View Full Version : Survey Results

11-28-2003, 12:03 AM
I just finished compiling the results of the survey. Interesting.

First, remember the old saying:

There are lies, damned lies and there are statistics.

This is representative only of the members who frequent this BBS. That said, I think we need to get a few more young people started in the trade. Charlie Coghill made a comment on the survey that the people in the older bracket are probably under-represented because they don't want to or know how to use a computer. I agree with that. I can't see the same excuse for young people.

BTW, there were exactly 99 respondents including myself. I threw in my wife's numbers as well to make it an even 100. That makes percentage calculations unnecessary.

I may crunch the numbers even more but here are some results:

Average age: 48.3

Median age: 49 (Half the respondents are older than this)

Youngest: 16

Oldest: 72

30 years old or younger: only 9%

Over 30: 91%

Average age first modified metal: 10.9

This next one is suprising to me.

Number who got up in the night to machine: 54, that is 54%

Number who have machined as primary income: 46, 46%

On the decade graph you may take the numbers on the bars as percent and actual number of respondents.



[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-28-2003).]

G.A. Ewen
11-28-2003, 12:19 AM
Nicely done Evan!

11-28-2003, 12:34 AM
Thanks for the survey, very interesting, but I find it hard to believe that I am the oldest one on this BBS. Besides, if they are reading this, they are on a computer aren't they?
the oldest fart http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

Les Burg
11-28-2003, 12:35 AM
Great job Even thanks


11-28-2003, 01:21 AM

Nice work! Interesting too!

Is anyone else bothered by the age distribution by decade? I run across people all the time who are unable to effect the most basic repairs to their own possesions. Now I know that Evan's survey is only representative of those that participated, but I can't help but notice that as age decreases, so does (apparent) interest in technical/mechanical fields. As I stated earlier, it seems that alot of people are happy to be ignorant of how things work, at even a basic level. Maybe I shouldn't complain since these people will pay me to fix or build what they can't http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//confused.gif


11-28-2003, 01:37 AM
I'm 23 years old, I didnt do the survey because I didnt feel like it, but I guess I will do it now.
born May, 1980,
grew up in the 80's
started modifying metal since a very young age, probably 8 years old.
Do it for hobby
Have not gotten up at night to machine

11-28-2003, 02:17 AM
That's ok Bill, a lot of us old farts didn't do the survey either. I'll just say I'm over the median age.

11-28-2003, 03:09 AM
Maker, Ken, BillH,

I am very disturbed by the apparent trend. Ken, if all us "old farts" had answered it would look even worse. BillH, even with your input it wouldn't change the numbers perceptibly. With a sample of 100 it is good to represent a 1000. If I added one more sample with extreme outlier values it would not skew the result much. If you said you first modified metal at the age of 100 it would raise the average by 1 point.

This is not a scientific survey. Some of the flaws are that I don't know how many refused to participate. Obviously, computer use is a prerequisite to participate. A survey like this is not definitive but it still provides valuable information. As I said, I am not doing this except for my own curiosity and I am very curious.

Back to the alarming trend. Going by the trend, it appears that the average age of machinists on this board is increasing at the rate of almost one year per year. Some mitigating factors are that equipment like lathes and milling machines are expensive and not commonly affordable to younger people. I drooled over the ads for a six inch atlas lathe in the Sears catalog when I was a teenager but could not afford it.

Still, we will need people in the manufacturing sector who are more than "tool minders". Where are they? (China?)

The demographics here are, as is common in the manufacturing sector, alarming. I imagine Village Press will be interested in this as well.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-28-2003).]

11-28-2003, 04:04 AM
I'm with you there, I grew up rather poor and it was a lot of work to amass a respectable set of hand tools let alone machinery (and one set was stolen, which was a real setback)...

It's not just the money for the tools...aside from the smallest Sherline type equipment it is hard to set up a machine shop when you're renting. It wasn't until I was just about to turn thirty that I could afford a home and a secure area to "set up shop"...but by that time I had to share the shop budget with a new family, new mortgage, property maintenance, and investing/saving for the future.

So, really I probably started my shop when I was about 16 and it's taken me 16 years to get the darn pieces together.

Evan Said:
Snip> Some mitigating factors are that equipment like lathes and milling machines are expensive and not commonly affordable to younger people.<End Snip

11-28-2003, 10:37 AM
I always thought i was born 10 years too early. In another decade people who can do almost anything will be in short demand. Common sense hasn't been present in the younger generations for a while now.

