View Full Version : What made you guys first?

Alistair Hosie
01-28-2017, 12:40 PM
What made you guys first interested in machining,
Originally I thought having a machine shop would make me able to make jigs in case my parkinsons problem got so bad I was becoming a danger to myself. Yeh right the truth is when I saw a dirty old piece of rusty metal in the round being turned in a lathe, and just in the same way that a piece of old wood can be made into something beautiful with imagination and dedication and work and the love of woodworking. When turning this old rusty cylinder into a magical ( almost) new shiny piece of metal I was well and truly hooked. I love my wood and machine shop what fun to end the last part of your life retirement in that case has been good to me despite my problems and Bronwens. Love you guys brotherly love . Alistair

01-28-2017, 12:55 PM
When I was about 14 there was a small machine shop up the road. My buddies and I were building a home-made go kart and needed an adapter made for the sprocket. We talked to the owner and he was a very accommodating fellow and helped us out for, at the time, a quite reasonable fee. While looking around his shop I saw all these neat machines. At that time I had no idea what they were used for. During one of my trips to his shop I noticed a small metal lathe hidden away in the corner, it was a Dunlap sold by Sears and Roebuck I believe. I asked him what he was going to do with it and long story short for only a few dollars I became the proud owner of a metal lathe. After hooking it up to an old washing machine motor I was able to make chips and I mean only chips.
From those early days I got more and more involved in machines and machining and arrived at where I am today.

01-28-2017, 01:08 PM
I wanted to be able to build what I wanted. I first learned wood working, then engines, then welding, then machining. I like the idea of being able to build/fix anything.

A.K. Boomer
01-28-2017, 01:09 PM
Machining started out as a means to an end for most all my inventions are "tangible/mechanical"

not something you can just hang on a wall...

but now that I have a little shop I have to say it comes in handy for all kinds of stuff, even just fixing things around the house or whatever...

sometimes im in too much of a hurry just to get stuff done and be able to enjoy it - other times It's like im in sync and an extension to the Mill and we start cranking out some amazing stuff together... can be allot of fun at times when that happens...

01-28-2017, 01:15 PM
Originally high school machine shop instilled the interest. Its like that old joke about the salesman after asking the guy at the gear factory what they make who incredulously replies "you make gears? I thought you had to buy gears!" It caught me with excitement this idea of being able to make all manner of things from scratch.

As a young adult I spent a few years fixing up old(ish) cars but I got tired of rust and dirt....and it wasn't that rewarding - there was little creativeness in bolting together parts and assemblies someone else designed.(there's creativeness if you are doing stuff like on these custom car/bike shows, but that wasn't my taste). I like really like that about it, that you can create just about anything ....that and the mental challenge of "solving the puzzle"; how go about making parts.

01-28-2017, 01:18 PM
A means to have a Live Steam Locomotive. Still don't have one, but thats ok!

01-28-2017, 01:21 PM
High school "metal shop". Tried wood shop my first year but it didn't really appeal to me. My maternal grandfather was a blacksmith, so I guess I've just got the metal gene. ;)

01-28-2017, 01:29 PM
When I was 5 years old, I told people that I wanted to be an engineer when I grew up, but back then it was because I wanted to drive the train.

In my first "career" job, I worked for a company that made oceanographic equipment. Everything was under one 30,000 sq. ft. roof. Sales, electronic assembly, painting, machining, and my old favorite, engineering. Although I've always been on the electronics and computers side of things, I was inspired when I could sketch up a mechanical widget on a scrap of paper, and more often than not, this clever guy in the back with the fancy machines could get from sketch to a working widget.

It wasn't until much later that I could manage to obtain anything more fancy than a Dremel tool, but it's amazing what can be accomplished with a little imagination and a Dremel.

I've always had the tendency to look at things and wonder how they're made, and I've always liked being able to make and fix things.


01-28-2017, 01:34 PM
I wanted to be able to build what I wanted. I first learned wood working, then engines, then welding, then machining. I like the idea of being able to build/fix anything.
Sounds a lot like my journey.

01-28-2017, 01:45 PM
Working as an engineer I was convinced some designs would be better/cheaper if designed with machining in mind. So I started spending time in the model(machine) shop. Then I bought a mill and made an adapter to fit a Mopar 4 spd in my El Camino. Then came a lathe and lots of piddling around - but it keeps me out of my wife's hair.


01-28-2017, 01:49 PM
My old metalwork teacher, Mr Jim Wrigley, at my old school in Yorkshire. No prizes for guessing that his nickname was "spearmint" !

01-28-2017, 02:14 PM
I've always liked tinkering with things. You can do a lot with glue, tape, tin-snips and screws if you are not too worried about the looks.

My first real machining started as I was learning about locksmithing. The state I live in prohibits ownership of many common tools for opening locks unless you are a locksmith or a student of the locksmith trade. The fear is that lock picks can be used by crooks. I found I could mail order all the supplies I like just by checking a box on the forms that said "student". I learned that It can become a very expensive hobby. A jig to hold the cylinder while working on it was $55.

That's why I bought my first mill. A little bitty thing, but it allowed me to make the tools that I read about without spending a great deal (more) money.

