View Full Version : Machinists that taught or inspired me

01-13-2010, 05:32 PM
A few minutes ago I was in the shop making an alignment tool for a friend. It was several long cuts and I got to thinking, who inspired me to do what I have become.

I started as a self taught machinist doing home shop machining. Then later I moved to Missouri and started a full time small engine repair shop and doing machine work. I started doing some part time work for a man that made tree clearing attachments for Caterpillar tractors. He was a master machinist and I learned some from him just working for him on odd jobs. He was not real talkative and I had to draw things out of him.

After a stint with Cummins I moved back to Kentucky and went into job shops and learned from some of the older machinists because I asked questions and listened. The first shop I worked I had the pleasure of making friends with a man that was a machinist at Oak Ridge on the Atomic bomb project. I learned a lot from Bob and eventually bought his lathe and mill and other stuff when he quit his home shop. Bob died from medical problems related to working on and around radiation materials. He was a kind and gentle person and had a wealth of information and I picked his mind all I could.

The second to last shop I worked there was a machinist that some would not class as a master machinist but was so damn close that it would be hard to argue he wasn't. He worked in many shops and the last before where I met him he was machining FA Uzi machine pistols, and other Fa guns. He had a vast knowledge of machine work and while cantankerous I got along well with him. Anytime I had something I was having trouble with I went to Dan and bounced it off him. He could run manual machines and CNC machines and he was extremely good at all he did.

The last shop I worked after I retired was run by a man that was a real Master Machinist and he and I got along very well. There was and is nothing I can ask him that he has not had experience doing. He ran several shops and owned a large shop of his own. When his son died in an accident he no longer wanted to run his shop and sold out and worked for others. Don is another wealth of knowledge I go to from time to time. He also gave me his Geo heads and boxes of dies and other stuff he no longer wanted.

When I left Missouri and came back to Kentucky I really wanted to go back to Springfield Mo. but Mom and Dad needed me more than I needed Springfield. If I had not moved back to KY there would have been a wealth of information I would have never been exposed to. I have been real lucky to have first hand experiences with these machinists that enriched my life and knowledge.

Those men have forgotten more than I will ever be able to experience or remember.

01-13-2010, 06:49 PM
Dang, I wish I had had access to so much info and help.

I had about ten days of training from an older retired machinist who had worked for Crenlo Manufacturing in Rochester, MN. I can't compare him with others, but he could do about anything. He spend his retired life in his garage building more and more tooling to build more and more tools. He loved it.

This guy would help anyone who came to him with a project, without charge. I had an idea for a small injection molded object and he and I built a simple mold together. The doing was great. The object, did not work out as well as hoped. BUT, I got the machine bug and here I am.

What little I was able to learn from him I have put to use. This forum is extremely helpful too. I have never worked in the field, so any small part to job which turns out well and right on the money is a triumph for me. That's what keeps me going.

Your Old Dog
01-13-2010, 07:09 PM
Mine is a heart wrenching story. I had just finished a full plate of sauerkraut and smoked sausage with a side of mashed pototaoEs with sour cream and chives. I stumbled over to the computer with a cold cup of coffee in hand and Googled "machinist forum" and it brought me to this place. Wouldn't you know it, the first thread I snagged had Sir John and Evan going at it bare knuckles. Don't remember which thread it was exactly but it was fascinating. Had something to do with how many microns in a 6' power cord or something like that. I was hooked. The insults they hurled and heaped upon one another had the computer screen red with blood. I opened another beer just in time to refresh the screen and see Lazlo, JTier, Boomer, and several others nipping around in circles to keep it all stirred up. That's the honest truth. Since then I've not been able to go more then a day or two without firing up the mill or lathe, shoving my bare knuckles in there just so I could get my screen red with more blood. Something about all that red that makes a man feel alive...

And that gentlemen is how I got interested in machining and that's the truth.

01-13-2010, 07:18 PM
Nice !!

A few for me:
1) At a young age I watch a local machinist in a sawmill repair some parts for
my dad's restaurant. Later in his life he came to my shop and had a look
around.He was trained in the 40-50's and he had no interest in the CNC Stuff
but loved the old shaper I had.Told me that 'she could do magic'.
2) Had an Indian Motorcycle 75cc Made in Taiwan.Parts were very hard to find
for it.Had to go to a machine shop in "town" and a Mr. Nightingale make a
bushing to adapt a break part for me. It worked perfect, and made a young
person's day.Still think of him whenever a young guy comes in with broken
motorcycles parts.Bet he is watching...
3) At trade school I spent a lot of extra time with my shop instructor.I had
already done most of the other courses before I got there(math,english
science,etc) so I had extra time.He was a tool and die maked from the UK
with a vast knowledge of machining.While the others were at other classes
I was in the shop with Ed learning all the tricks I could.Perhaps I got 3
years extra from that 10 months with he in that shop.
4) Last but not least is John S of the UK.Perhaps one of the best out there
Never met him yet, but always there to bounce a few ideas off. :)

01-13-2010, 08:35 PM
I only WISH that there had been a machinist who taught me or inspired me.

