The oldest, largest space in Houston is a sprawling complex in an industrial area. It’s a bit northeast of downtown, with plenty of street parking, just down the way from the Champ Burger. TX/RX Labs hosts numerous classes and events, on top of two weekly open houses.
With a lot of ground to cover, the tour takes about an hour now, depending on the curiosity of the visitors. Friday night is clearly the bigger night for tours, as the toqued tour guide shows off the 3D Printers (FDM and Resin!), Laser Cutters (3 of them!), Electronics Lab (including a pick-and-place!), Metal Shop (Plasma and Water Cutters! 5-Axis Mill!), Ceramics Studio, the Artist Space, and the Classroom/Computer Lab. The Woodshop is in use, a gaggle of folks all learning how to make the same thing; walking past, we get a timely plug for the TX/RX classes – in exchange for the course fee, you get something cool to take home, and signed off on using the equipment.
Anyone can take a class here, though Members get a slight discount. You can also “test out” on the machines, when the staff shop managers set aside time for that. The space has a real focus on safety and certification; the space has a badge system to keep track of who is trained on what, and there’s a monthly shop meeting where they focus on safety and what else is up.
You can hardly see the whole thing in one go; with full daylight on Sunday morning, you can see the courtyard (stocked with project motorbikes and ISO Storage Containers), a newer building (under construction, but already being used as a podcasting studio), plus a glimpse at the Woodshop, which has a massive ventilation fan at the ready, along with a SawStop Table Saw and a CNC mill that could easily take a full sheet of plywood, and vacuum up after itself in the process. Up close, the plastic Vacuum Former looks ready to outfit an army of Stormtroopers with body armour!
The real heart of the whole space is the full kitchen, featuring water-cut granite tops with matching black refrigerator, an ensemble that looks right out of a model unit from the home improvement store, with some parts made in-house! Meals are timed along with the Open Houses; Friday Dinner happened shortly before my visit; by the end of the tour, its remains are down to a bit of salad and tortilla chips, though the main course was clearly fried in the wok on the gas-fired stovetop.
The $5 Sunday Breakfast at TX/RX proves to be scrambled eggs, American fries, strips of side bacon, Belgian waffles with butter and syrup, a pick through a plastic-binned fruit platter of cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and red grapes, plus whole and juiced oranges. The coffee station is tucked away in the kitchen, behind the busy wafflemaker. The members grab quick plates and get to work, leaving the talkative visitors with the occasional blind-leading-the-blind experience as different new folks saunter up in small groups. With the diverse characters and varied conversation – it’s like an old-school hotel parlour!
The dinner table itself is constructed of matte-black steel and smooth-formed concrete, all fashioned right here – the same type of shelving that you can rent by the half-or-full bench, if you want to take the step up from your basic monthly membership. Those benches now fill the north side of the main building, and a few are trickling into the side buildings now. The artist building’s tables are built at nearly the same height, but built out of mercifully softer 2x4s and laminated plywood.
Wherever possible, TX/RX does it itself. The space is almost entirely member-funded, but it does have some paid staff, mainly to keep the machines running. The dues end up being a little more than average, but it’s still cheaper than TechShop on its best month. All the other shops in Houston have a little of this and that, but TX/RX is the only one that has this huge breadth of tooling. If nothing else, come for the food and chatter!