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Need some honest feedback...Please!

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  • Need some honest feedback...Please!

    First, I just want to say "What's up!" (Translation = Hello). As I have been frequenting this site on and off for a year now.

    I recently separated from the USAF as a Weather Forecaster, and I have all of this G.I. Bill money burning a hole in my pocket (more on that in a moment).

    I know this site is dedicated to the hobbyist/enthusiast, but the knowledge here is too good a resource to pass up. So I'll don a flame retarding suit if this crosses any lines.

    In my travels on this board between the impenetrable jargon and machines that are built by Chinese refugees, I've discovered that I want to become a machinist… hobbyist…then perhaps professional. My problem is where do I start?

    Well, for one, I have all of this G.I. Bill money burning a hole in my pocket and with a little research I have found a place to spend it. Albeit, to the delight of the liberal college system (which is ironic, but off topic).

    Two, I live in Tucson, AZ a hot (very hot, as in temperatures) bed of Aerospace manufacturing. With that, there is a Machine Tool Technology program offered by Pima CC in my lovely desert hideaway. This is great because I can learn, and maybe even get a job out it. Or I could just learn and continue to develop my skills on my own, as a hobbyist.

    I was wondering if any of the more seasoned/professional folks would have a look at the shell of the program and offer a little feed back, to a budding entrepreneur/machinist. Does it look decent? Will it be money well spent, if I decide to do this as a hobby? Or should I just keep reading Home Shop Machinist and pick it up by osmosis?

    The URL is:

    I plan on taking every course offered, with the exception of the Electrical Discharge Machining courses...unless I should?

    I'm not ashamed to say that I'm clueless. However, I know that I love to work with metal. I have been making parts for my 4x4 with a MIG welder and a chop-saw for 2 years now. So, machining seems, to me, a natural progression.

    I would like to hear what you all have to say about the industry/hobby I.e. Do you enjoy it, if you do it for money? Typical day? Are you bringing home a good amount of Benjamin’s (money)every month? Would you have taken courses if given the opportunity?


    [ EDIT: Here is a slide show of the shop I'll be learning in. I'm not sure what is required as far as browsers go, but I'm running IE6, XP home, with MS office installed. URL: ]

    [This message has been edited by Rugby10 (edited 07-28-2004).]

    [This message has been edited by Rugby10 (edited 07-28-2004).]

    [This message has been edited by Rugby10 (edited 07-28-2004).]
    343 ~ \"Never Forget\"

  • #2
    There is a lot to learn, and it never really ends. For me, that is one of the greatest joys of machining and fabricating.

    By all means, take some classes and start making chips. Hobbyist or pro, the money will be well spent. You will know pretty quickly if you find it enjoyable. After you have learned a bit, imagine machining all day every day with customers and/or bosses telling you that those parts have to be done yesterday. If that thought doesn’t scare you, perhaps you have found your calling. You are not likely to get rich being a machinist.

    The curriculum sounds ok, but a little light on actual manual machining. Everything else builds from this IMHO. I would at least take the introduction to EDM class. There are several teachers on this board who are well qualified to provide some valuable input for you.
    Location: North Central Texas


    • #3
      Another thought is to take a gunsmithing program. I think there is one in Prescott.


      • #4
        I agree with everything that Joel said. The coarse is mostly the newer technologies, ie CNC. Manual machining in my opinion is a must if you really want to learn the trade. As a hobbyist you probably won't have CNC equipment.

        There is and will always be a need for good machinist. You will need good math skills to be successful as a machinist. Learning in this trade never stops.

        You won't make a lot of money as a machinist but it can be very satisfying. You didn't give your age so I am assuming that you are about 30 with a 30 year career ahead. With that in mind make sure that you really like this kind of work. As you get older the physical side of the work gets harder. With good machinist skills learned and some experience you can always make some money on the side if you have the equipment.

        By all means continue your formal education.

        Good luck with you decision and hope all turns out well for you. I was a Weather Equipment Tech in Air Weather Service in the Air Force a long time ago. Went to the last of the schools that taught vacuum tubes.



        • #5
          Thank you for the candid responses.

          So it seems to be a little light in the manual machining. I talked to the dean and he said some of the old Bridgeport’s were going on the Auction block after they get some newer equipment in. I'm not sure what is replacing the BP's, but I hope it stays manual.

          I would like to learn this trade from a hobbyist perspective to keep it fun. As you said Joe, I probably will not have a CNC machine as a hobbyist. With that in mind, I will spend as much time as possible on the manual side of the shop, while learning as much as I can.

          I'm 25 and looking to work with my hands. I have worked in front of computers now for 8 years. I think it’s safe to say that I know what I don't enjoy. That is, burned retina’s and Glaucoma from staring at a computer screen for 12 hours a day.

