Which trade is the most skilled ?
It's a while since we had a good argument on the site so let's see how this goes.
I'm a 63 year old machine tool fitter, been in the iron game since I was 16. In that time I've worked in most facets of the trade at various places. From Heavy Engineering to Toolroom Work. In that time I've worked with some great engineers, turners, millers, borers, grinders, etc. So I think I've seen a bit and I'm fairly impartial.
For me the creme de la creme were the Horizontal Borer operators.
Big machines, working in three dimensions, large components ( no going to the bar stores to saw off another length of bar for these guys ). Difficult set-ups, no just going between chuck and centres.
Milling, drilling, tapping, reaming. Then there's the boring work, all tool finishes to size, no files or emery cloth that were the staple of lots of machine ops. On the European type Hor bores with the built in facing slides ( 3ft to 4ft dia ) carring large snout bars with what were basically lathe tools, everything was created with that tool point. Taper boring, screw cutting, they could do it all. They were the best.
It's all a bit easier now what with circular interpolation and all the C.N.C. bells and whistles but the old guys could make a very average manual machine talk.
So there you have it- my vote for the top guys.
Take a bow all manual Hor Bore operators.
I was always of the understanding that the highest of the skilled trades were diemakers and patternmakers. I say this because the diemaker is rarely given a drawing, rather he/she is given a part and told, "Make me a die that will produce 500K of these." The diemaker, like the patternmaker, must be proficient and productive with any and all machines, of all sizes, as well as all all phases of hand work. Able to visualize things in three dimensions and translate that vision into steel or at least kirksite or, in the case of the patternmaker, wood or composites. Compound curves and irregualr shapes are all part of a day's work. But that's not all, because making sheet metal form and flow into the shape you need isn't a defined skill that can be taught, it comes with experience.
Yep, I'm pretty sure the diemakers and pattermnakers are at the pinnacle.
A bit tongue in cheek, if we're talking machine operators instead of all around machinists, I vote for the shaper operators. Truly the envy of the whole shop, being allowed to run the one machine that's more masculine in it's dynamics than any other.
Or maybe that's all in the past. Are today's most highly skilled trades the modern day alchemists who can spin pure bullshit into gold, the politicians and lawyers?
I've done it all and worked the fringes of a dozen other trades. My opinion is it's the man who is skilled, not the trade. Garbage man to violin maker to surgeon to machinist: the trade is just a setting where tasks are completed. Differentiate the tasks by difficulty and it's the individual operators who by their ability see them through to completion.
My own example illustrates this. Give me a boring job of making a thousand washers and I'll take too long, screw up a bunch of them etc. Give me a pump on the edge of being completely screwed up and I'll save it. Give me a gang of machinists and a 20,000 mhr water tight armored door retrofit kit and I'l organise it, progress it, coordinate trades etc. Difficult yes, Simple, disaster. That doesn't make me a better man than the guy who spends a whole career making washers. We each in our different ways fill different niches the other rcannot hope to occupy.
My apprentice instructor was fond of telling us there's a job for everyone but the lazy in the machinist's trade.
Hi SA 100, when I worked in a tool and die room the guy I admired the most did exactly as you described, he could operate every machine in the shop and his toolmaking skills were awesome. He also had a part time job as a professional night club compere ( singer/ comedian ) ! He really was the life and soul of the party.
He had one child , a son, the apple of his eye. The son was killed when he was driving over to his graduation at his university. My workmate was never the same man again, he just retreated into his shell.
I still think about my workmate and from that memory I can see the basis of your argument.
In my opinion, this is it. You pretty much nailed it. These men had to be machinists, draftsmen, engineers, mathematicians, metallurgists and magicians...pull the rabbit out of the hat. I've had the pleasure to work and learn beside a couple of men like this, and boy do I miss it some (most) times.
Originally Posted by sa100
The most skilled trade is machinists.
Machinists are kings of making stuff.
