Kidís Shops, then and now?
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  1. #1
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    Default Kidís Shops, then and now?

    A lot of us have played around in our workshops for nearly all our lives. Many of us fall into the catorgory of old farts, crumgdgens, that guy that can fix anything, tinkers, artists and a million other names. I suspect maybe the older we are, the earlier we started messing around in our shops. For me it has been for 53 of my 61 years! I think it would be interesting to hear stories of childhood shops, both back in the old days and what kids today think of a shop.

    Mine started when I was 8, we moved into a new house just outside Washington, D.C., I was born in Ohio and in ‘62 my parents decided that was no where to raise kids, that there was a lot more to this world than Ohio had to offer so to D.C. we went to a rental house until we could find the right one. I was given a corner of the walk out basement between two windows. The old kitchen table was my workbench. I built models, slot cars, fixed stuff, took anything broken apart to see how it worked. In time peg board was mounted on the walls soon to be filled with tools. A real workbench was built with a big Polish machinist vise as a Christmas gift. A 7” Sears table saw with the tilting table was dragged home from someone’s trash and rebuilt, even painted pretty psychedelic colors. Soon old radio/hifi cabinets began to appear and be retoped for drill stands, grinders and other “machines” with the bottoms becoming storage for my ever growing stash of parts. Many of these, including so many of my nuts, bolts and screws were salvaged from things I took apart. As time went on my shop space grew, I kept moving my parents old junk closer to the door and eventually to the trash. Things like the old stove and refrigerator. By the time I’m in high school, the table saw is replaced with a new 10” Craftsman, the pegboard is gone replaced by Sears roll around stacking tool chests to hold my tools, 1st a base unit, then a top, a middle, another base and so on. At 15 I started to work in a hardware store, I brought home half my paycheck in screwdrivers and pliers....

    I still haven’t stopped buying tools.....

    It was in this shop I made all sorts of things, or maybe it was this shop that made me? Or at least who I am today.

    So what are your stories? Do the younger kids today still build things? What?

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    My boys are 18 and 21 now. When they were younger Gamboys, the little electronic games, were popular. I told them if anybody gave them one I would smash it. We never did bring any video games into the house. I tried to raise them working on stuff- model airplanes, guns, bikes, lawn tractors, engines, whatever. I think it has paid off. Currently both are mechanical engineering students. My oldest has made some target rifle parts on my bridgeport (he used to shoot competitively)and sold them on ebay. He is currently over in DC working at an internship at the Naval Research Lab. My youngest son is a little weird- he likes fixing old pocket watches. Just tonight he made another watchmakers screwdriver handle on my 13" southbend lathe because he says the starrett ones cost too much. His time is cheap now. Once they got into their teens the only tools in the shop i did not let them use were the table saw and the geared head lathe.

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    Photo from 1944. Harry, now 74, got his forehead ground down a bit on dad's crank grinder in the garage at 527 Peck Avenue in San Antonio. Older brother Victor and I were the culprits. You can just make out the spot on his forehead.

    Note Harry is already educating himself (at 20 months old) electrically with the extension cord
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    in addition to being encouraged to play/work in my dad's shop, this was my 6th birthday present...

    http://www.samstoybox.com/toys/PowerShop.html

    I still own the original base machine with about 60% of the accessories intact. I bought two more, one totally mint, the other used, but all there and still have them. It is a surprisingly neat little tool, especially the spiralled jigsaw blades that cut in any direction, but that will not cut skin. Disc sander is VERY effective. Lathe works great, with no fear of busted knuckles from the tool hanging up. Takes a lot of patience to round out square stock, and it stalls easily due to lack of power, but I used to make balsa rocket nosecones and other shapes on it. Drill press works like a charm with the little spade bits, but they are only available in two sizes. One size was for the lathe dead center, the other for the driver end. This was a HUGE influence on my fascination with machine tools, of course.

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    I was born into tools and building things. My Dad was a mechanical engineer with a 9" South Bend Model A lathe and a Buffalo Forge 16" drill press in the basement. I was pulling the lathe around by the flat belt and chewing at a slug of brass around age six. My interest started much earlier according to my Mom, who tells of me in diapers at age two reaching into the dishwasher installer's toolbox and pulling out an Allen wrench and announcing it was an Allen wrench to the installer. My Mom says he about choked. I used to read my Dad's steel mill trade mags (back when Mesta still made giant steel mill equipment) and his Alden Supply catalog over and over. (The Alden Supply catalog was Philadelphia's McMaster-Carr catalog back in the day.)