          Vacuum tubes? EVERYTHING we use is digital now, except backup DBASI's. I think the oldest technology we use regularly in AF weather is CRT screens for processing DMSP high resolution satellite imagery. Good to know you served! God bless.
          343 ~ \"Never Forget\"


          • #6
            freind here at work went to PIMA for similar stuff. he thought it was very good.


            • #7
              Vacuum tubes aren't dead yet. Check this out:

              Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


              • #8
                <font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Evan:
                Vacuum tubes aren't dead yet. Check this out:


                Most interesting. I love it after having worked with tubes that were as big as I am, weighed more, and cost more than my truck.


                By all means, take the courses. If you can, throw in a class or two in management side of business - accounting or such. It may not seem necessary now but... The GI bill is a great source of educational funds. Use it before it runs out.

                Paul A.
                Paul A.
                SE Texas

                Make it fit.
                You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!


                • #9
                  Another use for "vacuum tubes" would be on the moon. Imagine how easy it would be to build certain types of electronics like power controllers or inverters for a solar power system if all you had to do is place bits of metal on insulators at the right spacings etc. No envelope needed and total radiation hardness as well as temperature tolerance.
                  Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                  • #10
                    If you wanted to keep this as a hobby, you might want to also check into the American Gunsmithing Institutes machine tool training videos. Both the mill and lathe series will run about $1000, but with most machining programs concentrating on CNC, this might be a good alternative to learn the basics and then build on it at the college.



                    • #11
                      Welcome Rugby10!

                      What is this? An Air Weather Service reunion? We now have three posting on the same thread. It is truly a small world!
                      I retired in 1987 after 21 years in AWS.

                      An ex-weather forecaster would be well prepared for "....machining all day every day with customers and/or bosses telling you that those parts have to be done yesterday.."
                      Right Rugby? "...put out that Fcst amendment!" "..Issue that advisory!" "..What time are we going VFR?"
                      "..will that line of Tstms hit before the Wing commander's wife's garden party is over?" Ah the good 'ol days!

                      I agree with the others on taking at least some courses. And if I were at the age to be looking for a new career I'd certainly put machining near the top of my list.
                      I took 4 votech machining courses, and after the first I just had to get me a lathe and BP mill. Having the courses and getting first-person guidance offers insight that would probably take months or years of reading to achieve the same skill level. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then in-person instruction and hands-on training is worth a 1000 pics.

                      If you've been reading thru the old postings you've probably already come to realize that there's probably not a question you could ask that someone here could not answer expertly and authoritatively. ...and more importantly they're all more than happy to help you! So welcome to the group!


                      Lynn (Huntsville, AL)


                      • #12
                        Vacuum tubes are not dead. I play with them every day at work. Real radios glow in the dark.


                        • #13
                          Take the courses that interest you. I've had many jobs Electrician, welder, rigger, engineer. In EVERY case, I was hired to do a specific job. In EVERY case I became valuable because of the stuff I knew that no one was hired to do.

                          Take the courses, learn what you can (every thing) and if you decide to do something else, you will sooner or later use the knowledge. If nothing else (I supervised several hundred men before I hung it up) you know if the jobs are being done right, even if you never admit to having the knowledge (or skill) to do the job your self. Makes it nice when you can go to any shop and listen and understand what the men are saying.

                          And another good thing about machine work- opinions count only if a measuring tool backs the opinion up. Most workers in other fields can fudge the work until it gets painted and sold. Even the Chinese machines have learned slowly that looks don't bring repeat customers- it the stuff you can only measure that counts. Go for it! You will use it all sooner or later.


                          • #14
                            Thank you all for the warm welcome!

                            I wasn't trying to imply that vacuum tubes are dead. They are simply not used as much in weather equipment/operations as they were in the past. That’s all.


                            It certainly seems so! I'm glad you made retirement, that is. It is a stressful job, and I doubt that I will ever have a problem handling pressure.

                            AF weather has changed on levels that I could write a book on. You were in when Units were Detachments. I was assigned to Operation Support Squadrons with a pilot as a commander in every case. You can see the inherent conflicts of interest. It wasn't "when are we going to be able to fly." It was, "We better fly or your EPR will suffer, and... uh... don't mess up" Yeah the good ole days...

                            I'm all signed up as of this morning. I'm taking the introductory machining class, Jig and fixture design, and CAD 101. I'm also throwing in a Fire Science course because the local Fire Dept. is hiring next year.

                            It’s so exciting to be going to school for something I know I'll enjoy. Thanks guys for all the comments, and words of encouragement.
                            343 ~ \"Never Forget\"