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Thread: How do mechanics make money without a mill and lathe?

  1. #1
    snowman is offline Diamond
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    Default How do mechanics make money without a mill and lathe?

    I ask this as a real question.

    My father in law was a mechanic at Ford (tech center) for twenty years. He also wrenched in his garage at home for extra money. This was when tools went in and out. His box now is full of custom made tools that he made at work. He said at work they had tons of them, just sitting on the shelf.

    I just pulled the engine on a couple of cars. I have made custom tools no less than five times in the past month...and that's with me wrenching on occasion. Once in a while I find that snap on actually makes the tool I needed, but mostly, it's a one off job that I couldn't have been able to do without my tool.

    Come to today...the rubber whip aftermarket antenna that someone put on the taurus I am driving broke. Off to the junk yard. What's this? In order to get the old antenna socket out of the car I need a custom spanner socket? (it has four slots, too small for a spanner, too tight to grab with channel locks or some such tool. I stopped at the decent sound shop that actually does good installs and they said they use a screwdriver and a hammer) I spent 15 minutes in the shop, 1" round stock, 3/4" drill through. Cut it so it had two little ears sticking up at the end of the bar. Unscrewed the copper nut from the pot metal base which was corroded all to hell (there is no way I would have gotten it with the screwdriver method).

    So really? I take it for granted that I can cut/weld/grind/turn/mill tools to make them fit. That when I need a socket that is thin wall, I can just chuck up an extra and take a little off the outside.

    What do the real mechanics do?

  2. #2
    Chip Chester's Avatar
    Chip Chester is offline Stainless
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    How many did you sell to the auto sound shop?

    Chip

  3. #3
    Miguels244 is offline Diamond
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    I bet I could have had that ring off with what I keep in my top box in 1/10th the time it took you to make the tool.

    I could probably do it with what I have in my pockets.

    Mechanics adapt.

  4. #4
    CarlBoyd is offline Cast Iron
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    Default make tools versus buy tools versus adapt

    Quote Originally Posted by snowman View Post
    I ask this as a real question.

    My father in law was a mechanic at Ford (tech center) for twenty years. He also wrenched in his garage at home for extra money. This was when tools went in and out. His box now is full of custom made tools that he made at work. He said at work they had tons of them, just sitting on the shelf.

    I just pulled the engine on a couple of cars. I have made custom tools no less than five times in the past month...and that's with me wrenching on occasion. Once in a while I find that snap on actually makes the tool I needed, but mostly, it's a one off job that I couldn't have been able to do without my tool.
    That is exactly the reason I bought my lathe and mill. They are old, and beat, and not very accurate. But they are 100% adequate for making custom automotive tools. Most all of these tools can be bought.

    Quote Originally Posted by Miguels244 View Post
    I bet I could have had that ring off with what I keep in my top box in 1/10th the time it took you to make the tool.

    I could probably do it with what I have in my pockets.

    Mechanics adapt.
    sometimes you can and sometimes you can't, I got tired of "adapting" and now make custom tools regularly.

    CarlBoyd
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  5. #5
    L Vanice is online now Diamond
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    "What do the real mechanics do?"

    Depends upon where they work. The International Truck engineering center would buy any special tool needed by the "real mechanics" that worked there. We also worked with Kent Moore to help them design the special tools for our trucks. We had a large department of "real machinists" and sheet metal workers that could turn out anything we needed.

    Larry

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    S_W_Bausch is offline Diamond
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    Before Haynes created those lame repair manuals, the aftermarket manuals would have designs for shop-built tools.

    Factory manuals used to also have shop-built tools shown, with instructions to make.

  7. #7
    ZAGNUT is offline Hot Rolled
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    Quote Originally Posted by S_W_Bausch View Post
    Before Haynes created those lame repair manuals, the aftermarket manuals would have designs for shop-built tools.

    Factory manuals used to also have shop-built tools shown, with instructions to make.
    what, "use a suitable drift" isn't good enough for you?

    i have the translation of haynes "technical terms" taped into every manual. sure everyone has seen it so not going to bother posting it.

  8. #8
    Steve in SoCal's Avatar
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    I can't speak for others but, there were very few times when a machine tool was needed in my old shop. We did Mercedes only with an emphasis on performance. I have done a number of engine conversions, supercharging and other forced induction systems. That is not to say that machinery is not handy but, as an example, MB has drawings of shop made tools. Instead of turning a rod to diameter just buy a drill rod, most were basic things that did not require high skill levels and could easily be done as bench work.

    Two points to consider in the above. I do have a background as a machinist and access to machine tools and, as a shop owner time is money. Why spend 25 dollars to make a 5 dollar drill rod? In this area McMaster delivers the same day so if I order a drill rod at 10:30 it is here by 3:00PM. Auto mechanics are paid to service, modify and repair cars, any task that diverts these resources lowers efficiency, also many things are not worth repairing, do you want the liability warranting a part?

    Steve
    Last edited by Steve in SoCal; 04-27-2011 at 02:21 PM.

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    desporterizer is offline Plastic
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    Short answer is they don't! For modern vehicles, tools are made for every job & it usually not worth the time to make one. Older oddball vehicles, on the other hand, just about require you to have long obsolete tools made up.

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    Forestgnome is offline Stainless
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    They use water pump pliers and muck it up. That's why I work on my own vehicles. I was tired of fixing stuff damaged by grease monkeys after spending good money to avoid working on it.

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    Mike H is offline Aluminum
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    i spent 35+ years as a class 8 truck mechanic.

    i could have gotten by without a mill and a lathe.

    it would have slowed down a lot of repairs but it could have been done.

    i was paid very well for having the ability to get a lot of repairs done quickly by owning a mill and lathe to make or modify special tools.

    they also let you salvage expensive parts that have been messed up by carelessness.

    class 8 trucks don't make money setting in the shop.

