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Is side work inevitable?

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  • Is side work inevitable?

    I'm just a guy with a few manual machines and a bunch of tools who found out he enjoys making crap, and learning to do it. Inevitably, friends ask me to do things. Cut a dovetail in a slide, make a small part, take this frozen whatever out without screwing it up, weld this, braze that, ect. So far it has been for trade, or barter for something else I wanted. I do not want to become a full time machinist, but don't mind fixing this and that if it is worth it to me. Well, people talk, and people have called me asking for this and that. So far, except for a couple people, the conversation ends when I throw out 50 bucks an hour. Anyone just keep it a hobby? Or do you do some side work?

  • #2
    Like you I do little things for barter or just as a favor. No intent on doing it even half way commercially. I'm also careful to only work on stuff that has no or at least no apparent legal liability issues. As in nothing at all that anyone's well being relies on.
    Chilliwack BC, Canada


    • #3
      I do side work. Mostly just trading favours for a small group of friends. Outside of that I only take on jobs I find interesting, will justify the purchase of a new tool, teach me a new skill, or a few other benefits. I have no interest in working for a rate in my garage. Not yet anyway...


      • #4
        Like you are doing now, I only help friends with projects

        I am sure there are some good business guys here that run shops, but my experience had some bad turns and I quit being a vendor
        Many-many years ago I picked up a local welding fabricator who wanted machining done.
        First, Liability is a big issue. If you make a part and it is used on a machine and someone gets hurt--you are on the hook, so look at incorporating yourself.
        Second, make sure your clients are honest...just because they have work for you ( you are low bidder ) does not mean you get paid !
        so I started working nights and weekends in my home shop
        I did a some small work for this guy and then suddenly he got a big order and I did not demand money up front --bad mistake
        when you are doing a $5,000 job ( 20 K $ today ?) I had to buy tooling and material and he did not want me to know his customer
        so he made new Cad drawings with his name on them and I made the Stainless Steel parts to the print.....One problem --he did not tell me his customer had a spec book on threaded holes and he didn't show me the book , nor mentioned it
        Besides lots of milling in SS , I had to do maybe 200 holes in stainless to a 10-24 thread ( That in itself is a engineering insanity call out- I know because I am a certified Manufacturing Engineer)
        So i drilled the holes for 60 % thread (SME Standard procedure since 1943 ! ) and his project was rejected by his customer ---I don't know what "his" welding fab reject was but on the list was "75% Thread engagement for all tapped holes" ( listed in the Spec book I never saw ! ) Had i known about THAT spec, my quote would have been 30 % higher.....result I never got paid -argued for 6 months , then he folded .. In the mean time I got a rush call Sat morning for a weekend job that would pay me 75 bucks an hour.. but was 30 hours of work and I had to get material too ..had to have it by Monday morning 7 AM...I did it- beat the hell out of me , but i made and got to my normal job Monday as well.. guess what ? ..No pay... Part fit and met all specs .. and the guy said " Sue me ..we are being bought out the end of the month..good luck ..good bye..
        So if i had a relative in the Mafia, maybe i could have got my money ( with a 50 % commission no doubt)

        What I realized is I loved my shop and making chips is a peaceful enterprise. When you do work for others, the fun stuff ends and
        your shop is no longer the dog with a wagging tail when you walk in.
        I left California after that with a bad taste in my mouth
        Just my experience -- but take your shot, just be aware of the pitfalls
        Green Bay, WI


        • #5
          If you charge them a reasonable rate they will go away.
          Also, never let anyone know that you work on Saturdays, this is when the hobbyists are out and about.

          If you weld have a minimum fee, $50.00 for instance otherwise you will soon be up to your ass in worthless broken consumer goods, lawn furniture, $129.95 bicycles, household hardware such as hinges, door handles, frying pans, window latches, plant hangers, tent poles, lamps, lawn mowers and other garden tools, bird feeders, computer desk frames, office chairs, lawn sprinklers, television wall mounts, ladders, gutters and down spouts, fireplace inserts, file cabinets, keyboard drawers, plumbing fixtures, bed frames, wheelbarrows, hand trucks, ancient kitchen appliance parts, brooms, mops, steel buckets, golf clubs, shower curtain rods, outdoor railings that are more rust then railing, the list is endless.

          Do not let Classic Car hobbyists off the hook, if a customer arrives in a $45,000 restored 1967 GTO and requests a new alternator bracket be made for it put the screws to them, the good ones will simply say make it.
          The cheap ones will point out that the OEM part cost $9.95 at the Pontiac dealership in 1971, offer to let them use your Time Machine for $29.95 and travel to 1970 and buy one, this often causes them to go away.
          Last edited by Bented; 11-17-2020, 05:35 PM.


