Metal Workers Cooperative

February 25, 2012 – 10-noon meeting, 17A Main Street, Belfast

Marshall Rolerson – we live in Waldo off the grid. We have a part-time farm with full-time chickens and more rocks than soil and maple trees that are tappable - but I didn’t get to that this year. I worked at Fisher Engineering for 10 years, went to Eastern Maine Technical College for welding in my early 40s. I want to be more creative in my work; I always have a project going. Products I’m interested in: wood gasifiers, farm products, bicycle trailers. I’m not a highly skilled welder, but I taught myself flux core, stick welding and mig. I’ve been working with the Belfast Area Transition Initiative to design a bus stop sign. I’m interested in permaculture projects. My tolerance for repeat-repeat is not that bad. While working at Fisher on push plates, my mind was designing. I want to design and build bicycle wagons.

Jennifer Hill – my interest is in cooperatives and local economic vitality. I have an MBA from the University of Maine, I edited the Co-op manual for the Maine Department of Agriculture. This office is operating as a cooperative. I bring selling skills, marketing, computer and other skills – but no metalworking. I want to be a member of this co-op.

Jacob Hepner – My degree is in journalism; I worked my way through school restoring antique cars, did some welding and metalworking, and found that I was making more money than most of my professors. If I was going to be underpaid I’d rather be underworked. After coming to Maine, I worked at Wayfarer Marine in fab shop and also worked at the Waldo County Tech center. I work at home on ag farm equipment, welding & fabricating, machine work. I have a piece of land and a part-time farm.

I like the idea of products having to do with sustainability. This doesn’t pay the bills at the moment, but as fuel gets more and more expensive it will. I’m looking to prototype. My shop is not well set up for production type stuff, but it is a decent prototype shop. I have a milling shop, lathe, welding equipment. I like to problem solve, tear things apart and rebuild them again. R&D and initial set-up would be the most interesting for me. Standing in place and doing the same weld over and over again would drive me insane. I like to build stuff that fails until it works.

Phil Sheridan – I am a data architect by profession, have undergraduate degree in chemistry and a masters computers + 30 years of experience – lots of engineering, not so much mechanical. I want to be a farmer some day, would like to have an organic farm, a cooperative. No store in my town, but I would like to start a vegetable stand.

I have an idea for vertical axis wind turbines – several ideas
1.       Huge market with utilities – lots of space under power lines
2.       Windmills don’t have to be pinwheels
3.       University of Maine professor – ocean wind process involve pinwheel turbines, top heavy, has to be anchored, high up in the air. France says cost for vertical axis wind turbines is far lower for off shore wind – this is an untapped field

I proposed a co-op for the Gulf of Maine wind initiative. I didn’t have any way to deliver it, though, because I wasn’t going to risk a lot of money. They were looking for a large consortium to build a prototype. They have identified that there is a huge wind potential, but there are ramifications, like fishing zones. Have fishermen harvest wind as well as fish. Purchase a big barge for cheap, used. I’m interested in renewal projects. Pinwheels are antiquated.

Jacob: I have been repairing maple syrup evaporating pans (22 gauge steel for sap pans) and have seen the pans small welding outfits in Wisconsin are putting out. They are really simple, not elegant, and overpriced. I’m interested in creating a tie-in using local production on local product, with local resources. There seems to be no middle ground for somebody who wants a really nice evaporated pan for home use.

Jacob: We could make agricultural stuff, small farms mean small tractors and small cultivating equipment. Lot of Amish around here are making that kind of stuff. We could design and make horse logging equipment for people – little rings with shackles.

Phil: I could use a bridge (I have a small creek). A metal bridge 16’ long or 20’ long would be ideal so I could get across the creek with my tractor. Forest service has a booklet

Jennifer: I’d like to redesign kitchens to make dishwashers out-of-date. Create places where dishes can dry, places for plates, bowls, cups and glasses, so they won’t come crashing down to the floor.

Marshall: What about a wood gasifier, used for maple syruping? With a wood gasifier you could regulate the heat under the maple syrup boiler. It used to be that an outfit made producer gas from wood, behind Home Supply and piped it around town.

Phil: We could have a show, an energy future show. Charge money for people to come and see the latest ideas.

Phil: In structuring data you have 3 elements: Conceptual design, logical design, physical design – then you have prototype, run with that for awhile, test it, see what you can do with it. Then, pilot and put it into production. Even then there are changes.

Phil: Clark machine shop in Union on Route 17 – does metalworking.

Jacob: We need to discuss and develop a list of products of what would be possible, a working list of potential ideas. We could go through it and start developing ideas about what is viable and what there is a market for. It’s easy to put the cart before the horse. A working list would be helpful in outreach. No attachment at this point.

Jacob: We could appeal to people who don’t have metal working skills or organizing skills with our products.

Jennifer: Make no small plans.

Phil: On the topic of monetizing – Maine Initiatives is an organization that makes grants for good ideas. We could organize ourselves as a nonprofit now for R&D purposes, becoming co-op for selling products. We could hold workshops and events around whatever the product is we’re trying to sell. This should be part of our marketing plan, going to events, passing out cards.

Priorities (as written on the white board):
R&D – create product
Manufacturing (tool making, i.e. create jigs)
Marketing (website)

Next Steps:
Action Steps:
Jennifer will send out notes of this meeting via email
Jennifer will create website
Jacob will get email address for group and will field inquiries coming from website
Marshall will return phone calls and we will use his number for website
Phil will create outline for moving forward

Next meeting: Thursday, March 8, 2012, 6-8 PM, here at 17A Main Street, Belfast, conference room

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Hill



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    March 2012