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Second income??

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  • Second income??

    I am fairly new to machining, but am totally addicted. Almost 40 years old, and living in central PA. I have gotten a pretty nice collection of tools...Lincoln SP125+, Atlas 6x18 lathe, Grizzly Mill/Drill. I am still looking for a niche market to make a second income. I was hoping that someone could shed some light about where to go looking for work.
    Arbo & Thor (The Junkyard Dog)

  • #2
    I occasionally consider doing the same. I however, am leery of doing it. I am also close to 40, (36 to be exact).I also would like to, but have not done so. The following things are some of what I took into consideration when I really thought about it. I am married, have two young children, and very little spare time. I, by trade, am a machinist. At home I have only manual equipment. One lathe, two mills, one surface grinder and one cutter/tool grinder. If I had some type of CNC equipment it could make the choice easier. Some, not all, of the things that I would consider are: 1.) Is there a demand for machine work in your area? There are very few shops where I am. Many large and small shops in my are have either relocated or shut down entirely. 2.) Money, machinery, tools, on hand, also your skill level. IE: Some one brings you a part, say a 10" dia. plate. "I want three holes spaced on a 7" Bolt circle. The first hole to be in line with the x axis of table movement. The second 39 degrees from last hole The next 57.5 degrees from the last hole. Tolerance .5 degree. If you do not have a rotary table the example is difficult. You could buy one but, the rotary table is $700, a sizeable investment, unless the costomer is willing to pay $700 for three holes. In effect buying you a rotary table. As far as skills, if you are not a "machinist" or have a strong machining background, how long will it take you (time, broken tools, and spoiled work) to troubleshoot problems. This is NOT meant as an insult. If something is not going right, I may be able to solve a particular problem a lot sooner, with less broken tools, simply because this is what I do 40 hours a week, and have done the last 16 years. 3.) Are you looking to do the one or two of, or some type of small production runs. Production type runs with manual equipment is, depending upon complexity, is time consuming. How long is your customer willing to wait for their parts? 4.)Time. How much time do you have availiable and how much are you willing to put into it. If you are married and have young kids this could pose a BIG problem. The next two may not apply to you however I would consider them anyway. 5.) Location. Will you be able to have a small for profit shop in your home/garage without special zoning/variances. I would have to attempt to get a variance from zoning to have a for profit shop in my home. It would most likely be denied. My mortgage and home insurance will not allow me to do so either. Most machine shop type businesses are restricted to industrial areas. Will the shop upset neighbors? An upset neighbor can lead to BIG problems. 6.) Taxes. If you open a small for profit shop, this will have to be considered. I understand that you are only looking for a second income, that is all I was looking for. I do not think, but maybe you are, looking to make millions doing it. For the time being, I, simply because of time and money cannot do it. I am, at home, content doing small thing here and there, mostly for aquaintances. These are only my thoughts on your question, I wish you the best on your endeavours, what ever they may be.
    Paying Attention Is Not That Expensive.


    • #3

      "I am still looking for a niche market to make a second income"

      That's what you need, niche market, maybe something related to a hobby of yours.

      To put it bluntly, your equipment doesn't make you competitive for general machining. A few spcial niche items are possible with limited machinery though. Most special items require fixtures and jigs that wouldn't be of interest to a large well equipped shop because of the limited market and expense of those fixtures, etc.

      As the other poster mentioned there may be some issues running a busines out of your home. In my area "hobby" businesses are allowed in homes with restrictions, such as signage and other things that might upset the neighbors. Home owner's insurance policies even have provision for hobby businesses. Think about how many professionals like accountants, etc work out of their homes in a legal fashion, so it's possible.


      • #4
        It is my intent to slowly build up my equipment over the next 5 or so years. Maybe a small cnc mill and a few other tools. In about five years the sort of computer store I run will become redundant as the computer biz will change so much that computers will be sold in grocery stores. At that point I will retire and start making special order astronomical instruments for well heeled amateur astronomers. As I get to that point I am attending star parties and hopefully gaining a few more awards for my work which will enhance my reputation and make my products more saleable. I expect to be able to augment my retirement income by at least several $1000 per year, maybe more.

        [This message has been edited by Evan (edited 04-21-2004).]
        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


        • #5
          I have my Niche market, except this is not my "second income", I am retired from one place and work to afford the extras in life, like a car thats in this decade, long vacations with my lady friend, etc, etc.

          Puting out your shingle doesn't get you business, you have to go find the market and then sell your self and your services. This can be a full time job in it's self.

          I spent all of yesterday setting up and leveling a surface grinder in my shop. Today I am doing phone calls and shipping things.

          I just got off the phone with a friend that wants me to help a person who needs some help with his work. He doesn't work in metal, he is just discouraged, like most of us have been.

          You have a great idea, it's just that these things require a great deal of work.


          • #6

            The niche is the thing!

            I picked up "spline grinding" as a "broachmaker". When things slowed down and I got laid of, I bought a spline grinding machine, of started offering "spline machining services". I then bought more machine tools to support my spline grinder (for making tooling)and what do you know, now have a home shop from which I make my living. No one else in my area offers "spline services".



