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Thread: Where do I start?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
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    Georgia
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    40

    Default Where do I start?

    I want to get into machining but really don't know where to start. I'm a retired Army vet with nothing but time on my hands. I have wanted to learn to do machining and welding for a long time but work, family, and money have always held me back. Now I am in a position that I can spend the time and have the money to learn but I'm really at a loss for where to start. I thought about simply being a lathe and a mill and a bunch of stock and having at it but I'm not sure if that's the best idea. One of the issues I have is the vast selection of machines on the market. I have looked at everything from the Sherline stuff all the way to PM Knee Mills and everything in between. I even considered going to my local trade school and taking their classes (something I think I am definitely going to do) but I wonder if I should buy some personal equipment first.

    I'm sure I'm not the first guy out there that has run into this conundrum and I'm sure I won't be the last. So if there is anyone out there that has some tips, I'm all ears.

    Thanks,

    C4W

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Toronto Ontario Canada
    Posts
    748

    Default Perhaps decide on a project first.

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain4W View Post
    I want to get into machining but really don't know where to start. I'm a retired Army vet with nothing but time on my hands. I have wanted to learn to do machining and welding for a long time but work, family, and money have always held me back. Now I am in a position that I can spend the time and have the money to learn but I'm really at a loss for where to start. I thought about simply being a lathe and a mill and a bunch of stock and having at it but I'm not sure if that's the best idea. One of the issues I have is the vast selection of machines on the market. I have looked at everything from the Sherline stuff all the way to PM Knee Mills and everything in between. I even considered going to my local trade school and taking their classes (something I think I am definitely going to do) but I wonder if I should buy some personal equipment first.

    I'm sure I'm not the first guy out there that has run into this conundrum and I'm sure I won't be the last. So if there is anyone out there that has some tips, I'm all ears.

    Thanks,

    C4W
    Obviously you have a keen interest in being creative and making things with tools. Perhaps, before buying much equipment, you should build up a simple shop, ie a bench, vice, hand tools, perhaps a good drill press and then decide on a project, begin it and expand your shop with the tools needed for that project. Dare I suggest a model steam engine from castings? The world is at your fingertips. I envy the journey of discovery and satisfaction which awaits you. Regards David Powell.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    North Central Texas
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    2,469

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain4W View Post
    I even considered going to my local trade school and taking their classes (something I think I am definitely going to do)
    Yes and yes. You don't yet know what you don't know, and a little schooling will fix you right up.

    Most people machine what they need machined, which dictates the equipment required. While I would say you can't really go too wrong starting off with a mid-sized lathe and some basic measuring equipment, I can only speculate as to what what your needs may be.
    Tell us more specifically what your intentions, needs and wants are (and where you are located), what equipment you already have, and advice will be forthcoming.

    A good place to start is read some books, like south bend's 'how to run a lathe', and search/peruse this site at length.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    North Central Texas
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    2,469

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain4W View Post
    I thought about simply being a lathe and a mill
    This demonstrates a real commitment to the sport!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    East Coast, USA
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    7,369

    Default

    I've always been into wood working since I was a child but I didn't really get into "machining" until I got an uncontrollable need to build things out of steel instead of wood. I started with a drill press, a metal saw, and a stick welder that I could barely use. I ended up taking a basic "Machine shop" course at a local night school. The class introduced the milling machine, metal lathe, lathe tool grinding, metal saw, surface grinding, surface hardening, etc. I was hooked after the class and learned how to operate a Bridgeport, large lathe so I immediately bought a used Bridgeport with DRO and a Clausing Lathe. The basic "Machine shop" class was absolutely KEY for me. Once I got the basic training under my belt, I knew more about what type of machines I really wanted and knew how to actually use them at a basic level. That's all you really need to get started. Someone needs to show you how to operate the machines, how to do basic work with them, how to tram them, etc. Look around your area and see if any local tech schools offer night classes for adults. Look for a "Machine shop 101" type course. You'll get access to different types of machines, and afterwards will be in a far better position knowing what types of machines you want to get and will know what to look for.
    Work hard play hard

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Georgia
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    Yes and yes. You don't yet know what you don't know, and a little schooling will fix you right up.

