10-04-2007, 06:43 PM
Just found this thread, lots of very sensible stuff here. I too run a one man(and one woman) shop. Not quite the same as most on here, I make custom bicycle frames and complete bikes. Used to be a partner in a business where we employed 14 guys and I spent a lot of my time "baby sitting" sorting out disputes, trying to keep everybody happy. Now there is just me and SWMBO running our business from a workshop that is just 60 yards from the back door on our smallholding . I wish I had done it years ago ! ! For anyone interested we have a website at here
10-06-2007, 07:35 PM
Hello to everyone. Absolutely thrilled to join this community. First post so brief intro... I'm 36 and did construction and shopwork from my late teens through most of my 20s. Took a long time away from it (thinking that work was "beneath me"). I wanted to be a suit with a trophy wife (never happened) and a big bank account (never lasted) and all the classy accoutrements the illusion promises. The longer I was away from metalworking, the greater my desire to return to it became. It's my calling. My first position was as a tester, which involved arguing with other workers about their screwups (it's always the messenger's fault). I taught myself every phase of production at the first plant I was employed, staying after work 2-3 hours a day (off the clock) running a lathe, or learning this or that piece of equipment that otherwise sat idle for years, or practicing laying weld beads with proper penetration on scrap metal. In time I evolved into the shop millwright. In most things I've mastered I'll start out through self-education and hands-on experimentation. I devour technical books en masse in the hopes of always becoming more versatile. Being a victim of a broken public educational system (school of hard knocks), I was a neanderthal with a HS diploma at 17. Life was hard. I've since turned that around and have a massive private library with the finest collection of books ever amassed on shop practice, engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, mathematics, foundry ops, etc. etc. Knowledge is power.
Rather than becoming more valuable as an employee, I became a loathed character among my coworkers everywhere I went. The smarter I'd become, the more intimidated people around me were. They would try to sabotage the work I did, and the gossip was that I was trying to steal everyone's job. The Prod. Mgr's favorite go-to guys were always the worst. I'm smarter than most and frequently offered suggestions on how to increase productivity, remove redundancy, and kept an eye out for any chance to do away with gross inefficiency when I'd find it (and it was everywhere). End result: those in positions of management above me and subordinates in my charge took offense to my dedication.
I see alot of people talking about the miseries of having employees and I think back to how every bit of initiative I showed always caused me trouble. There is a flip side to that coin. Not disagreeing with you, quite the contrary. I've seen the eroding work ethics and mental incompetence of which you all speak in most places I've worked. Both among employees and employers. I have my own long nightmarish history of hiring worthless people in other pursuits. I have stories that would make your hair stand on end. That being as it is, the buck stops with the owner. You set the pace, you lead by example and your people, and miraculous things will happen. If
I think at the end of the day, it's all about the vision and tenacity of the man who wears the captain's hat. If the head honcho lacks people skills, or wants to sit back in his office leaving command decisions to people who are'nt invested in his company beyond their paycheck, then he's gonna get what he pays for. I plan to be different. I want my people to be inspired by me and they are going to know before they ever get hired that I'm a hard man to work for and only want motivated and ambitious people who I can train and cross-train in every phase of production. I'll pay smart people what they are worth. I don't want automatons who are looking for an easy paycheck doing mind-numbing repetition. If I require that I'll construct a robot. I want nerds and geeks who love math and science and ain't afraid to get dirty. Since I am one, I know how to find them with relative ease
So here I am, a 1-man shop being born. I've been buying tooling and American heavy metal ~ a Clausing and SB lathe, bridgeport milling machine, Miller welding rigs ~ MIG, TIG, Stick, etc. I'm resurrecting each piece of machinery I buy, truing and trimming it so that when it hums back to life in my shop, it will be as perfect as it was the day it rolled off the assembly line (and reworked to handle my own automation schemes). I spent a considerable sum of coin on the lion's share of tooling from a shop that once employed 40+ people in it's heyday. The owner had slowly become a 1-man shop, and shared with me his wisdom about the burdens of employees which I see echoed here. I don't have a piece of paper from a college saying I'm a mechanical engineer but I've got more books on the subject than most college professors. I'll get one eventually but since the only man I ever plan to call boss is the ugly mug I see staring back at me each morning in the mirror, there is no rush. I would rather die a slow painful death than ever again work for someone I regard as my intellectual inferior. Arrogant? Perhaps. Suffering at the hands of petty fools and primadonnas throughout life has made me this way. I sink or I float based on my own merits and determination and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm an unemployable control-freak who needs to have creative freedom as badly as he needs oxygen.
