View Full Version : Disillusioned....what am I doing????

04-22-2006, 03:14 AM
While doing a search for something I read one of my old posts from a couple years back. Funny really. I was all hot and bothered to get my own machine shop business up and running.
Now after spending about $10 grand every year on the stuff you need for this "sport"....I'm no closer now than I was back then.
Yeesh! The more I learn, the more I want better stuff...it never ends and I can't seem to catch my own tail :D
I have to take on more and more welding work to buy all this stuff and I'm not getting much machining done in the process.
For a year or so I was making pretty good money with my little SB9 and simple mill/drill. I had the SB turned into a very usefull little machine with all the attachements I made for it. My new 14X40 has none of this so far and it's still a learning process.
The big ol' McDougal lathe is taking forever to get back in shape. I still want a bigger mill. Now I'd really like a MUCH heavier lathe (the same size as my 14")...another 2000 pounds would be just right!
Sure wished I lived in "The Tool Belt" sometimes.
Oh well, if I keep plugging away I'll have some darn nice stuff for my working retirement :D
Sure hope I'm not the only one in this boat. And if anyone is bored...I've got a new dro that needs mounting...the rest of my endmill sharpener gadget to finish, an aluminum melting crucible to finish, piles of steel ready to be made into something, a stack of aluminum "billets" ready to machine into something,
and the list goes on....
Ain't it GREAT!

Forrest Addy
04-22-2006, 04:53 AM
It's the "stuff" cycle. George Carlin did a great routine on the topic.

Over 40 years I've amassed a fine collection of machine tools all in good condition and of good quality. In that time they may have paid for themselves but only just. If I was an ambitious self-starting sort of guy like my old friend Doug Barley I could have earned a good living as he did using not only the same size machine tools as mine but the same brand.

Now that I'm in my post-stroke "golden years" I find I'd much rather putter in between the kind of jobs I enjoy. I'm still spending money on my shop - the planer's apart for a rebuild and conversion to planer mill - but not that much. I still stay in my budget.

I've watched over the year as others of my stripe acquired machine tools and by degrees improved their inventories by horse trading, sweat equity, hard work, and ignoring reality. Seems like the people who wound up with the best shops are those who never bought a thing unless it could demonstrate bang for the buck.

I know an old guy who has three containers and an old barn full of worn out machine tools of legendary make. All he does with them is patch up stuff for the live steamers and paw through his junk, muttering. Once in a while he rounds up a bunch of buddies and drags home some other cast iron mostrosity from a foundry yard or back pasture. He's happy but he'd never admit it.

We are it seems what our inclinations and surroundings mold of us. And yes it is GREAT!!

04-22-2006, 09:32 AM
Ahh Forrest! Thanks for that! Sounds like I'm on the right track after all.
40 years huh? Sounds like my schedule is on track also :D
The reality check...buying new and getting burned a few times on Ebay. I REALLY underestimated how much a well equipped shop can cost.
You start to see why certain things happen though.
I quit the biggest fab shop in this area about a year ago. They had sometimes 25 weldors and maybe 7 or 8 guys in the machine shop.
Basics in the shop where 3 good sized mills, four lathes (the larger one will turn to 30 ft long if I recall), a nice big radial arm drill and other misc equipment.
He would buy a couple of new welders every other year @ 3500 or so a pop.
$3500 welder makes him $75 hour. He can put even a first year weldor($12 hr) on it and he'll do well. He has some welding machines that are 15 years old and never cost a dime to repair.
He paid $15,000 for one used lathe. He has to pay a journeyman $18 hr to run it...it makes $75 hr. Goes through the usual amount of tooling from journey guy who doesn't care because he makes $6 an hour less than every journey weldor on the floor.
Add it up at the end of the year and the $3500 welding machine made a lot more profit than the $15,000 lathe.
Maybe this is a better hobby than a business. You get tired (and sick) of the smoke and the boredom with welding. Guess that's what makes machining so attractive to me.
And besides...I just like stuff :D