The lathe came shortly after that to allow me to make custom high tech flashlights. It does not require a huge lathe to make a 4 inch long flashlight.

Drilling out the blanks for fountain pens required more Z than my benchtop drill press could manage, so that justified the 1000 lb knee mill. :)

The welding came after that when I wanted to make fixtures without having to drill and tap things . The usual progression from brazing to flux-core to MIG to TIG.

I don't know what my next endeavor will be. The garage is awfully crowded.

01-28-2017, 02:17 PM

Errol Groff
01-28-2017, 03:14 PM
In high school, 1964, I belonged to an activity called Junior Achievement. The sponsor of my unit was Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool in West Hartford CT. We were invited to tour the factory which was very interesting. I decided to apply to the apprenticeship program, was accepted and started my apprenticeship in October of 1965. After a long and interesting career I retired in August of 2011 having been a machinist/oolmaker/modelmaker/instructor for all those years.

01-28-2017, 04:12 PM
I'm a 3rd generation machinist. My Grandfather and Dad were both machinists. My Dad had a shop that at one point employed 40 people. I used to be there a lot as a kid when I wasn't in school, it was cheaper than hiring a babysitter. My Dad died of cancer when I was 12, so I didn't inherit the shop. My Mom ran it by herself for a year, but it was too much to do that and raise 3 kids at the same time. She sold it at auction. When I got older and wanted machines I had to start over from scratch. Oh well, that's life.

01-28-2017, 04:20 PM
When I was around 5 I had a bad dream. My dad came into my bedroom to console me and suggested that I read a magazine from the bookshelf. The first one I picked up was Popular Mechanics. I had been a 'hands on' kind of person since age 2 or so, and the things I was reading about fascinated me. I read through the ads as well, and one was for a Unimat metal lathe. I can't describe the flood of possibilities that went through my mind. I had no idea of how to afford such a thing and it went out of mind- not completely though. Many many years later my first lathe was- you guessed it, a Unimat! I was into model building previous to this, and since we owned a hobby shop/cafe it was easy for me to get into. We were into slot cars then and the lathe seemed to be the hot machine to have. After I graduated and had my stint doing sound and lights for a rock band, I settled into work in electronics and bought my first vehicle, then traded that for a Land Cruiser. It was the same year I got the Cruiser that I bought the lathe. I remember taking the body panels off and making the drive from Chilliwack to Victoria to a place called BC Shaver where I got the lathe, and was introduced to the many miniature engines that people had built and displayed there. Fascinating.

I guess you'd have to say it wasn't born out of a need, but from a perspective of capabilities. If I had a lathe, then there was so much more I could do-

01-28-2017, 04:31 PM
I took high school shop - manufacturing class - and we did a lot of work in that class. My teacher was a younger fellow at the time who just got his teaching license. He spent a 15 years working as a tool and die person. During the time he was working as a tool and die person he went to university for a degree in electrical engineering. When he graduated he couldn't find a job and continued to work in tool and die.

We had to routinely turn shafts to within .001". We cut spur gears regularly. He was a demanding but friendly man who enjoyed teaching us.

After high school I studied mechanical engineering technology at a local community college - which had a machining component to it. After taking my high school classes, that class was a joke. When I started working in industry I was absolutely shocked by how little many knew about actually making things. I've always designed things that I think could be made, and I always am intimate with the method in which it is made. That's probably why I ended up working towards my engineering degree in manufacturing. Even still, it surprises me how many manufacturing engineers don't know what a lathe is or how to use one.

My machining skills have allowed me to prototype designs quickly and effectively. I'm still amazed at what I get out of those high school classes that are now disappearing. Besides my father's mechanical training when I was young, the technical skills I learned at high school have been the most valuable skills through my life to this point.

01-28-2017, 04:35 PM
My Grandfather and Father were Machinists my son is one too, I on the other hand am a Heavy Duty Mechanic and have been for the last forty years. I remember going to the machine shop my family owned as a wee tyke barely able to see over the dashboard of my Grandfathers 1949 Mercury, there I saw a world of mechanical awe. When they finally let me look around on my own in the shop I was amazed at the size of the machines and what they could do. I heard stories of jobs done big and small, about inventions never patented because they were just too busy for that sort of thing and the history of how it all started with my Grandfather. I learned some basics there along with welding and pulling wrenches which leads to today where I am presently cleaning up a hardly used 1945 South Bend lathe for projected use into my retirement. Now when it comes to employment I rarely repair anything, mainly train Apprentices and help direct young Journeymen but when I'm home the mechanic in me is set free. Can't post pictures on this website otherwise I would show you pictures of my latest almost finished project.

01-28-2017, 05:43 PM
My uncle was a millwright/machinist at US Steel in Duluth MN when I was a kid, and my dad was a gunsmith. I was always interested in the things they were making or fixing. I knew how to read a micrometer when I was 10. Took all the machine shop classes I could in high school and had a part time job in a shop that made instrument housing parts for aircraft.

