New Member Orientation

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HackPgh New Members Orientation, aka How We Do Things Around Here

Welcome aboard. This is a short list of tips on how stuff works at HackPgh, to get you up to speed a little faster.

Links Summary

Contacting the Board

Email to contact the board, they usually check this email account daily.

I recommend you email right now and request an invite to the HackPgh slackchat, at The HackPgh slack is the official primary communication mechanism among the membership.

Once you're on the slack, if you enter a message in the general channel with the @board keyword, slack will notify all of the board members, for example:

@board Thanks for all your hard work.


Every member gets your own RFID card for 24x7 access to the shop. Check with the board about this (see "Contacting the Board", above) because a board member will have to add you to the Wild Apricot website that we use for membership management, then add your RFID card to your Wild Apricot profile, then give you the RFID card.

Entering and Exiting HackPgh

The Jumonville Street door is the main entrance. The Watson Street door (the alley) used to be the main entrance so some members may be confused about that. You should make a habit of entering through the Jumonville Street door for safety reasons (safety glasses are stored in the side accessed by the Jumonville Street door).

IMPORTANT: If the shop is empty, lights are off etc, when you enter, you MUST make sure the Watson Street outer door is unlocked, for fire safety reasons. Currently it's locked with a padlock and must be unlocked from the outside, contact the board for the padlock combination.

If you're the last one to leave the shop, follow the shutdown checklist posted by the Watson Street door and then turn out the lights (see below).

Obviously all major tools should be turned off, and should have been cleaned by whoever used them last.

Probably the trickiest item on the shutdown list is turning off the air compressor, which is in the metal working area, against the wall between the "dirty" and "clean" side of the shop, on the floor. The air compressor turns on automatically when pressure drops below a threshold, and is quite noisy, so we want to make sure it's turned off when the shop is closed.

Light Switches

On the "clean" side the light switch is on the brick pillar in the center of the room, by the 3D printers. There are a few hanging lights by the kitchen area that stay on all the time.

On the "dirty" side the light switch for the metal working area is on the Watson Street wall, between the welding table and the garage door, and the light switch for the woodworking area is on the other side of the garage door, between the garage door and the Watson Street door.

There is a hanging light near the laser cutter that is controlled by a string.

You can control the lights via the wifi by pointing your browser at http://iot.lan while connected to the shop WiFi.


The network name is HackPgh. If you are standing just inside the Jumonville Street door and you look to your right (towards Fifth Avenue), on the wall is a wooden disc about 12" diameter with the WiFi network name and password. Or just ask another member.

Tool Scheduling and Fees

For the most part tools are on a first-come-first-served basis, but always remember the golden rule, "don't be a dick." Be considerate of other members.

The laser cutter in particular is quite popular, and so it is one of the few tools that can be reserved by schedule. At the same time, remember the golden rule. If you need to reserve a large block of laser cutter time for a big project, try to choose a low-traffic time, and try to be accommodating to other members.

You must be trained to use the tools. There is no fee for basic tool training. See "Tool Training".

Most tools are free to use, but the laser cutter and 3D printers require a small charge.

The laser cutter has a small wooden box attached to it, next to the console, that records the amount of actual cutting time. The fee is $0.25/minute to cover the cost of electricity and the eventual replacement of the laser tube (each tube is only good for so many hours of cutting). You can pay the fee via paypal, or by using the wooden "box of paymentization" next to the laser cutter.

The 3D printer cost is by the weight of the materials used, assuming you're using shop-supplied materials. There is a digital scale in the 3D printer area for this purpose. The price is on the bucket, at the time of writing it's $0.05/gram.

Wild Apricot

Go to to see your wild apricot profile, pay your membership dues, etc.

After logging in, on the menu at the top of the page you'll see a link to the Members Handbook:


HackPgh Wiki

The wiki at contains a lot of useful information. To edit the wiki you need a login. Contact the board to get a login, see above.

Events Calendar lists the events calendar for HackPgh. In particular you should check for Members Meetings, Tool Training and Open Shop times, described below.

Members Meetings

Members meetings are on the first Wednesday and third Tuesday of each month, starting at 7:30 sharp and ending when we're done (we try to end it by 9pm).

HackPgh is a member-driven organization with a great deal of transparency. Many things are voted on by the members at the membership meetings. The board almost always has the membership vote on major decisions as well as having the membership vote to ratify board actions.

Also, the membership meetings are a great way to meet the other members of HackPgh. Much of the time members show up before or stay after to socialize or work on projects. HackPgh is very much a member-driven community, so getting to know the other members is important to getting the most out of your membership.

Never Swim Alone

Members have 24x7 access to the shop, but for using more dangerous tools (table saw, lathe, etc) at least two people must be present.

These tools are marked with two stick figures. This includes most of the non-hand-tools in the "dirty" side of the shop, except for the laser cutter.