    I did a ton of metalcutting with a hacksaw and files, since there was no milling machine. I have dim memories of being miserable sawing 2" solid cold rolled and 4x4x3/8 hot-rolled angle. Even a milling attachment for the South Bend did not show up until I was a teenager. I did not know what I was missing, for the most part, and did a lot of stuff that looks very dumb in hindsight. I took apart lawnmower engines a hundred times over because that's what we did at our house. I machined new camshaft lobes for one and made it run as a "steam engine" on compressed air.

    My Dad had some strange acquisitions, like an Ingersoll Rand air drill with a #5 Morse taper that could not be run for more than about 10 seconds with our 5-hp compressor. He had a nice Troyke rotary table all tricked out with dividing plates, but no mill to put it on. His workbench was a beautiful Challenge cast iron layout table nicely finished with a broadnose planer tool. It was about 2.5 x 6'. On the other hand, we had no layout tools other than a combination square and a scriber. We had a matched pair of really nice Taft-Pierce V-blocks, but no grinder to use them on. He had this massive Chicago Pneumatic electric drill motor with a 3/4" chuck. One time I smashed my brother's hand pretty good when we were using the drill to start a V-4 Wisconsin haybaler engine I had resurrected from the bees, mice, and weeds. He had a 20-ton Simplex railroad jack. That thing was miserably heavy just to drag around, and it was not much use for lifting vehicles.

    My Dad was the son of a big city surgeon, who funded him in his tool habits early on, I think. That explains some of the funny acquisitions. Later on, that funding stream dried up, and there was never quite enough money to put, say, a Bridgeport under the rotary table. The money went into expanding the house and paying for college tuition for me and my two brothers. My Dad and his three sons are all mechanical engineers. I think mechanical aptitude has some genetic basis.

    I went the whole nine yards and got a PhD in mechanical engineering, but have not forgotten my roots. I am fortunate that my advanced degree has provided me enough income to get several lathes and mills over the years for my home shop. And, thanks to the Internet and PM, I can find out what I don't know and correct the situation pretty easily compared to my childhood. I have not stopped soaking up everything about machining like a sponge. My roots have kept me interested in learning , and I have taught myself to be reasonably proficient with CAD, g-coding, and CAM despite being nearly 40 years beyond T-squares and drawing boards, which was the norm when I was getting my degree.

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    I am the same age as Rivett608 who started this thread. in 1968 my dad picked up a 1924 Boye & Emmes 18" lathe. At 12 years old I was kind of short. The lathe was kind of high. I had to stand on a tool box so I was high enough as dad taught me how to run it.
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    This is what 8 year olds doo today, if their parents don't support a building
    type hobby:

    Don't to have to help out little johnny with anything, but don't want him to get cut or bruise anything...
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    My first shop effectively replaced a 10 x 12 Lionel Train set from a few years earlier. Gargraves track primarily although most of my yard siding was Lionel 072 an 0 switches. It was a "folded dogbone" main line and gave a nice impression for a continuous run on that smooth Gargraves track.

    The train set was demolished about 1972 and replaced with a general purpose shop. At first I had a bench and woodworking - but eventually I acquired cheap from a flea market a Craftsman 109 lathe. That was it - I was hooked.

    Dad in this time-frame had his own shop which he attempted to maintain as a "man-cave" of sorts. Unfortunately Dad still had the majority of tooling in the house and I was notorious for "borrowing" a tool and not returning it - later to be claimed by Dad to have been left by me on the lawn or some other exposed or irresponsible condition.

    Dad was big on responsibility - as he had every right to be.

    For a while he attempted to lock me out of his shop - until I made a key to fit his lock, or otherwise modified the walls to allow me access. Locks only keep the honest mechanics out?

    He then woke to the futility and announced - "No more locks - I just have to give up having my own space since NO ONE (pointed comment looking at me) here is honest enough to respect it."

    Shamed, (that was the intent wasn't it?) suddenly I became a lot more "responsible."

    And mostly I was.

    But for Dad, his shop was HIS SHOP only while he had control of it. And afterwards it was never quite the same - and neither was his interest in the shop. And this I still truly regret. In the end game of his life he might have taken more pleasure had he "his space" during the time he "needed" it.

