(Apprentice) making the most of my time at an amazing shop
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    Default (Apprentice) making the most of my time at an amazing shop

    I am about 2 months into my first machning job. I came in with very little hands on experience other than using my mini lathe and mill in my garage and having basic understanding of machining through a lot of hours on YouTube and forums.

    The shop is a prototyping and low quantity precision cnc shop.(150 parts is a big order). The shop is very flexible and has an easy going environment. We have 4 cnc mills (mitz control), 2 cnc lathes (fanuc), and a mint Hardinge hlv-h and bridgeport with all the bells and whistles. I'm in heaven to say the least.

    It's now been about 2 months and I'm pretty confident with the work flow. I am finally comfortable with most of the machines, other than the lathes, doing setups and adjustments etc. I do have my fair share of scrap which really puts a damper on my day but I'm just trying to learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again. Bossman has been awesome in terms of having me do pretty much everything I thought I would have to wait years to do. I just started being able to run programs I've made and It seems like he is eager to have me programming more which Is ultimately what I love. Drawing up in cad, programming and actually running the parts as an operator from start to finish.

    With all that said I want to make sure I'm making the most of my time. When I get off work I spend another few hours, or till I go to bed, programming and learning new programs (mastercam and solidworks).

    What's else can/should I be doing to get ahead in this trade?

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    Sounds like you have your ducks are in a row and you found a really great place! You should check out the thread thats running "where are all the machinists" or something like that, you're either a unicorn or 56 years old (or a really motivated person making things happen).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwmachine View Post
    Sounds like you have your ducks are in a row and you found a really great place! You should check out the thread thats running "where are all the machinists" or something like that, you're either a unicorn or 56 years old (or a really motivated person making things happen).
    Mid 20s but hoping I didnt start too late...


    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    Mid 20s but hoping I didnt start too late...


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    Most of us here were born knowing how to machine and program...or so it seems

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    i would read your machine manuals. often understanding the machine you operate can save a lot of problems
    .
    when you run programs made by other and use the setup info for those programs learn how others did things. many times you can copy adapt and improve what been done by others 10x faster than trying to figure it out your self. why reinvent the wheel is a saying.
    .
    and asking more experienced people for help and advice is often faster in that often you can get a answer or learn something in a few minutes that might take weeks or months or years figuring it out for yourself with no help.
    .
    learn microsoft office. Excel can do math formulas and create checklists and Powerpoint can create setup files with pictures, drawings, and arrow and text box explaining things. Scientist and engineers use both everyday. they can be extremely powerful tools

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    You sound like your off to a good start. If you don't already have one get yourself a notebook. You would be surprised how easy it can be to forget something if the task is rarely done. I used to have a rule when training people, they are only allowed to ask the same question twice. I will not answer it a third time. So if it is something you think you may forget write it down.

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    It sounds like you found the right place to learn and advance. That is very rare and you should take full advantage of it and show loyalty and appreciation to the company (assuming they do the same for you by compensating you fairly).

    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post

    What's else can/should I be doing to get ahead in this trade?
    Take it easy and keep doing what you are doing. You're not always going to feel the same once the initial excitement wears off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMF_TomB View Post
    i would read your machine manuals. often understanding the machine you operate can save a lot of problems
    .
    when you run programs made by other and use the setup info for those programs learn how others did things. many times you can copy adapt and improve what been done by others 10x faster than trying to figure it out your self. why reinvent the wheel is a saying.
    .
    and asking more experienced people for help and advice is often faster in that often you can get a answer or learn something in a few minutes that might take weeks or months or years figuring it out for yourself with no help.
    .
    learn microsoft office. Excel can do math formulas and create checklists and Powerpoint can create setup files with pictures, drawings, and arrow and text box explaining things. Scientist and engineers use both everyday. they can be extremely powerful tools
    Biggest thing for me has been worrying about asking questions but I learned really fast that if I dont ask, I could be sitting on it for a while when I could just ask and be on to the next thing within a minute or two.

    I have some experience with excel and I plan to get all my digital measurement tools with data output so I can start implementing it into excel and having every part measured. From what I understand that's part of a precision shops inspection procedures?

    Thanks for all the input!

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dualkit View Post
    You sound like your off to a good start. If you don't already have one get yourself a notebook. You would be surprised how easy it can be to forget something if the task is rarely done. I used to have a rule when training people, they are only allowed to ask the same question twice. I will not answer it a third time. So if it is something you think you may forget write it down.
    Definitely, I have a notebook with random things to keep from asking the same questions. I'm hoping to reorganize it once I fill it up and have an idea of what I actually need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    Mid 20s but hoping I didnt start too late...


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    I started in my mid 20s as well, with only experience in high school. Im in my mid 30s now and been having fun ever since and have enjoyed a pretty financially satisfying career. You are well on your way. You seem very motivated.

    Sent from my SM-G950W using Tapatalk

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    I started professionally at 29...be a sponge, don't be afraid to experiment within reason. Never stop learning, take classes if available. Learn the ins and outs of the machines, including maintenance and how to fix basic things. Make yourself valuable, it can make a big difference.