In my opinion, production machining is the hardest thing you can do in machining. Maybe you can make an impossibly difficult plastic injection mold. That's great, takes a lot of skill. Now go make ten exactly the same. Then make ten exactly the same, but do it really fast. There isn't anything harder than trying to make perfect parts as fast as possible and as inexpensively as possible. I don't care if your shop is equipped with antique machines or state of the art CNC, production is the hardest. Take whichever machining job you consider the most difficult and you can always make it more difficult by needing more than one. You can make it more difficult beyond that by having to do it as fast as possible and beyond that by having to do it as inexpensively as possible.
I agree, and think that this lends credence to the saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become expert at anything. In those 10,000 hours you make every mistake possible. At the end of 10,000 hours you can do stuff without repeating any mistakes. And you can do it fast.
Originally Posted by John Welden
I realized this recently when it took me like ten hours to replace the water-damaged shelf under the sink in my kitchen with a new shelf. My work is level and plumb (but the rest of the cabinet isn't!). It ranks among the more expensive sheves ever installed under a sink! An experienced guy would have been done in an hour.
When you read Tom Lipton's or James Harvey's excellent books (Metalworking Sink or Swim: Tips and Tricks for Machinists, Welders and Fabricators, and Machine Shop Trade Secrets ), you see that the most skilled tradesmen are the ones that keep learning. I'm just amazed at the breadth of (for example) Mr. Lipton in knowing a lot about heat straightening as well as using meltable adhesives to fixture workpieces in mills.
So is a machinist, or a toolmaker, or a diemaker, or a millwright the most skilled? Well, I suspect that the best machinists have listened to toolmakers, and asked questions, and asked to help, and have learned a bit of toolmaking. And vice versa. If you put one of the best of each in a room and gave them a task, you'd come back and be amazed at how they worked together and came up with a solution to the task that took advantage of all their knowledge.
I tell this story on myself. When I was thirty I was pretty fast in making parts. When I was forty five, divorced, and had to get out into the shop again, I noticed it took me twice a long to make a part.
The good news is, I only had to make it once.
Tempering with age? I wonder if this has bearing on the question.
My ex-boss always said, "It isn't the machine it's the operator." "It isn't the trade, it's the practitioner?"
Maybe it's the demands you place on yourself to do it better, greased with additional experience you've gained, so you're able to see the way.
I appreciate all the posts above mine. It's always a "Wow!" to see a new and wonderful way, you've never thought about, in completing a task.
Skill/experience and then speed in that order.Most of the problems I encounter are when people try to reverse the process.
Tool & Die maker.
Machinist start with a drawing and make a part, Tool & Die makers start with an idea and make a part, or a die, or a mold or a machine or anything else you want.
As an aside up until the late 1940's Tool & Die makers were treated as equal to a mechanical engineer. It wasn't until that time that mechanical engineering was codified as a separate branch of engineering.
Is engineering considered a trade? I would like to think so. Mechanical engineering is extremely diverse and requires some real skill.
My prediction is that tool and die makers and patter makers will continue to be phased out as solid modeling and CNC continue their take over. The pattern and tool shops I work with all design and program tooling from solid models supplied by the customer. That is not to say that the same guys can't do the work, but new skills are needed.
You don't find a lot of old guys with special scales sawing out wood patterns or hunching over a jog bore. At least not here in the automotive dominated Midwest.
My father was a Tool and Die maker at the Ford Stamping plant in Buffalo for 37 years. At the time, he said the only skilled tradesman that earned a higher wage in this plant were the Patternmakers. Earlier, when he had less seniority and the layoffs would come, he would complain about being bumped from the Kellers and being put on the boring mills (Lucas). He retired in 1988, and it is likely a different world there now. I thank him for the early life long lessons about doing a good job and what it means to have a good work ethic. He had every other Sunday off, except for scheduled vacation time, as far back as I can remember when growing up. He taught me how to sharpen a drill when I was about 12 years old, not exactly something that I found intuitive then, but he had the patience to keep showing me until I got it. I only wish that I would have thanked him for everything before he passed. I wanted to work in the machine shops and he insisted that I go to College so I would have more choices in life. Looking back, he was always right, which is more obvious to me now as a 60 year old than it was as a 20 year old. I feel fortunate to have had his guidance.
Originally Posted by Boris
As a card carrying Tool&Diemaker Rodeo Man, I couldnt agree more with your Dad.
