Instant Cool (Just Add Tools)

Three grassroots products show the workshop/clubhouse ADX at its best.

By Bill Lascher Videography by Stephen Person July 14, 2012 Published in the August 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

JUST OVER a year ago, a Southeast Portland warehouse became ADX: a co-op for Portland’s crafty age. (The name is a rough acronym for “art + design + PDX.”) A paid membership buys access to ADX’s arsenal of light-industrial tools and a buzzing scene of classes, workshops, and social gatherings.

After hitting a rich vein of interest (there are now more than 400 members), ADX is launching a marketing arm and a new brand, Portland Made, to push products created on-site. “We’ve realized that there’s this pent-up demand among creative designers looking for the resources and expertise to take products to market,” says ADX cofounder Kelley Roy, a former business development and urban-planning consultant.

As this collaborative hive enters its second year, these three projects (out of many) exemplify its worker bees’ ambitions.

54/40 Greg Jones designs exhibits and other freelance projects to make a living, but his passion is cartography. Under the 54/40 brand—the name recalls the northerly latitude and longitude coveted by 19th-century Americans who wanted to invade what’s now British Columbia—Jones produces wood-cut topographic maps of each of the 48 contiguous US states. Jones builds the nation by using ADX’s laser-cutter to shape wood veneers; then he stacks them on top of one another into a representation of each state’s mountains and valleys.

THE ACE Tom Burney turned to ADX to learn new business practices for his Swift Cycleworks, and to streamline production of the “Ace.” A gas-powered two-wheeler designed to be ridden legally in bike lanes, the Ace pays homage both to bicycles and to turn-of-the-century motorcycles. It was also a pain to build when Burney was using a tree stump in his yard as his main production facility. On a tour of ADX, Burney saw the range of tools available at the facility. Now he plans to fabricate parts there while he gets to work shaping up a business plan.

LEAPTRONIC “Boom boxes are eternally cool,” says Michael Davis-Yates of the Leaptronic Jammy, a portable wooden hi-fi that looks like a cross between a toddler’s play-kitchen and something from the Sharper Image catalog. Davis-Yates created the first few Jammys by hand before learning about ADX. The shop’s CNC router lets him make standardized, precise cuts for speaker holes, knobs, and interfaces with MP3 players and Bluetooth controllers. “[The CNC] opens things up to be modular,” he says. “ADX brought a world of awesomeness to me,” he adds of the facility’s equipment, networking, and business development opportunities.

Watch our video and explore ADX’s collaborative workshop:

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