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    allfoden is offline Aluminum
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    For me it was not a matter of only money. About 15 years ago my son decided to build a 1968 BMW 1600 SCCA race car. We had only basic mechanics hand tools and drill press. Just about everything on the car was custom and at the time the local machine shop were busy and were not interested in making one offs except for a price. Kind of the last straw was a quote to make an aluminum pulley for the generator for $600 and two weeks delivery. I bought a lathe for about $600 and made it myself. At the time I was getting my old 1930 Rolls Royce woody ready for the road. It was a four door missing one outside door handle. I could not find a period set of door handles that would look right. So I took one of the handles to a local shop and asked the price to make a copy. The quote was, if you can believe it, $2000. So I bought a Rockwell verticle/horizontal mill from a local guy for $600 and a few new files and made it myself. Yes it took forever to make but it was the idea of the thing. I now have three lathes, two milling machines etc etc. I am not dependent on anyone to fabricate or repair any metal part. I dont have to ask please or thank you sir.

  13. #13
    M.B. Naegle's Avatar
    M.B. Naegle is offline Hot Rolled
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    In our shop, if we can buy a special tool easily at a reasonable price, we will. It's not nessisarily a matter of what CAN we make, but more of can we justify the down time for making the tool.
    That said however, we've also found that unless a part's already worn out and needs to be replace, wack'n on it with a little hammer and four custom ground screwdrivers tends to be more trouble than using whatever adapter or socket that was designed to loosen the part (wither or not you made it). We already have to deal with our customers using a 12" cresent wrench to loosen and tighten a 3/16" square head set screw and complaining about the results. We try not to put ourselves in the same league.

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    coalsmok is offline Aluminum
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    Default tool truck mechanic

    Not sure what the garage guys do, but I only have so much space/weight on my truck. Carry the all the basic hand tools up to a 3/4 drive set(2), welder, torches, 6000lb crane, and some manufactures specialty tools. If I have to chop up a tool to get the job done they will buy me a new one. Also keep some of the more expensive specialty tools in my field office (to sensitive to haul around 24/7), if I need them I go get em or send someone else after them.

    It is surprising what you can to with a few basic supplies. Cylinder hones to enlarge holes in a pinch, emery paper and a relatively flat surface to true faces up enough to seal a gasket. Rolls of gasket material and some soft copper wire for gaskets.

    When it something breaks the only question is when will it be running.

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    MwTech Inc is offline Stainless
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    "What do the real mechanics do?"

    Buy them

    I made more money off flat rate on the next job then screwing around making tools.

    There are more outlets then just Snap-on.

    Will admit grinding a few wrenches, etc for an easier "fit" or more throw given the space.
    David Utidjian likes this.

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    moteasdad is offline Plastic
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    US here in the right to work states make the company we work for buy the special tooling we need to do the job...cuz the pay blows

  17. #17
    thruthefence's Avatar
    thruthefence is offline Titanium
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    "Originally Posted by Miguels244 View Post
    I bet I could have had that ring off with what I keep in my top box in 1/10th the time it took you to make the tool.

    I could probably do it with what I have in my pockets.

    Mechanics adapt."


    And if, per chance a had a hole in that pocket, he could talk the subject antenna plumb offen that thar car with his line of high-tone bullshit!
    coldformer likes this.

  18. #18
    thruthefence's Avatar
    thruthefence is offline Titanium
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    "McMaster delivers the same day "

    Man, if it was that easy for me, I be broke!

    Anything in that wonderful catalog, at your door when you want it!

  19. #19
    greenbuggy is offline Hot Rolled
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    Short answer: The smart ones avoid going into wrenching, or get out into a specialty field where they can make better money dealing with less bullshit

    Long answer: I started out thinking I wanted to be an ME, then some issues forced me to do what I knew, went thru 2 auto mechanic shops building my tool collection, I now work for a Ski area doing repairs on a lot of different things (the big moneymakers are the snow machines and cats, but theres a fleet of other vehicles this place owns as well). I aspire to do more than most mechanics and to that end my shop is equipped with a Snap-on triple filled with hand and power tools, Esab Mig, plasma, Ltec Tig, Franken-BP, logan lathe, sandblast cabinet, haberle cold saw, RPC, portaband and a host of other goodies. Specializing has brought me more stable income and a lot less bullshit and retard coworkers to deal with. Could I do my job with less? Absolutely I could, the guy before me only had a small toolbox and basic hand tools, he also made a lot less and didn't have side income from other gigs. I'd rather keep the company I work for from outsourcing jobs, and get raises every performance review....the tools are mine when I leave and the experience is priceless.

    Some shops do not have a good environment to make your own tools, one shop I was at I had a coworker who was an absolute ass anyway, try to chew my ass for making a specialty tool when "I had work to do" because he was scared I would start making more money than him (I had a much better reputation anyways because I didn't rip customers off). Same guy saw how well I was doing with german import jobs (the shop was primarily domestic and japanese imports) and got a mercedes customer, then had to come crying to me when he couldn't figure out how the electrical system worked....

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    Miguels244 is offline Diamond
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    Quote Originally Posted by thruthefence View Post
    And if, per chance a had a hole in that pocket, he could talk the subject antenna plumb offen that thar car with his line of high-tone bullshit!
    When I was a kid I didn't have money for tools and we lived in the sticks. I learned to do stuff with what I had.
    I can't tell you how great it was when I could start getting the right tool for the job, or making it...but if time/money don't allow I won't stand on ceremony.


    Oh, and I keep a needle in my car to sew things like that shut...it's in the first aid kit.
    Preparation is not mandatory...neither is survival

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