New Member Orientation

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Pandemic Scheduling Rules UPDATE 3/21/2022

As the main page on the website says:

"In light of the recent trends in the COVID pandemic, until further notice masks will be required while in HackPGH. This is regardless of vaccination status. Masks must be at least double layered cloth. KN95 and N95 masks are recommended."

Pandemic Scheduling Rules UPDATE 11/24/21

MASKS ARE NOW REQUIRED, see the 3/21/22 update above. The rest of this section still applies.

Members are no longer requires to use the scheduling app for general shop time.

Scheduling is still required for some high use tools (the laser cutter, the big CNC, etc).

Vaccinated members are permitted to forgo wearing masks, but masks are still recommended.

Members are still expected to exercise good judgement and discretion with regard to crowding, social distancing and other reasonable COVID-19 precautions.

Members are still expected to respect other members wishes with regards to social distancing and make reasonable accommodations.

Pandemic Scheduling Rules UPDATE 11/18/20

THIS SECTION NO LONGER APPLIES. See "Pandemic Scheduling Rules UPDATE 11/24/21", above.

With COVID-19 case numbers surging in Allegheny County recently, the scheduling app has been revised. TL;DR:

  • The allowed total number of people in the shop is 4 people per side, i.e.:
    • 4 people in the "dirty" side.
    • 4 people in the "clean" side.
  • All member presence anywhere in the shop must be scheduled, until further notice.
  • The skedda scheduler now has scheduling for 8 slots, 3 for high use equipment (laser cutter, large CNC and welding table) and 5 more as general floating slots. Use your common sense and maintain social distance, etc.

The scheduler is at but note that if your dues haven't been paid, this link may get you a 403 error.

The rules are to maintain all appropriate COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing, mask wearing, washing your hands and work surfaces. Bear in mind the goal and rationale here is to remain open as safely as possible. If it becomes apparent that this is not practical, the board will have no choice but to shut down HackPGH shop access.

The scheduler doesn't replace common sense it is meant to assist in coordinating and encouraging following precautions, not replace them. Actual self-enforcement of the precautions is the duty of all HackPGH members.

See also: Coronavirus

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

Rules and Regulations

HackPGH is a member driven, volunteer operated organization. There are no paid employees, including board members. It is each member's responsibility to inform themselves on HackPGH rules and proper and safe behavior, using the available resources of the wiki, the slack channel, and asking other members or if necessary the board.

The organization operates under a constitution, which can be found at Constitution

See also: Rules and Regulations

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.

See also: Board

Board, Votes, and Section Leads

The Board are HackPGH members who volunteer to help run the shop. The Board has five members and terms are two years, and they are elected from the members and by the members. Votes are usually held in February: there is a nomination period where anyone can nominate anyone for Board, including themselves, then the vote occurs as normal online.

The Board's job is basically to keep the lights on: they pay rent, schedule events, handle paperwork and settle disputes. Beyond that there's not much the Board can do that members can't, so if you want to rearrange things, acquire new tools, or start a shop project, just talk to people and do it.

Section Leads are members who just want to help take care of particular parts of the shop. Keep things organized, make sure various supplies and consumables are kept topped up (either let the Board know they need refilling, or do it yourself and give them receipts to be reimbursed), that sort of thing. You become a section lead by wanting to be, ideally at a member's meeting so people know it's happening. We need to figure out a good way to let people know who's who. Currently the most Sections are missing a Lead, due to members leaving during Covid, etc, and the Board has not done a good job about promoting that Section Leads are a thing, but it's something we want to formalize and promote more.

See also: Board, Space#Section_Leads


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 FIRE SAFETY RULE: 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.

NOTE: Store the padlock on the inside of the door, there's a wooden widget there to hang it from.

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). MOST IMPORTANTLY, at the end, just before you exit the building, use the pad lock (which should be hanging on the inside of the door) to lock the outer, metal door.

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.

Typically the kitchen area lights are left on when the shop is closed.

See also: Shutdown checklist

Light Switches

You can control most of the lights via the wifi by pointing your browser at http://iot.lan while connected to the shop WiFi. Note, the iot.lan domain is only available through the shop wifi.

"Clean" Side Lights

The light switch is on the brick pillar in the center of the room, by the cluster of desktop computers.

At last time of writing, two of the lights that are between the brick pillars and the glass block windows are controlled by pull strings.

The hanging lights by the kitchen area are left on all time time.

"Dirty" Side Lights

The light switches for the dirty side are in two locations on the Watson Street (aka alley) wall.

The light switch for the metal working area is on the wall, between the welding table and the garage door.

The light switch for the woodworking area is on the wall, between the garage door and the Watson Street door.

There is a hanging light near the bathroom door (where the laser cutter used to be) that is controlled by a pull string.

WiFi and Computers

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.

The two desktops near the central pillar are free for anyone to use. They should log in automatically, and have lots of useful programs like Fusion 360, Adobe Illustrator and other such things. They should be turned off at the power strip when not in use. The Mac next to the sewing area is also free to use, it has Linux installed on it.

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.

To reserve time on the laser, go to:

The (at this time of writing) new, large CNC (a Forest Scientific MakerFab 4x8 is expected to also be quite popular, so it can be reserved by schedule. The same golden rule applies. Router bits are considered consumables, so you should purchase and bring your own router bits for using the CNC.

