Metalworking: Machining, welding, forging

A new interest of mine is metalworking – machining, welding, even forging metals.  I’ve spent 30+yrs doing software (and bit of electronics hardware) with home owner repair stuff but never got into doing real metal work… or serious carpentry either. I have plans to get into 3D printing (Makerbot CNC on order), and other CNC stuff that is a stable of Fab Labs and other hackerspaces. I figured I should learn a bit about it.  Turns out Simi Valley Adult School (SVAS) offers training in Basic Machinist, CNC, CAD/CAM, and Welding.  The programs are fairly respected (from what I hear), so I figured I’d check them out (being unemployed helps).  

The SVAS classes are open enrollment – you sign up for 3 months, start any time, go as often or little as you want, and if you dont complete the program in 3 months you sign up for another 3 months. School is open 9am-9pm M-Th and some people are there 8+hrs/day, while others make it only a couple hours a week (day jobs, etc).  The Basic Machinist (BM), CNC and CAD/CAM are a series and if you finish one part way thru a 3 month gig, you just start the next.  They figure if you go 8hr/day daily, you have a good chance to finish one certificate in 3 months.

I started the BM program back in August, shortly after I got laid off. Its been fun and interesting learning how to run a lathe and milling machine. It gives a good understanding of the basics that will be useful for CNC, etc. The program has you build 8 projects – generally tools you can add to your tool box for later use machining other things.

Welding is an area I’d like to learn and practice more.  I took the Safety Basic Use (SBU) classes at Tech Shop for MIG, TIG and Gas welding last fall with my son Brian. We have a small MIG and Gas rigs but havent done much with them. The MIG was not cooperative and I’m leery of Gas welding.  Having a small learning project would be good ‘driving problem’ to get going better.

I’ve also looked into Forging a bit. You can make a smelter for aluminum pretty easy using charcoal (got a book on it).  Casting is a bit more work, but 3d printing and desktop cnc boxes are often used for making the initial parts for molds used in casting. Jewelry and small parts for other machines are an option.

Supporting these interests may be harder in a hackerspace than electronics and textiles.  Space needs to be dedicated to them as dirty and dangerous (fire, injury hazards). But they could be a great asset to other projects.

Are others interested in these aspects of hacking? Sheet metal work is another related area (metal forming).

One thought on “Metalworking: Machining, welding, forging

  • December 20, 2009 at 2:06 am

    I have 37 years of welding experience “hands on” was taught by my Uncle Lloyd who
    is a Journeyman Heavy Duty Repairman (welder IUOE), he built rock crushing plants
    in his early years in IUOE Local 3 with Volcanite Ltd., Shield Pacific, & Allied Aggregates… He recently retired with over 40 years of experience under his belt & over 50 work credits…
    My machining experience came while I was incarcerated for the 2nd time…I learned how to operate an old engine lathe up @ Kulani Honor Camp while working as a welder in the garage work line…later on I learned more machining while working as a machinists helper for Bears Machinery in Kaneohe here on O`ahu.
    The point I’m making is this: If you can envision what it is you want to make, know enough math to get your dimensions right, can read, comprehend, & you ain’t in a rush to mess up…you got a good chance to become a machinist without having to be trained in a classroom setting. I could never afford to get the training & never was good in a classroom setting…but once someone showed me how…”BAM” I was on it!!! My mechanic & welding skills made it easier for me to get the rest down…I’ll be building my shop real soon with my mother helping me to get the grants for my machines, tools, & tooling…


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