I am self taught, learning by making mistakes and boy do I make a lot of mistakes.

Honestly, I look up to Evan and Sir John. If I can ever do half of what they do, I'd feel proud. Except for their arguing, that is. :)

01-13-2010, 08:45 PM
Thanks Carld. This is a great thread. I think my inspirations have come largely from this forum and I really appreciate it.

Seeing as how we're dropping names ... I'd just like to say that, along with some of the others mentioned, I really look up to Forrest. Between PCarpenter, Lazlo, Beckley23, Mcgyver and him (in no particular order ;) ) I've been able to venture into scraping, which is something I've wanted to do for a while. Also, Forrest always offers extremely good advice and criticisms in very tactful ways. I've never felt "ripped apart" when he criticizes something I've done poorly.

01-13-2010, 08:53 PM
I only WISH that there had been a machinist who taught me or inspired me.

Same here...the only really accomplished machinist I really know is a guy, who runs a one man shop about an hour away, that I see maybe 3-4 times a year. He has two mills, 2 lathes and a couple other things tucked into a cramped 20 x 30 pole barn. He keeps busy making a lot of one-offs, prototypes and nondescript widgets. He has sold me countless things I needed to help me out with my machine work at generous rates and always stuffed a handful of endmills in my pockets as I was leaving.

Never really got into a nuts and bolts conversation with him at length but he has been at least a motivator to me.;)

01-13-2010, 09:12 PM
1) I will have to say this forum. I am the one of my friends who does the machining. They ask me questions and i try to be knowledgeable, but it is usually tidbits of info from here. When i first joined, The big Gorilla, Thrud made me feel welcome (rest his soul). Never condenscending and always told me to be safe. There have been a tons of you guys who have helped me out as well.

2) My machinist teacher from night school. He made me learn there is a right way, and a RIGHT A WAY! haah. Enjoyed that class, and he would tell me stories of how he got where he was and what he was doing. I gave him some work when i was at the ski hill, and he was always a pleasure to deal with.

3) A friend of mine Chris. A former machinist, turned welder, he rents my shop/machines from me from time to time. I show him jobs and he helps me estimate on how much to charge.

Keep the help coming

Rob :)

Tim Clarke
01-13-2010, 09:17 PM
When I was going to the local community college, I worked in a shop that supported the owner's wood products businesses. Plywood and lumber. He did his own logging and trucking, and about everything you could imagine came thru that shop. The youngest guy other than myself must have been 40 or so, and the rest were from maybe 50, to past retirement age. Old Alex, the oldest of the lot was pushing 70, I think. He was an old school machinist, and if it was mill equipment, he'd been there and done it. Another machinist had served his apprenticeship in the Southern Pacific machine shop, here in Eugene, Oregon. Hadn't got far enough to avoid the draft, but finished up when he got out of the service. These 2 guys liked the variety of work they got, so were pretty happy there, and were willing to take a little time to give the kid a little advice.

Alex probably never realized that I looked up to him, his attidude, and his skill. I finally realized that he never hurried, he never busted his tail, but he never made a false move, and what he did always worked the first time. One day I asked him if he ever screwed up. He told me he never had very many failures, that he learned something form every piece of scrap he'd ever made. And, he tried really hard to never repeat any mistakes.

That's a pretty good example for a young guy, no matter that I wanted to be a mechanic. I'm strictly a home shop metal butcher, but I can't help think of Alex whenever I fire up my Shaper. He probably could have made you a feather duster on the Cincinatti shaper at that shop, with only a sketch on the floor with soapstone.

There are others that have shared their knowledge with me, and I'm grateful to them all. Too many now, to remember them all. Hopefully I've been able to pass a little on to others.


01-13-2010, 09:47 PM
recoilless, spend more time with that machinist, he is wanting you to develop in the trade and may be willing to let you work with him at times to learn things you want to know or do. Don't be afraid to ask.

That time to think today made me realize how much others have helped me along whether I knew it or not. If you find someone that is willing to teach, discuss and demonstrate what you want to know then work with them to learn, watch them work, ask any question you need the answer to now. Tomorrow may be to late.

We have the best machinist forum on the web right here. It's just like some shops I worked, some are easy going and some are crotchety but all will give help to the extent of their knowledge and experience. I visit this site several times a day to see what is happening and what others are doing or need.

