The New Shop Class

Photography by Gabriel Teague
HackerLab in Sacramento

Where can you learn some hands-on practical skills?

If you’ve ever wished you’d taken a welding class in high school instead of calculus, you’re not alone. Students of all ages are flocking to area classes to learn the sorts of practical trade skills that were once the core of vocational education but have largely disappeared from high school campuses. We looked at three places in and around Sacramento where hobbyists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs alike go to get their hands dirty and learn something new.

Hacker Lab, with three locations in the Sacramento metro area, is where makers go to learn welding, woodworking, metal fabrication, laser cutting, soldering and more. Want to get your hands on a milling machine or ShopBot? Hacker Lab’s your place. Once members have the basics down, they’re granted 24/7 access to the wide assortment of equipment in Hacker Lab’s makerspaces. “Just being able to weld something or understand how something works is an added benefit in a person’s day-to-day life,” says chief technology officer Nile Mittow. “Our goal is to lower that barrier to entry and help people find something they’re interested in. We are that place where you can walk in and explore and learn to use all this equipment that would be too expensive to buy on your own.” 1715 I St.; 4415 Granite Drive, Rocklin; 11275 Sunrise Gold Circle, Rancho Cordova; (916) 514-7044;

Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen
Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen.

You know how to ride a bike, but do you know how to take care of one? Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen is a not-for-profit tool and maintenance cooperative that offers members free classes on fixing flats, routine maintenance and more—all taught by volunteer mechanics. “There’s definitely a desire out there to learn and to make bicycling more cost-effective,” says outreach coordinator Ellissa Green-Lott. “What we find is that the one thing that stops people from riding their bike is they assume it’s going to be big money to get it repaired. We help people by teaching them what’s going on with their bicycle.” 1915 I St.; (916) 538-6697;


Woodcraft of Sacramento teaches everything from how to make a cutting board—a project that introduces students to using a table saw, router table, joiner and planer—to how to build your own cabinets. There are also classes in woodcarving, pen making and hollow turning, in which students learn to make a small bowl. “The people who take classes here are mainly people who missed out on shop classes in high school and have now decided that woodworking is kind of cool, or they took shop classes when they were younger and have been away from it for a long time,” says manager Michael Jay. “We also see some old-timers who want to pick up a new skill.” 9523 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 362-9664;