By J.A. Long
I can still remember the first The Home Shop Machinist magazine I received in 1984. I was in awe of master machinists like Edward Hoffman, Guy Lautard, Rudy Kouhoupt, Frank McLean, Dave Gingery and many others featured over the years of outstanding projects and tips; many of my methods have been borrowed from these masters. Several of these craftsmen are gone but the articles keep them alive.
Still, reading about projects and methods is not the same as working with other machinists that can watch, critique, add, or just tell you what a great job you are doing. Sometimes input from others (like, “Why not try a little more relief on your cutting tool?”) can be very important.
Several years ago, when I was supposed to be working, I was searching the web and found a machinist club near me. My heart raced as I clicked on the Southern California Home Shop Machinist (SCHSM) website.
I have performed as a musician in front of thousands but fear overtook me as I went to the machinist’s meeting and slinked into the back corner of the room. I worried that soon I would be tossed out! Strangely enough, no one paid any attention to me, and I thought “Finally I have found my people; we all speak the same language!”
Each month I would move up closer to the front of the room. Finally, at one meeting a fellow looked at me and said, “Hello, my name is Bernie.” Turns out Bernie lived just a couple of miles from my house and he had all the machines I had and more, much more.
These monthly meetings have been amazing. We have folks with 50 or more years’ experience in machine shops. There are tool and die makers, engineers, and shop teachers, and also many who have taken up machining as a hobby and have never done it before. Members’ machines range from Sherline lathes to large CNCs. Some have no machines.
Last year we had a lecture on Google SketchUp, a free 3D drawing program. Other lectures were on files, band saw blades, gear making, photography in the shop, steel and heat treating, sine bars, sine vises, precision lathe compound angle setting, and tool post grinding. We also had a swap meet (very popular) and a club picnic (also very popular).
Chris Wood, a member and co-owner of LittleMachineShop.com, invited us to participate in the store’s open house. This was an opportunity for us to display engines, tooling and all the wonderful things our members have produced in their home shops.
Our Club recently lost club member and treasure, Jerry Brown. Jerry was an amazing craftsman that could build anything – machined, cast, or electrical. Jerry fabricated every part of the scale model Drag-line Steam Shovel that he made, including the cast links in the tractor treads.
If you have an interest in metalworking of any kind and do not belong to a club, I think you will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge available all around you, just look for it.
-J.A. Long, member of SCHSM
View a list of machinist clubs at The Home Shop Machinist website. If you know of a club to add, please contact the editors.