The reservation system for the large CNC is still in the process of being set up.

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

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.


In general, if you're going to use a lot of anything, you should purchase your own.

The shop has a number of supplies for convenience for minor use, such as electronics components (solder, resistors, etc), screws and nuts and bolts and the like, etc.

There is usually scrap wood and scrap metal left over from other members' projects. Make sure it doesn't have a parking ticket or a label on it before using it. If you're not sure, ask on the slack chat.

Some components(arduinos, MicroSD cards, etc) are available for purchase in the vending machine.

Some members may leave some supplies (for example, thread for the sewing machine -- thanks Jeremy!) for similar minor use by other members. If you plan to use a significant amount of it, you should bring your own. If due to a planning snafu you end up using a significant amount without having brought your own, plan to replace it.

IMPORTANTLY, TELL SOMEBODY if the shop is out or nearly out of some consumable. Nothing sucks more than coming in to do a project and finding out you can't because an important consumable is unavailable. Some members travel a long distance to the shop, which makes it even more frustrating.

Probably the easiest way is to announce it in the slack, ideally in an appropriate channel (the tool channel for major tools, the electronics channel, the CNC channel, etc), or failing that, in the general channel.


Donations can be stuck into a payment jar or the safe, or done via paypal. If you want to donate for a specific tool/project put the money in an envelope with the project written on it.

Material donations are awesome but please okay it with a board member or area lead. Storage space is more limited than raw material a lot of the time. If there's not enough space to store something, we probably don't need it.

See also: Donations

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. You are welcome to edit it to add, remove, fix and generally help it. To edit the wiki you need a login. Contact the board to get a login, see the section on the slack chat and contacting the board, 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.

See also: Meetings

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. There is a banner above the logo that says whether the shop is open or closed, based on whether the shop lights are on or off.

Note: Previously the logo changed color from black and yellow if the shop lights were on, black and white if the shop lights were off. Now the logo stays black and yellow all the time.

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

EDIT: Due to the pandemic, weekly tool training sessions are limited to two persons. To arrange individual training, see How to Ask For Training below.

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. In general, members are encouraged to give shop tours if guests inquire, regardless of the time, the open shot time slot is just there to provide a consistent opportunity for shop tours.

See also: Training, Tools & Equipment

How To Ask For Training

Use slack chat (see Contacting the Board to request training.

Remember, HackPGH has no employees, everything is done by member volunteers. This applies to training as well. Any member who is trained on the tool is qualified to train other members, but some members are more experienced and better at it than others. Those members also often have other demands on their time, so it takes some discussion and coordination.

The best way to get training is to be smart and persistent about asking for it:

  1. Ask for training in the relevant channel, if one exists for the tool you need training in. For example there's a #laser channel for the laser cutter. Only use the #general channel as a last resort.
  2. Before asking for training, figure out what days and time slots are preferable for your schedule.
  3. Include your scheduling information in your initial request for training. This enables members who are qualified to immediately see if they can be available to train you.
    1. For example, "I need training on the laser cutter. Tuesdays and Thursdays early evening are easiest for me, 6pm-9pm but preferably towards the beginning. I can do Saturday afternoon if weekdays are impossible."
  4. Plan ahead and ask for training ahead of time. It's certainly possible to get an impromptu training session if somebody's at the shop and available [EDIT: Not so easy in the current pandemic, however.] but it's much more reliable to plan ahead.


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 either 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. Just find an empty locker without a name or space for a bin, and make a label with your name on it.

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.
  • Be careful not to store anything where it will block the motion sensor, which is by the light switches.

For bulkier items, Parking Permits are available in the clipboard holder baskets on the wall 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.

See also: Rules and Regulations

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.

See also: Membership

Garbage Night

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 west of the driveway entrance (see map below).

HackPGH garbage.jpg

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 green plastic garbage can

Don't forget to put fresh garbage bags in! Replacement garbage bags are in the kitchen area, usually in the supply locker labeled garbage bags.

See also: Shop_Operations#Trash_and_Recycling


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 (see below), 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!

See also: Do-ocracy

Shop Cleans

HackPGH has periodic "shop cleans" where members are encouraged to show up and clean together as a group activity. This is an excellent way to meet people, get some volunteer hours in, learn more about where to find things in the shop, and generally help build the HackPGH community. Shop cleans are usually on a Sunday afternoon. If you have schedule conflicts, it's perfectly okay to do some cleaning on your own, when you can. See here for tips and suggestions for what to clean:

See also: Shop_Operations#Shop_Cleans, Cleaning and Shop Cleans

Food and drank

Bringing food to HackPGH is fine but after issues with the kitchen not getting cleaned, storing it here is more problematic. Stuff stored in the fridge *must* be labeled with a name or event or it will be thrown away, and any dirty dishes in the sink are considered to be unowned and will be disposed of.

Having alcohol in HackPGH *is* allowed, but only because people have made sure it hasn't been a problem. It's BYOB, feel free to store stuff in the fridge but label it with your name. There's often a few unlabeled beers in there, various members provide them on a take-one-leave-one basis. Needless to say, booze and power tools do *not* mix, and underage members do not get to drink.