    My next lathe was the Flather 16" No. 715 I've mentioned here. It was moved from Botwinik Brothers machine tools along with a Royersford 21" Drill. I've gotten better at moving machinery since then.

    After graduation and a job I finally had MY HOUSE - and MY SHOP. Much as my father had for himself. In fact on one my parents visits I jokingly presented my father with a key to my shop - and the encouragement for him to "borrow and use" any tool he should desire. The joke (amazing what adulthood does to your perceptions) was well given - and well taken - including his riposte. "So you don't mind finding your tools in my lawn?"

    Touche Dad. "Not at all" my reply. Adulthood does that.

    The Flather and Royersford were "restored" in this shop. I had MANY hours in that air conditioned and dehumidified shop.

    And then the world changed again - a new job brought me to New Hampshire and to a new house - and a new shop.

    And along with the new shop came new (old) machinery. Since coming to New Hampshire its been a continuous search and replacement of newer machines with older ones. Mostly machines are now sold rather than scrapped when replaced in my shop.

    I'm still very limited in overall space. The barn is 24 x 32 - but the machine tool wing (man cave) is only 18x18 - although I do have enough height to install line-shafting here.

    Trouble now is 30 years later, Iron expands to fill available space. Along with garden tools, Model A parts, steam boilers and engines, 19th century lab furniture, and my daughters belongings waiting to be moved to her new house in Keene, NH.

    A car in the garage hasn't happened since 1995.

    Joe in NH

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    Hi All, Been lurking a long time, great stories here, adding my 2 cents.
    Scanned this old 127 negative from the family archives. I was too young to remember that car. Pic was most likely taken by Mom with a Brownie camera, she said the waist level view finder was great for getting down to kid level.

    My first shop was probably on the ground, where it all started. . .
    After a few years, I could could get into the basement and poke around Dad's toolbox and the wobbly old kitchen table that served as a workbench. Loved the sparks coming off the hand crank grinder as I "modified" nails and probably one of his screwdrivers.

    Cheers! Davesmallmechanic-copy.jpg

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    Buick! maybe '48


    Quote Originally Posted by newrustic View Post
    Hi All, Been lurking a long time, great stories here, adding my 2 cents.
    Scanned this old 127 negative from the family archives. I was too young to remember that car. Pic was most likely taken by Mom with a Brownie camera, she said the waist level view finder was great for getting down to kid level.

    My first shop was probably on the ground, where it all started. . .
    After a few years, I could could get into the basement and poke around Dad's toolbox and the wobbly old kitchen table that served as a workbench. Loved the sparks coming off the hand crank grinder as I "modified" nails and probably one of his screwdrivers.

    Cheers! Davesmallmechanic-copy.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnoder View Post
    Buick! maybe '48
    Dad told me he had a buck-toothed '50 Buick. The RI plate looks like it says 1961. So long ago!

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    I started with playing around on a 6" atlas lathe and Enco mill drill and welding around the age of 8. Never had video games and still don't find the interest in them. I guess I must have taken a liking to the machining industry because I grew it into a full time business that is doing well. I greatly enjoy it.
    I always wanted bigger equipment as I got older. First I found was a 10" heavy ten lathe, bought it from the building maintenance guy from my high school. He still has a south bend shaper stuffed in the school. Enco mill drill got to small and then came a worn out bridgeport. I had some people give me awesome opportunity do so some small machining work and that was really the start of what was a hobby that became a paying business.

    to make a long story short... still in the 900 square feet and grew to a haas and larger lathes and id,od,surface grinders, CMM ect. 2018 years goal is to find a building and maybe getting part time help.

    I want to make the front room of the build a small archive to the old worn out tools I started with. I would be able to do this with out the support of my father and my grandfather tool makers tools.

    I go to school at the Milwaukee school of engineering and it is the most frustrating thing being in a mechanical engineering class with kids that have used a screw driver. Sign of the times I guess

    I am only 19 as well... lots of reading and scrap makes for a good education.

    lessons cost money, good ones cost lots.

