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What made you guys first?

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  • #16
    When I was around 5 I had a bad dream. My dad came into my bedroom to console me and suggested that I read a magazine from the bookshelf. The first one I picked up was Popular Mechanics. I had been a 'hands on' kind of person since age 2 or so, and the things I was reading about fascinated me. I read through the ads as well, and one was for a Unimat metal lathe. I can't describe the flood of possibilities that went through my mind. I had no idea of how to afford such a thing and it went out of mind- not completely though. Many many years later my first lathe was- you guessed it, a Unimat! I was into model building previous to this, and since we owned a hobby shop/cafe it was easy for me to get into. We were into slot cars then and the lathe seemed to be the hot machine to have. After I graduated and had my stint doing sound and lights for a rock band, I settled into work in electronics and bought my first vehicle, then traded that for a Land Cruiser. It was the same year I got the Cruiser that I bought the lathe. I remember taking the body panels off and making the drive from Chilliwack to Victoria to a place called BC Shaver where I got the lathe, and was introduced to the many miniature engines that people had built and displayed there. Fascinating.

    I guess you'd have to say it wasn't born out of a need, but from a perspective of capabilities. If I had a lathe, then there was so much more I could do-
    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


    • #17
      I took high school shop - manufacturing class - and we did a lot of work in that class. My teacher was a younger fellow at the time who just got his teaching license. He spent a 15 years working as a tool and die person. During the time he was working as a tool and die person he went to university for a degree in electrical engineering. When he graduated he couldn't find a job and continued to work in tool and die.

      We had to routinely turn shafts to within .001". We cut spur gears regularly. He was a demanding but friendly man who enjoyed teaching us.

      After high school I studied mechanical engineering technology at a local community college - which had a machining component to it. After taking my high school classes, that class was a joke. When I started working in industry I was absolutely shocked by how little many knew about actually making things. I've always designed things that I think could be made, and I always am intimate with the method in which it is made. That's probably why I ended up working towards my engineering degree in manufacturing. Even still, it surprises me how many manufacturing engineers don't know what a lathe is or how to use one.

      My machining skills have allowed me to prototype designs quickly and effectively. I'm still amazed at what I get out of those high school classes that are now disappearing. Besides my father's mechanical training when I was young, the technical skills I learned at high school have been the most valuable skills through my life to this point.


      • #18
        My Grandfather and Father were Machinists my son is one too, I on the other hand am a Heavy Duty Mechanic and have been for the last forty years. I remember going to the machine shop my family owned as a wee tyke barely able to see over the dashboard of my Grandfathers 1949 Mercury, there I saw a world of mechanical awe. When they finally let me look around on my own in the shop I was amazed at the size of the machines and what they could do. I heard stories of jobs done big and small, about inventions never patented because they were just too busy for that sort of thing and the history of how it all started with my Grandfather. I learned some basics there along with welding and pulling wrenches which leads to today where I am presently cleaning up a hardly used 1945 South Bend lathe for projected use into my retirement. Now when it comes to employment I rarely repair anything, mainly train Apprentices and help direct young Journeymen but when I'm home the mechanic in me is set free. Can't post pictures on this website otherwise I would show you pictures of my latest almost finished project.


        • #19
          My uncle was a millwright/machinist at US Steel in Duluth MN when I was a kid, and my dad was a gunsmith. I was always interested in the things they were making or fixing. I knew how to read a micrometer when I was 10. Took all the machine shop classes I could in high school and had a part time job in a shop that made instrument housing parts for aircraft.

          The aircraft instrument shop, I'm sad to say turned me off of a career machining. I was only 17 and I was they guy that got a shoebox full of tiny screws to slot one at a time on a mill set up to do it. Or whatever tiny tedious 10,000 parts that needed some kind of finish op done to them. they asked me to stay after I graduated, but I said no thanks. I found the work they had me doing incredibly boring, and had no intention of making a career of being bored.

          Now I wrench on cars and trucks for a living and have a small shop (vertical mill, 10x24 lathe, shaper, etc)in my garage to relax and make a few extra bucks here and there.


          • #20
            My love for astronomy and telescopes. I purchased a Smithy 3-in1 back in the mid-90's to make telescope parts, and now it just got out of control...


