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Machinists that taught or inspired me

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  • Machinists that taught or inspired me

    A few minutes ago I was in the shop making an alignment tool for a friend. It was several long cuts and I got to thinking, who inspired me to do what I have become.

    I started as a self taught machinist doing home shop machining. Then later I moved to Missouri and started a full time small engine repair shop and doing machine work. I started doing some part time work for a man that made tree clearing attachments for Caterpillar tractors. He was a master machinist and I learned some from him just working for him on odd jobs. He was not real talkative and I had to draw things out of him.

    After a stint with Cummins I moved back to Kentucky and went into job shops and learned from some of the older machinists because I asked questions and listened. The first shop I worked I had the pleasure of making friends with a man that was a machinist at Oak Ridge on the Atomic bomb project. I learned a lot from Bob and eventually bought his lathe and mill and other stuff when he quit his home shop. Bob died from medical problems related to working on and around radiation materials. He was a kind and gentle person and had a wealth of information and I picked his mind all I could.

    The second to last shop I worked there was a machinist that some would not class as a master machinist but was so damn close that it would be hard to argue he wasn't. He worked in many shops and the last before where I met him he was machining FA Uzi machine pistols, and other Fa guns. He had a vast knowledge of machine work and while cantankerous I got along well with him. Anytime I had something I was having trouble with I went to Dan and bounced it off him. He could run manual machines and CNC machines and he was extremely good at all he did.

    The last shop I worked after I retired was run by a man that was a real Master Machinist and he and I got along very well. There was and is nothing I can ask him that he has not had experience doing. He ran several shops and owned a large shop of his own. When his son died in an accident he no longer wanted to run his shop and sold out and worked for others. Don is another wealth of knowledge I go to from time to time. He also gave me his Geo heads and boxes of dies and other stuff he no longer wanted.

    When I left Missouri and came back to Kentucky I really wanted to go back to Springfield Mo. but Mom and Dad needed me more than I needed Springfield. If I had not moved back to KY there would have been a wealth of information I would have never been exposed to. I have been real lucky to have first hand experiences with these machinists that enriched my life and knowledge.

    Those men have forgotten more than I will ever be able to experience or remember.
    It's only ink and paper

  • #2
    Dang, I wish I had had access to so much info and help.

    I had about ten days of training from an older retired machinist who had worked for Crenlo Manufacturing in Rochester, MN. I can't compare him with others, but he could do about anything. He spend his retired life in his garage building more and more tooling to build more and more tools. He loved it.

    This guy would help anyone who came to him with a project, without charge. I had an idea for a small injection molded object and he and I built a simple mold together. The doing was great. The object, did not work out as well as hoped. BUT, I got the machine bug and here I am.

    What little I was able to learn from him I have put to use. This forum is extremely helpful too. I have never worked in the field, so any small part to job which turns out well and right on the money is a triumph for me. That's what keeps me going.
    Vitَria, Brazil


    • #3
      Mine is a heart wrenching story. I had just finished a full plate of sauerkraut and smoked sausage with a side of mashed pototaoEs with sour cream and chives. I stumbled over to the computer with a cold cup of coffee in hand and Googled "machinist forum" and it brought me to this place. Wouldn't you know it, the first thread I snagged had Sir John and Evan going at it bare knuckles. Don't remember which thread it was exactly but it was fascinating. Had something to do with how many microns in a 6' power cord or something like that. I was hooked. The insults they hurled and heaped upon one another had the computer screen red with blood. I opened another beer just in time to refresh the screen and see Lazlo, JTier, Boomer, and several others nipping around in circles to keep it all stirred up. That's the honest truth. Since then I've not been able to go more then a day or two without firing up the mill or lathe, shoving my bare knuckles in there just so I could get my screen red with more blood. Something about all that red that makes a man feel alive...

      And that gentlemen is how I got interested in machining and that's the truth.
      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
      Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

      It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


      • #4
        Nice !!

        A few for me:
        1) At a young age I watch a local machinist in a sawmill repair some parts for
        my dad's restaurant. Later in his life he came to my shop and had a look
        around.He was trained in the 40-50's and he had no interest in the CNC Stuff
        but loved the old shaper I had.Told me that 'she could do magic'.
        2) Had an Indian Motorcycle 75cc Made in Taiwan.Parts were very hard to find
        for it.Had to go to a machine shop in "town" and a Mr. Nightingale make a
        bushing to adapt a break part for me. It worked perfect, and made a young
        person's day.Still think of him whenever a young guy comes in with broken
        motorcycles parts.Bet he is watching...
        3) At trade school I spent a lot of extra time with my shop instructor.I had
        already done most of the other courses before I got there(math,english
        science,etc) so I had extra time.He was a tool and die maked from the UK
        with a vast knowledge of machining.While the others were at other classes
        I was in the shop with Ed learning all the tricks I could.Perhaps I got 3
        years extra from that 10 months with he in that shop.
        4) Last but not least is John S of the UK.Perhaps one of the best out there
        Never met him yet, but always there to bounce a few ideas off.
        please visit my webpage:


        • #5
          I only WISH that there had been a machinist who taught me or inspired me.

