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request for guidance on renting floor space in a machine shop


Jul 9, 2019
San Diego
I am a hobbyist looking for access to CNC capabilities. As a hobbyist I sell zero product, but I have a day job that pays the bills. Also I have no sense for business, so I'm happy to stay a hobbyist. The goal here is to gain access to better machines than what I have now, for minimum monthly cost. I can save up to get this going. Could you please guide me in my thinking about this idea.

1) Buy a vintage Fadal 3016 or 4020 with price point $10,000 to $15,000. Repair as necessary.
2) Arrange floor space at a small machine shop.
3) Owner pays electricity and air.
4) I maintain my machine.
5) He gets to use it when available (I am not using it and it is not broken). Using his own tools. If he crashes it he fixes it.
6) I use my own tools and material.
7) I store either nothing or some tiny floor space enough for a toolbox say. All the parts I make are tiny and typically quantity = 1.
8) Liability insurance: no clue.

I would use the machine about 2 times per month.

Maybe he would charge me rent but I would charge him per hour of spindle time on my machine? What's an hour of spindle time on a 3 axis machine worth, $10? $20?

Location: suburban San Diego (Mira Mesa).

I rent my house and it's too small anyway, so installing such a machine at home is not feasible and not allowed by the landlord. Welcome to Southern California...

Benchmark: I currently pay $40 for a day pass at a local MakerPlace with a Tormach PCNC 1100 plus a decent array of manual machines, cold saw, sanders, etc. I use this roughly 1.5 times per month so $60/mo. The goal here is to be hit that price point ± but with a better NC machine. Again, not looking to make money here. Additionally, at my day job I am allowed free access to a Hardinge lathe and a Bridgeport mill after hours and on weekends. In both places I of course supply all my own material and tools.

My relevant technical background: I am a hobbyist but with a 28 years of machining experience including about 5 years of CNC with MasterCam, conversational, and low-level g-code. I am expert in PTC Creo (Pro/E) CAD with >20 years experience. I can work with old computers, controllers, etc. I know my way around an oscilloscope and I know how to convert hexadecimal to binary.

I just talked to a guy who is looking to grow his machining business beyond what he does at the MakerPlace and lease space to set up a small shop of his own. I broached my idea to him but it was clear neither of us knew off the top of our heads what arrangement would make sense here.

To give you an idea what size shop and cost from his point of view, I'm guessing he would pay $3000/mo for the building. Maybe 600 ft²? Currently he has a 2019 Haas VF-2SS plus he (or I) would bring in a CNC lathe at some point plus this Fadal I'm talking about.

Thoughts? Ideas? Guidance?

Let me know what other information would be needed to figure this out. Thanks!
Suggest different approach.

Look at it as a business would.
For the shop owner, and for You.

A new shop will scream, and accept a free Fadal VMC, from You.
If you provide basic toolholding/tools You need, this makes it an even better deal.
Collets 4-10, toolholders, basic end mill and face mill, some drills and ER collets.

The shop will happily pay you a flex rent of 500-1500$ per month for the machine and tooling.
Because the shop will/would pay 30k+ // 1000$ plus to a financer fixed and immutable with guarantees to finance the whole setup, on-site.
And a 3-4 year term, with no provision for a possible 2-3 lean months with You, with no payments due.

A flex rent would mean You don´t demand (all, full) payments if they cannot use the stuff, had no business.
And they pay more, for high use.
It´s a win-win.

The fadal is not machining.
Racks, materials, saws, finishing, metrology, cost more, or at least the same.
It has been my experience that situations like this might sound great in theory, but rarely work out in the real world. I have shared professional shop space with someone else, and I have tried shared hobby space with motorcycle friends. They all fall apart in one way or another. You couldn't pay me enough to ever get involved in something like that again.

Someone is often in the others way, and it can be easy for the deal to start feeling one sided to someone. When multiple people share use of a machine and things need repaired it is never a simple answer as to who is responsible for repairing it. Say your machine is being used by this shop 20hrs a week for 3 weeks, but when you come in on the weekend and use it for an hour it breaks down...now who is responsible for repairs? (more important who do you each think is responsible) I do see that you have laid it out as a deal where he pays rent on the machine time with you maintaining it, but I still see opportunity for issues. There is also liability aspects that I would expect to keep most shops from wanting an arrangement like this.

