Machinist V.S. Toolmaker
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  1. #1
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    I've read alot on this forum about what a machinist is or isn't. Just wondering what your thoughts are on what seperates a machinist from a toolmaker

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    A toolmaker is always a machinist. A machinist isn't always a toolmaker...

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    When I was an apprentice, I was told that a machinist can use a machine tool to perform a job (use a lathe to turn down a shaft, use a mill to face, etc.) while a toolmaker can use a machine shop to make a finished product. IOW, a machinist may be specialized in only one area whereas a toolmaker knows his way around a whole shop. And, he/she usually has much more strict specs. It took good experience for a machinist to reach the title of toolmaker.

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  6. #4
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    A machinist is a person that can make any part or repair any part to restore a piece of equipment to working condition. He is generally proficient on all shop machines and must have a good imagination and perception of how things work and how to setup work.

    A toolmaker or tool and die machinist deals with close tolerance work on dies, molds and other tooling that require extreme accuracy. He does not deal with looser tolerances of repair of machines, etc. as a general rule. Toolmakers are competent on all shop machines as well.

    The big difference between machinist and toolmaker to me is, I consider a machinist to be a job shop worker and can handle any job without getting hung up in close tolerances and make it work. A toolmaker's major concern is tolerance and serviceability of the tool or die he is making and the performance of the tool or die or mold is critical.

    There is an old saying: You can make a machinist into a toolmaker but you can't make a toolmaker into a machinist.

    I find this somewhat true because when I had to do a close tolerance job with close fit and finish I would find myself spending to much time on the next job that did not require close tolerance or finish. So once a person gets used to working in close tolerances it is hard to let go and just make it work.

    A subject like this is very subjective and open to debate. I have seen serious arguments about this and I am in no way degrading anyone. I am a job shop machinist that on occasion got to do some close tolerance work both at home and at work. Both are fun to me and I have a lot of admiration for toolmakers but I don't want to deal with the pressure and tension involved with tool making as a steady diet every day.

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    A machinist should be GOOD in all aspects of a shop.
    A toolmaker IS PERFECT in all aspects of a shop.

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    In my experience a machinist can take a print and make a part. A Toolmaker can take an idea and make a part.

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    To me, a toolmaker is a person that can take a part, print or concept, & run with it. From cutting materials, machining, heat treating, grinding.. Do all that it takes, to complete a project, & make sure it works, with little or no supervision.. And usually make a few improvements to the original print or concept.

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    This is a grey area.I no longer think there is any difference in definitions other than what we each want to believe.

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    As in everything else, the defintion is always changing. Good toolmakers, moldmakers, and machinists are becoming scarce. Nobody wants to get into the "trades" anymore, it isn't a "cool" job.

    When I was working as a toolmaker and moldmaker, SIP's answer was very close. Just to expand; A toolmaker (or moldmaker) starts with the finished part and works bacwards. They create the tooling, molds, or fixturing to make the finished part.

    Sometimes, you have a drawing and sometimes you have an idea or concept to start with. The good diemaker is the guy that can't pick up a part without trying to figure out how they stamped it. The moldmaker looks for part lines. The toolmaker thinks of how to hold a part so that the machinist can run it.

    Over the years, I've seen a lot of guys that were given the title of "toolmaker". IMO, most were just high paid machinists. I've also worked with some guys that thought that anything with over 0.0005" tol. was a "gravy" job.
    JR

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    The two are very close In my opinion and carl you are right its the tolerances the make a big differance. General machine knowledge is also key in toolmaking. I had a great apprentiship working in a very small job shop with a wide variaty of machinces. From manual mills,lathes,grinders, jig grinders to Full cnc mills,lathes plus both conventional and wire edms. The best part was you took the job from start to finish using whatever machine you needed. In todays world a departmentalising I think the days of a true toolmaker are numbered. Very rarly do I see an ad in the paper for toolmakers( and I look every week)
    Again good feedback

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    The question is more like:

    Does a machinist who makes all the production fixturing classify as a toolmaker, especially when all 4 fixtures have to be within 1 thou of each other?

    Its a blurred line really, I drive my boss insane sometimes because I take time to make sure the fixturing/setups are perfectly right, when +/- 4 thou is close enough, then write and modify the programs to do the job faster and faster.*

    The major difference between a machinist and a toolmaker is a machinist will say "That will do" when the job sizes are within the limits, a toolmaker will say "that will do" when the sizes are within 1/2 a thou of nominal.

    Boris

    *Then strangle the operator for putting the part in upside down and breaking all the expensive long series taps :mad:

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    OK, so where do we R&D Gunsmiths fit in? I would say we do Toolmaker, Welder, Machinist, and Cabinetmaker jobs.

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    The first three years of the mid sixites P&WA apprenticeship were considered enough to be a "machinist" at P&WA. If you were good enough during those three years, you were offered the fourth year - and could specialize in tool, die or gauge making.

