Ryan Trippett is working on his third resume. Along with the two notches he already has on his belt as a welder/ machinist, and conversely, a computer/IT guy, the 33-year-old Gillette transplant is now challenging himself to learn some new skills. He’s found Area 59 is the perfect place to learn.

Leaning over a laptop in the sprawling, open workshop, Ryan Trippett stared down at the wooden star in his hand. Around him machines buzzed and whirred as guys in plastic safety glasses monitored projects on the dozen or so surrounding machines. The lid was supposed to fit into the bottom, but he guesstimated the math, so now he’ll have to do some sanding.

Not a big deal, he shrugged. The byproducts are only a small part of why he’s here at Area 59. The larger reason is teaching himself to use the CNC laser machines and plasma cutter, and to push himself to learn new tools and skills. It also provides him with a window into the past. As a kid in Washington, healing from cancer, his grandpa taught him how to make things out of nothing.

“He didn’t have any high-tech tools or anything,” Trippett said of those memories of working with his grandfather. “It was just the two of us. Him showing me how to make things. That’s where a lot of this started.”

Now, he’s carrying on the tradition in a whole new era of tools and technologies and trying to pass on what he knows to his two young daughters, Leah and Zoey, who like to come in with him on weekends.

The star box will go to one of them. They’re happy as the primary recipients of his projects. They’ve also received a couple 3-D toys and personalized decorative wooden signs for their bedroom doors.

Since joining the makerspace, just under a month ago, he’s been here on his weekends and days off from the mine. Short of going to tech school or receiving on-the-job training, learning to use all these expensive machines and tools would have otherwise been out of reach.

“I’m a hands-on learner,” he said, “and this place is great for that.”

So far, during his short tenure, he’s learned how to use laser cutter engravers, 3-D printers, CNC turning and milling machines, and worked with a whole host of other tools he’d never be able to afford on his own. Yesterday, Trippett made a wooden cover for his journal and thinks he might look into making a few more and trying to sell them. At about $5 in materials a notebook, including the wood, he’s seen similar products on Amazon that sell for quadruple that price. 

He’d heard about Area 59 from a couple friends a while ago, but it took him until May to finally get there and check it out for himself. After getting a primer from Area 59 Director Guy Jackson, he’s able to run several of the machines. And with the help of online tutorials like YouTube videos (using the dozen or so computers in the shop), he’s already pretty proficient on most of the CNC machines, which are easier to use than he’d previously thought.

His daughters have even shown an interest in learning some of the skills he’s recently acquired, with one signing up for two of the summer robotics classes.

Trippett is thinking that over the summer he’s going to try to fabricate and build a Razor scooter. Between the CNC steel-cutting machines and Mandrel tube and pipe bender machines, it shouldn’t be too hard to put one together for a fraction of the cost. Where else could he do that?

By: Jen C. Kocher
Photos: Adam D. Ritterbush


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