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    I don't recall exactly when I started working with tools, but growing up lean on cash- one thing was for sure, by the time my brother and I were mowing yards in the preteen years we were fixing our own equipment- and its amazing just how crappy those old briggs 4 stroke mowers were. I got exposed to machine shop after high school- figured I'd start there and if I did not like it mechanical engineering at Iowa State was a backup plan. My brother and I started working on cars when I was 14.... rust and body work- a little wrenching on our own. progressed to rebuilding wrecks later in high school and junior college for machining. I can't imagine growing up locked up inside away from all of that.

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    Open the cellar door..down the steps and into the basement where I had a small bench with vice and grinder.I would say ten years old and kept it until I moved out.It was about a 6' x 8' dugout with cemented walls.Above these walls existed about an 18" crawlspace under the house filled with black widows and vermin.

    Later I converted an old Weidenhoff armature lathe into a crappy metal lathe and learned the fundamentals. Had an old Frigidaire ammonia compressor Grandpa converted into an air compressor. Use to light up a cigar and stick it into the air intake on the compressor side and fill the reservoir with smoke. I thought it was cool to blow the smoke all over the basement..stupid. I still have it and it still works and that was fifty years ago.

    Dad studied with ICS ( International Correspondence School, Scranton ) and earned a degree in Quantitative analysis. All his chemicals and apparatus were stored down there and I had strict orders not to touch..ha! Tell that to a kid and he does just the opposite.I made gun powder.I dissolved stuff in acids..bad stuff. Nitric,Aqua Regia and others.I got in a lot of trouble when he found out.

    I made electric motors,a telephone crushing my own carbon for the transmitter,A crystal radio I used for years..a telegraph transmitter and receiver.I tore up more stuff than I ever made.It was a great little shop where I learned how to solder using a propane torch..after killing the black widows with it.Dad taught me to sharpen a drill here.When I attempted to build my first steam boiler (12 years old) I annealed the 1/8" thick walled copper tube 4" in diameter on Moms gas stove in her kitchen. I had slit the side and would open it far as I could than back to her stove. Mom was a great lady.She didn't mind...not even the quenching in her sink. In fact I often soldered on her gas stove. It was ideal for certain things.

    A boys first shop is never forgotten.Everyone needs a place to think and to discover new things. Ah yes..Dads playboy collection ended up down there But this is also where I learned about ac/dc current,diodes,repulsion,steam engines,working metal and wood,and filing.Man..I think I had a hacksaw blade which Noah packed on the ark. Lots of cutting and filing.

    I spent a summer when I was about fourteen fabricating a glass furnace with three cupola's and an annealing oven on top.All cut from 2" angle iron quarter inch thick with a hacksaw. Holes drilled and bolted together then all fire bricked in..clayed and plumbed. We built this in a garage with a stack.Dad bought blowpipes and snapping tools and played with glass blowing for quite a while.It still stands almost fifty years silent fused together with melted glass.

    No kid would do these things today.A workshop is a private place for some and I am one of these people who think in the workshop.I have moved up from the basement into a garage shop and yes..no car has ever been in there under my watch.Some people craved the quiet of a forest but I find this same peace in my small shop..and will until the end. Strange..I still have the black widows

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    My father and grand father were self employed, but separately. Both revolved around heavy trucks or repair shops of them. The kind of guys who never called repair men for anything. My grand father at different points in time built houses, had a refrigeration repair business, and trucks and heavy equipment.

    Leading up to, and into teenage-hood I was forced to work in my dad's truck shop on weekends and any holiday breaks, summers and such. Hated it early on. But most of my friends were into hot rods, as well as me. . . and well I have a shop to go to hang out.

    I kind of had two career paths going on though, I wanted to do wood working/furniture making, or maybe carpentry. So I went to a trade type high school for those. With that I started a wood working shop at the home garage, bought my own table saw when I was 15 I believe. Plus at dad's shop I had my first roll around tool box in the area of 15 or 16.

    So I had the oil and grease life, plus the wood working side going on. As I graduated I was working in a cabinet making shop making pitiful wages. So I moved on to gear and transmission work. Morphed through a wide variety of things until I kind of settled in with diesel engine and power generation work.

    Looking back, the thing that amazes me most I think is the lack of supervision. My father never cared what I did with power saws, lol. He had me swinging truck clutches alone when I was probably 15-ish. The only safety thing that stands out in my mind from him was filling tires that had a split rim, he always wanted them caged, and would scream otherwise.

