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  1. #1
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    Default To school or not.

    Good evening to all,

    Looking to get into machining. I have the means to purchase a CNC mill. Which is best, buy the mill, and take a hands on approach to learn how to run it? Or go take classes in computerized manufacting at local community college / tech school.

    Currently operating a Cnc laser cutter in a fabrication shop so am slightly familiar with Cnc technology.

    Interested in how you guys learned machining.

    Thanks in advance for suggestions/experiences !
    Last edited by ThisIsShopLife; 10-31-2017 at 10:20 PM. Reason: Clarifying some points

  2. #2
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    1st - Where in Kentucky?

    2nd - What's your goal? Do you own a shop, and want to in-source work on your own product? Or are you wanting to get a job running CNC mills/lathes?

    I work for a local cutting tool distributor, and nearly every shop I walk into is looking for a machinist. If you can operate a CNC laser, jumping to a CNC mill shouldn't be too difficult...



    Regardless, I'd recommend a community college course to at least get your hands on manual equipment, and at least give you the fundamentals of how to make parts on a milling machine, on a lathe, surface grinder etc... Then, apply what you know from CNC laser, to make those same parts on a CNC machine. I got started at a community college, and it was a great way to learn the basics. The rest came from "on the job." Plus, you found this place, registered, and asked the question - so you're already several steps ahead of the pack in regards to interest, initiative & so on...


    I'd be more than willing to buy the beer, and chat over some wings sometime. Best of luck.

  3. #3
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    Well, I'm no skollar, but I think that something is just lost in not starting with a clapped out knee mill with .050 lash to learn the basics:

    A) Conventional Feed
    B) Climb Milling
    C) How to change a broken end mill with a load in your drawers - like nothing happened...


    ------------------

    Think Snow Eh!
    Ox

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    Crashing a new CNC mill (or any machine) is an expensive way to learn.

    Nobody is born knowing this stuff. School will teach you the basics, which you can then improve on as you figure out more.

  5. #5
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    Apply for a job as a machinist and BS your way through the interview. Once hired wing it, that seems to be how it's done round here.

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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThisIsShopLife View Post
    Good evening to all,

    Looking to get into machining. I have the means to purchase a CNC mill. Which is best, buy the mill, and take a hands on approach to learn how to run it? Or go take classes in computerized manufacting at local community college / tech school.

    Currently operating a Cnc laser cutter in a fabrication shop so am slightly familiar with Cnc technology.

    Interested in how you guys learned machining.

    Thanks in advance for suggestions/experiences !
    I am in the same boat. Bought a new Vertical Sharp CNC...have 30 years experience programming Turrets, Lasers and Press Brakes...I want to learn Machining...I have a seat of Solidworks and MasterCam at home...watching the conversation...

  8. #7
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    Take this FWIW. I'm entirely self taught. I would actually like to take some classes and I think they are beneficial, but I haven't. I have a wife and two kids and most classes seem to be multiple days per week and they would be right after work, which just wouldn't fly with my current schedule.

    I have met a lot of cool people machining, just starting in manual machines. I bought an 11" Logan just to learn the basics a few years ago. I had zero experience. I still have all my fingers *knock on wood*. But machines and machining just make sense to me. The general idea of machining is pretty basic on a fundamental level, but is also basically infinite in the ability to learn. I've also now taught myself to use a cnc and run my own parts that I've designed. Utilizing contacts and friends I've made has helped me so much. I have a network I can reach out to of talented guys and ask questions and get help.

    My point is, I went from knowing absolutely nothing to being able to make parts and hold my own, however, ultimately, it boils down to what your goals are. If you want to work at a shop and make parts, it probably doesn't take all that much and there will always be employees of varying talent and experience. Some shops need trained monkeys to load parts and press buttons. Some shops need 'the guy' or guys to do it all, which theoretically should demand more pay or have some sort of other benefits. Running your own business is a whole different ball game. There are great machinists that fail at running a business.

    Your thirst for knowledge will ultimately determine what and how fast you learn. You need to decide where you want to go. Anything is possible to learn and there are more avenues now than ever to be self sufficient. Buying your own mill and learning how to run it will definitely not hurt you. Neither would enrolling in classes. Even as a side thing, I think the thing that keeps me the most interested in machining is there is literally a never ending learning curve and you will talk to guys that have done it their entire lives that will tell you the exact same thing.

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  10. #8
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    Well, there are two reasons for the never ending learning curve as you say.

    One is that things continually change and evolve.

    The other reason is that as you get older, your RAM fills up, and in efforts to retain what you just learned today, you hafta let go of that one thing that you knew and used frequently 30 yrs ago, but now hasn't been brought to the front of the mind in several years, so if that ever comes back around, you get to re-learn that again too!


    I have chosen to forget names it seems. I guess that way I retain more of the physical process knowledge?
    At least that's what I'm going with ...


