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How did you start out and what are you doing now?

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jlsmithseven

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#1
Just wondering how everyone started out here and what they're doing now. I know a lot of you started out as hobbyists and still are and a lot have started as apprentice tool and die makers. My real question is those of you still new to this and wanting to get into CNC work instead of the manual work. For those who went to school for CNC machine work, how long did it take for you to get on a CNC at your current job. Is 5 years after graduation normal for this? My biggest worry is that I'm going to forget everything I've learned in CAM software and CNC G-coding. I have a remarkable short-term memory but if I'm not using CAD/Cam or G-code for 2-3 weeks I forget a LOT of it. Now I understand most companies aren't going to put you right on a CNC right out of school, but what is the normal time range if you know what you're doing for the most part? Thanks!
 

4ssss

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#2
I started out in Toolmaking in Trade school, and now that I'm retired I do as little as possible.
 

ACHiPo

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#3
When I was 9 I started a bicycle business in my parent's garage. By the time I was 15 I wanted a real racing bike, but couldn't afford to buy one so I decided to make one. Taught myself to silver braze, bought a set of Reynolds 531 tubing, lugs, and drop outs, build a jig from plywood and wood blocks to clamp the tubes, then went at it. Hand filed all the lugs, used files and hole saws to fish-mouth the tubes. Turned out decent until I burnt a hole in the thin section brazing water bottle bosses, after which I gave up. Still, I learned a lot, and yearned for real tools rather than the crap my dad and I had (mostly K-Mart (before HF) bargain bin stuff).

About the same time I visited a neighbor's tool and die shop (I grew up in Indiana where there were LOTS of tool and die shops supporting automotive). I saw a comparator and I started wondering about the precision needed to make tools to make tools to measure tools and so on.

Went to college, studied materials science, and made a decent career in semiconductors, first devices, then equipment. The geometries our customers deal with make machining tolerances look like the Grand Canyon (current devices are 5 - 7 nanometers, a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter)

Now I have the space and resources (if not time) to dip my toe into the hobby machining tool. I'm having a ball!

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
 

T Bredehoft

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#4
I got into machine trades ca. 1971, Kelsey Hayes opened a brake disc factory near my home and I needed work. After a year or so I was admitted to a Tool and Die apprenticeship. Three and a half years later (with overtime) I received my certificate. In 1979 my family moved and I found employment in what became the world leader in natural gas compression machines. There, in the early '80s, because I had a home computer, I was supplied in the toolroom with two retrofitted CNC machines that production couldn't figure out how to use. I soon became proficient in GCoding and taught the other 6 or 7 toolmakers to use the machines. Eventualy the shop (tool room, then production) acquired Mazak lathes and mills and I worked (played) with them. I retired in 2000, spent 14 years ('way too long) not realizing what I was missing, and got into hobby machining. It's been great, but my wife wishes I'd spend more time with her. I have no CNC equipment, don't expect I ever will.
 

mmcmdl

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#5
Most companies out there today will hire you in as a " machine operator " in which you run a CNC machining center or lathe etc . This is a walk in the door position as you are an operator only , not a programmer nor a set-up person . They may allow you to make edits once you prove yourself . It's the manual machinists and toolmakers with experience that are the highly sought after employees in this neck of the woods . They are un-heard of with the average age in their late 50s .
 

Tony Pisano

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After high school I took a two year post grad course at the local trade school. My 1st choice was electronics, but there were no post grad openings, so I took machine technology having no idea what it would be.I ended up in the co op program in my second year which meant alternating between 1 week in school shop and one week in an actual shop getting paid to work and learn. I eventually went to a 30plus man/woman shop after graduating. Everything was manual machines. We got our 1st NC machine that ran on paper tape. Since I was the new kid and good at math I got picked to learn how to program and operate it, figuring out everything with a calculator, writing down the program on paper, then typing it into the flex-writer that punched the tape. We got a second and third NC machine. One was an 8 turrett Burgmaster. I ran or at least programmed and set those up as well. Meanwhile I was able to bounce around the shop and do sheetmetal work and learn stick, wire feed and tig welding. I spent a number of years doing really precision tig welding of tiny electronic enclosures, repairing airplane exhaust systems, and all sorts of other stuff. Eventually I worked in the office doing job estimates, ordering material and managing work flow. I liked being in the shop better. Now I just tinker, with more woodworking machines that metal machines. I have a small South Bend lathe, no milling machine at the moment but access to a bridgeport and bigger lathe at the museum where I work. I do have a small slip roll, a couple of benchtop benders, a foot shear, wire feed welder and a set of torches, a kick press and metal tube cutting saw. A manual mill would come next if ever. I don't see going the cnc route for what I do.
 

