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Thread: How it all got started

  1. #1
    mklotz mklotz's Avatar
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    How it all got started

    It's time for a bit of nostalgia; please indulge me.

    I attended high school '55-'59, back when they still had shop classes. Wood shop was an annoyance but in sophomore year we took metal shop. After making a folded metal dust pan and forging the obligatory cold chisel, we could select a project of our own to make.

    My Dad had a wood lathe at home. It was a strange Sears Craftsman item from the 40's that came with a compound rest that could be clamped to the ways to provide a rudimentary (and totally unsatisfactory) metal-cutting capability. I had made numerous attempts to make small metal items but never really produced anything satisfactory.

    So, when I saw all those gleaming, REAL metal lathes in the high school shop, it was love at first sight and I knew my project would have to be something made on the lathe.

    I found a rough sketch of a pin vise in one of my ship modeling books and from it, "designed" what I was going to make. The shop teacher liked the project and gave me permission to make it, offering to help me with some of the more complex operations, e.g. single-point threading.

    By the end of that school year I had, with his help, produced this...

    and had become totally infatuated with making stuff with machine tools. The teacher liked it enough to include it in the end-of-term display for visiting parents. It was supposed to have a turned wooden handle; hence the pivot at the top and the collar to retain it in the handle. Girls and cars intervened and it never got made. I prefer it the way it is.

    Now, as pin vises go, it's really pretty terrible...

    It's too chunky, that 3/8-16 thread is way too coarse for a pin vise, and the chuck is too heavy. The hand-sawn slots in the reversible collet should have been done on a mill and the knurling is uniformly imperfect. Still, with all its flaws, it will always have a spot in the Gerstner tool chest; a fond reminder of how I became involved with precision metalworking.
    Regards, Marv

    Home Shop Freeware

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  3. #2
    Savage11's Avatar
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    Awesome post thank you for taking the time to share it with us!!

  4. #3
    Christophe Mineau's Avatar
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    Hi Marv,
    Thanks for this piece of life, and I must say it reminds me of my personal life.
    I also discovered the lathe (and mill, but was always more fascinated by the lathe) at high school, and also had shop classes at that time where I learned almost everything. It reminds me also of one of my professors who was also a passionate, restoring old cars, and we could spend hours with him, after the work, in the shop....
    I don't know how it is now on your side of the Atlantic, but here, they almost have given up the shop time in High school...
    Now it's my son who is doing the same kind of studies as I did 35 years ago, but they do not learn anymore any machining skill.
    Fortunately, I have my personal shop and can teach him and some of his friends some things ...

    Now, these schools and teachers only deal with the "sacred" 3D printer, I really think this is a mistake. If at least is was to build the printer ... but no, they purchase it ...
    Cheers !
    Visit my Website :
    Facebook : La Belle Note
    All my personal works, unless explicitly specified, are released under
    Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

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  6. #4

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    Hi Marv

    Like Christophe, my life was so similar. I was so enamored with ALL the metalwork machinery, including the shaper

    I started on these machines at school, age 12 and was able to continue machining during my apprenticeship.

    I also made the "dustpan", but the most useful thing I made back then was a tension/torque wrench like this...

    How it all got started-tension-wrench.jpg

    Still have the passion (and finally some machines) after 57 years!



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  8. #5
    Content Editor DIYer's Avatar
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    Thanks mklotz! We've added your Pin Vise to our Vises category,
    as well as to your builder page: mklotz's Homemade Tools. Your receipt:

  9. #6
    thehomeengineer's Avatar
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    Hi Marv

    Really nice post
    Got me thinking about how I got in to engineer.

    I am know 50 and again like most my first encounter with the lathe and mill was at school. Unfortunately, as I was in the bottom group for most subjects I was, considered not bright enough to use the machines in the shop. So hand tools it was for me.

    My Parents were so helpful and I owe so much to them as they paid for practical model engineering evening classes at our local college. I tried to get an apprenticeship but did not have the skills to pass the written tests.

    One day my Dad took me to an engineering works, which also had an apprentice school attached to it. I could not believe my luck that day one of the apprentices was fired (not sure why) and straight away they said can you start Monday no interview that I can remember just form filling. I did struggle with the college side of things but fully engaged with the practical stuff. I decided that one day I wanted to be an apprentice instructor.

    I then gave up the practical evening classes and 15 years later, I decided to go back to college and study to gain my ONC and HNC in mechanical engineer.
    While doing this study the Head of the Engineering department called me up to his office and asked if I could stand in for a teacher in the evening practical model engineering session. When I arrived to take the class all the previous students and some new ones were still taking part in these sessions that I had met when I was 16. I was very lucky that they wanted me to stay as the instructor and did so for 10 years. During this time and with this teaching experience I was able to achieve my goal and became an apprentice instructor for 5 years.

    During my time as an instructor, there was lots of teacher training and again I struggled with the written work. I was asked by the college to go for a dyslexia test and no surprise it was found I have server dyslexia.

