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Seeking ideas for a beginner project.

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  • Seeking ideas for a beginner project.

    I am seeking ideas for a simple, one day or less, project for a beginner.

    I have a young man that recently married into extended family who is from a less developed nation. He has had very little exposure to basic tools and none to machine tools. He has repeatedly expressed a strong interest in machine work and a desire to join me in the shop for a day to see what I do.

    Today we verbally committed to a date for his shop visit (next Wednesday) and I'm now mulling over ideas for a simple project I can have him try (with my direct supervision). My thinking is to have him create a simple useful tool, or an accessory he can use to complement a basic tool or common power tool, such as a drilling guide block. It is very unlikely he will be able acquire any advanced tooling on his own in the near future, so constructing something to support machine tools would not be appropriate.

    I have a fairly well equipped shop, but I'd like to keep these first steps simple.

    Any ideas???

  • #2
    A fancy brass hammer might be a good start.


    • #3
      A basic tool of some sort sounds like a good project and possibly a "Keeper" for him.


      • #4
        for the complete beginner.....make a tapping guide, you know, a cylinder with 6 or so holes of the most common taps drilled into it. Can't get much simpler but it exposures him to facing, turning, layout, drilling ....and its useful.

        For the absolute beginner everything is semi overwhelming, so keep it very simple


        • #5
          Maybe a center punch, or screwdriver with a metal or wood handle? or a drift punch to go with the hammer It would help if you have access to a torch for heat treat/ tempering.


          • #6
            A yo-yo. It's on my list of things to make for/with my kids. A lot of machinist techniques are rocket science in the beginning and as said already, overwhelming, but watching a lathe work is just magic, at least to me. It's not uber precise, or at least doesn't need to be, so you can demonstrate precision but let him cut by eye.

            He's married into the family, I'm assuming kids are about/forthcoming/etc so it'll be for the kids later, for him now.
            Dan from Raleigh, NC

            If it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid.
            "What is your host's purpose for the party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they'd have sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi." P.J. O'Rourke


            • #7
              Plumbob should be easy enough.


              • #8
                The Tubalcain guy has a video tutorial on how to make a plumb bob. Chunk o' steel, drilling, tapping,... It'll also let him crank the compound a few times, hehe.
                Last edited by Tony Ennis; 11-27-2011, 11:20 PM.


                • #9
                  If you only have limited time with him then use it to stir his interest - if he enjoys this type of work, then he'll find a way to pursue it.

                  The most fascinating work a lathe can do is threading. Have him turn a shaft with a "step" on each end and then have him thread the middle part, preferable with an acme thread. Then have him make a nut to fit it. The nut doesn't need to have the "hex" sides - just round. He'll run that nut on and off for hours!

                  If he pursues some machine relate work it'll be kept in his tool box as a memory. If he doesn't, it'll be kept on his desk as a "toy" to fiddle with as he thinks about solving some problem. Either way, he uses his mind!


                  • #10
                    I think about anything he makes could be a personal treasure for him if it is approached right and made well. I'd think about him first - what does he like? Fishing, hunting, office work, etc. and then I'd discuss with him making a fishing lure, a hunting knife, paperweight (a large nut and bolt is fun or even a shiny metal cube) or wherever it leads. An idea will come. Make the most of it, though, and start with a bit of time on a drawing, discuss how you handle dimensions, tolerances, and such as you proceed, and then have fun. Sounds like a quality day is brewing.


                    • #11
                      People who are not in the trade will not be particularly interested in shop made tools so I would avoid going in that direction unless the person is going to eventually be a machinist, but even so I think a beginner's interest will run more to the drift of something a lay person would easily recognize. Let him have fun, there will be time enough later for making tools.

                      A pair of brass dice. Easy to make and looks good as a universally recognizable showpiece.

                      I made a pair on each end of a 2" length of 5/8 brass square stock. I used a ball end mill for the depressions, rounding the corners and edges with a file, buffing the dickens out of it till it gleamed and painting the depressions with red Dykem and hand polishing off the excess. Used a 2" length to give me something to hold on to when I buffed it then cut each end off and finished the last side of each independently.

                      When you think about it you can see how fast and easy this would be to do : set vise stop & manually index i.e. (lower left depression position can be used for 6, 4, 2, 3 and 5 - center for 5, 3, 1 ect. - in other words if you have a stop set you can fly on making the depressions by simply flipping the bar stock and flipping 180 degrees for the second block, (all of the movements between depressions will be the same) - and of course, set the quill stop for uniform depth.

                      You would probably have time left over to make a nice finger ring - something he can wear to remember the day you worked together. With a little imagination I'm sure you could come up with an attractive design that wouldn't take too long to make.

                      I've made both of these projects as gifts during the last year for members of the office staff and they loved them.
                      Last edited by DATo; 11-28-2011, 04:46 AM.


                      • #12
                        How about one of Frank Ford's captive nut puzzles?

                        Use something other than stainless though.....

                        Last edited by Highpower; 11-28-2011, 07:02 AM.


                        • #13
                          the old centre square was my first, then an engineers, then a caliper, covers most techniques plus handy items


                          • #14

                            I will offer up another vote for a small ball peen hammer.
                            They were made by the thousands back when most high school in Canada and the U.S. had shop classes. The reason was the project covered a good cross section of lathe operations. You can find a nice drawing on the Projects in metal web site.



                            • #15
                              Brings back memories of high school.

                              Hammer has been mentioned and is usually a staple of beginner projects.

                              We also did:

                              parallel clamps.
                              a bottle opener for the old metal caps (still have this on my keyring 25 years later)
                              drill gage

                              My preference off the bat would be the parallel clamps. Milling, turning, threading, tapping, knurling, and even grinding if you want to make it fancy.