01-13-2010, 09:51 PM
When I was growing up, there was a guy over the back fence Richard (Dick) Key. He was a tool and die maker for Vendolator, a company that made vending machines. He had a shop in his garage. Not a metal shop, more wood tools. He spent the evenings out there building boats, and drinking beer. And his work was truly craftsmanship.

Rodger lived next door to Dick, and was my best friend for many years. Rodger and I wanted go carts, but had no money. Mine was made from a 2x8 some 2x4's, a Briggs and Stratton from a washing machine, and rope steering. Brake was a wood rubbing block on the tire. My house had at least 6' all around, that was the track. Well, Rodger teamed with Dick, and "they" built a master piece, also wood because of the cost. I learned about caster angles, and how to design the steering trapezoid so the tires don't scrub on sharp angles. Their brake was a v belt in a pulley, stopped on a dime. Steering was precise.
But it was heavy, and in a race around the house, I kicked Rodger's butt every time. An early lesson into the costs of perfection vs performance. Or maybe I was just better at dirt tracking around the corners. I also learned that drinking beer was part of building things.

Then there was Jack. He owned Helix Engineering. I got a job there when I was 20 in 1967, going to school full time, and working full time. He didn't care, as long as I punched in and out. (We only got paid when we were actually working on a specific job.) One day Jack came over and harassed me for slacking on a job. I was climb milling a 1"x1 1/2" slot in a 4"x4" bar about 12' long, this on a K&T horizontal where it was common to stand on the table and use a toe on the rapids. It was going to take ~3 resets of the bar. Move the bar, dial it in, set the cutter. Well, I was dropping the rapid a way out, and letting the table ease into the next pass. Jack came over cussed and grabbed the rapid. He dropped too late, cutter grabbed the stock, flung it off the table, and bent a 2" arbor. He swore to never touch that machine again, I doubt he did. From Jack I learned patience.

Last is Derrel. He was a true machinist. He had one speed, perfection. Tolerances were ignored, if the hole was 1/4" he reamed it. Lathe work was typically within .0003". He was not liked by other machinists, that's why he was banished to work with us technicians. Many of our machines were WWII surplus, cherry picked for sure, but in 33 years, I never saw a new machine until CNC. From Derrel I learned that it's not the machine but the man, when it comes to precision.

Tim The Grim
01-13-2010, 11:11 PM
High School '67-'71

E Norman Meyers - Mechanical drawing
Peder Gundersen - Wood Shop
Robert Kuipers - Metal Shop

First Tool Room Job - '74

Joe Giglio
Jerry Cain
Phil Confalone

First Die Shop job - '76

Oscar Wylde Lyons
Frank Otto Ritter
Victor Palais

Wire EDM shops - '87-

Frank Patracola

Ronald Leone ... Where would I be and what would I be creating today if he hadn't left us so early? - I like to think he might be my Guardian Angel.

The whole is equal to the sum of it's parts. A part of each of these guys is still a part of what I'm made of.

01-14-2010, 12:10 AM
I had the good fortune to spend three semesters as a student of Mr. George Bonnand at Fullerton J.C., in Calif. He is the finest machinist I've ever known. Due to a change in my work schedule, I stayed away for just one semester, when I returned he had moved on. That taught me not to take things for granted, and not to let opportunities go to waste. I have studied under a couple other machinist, but none could hold a candle to Mr. Bonnand.

doctor demo
01-14-2010, 01:52 AM
To tell this story properly I would have to be a better writer than I am. So short version instead, two uncles were machinists, a neighbor was a tool and die maker and a jr. high buddy's dad was the best millwright-welder that I have ever met. Then when I was in high school I went to work for a machine shop who's owner was a retired Aerojet Gen. machinist, He and his part time machinists (all retired from Aerojet) were a wealth of knowledge.
But the most inspiring mentor I had was My Father.
With out knowing Him all of You will think that I'm just bragging, but ask any one who knew him and they will tell you that I speak the truth . He could do anything, and never refused to help anybody that asked .

I miss each and every one of them,but I have all of you guys now when I need further mentoring.


John Stevenson
01-14-2010, 04:37 AM
I have covered mine before, see here


Unfortunately there were many guys who helped me but because of the short period of moving from station to station I have forgotten their names and the ones I can remember it would be unfair to mention out of context to the others.

I have come across very few who regarded themselves as prima donas and kept what they knew to themselves, if you had a genuine interest most would go out of their way to help including giving up spare time.