bfd

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#7
I started out as a graveyard shift janitor at Disneyland. they decided to have 2 machinist apprentices. I was friends with the graveyard shift machinists, and so I applied. after a battery of tests I was chosen as one of the 2 apprentices. then the energy crisis hit and Disneyland was hurt by it. so they canceled the apprenticeship. meanwhile my neighbor was as the federal employment office and ha saw on the counter an application for testing for apprentices at the long beach naval shipyard, so I applied. was scheduled for at test and scored high. they sent me an interview date, and I went, when my name was called. the interviewer said to me what apprenticeship I wanted, I replied machinist. I got the last one 20 out of 20. I asked the man where was my interview, he said "you just had it, can you start on Monday? that was the start of my 4 year apprenticeship. after graduating a state approved apprenticeship, I left the shipyard and went to work in the power industry for southern California Edison, at the los Alamitos generating station, from there I went to the long beach generating station. left there and went to diablo canyon power plant. stayed there for 35 years and retired. now I just play at home and am busier than ever. that is my life's story. as I used to joke at work when people asked me how to bore a holeI tell them I tell it my life's story. there I bored the whole hobby machinist web site bill
 

ddickey

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#8
That is awesome. I've been doing a lot of interviews lately and it never gets any easier. Tell me a time when, what was the circumstance, what did you do& what was the outcome. I've never been able to answer those questions well. Maybe why I can't find a new job. LOL
was scheduled for at test and scored high. they sent me an interview date, and I went, when my name was called. the interviewer said to me what apprenticeship I wanted, I replied machinist. I got the last one 20 out of 20. I asked the man where was my interview, he said "you just had it, can you start on Monday? that was the start of my 4 year apprenticeship. after graduating a state approved apprenticeship, I left the shipyard and went to work in the power industry for southern California Edison, at the los Alamitos generating station, from there I went to the long beach generating station. left there and went to diablo canyon power plant.
 

Janderso

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#9
The OP asked how to get into CNC and out of manual machining. I love the stories.
I am surprised there are opportunities in this country for any type of machining. I know we are a far cry from our manufacturing years ending in the 80’s and 90’s.
I feel sorry for today’s youth, I went to school in the 70’s, we had outstanding equipment in our metal, wood and auto shops.
I was exposed to welding, lathe and mill work because of those shops and discovered a true passion.
Had I not had that exposure I never would have known my true interests. I always want to know how it works.
Good luck in your job search, follow your passion.
 

MarkDavis

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I always had an interest in making tools. School was difficult for me because I could not sit still. Everything happened so slow!
Escaping school with no felonies, I worked as a ranch hand, fixed truck tires, and then roughnecked in the oil patch.
With the oil crash of the late seventies, I went to work at a sawmill. Spent 20 years there started stacking on the green chain and was saw filer in my eighth year.
I ran a lot of machinery in those years mostly older stuff that required the operator to fix on the go in order to get the job done.
I had seen a trade school offering machinist classes, back in the early '90s but the school was 100 miles away and my family needed me bringing in a paycheck.
Four years ago a new CNC machining program opened in my city. The instructor was on talk radio one morning trying to get some people to sign up.
I heard machining, CNC kinda blew right by.
I was retired, the fees were cheap! 2,000 bucks for 1 year full time classes.
Three days later school started, my computer skills were abysmal.
I did okay in the shop, but never would have got through the CAD and CAM without the young guys in the class helping me.
After school I scraped together enough money to buy a Tormach 1100.
In school we studied GibbsCam. When I was buying I thought I could afford IronCad and SprutCam.