I see it at work every now and then. A fire starts and everyone runs out. Hmmm what about a fire extingusher? Or do i just keep them so my employees can empty them when they are bored and/or use the safety pin to push hash or pot into their cigarette. Which they smoke while they are on the job. That is a whole other subject.

You should see, and most of you probably get it as well, the reaction when you walk into a store with your hands a little dirty. It is getting harder to clean those wrinkles in my hands http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//wink.gif . Go back 2 days later and see how they are all impressed by my being clean or driving up in my 1962 bel-air instead of my cavalier.

My opinion, is that society judges individuals by how much they earn and not their worth. Sorry guys a little bit of a rant.

Evan great survey. Loved the info in it. Thanks for the info


G.A. Ewen
11-28-2003, 11:43 AM
Evans comment on "tool minders" (we will need people in the manufacturing sector who are more than "tool minders".) has been a pet peeve of mine for some time. It seems unlikely to me that the next generation will be anything more than tool minders. Unfortunately it is my generation that is at fault. Many people my age have spoiled there childrens imagination and desire to learn buy giving them anything that they want. Why would a 12 year old try to build a Go-cart when his father is willing to buy him a $3,000.00 four wheeler? Trade schools are also at fault (IMHO). It is fine to teach CNC machine tool operation but I feel that it should be done AFTER the student has a good grasp on manual operations. These two factors also rob young people of a very important emotional feeling; the feeling of pride in ones work.

11-28-2003, 11:48 AM
Thank you Evan:

Well done!!


11-28-2003, 11:54 AM
Well, the bigger problem is this, no one is a doit your selfer anymore, atleast no one my age. They rather drink, then learn how to build things with their hands. They have absolutely no interest in it, they are instant gratification hungry. They will pay some one else to do it. Its like snow plowing. People used to shovel or snow blow their own driveways, now they pay some one to do it. Mowing the grass, same way. Just the insignificant parts I have made on my lathe, my friends have been awestruck that I was able to make them.
THey ask, how long will it take to make my locomotive? I allways say atleast a few years. They lose interest.
Highschools no longer teach metal shop, classes on learning to use a lathe and mill are not being taught from lack of interest, this country is moving away from it as it's all going to China.
I think the great depression had more to do with creating our Do It yourself attitude than anything else, and as those generations die, the younger people don't have the same attitude.

11-28-2003, 11:55 AM

Nice job and really interesting. It would be interesting to see how these numbers compare to the same information from subscribers to the HSM. As has been stated already, these numbers may be skewed slightly by the fact that we are on line.

When I was growing up, "back in the old days", I had a copy of a 1925 Popular Mechanics Shop Notes, ( I still have it) and used to go through it and wish I had a shop so that I could build some of the great stuff in it.


G.A. Ewen
11-28-2003, 01:27 PM
Right on the mark BillH.

11-28-2003, 02:19 PM
The main reason I take on apprentices is to keep what knowledge I have alive.

A good way to do this, is to have a "open shop" on Saturday program. To let young people come and use your equipment to make and learn. You just ask that they donate some time to sweep the floors or help celan up or stack things.

I am an artist by trade, but I work in metal. I get many young people who want me to instantly grant them my knowledge. But I put out call for an apprentice, and get some interested people. Plus we can not judge these people by their appearance or life styles. You teach them a few thing, put some trust in them and then you have a good worker.

Thanks for doing the survey, it shows what I suspected.

Happy Holiday,


11-28-2003, 03:36 PM
Great job Evan
I agree with what most of the guys have said. If we can create interest and curiosity then learning will follow. Desire
creates the means to the end. Learning is
like eating peanuts, try some and you want

11-28-2003, 04:16 PM
Thanks Evan! great survey.
now we just need to know where every one lives!(over/under the hill?) http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
guess we need more young'ns in here, where is all this hard earned knowledge going to be when all you "antiques" are gone?
you gota start young if you want to get any where. I started to bild up my shop when I was 12 yrs old (started with an anvil)now I have 2 lathes, several anvils, sevral old of drill preses, lots of hand tools, a trip hammer,manny other ods and ends,and an emty wallet...actualy the only thing that cost me any thing was the trip hammer. every thing else was given to me by people I had seen only once or not at all!!
I concider my self prety lucky!
well beter log off.
from the youngest on the board.
oh I live in North Dakota, and it is curently -13.