04-22-2006, 10:41 AM
I've been playing around with mechanical things and buying tool for the better part of 50 years. My shop is now reasonably well equiped. At one point for about 8 years I ran it as a business and was successful. There are tools that you need very seldom but without them you can't do the job. I don't look at working in the shop as a job but as fun and relaxtion. I don't think that you can ever get all of the tools and equipment that you want, not enough space to put them and be able to use them. By having tools and knowing how to use them you will save yourself a lot of money fixing things for yourself. That help pay for them. There is also the dream of having all of the tools and a place to use them without having to move something out of the way to get to the tool that you want to use. It is just that "A DREAM". The best is yet to come as you get older and reality sets in and you realize that won't be able to handle all of the big stuff in your golden years. You start getting good smaller equipment so that you can still play when you are older, I call it "my old man shop". I guess in reality, this is a disease that has no cure but it is a good one to have if you can afford it. I won't be the one that wins the contest but I will not be in last place either. He who dies with the most tool wins contest. Keep buying and having fun, make some money along the way and be safe.


04-22-2006, 10:56 AM
Waiting for the woodstove to warm up the shop.
Joe...seems to me you told me a couple years ago to be careful with this "business" thing. I'd sure hate for this to turn into just another job. Like welding...I actually hate it now. If it didn't pay for my machines etc. I'd probably pack it in. It bores me to death. That's what I like about the machining and owning every tool made...lol! Never find that boring! You can just do so many things. The little truck I just rebuilt. It has a ton of things on it that you either can't buy or would cost an arm and a leg.

04-22-2006, 11:22 AM
I have been gradually equipping my shop for decades, a little at a time. I like it the way it is, it suits me and what I want to do. Sometimes when Janet and I are sitting around speculating about what we would do if we won the lotto it always occurs to me that I wouldn't go out and buy a bunch of new machines. I like the ones I have and I know them well, especially my lathe. Getting a new one would be like a new pair of shoes, they tend to be uncomfortable for quite a while. Besides, if I just went and bought a new CNC mill that would spoil all the fun. For me more than half the fun is getting there.

04-22-2006, 11:22 AM
Very well worded, and so true.

Michael Az
04-22-2006, 11:36 AM
I am pretty new at being a new shop owner, about four years now. I think it is like any other business in being slow to get started. I'm doing ok now but sure was slow for awhile. If you have time, you need to "network". With other shops and prospective clients. Almost everybody is that "prospective client". All the restaurants, Pepsi and Coke distributors, truck repair shops, garbage business. If they got machinery, you might have a way in. Getting to know other small shops "Take them doughnuts!" may get you some sub work or work they just don't want or have time for.
The work is out there, just about anyplace you live. The job I'm on now is going to last about a year.
I don't think we will ever have all the tools we need. I now have a pretty nice shop but find everyday there is something I always need. Just had a shaper imported from NY., yeah, two thousand miles away but there aren't any to be found where I live.
The important thing for me is I am doing what I really like doing, and that means a lot! So, keep after it.

04-22-2006, 05:30 PM
You know I bought that SB7 shaper on a whim,But 3 weeks later I was offered a job that I couldn't do without the thing so it has payed 2/3rds for itself, in one job. Jobs like that I love.

04-22-2006, 10:50 PM
Russ I know the feeling,I like welding really I do,but 8-10 hrs at a wack really sucks.All that time to think about what you would be doing if you weren't stuck under a shield.Just be glad it doesn't get hot where you live,105F and 90% humidity really adds to the experience:D

It's a never ending job buying and fixing tools.I just bought a new Senco screwgun the otherday,yeppie now I can run screws in machinegun style so I have more time to do other things like buy more tools:D

I like your list of things to do better than mine cause it's shorter.

I got one forlift that needs brake cables and a seat so I can sell it to buy parts to fix the bigger forklift I bought to replace it.

I got one 12" woodplanner than needs fixing,an 18" that needs fixing and a 36" waiting for me to start on it.

I'm building a sawmill edger in my spare time at work to speed up production on the bandmill cause I'm STILL sawing wood:D

I got about 40,000 lbs of scrap iron to load and hual.

I got a Buffalo Ironworker that needs to be put back together.

And I have to get my butt in gear building a new(much bigger)shop building.

