Machine Shop Math

February 4, 2019 5:04 pm

Working in a machine shop can be a rewarding job.

The satisfaction of seeing parts come to life from raw material is not something that everybody can experience.

To create a part that is up to spec, machinists often have to deal with a less pleasant side of the job: math.

Although math is a fundamental aspect of any work that requires precision, dealing with numbers and calculations can be intimidating.

Luckily, there’s no lack of resources and tools that will help you get more familiar with basic mathematical equations that you will encounter during your career in a machine shop.

We did some research, collected information on how other machinists deal with machine shop math problems, and gathered a list of the best instruments, textbooks, and apps that will help you to master the subject.

Here’s what we recommend:




If you want to successfully tackle a math problem, you’ll probably want to start by getting a good, powerful calculator. It might sound like a redundant suggestion, but many people often underestimate the importance of investing in a good calculator.

We recommend using a machinist calculator as it already has machining-specific keys, like surface feet per minute, inch per tooth, inch per minute, and data about the most popular materials.









Machinist Ready Reference

Here’s a good reference book that provides tables, charts, and formulas used by machinists, engineers, designers, and toolmakers, featuring coverage of drills, tapers, screws, gears, weights, tool steels, and shop prints.







Math for Machinists

This book was written for students and includes a review of basic math operations (whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percentages), measurements, and additional topics that are directly applicable to machining and manufacturing.







Mathematics for Machine Technology

This comprehensive book combines math concepts with relevant machine applications through industry-specific examples and realistic illustrations.







Workshop Math

A major, indispensable reference guide jam-packed with hard-to-find calculations, formulas, and tables.








Mathematics at Work

Here’s a book that focuses more on mechanical work. This is a great book if you want to improve your math skills, as it is renowned for its ability to duplicate, as much as possible, personal instruction.







Mathematics for the Trades

This book covers the fundamental concepts of math, from arithmetic to trigonometry, that professionals in different trades need to be familiar with. It includes plenty of exercises coded by trade area.







Practical Shop Mathematics Vol 1 & 2

 A great book for machinists entering the trade or trying to improve or refresh their math skills. The two volumes, divided by difficulty level, include plenty of good examples and exercises.









The availability of machinist apps is potentially endless and finding those apps generally depends on your smartphone OS.

Many machine tool manufacturers offer a good selection of apps that will help you deal with issues related to their specific brand.

If you are an Apple user, we recommend taking a look at these apps:

If you are an Android user, we recommend taking a look at these apps:


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  • Itsagizmo says:

    What about the Machinery’s Handbook………………Is it now obsolete these Days ?

  • Jim says:

    Mathematics for Machine Technology is the one to get.

    • Steve says:

      I’ll 2nd that! We have used that text for last 20 years in our manufacturing engineering technology program at our local communirty college. Great text for “shop math”.

  • Matt says:

    Machinist Mate is almost useless for machining!

  • allthingsmechanical says:

    Machinist Calc Pro 2 App is now available for Android.

  • Doc CNC says:

    There is so much more I could write.
    I have been totally self employed for the last 30+ years teaching large and small companies how to make parts as efficient as possible.

  • DocSausage says:

    Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing – I am constantly amazed, and depressed, by the number of machinists and inspectors who are incapable of calculating the true position of a bore let alone apply an MMC bonus

  • press DUCK says:

    Don’t believe in formulas. I just want a guy who can tell me what the circumference of a 1 inch circle is, what the tangent of 45° is and how long that hypotenuse is. That guy knows everything he will ever need to know.

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