My software went out of date before I had much figured out. My budget was pretty expended so I did not up date the software, and learning support on my cad and cam was very minimal. What little I did get, seemed to be directed at people who understood other CAD and Cam programs.

I was barely seeing what could be done. certainly not how to do it.

Now, I can make simple projects, and keep plugging away at the mysteries of my Cad and Cam packages.

jlsmithseven, spend time regularly working on your Cad and Cam skills. Even if you have to use a second or third rate free program.
The skills practiced are useful.
 

jlsmithseven

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The CAD/CAM stuff is what we did in our second year. I am pretty comfortable with this stuff as I am diligent with computers since I grew up in the digital age, so that's not an issue. I actually enjoy making the part in the program and see it run on the machine, same with G-code. My issue is getting a job that is similarto this, and not manual machine work. I understand why they don't want a new guy running a 40,000 dollar machine, but how is anyone supposed to get that experience if they're not allowed on it, even after taking classes and hands on experience for 2 years you know what I mean?
 

MarkDavis

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#12
Yes, it can be tough getting started, the employer does not want to commit. Despite being desperate for good help.
When I got hired at the sawmill back in '86 any jobs were very hard to find here.
I was hired as a temporary worker. Gradually, as the boss saw I was the guy that showed up every day, and could handle the tough crappy work. I got jobs with more responsibility, and more expensive toys... er.....I mean tools to work with.

Right now in my area employers are looking for CNC parts changers. Those that can tough out a few years of crappy work and bad hours will get the opportunity to become CNC programmers.

Me? retired and hanging out in the garage with my Tormach.
 

epanzella

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#13
I started out with nothing and I still have most of it!
 

Downunder Bob

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I did woodwork in high school was reasonably good at it and realised I liked working with my hands. I think I would have prefered a metal shop, but we didn't have one.

After school, in 1961 I started a 5 year apprenticeship as Fitter and Turner, by the end of 3rd year I was offered the chance to do an extra year in Tool Making. I took it, as I liked the extra precision, and the wider variety of machines.

The company had bought an aluminium and zinc die casting plant, and I was given the opportunity of working on die maint. I must have been good it as the boss soon had me in charge of the die maint section, still on apprentice wages, this was at the beginning of my 5th year.

About 6 months after completing my apprenticeship I got itchy feet and left that job moved interstate to Sydney (about 1000m) got a job in a hydraulics firm, within a few months I was given the job of testing new equipment. I thought that I could design a better pump than the one they were making. So after a few weekends and nights at the kitchen table I had produced a set of drawings for a new pump. Took them in and showed the boss.

A couple of weeks later they had built a prototype of my design, and gave it to me to test. I was pleased that they thought it was a good idea, but on the other hand, a bit miffed that I had not been given the opportunity to have a hand in making it.

Tested every which way and was really pleased that it performed so well, showed the results to the shop boss, he took me upstairs to meet the top boss, the plant owner, who shook my hand, and said well done lad. (I was 22 at the time) Then sent me back to my old job.

About a month later I learned, from the shop gossip, I was never formally told, that they were going into production with my pump and not a word was said to me, not even a bonus offered.

I was so disillusioned that a few weeks later I quit and took a job driving semi's interstate, Sydney to Perth, a 5 to 6 day run. Loved it I was my own boss, sort of, and a lot of time to think, also the pay was much better. During the next few years I learned to stand up for myself, and realized how much I'd been ripped off.

Realised that I liked to be on the move and travelling, but got sick of driving all the time, so had an opportunity to get on a ship as an engine room hand, once I got over being sea sick I loved it and within a couple of years i was back at school studying to be a marine engineer, which is what I did for most of the rest of my working life. Ending Up as 1st Engineer on the second largest ship ever to fly the Australian flag, an oil tanker owned by Shell Australia, carrying 136,000T of crude oil.

During that time I had learned how to repair just about any machine you can think of, often with inadequate tools, so much fun, and they paid as well.

Now that I'm fully retired, for the third time, and well past the age that I can get job, I realised that a guy needs a hobby, So here I am, I just have so many other things on that I don't get nearly enough time in my little shop, hopefully that will improve
 
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