I should be erecting structural steel and placing the foundation for my shop within the next 4 months. It's been a thing I've dreamt about for more years than I can count. I will start out as a 1-man operation, but I'm planning on explosive growth, huge banks of redundant equipment jigged up for production, aggressive marketing and sales, etc. I'm going to build an industrial empire in the aftermath of NAFTA and GATT gutting our industrial sector. I know am ex-foundryman from Beth Steel who now works at Home Depot. If I didn't have fire in my belly that could have been me. Only difference between he and I is one of us refuses to surrender. I'll screw up big along the way but am determined to make a go of it.
10-14-2007, 12:59 AM
This thread is one of the best I've followed. I am retiring, but I have gone into most of the shops, one man[big & little] in the South Bay of L.A., Orange County, San Diego County, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, & Minnesota. Most of the replies I have read here pretty much covers what I have seen. some of those I have gotten close to prefer working alone and having manual machines set up for the repeat jobs. The only thing I don't recall seeing in this thread was the benefits most of the people I know find in buying another piece of machinery that can be depreciated which lowers their taxes.
10-14-2007, 08:00 PM
I was lucky enough to get hired in a one man shop while in high school to sweep the floors.
Many people pay thousands of dollars to receive an education, I received one hell'va education working here and got paid pretty good while doing. Plus it was fun, how often do you get to rebuild the metal joints in a wooden leg ?
Hats off to the one man job shops that contibute more to the industry and communities than can ever be measured.
10-16-2007, 10:57 PM
Yup, there's one here in Msla. This old guy has so many machines, it's crazy. He always has two or three running big jobs in the background though while he works on smaller stuff.... he runs back and forth checking on everything and throwing logs in the boiler in the winter. The place is dark as night. Last of a breed for sure.
06-26-2008, 04:32 PM
My day job associates with an older guy that runs his own shop. Hes got 3 Hardinge lathes, and 5 Moore Jigbores, plus grinders, saws, a milling machine, and some other stuff. He used to have employees at a different place, but got tired of the morons so he works alone now.
One of his past employees let a lathe chuck fly off because it wasnt tight. Another CNC programmer put an optional stop on a part to clean out chips without telling the operator. The guy replaced the part with a new blank thinking it was done and then BAM...
03-24-2012, 10:01 AM
I would love to work for you
Originally Posted by pm
03-29-2012, 09:41 AM
I guess I should throw my story into the mix.
I started out in a stamping shop when I was 16. Worked hard everyday, learned tool and die making. By 19 I was offered a partnership in the company. Then 9/11 hit and our work dried up. I went to work for a cheese factory, surrered for 3 years before finding another shop to work in. I started at that shop as machinist assistant, and within 3 years I had the lead position. Company went thru a shut down, so I went to work for my hobby as a locomotive mechanic.
All this time, I had been buying machines and planning a shop of my own. I started putting things together 6 years ago, and planned on adding bigger machines on a 5-10 year plan. I started out planning on a large lathe to be added in by 2013, I bought it in 2010. I was planning on finding a HBM by 2018, I just added it in January.
I am a 1 man shop, and plan on staying this way for a few more years. The thing that I think is happening are these other guys are seeing with I have. There is large work out there, that no one else has the capacity for. That is why I have the largest HBM for a 100 miles radius.
02-01-2013, 11:23 AM
Many good posts here, I am a one man band also and will not do any different unless I am offered the "dream job"
There are many pros and cons to being in this situation and the biggest of both would be the ability to have somewhat flexible hours and dealing with the IRS respectively.
I consider myself living the dream although my financial situation could be better.
I worked in small job shops all my life since I started in the machining trade some 30 years ago. I tried to learn all I could no matter what it was and gained some knowledge and experience that can NOT be learned from a book.
The last place of employment was at a shop specializing in precision rotary and index tables as well as gages for mainly the auto and diesel industry. When the recession was in full swing, I finally made the pink slip list and was laid off.
In earlier years it was a piece of cake to pack your tools, go to any shop and name your price within reason, at the time of my lay-off there were 100's of people competing for menial jobs and the skilled jobs were far and few between.
Since I knew a few people in the trade and always left a job on good terms I figured I could put in the effort and scare up enough work to make a living.
Starting with 1 Bridgeport, a ton of tools I had amassed over the years and some ambition, a friend of mine and I leased a building and started doing small details for bigger shops in the area.
Customers have come and gone although I still do work for a few of the people I started with.
I have spent many long nights working instead of being at home which is one of the drawbacks but the satisfaction I get in doing quality work and fighting for a little success is gratifying and I would have a hard time trading it for a 9-5 job if there was such a thing in this trade.
I now have 3 Bridgeports, a Lagunmatic CNC knee mill, 36" Devlieg, an old manual lathe, surface grinder, ID/OD grinder, TIG welder and plenty of tooling and raw stock.
I can leave tools laying anywhere and they are still there when I look for them, when I mess something up, it's my fault, I can play the radio as loud as I want, come and go as I please for the most part.
What more can an old chip monkey ask for?
By no means is it easy but good things usually aren't.
Good luck to all trying to pave your own way!