. Project boxes have to be labeled with the name of the owner the start date of storage and the purpose.