            • #21
              My father is an engineer, but was always building and fixing everything around the house, planting the seed of mechanical aptitude. Later at university I took a non-credit class which was an introduction to machining, it was the single class I enjoyed most from my entire study. I got a lathe because I wanted to make stuff I think up, but mainly use it now to fix things, often for my day job. The first single point threading I ever did on my lathe went straight into holding a toe-actuator on test vehicle together.
              Really understanding how to make something definitively gives one an advantage when designing stuff.

              Wishing I could be a manufacturing engineer...... now that would be a fun job.


              • #22
                I bought my 1st torch set with the small bottles & a Lincoln 225 Buzz box new when I was 16. Used to race motocross so I built a bike trailer & always fabbed things, Had a lathe in the hanger but filled up the hanger with great American iron when the recession hit & all I had to do was beat the scrappers to get pick of the litter. Sad but I've seen loaders push great machines into piles with big loaders. I saved all could but was only a drop in the ocean.


                • #23
                  I was into electronics from about 10 years old. Later when I ran my own business, I needed timers which I could not buy off the shelf so I made them. Same thing happened when I needed some metalwork, not available from stock, expensive and long delivery times so I bought the machines to make it myself. I don't need to make anything now, still like to tinker though. Dave.


                  • #24
                    My grandfather was always into woodworking since he retired and so I've been around that since I was born. I eventually moved onto metalworking but still dabble in hand tool woodworking and wood turning. I'll be making a intermediate toolbox from maple cut down from the property in the next few weeks.

                    Sent from my XT1053 using Tapatalk


                    • #25
                      As long as I can remember, I wanted to make things. Dad and uncles were tradesmen, carpenters and millwrights. I wanted to grow up and be just like the old man, a honest and hardworking small time building contractor. In fact I hoped to take over the family business when dad retired. That dream went up in smoke shortly after my 14th birthday when Dad passed away suddenly. Although I had worked with/for him every summer from the time I was very young, I was in no way ready to be even a bonehead carpenter. Mom and I fell on hard times, and I found myself hustling for a buck. Delivering papers, mowing lawns, and fixing lawnmowers. The big change came in high school, with the shop classes, and mechanics 101. I'll never forget the history teacher that told me I was a good history student. Of course, he was dead wrong, the smile on my face when arriving at his classroom was due to the fact I had been in the metal shop, and then gone to lunch with my girlfriend. (no, not the burger joint, it was a closed campus) 46 years later, I'm retired from being a heavy-duty truck mechanic, and have a nice home shop. Still have Dad's table saw, and some of his small tools. I still, to this day wish I had his yellow "55 Ford pickup......
                      I cut it off twice; it's still too short
                      Oregon, USA


                      • #26
                        When I was about 12 years old I asked my parents if I could get a motor scooter. No way would they even consider it. I then asked if I built one myself could I use it. Thinking that impossible, they said I could. I purchased a used B and S engine from a garage owner on my paper route and a couple of months later I was riding. The garage owner had a lathe and I had him turn a couple of parts of my design. I later got a job at the garage and was operating the Carrol Jamison lathe at age 14. Some years later I got a mechanical engineering degree from Auburn University. That was 60 years ago.



                        • #27
                          From reading the ads in the Sears & Roebuck catalog for their 6 & 12 inch lathes. Wanted to be able to make parts for gunsmithing. Could not understand why Sears would not sell guns to someone that worked in a mine.
                          North Central Arkansas


                          • #28
                            I suppose metalworking is in my DNA. My father had worked at Martin's as a machinist in the 1940s and his father had been a metal finisher in Germany. My maternal grandfather worked at Sparrows Point as a boilermaker. My father was also skilled in electronics and that is what interested me most, although I also enjoyed making things out of wood and metal.

                            I also liked trains, and I even had my own striped railroad engineer's suit with the escape hatch in the rear. My grandfather even took me into the cab of a B&O engine and I blew the whistle.

