Encouraging apprentices to make their own tools.
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    Default Encouraging apprentices to make their own tools.

    Hello,
    How many shops out there emphasize the making of personal machinist tools? I was very fortunate to start my career in a shop that allowed us to make our own tools. Since we worked a 4-day work week Fridays were off, but the shop was still open for us youngsters to make things. The shop supplied the material and paid for the heat treating. Most of the time a Journeyman was their to offer advise and guidance. One of the tips that I remember was to identify our tools with our name and date.
    otrlt

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    What tools can someone make today that would be relevant in a modern CNC shop? How much time are they going to spend making something that
    can be purchased off the shelf? I understand the value of the "hands-on" learning experience that one would take away from this but I'm not sure if it
    fits in a modern shop environment. I think it's probably more important to learn to use tools that are available than how to make them.

    My brother and I have a small job shop. We're pretty old school--strictly manual machines in the shop--and we do a bit of everything from alum. and
    steel welding and fabrication to smaller machining jobs which are mostly one-offs or repair and maintenance oriented. We've been doing this for over
    40 years and in the "good ol' days" we made a lot of stuff for our own use. We still make jigs and fixtures as required but any tools or tooling we need
    now are almost always purchased.

    I see some neat tools and stuff on some of the home shop forums but I simply don't have time to make them. If I'm going to be in the shop I want to be
    making chips--or welding, or cutting or grinding...

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    Hello LKeithR,
    I am pleased that you have replied, and as usual I respect your comments, but your statement about the relevance of my described practice in a modern CNC shop or any other kind of shop is flawed. Encouraging apprentices to make tools on their own time will reveal the future pro that all shops need to cultivate. As an apprentice we were told that these tools were not just objects, but they are "LIVE" instruments of future profits.

    Our manager once told me how he screened new employees. The size of their toolbox wasn't important, but what he did want to see is their "personally" made tools, not cheap off the shelf junk.
    otrlt

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    24 years ago when my intent was to be an ambitious amateur, I bought a rollaway & top chest of tools from a retiring tool & die maker. 1-2-3 blocks, couple dozen parallels, vee blocks, angle blocks, indicator holders, squares, toolmaker's vise, all made in his apprentice years in the 60's, his initials engraved on the more significant items in the style you'd do with a manual Bridgeport and rotary table that might take half a day just to engrave the initials. Can't imagine how much time all that took. Reckon half of it at a surface grinder. All nicer than most of what I've seen off the shelf. For me, digging through his kit was an education like reading McMaster and MSC. Anytime I had a head-scratching setup problem, just went through the drawers and found some item previously a mystery to me turned out to be just the ticket.

    Hard to imagine a work environment where someone could do all this work at the beginning of their career. Does it still exist?

    Very little of this kit is specific to manual work.

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    During my apprenticeship I made small things to make my life easier for some small repeat manual jobs that I kept in my box but I never bothered with tools. After my apprenticeship I designed and built a 5c spindex fixture but it sits at home never used for any sort of work since I was never quite happy with it. I do work in my spare time for other hobbies like fishing, I spend 40-50h/week doing machining if I'm going to put in my own time it's going to be for something that gets me out of the shop.

    With the tight margins so many shops work within today I can't imagine there being much opportunity for apprentices to "waste" time on the clock doing non-paying work except in large union shops.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LKeithR View Post
    What tools can someone make today that would be relevant in a modern CNC shop? How much time are they going to spend making something that
    can be purchased off the shelf? I understand the value of the "hands-on" learning experience that one would take away from this but I'm not sure if it
    fits in a modern shop environment. I think it's probably more important to learn to use tools that are available than how to make them.

    My brother and I have a small job shop. We're pretty old school--strictly manual machines in the shop--and we do a bit of everything from alum. and
    steel welding and fabrication to smaller machining jobs which are mostly one-offs or repair and maintenance oriented. We've been doing this for over
    40 years and in the "good ol' days" we made a lot of stuff for our own use. We still make jigs and fixtures as required but any tools or tooling we need
    now are almost always purchased.

    I see some neat tools and stuff on some of the home shop forums but I simply don't have time to make them. If I'm going to be in the shop I want to be
    making chips--or welding, or cutting or grinding...
    .
    .
    i made curved vise stops not as apprentice but wanted ones that worked better than straight ones. picture not easiest to see but they are curved like banana. hard to explain. curved so could be longer and not hit table
    .
    you can bet they were not done on my time. i snuck them in between jobs did a little at a time. 10 minutes here and there. rods i made on manual lathe
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mazakvises.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by otrlt View Post
    Hello LKeithR,
    I am pleased that you have replied, and as usual I respect your comments, but your statement about the relevance of my described practice in a modern CNC shop or any other kind of shop is flawed. Encouraging apprentices to make tools on their own time will reveal the future pro that all shops need to cultivate. As an apprentice we were told that these tools were not just objects, but they are "LIVE" instruments of future profits.