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    If your math skills are good, particularly trigonometry, then get a good feel for speeds/feeds of the different material groups. Get familiar with using an indicator (DTI) and how it should be used and what it DOESN'T tell you (quantitative vs. comparative values). Learn how a to sharpen cutting tools, not so much to do it, as to understand HOW they work and when they don't (but look ok). Examine chips from various machines to learn how to tell a good cut from "something isn't right". Ask lots of questions, keep a handy notebook when you do. Sounds like you've got a good attitude and are applying yourself. Doing your own research off hours is a big plus. Learn an associative, parametric, 3D CAD program and how to make a proper drawing of what you've just modeled. You'll do well in a few years, I applaud your efforts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AD Design View Post
    If your math skills are good, particularly trigonometry, then get a good feel for speeds/feeds of the different material groups. Get familiar with using an indicator (DTI) and how it should be used and what it DOESN'T tell you (quantitative vs. comparative values). Learn how a to sharpen cutting tools, not so much to do it, as to understand HOW they work and when they don't (but look ok). Examine chips from various machines to learn how to tell a good cut from "something isn't right". Ask lots of questions, keep a handy notebook when you do. Sounds like you've got a good attitude and are applying yourself. Doing your own research off hours is a big plus. Learn an associative, parametric, 3D CAD program and how to make a proper drawing of what you've just modeled. You'll do well in a few years, I applaud your efforts.
    Working on relearning trig. Which is actually satisfying now that I know I will use it everyday.

    One of my main questions is how to actually learn speeds and feeds and getting a good understanding of the limits. This is the biggest wall I've hit so far.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    Working on relearning trig. Which is actually satisfying now that I know I will use it everyday.

    One of my main questions is how to actually learn speeds and feeds and getting a good understanding of the limits. This is the biggest wall I've hit so far.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
    I actually use software I paid $35 for in 1988 to do trig and it also has a feed and speed data base, a thread database including a thread cutting feature where it spits out numbers you would use for thread cutting. The guy who wrote it was an ex-coworker. He died a couple years ago and it is no longer sold. It is on floppy discs. It is real handy, don't know if I could copy it to CD or e-mail the file. That is the only machinist related software I own, other than a free Solidworks viewer. I only have 2 axis CNC lathes so I am a cut and paste programmer. I have an extensive library of programs so I can always find something close. I also use tool width variables. Sometimes I can make a new program in just minutes.

    One thing with feeds and speeds databases and machinery handbooks those numbers are just a starting point, sometimes you will have to slow down, other times you can speed up. With the influx of raw materials from 3rd world countries there can be big differences in how the exact material can machine from different sources.

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    Is this a real apprenticeship or are you just the FNG?

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    When I get off work I spend another few hours, or till I go to bed, programming and learning new programs (mastercam and solidworks).
    Sounds like you have all the drive and making of a good machinist. Working or studying the craft after the day job is all good in moderation. Be careful not to burn yourself out too fast. Remember there is a life outside of machining. Having a lathe and a mill in your garage already makes me believe you have your act together so I'm guessing that you may be a family man also? This trade can be overwhelming and consume a lot of your time. Some days just leave work at work Know when to walk away and don't take it out on the misses (its easy to do and you don't realize it).


    I do have my fair share of scrap which really puts a damper on my day but I'm just trying to learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again.


    Don't kick yourself over a scrapped part. Its just that, a piece of material that started out as a lump and they make more everyday. I bet when you realize you scrapped a part you get that burning sensation that runs up the back of your neck to your ears and cheeks? Let it pass, yes learn from the mistake but don't ever let it bum you out.



    My biggest piece of advice is put a lot of time in on manual machines. There will be stuff that's just not practical to CNC or maybe even not possible and requires the skill of a manual machinist. The tricks that just seem to pop in your head on manual stuff carry over to CNC in many ways, Fixturing and other work holding is a good example. Broaching, Shaping, Gear cutting on a dividing head, surface grinding (Blanchard guys make good money), I could go on and on with the manual stuff but I'm sure you will get it with time.


    Welcome to a new and rewarding life style. Don't plan on getting rich but you will never have to worry about a job.

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    A good example on those variable feeds and speeds. First I try to buy USA whenever possible, had to switch vendors multiple times back in Cali as they started to carry Chinese only when it came to 6061 aluminum. Anyway back like a dozen years ago when I ran my own products, I get a shipment of 2" to 4" 6061 aluminum rounds to make custom alternator pulleys out of. These are parts I had run thousands and thousands of over the past 10 or so years. After unloading the truck I noticed the bars didn't have any brand markings on them and had heavier than usual extrusion marks.

    I figure I just got 500 pounds of Chinese crap 6061. I had been getting Alcoa from the place for the last couple years, since it was 4 pm Friday and I want to work the weekend I decided to give it a shot. Long story short, the smallest ones that had 2 minutes of total cycle time with domestic aluminum I ended up slowing down to 6 minute cycle time. The issue was gumming up tools, surface tearing and instead of easily breaking the chips on heavy rough turning the chips came off like bailing wire.

    That wasn't the end of the misery, I sent them out for hard black anodize, almost 1/3 of them came back with ugly brown spots and got tossed in the dumpster.

    Who I feel bad for is the company that hasn't had the Chinese crap aluminum experience and it hits on someone who doesn't have a lot of experience. I have never seen so many posts where someone is struggling running 6061, a lot of the time Chinese crap is the problem. What happens if the above happens to a somewhat new employee and a place that isn't aware of the curse of Chinese aluminum. I wonder how many innocent guys got fired over it. You have to be a very well respected employee to blame the material for issues.

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    From your side of the coin it looks like you are great employee. If you really want to cause the bosses brain to explode ask him what you need to do to be a better employee and what skills they would like you to learn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by g-coder05 View Post
    [B]Some days just leave work at work .
    Sometimes that isn't possible. Almost 35 years ago I was running Swiss automatics that had all the bells and whistles. The spinning cross drills and back drills put oil in the air and you usually got sprayed doing set-ups. The common oil for running steel at the time and place was something I believe was called Withrow 66. It was a dark sulfur based oil that had a strong odor. My wife at the time insisted after work I enter the house through the garage and leave my work clothes in a sealed metal can and head straight to the shower. Even though at the time we had no children and she had no job she refused to launder my work clothes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdmidget View Post
    Is this a real apprenticeship or are you just the FNG?
    Probably not a real apprenticeship but definitely the FNG.

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