From rLab

Bringing Stuff into the Hackspace[edit]

Reading Hackspace is a peer-run community. Over the years we have amassed a wide range of tools and materials, many of which are generous donations. However, that same generosity can sometimes lead to problems - we are limited for space, have little by way of governance to manage it, and the best intentions can result in the excessive accumulation of stuff, making it hard for members to find a place to work and keep the space clean.

Before bringing something to rLab, we would be grateful if you would consider the following questions, and act in accordance with the recommendations

Is your thing (1) a tool, (2) some stock material, (3) a project or personal belonging, or (4) a broken item?

  1. By a tool, we mean a tool that works that you are donating / lending for other members to use (otherwise it is either a broken item or personal belonging);
  2. By materials, we mean materials that you are happy to donate with no expectation of return; If they are for your use alone, then they are part of a project / are your personal belongings;
  3. By project we mean something that you are intending to work on and leave behind in the space while you're working on it
  4. Just because something is a broken item, it does not mean that we cannot make use if it but please read the guidance below before bringing it in


We love tools. You only have to look around the place to see that we have tools everywhere, quite literally stuffed into every nook and cranny. Big tools, small tools, new tools, but mostly old tools....

  • Are you confident that a group of people will want to use it? Is there space for it, or will something else have to make way? There are so many different types of tool in the Hackspace - some mainstream hacking tools, some really quite niche. Before we take something on, we need to assess how many people will be interested in using it. Please do not be offended if we decline your offer - space is rather limited and we need to make some hard choices about how best to use it.
  • Do we already have one? Please ensure that you have checked whether we already have one of these tools by asking a relevant room leader. There have been many attempts in the past to create an inventory of tools, but it requires a lot of effort to itemise everything and keep it up to date, so we don't have one; The closest we have is the list of larger tools on the main page. So before bringing it in, please establish whether we already have one.
  • Is it better than the one that we have? Just because we already have one, it does not mean that we do not either want another one, or would like to upgrade to a better or more modern tool if available. Please check with a room leader so that they can advise on whether it would obviously be of benefit to members, or whether to consult via our mailing list.
  • Is this a donation, or are you expecting it to be returned to you at some point? We're mostly trying to avoid taking on loans of tools but there can be exceptions if there's interest in having a tool, but please recognise that whilst we will collectively try to maintain a tool and prevent it from becoming damaged, we cannot make any guarantees about being able to return it in the condition that you left it in. Similarly, we cannot make any commitments to keep it for a minimum period of time, and will probably at some point ask if you could take it back. If we find there is a demand for the tool we're likely to either buy a new one or buy yours off you, either way we aim to keep everything in the space as rLab owned. If you are leaving it at rLab as a long-term loan, you MUST label it clearly and indelibly as such, ideally with contact details (the laser cutter may help with this....). The general assumption is that anything in the space unlabelled belongs to the space and we can do what we like with it. Please bear in mind that if you provide a piece of equipment on long-term loan, and then lose contact with the Hackspace, you may effectively be lumbering us with an item that will occupy valuable space, but may in future not best serve the group. We will make a reasonable effort to contact you before taking steps that affect the thing that you have lent, but if you lend us something, and then become un-contactable, your tool may be dealt with according to the whims of the future members of the group and you won't be compensated if you return later and don't like what we did.
  • Could someone accidentally harm / hospitalise themselves / someone else with it? Some of our most useful tools are also capable of hurting someone if mis-used. We therefore need to take appropriate measures to ensure that the risk is managed appropriately. Please be clear about the known risks when consulting the room leaders / membership. If PPE is required to use the tool, please arrange this with the relevant room leader (or please make it appear in close proximity to the tool).
  • Are you willing to train people to use it / train a trainer? Some of the best tools need training to use - especially if they pose a risk. We are likely to be able to make far better use of the tool, and take better care of it, if you are able to offer training when you donate/loan it to us. Not a show-stopper, but something that should be taken into account. If it's substantially dangerous then you'll have to write an induction and be willing to give it when people ask or willing to train someone else to do so.
  • Does it have a manual? Please bring it in so that it can be stored with the tool. You'll also need to create a tool page for it on the wiki here which can host a copy of the manual if that's legally allowed.
  • Do you want to store it at rLab, retain ownership of it, and would prefer people not to use it or use it only under your supervision? We are not a storage company, if it's in the space it needs to be available for members to use at any time.