                            I took wood shop and metal shop in Junior High but in high school I took three years of drafting, which I thought would be my career. But my main interest was electronics and I got a scholarship to take the EE program at Johns Hopkins in 1966. I couldn;t handle the advanced math but I had proficiency in lab work and computers so I changed my major accordingly, but I never got a degree. I ran a small business called "Campus Repair Services" where I fixed TVs, stereos, bicycles, hair dryers, and such, mostly at nearby Goucher College. In 1974 I got a job as an instrument technician at a small company called EIL (Edgerly Instrument Labs). Here I am in all my hirsute glory:

                            EIL also manufactured large circuit breaker test sets that involved some metalworking, although mostly subcontracted to various shops. I became an electronics design engineer and I got involved in the design of new equipment that involved considerable metalwork, although it was done by making drawings and having items manufactured for us. My work was mostly electronics design but it also involved some mechanical design. When the electrical testing division was sold to our competitor (Multi-Amp/AVO/Biddle) in Dallas in 1989, I formed P S Technology, Inc and I provided repair and calibration services to EIL while I also designed my own line of breaker test sets using toroidal transformers. I started working for a friend who had a calibration/service/manufacturing business and I designed various equipment, some of which involved mechanical design, mostly sheet metal, but also copper buswork and machining of phenolic insulation and other materials.

                            By 2003 I became dissatisfied with the job and I went back on my own, hoping to build a new version of test set. I knew I would need some tools, so when Harbor Freight had a 10% off everything sale, I drove 100 miles to their store in Lancaster and loaded my Isuzu Trooper with over $2000 of machine tools, including the mill/drill, 9x20 lathe, welder, bandsaw, and many more. I mostly learned machining from books and a friend who had a small machine shop, but I didn't get very far on the test set project. Around 2010 I became interested in making an electric tractor and I used the lathe and milling machine for some parts of that project. I was a regular on DIYelectricCar but when I had more machining questions I joined HSM a few years ago. I took machine shop classes at the Community College in 2014-2015, where I used their Bridgeports and Clausing lathes, and other larger machines. But I did much of the work on my own machines.
                            Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                            USA Maryland 21030


                            • #29
                              Like most everything else, from hiking to sheetmetal, I bought my lathe/mill in the interest of collecting capabilities. I figured I could turn my own brake rotors, make stuff, you know.

                              I build up my collections in functional groups while learning the skills to use the equipment. Doesn't matter if it's hiking or welding, it's the same. Get the gear, learn how to use it, figure out the holes, and build it up until it's complete. Then prove to myself it's complete. Got my hiking pack, everything but food, under 20lb. Got to the point where I'd go into a hiking store and leave with nothing. Nothing there I wanted but didn't have; nothing would add more capability than the weight penalty. Can't quite get there with machining... it's a curse. The collection is never complete, though I have gone into the local tool stores and walked out with nothing. That says more about the tool store than my collection. Now it's a capability verses space issue. The good stuff that would add capabilities are either too big or not at the local store. Mostly, they just get added to the list of things to build.

                              That said, not everything takes off. I've got a 3in1 sheetmetal machine, spotwelder, plasma cutter, beader, air punch and flange, a bunch of Clecos, all kinds of hand tools... can't think of anything I actually want to make out of sheetmetal. Other than the plasma cutter, which is rather useful, the stuff just sits there. Okay, I did roll an old computer case to make a sleeve to fix an exhaust leak. Not exactly a measurable return on investment. But, someday, I'll either come up with something to use that stuff for, or it will be the first to go when I downsize.

                              The machining stuff... I'm keeping that. No idea why I enjoy it so much, still can't brag about any meaningful return on investment, but, dang, it's fun. Finally turned those brake rotors last year too.



                              • #30
                                My maternal grandfather was a highly decorated WW1 vet and Fire Department Captain. When he didn't want to tell "war" stories, he'd tell me about building the machines that made Shredded Wheat and Triscuits in the Niagara Falls plant. Between the War and going full time at the fire dept., he was a machinist for Nabisco and later on could still bring us home Triscuits that were warm enough right out of the box to melt butter. I was always fascinated with things he did and talked about with his pals at the local bar where he would set me up with one of those 6 oz. mini mugs of Genny Cream Ale or PBR. I was 6 years old. My folks didn't know our "secret".

                                When I got a chance to take metal shop in jr. high school I jumped in head first. Then I bought a Harley and my shop teacher helped me make parts to chop it during my senior year.


                                I went to a MC mechanic school and got a job in a H-D Dealership but it went bankrupt and then I took a job as a Machine Shop Trainee in a Tool Room of a local factory. That's what I was born to do and worked a lot of different shops for 30+ years until I got fed up with NAFTA.
                                I only machine as a hobby these days.
                                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