The aircraft instrument shop, I'm sad to say turned me off of a career machining. I was only 17 and I was they guy that got a shoebox full of tiny screws to slot one at a time on a mill set up to do it. Or whatever tiny tedious 10,000 parts that needed some kind of finish op done to them. they asked me to stay after I graduated, but I said no thanks. I found the work they had me doing incredibly boring, and had no intention of making a career of being bored.

Now I wrench on cars and trucks for a living and have a small shop (vertical mill, 10x24 lathe, shaper, etc)in my garage to relax and make a few extra bucks here and there.

01-28-2017, 05:48 PM
My love for astronomy and telescopes. I purchased a Smithy 3-in1 back in the mid-90's to make telescope parts, and now it just got out of control...

01-28-2017, 06:16 PM
My father is an engineer, but was always building and fixing everything around the house, planting the seed of mechanical aptitude. Later at university I took a non-credit class which was an introduction to machining, it was the single class I enjoyed most from my entire study. I got a lathe because I wanted to make stuff I think up, but mainly use it now to fix things, often for my day job. The first single point threading I ever did on my lathe went straight into holding a toe-actuator on test vehicle together.
Really understanding how to make something definitively gives one an advantage when designing stuff.

Wishing I could be a manufacturing engineer...... now that would be a fun job.

01-28-2017, 07:07 PM
I bought my 1st torch set with the small bottles & a Lincoln 225 Buzz box new when I was 16. Used to race motocross so I built a bike trailer & always fabbed things, Had a lathe in the hanger but filled up the hanger with great American iron when the recession hit & all I had to do was beat the scrappers to get pick of the litter. Sad but I've seen loaders push great machines into piles with big loaders. I saved all could but was only a drop in the ocean.

01-28-2017, 07:41 PM
I was into electronics from about 10 years old. Later when I ran my own business, I needed timers which I could not buy off the shelf so I made them. Same thing happened when I needed some metalwork, not available from stock, expensive and long delivery times so I bought the machines to make it myself. I don't need to make anything now, still like to tinker though. Dave.

01-28-2017, 09:31 PM
My grandfather was always into woodworking since he retired and so I've been around that since I was born. I eventually moved onto metalworking but still dabble in hand tool woodworking and wood turning. I'll be making a intermediate toolbox from maple cut down from the property in the next few weeks.

Sent from my XT1053 using Tapatalk

Tim Clarke
01-28-2017, 10:06 PM
As long as I can remember, I wanted to make things. Dad and uncles were tradesmen, carpenters and millwrights. I wanted to grow up and be just like the old man, a honest and hardworking small time building contractor. In fact I hoped to take over the family business when dad retired. That dream went up in smoke shortly after my 14th birthday when Dad passed away suddenly. Although I had worked with/for him every summer from the time I was very young, I was in no way ready to be even a bonehead carpenter. Mom and I fell on hard times, and I found myself hustling for a buck. Delivering papers, mowing lawns, and fixing lawnmowers. The big change came in high school, with the shop classes, and mechanics 101. I'll never forget the history teacher that told me I was a good history student. Of course, he was dead wrong, the smile on my face when arriving at his classroom was due to the fact I had been in the metal shop, and then gone to lunch with my girlfriend. (no, not the burger joint, it was a closed campus) 46 years later, I'm retired from being a heavy-duty truck mechanic, and have a nice home shop. Still have Dad's table saw, and some of his small tools. I still, to this day wish I had his yellow "55 Ford pickup......

Jim Williams
01-28-2017, 10:29 PM
When I was about 12 years old I asked my parents if I could get a motor scooter. No way would they even consider it. I then asked if I built one myself could I use it. Thinking that impossible, they said I could. I purchased a used B and S engine from a garage owner on my paper route and a couple of months later I was riding. The garage owner had a lathe and I had him turn a couple of parts of my design. I later got a job at the garage and was operating the Carrol Jamison lathe at age 14. Some years later I got a mechanical engineering degree from Auburn University. That was 60 years ago.


01-28-2017, 11:37 PM
From reading the ads in the Sears & Roebuck catalog for their 6 & 12 inch lathes. Wanted to be able to make parts for gunsmithing. Could not understand why Sears would not sell guns to someone that worked in a mine.

01-29-2017, 12:18 AM
I suppose metalworking is in my DNA. My father had worked at Martin's as a machinist in the 1940s and his father had been a metal finisher in Germany. My maternal grandfather worked at Sparrows Point as a boilermaker. My father was also skilled in electronics and that is what interested me most, although I also enjoyed making things out of wood and metal.

http://pauleschoen.com/photos/robot60a.jpg http://pauleschoen.com/photos/paul64b.jpg

I also liked trains, and I even had my own striped railroad engineer's suit with the escape hatch in the rear. My grandfather even took me into the cab of a B&O engine and I blew the whistle.

