Knight wrote:Kim, you are my hero (at least today). More details soon after I have more results.
While my original plan was to stop by Lvl1 today (Thursday) on my day off from work (under the expectation that I wouldn't be about to meet anyone too far away from normal business hours), I did go ahead and get on their google forum and made an effort to contact them in other ways. I was invited to their Tuesday evening meeting (which started at 8 pm) and was assured that arriving at 9 pm (straight from work) would not be a problem.
On Tuesday, I discovered that most of my expectations were wrong. Things were better than I expected!
The biggest surprise was the hours. For many people, 8 p.m. was the beginning of their time at lvl1, not the end. All-nighters are common. When I asked when I was most likely to find nobody there I was told during the day/business hours: the time I was both least often available and expected them to be busiest.
The primary focus of the place is exploration and learning. The older gentleman who gave me my initial tour owns his own machine shop and said that he mainly stops by lvl1 to keep the blood to a minimum. I personally reached over and unplugged a table saw when a young man stuck a hand inside it to adjust a guard (and I can see that will be a pet peeve of mine if I spend much time there).
Lots of people are trying to keep things cleaned up and organized but the sheer number of people using the place means that you have to explore to find anything. Nobody was surprised or annoyed when I looked inside every single drawer in the tool area two days in a row. For example, I found two lathes (one under a table with a missing motor), five single handed sledge hammers, but no little hammers under 16 oz - I'm sure I will eventually find a box full of them, put there by some well meaning person who cleaned up.
On my first day there, they also gave me food (french bread with a huge selection of toppings on Texas toast). I threw a couple bucks in the 'pay it forward basket' but it was not required. The gentleman who was doing the cooking also offered to help me recover some files from my laptop (which had crashed) on Wednesday. More on that day in a bit.