Free maker resources in the Portland area


assorted color pencils on black table
assorted color pencils on black table

There comes a time in every makers' life when you need a new tool. NEED it. Must HAVE it!

Ok fine, you just want it.

It's true, that new trendy tool may not be a necessary object to bring into your life but imagine the possibilities! I have pined for die cut printers, 3D laser printers, and even button makers. These things are really pricey but a whole lot of fun for experimenting with techniques. I usually put them on my mental wish list and move on.

But then I discovered library makerspaces.

A true communal treasure trove, makerspaces provide tools such as 3D printers, Cricut (die cutter) printers, yarn winders, sewing machines and much, much more for shared use. Some makerspaces are membership based, with a monthly fee and scheduled time for personal use of a tool. This might be a good option if you know exactly what you are doing and you need to use a particular tool on a regular basis for a business or art practice.

Library makerspaces, however, are free to the public and are usually staffed by volunteers to help you get the most out of your visit. From personal experience, I can tell you unstaffed makerspaces can be overwhelming. If you are unfamiliar with makerspaces and what they offer, seek out help from a knowledgeable library staff member. I don't know if these wonderous creation caves exist everywhere, but if you are fortunate enough to live in the Portland metro area library makerspaces dot the landscape from Gresham to Hillsboro. In most cases, you don't need to be a resident of the county or town to use the makerspace. Requirements vary, but often a signed waiver is all that is required. Materials and machines are free to use for kids and adults.

Below, I have compiled a list of makerspaces in the Portland metro area and a short description of what they offer. As with many publicly funded opportunities, the library will lose funding for these spaces if they are not used. So get out there and try a new tool! As always, if you know of another free makerspace to add to the list, drop me a line at I'll add to this as I find them.

Happy making,

- Julie

Portland Metro Area Free Makerspaces

Beaverton City Library DAM, 12375 SW 5th St, Beaverton, OR 97005 - This makerspace in downtown Beaverton contains a 3D printer, 3D scanner, Cricut machines, sewing machines, fiber art equipment, visual art supplies, button and sticker makers, and much more. Open Lab hours are staffed by knowledgeable people to help you make the most of your visit. Open daily for 2 hour intervals, signed waiver is required. All materials and tools are free to use. Check website for current schedule.

Rockwood Library Makerspace, 17917 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97233 - A collaborative learning environment at Rockwood Library with an emphasis on engaging middle and high school aged teens. The space provides access to 3D printers, sticker makers, T-shirt presses, laser cutters and robotics. Supportive mentors help kids bring their ideas to life. Classes abound and drop in hours are held 4 days a week, but check the website event calendar before heading out.

The Collaboratory, Hillsboro (2 locations) Brookwood Library, 2850 NE Brookwood Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR 97124 and Shute Park Library, 775 SE 10th Ave, Hillsboro, OR 97123 - These are the makerspaces that make me want to move to the 'burbs. The Brookwood library branch has a serger (!), sewing machines, Silhouette Cameo 4 Digital Die Cutter, vinyl heat press and GlowForge laser cutter. The Shute Park branch offerings include Wacom drawing tablets, green screens and software for digital movie making, die cutters, button makers and sewing machines. Check the website for a complete list of tools at each space. All materials and tools are free to use. Use of the GlowForge and Heat Press are by appointment only, but the machines are usually readily available. The Collaboratory is open during regular library hours unless it reserved for a class or meetup. You can sign up to use the space to host meetups by contacting library staff. Check the website for current classes. This is one of the few unstaffed makerspaces, but some printed material and QR codes linking you to Youtube videos are available to help you get started with a tool.

OMSI Teen Tech Center, OMSI, 1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214 - Available for free only for teens ages 13-18, there are tools for music, design and textile projects. Every computer is loaded with the full Adobe suite. Tools include a rug tufter, embroidery machine, DJ turn tables, audio production software and more. No museum admission required. Drop in Tues - Fri 2:30-6pm Saturdays 10am -5pm. Check website for current hours.

Tualatin Public Library Makerspace, 18878 SW Martinazzi Ave, Tualatin, OR 97062 - Woodworking tools, leather making tools, serger, tabletop kiln, Glowforge, 3D printers, you name it - this place has it. Anyone with a signed waiver can drop in and you can reserve the space for personal use. Check out the website for current hours and lots of great information on interacting with the space.

Library of Things (various locations) - A Library of Things is a collection of items such as art and craft tools, kitchenware, musical instruments, and games hosted at a library that library patrons can check out with their library card. Nine libraries in Clackamas county have such a collection: Canby, Estacada, Hoodland, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Sandy, West Linn, and Wilsonville. Other libraries may join in the future. Beaverton and Hillsboro library systems also have a Library of Things collection. Anyone, regardless of residency, can apply for a library card. You do not need to live in the same county or even state. Follow the links to learn more: Beaverton Library of Things and Clackamas County Library of Things

Photo source: Unsplash