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Old Newbie has a few questions

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  • Old Newbie has a few questions

    Wow I just typed a post that took a half hour and when I hit submit it vanished and was gone. I will try again.

    Ok this gets a bit long but I think I have to explain it all.

    I am an old newbie as I am 47 and have to operated a machine for an outside employer for 28+ years. I started as a kid I loved machines and anything mechanical. At 8 we would scavenge landfills for axles and wheels and anything else we could find to build go karts. A little later we started putting engines on (back then powered reel mowers were the thing so we had our share of old horizontal shaft engines to rig on our carts.

    At 16 I went to work for a Mobil garage and started by pumping gas then wrecker driver and learned all phases of mechanics. I also learned the tire trade. One of our weekly customers owned a local small machine shop and begged me to come work for him. He said he would teach me the trade. I was a loyal employee so I did not show interest in his job. Week after week he would come in and tell me he knew I had what it took to be a machinist and begged me to work for him. I wilted after about a year. I went to work for him.

    I think I was paid 4.50 an hour but the minimum wage back then in CT was I think 1.75 an hour. I worked for him and learned for several years. I was trained on turret and engine lathes , grinders and drill press. I used the band saw and the normal other stuff. I would make some of my own tools as needed and also used inserts. I was given the task of one of his top money making subs (Pratt & Whitney) work and some Sikorsky sub out work. I helped him find better and faster ways to complete the jobs which meant more profits and also the ability to take on more work. I found out he was getting paid 60.00 an hour for these jobs and I knew I needed more money. I asked for a raise and at first was told he could not afford it but then offered .50 cents an hour. I quit because I felt I was being used although I knew I was taught a trade. I felt I waited years to ask for a raise because I felt I owed him that.

    I went to Avco Lycoming in Stratford CT in late 70's and was hired on right away as a class A machinist and worked their through mid eighties. I was in the turning dept. and ran turret and engine lathes, W&S chuckers and was to learn the then new CNC tape machines. I worked there 6 years but never got the chance to get cnc training as our whole department was closed due to a complete robotic line. I also worked part time for a small shop doing centerless grinding.

    While there I worked R&D on the then XM1 Main Battle tank engine line. Its now called the Abrahms Main Battle Tank our front line tank. I worked on, produced and helped develop the 1500 hp gas turbine engine that powered the tank.

    I ran rough finish jobs and final finish work. I worked from castings and raw steel and alloys alot of magnesium and titanium. I set up and ran all these. I ran many hundreds of the same part and also worked on a single part for days that when it reached me was worth 30,000 which I would be the final stage. This brings me closer to my question. As this was a production shop I would be given a blueprint from the foreman and on it would give me tool holder numbers and insert numbers and go and no go gages if needed. Most jobs I was required to hold at least .0005 tolerances. Most of the machines we ran were WWII vintage and they had their own personalities. You had to learn them if you were to make any good parts.

    I also worked on and repaired the T53 turbine that was used and made famous on the Huey gunships in Vietnam. I also did work for other commercial jobs.

    I went to work as a heavy equipment mechanic in the middle eighties after leaving Avco and after 6 years was hurt on the job and had several cervical fusions due to the injury. I was fired and then was refused any benefits including medical. I was sued into bankruptcy. I fought back and after 6 years of legal battles won the case. My attorney got 80% off all the monies awarded so my life was ruined and I was financially wrecked as well. After several years of medical problems I was finally released to light duty part time work in the late nineties. I went to college 2001 earned a degree in 2004 and searched for work in my field for 2 years never offered a job that would even feed my family. I have worked at several meaningless jobs since and in March I decided to go it alone and work for myself. I had to use my skills and past experience to make something happen. We drag race and as we build or modify our cars we always need parts custom made. Most are not made for sale or if they are they are real costly. I had the bright idea I could get a machine to make our stuff and sell them on the web to other racers as well.

    I really did not know what machines are available for home shops other than Smithy as I seem to get a catalog from them for the last eight years. I just built a workshop so now I have room. I was going to go with the Smithy 3n1 but after looking at one at a local owner I knew it was too small. The mill was too limited even though I have never run one I knew it was.

    I called Smithy and they told me I should get their CX 329 mill and their CZ 239 lathe. I took a second on my house and ordered them a couple days ago. I am worried as I did not see many talk about Smithy here and I am afraid I may have bought the wrong stuff.