          • #6
            If you are doing machining for yourself or friends it’s a hobby and enjoyable. Doing it for money is work, and for me, not enjoyable. Do you want an enjoyable hobby or a job? It’s up to you.


            • #7
              I’ll do some odd jobs for a few friends, usually no charge or trade for a bottle of wine or a couple scratcher lottery tickets. Most of the time I don’t ask for anything but people feel like they want to do something for you. These are not involved jobs.

              My “shop rate” would not be under $50 an hour, any less than that and I could just stay at work on overtime and make that.

              I do have a hard time trying to come up with a price for a job and usually undercut myself when I do. I think my mental block on that is being capable of making/doing things yourself puts a value of things much lower. I have a hard time realizing that not everyone can do that stuff and should be charged accordingly.

              I see some of the invoices for machined/fabbed parts that come in at work for the plant and think holy ****, I would make them for half that amount and be happy as a pig in slop.
              Last edited by oxford; 11-17-2020, 05:53 PM.


              • #8
                The question is "Is Side Work Inevitable?"
                The answer is yes.


                • #9
                  $50 hr sounds like a bare minimum, but it really depends on if you want the work or not. Look at the job, try to get them to pin it down to exactly what they want, and then give them a total based on whether you want to do the job or not. Often I bid jobs super high because I didn't want to do them when I was a contractor. Probably half the time I got the job anyway. I was kind of stunned the first couple times it happened.

                  Make sure you spell it out that changes, add ons, and anything they forgot or you could not have possibly known ahead of time or they didn't tell you can and will be added on to the cost of the job.

                  Yes I said "didn't tell you" two different ways... on purpose.
                  *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.


                  • #10
                    As much as I hate to say it your advice is reasonably sound Bob (-:

                    The general consumer has no idea what it might cost to make a single product, meaning ONE.

                    Owners of old homes are excellent at this.
                    Can you make a copy of this door handle? It was made in 1825 and I can not find one at Home Depot that looks the same.
                    How much
                    That is well to much, I can buy an entire door for that much at HD
                    Do so


                    • #11
                      When I was poor I was hungry for any side work that I thought could help. I was generally successful.
                      Now I am retired and can afford to say a loud NO to any requests for me to repair or make things for potential customers.
                      That said, I have a circle of friends who cheerfully barter help with all sorts of projects and adventures, none of us even having a thought as to the value of the deals, but just having fun together.
                      Regards David Powell.


                      • #12
                        My old neighbor, 86, i try to find stuff of hers to repair. She makes the best homemade peanut brittle
                        John b. SW Chicago burbs.


                        • #13
                          Let me say 50 hr is sort of reasonable. .. but and if..
                          you have the machinery, the tooling and the ability...
                          let's say 2 inch mild steel hot or cold roll 1 inch hole drilled thru, , not reamed. 8 inch long thru hole..
                          now on my lathe that is like 30 minutes or so.. on a South Bend 9 , it's like 2 hours...or mor.. i tried it..

                          so its got to be worth it .. if any comjercial shop on the street wil do it for 75 or 90.. i dont think charging 12o on a South Bend is fair..
                          unless you explained it all before starting and they ok it.
                          same thing if you bore 3 inch deep holes that can be reamed... takes a lot longer. .
                          I tended to eat some of my time in these cases and try to spend the money I did make on tools. .like the reamer.. to be more efficient.

                          it's one way to get all those things you can't today afford..
                          another I found, if I have to make a fixture , holder, something expected to be used again and again.. i go off the clock, make it for myself, maybe charge a small, portion of it toward the job..
                          when I started I had to make shop stuff several times a week.. later on not very often .. i had it ready to go..
                          after a while you sort of gravitate to certain work... no end to what is out there, but don't try to do everything..


                          • #14
                            I do a little from time to time. Never for strangers. Never for cash. I do favors for friends, and they treat me to fishing trips, lunch, etc.
                            I cut it off twice; it's still too short
                            Oregon, USA


                            • #15
                              Another thing if you do something cheap or give a good break..
                              they will always be back, if you are like backfires on you.
                              like one guy , I said hey you can do its yourself you have a drill..and he said , Yeah but you do a better job, and I probably make a mess... so I guess I was to reasonable. ,
                              I had one guy wanted a threaded main acme shaft for a cheap vice that he broke, looked very frosty at break likely cast iron..
                              I told him like 70 bux or 60 I think and it will be tomorrow. .. and he goes like xxxxxx a big commercial shop at end of street will do it for 45 or 50. So I hand it back to him and say , better take it there. ( I figured he was BSing they had very high pricing )AND he stands there and say no I rather give you the work, and because I knew he was a whiner, I said no I can't take advantage of you can't do it for their price, don't want to cheat you, take it over there... refused to do it for him.. don't think he tried that again, certainly not with me..
                              and it felt so good after he left. .