Our Top tips for a New DIY Machinist
With the popularity of How-To content on YouTube and affordable lathes and mills on the market it’s easier than ever for a hobbyist to learn how to do basic machining at home. Much like TIG welding machining takes years of practice and is an ever-evolving skill to master. We decided to put together our Top 5 tips for beginner machinists when jumping in whether as a hobby or as a career.
- Find a Machine that Fits Your Space- Space is always at a premium in a home shop and unless you’re looking to open a full fledged machine shop you probably will need to balance your space between a lot of different tools and equipment. If you’re a beginner looking to just get something to get your feet wet in machining you can start with an inexpensive lathe or mill that will allow you to perfect your skills and also isn’t breaking the bank. Many of the large machines have the same dials, knobs, and controls and as your skills or space increase you can easily upgrade to a larger machine. Lathes and Mills don’t really “go bad” and if you decide to sell your old machine there’s always a large amount of second-hand buyers out there.
- Gather Measuring Devices- Other than than the mill and lathe itself the most used tools you’ll use are measuring devices to set up and check tooling, parts, and your work. We suggest getting a good set of dial calipers, dividers/compass, machinist square, center punch, scribe, level or angle finder, and micrometers. These will all get you the basic items needed to measure and set up parts and you will want to keep them in close proximity of your machining equipment. We offer a full line of measuring tools you can find HERE.
- Start with Soft Materials- Soft materials are easier to work with and tend to be more forgiving. Soft metals like aluminum and aluminum are easy to cut. Another cheap and easy-to-use material is a plastic like delrin it is forgiving on tooling and will allow for incorrect setup a little more than like a harder material like stainless or tool grade steel.
- Keep your Tools Lubricated- A good practice during using the lathe and mill or even when storing the tools when not in use is to keep everything well lubricated. A dry cutting bit will heat up and dull and will leave a poor quality cut on your work piece. We suggest getting a lubricant like Kroil for keeping things protected from flash rust and a good cutting fluid during machining. You can find all of our lubricants and additives HERE.
- Practice Makes Perfect- Nothing can help you to get better at machining than practicing on some small projects. Good projects to practice on would be accessories for your lather mill like v-blocks, shims and spacers, tooling holders, etc.