I took wood shop and metal shop in Junior High but in high school I took three years of drafting, which I thought would be my career. But my main interest was electronics and I got a scholarship to take the EE program at Johns Hopkins in 1966. I couldn;t handle the advanced math but I had proficiency in lab work and computers so I changed my major accordingly, but I never got a degree. I ran a small business called "Campus Repair Services" where I fixed TVs, stereos, bicycles, hair dryers, and such, mostly at nearby Goucher College. In 1974 I got a job as an instrument technician at a small company called EIL (Edgerly Instrument Labs). Here I am in all my hirsute glory:

EIL also manufactured large circuit breaker test sets that involved some metalworking, although mostly subcontracted to various shops. I became an electronics design engineer and I got involved in the design of new equipment that involved considerable metalwork, although it was done by making drawings and having items manufactured for us. My work was mostly electronics design but it also involved some mechanical design. When the electrical testing division was sold to our competitor (Multi-Amp/AVO/Biddle) in Dallas in 1989, I formed P S Technology, Inc and I provided repair and calibration services to EIL while I also designed my own line of breaker test sets using toroidal transformers. I started working for a friend who had a calibration/service/manufacturing business and I designed various equipment, some of which involved mechanical design, mostly sheet metal, but also copper buswork and machining of phenolic insulation and other materials.

By 2003 I became dissatisfied with the job and I went back on my own, hoping to build a new version of test set. I knew I would need some tools, so when Harbor Freight had a 10% off everything sale, I drove 100 miles to their store in Lancaster and loaded my Isuzu Trooper with over $2000 of machine tools, including the mill/drill, 9x20 lathe, welder, bandsaw, and many more. I mostly learned machining from books and a friend who had a small machine shop, but I didn't get very far on the test set project. Around 2010 I became interested in making an electric tractor and I used the lathe and milling machine for some parts of that project. I was a regular on DIYelectricCar but when I had more machining questions I joined HSM a few years ago. I took machine shop classes at the Community College in 2014-2015, where I used their Bridgeports and Clausing lathes, and other larger machines. But I did much of the work on my own machines.

01-29-2017, 12:47 AM
Like most everything else, from hiking to sheetmetal, I bought my lathe/mill in the interest of collecting capabilities. I figured I could turn my own brake rotors, make stuff, you know.

I build up my collections in functional groups while learning the skills to use the equipment. Doesn't matter if it's hiking or welding, it's the same. Get the gear, learn how to use it, figure out the holes, and build it up until it's complete. Then prove to myself it's complete. Got my hiking pack, everything but food, under 20lb. Got to the point where I'd go into a hiking store and leave with nothing. Nothing there I wanted but didn't have; nothing would add more capability than the weight penalty. Can't quite get there with machining... it's a curse. The collection is never complete, though I have gone into the local tool stores and walked out with nothing. That says more about the tool store than my collection. Now it's a capability verses space issue. The good stuff that would add capabilities are either too big or not at the local store. Mostly, they just get added to the list of things to build.

That said, not everything takes off. I've got a 3in1 sheetmetal machine, spotwelder, plasma cutter, beader, air punch and flange, a bunch of Clecos, all kinds of hand tools... can't think of anything I actually want to make out of sheetmetal. Other than the plasma cutter, which is rather useful, the stuff just sits there. Okay, I did roll an old computer case to make a sleeve to fix an exhaust leak. Not exactly a measurable return on investment. But, someday, I'll either come up with something to use that stuff for, or it will be the first to go when I downsize.

The machining stuff... I'm keeping that. No idea why I enjoy it so much, still can't brag about any meaningful return on investment, but, dang, it's fun. Finally turned those brake rotors last year too. :cool:


Tim The Grim
01-29-2017, 01:00 AM
My maternal grandfather was a highly decorated WW1 vet and Fire Department Captain. When he didn't want to tell "war" stories, he'd tell me about building the machines that made Shredded Wheat and Triscuits in the Niagara Falls plant. Between the War and going full time at the fire dept., he was a machinist for Nabisco and later on could still bring us home Triscuits that were warm enough right out of the box to melt butter. I was always fascinated with things he did and talked about with his pals at the local bar where he would set me up with one of those 6 oz. mini mugs of Genny Cream Ale or PBR. I was 6 years old. My folks didn't know our "secret".

When I got a chance to take metal shop in jr. high school I jumped in head first. Then I bought a Harley and my shop teacher helped me make parts to chop it during my senior year.


I went to a MC mechanic school and got a job in a H-D Dealership but it went bankrupt and then I took a job as a Machine Shop Trainee in a Tool Room of a local factory. That's what I was born to do and worked a lot of different shops for 30+ years until I got fed up with NAFTA.
I only machine as a hobby these days.

01-29-2017, 02:05 AM
To fix and/or make stuff.

As for the first machining work, not counting drilling holes in bars of metal, and grinding/bending the odd one of them, to modify existing equipment, the first thing I used a lathe for (after figuring out how to do threading on it) was to help make an adjustable grinding station for sharpening lawnmower blades (I spent maybe 1/2 that a similar commercial unit would cost).