    I still teach once a month to the students from the college practical model engineering class and still love everything about engineering.

    I guess the reason for writing this is to say “anything is possible with the correct encouragement and support”.

    Please forgive me for the long post and if you did get this far down the page thank you for taking the time to read.

    The Home Engineer

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  11. #7
    rossbotics rossbotics's Avatar
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    I remember those days, good ol days
    Comments are always welcome

    Subscribe to my you tube channel

    Tool Plans for Sale by rossbotics

  12. #8
    Frank S's Avatar
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    Marv, I think the pin vice turned out just fine. While you may feel your first knurling attempt may have turned out less than perfect it looks just fine to me. the hand sawed serve their purpose which is in the end is all that matters.
    As most already know how it started for me was when I was 11 I started hanging around a blacksmith shop which led to my apprenticeship. I would venture to say my first tool build that I can remember was probably a pair of tongs. I had to be pretty much autodidact when it came to learning to run a lathe since I bought my own while working at the blacksmith shop and no one there had ever even been around one prior to me getting mine. My fondest early years build would be my small tractor
    This is a small tractor that I built when I was 14 I had been working at the blacksmith shop for about 3 or 4 years and decided I needed a small tractor around the farm
    How it all got started-14-one-my-early-builds-17-hp-4-x3x2-trans-8-reverses.jpg
    A little tractor I built when I was 14,one-my-early-builds
    The tractor has an old lambretta scooter engine I had cut off the right angle drive for the rear wheel at the back of the transmission then made a short shaft to connect the trans to a 4 speed transmission off of a 12 HP Western Auto rider mower then put 2 sprockets in the rear transmission back to the axle where I mounted 2 sprockets as idlers with a dog clutch between them this gave me 3 x 4 x 2 for a total of 24 forward speeds and 6 reverse top speed was around 20 MPH which could easily keep up with the larger Molines and big John Deers' we had
    the small trailer you see in the front I made for my dad's riding lawn mower I even made a 1" ball hitch for it by using an old truck tie rod end
    Never try to tell me it can't be done
    When I have to paint I use

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  14. #9
    olderdan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christophe Mineau View Post
    I don't know how it is now on your side of the Atlantic, but here, they almost have given up the shop time in High school....
    Hi Christophe
    The education system is similar in the UK, it is now left to going to a trade school for those who do not achieve the exam grades.
    I spent my early years obsessed with Mechano and would spend the whole evening with it spread out over the living room floor until bedtime (no TV in those days).
    It taught me about gears and pulleys but above all patience and a sense of achievement and in my youth I progressed to model making, my bedroom would always smell of balsa cement and paint.
    Today it does not seem very cool to get your hands grubby but maybe they have got it right as everything has to move on, if I had had a crystal ball I do not know if I would have chosen to spend most of my working life in the equivalent of a cow shed for average wages.
    Gave it up for the last 10 years to go self employed renovating houses.

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  16. #10
    Paul Jones's Avatar
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    Marv and all,

    I appreciate seeing stories and how you became enamored with metalworking and tools in general. One of my regrets was not taking advantage any wood or metal shop classes while in high school in the 1960's.

    Instead I have become self-taught starting with simple cabinetmaking for my parents' house by age ten (inspired by age eight after seeing the cabinetmakers at Colonial Williamsburg workshops, only using hand tools, and could only work by the light of day because they couldn't afford using candles at night). As kid, I always wanted a small metal lathe but that was not possible. Instead I went to the school and local town libraries to learn as much as I could about hand finishing and machining. In junior high I taught myself from books on how to do mechanical and isometric drawings. By age fourteen, I was determined to make my own small 5" swing x 16" manual metal lathe. I completed the lathe before turning sixteen and learned a lot along the way - more important than making the lathe was learning to precisely hand saw, file, fit and finish metal parts with very little tool marks showing. I made the lathe by laminating steel plates to build-up headstock, carriage and tailstock by joining the layers together with a lot machine screws and tapped holes and the lathe ways were made from 1.5" dia. steel rods. It used very simple bronze bearings and a 1/4 HP motor. I have been searching my old books on machining where I may have inserted a few of my old B&W photos of the lathe as bookmarks. I know I took many photos but can't find them.

    The lathe experience paid-off and helped launch my eventual career. As a freshman in college, I used my early experience in making the lathe to talk my way into a job as a prototype machinist and designer for building scientific equipment while attending the University of Washington. I made parts for underwater oceanographic equipment but most of my work dealt with the parts design and drawings using pencil and vellum paper. Although I am no longer in this line of work, I have always had a passion for woodworking and machining. However, I can't emphasize enough how important learning the basic hand skills of precision filing, finishing and fitting can be before advancing to machine tools.

    Thank you,

    Paul Jones
    Last edited by Paul Jones; 07-15-2018 at 09:20 AM. Reason: spelling error

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