    -----------------

    Think Snow Eh!
    Ox

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  12. #9
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    Good classes will give you width of knowledge along give you some systematic organisations of topics, equipment and standard techniques. Deeper knowledge of your particular speciality comes with experience.

    When you are in a bind or dead ended it can really help to have general idea of whats out there to guide your search for away round the roadblock. There is just too much to pick up properly on your own. Good books and the internet are great but poor at the systematic organisation bit. Gotta have pigeon holes to put the information in and released ones close together so you can make connections.

    Clive

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    Why not do both? A little book learning never hurt anyone and having a degree or even certificates of completion are nice points to have on your resume. Hands on learning is also a must though. Is there anyway you can move to other areas where you currently work? If they are doing machining work have you expressed an interest in learning? The right company will pay you to learn on the job and possibly pay for education that is work related. How can you beat that?

    As for buying a machine I would make sure I had a plan for that machine before I buy it. What good will that CNC mill do if all the work you can find is lathe work? Or you can't find any work?

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  15. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by kazlx View Post
    Take this FWIW. I'm entirely self taught.
    Back in the days before internet forums and You Tube that was slow and expensive no matter how bright you are. I had just a little manual machining experience before opening my shop part time. My 15 years of experience was spread between swiss cam automatics and CNC Swiss Lathes. I had done a little second op work manually on lathes and maybe spent a couple total hours on a surface grinder and a mill. I didn't want to borrow money so I started out with a manual mill and lathe plus some support equipment figuring I would keep my day job and just re-invest every dime I made. I learned a couple hard lessons quickly,solid carbide boring bars don't mix so well with many manual applications. I think I quickly broke a couple $100 worth the first time I used them on a job. Also without flood coolant you have to lower your rpms drastically or you burn up tooling at an
    alarming rate.

    I think if this forum and You Tube were around when I started my shop I would definitely made a lot more money that first couple years. The place I bought tooling at would have lost a lot of business.

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  17. #12
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    Remember, anyone can program a toolpath and load it into a machine, experience is what allows you to make the program actually run right.

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    It'll depend what you want to do with the knowledge/experience.

    If you want to be hired as a machinist I would suggest you go to school and learn things the proper way. You'll be exposed to different kinds of machines and methods of manufacturing which is important.

    If you want to just be able to do some machining at your day job or on the side then by all means just get the machine and make some chips. Keep in mind that you won't know what you don't know.

    I spent middle/high school working in my parents machine shop cranking handles and picking up tips from the older machinist who worked there. After high school I went to school for manufacturing engineering and got a ton of shop time on lots of different equipment as well as all the classroom sides of it. The knowledge I picked up at both worked off of each other to give me a better view than had I only had one of those experiences.

    If I hadn't worked in the shop to see how interesting and fun it is I probably wouldn't have gone to school to learn more, If I hadn't gone to school I doubt there would be a few new Okuma's printing money out in the shop.

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    I would recommend taking a basic shop class with manual equipment to get the fundamentals down and then take CNC classes. The knowledge you get from the manual classes will help give you an understanding for programmed feeds, speeds, doc's.

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    Jashley73, we are located in the Lake Cumberland area. Would definitely look forward to meeting you sometime!

    Appreciate the responses, all very good points to consider. Just learned that there is a manufacturing institute about three hrs away that has a 16 wk program , 8hr classes Mon-Fri which I am seriously considering.

    I know I've picked up enough to operate a laser without formal schooling for it, but there are still days where I wonder if I'm missing something What concerns me about schooling is I've got mixed messages from some people I know about the local colleges tech classes. Some say they're good. Others seem to think they're not up to par. And I don't want to waste my time.

  23. #16
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    You get what you give in those classes...if you show the instructor you are there to learn and be taught you will have a good experience. If you go just to have a class they will pay you no mind.

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  25. #17
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    thisshoplife: I am in Somerset, come by and see me some time.

  26. #18
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    Do the schooling. You won't come out an expert by any means but you'll at least have a run down of the basics. It's always good to learn from as many different sources as you can. I'd also take the guys on this forum up on their offers to talk to them.

    Don't overlook the value of learning some manual machining also. That knowledge and experience will be helpful even when applied to CNC machines.

    -Tim

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  28. #19
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    I have been in the trade for 35 years and have been an Instructor for the last 12 years teaching Tool & Die. I agree that getting some manual machining instruction will give you a much better understanding in the CNC world as getting introduced to CNC correctly.

    Yes I agree there is a lot on YouTube, but there is a lot of bad stuff on YouTube as well. I'm not saying that you can't learn on your own, but you will be money ahead of you get some schooling.

    I have a young gentleman in my class this year that already has his own shop at 18. His grandfather was a machinist that suggested he needed to go to school and reluctantly he has. He told me it was the best thing he could have done. Not only from the machining side of things, but hearing the business side of things as well.

    Just my .02.

  29. #20
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    A little bit of schooling never hurt nobody...


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