          I am self taught, learning by making mistakes and boy do I make a lot of mistakes.

          Honestly, I look up to Evan and Sir John. If I can ever do half of what they do, I'd feel proud. Except for their arguing, that is.


          • #6
            Thanks Carld. This is a great thread. I think my inspirations have come largely from this forum and I really appreciate it.

            Seeing as how we're dropping names ... I'd just like to say that, along with some of the others mentioned, I really look up to Forrest. Between PCarpenter, Lazlo, Beckley23, Mcgyver and him (in no particular order ) I've been able to venture into scraping, which is something I've wanted to do for a while. Also, Forrest always offers extremely good advice and criticisms in very tactful ways. I've never felt "ripped apart" when he criticizes something I've done poorly.


            • #7
              I only WISH that there had been a machinist who taught me or inspired me.
              Same here...the only really accomplished machinist I really know is a guy, who runs a one man shop about an hour away, that I see maybe 3-4 times a year. He has two mills, 2 lathes and a couple other things tucked into a cramped 20 x 30 pole barn. He keeps busy making a lot of one-offs, prototypes and nondescript widgets. He has sold me countless things I needed to help me out with my machine work at generous rates and always stuffed a handful of endmills in my pockets as I was leaving.

              Never really got into a nuts and bolts conversation with him at length but he has been at least a motivator to me.
              I bury my work


              • #8
                You guys

                1) I will have to say this forum. I am the one of my friends who does the machining. They ask me questions and i try to be knowledgeable, but it is usually tidbits of info from here. When i first joined, The big Gorilla, Thrud made me feel welcome (rest his soul). Never condenscending and always told me to be safe. There have been a tons of you guys who have helped me out as well.

                2) My machinist teacher from night school. He made me learn there is a right way, and a RIGHT A WAY! haah. Enjoyed that class, and he would tell me stories of how he got where he was and what he was doing. I gave him some work when i was at the ski hill, and he was always a pleasure to deal with.

                3) A friend of mine Chris. A former machinist, turned welder, he rents my shop/machines from me from time to time. I show him jobs and he helps me estimate on how much to charge.

                Keep the help coming



                • #9
                  Old Alex

                  When I was going to the local community college, I worked in a shop that supported the owner's wood products businesses. Plywood and lumber. He did his own logging and trucking, and about everything you could imagine came thru that shop. The youngest guy other than myself must have been 40 or so, and the rest were from maybe 50, to past retirement age. Old Alex, the oldest of the lot was pushing 70, I think. He was an old school machinist, and if it was mill equipment, he'd been there and done it. Another machinist had served his apprenticeship in the Southern Pacific machine shop, here in Eugene, Oregon. Hadn't got far enough to avoid the draft, but finished up when he got out of the service. These 2 guys liked the variety of work they got, so were pretty happy there, and were willing to take a little time to give the kid a little advice.

                  Alex probably never realized that I looked up to him, his attidude, and his skill. I finally realized that he never hurried, he never busted his tail, but he never made a false move, and what he did always worked the first time. One day I asked him if he ever screwed up. He told me he never had very many failures, that he learned something form every piece of scrap he'd ever made. And, he tried really hard to never repeat any mistakes.

                  That's a pretty good example for a young guy, no matter that I wanted to be a mechanic. I'm strictly a home shop metal butcher, but I can't help think of Alex whenever I fire up my Shaper. He probably could have made you a feather duster on the Cincinatti shaper at that shop, with only a sketch on the floor with soapstone.

                  There are others that have shared their knowledge with me, and I'm grateful to them all. Too many now, to remember them all. Hopefully I've been able to pass a little on to others.

                  I cut it off twice; it's still too short
                  Oregon, USA


                  • #10
                    recoilless, spend more time with that machinist, he is wanting you to develop in the trade and may be willing to let you work with him at times to learn things you want to know or do. Don't be afraid to ask.

                    That time to think today made me realize how much others have helped me along whether I knew it or not. If you find someone that is willing to teach, discuss and demonstrate what you want to know then work with them to learn, watch them work, ask any question you need the answer to now. Tomorrow may be to late.

                    We have the best machinist forum on the web right here. It's just like some shops I worked, some are easy going and some are crotchety but all will give help to the extent of their knowledge and experience. I visit this site several times a day to see what is happening and what others are doing or need.
                    It's only ink and paper


                    • #11
                      When I was growing up, there was a guy over the back fence Richard (Dick) Key. He was a tool and die maker for Vendolator, a company that made vending machines. He had a shop in his garage. Not a metal shop, more wood tools. He spent the evenings out there building boats, and drinking beer. And his work was truly craftsmanship.