11-28-2003, 05:32 PM
BTW, I didn't make up the term "tool minder". I was snooping around on a careers/employment board the other day and they had a job listing for a "Tool Minder" to look after CNC equipment, no experience necessary. Just need to be able to press the big red button when a bad noise happens and be able to use a broom. OJT supplied.

CNC has reduced the need for experienced machinists but never to zero.

11-28-2003, 05:58 PM
With regard to tool minders this seems to be the way of the world now. Most mechanics these days are really only parts fitters. They dont repair a part just fit a new one. I would think that you would go a long way to find a mechanic that would file and regap a set of spark plugs or file a set of points.
Maybe a sign of the cost of labour or more likely a sign of the disposable world we live in.

Alistair Hosie
11-28-2003, 06:11 PM
I did a BSc honours degree in psychology and a good part of the degree is involved in quite heavy statistical analysis. About half the course was spent on this.I think it is very fair of you to point out that this is for fun only as there are many underlying variables missing to do it properly. Still it is a good fun project well done. Alistair

charlie coghill
11-28-2003, 09:41 PM
I have a 14 year old grandson living with us for the present. If I would let him he would spend his whole weekend sitting in front of the boob tube. He will come out to the shop and help if I ask him to.

So the hole point of this is I believe that the problem is that our young people are watching too much T.V. and are brain lazy.

This past Aug. I purchased a couple of firewood logs for $75 and sawed them into rounds and let the kid split and sell them. He made $50 on the wood. I hope that seeing how money is made will inspire him to try and learn to do for himself.


11-28-2003, 11:13 PM
It should be noted Evan that the age distribution coincides with a gerneral abundanace of funds for many mid-lifers and hence the ability to "indulge" in this rather expensive hobby.

11-29-2003, 12:06 AM
Thanks for taking the time and effort to do the survey. The results are interesting.


11-29-2003, 02:46 AM
Yes Thrud, I did point that out. Also note that almost half of the respondents have done machining for a living. I did at the age of 22. Not so any more it seems.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-29-2003).]

11-29-2003, 09:43 AM
Lack of money certainly can be a barrier, but where there is desire one will find a way. Ever seen how much paintball stuff costs. Around here it is pretty popular and the kids don't have a problem spending the money.
When I was farming with my father I still found a way to pursue metalworking, even though money was extremely tight. I'm not disagreeing with you Thrud, I'm just saying that the strong desire isn't there with todays youths.

11-29-2003, 11:22 AM
It's true that HSM can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. When you consider the money that the X generation spends on home entertainment, CD's, DVD's, Nintendo games, etc., it makes machining seem inexpensive.

I think the lack of interest has more to do with lack of exposure to shop related activities. Some of the shows on TV are now focusing some attention on shop activities. Shows like "Monster Garage" and "Junk Yard Wars". My 10 year old loves to watch those shows. He also watches "Orange Oounty Choppers".
This is why I believe a show dedicated to HSM would be beneficial to the hobby.


11-29-2003, 03:26 PM
Upon reviewing the data I see that only one person below the age of thirty reports having machined as a primary source of income.

11-29-2003, 06:14 PM
Expensive? Like BFH, I STARTED modifying metal BECAUSE I lacked money. Saved so much money cobbling things up that I bought tools to cobble things with to save money.

I have saved so much money, I bought a tractor to move the tools with. Need more tools now to work on the tractor . I have saved so much money with this in-expensive hobby that I buy coffee at McDonald's cause they sell it for 28 cents a cup to us old codgers.

Seriously, I think kids and US are living in a fantasy world. Kids know a go cart can be built in 15 minutes- they see it done on tv every day and on tv they have time for a commercial breaks. We admire a mans "new automobile" the one he just "bought". Truth is, he traded in an unpaid for car and the bank owns him and his car for next few years- yet we PRETEND it is his car. Or Congress calls a movie star to testify on farm life because she played the part in a MOVIE!. History 100 years from now is gonna snicker about the twentieth century.

11-29-2003, 09:18 PM
Hope no one minds me throwing my 2 cents in here...

Most of my friends (of all ages) are pretty good with thier hands, and are the DIY type. But, that said, most of my friends are older (30's and 40's, as opposed to my early 20's), and 99% of them are involved in racing directly (crew or drivers), so that kinda puts a bias towards working with your hands.
But, the things I've observed from a lot of people (my age and younger especially) is the lack of will to figure things out. Why build it if you can buy it? That is if they even knew something can be built not bought.