            • #7
              Your comment regarding equipment is true. Unless you have CNC type equipment or you only want to do the one of type work, that no one is in a rush to have, or no one else wants to do, you cannot compete in the machining world. That is, amongst other reasons why I don't. My manual equipment cannot bring in enough income to justify spending 6-8 hours a day plus weekends trying to make extra money. I was not implying that you cannot operate a machine shop from your home. It may very well possible, depending on where you are, insurance requirements, zoning etc. My home owners insurance does allow home business, depending upon what that business is. Mine would most likely allow a tax preperation business, but not a machine shop due to the nature of the business. "Machine shop" is spelled out a a non permitted "in home" business in my policy. Someone probably determined that a tax preperation business is a low $$ loss risk as compared to a high $$$$ loss risk machine shop. Zoning wise, where I am, they would be hard to convince that any "machine shop" business is a hobby. They would term that industrial. Variances for what I will term "clean" businesses, businesses that are not readily visible, ie. accountant, tax preparer, transcriptionist etc. are most likely easier to get than what I will term "dirty" businesses, business that pose a higher visibility, and though not necessarily fairly, are associated with a messy environment, ie. machine shop, auto repair garage, etc. will be a lot easier to get a variance for, if that area is not already zoned for business/industry. From the outside of my home no one would suspect that I have a machine shop inside. I could probably get a variance for a "tool sharpening shop" easier than for a "machine shop". Maybe I should go that route. There is the time thing again. A story: A local couple was detailing cars as a business locally. That couples' neighborhood was not zoned to permit this type of business. They issed ceace and decist orders, made it difficult for them to continue thier business. Their neighbors went to bat for them. Told zoning that the business was not bothering anyone, no big signs, mess, etc. They granted that couple a variance. So, yes it may be legal and possible, but not necessarially easy.
              Paying Attention Is Not That Expensive.


              • #8
                "The darndest things will sell" Lots of truth in that one.One of our customers started making really ornate lawn sprinklers out of copper tubing and brass,they sell starting at $90.00,now I would never have thought that somebody would pay $90 for a lawn sprinkler,but they do,and they do alot.Just hitting craft fairs and such on the weekends they have managed between $8,000 and $10,000 a year extra without really trying hard.Plus its just basic tools.

                Not that you should go out and start building lawn sprinklers too,but it gives you an idea of the niche markets there are for a "cottage industry".

                Basic capitalism:find a need and fill it!
                I just need one more tool,just one!


                • #9
                  On ebay, they pay more for strange things then good ones.



                  • #10
                    Doing something as an enjoyable hobby and doing something where the customer makes demands is quite another thing.
                    For example I need six hundred of those precise widgets for tomorrow.
                    That makes a hobby soon become a drudgery believe me you will soon see what is at the moment good fun, become a chore in no time.
                    If you want to make money from your hobby thats fine but please don't get into a situation where you are churning out things (which may be difficult to do) in a time span that is impossible or stressful to manage or meet.kind regards and good luck Alistair
                    Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


                    • #11
                      Alistair is mostly right, but there is more to it.

                      Like Arbo, I am new to machining and enjoy it a lot.

                      However, I also enjoy solving problems, chasing down leads, winning contracts, and delivering a product that delights a customer when they receive it. I like doing business!

                      To be successful you need to embrace all of those things well. If you only like to spin metal on lathes and don't have an innate desire for the rest, then you will soon find the "hobby" is a drag.

                      If you do have those qualities, then the rest is easier. Finding a niche market will take some detective work, a lot of networking, and mostly listening to peoples problems and needs. When you find enough people with problems you can solve, you are in.

                      Good luck!



                      • #12
                        I quit many years in the oil patch and went into a hobby business. To paraphrase Monty Python, that first one burned down, fell over and then sank into the swamp. I jumped from that to another poorly-considered hobby business, but one I was better suited for.

                        I proceeded to basically starve for several years, make several sacrifices (selling off stuff that I hadn't already sold off from the first biz) and now, approaching six years later, business is finally getting to the point where I might actually show a profit.


                        Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


                        • #13
                          Turning metal on my lathe and mill at home serves to save me money on tools I would have to buy for instrument repairs. I use to do instruments full time and it got to be drudgery now it is fun most of the time. When I can spend an hours worth of time and a few dollars in materials to make an instrument part or tool that would cost me possibly hundreds of dollars it makes the tools worth it.Also, since my daughters started playing instruments it has saved me many dollars in either rentals or purchase, and I get to make a buck or two from the local music store. The extra bit of income justifies my purchases, and my wife enjoys it when I occasionally give her the proceeds.


                          • #14
                            You need to define what you call a home business a little more for yourself, do you want to make a living at it or just make extra play money, I have for the last 4 years made about an extra 1-$4000 dollars doing special cutters (form ground) for a company that no one would touch because they want to make a whole bunch of them and then make them on a CNC grinder, well guess what I do it on a Harig 6"x12" faster and more accurate than they do on a CNC grinder, so I got the business,($500-$1000 a pop) there is virtually no expense to these other than about $1 per cutter for material, and grinding wheels on occasion, I am not getting rich nor do I want to but I give my family a very nice vacation every year, off of just my little play money that I make about every 2-3 months. I also design injection molds on the side for several companies that know me well, I do small molds that I can do in about 15-25 hours worth of time. I have also made some parts for some steering conversion for old Jeeps to modern steering, I don't get rich but I can make about 6 of them at a time and then sell them for $65 a piece scattered over about 6 months, all of this adds up and gives me play money for my own hobby and a little side money for the family. My normal work schedule gives me lots of free time while the kids are in school for the year, during the summer I cut back my working in the garage quite abit though.
                            Its all in what you want to do, and your imagination.

                            [This message has been edited by Mcruff (edited 04-22-2004).]