                      Rodger lived next door to Dick, and was my best friend for many years. Rodger and I wanted go carts, but had no money. Mine was made from a 2x8 some 2x4's, a Briggs and Stratton from a washing machine, and rope steering. Brake was a wood rubbing block on the tire. My house had at least 6' all around, that was the track. Well, Rodger teamed with Dick, and "they" built a master piece, also wood because of the cost. I learned about caster angles, and how to design the steering trapezoid so the tires don't scrub on sharp angles. Their brake was a v belt in a pulley, stopped on a dime. Steering was precise.
                      But it was heavy, and in a race around the house, I kicked Rodger's butt every time. An early lesson into the costs of perfection vs performance. Or maybe I was just better at dirt tracking around the corners. I also learned that drinking beer was part of building things.

                      Then there was Jack. He owned Helix Engineering. I got a job there when I was 20 in 1967, going to school full time, and working full time. He didn't care, as long as I punched in and out. (We only got paid when we were actually working on a specific job.) One day Jack came over and harassed me for slacking on a job. I was climb milling a 1"x1 1/2" slot in a 4"x4" bar about 12' long, this on a K&T horizontal where it was common to stand on the table and use a toe on the rapids. It was going to take ~3 resets of the bar. Move the bar, dial it in, set the cutter. Well, I was dropping the rapid a way out, and letting the table ease into the next pass. Jack came over cussed and grabbed the rapid. He dropped too late, cutter grabbed the stock, flung it off the table, and bent a 2" arbor. He swore to never touch that machine again, I doubt he did. From Jack I learned patience.

                      Last is Derrel. He was a true machinist. He had one speed, perfection. Tolerances were ignored, if the hole was 1/4" he reamed it. Lathe work was typically within .0003". He was not liked by other machinists, that's why he was banished to work with us technicians. Many of our machines were WWII surplus, cherry picked for sure, but in 33 years, I never saw a new machine until CNC. From Derrel I learned that it's not the machine but the man, when it comes to precision.


                      • #12
                        High School '67-'71

                        E Norman Meyers - Mechanical drawing
                        Peder Gundersen - Wood Shop
                        Robert Kuipers - Metal Shop

                        First Tool Room Job - '74

                        Joe Giglio
                        Jerry Cain
                        Phil Confalone

                        First Die Shop job - '76

                        Oscar Wylde Lyons
                        Frank Otto Ritter
                        Victor Palais

                        Wire EDM shops - '87-

                        Frank Patracola

                        Ronald Leone ... Where would I be and what would I be creating today if he hadn't left us so early? - I like to think he might be my Guardian Angel.

                        The whole is equal to the sum of it's parts. A part of each of these guys is still a part of what I'm made of.
                        Illigitimi non Carborundum 😎
                        9X49 Birmingham Mill, Reid Model 2C Grinder, 13x40 ENCO GH Lathe, 6X18 Craftsman lathe, Sherline CNC mill, Eastwood TIG200 AC/DC and lots of stuff from 30+ years in the trade and 15.5 in refinery unit operations. Now retired. El Paso, TX


                        • #13
                          I had the good fortune to spend three semesters as a student of Mr. George Bonnand at Fullerton J.C., in Calif. He is the finest machinist I've ever known. Due to a change in my work schedule, I stayed away for just one semester, when I returned he had moved on. That taught me not to take things for granted, and not to let opportunities go to waste. I have studied under a couple other machinist, but none could hold a candle to Mr. Bonnand.


                          • #14
                            To tell this story properly I would have to be a better writer than I am. So short version instead, two uncles were machinists, a neighbor was a tool and die maker and a jr. high buddy's dad was the best millwright-welder that I have ever met. Then when I was in high school I went to work for a machine shop who's owner was a retired Aerojet Gen. machinist, He and his part time machinists (all retired from Aerojet) were a wealth of knowledge.
                            But the most inspiring mentor I had was My Father.
                            With out knowing Him all of You will think that I'm just bragging, but ask any one who knew him and they will tell you that I speak the truth . He could do anything, and never refused to help anybody that asked .

                            I miss each and every one of them,but I have all of you guys now when I need further mentoring.



                            • #15
                              I have covered mine before, see here


                              Unfortunately there were many guys who helped me but because of the short period of moving from station to station I have forgotten their names and the ones I can remember it would be unfair to mention out of context to the others.

                              I have come across very few who regarded themselves as prima donas and kept what they knew to themselves, if you had a genuine interest most would go out of their way to help including giving up spare time.


                              Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.