But right now I'm yanking the clutch out of my Ranger(oh joy)

That and about 3,000 other things(plus who could forget work)means that I'll need to live to be at least 300 years old to "FINISH":D

04-22-2006, 11:52 PM
Darin, Maybe you could help me with some of my projects because if I lived to be 300 there would still be some left to finish. Let me know when I can drop them off.


04-23-2006, 12:01 AM
Ive always enjoyed fiddle farting around in my shop. Its not big 16 by 19 and 11 by 15 feet at other end. Big nuff and sure crowded with junk. I used to make a living in my shop made 51000 dollars in 5 months one year. Sat down and calculated expenses and ended up with 12 grand clear. It was then i realized id never get rich doing this and to keep it as a hobby i enjoyed. Now i just go to work daily (4 days a week) in a tool and die shop as a toolroom machinist. I really enjoy it. I still like to putz around and am currently building a water wheel generator system for a fellow, and also have four products im manufacturing within my limited manufacturing abbilities to date. Keeps me from getting too bored. Take care all Mike

04-23-2006, 12:04 AM
tools and equipment and have bought quality whenever I could afford it. On the other hand I'm a sucker for a lost cause. Some years ago all my harley rider buddies kept after me to give up dirt bikes and get a street bike. They extolled the virtues of the various harley machines availible, which at the time were well within my budget. The big day came all came from miles around to see my mystrey purchase and perhaps enjoy a weekend of riding.
While I was ecstatic they walked away shaking their head and mumbling about the old fool. My purchase wasn't a new harley but a basket case BSA
from the junkyard. I got as much pleasure from working on it ,cursing at it and making parts for it as I do from riding it.

04-23-2006, 12:33 AM
Darin, Maybe you could help me with some of my projects because if I lived to be 300 there would still be some left to finish. Let me know when I can drop them off.


Any day except Fri&Sat,those days are reserved for me to work on my own junk:D

04-23-2006, 01:15 AM
Ha...I knew if I came here I'd simmer down a bit! Seems we all have the same problems.
Darin...geez...wish you wouldn't have mentioned the forklift. One of my buddies is trying to sell me a nice propane powered one right now. Got lil' duals on the front (16" rims I think) and I think it lifts 7000 pounds. For $2500.
I'd love to have that thing. The ol' back ain't what it used to be.
Lots of good advice...thanks guys.
Looks like I'm just being impatient. Could load up the old credit cards and get it done but I'm trying to do it all with cash. I guess the missus will just have to get a second job to help out :D

04-23-2006, 01:43 AM
I sometimes think I love the machines more then the ability to "preform" with them. I am not a machinist nor do I have the ability to visualize the endless amount of possibilities each machine is capable of preforming.

The limitation in my garage is ME. When I see some of the outstanding objects or setups you guys accomplish it both motivates me and makes me feel very inadequate.

So, I acquire tooling in the hopes I can make up for my short sightedness and lack of ability, by using a "better" tool such as using a CNC mill instead of determining a way to setup the work and making a conventional machine do the same work.

I really love machine tools and the associated tooling.

My hats off to all you indigenous folks preforming high quality work on what is available... You are my motivation...JRouche

J Tiers
04-23-2006, 02:40 AM
Well, I'm a hobby type. I don't pretend to be able to make a living at the shopwork, although in a pinch, I bet I could scrape along...... at least I can fix stuff, and there would be plenty of barter work......... if the crash everyone expects actually arrives.

In any case, being that it is a hobby, I don't care excessivley whether I am fixing a machine, or doing what I nominally started out to do, which is making small engines for fun, possibly some other stuff.

It seems that I spend as much time in the "process" as in the "goal" and I have come to the conclusion that is fine.

For one thing. I have had to do things I would not have tried, except that I sorta had to in order to do what I needed to do to fix something. So I probably have done more different sorts of machine work than I would have if I had bought new stuff and started in doing what I nominally intended to.

However, I notice that in and among the other 293 items I need/want to do, I am thinking more about my original goal, so I suppose I will start in on that eventually.

It's just one more problem with having about 8 or 9 hobbies. Some get too much attention, some get stiffed.