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    Default Too ambitious?

    A while ago made a post about just starting at a small cnc shop. Things are going good and I'm starting to wondering what my long term goals are. I defintely see myself machining the rest of my working life. I had ambitions of getting an engineering degree but after talking with and shadowing a mechanical engineer, actually making the parts is where I am happy.

    I came into the shop 6 months ago with no experience other than a lot of youtube and some home shop experience. I'm currently setting up and operating both mills and lathes, usually 2-4 machines at a time, and slowly training to program. The more I learn the more I realise how much I dont know and that's keeping me excited and assures me im in this trade for life.

    I'm curious how you made the transition from working for someone to starting your own shop. I have a fantasy that I could buy my own mill and lathe and do work on the side as I continue to work and learn from my employer. I assume I can get work from him after I've proven myself to be able to go from a print to part.

    Make no mistake, I know I have a lonngggg way to go in terms of being a machinist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    , actually making the parts is where I am happy.
    I think you need to take stock, not just of what want to do as vocation but what you want out of life. Making parts seems like something fairly distant from success in business: entirely different skill sets and success in business probably means someone will be making the parts while you sell, estimate, fret payroll and chase customers for payment.....while having your entire worth guaranting some crummy little line of credit.

    otoh maybe you're willing to do those things that are less enjoyable/more worrisome than making parts because you value independence and the chance at economic gain..

    There's no right and wrong to it, its what you out of life....and its not a fantasy, its how you'll spend everyday and determine to large degree what you get of life, economically speaking. Big decisions....but otoh they're' not forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mcgyver View Post
    I think you need to take stock, not just of what want to do as vocation but what you want out of life. Making parts seems like something fairly distant from success in business: entirely different skill sets and success in business probably means someone will be making the parts while you sell, estimate, fret payroll and chase customers for payment.....while having your entire worth guaranting some crummy little line of credit.

    otoh maybe you're willing to do those things that are less enjoyable/more worrisome than making parts because you value independence and the chance at economic gain..

    There's no right and wrong to it, its what you out of life....and its not a fantasy, its how you'll spend everyday and determine to large degree what you get of life, economically speaking. Big decisions....but otoh they're' not forever.
    I'm not worried about the business side but understand it's a pain (had a small business when I was younger). I am defintely looking for independence. I like the grind and the chase but I dont know what it's like for the machining world obviously. In terms of life, economic gain is a big part of wanting to eventually go on my own. I dont see myself making the kind of money I hope to by being a programmer the rest of my life.


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    Read this thread for ideas:
    B&A Precision

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    Glad to see your enjoying the thrill of machining. It is still pretty cool to me to watching a hunk of solid transformed into a precision part. I enjoy the process of developing a plan on how to get it there in the best time with least amount of tool wear and breakage.

    One of the best things about the trade is the more you learn the more you realize you do not know.

    All that said, going from machinist on the floor making parts to owner takes you away from the actual making parts end of the business. Its so much nicer to be given a print, material and told to "get er done" over trying to bring jobs in, quoting, buying materials, scheduling jobs to keep customers happy, keep machines running, making payroll, fixing machines, figuring out what to do when materials promised do not show, but job still must go. When materials show...but the guys don't.

    Then comes working your butt off to get jobs out the door to meet your deadlines, always deadlines seems nobody ever orders before they are out of product anymore...with orders they have already received deposits on waiting on your parts. BUt oh so nice a feeling when you make that impossible delivery and they smile...then 30 days later when their bill is due...somehow they are out of money. They are waiting on a check to come in and your at the top of the list. Week two weeks go by and still nothing...you've paid for the materials, machine payment, employees salary, tooling and taxes...but now you can't take a check this week or next week you won't make payroll...and you call your customer to see when your getting paid only to find its still a couple more days

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    Certainly not too ambitious if that's what you want to do. And starting on the side is probably a good way to go if you're not sure, you can do a couple projects and if it doesn't work out you keep your day job.

    As noted above, as an owner all of a sudden machining parts to tolerance is overshadowed by a host of other challenges. Depending on your personality some will be fun and some miserable. I like most of our customers, so that's not a problem, but various laws and regulations make me want to jump off a bridge.

    To me the easiest way to start on the side is with your own product. Do you have any hobbies? Guns, dirt bikes, even (heaven forbid) woodworking? Keep your eyes open for niche products that you can create.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    I'm not worried about the business side but understand it's a pain (had a small business when I was younger). I am defintely looking for independence. I like the grind and the chase but I dont know what it's like for the machining world obviously. In terms of life, economic gain is a big part of wanting to eventually go on my own. I dont see myself making the kind of money I hope to by being a programmer the rest of my life.


    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
    The business side is the only thing you should be worried about.

    A lot of shop owners here on the forum can program machines in their sleep. Yet, running the business is what keeps them up at night.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    I have a fantasy that I could buy my own mill and lathe and do work on the side as I continue to work and learn from my employer. I assume I can get work from him after I've proven myself to be able to go from a print to part.
    Not a chance in the world. The transition from employee to competitor is a shaky one and will end in hurt feelings at best, lawsuit at the worst.

    If you really want to succeed at your own business, it's gotta be your own from the ground up, and it's going to require your full time effort and commitment. If you want to run the business for side money, that's fine too. Just make sure you're not seen as a threat by your employer or things will sour quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mcgyver View Post
    I think you need to take stock, not just of what want to do as vocation but what you want out of life. Making parts seems like something fairly distant from success in business: entirely different skill sets and success in business probably means someone will be making the parts while you sell, estimate, fret payroll and chase customers for payment.....while having your entire worth guaranting some crummy little line of credit.

    otoh maybe you're willing to do those things that are less enjoyable/more worrisome than making parts because you value independence and the chance at economic gain..