01-29-2017, 02:31 AM
My Grandfather and Father were Machinists my son is one too, I on the other hand am a Heavy Duty Mechanic and have been for the last forty years. I remember going to the machine shop my family owned as a wee tyke barely able to see over the dashboard of my Grandfathers 1949 Mercury, there I saw a world of mechanical awe. When they finally let me look around on my own in the shop I was amazed at the size of the machines and what they could do. I heard stories of jobs done big and small, about inventions never patented because they were just too busy for that sort of thing and the history of how it all started with my Grandfather. I learned some basics there along with welding and pulling wrenches which leads to today where I am presently cleaning up a hardly used 1945 South Bend lathe for projected use into my retirement. Now when it comes to employment I rarely repair anything, mainly train Apprentices and help direct young Journeymen but when I'm home the mechanic in me is set free. Can't post pictures on this website otherwise I would show you pictures of my latest almost finished project.

Yes you can, there are no restrictions on who can post pictures contrary to what the blurb at the end of the thread always says.

Read the "sticky" about photos at the start if the forum. WE LOVE PICTURES!! :)


01-29-2017, 02:49 AM
What made you guys first?

Probably some Pepsi or Chocolate Chip Cookies, two of my dad's favorites...That's what made me first.

As for how I got started on this slippery slope, it was the trains that did it. I needed things and the lathe looked like a fun way to make them. I bought a little Taig, planning to learn on a new machine so I didn't have to wonder if it was the machine or me that wasn't giving me the results I wanted. It's not a bad way to go really, as long as you realize you're not going to turn more than small objects on it. I occasionally use it in repairing trains, and have completed some repairs with it where the parts were likely to be unobtainium.

I sure wouldn't mind getting a bigger lathe, one about the size of my wood lathe would probably keep me happy for a long time... but I'm keeping the Taig even if I get a big lathe. (If anyone's got one in the central IL area that needs a good home, I might be willing to trade space and little green rectangular things for it.)

01-29-2017, 05:33 AM
I've just always, since my earliest memories, wanted to build stuff. At this point I almost feel compelled to build stuff. I have no idea why.

01-29-2017, 06:44 AM
Guns. I got tired of paying and/or waiting for somebody else to fix them.

01-29-2017, 10:41 AM
Mine was firearms as well. Some parts just cannot be found. My first turnings were re-tipping Gewehr 98 Mauser firing pins that had been 'demilled' by snapping the tip. New firing pins are available, but these are serial numbered parts. Also do Gewehr 88 commission rifles. It has progressed far into other interests, automotive, jewelry, etc.

01-29-2017, 10:59 AM
I have always had a desire to build things beginning at about eight years old in 1948. I began with simple model airplanes as most boys did in those days. I can't tell you how many Comet stick model kits I messed up before getting the hang of it. I also religiously read Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Mechanix Illustrated magazines beginning in about 1950 when I was ten years old. Popular Mechanics always had a brief section on machining metal in every issue and I was intrigued with the idea. At the age of sixteen I was offered a job at a local hobby shop working on Saturdays, during Christmas holidays, and during the summer. I saved my money and bought my first metal lathe, a Craftsman (Atlas) 6"at the age of seventeen. My Dad who was an avid hunter and fisherman was greatly disappointed that I wouldn't buy a nice shotgun. I told Mom and Dad I would put it in my bedroom and it wouldn't make a mess. Boy! Did that get a laugh from my parents! I was forced into the basement. That metal lathe was the first machine I ever owned, wood or metal. Slowly, using the money I was making from my part time job, I added a Craftsman floor type drill press (which I still have and use), and a Walker Turner 14" band saw bought used (which I still have and use). I entered college at Georgia Tech and, being from Atlanta, I lived at home. I still had my part time job so I added a Smith's oxy-acetelyne welder (which I still have and use). After I got out of Ga. Tech in 1964 I kept adding to the shop until over the years I have accumulated a very extensive metal and woodworking facility. I can't explain it, it appears to be a sickness!!! Is there a "tool-a-holic anonymous organization somewhere?

Paul Alciatore
01-29-2017, 11:08 AM
I have always been interested in making things. This started in my early childhood and I can remember getting my first tool kit with a few basic, woodworking tools. I was in pig's heaven cutting my first board (scrap). I guess I see metal as a continuation of this. You can make more sophisticated things with metal. And I love electronics too. And computers.

I think it may represent a desire to control my environment. We all like to be in control of things.

Tundra Twin Track
01-29-2017, 01:01 PM
I was always interested in building stuff from a earlier age, started off with wood construction but got bored with it's limitations.Bought my first machine at 16yrs old a 16" Import power hacksaw from the new local Peavymart store.Did a few odd jobs after high school and at 22 returned to the family farm and with spending a lot of time operating farm machinery let the brain to dream up and design machines to make jobs easier and more efficent.Married at 25 and 3 kids later was still intrigued with metal working a lot of friends and neighbors would tell me you can't build this or that most times proved them wrong.At 50 decided to build a larger shop to meet the demands of larger equipment and my desire to make room for upgraded metal working machines.I am content with my current inventory of machines now other than would like to have a Mig Welder,we see how next year crop turns out.At 57 am currently working on a grain auger to speed up handling grain at grain dryer to be completed for fall of 18.

01-29-2017, 01:56 PM
One thing I always think of is the parts that can be made from a single chunk of metal. Holding any stock metal chunk in my hand I always think "this chunk can be machined into some $1,000,000 possibly life saving part, or just turned into waste/scrap." That thought has always intrigued me.

john hobdeclipe
01-29-2017, 10:01 PM
I have always wanted to make things and fix things. But life in general and some poor decisions along the way interfered.