There are a lot of materials at rLab - some are up for grabs for use in your projects, some are for sale, and some belong to members. This section deals with donations of materials for use by members. Please note: by donation we mean that there is no expectation of return, financial or otherwise.

  • Is the material of use to the group? Please only bring in materials that you are confident that the group will use. We are often offered surplus materials - and are grateful for offers - but we need to manage how the space is used and may politely decline offers if we cannot justify the storage space. The best people to discuss this with are the room leaders, as they have the best understanding of the available space and the best interests of the people who use the different rooms. With space at a premium we have to set the bar quite high, and will tend not to accept more speculative offers.
  • Does the material pose a risk / have special storage requirements? If you know the material poses a risk, or has special storage requirements, please raise these with the room leader / group when discussing whether to bring them in. It will have to be something especially unusual/useful in order to justify any special storage arrangements.
  • Do we already have as much as we need? In each of our rooms we have storage space allocated for materials. If you can see that we are running low on a particular item, please feel free to donate more of the same, up to the point where it fills the allotted space.
  • Do you expect some sort of return? If the materials are of value, we ask members to make an appropriate donation to the Hackspace in return for use of the materials, however we do not have a means of controlling stock / ensuring payment for other people's materials. We are not a shop and you will not be paid for materials you bring in unless it's been directly purchased from you by the lab for general use.

Personal materials[edit]

Personal materials should be labelled and treated like personal belongings. Otherwise they WILL be assumed to be shared and get used. Consider whether the quantity of material stored is unreasonable (it's useful to consider what would happen if everyone who used that room brought that same quantity in)- if it's significantly more than required for the immediate needs of your project, either donate part of the stock to the space, or move it elsewhere. Please also consider the general policy on storing materials at the space, otherwise there's a risk other people will move/hack/throw-out your materials

  • Projects and personal belongings We recognise that people travel to rLab by different means of transport, and cannot easily cart their projects and tools back and forth for every visit. We also recognise that many projects take more than one visit to complete, and there is sometimes a need to leave your work in situ. However this needs to be done in a way that as far as possible respects the wishes of other members to use the limited space available, and allows for the easy cleaning of the rooms.
  • Anything that you leave at the space remains your responsibility Whilst we have access control, cameras and are confident that all of our members are excellent people, as a group we cannot assume any responsibility for your personal possessions - if you leave anything at the space, you do so entirely at your own risk. We have some shelves outside the downstairs toilets, please use them as much as possible.
  • Consider the impact on others You MUST label your projects with your name, contact details, and the date you last worked on them, if you do not they may be disposed of without warning! If you leave your work out / possessions around, it reduces the amount of space available for other members, do not be offended if you return and discover that it has been moved to make room. If your project is delicate to the point that it can't be moved without damage then you need to be especially considerate of how that will affect others using the space, label it clearly warning that it is delicate, but also don't be surprised if it's moved (and possibly damaged) anyway if the space was needed. The general Storage policy has more information. Please only bring and store materials that you are about to use - we have limited storage space and cannot accommodate requests for long-term storage of bulky items. If you leave it there for a long time, you may discover that someone has inadvertently mistaken it for stock materials, rubbish (people have different perspectives) and have moved/used/disposed of it accordingly.
  • Consider safety If some work that you left out poses a risk to other members, please take steps to alert people to the risk including warning people in the immediate area and clearly labelling the items that pose a hazard with proper warnings. If you don't then other members may take any measures they feel necessary to deal with hazards without regard to how it affects your materials
  • Longer term projects If you are about to embark on a project or piece of work that may take some time, please consult the group as a whole using the mailing list before commencing and work with them to find a way forward that works for everyone. When consulting, be clear about how long you expect the work to take, when you will be doing it (especially if the work will have an impact on others) and how you will minimise the disruption to other users. Once started, keep the community abreast of progress, setting up a project page for it can be helpful with this as well as with getting members engaged and on-side with your project. If it is a very long term project, appears to have stalled, or there is an alternative pressing need for the space, be ready to remove it from the space or risk that others might do so without consulting with you.

Broken items[edit]

Before you bring a broken item into the space - a tool or otherwise - please ensure that you, or someone in the group, has a clear plan for fixing it. There is a distinction to be drawn between someone offering advice on how something might be fixed, and someone who is willing to fix it. Please clearly label the item with the fault so that it does not pose a danger to other people. Until it is fixed, please treat it in the same way the you would treat a project, and once fixed either establish it as a tool or as your personal belongings.