Retired Local Jim Perchard

The former truck operator, U.S. Army and Air Force veteran shares how he saw the Area 59 sign from the highway, walked right on in and made a hinge (and a few close, creative friends).

At 68 years old, Jim Perchard doesn’t stray from learning new things. “You can learn something every day, if you care to do it,” he said, inspecting a shiny, new precision micrometer. It’s part of a pristine, 23-piece mechanical micrometer set, valued at over $2,200. Just one of the many tools, toys and techie gadgets Area 59 has for its members to use. And a small one at that, especially when compared to any of the many top-notch mills and lathes, CNC milling machines or the 5×8 plasma cutter in the building.

There is 1.5 million dollars of cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art equipment at Jim’s fingertips as he walks us through his most recent designs, 360 blueprints he’s drafted from scratch on a sleek, dual-screen desktop computer smack dab in the middle of the makerspace. After designing, drawing and 3-D printing his first project, a hinge (he never used it, he admitted, “It’s probably in a drawer somewhere at home”), Jim’s moved on to bigger, more complex projects, most of which have  evolved into trinkets and gifts for his girlfriend’s 5-year-old granddaughter, Lauren.

“She just loves them,” he said.

As a member, Jim’s access to Area 59 resources, including “the fun guy” Manager Ian Scott and “the funds guy” Director Guy Jackson, have helped the retiree’s projects immensely, he said.

In past months, he’s made keepsake boxes on the laser cutter, handheld toys on the 3-D printer, a potbellied stove for Lauren’s dollhouse. Today, he’s building tiny, ornate components he’ll cut and engrave on the CNC Router — parts for a wooden clock, complete with exposed gears, which he plans to gift to Lauren. “I think she’ll really get a kick out of this,” he said, admiring his handiwork.

Although he’s long-considered himself a bit of a maker and a creator, he dabbled in photography while stationed in Germany and has what he describes as a “somewhat innate” understanding of the inner workings of things, Jim credits Area 59 for giving his creativity a much-needed jumpstart at this point in his life. Well, Area 59 and YouTube. “I walked in, got the nickel tour and paid my dues,” he said. “I’m in here for a few hours here and there, and work my projects three, four times a week, if I’m lucky.”

In addition to fueling his creativity, and getting him out of the house from time to time, something he says his loving girlfriend Lynn surely appreciates, Jim says his membership feels like an open invitation to connect with other local creatives. “We’re a community of makers,” he said. “People have different ways of doing things, different ideas. One guy might say ‘hey, try it this way’ and someone will. And together, they’ll make something great, better.”

Then, he paused and looked up with excited eyes. From somewhere under the brim of his well-worn baseball cap toting our Second Amendment rights, he said, “It’s that one person that comes in and it just clicks for them, you know? That’s fun to see and even more fun to be a part of.”

Stephanie L. Scarcliff
Photos: Adam D. Ritterbush

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