The Kellers I ran were the most gravey spot in the shop,usally, when labor was needed on the Kellers a apprentice was brought on.
Tallest angle plates ever!
If we are talking about skill,not technical learning,bench work with hand tools,especially files,( as in filing out a flintlock lock),or freehand very accurate grinding, as in making very accurate ground knife blades, takes the most personal skill.
If you make one part and can not duplicate it many times over excactly the same , then you my friend are not skilled.
Originally Posted by John Welden
You've never worked in production have you? John is absolutely right.
Originally Posted by Jeremy K
When you are making <10 parts, you don't really need to worry about material utilization, tool path efficiency, robust fixtures, premium quality tooling, dedicated gaging, and very detailed process and setup instructions.
It is not unusual for us to spend $30,000 on fixtures and $6000 on special tooling to run a single part number. The tooling for one job costs more than an entry level CNC machine. But, when you need to make 18,000 parts in a year with tolerances like it's going into space you have to spend that kind of money. That investment does not count the labor for programming and document creation.
Knife blades may indeed be made with great care. But with any given quality of edge, don't otherwise much care if they are the same length or width to a gnat's posterior. The only 'mating' part they have to satisfy is the human hand .. and the target to be cut.
Originally Posted by gwilson
May border on throwing 'stuff' into the discussion but .. 'most skilled'?
What of the instrument maker?
Patek Philippe. Henri Blancpain. Norden. Sperry.
Among the most skilled as ever walked -- whomever crafted this item:
Antikythera mechanism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Just think of what he had - or did NOT have - to work with..2100 years ago..
Originally Posted by ewlsey
It's true that some aspects of diemaking are changing. But one element will never change. However snazzy a machine you produce a die on, that die will still have to be fitted and finessed so that it produces the part correctly without flaws or blemishes. If removing cubic inches of metal and adding mechanical elements is the science of diemaking, fitting is the art. That will never be replaced with a machine, no matter how many gigabytes it has at its disposal. And NO CNC gizmo will ever slam out 500,000 fenders! Diemaking's not dying, it's changing.
Back in the 80's, many die shops around here (SE Mi) were dying because companies were outsourcing all of their die building to the far east. I have no idea how they could make this work financially, dies weighing what they do and shipping costs (and distance) being what they are, but somehow they did. But a few short years later, these same shops were clamoring for more expereinced diemakers! Why? To make the junk the Taiwanese or Chinese were shipping work, or to repair those poor-quality dies when they broke. Last I heard (it's been a while) the die shops are doing as well as ever or better, although in a slightly different way.
You are right when you say that mechanical engineering is extremely diverse and requires some real skill. That does nothing to alter the fact that many mechanical engineers do NOT possess the requiste skills, and virtually NO managers do, despite being confident in their own minds that they are the smartest beings since Einstein. (Don't ask me how I know!) This simple reality makes the wisdom of the shop floor all the more valuable.
I think there are several answers here.
I believe Tyrone meant "skill level required to run the job"
What you had to have in knowledge before you turned on the switch.
I have to agree with him on that point. We made Dies for the plastic industry, ( so are we Die Makers?)
My Bar men had more skill than the average guy in the shop, and yes, they constantly thought is all 4 dimensions.
One of our 5" Bars was a 5 axis machine as well, so their heads were tied to Trig all day long
Yes, Die Makers are highly skilled , but they come in many colors !
I have met machinists who could outdo most Diemakers when it came to building things
Because of the complexity of removing metal, we have diverse challenges.
A true (not a called one !) Tool and Diemaker has awesome talent and should be able to make anything out of metal.
He should be an engineer, a metallurgist,a machinist, a sculptor (yes), a mathamatician,have creativity and be a practical man.
These guys are few and far between.
All to often, in Industry, they call a guy a T&D because of job classifications and not for all the abilities mentioned above.
I like to think that the "Metal working trades " are far above most other trades today in knowledge required AND applied
As a general observation on my part, and for some reason, this is a trait found in many gunsmiths ?
The most skilled guy I ever met was my plant electrician.
He was licensed to work on high voltage (10,000 V +) he did all plant electronics and electrical, and because he was trained in Belgium
he had served a full apprenticship as a machinist. Most important, he was an all around nice guy