At age 20 I was working in a cotton spinning mill, and was in and out of the machine shop quite often. I often think that I should have stayed at that job (they wanted me to) and perhaps learned more about metalworking, but I had other dreams at the time.

A few years later I was taking courses in furniture manufacturing, and thought a lot about about dropping that and taking some of the machine shop courses offered at the technical school. But the thought of adding 4 hours of classes 4 evenings a week on top of a full time job dissuaded me.

In my work in furniture manufacturing, I eventually found myself in the metalworking end of it...working in the tooling dept. grinding knives, making and maintaining saw blades, and designing machine attachments and accessories, and eventually doing maintenance and rebuilding a couple of major machines. Through all of this I kept learning more and more about metalworking but never in a living situation that permitted a home shop and equipment.

It was not until about 13 years ago, however, that I was in a situation to have a shop and start obtaining the tools and equipment I had wanted for so many years. My first lathe was a Craftsman 6 X 18, with milling attachment. I started making things with it immediately, such as new latches for the old storm windows in our house, countershaft for my wood lathe, a solid brass canopy to match a light fixture we had, etc.

Since then I have acquired more really nice tools and equipment...more than I ever dreamed I would own. Now I make tools and stuff to support my woodworking and other interests, I make tools and stuff to support my metalworking interests, and on and on.

And to say the least, discovering and participating in this forum has added a lot to my education.

01-30-2017, 08:13 AM
This is a great thread! Very interesting reading everyone's story.

I was brought up in a generation that was encouraged to pursue higher education to the extent that vocational courses were looked down on. My dad had a similar story in school, his guidance counselor told him that there was no future in his passion (working on cars) and he ended up becoming an electrical engineer instead. Growing up though, he was always fixing things, working on cars, making things. I remember him telling me to consider the vocational courses at our high school, but I was too interested in computers at the time. I've loved learning how things work and fixing things since I was a kid, but as far as I was concerned in high school, working with my hands for a living just wasn't an option... because my friends, teachers, and guidance counselors had successfully brainwashed me into thinking a job working with your hands was somehow second-rate (in fact, I'd go so far as to say the exact opposite is true in reality).

I wasn't ready for college, I partied instead of doing my coursework, and got kicked out for bad grades after the first semester. I worked in a printing factory for a year while I tried to figure things out... didn't take any longer than that for me to know I didn't want to be a stock slitting machine operator for a living, lol. I reapplied to the same school, got in, and continued there for a year with decent grades, but my heart wasn't in it. I ended up transferring to a 2 year tech school nearby to get a 2 year degree in the same discipline (computer science), and was happier there and did better with a more practical approach to my studies. I got good grades but it was still difficult for me to maintain enough interest in the mandatory courses that I didn't care about, to get the work done. I've always had a hard time motivating myself to do things I don't want to do, whereas I'll develop a case of mania and work around the clock on something I love.

Anyway that piece of paper got me a good job, I got great experience, got to work on some really high end offset printing machines, got to see the world on someone else's dime, and started making my own life. Can't knock it. I continued to build and repair things in my spare time, especially anything car related. Like my dad, I'm crazy about cars. Still, machining never even crossed my mind - never gave it even a fleeting thought.

Looking back on things, I think it's fascinating that I never got into machining right from the get-go. I don't know how or why it worked out that way, but it did. Maybe if there had been a lathe in my dad's workshop growing up, things would have been different. As it happened though, it was my sudden interest in repairing pocket watches that got me pulled into machining, many years after graduating school and leaving home. In fact it was after I was married and we had purchased our home. It would have been around 2010 that my interest in machining started and my first real lathe project was at the tail end of 2011.

There's not much point in thinking about how things *could* have happened, it can't be changed and I wouldn't want to change it anyway. But it is sad how many people were/are steered away from trades they could excel at (and that we desperately need). My boys (6 and 8) have been able to identify lathes and milling machines for years, and already love spending time in the shop. My girl just turned 1, but my guess is she'll be a shop rat too. :) Whatever path they choose, I know they'll do great things. My youngest boy is uncanny with a coping saw, the kid hasn't broken a blade yet! I must have broken every blade my dad had when I was a kid.

Anyway, all that to say my interest in machining is inexplicably recent. :)

01-30-2017, 10:35 AM
I wanted to be able to build what I wanted. I first learned wood working, then engines, then welding, then machining. I like the idea of being able to build/fix anything.

This! It started off with wanting a go-kart when I was in 5th grade. I started snagging old lawnmowers out of the trash, learned how to fix small engines, learned basic metal working, welding, etc. Eventually I wanted to build a transmission for my karts using the gears out of a self-propelled mower so I started poking on the internet... I found this place and bought a Smithy 3-in-1. The rest is history! :)

I learned electrical, plumbing and carpentry when I bought a house. I now do tile, drywall, furniture and cabinet making, etc. all because I want to build the things I want!