    Also I have spent many hours reading the posts here and really I feel I am not in the same galaxy as most as I feel lost when reading them. I am worried I made the wrong move maybe I am not skilled to do what I hope to. I love machines and mechanical stuff as much or more than I did as a kid. I think maybe since I now have to design and mock up and make these things I am not sure I have what it takes to do it. I have never really went this far and at my age and now I have blown my money wad I do not see how I can get any schooling right now. I almost have to earn some money then could maybe get some classes.

    With my back as it is I am not able to work full time so that lets out working for someone. I have to work for myself as I can work according to my capabilities and according to how my back is at any given time.

    So I ask for any suggestions. I am sorry this is so long but I felt the whole story needed to be told.

    Thanks for taking the time to read all this and I hope you can offer some suggestions.

    Life Is Grand

  • #2

    Damn Jim; haven't seen anybody give this kind of personal info. before. If this is honest, I'm sure you will get several responses. Most people hide behind their personal experiences and abilities in order to put forth a "Great Face" Hopefully, this will wake people up to the point of being honest with their replies. Know TOO well about the nerve injuries.


    • #3
      Looks like you did alright with your machinery purchase.

      You bought a square column mill and a gear head bench lathe. Both are very popular choices in entry level machinery.

      Have you considered trying your hand at gunsmithing?

      As far as education goes, it sounds like you have a good general background. Maybe a few books to brush off the ole cobwebs?

      Or maybe video is your thing?
      Last edited by Schutzhund; 04-30-2006, 05:08 AM.


      • #4
        Millman thanks for your kind words,, My post is painfully true. I guess I was wondering if my thought of having been a machinist was really true. Yes I did all I stated but maybe machinist was not the right category. I was a machine operator. I guess I was lying to myself. I read the posts here and although I am very drawn to them I feel I am reading a foreign language with some of it. I know I have not touched a machine in 28 years but I hoped I would have been more in tune with the profession. I do see other posts and I really hope others post as well as I really want and have to make this work for me. I already see a post about video rentals which I never knew were out there. This is great! I know I can make this work.


        Schutzhund,, Thanks for your help as I just stated I never knew those video were out there. Yes Yes I can do video. This already has sparked much excitement with me. I truly do love machines. I know I sound weird but heah its true. loving machines that is. Thanks for your time. I hope others reply as well. This message base is great!
        Life Is Grand


        • #5
          Welcome Jim.

          Some of the guys (most notably, David Cofer) have mentioned that they make odds and ends and sell them on eBay for a pretty fair profit.
          As for furthering your education, I have found the machine shop practice books by Karl Moltrecht are handy to have around. A search should yield several threads with other recommendations for good books.

          Here is some good information, free for the download:

          Good luck!
          Location: North Central Texas


          • #6


            Hope it all starts to work for you.

            I spent most of '04 and '05 at bottom dead center, but this year is starting to look better. So I can relate to your post and recent experiance. Hope the ride doesn't get too rough, it is not a "bad" place as websites go.
            Today I will gladly share my experience and advice, for there no sweeter words than "I told you so."


            • #7

              Cybor sounds like you have been around the block a time or three. You have probaly forgotten mor than most of have learned. But once you knock the rust and tarnish off the sructure will be in good shape your experience is still htere and will not fail you. Good luck with your future endevors. Drop an e-mail with your address and I will send some info that will help refresh you on the basics.
              Tin Falcon
              Ad maiorem dei gloriam - Ad vitam paramus


              • #8
                Cybor, Your introduction message says to me that your past experiences are the best preparation for your new adventures. Now get with it. If you get into areas where you need help let this group know. Plenty of experience here and many ready to offer advice. Good luck. JIM


                • #9
                  Joel ,, Thanks for the link I will check it out. You guys are great. Sometimes knowing where to look for info or help is the hardest part of gaining knowledge.

                  Thanks again!
                  Life Is Grand


                  • #10
                    Techshop,, I hope you have a good 06 and all works out for you. I know its sometimes harder to deal with the pitfalls after constant tough luck. Thanks for the support.
                    Life Is Grand


                    • #11
                      Tin Falcon,, thanks I am not so sure I was ever that good but I enjoy the work and I should have the best chance anyone could since I like what I will be doing. I look forward to your email and tips.

                      Thanks again
                      Life Is Grand


                      • #12
                        jimmstruk, thanks for the support. I will be asking questions as I go you can bet on it. I am not too proud to ask for help.

                        Thanks all for everything!!
                        Life Is Grand