    Most people machine what they need machined, which dictates the equipment required. While I would say you can't really go too wrong starting off with a mid-sized lathe and some basic measuring equipment, I can only speculate as to what what your needs may be.
    Tell us more specifically what your intentions, needs and wants are (and where you are located), what equipment you already have, and advice will be forthcoming.

    A good place to start is read some books, like south bend's 'how to run a lathe', and search/peruse this site at length.

    I'm located in Georgia and my intentions are to keep myself busy with a hobby that I can work at for the foreseeable future (I figure I have a good 30 years left in me). The love of my life, right behind my wive, kids, and the Army is shooting and in a perfect world I'd love to build my own gun from scratch. With that said, I also love clocks and pretty much anything mechanical, so I would also like to explore clockmaking (like the clock made by Clickspring on Youtube)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    40

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    This demonstrates a real commitment to the sport!
    I guess I should have reread what I had typed.... LOL Obviously I meant buying LOL

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    SE Texas
    Posts
    11,862

    Default

    As far as I can tell, starting machining is much like swimming: pick your end of the pool and just jump in. Although I have never worked as a professional machinist, I began in the hobby around 50 years ago. I purchased a small combination machine (Unimat) which came with a number of accessories and just started trying to make things from metal. Simple things at first, parts for my model airplanes and their engines, parts for model railroad equipment, for telescopes that I was making, for my friend's hopeless wreck of a car, etc.

    There are many more choices for a beginner today than there were back then. I have purchased both new, imported machines and used, US made ones. I would personally recommend the used, US made ones, but that is not a necessity. A small to moderate sized lathe or mill/drill would be the best start IMHO. Think about some simple projects that you may want to start with and then decide on your first machine in terms of those projects. The internet and You Tube can be a big help there. Look for simple projects that can be made on one machine; lathe or mill and go from there. In other words, do what interests you and start slow.

    Another thought in today's world would be to get a 3D printer and have some fun making some plastic projects. I purchased one a few months ago and it is great. I love it.

    In spite of the above, I must confess that the two machines that I use the most in my metal work are a metal cutting saw (I have a 4x6 horizontal/vertical band saw) and a drill press (I have two). You really want to keep them in mind as early purchases. And a bench vise is an often forgotten necessity: it's really not a shop without one. I have done a lot of metal work with nothing but a bench vise, hack saw, file, and small bench top drill press.

    And don't obsess over the decision for the first machine; you will be selecting your second one fast enough. In summary, choose one or more starter projects and get what you need for them.
    Paul A.

    Make it fit.
    You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Toronto
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    10,412

    Default

    Start with a book. Some will say can't learn machining just from a book, there's truth to that but you will be so much better off with a broad understanding and knowledge the first time you turn a machine on. Books are cheap (comparatively) and its rare to lose a body part reading a book.

    Also, consider subscribing to our benefactors magazines.

    From that you'll get a sense of what sorts of machines you want and what you are inspired to make.

    Start with simple small projects and remember to have fun.
    Last edited by Mcgyver; 10-19-2018 at 06:23 PM.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Portland Oregon
    Posts
    712

    Default

    Hey Captain4W,

    I did as suggested above, and went to the local Community College. The exposure was great and it let me see and use the equipment first hand.

    My hobby has been BMC's like the Morris Minor and the MGTD. I found a good drill press and tried milling on it, and it was a complete failure. I then started looking for a lathe as this seemed like the first machine I would use and it is quite a versatile machine, you can even get a milling attachment with limited success when used.

    I had a coworker whose brother died unexpectedly, he was a machinist by trade. His Hobby was blacksmithing but he had a milling machine and a metal lathe, which I purchased as a package deal. I've used the lathe extensively, but the mill would not work for the shop location and my use, so I have sold it. I'm now looking it a bench mill for the size and the type of work I plan to do.

    So the comment that I want to make is, DO try and figure out the things that interest you and shop from that perspective. I have no regret in selling the mill and I will get the benchtop to meet my needs.

    As mentioned before do some reading here and the public library to educate yourself on your purchasing decision. Do ask questions here, no matter how simple, or what you might think is dumb, we will answer them. Some of us come off gruff, from time to time, but pay no attention to that, as they have a wealth of knowledge under that tough outer shell.

    Welcome, and keep us posted on your progress.

    TX
    Mr fixit for the family
    Chris

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