Over the Counter: The Columbus Idea Foundry

No matter where you are in the personal quest to build your ultimate tool arsenal, it always seems like each new project brings the potential for a new tool acquisition. Even for those with a pretty robust collection there is always another method that might be quicker, better, or more fun. With the purchase of new tools comes not only the expense of the tool being purchased, but also the time investment of learning to use that tool in the best possible way to get your job done. Of course learning new skills and techniques takes time we’d rather spend actually making stuff. If you are looking to acquire or new skill or simply looking to gain access to a tool you would otherwise not be able to use, you may have the option to check out a local community workshop. We have a community workshop called the Idea Foundry here in Columbus, Ohio. A workshop like this can really go a long way towards solving many of these problems—plus they can be a lot of fun!

Like many community workshops, this one had humble beginnings. Back in 2008, engineer Alex Bander started the Idea Foundry by paying the rent and much of the startup himself. Originally housed in a 2,400 square foot warehouse, the first few years at the Idea Foundry were very tight. In fact, when multiple people showed up, it was downright hard to get much done. In 2010 the Idea Foundry moved into a new larger space. This one had much more room for working, as well as studio spaces that were rented by dozens of craftsmen and small business looking to utilize the shared resources but also have their own space for tools and storage.


Ohio Power Tool has supported of the Idea Foundry from almost the beginning and has worked with Bosch Power Tools to deliver $10,000+ of new tools and equipment over the years to support the organization. The shop continues to invest in new tools and equipment, and it currently features a very complete wood shop, metal shop, blacksmithing area, Epilog laser cutter, computer lab, and ShopBot CNC as well as one of the most complete darkrooms in the Midwest.

With some basic training and a membership to the Idea Foundry, pretty much any of the tools can be yours at a very reasonable hourly rental rate. However, there is a lot more driving the success of the Columbus Idea Foundry than just a bunch of really cool tools. Everyone in the place is extremely friendly and knowledgeable in several crafts, and all seem very willing to share their ideas if you ask. For more formal learning there are, of course, dozens of classes each week on topics ranging from digital video production to robotic flowers to blacksmithing knives to ladies’ welding classes.


The Idea Foundry is also involved in just about every community gathering of the arts, science, music and woodworking crowds, and it also hosts the Columbus Maker Faire each October. This presents another terrific opportunity for group members to showcase their products and/or services as well as have a lot of fun.

What’s next for Columbus Idea Foundry? Currently the group is in the works to potentially move to an old 65,000 square foot warehouse that used to store all the Harley Davidsons for Central Ohio. It will take some help from the city and the Franklington Development Association, but the hope is that the group will join some of the other local organizations and work to revitalize the area just west of downtown Columbus.


The Columbus Idea Foundry is not the only community workshop on the planet by any means. If you are interested in finding a community workshop near you, you can check out www.hackerspaces.org for information about community workshops and a list of them (past, present, and future) in the US and abroad.

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