Also glad I don't live in San Diego that's brutal if accurate. I was thinking to suggest you find a small industrial strip to rent a unit in, and you would be happier but maybe not yikes. I was looking at 7500ft for $3900 a few weeks ago out here, but decided to build an addition at the current property instead so didn't go through with it.
I'm guessing he would pay $3000/mo for the building. Maybe 600 ft²?
Better to find one of those business storage units and forget the partner thing. I was in on a warehouse with 6 others. Worked ok for a while, till this one got his feelings hurt, this one dies, one guy pays little or nothing, bcause he is a hobby guy, us with the business, and the bills, end up paying. Then they are all mad cuz they gotta find room at home for 4 tractors, or 6 trailers, etc. On and on it goes.
Also glad I don't live in San Diego that's brutal if accurate. I was thinking to suggest you find a small industrial strip to rent a unit in, and you would be happier but maybe not yikes. I was looking at 7500ft for $3900 a few weeks ago out here, but decided to build an addition at the current property instead so didn't go through with it.

Yes, you are right I was mixing up two conversations. Rent goes for around $20/ft²∙year, so a 600 ft² place would be $1000/mo not $3000. I will try to edit my original post.

Your experience seems right on point for my question. Thanks very much for sharing something of value.

I can see arguments over who should be the one to fix the machine when it breaks down.
It sounds like your current arrangement is fine. Question- does $40/day get you unlimited access? Do you have to schedule a week/month in advance? Is someone standing behind you for a half a day asking you to hurry up?

Sounds like even if all those are worse case scenarios, still a good deal if you always want this to be a hobby IMO. Hard to buy much of anything in the real industrial machine world for $40. Heck, we have (as most everyone does) 1 single endmill (or a couple dozen) that might cost 2x-3x that.
What about seeing if you could keep the machine at work in exchange for work being able to use it? Likely to see less usage there and with you being there less chance of abuse. Maybe you will be the guy using it. A start up machine shop could go broke with you not aware money was tight you could then lose the machine.

Maybe you could rent time on the guy who wants to set up a shop's Haas. Maybe you could pay him for shop time with some modelling or programming?
I was in an arrangement like this some years ago......but I was the one paying nothing.....I owned the place adjacent,and the owner and his son split after a row over spending......the idea was I was to keep the gates open ,and keep an eye on the place,and use any space available.In the meantime finding some casual renters for the space...which I did........anyway ,when one of the casual tennants found out I wasnt paying ,he got upset ,and started stirring up trouble.He was also financially very weak ,and several times had vehicles repoed.
Move somewhere else?

I think it's a dumb idea.

I essentially own a good friends CNC lathe. The lathe makes like 20 parts a decade for his product and I have to run it for him. He offered it to me on the condition I keep it for the rest of his life. Hopefully that's awhile, but he's more than twice my age.

I have a (ex?) friend's truck in my driveway with a blown headgasket. I said he could tow it here if it stays no more than a month. If it was longer I was going to fix it and give him the bill. That was last May. I have all the goddamn parts sitting here, but I haven't had the time to get it done. I need to get it done and he's gonna shit when he sees the bill, but I'm done with his BS.
I have worked in quassi commune shops before, and my best - and the others came from them. There needs to be a money patron in the mix, either someone who is making their income from shop or someone that just wants an exclusive maker space.
Once you start having things like charging for time on anything the whole commune fails.

Now I work for larger company, and my mill is here at work. I have yet to play on it for my own stuff- but have made parts for jobs. I am using my end mills- but learning how to run it and wear out/break bits and mess up stock on the clock is win for me.
It would seem to me anyone with a shop space will have their own machines and won't need to use your machine. With only needing machine work 2 times a month I would advise just sending it out to a traditional job shop. If you place your machine in someone else's shop you risk losing it. Or... Look for one of those DIY maker space places that pop up all over.
Naaa.....you ought to try sharing a boat...........Just this morning ,two guys came in the gate wanting to use my yard to store some mini excavators .......they had been renting space in the churchyard just down the back street,but are asked to vacate.......claim they dont know why ......but I do ,,,the goddam Council.........quite obviously to me that if I let them in ,the Council will be harassing me ,which no amount of money is compensation for.