    There's no right and wrong to it, its what you out of life....and its not a fantasy, its how you'll spend everyday and determine to large degree what you get of life, economically speaking. Big decisions....but otoh they're' not forever.
    Pretty deep for such a short post!


    SIM right behind him too....

    Personally I don't think it's near all that if you start from zero and add as you go, but - somehow taking over a running entity - yeah, that could be a nightmare.


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    Thanks for all the input. Taking it all in and its helped put things into perspective. I should have been more clear in that I want to continue working for someone but after work and weekdays run my own machine and products. Im not looking to eventually run big shop or have employees, but a niche, quick turn around, solo shop to take on the jobs most shops wont take.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    Thanks for all the input. Taking it all in and its helped put things into perspective. I should have been more clear in that I want to continue working for someone but after work and weekdays run my own machine and products. Im not looking to eventually run big shop or have employees, but a niche, quick turn around, solo shop to take on the jobs most shops wont take.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

    Well, let me tell yuh .... what you envision or expect at this point is likely far from where you'll end up if you have any ambition at all.
    Just be open to options and follow what makes sense at the time.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ox View Post
    Well, let me tell yuh .... what you envision or expect at this point is likely far from where you'll end up if you have any ambition at all.
    Just be open to options and follow what makes sense at the time.


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    Thanks again for the wisdom. That hits home for sure.

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    Little bit of advice.....maybe your employer or co workers are forum readers....and can id you from this..........never mention to an employer that you are working on the side......immediate reaction is that you are nicking consumables,and maybe scouting for customers......bit more secretive might keep you in a job,in the short term......loose lips sink ships........and get you fired,and blacklisted in the trade.,

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    Ambition needs focus and dedication, throw in some luck at the right time and good things usually happen.
    The world is still relatively open to those who want to rise above the average and put in the extra time, so go for it.
    Quite a few of us on here became full time self employed in our early 20's.
    My first employer actually let me borrow his engine hoist so I could take my first lathe apart and bring it into my basement, and became a good customer who I still do a bit of work for almost 15years later. Sure there are people in the world who'll try to hold you back, quicker you sort out who they are, quicker you can avoid anyone trying to hold you back... ain't got time for envy and commies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    Little bit of advice.....maybe your employer or co workers are forum readers....and can id you from this..........never mention to an employer that you are working on the side......immediate reaction is that you are nicking consumables,and maybe scouting for customers......bit more secretive might keep you in a job,in the short term......loose lips sink ships........and get you fired,and blacklisted in the trade.,
    This is a long time plan and only an assumption that I can get work directly through my current employer. It wouldn't be a situation where I'm going out looking for work, the work would be coming from my boss. I've seen a few people mention this is how they started.

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    Getting work through your current employer is a bit of a crap shoot: if you have the same basic type of equipment as your current employer (3 axis 40x20 mill, for example) why would they pay you to run your machinery (say, $75 an hour) rather than paying you overtime to run theirs (say, $37.50 an hour.) Plus the idea that you might be stealing tooling and customers.

    On the other hand, if you start out with complimentary equipment (say, wire EDM) that could be win-win for you and your current employer, but then what you learn at home doesn't translate as well to your day job, and the other way around.

    If you want to make good money, you'll need to build your shop around something specialty. Commodity shops get commodity pay. That takes longer to learn and set up, but works well with a "start slow and keep your day job" plan.

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    If I was to start off again,perish the thought,I would go in for classic bike and car work ,rebores,liners,cranks ,bearing race sleeving and the like....all one off stuff on the customers treasures.....with one versatile CNC machine ,everything else manual......Guys doing this work charge the earth,take forever to do simple jobs,and waste more time shooting the breeze with old friends than working.....Everything paid before delivery,customer buys outside bits themselves.No credit,and none asked for..............Your current employer might tolerate something like this,but any kind of production shop...forget it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frater01 View Post
    A while ago made a post about just starting at a small cnc shop. Things are going good and I'm starting to wondering what my long term goals are. I defintely see myself machining the rest of my working life. I had ambitions of getting an engineering degree but after talking with and shadowing a mechanical engineer, actually making the parts is where I am happy.
    Being ambitious is good. Being realistic I think you'll find that machining is the easy part of the business of running/owning a shop. What will make or break you is finding what to make and customers that want to buy.

    There are many highly skilled machinists - working for other people.

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    I think you kind of have to 'be in the business' to 'get the business'. The number one thing customers want is your capability and the next is your availability. If you are not at the shop during working hours, then a lot of opportunity will pass you by because job scheduling will be in the pits. True, you can find a certain clientele where delivery isn't rush, rush, but that's all mixed together with work that is.

    Expect to find a product idea (or several) from your customers. This won't be the pie in the sky inventor, but serious people. But you might have to impress them that you want the work, by being there regular hours and getting the job done in a timely manner.

    It is tough to start out alone, but as your appetite for machinery increases, there comes (quickly) a point where you cannot justify getting that many machines for just one guy to operate. So you will need to hire help. I ended up with a shop full of tools at the end, and now work alone which is fine. But selling the whole shebang is near impossible. So you do have to make money from what you produce with the machinery because that IS the return.


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