01-30-2017, 11:11 AM
"Young man it's not bought, it's hand made every piece of it!" I was told as a 1st year
apprentice when I asked where he bought his lovely skeleton model of a elevator complete
with tiny buttons, opening doors, lights and bells...must say he got me interested in machining.

01-30-2017, 11:11 AM
I've just always, since my earliest memories, wanted to build stuff. At this point I almost feel compelled to build stuff. I have no idea why.

Completely (and succinctly) articulates the origins and nature of my own interests. I might add: a disinclination to become totally dependent on someone else's expertise to solve my own problems.

I might mention my eldest son who has a similar orientation and a home shop with machine tools to go with it.

01-30-2017, 11:48 AM
we needed robots to pack cameras and chemical sniffers into dangerous locations at work. we made our own for a tenth the price of commercial bot, built from the ground up to suit our unique needs. I was front and center when they asked for volunteers.

I've just always, since my earliest memories, wanted to build stuff. At this point I almost feel compelled to build stuff. I have no idea why.

first thing I built was a birdhouse. the feeling you get when you see birds in your birdhouse can not be duplicated with drugs, alcohol, sports victories or any other common adolescent experience.

01-30-2017, 12:35 PM
When I was quite young, maybe 4yrs old, I was utterly mesmerized by mechanisms.

When I would hear the garbage truck coming up the driveway, I would run to watch the mechanism that would dump the back bin into the top of the hopper

Even when I got older, the old mousetrap game was hypnotic to me. I didn't want to play the game, just set it up and watch it go. Rube Goldberg machines still fascinate me.

My dad had been a machine shop owner for many years, and through World War 2. He kept subscriptions to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, and I would read all of them.

He bought me the big erector set and Heatkit electronics experimenter sets, when I was young. I was always taking stuff apart to see how it worked. Once I took an etch-a-sketch apart, and left it lying around on the bench. My dad got the graphite all over his work slacks, and I caught hell for not warning him! :)

My dad had a lot of interests including shooting, photography, wood working, welding, and kept a pretty decent shop in our basement, mostly Delta Milwaukee shop tools. A drill press, band saw, 12in disc sander, lathe, radial arm saw, oxy-acetylene welding rig, etc. So I became accustomed to using all of them at about 14. As I got older I would maintain/rebuild my own motorcycles and cars.

I eventually became an electrical engineer, and lived in apartments for about 10 years after college, and lost the shop facilities, although I kept all the tools in storage after my dad died. When I had a place of my own, I set up all the tools again. Still use all of them to this day.

Then I got into building aircraft and bought a big bench-top mill. Eventually bought a used Bridgeport, then a new lathe, then a mig welder, and all the acoutrements.

Through the influence of this website and others' I think I've become addicted to tools.

Now, as I approach retirement, I enjoy machining as much as I love electronics.

01-30-2017, 03:02 PM
This! It started off with wanting a go-kart when I was in 5th grade. I started snagging old lawnmowers out of the trash, learned how to fix small engines, learned basic metal working, welding, etc. Eventually I wanted to build a transmission for my karts using the gears out of a self-propelled mower so I started poking on the internet... I found this place and bought a Smithy 3-in-1. The rest is history! :)

I learned electrical, plumbing and carpentry when I bought a house. I now do tile, drywall, furniture and cabinet making, etc. all because I want to build the things I want!

Pics of these karts are required or this is a complete fabrication!

01-31-2017, 03:39 AM

01-31-2017, 01:05 PM
I must have been 10 or 11 years old. I remember wanting to get my hair cut to look at the Popular Mechanics magazine they had in the barber shop. Really like looking at the articles with the lathes and mills in it. Didn't know a whole lot as to what I was looking at. But thought I'd be able to make anything I wanted to some day. I also wanted to go to trade school. Parents would not that happen. They though that's were deplorable basket was. THEN I witnessed an RC airplane. Well a career in electronics is what happened. But the cellar has a shop in it.


Tim Aldrich
02-04-2017, 09:03 PM
This is version 2. Condensed from the story I had written previously which was full of unnecessary ramblings. I'm a professional rambler ;)

Machine shop exposure came during junior and senior high schools. Both parents came from families who were very independent, largely due to the Great Depression, so I grew up in an environment where we made things ourselves and fixed things ourselves. Within reason of course. Dad wanted things done right so if he couldn't fix something properly a professional was brought in.

After high school I forgot about metal shop and went to tech school to be a mechanic. Machine shop abruptly came crashing back into my life when years ago I had a problem to solve at work. A lift gate chain sprocket had a roached needle bearing, the lift gate needed to be working the next day. I hacked a bushing from an old brass fitting with a bench grinder and drill press. It was to be a temporary repair but it lasted for about a year. That's when the thought entered my mind that the whole job would have been much easier if a lathe had been available.

Now, there's a small group of machines sitting in my basement that I use frequently. I can't believe how liberating it is to not be chained to the "parts not available" syndrome.

02-26-2017, 01:27 PM
At that time of age when you start wondering what you will do for a living I was at a boiler shop with my dad, he was a boiler inspector, and after standing around outside in the snow watching the welders work on a wet boiler we went inside thru a warm machine shop. That's all it took, I decided to be a machinist not a welder. Years later I was working for Washington Iron Works and the snow blowing under the door wasn't melting and I wondered if that was the best decision.