01-14-2010, 07:38 AM
I was also lucky to have a 5year draughting (English spelling) apprenticeship at Marconi's Wireless Telegraphy in 1960. First year full time at Colchester Tech doing City & Guilds Machine shop Eng and National certificate. One teacher who sticks in my mind and I admired was Fred Brown Who taught machine shop eng. His maxim was Rigidity, Rigidity, Rigidity, dead on. I always think of him when I do something a bit dodgy he would frown for sure. Like all of us I have met many others, too many to mention, who impress with there skills who also seem to be able to teach without it being an ego thing. Wonderful generous people, we must all have mental list of these good souls who are brought into mind at times, often triggered during moments in the workshop and now on this site thanks guys.
Bless them All

01-14-2010, 07:55 AM
Well I'm still a novice, and self-taught. My father has done a good amount of machining renovating steam locos but has never worked a trade as one and we've never been close enough for me to learn from him. The most important thing he taught me long ago though was it's possible to do almost anything you want if you are just willing to try.

Pretty-much everything of worth I have learned about actual machining has come from making mistakes and reading up on here.

01-14-2010, 01:27 PM
My dad was a machinist for Sta rite pump company until WWII broke out and he went to the Pacific. When I was growing up he was always fixing stuff and building projects in the little detached garage behind our house. He loved wood working and antique refinishing and repair. As I grew up he taught me an awful lot about fixing stuff. When I left college due to the money running out, he helped me decide on a career path in the machine shops, saying that it was a good trade and I could always find work if I went looking for it. I went to work as an apprentice at the tool and die plant and was fortunate enough to have several really excellent mentors there. Crotchety and cantankerous, sometimes, but usually willing to take time with the kid and set him straight so he wouldn't get hurt or screw up the parts. This training really helped when the big layoff of 73 sent all of the apprentices and transient machinists down to the unemployment office. I ended up working in some places that had a severe lack of knowlege or mentors. One real exception was at one of the worst shops I ever worked in. This particular manufacturing plant made aircraft galley equipment and vacumolded seat backs and armrest covers. I was the only machinist and had to build prototype parts and short production runs of parts for serving carts and coolers. Their was an old retired T&D maker that had an interest in the company, stock I think, who would come and stay a month or two each year, to build any new fixtures or tooling needed for new contracts. He had retired from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron and was a wealth of information and very sociable to boot. I learned so much from him about things that were not related to automotive T&D. He was a master and was secure in his knowlege base. When I left that shop and went to work for the Oceanography department at the university, I had the privilege of working with another great machinist and mechanic (for lack of a better word) who was an old "tin knocker" from the Navy. I have spoken of him before here and won't go into detail but all of these folks showed me that there is a whole lot to learn out there and nobody, no matter how good they are, can possibly know it all. Every machinist fills a different niche, be it production, R and D, repair, medical, automotive, or scientific. I could go on but you get the drift. That is why I really enjoy this forum and others so much. I get a lot of leads on sources of things I need as well as seeing other things I didn't even know I needed. :D Yes, great thread Carl.

01-14-2010, 05:40 PM
Ray from my days as a beginning apprentice, snot nosed and full of myself and beer I was. He set me straight by saying that for all my talent, I was not quite what I thought I was. Gave me a giddeons bible, probably out of exasperation more than inspriation and told me "some day, you might read this, keep it in your tool box". Something must have clicked. Though relig came later...the book was a daily reminder that I needed to quit being a jerk and apply myself. Gave me another the day I graduated in 1980, I told him "I already have the first one in my tool box". He told me to keep that one in my desk, and commented to me quietly "something must have stuck, you finished well". It is in my center drawer of my desk at school, 29 years later.

Yeah, getting over being a jerk takes years. Dan, the night foreman in the department I was asigned to after graduating took me under his wing when othger foreman who knew me during my jerk time wanted to trade me "for a pack of peanut butter crackers." Eventually I moved to a great position in the department, my last employment review said "Well respected for working with and helping others in the department, I recommend ____ for a supervisory position in this, or another department" - this was from the full department foreman (we had 50 in the department), and tool designer for the department". This was the effect of Dan. Just read this again last week, going through some papers. I left four months later, the economy of 1983 hit me hard and I was single and the youngest in the department, and had an opportunity to go to college. I worked winters for the company though all through college.

Ed and Keith in town got me excited about pursuing my knowledge of CNC to the next level of CAD/CAM and 3D machining. They are both well known and very highly respected. I taught with both in night classes, but all said and done, I should have been paying tuition to learn from them.....

Lee, I still know, is brilliant and a hard driving person whom I love to work with. Did several weekends at a shop over a span of three years, learned more from him in that three years than I could ever count.

This board? THRUD helped me through a hard time a few years back, we kept in touch by email until he got too sick, then he passed while I was dormant on the board for a while. LOve Evan and Forrest and all on this board, I learn so much.

Been doing this since I was 13, 36 years now, learn from and am inspired daily by the best I around! I try to instill in my students that excitement and desire to learn from others and to seek out the best.