    The fourth year was a "project" year. You had to design, draw up, build and make work a die used in a press. This included material selection, hardware specification, die spring selection, heat treat, etc.

    John

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    regardless of feelings and perceptions... by literal definitions....
    a toolmaker: someone who builds, maintains, modifies and repairs tooling
    a diemaker: someone who builds, maintains, modifies and repairs diesets
    a machinist: a machine operator, w/ at least a basic working knowledge (tho not neccesarily limited to) of the operation of at least 1 machine (either manual, automatic or CNC)

  20. #15
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    According to some of the opinions of machinist and toolmaker I am a machinist/toolmaker or toolmaker/machinist. As a job shop machinist you are required to make your own drawings of the part and how they relate to the rest of the parts. Then make or repair the part needed. This is most always the case in job shop work. We very seldom and I mean VERY seldom had a print to work from. Everyone in our shop had to make their own drawings and keep them for future reff. or give them to the boss. He always lost them so I kept mine. I designed and built several machines for customers. The boss, the customer and I would have a meeting to understand what the customer wanted and what will work or not. Sometimes the customer would have drawings but mostly only ideas of what he wanted and I had to do drawings then consult with the customer again. Job shops operate nothing like tool and die and mold shops where they have drawings in detail. Production shops also use drawings to maintain exchangeability of parts. I have worked in all three type shops.

    All areas of machine work have their special requirements. To say one is better than the other is balderdash or bragadero or elitism. As I said, a toolmaker is concered with tolerance, fit and finish while a job shop machinist is concerned with making the part right and fit in reasonable time. As a job shop machinist I may want to spend time on tolerance, fit and finish, it is not needed nor is time given to do so. Cost and time is of major concern. "We have a machine down and it has to run NOW", is the customers statement when he brings the job in. A toolmaker has some lead time on a new job but on repairs he has the customer breathing down his neck as well.

    So in summation there is little difference between the two. It's all in which do you prefer to do. I choose job shop and love it.

    edit: a machine operator is not a machinist under any condition or definition.

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    When I was in the auto industryas a production line worker at GM in the 50s & 60s Gm had machinists and toolmakers.
    When I returned in the 70s as a journeyman, Ford had only toolmakers at the Atlanta plant. Seems there had been so much squabbling about whose work was whose, especially on overtime, that the company and union agreed to designate all these jobs as toolmakers. We did normal maintenance machinist chores as well as buliding, modifying, and repairing assembly fixtures and welding fixtures. There was no stamping done at assembly plant, so no dies.
    Maybe Matt Isserstedt will join in and comment on the present system at GM.
    Dave

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    An all-around machinist can make any machine part from plan or sample and make it to schedule and budget. An all-around tool maker has to have an all-around machinist making stuff for him and telling him what to do otherwise he's an overpaid helper in a white apron. Don't get me wrong, toolmakers are OK but don't play cards with them, cook for you, or let your sister date one.

    I've had many an entertaining wrangle with toolmakers on this very subject. They're an admirable species - and necessary, I guess - but sometimes they get a bit swollen headed about their exaulted status and need to be taken down a peg. That's the machinist's job. First chance you get tell a toolmaker "Hey, there's a spot on your apron" and rub at it with a fingertip smudged with Prussian blue.

    If any of you younger fellows get a chance at a toolmaker's apprenticeship, jump at it. Toolmakers get about 20% more money and they're under less time pressure to do their work. Their work is also challenging and rewarding.

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    My Dad used to say that the toolmaker's he worked with at both Clark Equipment and Dana Corporation NEVER ran machines at all. It wasn't their job. They did benchwork, fitting parts together, lapping, etc., etc..

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    Myself I see no real difference. Only thing I see really different is specializations.

    A Machinist makes parts and the like. And knows how to run the machines needed to get the jobs required done at a good rate and as accurate as they need them. But then you have sub-groups of specizations like:

    - A Tool maker makes jigs, fixtures and tools for machines. And knows how they work and can design there own.
    - A Mold maker makes molds. And knows how they work and can design there own.
    - A Die maker makes dies and the like. And knows how they work and can design there own.
    - and more titles you can give.

    Myself I think the term "General Machinist" is over used, a General Machinist should be knowlageable and have the understanding of a Tool maker, a Mold maker and a Die maker etc. [img]smile.gif[/img] You know a "all around" General do anything needed machinist. And they'd probably be the most experianced, not only working in just the one shop there whole carrers but spending time in many different shops learning all sorts of tricks from many of the older machinists he may have found, and probably the older machinists in a shop himself [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Now if in shops this is different I dont know this is from what I've read what they all do so if I'm off base I'm sorry. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Dimitri

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    I've worked in toolrooms in both the metal stamping and die casting industries. The toolmakers in both companies ran every machine themselves as necessary, including the EDMs and jig borers, as well as doing all their own benchwork grooming the dies. The big difference was that the die casting dies were designed and detailed in the engineering office, while the stampings dies were designed right on the bench.


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