I read not too long ago a report about all the ricers now days that are into cars. I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read what the reporter wrote "kids don't want to get dirty working on thier cars, and who can blame them when adjusting the computer will give all the benifits of changing mechanical things on the car". That was paraphased, but still gets the exact point across (which is BS by the way). It's scary how many ricers (sorry, young adults) that are into modding thier cars can't even tell me how an internal combustion engine works.

I built a sign for a fraternity (thier logo on a big metal sign). Now it did turn out ok, but honestly it wasn't anything spectacular. They (chemist and engineering students) were just in awe that something like that can be built and not bought. Sure was a long silence when I said where do you think the stuff comes from when you buy it.

There's a lot of things to blame for a lot of the behaviors of the generations coming up. Not one thing is to blame for them, but it's the snowball effect. Every bit adds up, and next thing you know, well, it's a mess. Most of the highschools around here are getting away from the welding/machinist type classes because of lack of interest (mainly by the school board). I remember fighting with the help of one of my teachers to save at least a few of the classes, but it didn't work.

One thing I've noticed (around my area anyway) is also a lack of support for skilled trades by the elders of the trade. Most of the older people hold thier knowledge very tightly and won't give it out. And the business's around here want tons of experience to get hired (which sometimes I can understand), but refuse to take an apprentice and train them, or when they do the pay is horribly low (barely above minimum wage) and they treat you like your completely ignorant... not my cup of tea.

/end rant

I'm with y'all, something needs to be done to solve this, maybe that tv show will help.

[This message has been edited by AmickRacing (edited 11-29-2003).]

11-30-2003, 01:18 PM
Well done,it confirms what I've suspected for years,if you enjoy working metal then you are a rare animal indeed!

I wonder what the total number of people who frequent this bbs really are,I know lots of people lurk,but never post.

12-01-2003, 01:50 AM
The lurkers are afraid to release the mad scientist within - sad, really. There are so few of us left to breed, almost to the point of extinction.

Wanted: woman with enormous brain and workshop - send picture of workshop http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

12-01-2003, 04:30 PM
"...Congress calls a movie star to testify on farm life because she played the part in a MOVIE!..." That's funny! But sadly, all too true.
I agree with others that lack of exposure is the main detriment to furthering machining interest. It was only 10 or 12 years ago (my late 40's) that I first saw any machine tools. I thought a 'machine shop' is a place where they repair machines. I remember seeing pictures of lathes and maybe some milling machines in the Sears catalogs as a kid (in the 50's), but I really had no idea what they did or how you used them. I know I would have been keenly interested back then, and would likely have pursued a machining career, if I'd had some introduction or exposure. It's sad to hear of such developments as the Ohio case described in another current thread, where they're dismantling the school machining program to build a wrestling center. That'll insure another group of kids will never have the chance to learn of a career field that might be a perfect 'fit' for them. Disgusting!!

I also agree with whoever said (C. Coghill I think) that T.V. has greatly undermined the development of recent generations of our young people. ...and even many older people.

12-01-2003, 07:39 PM
I really pity the kids. Mom & Dad go to someplace where the kid never goes. They (mom and Dad) just disappear. Kid goes to school- can't draw a picture of a gun, they do not wrestle at recess (not here they don't). Kids fights are blown into suspensions and parent/teacher quarrels. Kids never get to "interact " with the real world until they finish school. Too much "structured time", no freedom. If they sit in front of tv or play electronics games they are not fussed at, but how do you learn the rules and limits (meets and bounds of life) unless you get fussed at? THey can not talk to strangers, too many molesters. THey are TAUGHT to wary and distrustful.

Parents think they are protecting child, but really they are raising a child who cannot mature. I fear its the PARENTS who are afraid to take a risk. Gson is 12 now, mom won't let him cross the highway for fear of automobiles. AND she is right- drivers are not accustomed to seeing kids with balls and bikes near the roads. Question is, how do you get the kids educated or how do you get the drivers educated? Can't get there from here? Pity the kids!!!!