02-26-2017, 02:18 PM
One of my grandfathers was an engineer. When I was about 5 or 6 he gave me an erector set. It included an electric motor kit that had to be assembled. I built a 2 foot tall robot with swing arms and wheels. Then I had to figure out how to build the motor with a bunch of gears. Before building the motor he gave me a clock to take apart and put back together. If I could make the clock work again he figured I would be able to make the motor kit work too, which I did.

So I got it all working and it was running along the shiny hardwood floor. My grandmother complained that it might scratch the floor with the metal wheels and he told her to be quiet and go do something else. And yes, I did that when I was only that old. I started reading when I was three and by the time I was five/six I was reading at the high school level. I still have that first "real" book. The "BOYS FUN BOOK" from Foremost Books. "Things to Make and Do".

That book has all sorts of neat projects from model airplanes to many things that required some sort of metal working to make. Things for a bicycle, "How to build a speedy Soap Box Racer", "What you can make from old Tin Cans" and many other cools things.

It wasn't just machining that I got into, it was and always has been about creating things myself. It really doesn't matter what it is and I always like to put an element of art in what I create.

I always think "this chunk can be machined into some $1,000,000 possibly life saving part, or just turned into waste/scrap." That thought has always intrigued me.

Very much the case with me too. I made a cutter some years ago that was going to be used to make medical tools for surgery I think. That was by a former member here that I don't see on here now.

Paul Alciatore
02-26-2017, 04:34 PM
I just like making things.

Alistair Hosie
02-26-2017, 05:33 PM
Some of you Americans really inspired me .Remember I am just a hobby guy, but always try my best. When I started out woodworking I remember seeing some of your workshops , a lot of them, not all, were simply beautifully designed. You guys being perhaps at that time slightly more affluent always had nice clean shops usually double garages and we had very little in the uk to compare.
I was born into very poor circumstances in the notorious Gorbals in Glasgow and saw a lot of hard times. If people had any for of a workshop when I was young, it was usually made up in the backyard from old house doors very crudely knocked up to keep out the rain, that or Nissan huts formerly used as bomb shelters during ww2.
They were always very cold with many broken windows, usually filled with old newspapers, and the saw dust was always knee high. And they I remember always were full of giant spiders.
Those images seemed to prevail until the late seventies or eighties along comes our pal NORM, and we saw how it should or could be done. By that time most of us were earning better wages , and could afford to set up home in nicer neighbourhoods, and then they always had a nice garage car staid out on the drive. No more using two sides of the toilet paper. LOL just kidding Many hobbyists like me now have pretty good stuff the demise in this country to any form of industry meant many had to give up and restart in new types of jobs. As a result of that the Indian and Chinese governments bought up at auction a lot of the useful bigger stuff , leaving many good used heavy duty machines for me and me alone LOL.
I started out almost always buying used good stuff and as it was for a hobby never had to worry about getting it to feed the family. My heart went out to many who did have to give up in the eighties , during Margaret hatchet. Then two thousand businesses a week were going bust, while she was paying outside companies to come here and set up without guarantees of staying ,rant over anyway love hearing about you guys. Alistair

02-26-2017, 09:26 PM
My dad had his personal auto repair shop in the garage, with an old flat bed atlas lathe. I fell right into that! It was the most natural thing for me since breathing, take a piece of old metal and turn it into whatever the need is for. What freedom! I still marvel that my God has blessed me so, in other ways even more as well.

Alistair Hosie
02-27-2017, 11:48 AM
Well You say parts production take a piece of old metal and turn it into whatever the need is for. What freedom! I still marvel that my God has blessed me so, in other ways even more as well.

Well said my thoughts exactly . The first time I saw someone take an old piece of round stock that was rusted, and put it in the lathe and turn it into new stock, just like taking a tree branch and turning it into a candle stick or truncheon etc I was also hooked. MY question is Parts production (Wish we had a smaller name) why do so many excellent or otherwise wood turners or metal lathe workers by ready made little fittings that could be easily made. I had a friend who was a good woodworker he told me he had just bought an expensive new woodworking bench and asked me what I thought. It cost around seventeen hundred pounds uk I replied why did you not buy some wood and make one your supposed to be a woodworker. He then did this and made an excellent workshop bench and sold the one he bought all within a month for way under what he had paid. What are we thinking sometimes. ?Alistair

02-27-2017, 09:24 PM
I was about 12 years old, the neighbor kids and I were building a coaster car (orange crate on four wheels) needed a rear axle shaft. The kid's dad, Mr. Preskop cut one for us on a little Atlas 6" lathe. I was fascinated with the idea of actually cutting steel.... the rest is history... Bought my first lathe (10" Atlas) in high school (1963). Six semesters of high School machine shop, eight semesters of mechanical drawing. Since then have accumulated a pretty extensive machine "hobby" shop. I still have the Atlas lathe, my go to machine for small stuff. Also have all of my late father's precision tools, he was a tool and die man.
Joe B