    Starting high school at 14, we had serious industrial equipment in planers, jointers, band saws, the whole nine, but very little supervision other than an initial walk through. Guards and safety glasses were pretty much optional in a shop class that was 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. And being in a blue collar area, in a blue collar school. . . well a whole lot of questionable things were always going on, haha. No joke, the only injuries we ever had were from fist fights.

    Whether intentional or not, I think the lack of supervision created thinkers and "can do" people. No one was going to hold your hand. You needed to figure it out.

    Now my home garage is beginning to look like a machine shop. Probably because I never did it as a full time career, haha. But I find it enjoyable quiet time, and thinking time same as Lester mentioned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe in NH View Post
    its been a continuous search and replacement of newer machines with older ones.


    Classic!
    Last edited by Peter S; 12-31-2017 at 12:23 AM.

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    If genetics has any role to play in this sort of thing, I am a throwback to my great-grandfather. He was a lifelong mechanic & inventor, had about a dozen patents and died in 1932, 19 years before I was born. We did, however, live with my grandmother, his daughter, and in an unusual way I almost feel as if I knew him. Beyond that, no one in the family, save a single uncle who I only saw a few times a year, had any mechanical aptitude or interest. My first "shop" was an old desk in the cellar with an assortment of very worn out hand tools (because no one else wanted them) inherited from a grandfather who also died before I was born. I had a bench grinder, purchased at the Smithfield Avenue Church fund raising auction, and some sharpened screw drivers that I used for inletting tools. With these, I tried to make a matchlock musket using the drawings in my favorite book "Arms & Armor in Colonial America" by the late Harold Peterson. Many years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Harold and having dinner with him. I doubt he realized the influence he'd had on my life. The stock of my matchlock was a scrap 2x10 from a local building site. The barrel was a piece of gas pipe. It is a good thing I could never make a breech plug because I also made my own gun powder.

    When I was about 12 or 13 I wanted to build a cannon. To that end, I bought two wagon wheels and tried to carve an axle out of an 8x8 timber. That didn't work too well and making the rest of the carriage, as well as finding a suitable tube, were beyond me. I still have the wheels (and the axle)... so maybe I'll try again! I'm not sure where the money came from...probably running errands for my grandmother. From the age of about 13 I worked every summer and school vacation in my father's print shop so, after that, I actually had my own income.

    My father disapproved of all of this. His classic comment was "that kid is very unconventional"... and that was not a compliment. But, he never did anything to stop me and for that I am thankful.

    I was well into my 20s before I bought my first real machine - the Prentice Bros lathe I did a a thread on years ago. Without ever putting it back together, I bought a P&W lathe sans tooling (the machine dealer saw me coming)... a drill press and a power hack saw. With the exception of the considerable help I've received from members of this forum, everything else was self-taught.

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    I started out wanting to weld,from the first time I was around it. Dad was no help, welding was like a black art for him. In jr high, got a chance to experience a metal lathe...........I was hooked, my feverish mind worked on how to get one. Before I was out of high school I had gotten a very worn ATW conehead. It was challenging to make anything due to the massive wear in the spindle bearings. After suffering for too many years with it, I got a chance to get my money back out of it and used it as an excuse to get a good one.
    Went through a tool and die program in college, but made a living doing other things, fleet maintenance, coal miner...............welding always came in handy.............accumulating machines along the way. Trying to find a space for them all now.

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    My kids have helped me in the shop should I request help. Wether to hold something in position or help pull or push a heavy item etc. Beyond that they are really only interested in their smart phones and video games for the most part. They are good kids for the most part. There will always be the gearhead types who want to build and learn but I think a majority of the future generations will be dumbed down quite a bit as they are not growing up learning how to "figure things out" I could be very wrong as well and they may surprise us all.

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    My grandfather saw something in me so for my 5th Christmas he built me a work bench and the tools to use it (wood working) When I got to 6th grade My mom talked the mechanical drawing teacher at the public school to teach me one day a week after school .I went for 3 years.Freshman year in high school I fixed my fathers darkroom timer and started repairing clocks as a business. At 15 got my first car with a blown motor fixed it and sold it for a profit before I could drive . At 21 I was a Machinist apprentice spent 15 yrs machining.In 1990 opened my own place running a Jeep specialty shop . Still have my bench that my grandfather made for me and most every tool I have bought since. My oldest son has been interested in Battle bots since he was a little one and has been building Bots for the last 4 years . So I might have have someone who won't junk my tools when I am gone. Bill

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