12-01-2003, 08:47 PM
Great survey Evan. I would agree with most of the above. People that can do a little bit of everything are slowly becomming an "in demand" commodity. The big question is, how do you interview for such a person? Give him a pile of scrap and see what he can make from it? rr

12-01-2003, 10:49 PM
The shame is that the next really big,earth shattering,course of human kind altering invention is probibly out there,but there are few to pursue it http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//frown.gif

12-02-2003, 12:46 AM
I think I must be one of the youngest people on this board (19). Anyway, I think you guys are right when you say there is a lack of interest. I've worked in a machine shop for a little while for a school co op, but it's hard to get a real job in a machine shop unless you're an apprentice around here. Most older guys look at me and think "he's just a kid, what does he know"
I came 2nd at the skills canada competition last year, and i can work to tolerances of less than .001 with no problems, but it's hard to show anyone that when you're seen as a liability.

As far as machines go, I would love to have a bridgeport and a nice hardinge lathe in my shop,but i can't because I only have a 2 car garage that my parents let me have, and it's full of woodworking machinery, so there's no room for any serious metal stuff. (when i get more space i'll find a way to afford them) Also, oil and sawdust don't mix.

As far as money goes, i like to think that i've done pretty well for myself. I got a job building furniture and decided to buy a bandsaw (laguna 16 sec). then i got a tablesaw (general 350)and the next thing i knew, i had my own business building furniture. I do that part time and its paid for a complete shop full of nice tools (i paid for all my tools myself btw).
it all has to do with priorities, my friends bought beer and i bought tools. I'm happy cause at the end of the day i have something to show for my efforts, and i have skills that they don't. i also make way more money than they do http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif so i just laugh when people ask me why i've spent so much money on tools.

12-02-2003, 01:02 AM
Nice job Evan,
The charts alone would get an "A". Its nice to see where I fit amongst the rest of the populous on this board.

12-02-2003, 03:29 PM
A friend and I (both 25) have recently had discussions on the subject of why more people our age are not interested in doing things themselves. He's currently working on developing his skills in woodworking using hand tools only. Likewise, I'm attempting to learn a little bit about machining. They're just hobbies for both of us, but they're our main interests.
I think the big reason that the current generation isn't interested machining in particular is because they have no exposure to it. I imagine that most of you with children have exposed them to your hobby (or trade), but that's a small minority. How is the majority ever supposed to even think that this field exists? Most things are massed produced. Is there anything you use in your non-machining life that normally isn't purchased from a store, ready to go? Walk into the 'normal' family's house, and find something that wasn't purchased. Those items will be few and far between. Kids and young adults now just know that someone made this somewhere, but it's an abstract concept.
I was born in 1978, and fortunately, was exposed to house construction, but didn't have a clue that metalworking was really a field I could be interested in until recently. The only contact I had with anything remotely similar was with welders who used to work in the oil fields, and now were barely scraping along doing odd jobs. Hardly any motivation to pursue that as a career. But, at least the house construction and my father's do it yourself attitude rubbed off on me.
Most of you on this BBS are probably old enough to have possibly seen machinery for sale in catalogs. I can't ever remember seeing a lathe or mill in a catalog until I recently became interested in this hobby. Certainly not something you'll see down at the Home Depot. I'm still surprised by the number of people who didn't know you could machine things as a hobby. Anyway, I guess all that still doesn't really explaing anything. Suffice it to say that I'm part of the generation that seems to have few representatives in this hobby, and I certainly don't know why others aren't interested. They just don't seem to be.

12-02-2003, 04:32 PM
Thanks for the insight, depressing as it is. My dad was a science teacher among other things and he was always interested in how things work. One thing he would do and one of my favorite things to do was go on factory tours. Car plants are one of the best and they used to let you take home bags of floor sweepings with all sorts of nice screws and other odd bits. Most assembly plants had tours of some sort back then but I suppose most don't anymore for insurance reasons. One thing that doesn't occur to most people even if they are aware of how most stuff is made on automated assembly lines is that those automated assembly lines are NOT for the most part made on automated assembly lines. Many are hand built and tuned by skilled engineers, machinists and mechanics. There are exceptions such as industrial robots which are largely built by industrial robots. In the end however it was all hand built at some point. It sure didn't fall out of a tree.

12-03-2003, 01:40 AM

An interesting survey - thanks.

I see in October MEW the partial results of a similar (reader) survey in Britain. The Editor quotes:
92% of readers who responded are over 45
78% are over 55
80% have internet access (57% at home)
75% have had a workshop for over 10 years,
so it seems that the machinist population is ageing at least as quickly there.