    Our manager once told me how he screened new employees. The size of their toolbox wasn't important, but what he did want to see is their "personally" made tools, not cheap off the shelf junk.
    otrlt
    A set of V-blocks and some 1-2-3 blocks I made 37 years ago have been used constantly.. I have ground many thousand mold ejector pins in those V-blocks over the years. The design of them allows me to work much faster, and get better accuracy than any bought V-block. It is important to use the right steel for making tools and fixtures... no use wasting time on junk steel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis In SC View Post
    A set of V-blocks and some 1-2-3 blocks I made 37 years ago have been used constantly.. I have ground many thousand mold ejector pins in those V-blocks over the years. The design of them allows me to work much faster, and get better accuracy than any bought V-block. It is important to use the right steel for making tools and fixtures... no use wasting time on junk steel.
    .
    .
    some stuff i make out of prehardened 4140. not super hard but hard enough for many things and can still machine with carbide
    .
    you can buy low grade precision right angle blocks and other stuff and grind more precise if needed. i have seen in catalogs cheaper lower precision stuff made to .001" per 6" tolerances
    .
    often used oversize precision ground steel stock. its made on purpose like .005 or .010" oversize for grinding after heat treat

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hazzert View Post
    During my apprenticeship I made small things to make my life easier for some small repeat manual jobs that I kept in my box but I never bothered with tools. After my apprenticeship I designed and built a 5c spindex fixture but it sits at home never used for any sort of work since I was never quite happy with it. I do work in my spare time for other hobbies like fishing, I spend 40-50h/week doing machining if I'm going to put in my own time it's going to be for something that gets me out of the shop.

    With the tight margins so many shops work within today I can't imagine there being much opportunity for apprentices to "waste" time on the clock doing non-paying work except in large union shops.
    .
    .
    most manual machinist tools i made as a apprentice have zero value in a modern cnc shop. for example a hand tapping block.

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    I think my best "invention" was an angle plate with dowels and a threaded hole spaced 10deg apart, and a matching piece that was straight on one side and 5deg on the other. With that I could easily set between 5 and 45deg for sharpening punches and cutoff blades. Made on my own time -
    1) to prove it would work and save time
    2) just because
    Of course, those days are long gone, no time to make tools now. As others mentioned, so much easier to buy.

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    I made a 5c and 16c collet wrench that is useable in a modern machine shop since I have a CNC lathe that can use a chuck, 5c or 16c. I also have various custom sized cheater bars used to break loose fasteners on modern CNC machines. I made a custom made dead stop system for my spindle on my modern CNC machine. It also has a few custom tool holders in it I made. I made various vise stops for my manual mill but that thing isn't modern it is 30 years old.

    I am pretty sure some of the things I made aren't available anywhere or at least not for the fit and function I needed. Even if they were available it would take a lot of searching to find a match. I could have spent hours and hours searching and come up empty handed, time I could have better spent making something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by otrlt View Post
    Hello,
    How many shops out there emphasize the making of personal machinist tools? I was very fortunate to start my career in a shop that allowed us to make our own tools. Since we worked a 4-day work week Fridays were off, but the shop was still open for us youngsters to make things. The shop supplied the material and paid for the heat treating. Most of the time a Journeyman was their to offer advise and guidance. One of the tips that I remember was to identify our tools with our name and date.
    otrlt
    In principle an excellent initiative. What would interest me most though would be to see what these youngsters could come up with re innovative thinking rather than "just another standard tool".

    The sad day will come when some of them hear, "That's a waste of time", "That can't be done" and "Why bother?".

    Anything that can be done to motivate innovation and inventiveness can only be good and it can't be started early enough. See what kids can do with LEGO LOL

    NEW LEGO INVENTIONS For The SERIOUS LEGO BUILDER◄🚧 - YouTube

    1 Most Incredible LEGO Creations - YouTube

    The first prototype of what I now make was done using Lego over 20 years ago.

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    part of problem is people are assigned a machine to work on and thats the only machine they run normally. many shops would not want apprentices wandering around using other machines. that is many shops do not have low horsepower bridgeport mill and a small manual lathe. they might have 20hp very large mills and lathes with many extra features and levers and buttons.
    .
    when shop has no simpler and smaller machines it is not easy to make stuff. plus of course boss assigns work or jobs. and many shops all tools you need are supplied. picture shows a shop made shallow bore indicating gage with .0001" indicator. i was once assigned to make a few sizes. at the time i did not even know what i was making.
    .
    i ended up using them many times years later and recognized them
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails shallowboregage_2.jpg   shallowboregage_1.jpg  

