The Big Idea: Columbus Idea Foundry

  • Photo by Joe Maiorana
By
From the April 12, 2012 edition

In this day and age, if you can think it, you can make it. That’s the guiding principle at Columbus Idea Foundry.

“Communication or information isn’t the bottleneck,” said Alex Bandar, who founded the Foundry. “Really, the bottleneck in implementing your ideas is access to tools and the know-how to use them. That’s what we do here.”

Do they ever. The 24,000-square-foot facility off East Fifth Avenue is littered with ideas come to life, from an Edison-era phonograph that streams Pandora to remote-control cars built from repurposed power tools. Rented studio spaces house hobbyists and entrepreneurs.

Other industrious minds turn out for classes on topics like metal casting and laser cutting. For a $25 monthly fee, they can access expensive high-tech tools and a seemingly infinite pool of creative energy.

“Without this place, ideas are just ideas,” member Todd Perkins said. “It makes them tangible.”

It’s exactly what Bandar, a software engineer, had in mind when he sought somewhere to work with his hands back in 2008.

The juices weren’t always flowing so freely. The Foundry had humble beginnings as a community wood shop in a 2,400-square-foot East Side warehouse that Bandar described as “a good pair of training wheels.” Only after Bandar added welding tools did interest explode, but soon new inventors were flocking to the facility. By late 2010, they moved into the new location, taking over the building little by little.

“We’re done building the place,” Bandar said. “Now it’s time to build things.”

3 cool projects under way at Columbus Idea Foundry

The Inhaler Project

Todd Perkins and his team are trying to build a “modern super car” in the skin of a 1923 Ford Model-T — an all-electric, street-legal wolf in sheep’s clothing. With any luck, they’ll be doing test runs at Bonneville Salt Flats before the end of the year, hoping to top out above 200 miles per hour. Alongside the flagship vehicle, they’re concocting a kit car so aspiring mechanics can build their own, in keeping with Inhaler’s goal of inspiring people to explore what’s possible.

ReFab Studios/Man Made Ohio

COSI exhibit fabricators Levi Crumley and Dylan Paul operate dual businesses out of the Foundry. ReFab (Re-think Fabrication) brings products to life — laptop stands made from bamboo plywood, a custom comb for their friend’s barber shop, wooden zombie cutouts for target practice. Offshoot furniture company Man Made Ohio specializes in coffee tables and coasters built from used car hoods.

Highly Liquid

Like PC companies that build computers to allow modification by hackers and hobbyists, John Staskevich builds MIDI circuit boards and software that musicians can graft directly into their own homemade toys. His new made-to-manipulate NTH synthesizer was a smash hit on Kickstarter.

>> A Culture of Creation