Shop Lights

You can quickly check to see if somebody is at the shop by looking at the website. You'll see the HackPgh logo in the upper, left corner of the page. This logo is black and yellow if the shop lights are on, black and white if the shop lights are off.

Noisy Tools, Smoke & Fume

Most of the two-people-required tools are also noisier tools and may not be used after midnight, to avoid disturbing the other tenants of the building.

Any work which generates smoke or fumes (e.g. painting, etc) must be done outside in the alley, to avoid it getting into the ventilation and disturbing other tenants, not to mention annoying other members.

The laser cutter must have the exhaust system turned on when actually cutting. In addition, keep the laser cutter door closed at all times, other than when inserting and removing material. Even with the exhaust system running, leaving the door open for extended periods of time allows the extremely fine -- and extremely irritating -- particulate matter from the laser cutter into the shop atmosphere.

Tool Training

Some tools require you to be trained before you can use them. There is no extra fee for tool training; any member who is already trained on that tool can train you. Use the slack chat #general channel to ask for help with tool training.

In addition there are weekly tool training sessions, twice a week, on Monday and Saturday, from 8pm to 9pm (or check

Note, in addition to the tool training, there is open shop from 7:30pm to 8:00pm. During this time a member volunteer is available to give shop tours to the public. Members are strongly encouraged to volunteer to help with open shop, please contact the board on the hackpgh slack.


HackPgh has some very knowledgable and very helpful members. Some of us are even both!

Learning your way around the shop and where to find various tools can be a bit of a challenge at first. The slack "#whereisit" channel is here to help.

Post your questions about where to find things there.

If you put something away, or otherwise move something, post that there, also!


The lockers by the Jumonville Street door are for temporary storage (coats, etc).

For semi-permanent storage, each member gets a locker or room for one storage bin in the storage room, which is at the back (up the steps and to the right) of the "clean" side.

Note that the storage room is due for some renovation, in the meantime:

  • Bear in mind that the storage room is directly below someone's living room and sound carries, so in the evening be careful not to make noise in the storage room. Generally if it's louder than quiet conversation, they will hear you.
  • Make sure both doors, to the storage room and at the top of the steps, are kept closed at all times.
  • The light switches for the storage room are at the opposite side from the door. The lights will turn on automatically when you enter, and turn off automatically after you leave.

For bulkier items, Parking Permits are available in the clipboard holder baskets facing the Jumonville Street door. If you need to leave something in the main shop area, fill out a Parking Permit and tape it to the item. Note that Parking Permits are only for a limited time.

If something is left in the shop too long, somebody will fill out a Parking Ticket and tape it to the item. If the item is not removed, it will be disposed of.

Membership Dues

Dues are $50 a month. Wild Apricot will automatically email you when your membership dues are, well, due.

As mentioned above, there are no fees for basic tool training.

There is a student discount, a veteran's discount and a group discount. There are also scholarships. Check with the board for further information.

Garbage Night

These instructions are also on the whiteboard facing the Jumonville Street entrance, but are repeated here in case somebody cleans a bit too aggressively.

Monday night is the night we take the garbage out.

Every other Monday night is recycling. The whiteboard should have the dates for recycling written on it.

Garbage and recycling should be put by the curb at the front of the building (on Fifth Ave), just to the left (as faced from the building) of the driveway entrance. (See map below).

Replacement garbage bags are in the kitchen area, either in the supply lockers, or on the wire rack shelves, or sometimes under the counter.

If any of the garbage cans get full, remove the bag and put it in the big (green, I think) plastic garbage can in the gravel parking lot just outside and to the right (as you exit) the Watson Street door.

Hackpgh shop trash night.png

Remember to check and if necessary empty the following:

  1. Kitchen
    1. Blue plastic recycling bin for plastic & metals
    2. Laser-cut wood recycling bin for cardboard
    3. Tall silver trashcan under counter
    4. Small black plastic wastebasket (usually near coffee stuff)
  2. Electronics Workbench
  3. Shop
    1. Metal area cylindrical garbage can
    2. Big metal garbage can
    3. Big gray garbage can
  4. Both Bathrooms
  5. Gravel parking lot big plastic garbage can

Don't forget to put fresh garbage bags in!


I've said several times here, HackPgh is a member-driven community. There are no paid employees. Besides the obvious basics, like cleaning up after yourself and being considerate of other members, members are expected to volunteer some in helping to keep the shop running. This can be as simple as helping to take the garbage out on Monday nights (instructions on the whiteboard facing the Jumonville Street entrance) or with the occasional shop cleans, helping to improve the shop, or responding to requests for assistance from the board. Talk to other members about how you can help.

HackPgh is a "do-ocracy", meaning that members are supposed to take initiative; if you see something that needs to be done, or think something can be improved, do it! At first this will be a little trickier, as you learn your way around the shop, but the best way to find your feet is to get involved. The more you talk to other members and discuss how to proceed, the more you'll get to know your way around the shop, and win-win, the more you'll get out your membership!