I found out today that a TechShop is being built here in Austin!
TechShop is a workshop that makes machine tools and other equipment available for you to use. The first TechShop opened in Menlo Park, CA and has been a great success. Membership is expensive ($1200 a year, $700 for six months, and $125 for 30 days), but you can get a 24-hour membership for $30.
The TechShop in Menlo Park has a lathe, a Bridgeport Mill, a desktop CNC mill, a laser cutter, a CNC plasma cutter, a vacuum-forming station, even a CNC vinyl cutter for making your own vinyl signs like our SubRon5 banner. They also have a stock parts bin you can buy material from.
They also offer classes to help you learn to use the equipment they have. You must take a safety class for each of the machines listed above (except I don't think a class is required for the vacuum former), but you don't have to be a member to take the classes. So you can take the classes up front, and then just pay for a one-day membership when you're ready to make your parts.
Menlo Park is not too far from San Jose, where I travel on business. So I'm planning on taking a couple of the classes on my next trip out there. Then I can use the equipment in Menlo Park on future business trips, and I'll be ready to go when they finally open up in Austin.
So the Houston gang could easily make a day trip over to Austin to build stuff. And Jeff, don't feel left out -- TechShop is building in Los Angelos and San Diego, too (not sure which is closer to you).
They have a mailing list set up for each of the new locations so you can keep tabs on how things are going. I joined the Austin mailing list today.