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    [QUOTE=DMF_TomB;2918303 that is many shops do not have low horsepower bridgeport mill and a small manual lathe. they might have 20hp very large mills and lathes with many extra features and levers and buttons.
    .
    when shop has no simpler and smaller machines it is not easy to make stuff.[/QUOTE]

    The world must have changed a lot since I last worked for the man 20 years ago. I have worked at 8 different shops plus my own. All of them had a 9" x 42" or so manual mill and a Hardinge HC or similar small lathe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by otrlt View Post
    The size of their toolbox wasn't important, but what he did want to see is their "personally" made tools, not cheap off the shelf junk.
    I honestly consider myself extremely lucky for having been treated the way I was, early on in my career. Much of the time, I did not deserve it, either. But those few souls took me under their wings and showed me ways toward not only a successful career, but even possibly a better understanding of what it was that I was expected to do.

    My Apprenticeship was with just such a man. I have written of him before, and frankly I shall be grateful for his mentoring, leadership, and friendship until the day that I die. Frank demanded that I make tools for myself. Especially when such tools were relevant and useful to the task at hand. Often, he would have me make a few, and when completed he offer them to others in the Toolroom.

    What made this even more valuable to my later self was that this was NOT encouraged by the company. In fact, it was more oft frowned upon. Deadlines and budgets ruled the day, and there was not time for such trivial pursuits. But Frank ran interference, and often took the heat himself, in my place. I saw the frustration and anger it caused him. It wasn't pretty.

    I still use some of those tools to this day. Almost 30 years later. And I even use them in CNC machines, despite having made them before ever touching one or knowing how they worked. I gained a much more thorough understanding of planning, processes, and precision. And subsequently, I gained pride in my accomplishments and confidence in my skills.

    Some of what I consider the most interesting and skillfully made tools have come from the boxes of other Toolmakers, Tool & Die Makers, and Machinists. And I cannot but wholeheartedly agree that those tools are a direct indication and reflection of their skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toolbert View Post
    Hard to imagine a work environment where someone could do all this work at the beginning of their career. Does it still exist?
    I would like to think that when we finally reach a point that I will hire an Apprentice or otherwise younger soul, that I would give them the same considerations given me and both allow and demand that they do. Thinking back, this actually is one of the things that I used to be very vocal about in the employment of others when they would rush "apprentices" through for but the benefit of a soul pumping blood, able to "hit the button". They are nothing but cheating themselves of a better future and the individual of a better career. Period.

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    Excellent reply DMF_TomB,
    I guess you are right TomB, a production cnc shop is no place for a youngster to learn.
    I like your gage bracket, I will save it, I will make it.
    otrlt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dualkit View Post
    The world must have changed a lot since I last worked for the man 20 years ago. I have worked at 8 different shops plus my own. All of them had a 9" x 42" or so manual mill and a Hardinge HC or similar small lathe.
    .
    .
    some machines and parts i machine where i work
    .
    in general one does not walk up to them and start using them unless authorized to use
    .
    sure i would like a toy bridgeport mill to help with stuck tools (cracked set screws) in tool holders. unfortunately none left
    .
    got a small collet speed lathe and a old jig bore i sometimes use. got to walk over 1/4 mile to other side of building to use. not often i leave my normal CNC to use a manual machine. it would have to be real important
    .
    i do manual machining (on cnc usually)and write simple programs but i have to be real careful. big machines push tons and move at least 10x faster than manuals. to be honest i am usually sweating pretty good doing spur of the moment programming. operating programming and parameters manuals are over 2000 pages, can take a decade to read all of them on one cnc. having a apprentice walk up to one and start pressing buttons maybe not a good ideal
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails bn25a_partsnearby_smaller.jpg   boredhole99.jpg   brokentool.jpg   fh_partswaitingpallet.jpg   boredhole.jpg  


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    double indicator tram gage. can set turret on bridgeport or check vise if got a parallel sticking up. for vise setting set both gages to back of table gets to .0005" then read just one indicator and move in X to read to finer than .0005" for setting vise. i used to use (maybe 1 to 3 minutes) everyday in the morning as turret on Bridgeport when roughing often moves a little from cutting forces
    .
    never use on a CNC. on most CNC the head does not tilt or rotate and vise is fixed parallel to X no swivel on vise usually on CNC as CNC does angles faster than can rotate a vise
    .
    when ever i scrap a part and have to walk to metal rack and create a program and run it so i got a rough block size quick to remake part it can take 10 to 30 minutes and usually i am sweating pretty good. make one mistake and bam crash then got to explain crash AND scrapping the part.
    .
    now a days apprentices have to create program to make parts as mostly only cnc machines are available. risk of failure is higher and risk of damaged machine is higher
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mill_tramvise.jpg  

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    I still make my own tools from time to time...nothing beats the satisfaction. Few months ago I made an indexable chamfer tool for milling, company would have bought me 10 if I asked but now I have one that is truly mine.

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