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Machine shop texbooks?

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One of my longer term plans is to buy and learn how to run a mill and lathe and figured somebody here could recommend reference materials to help me get started. It looks like I may actually be able to get some government education money to take classes (assuming someone around here still offers classes), but I'd like to get started sooner than that. So, assuming I don't know a drawbar from a drawstring, what would you recommend? R,

Edited by G-ManBart
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It has been a few years, but some of the books that I lived by in school for mechanical engineering were the

"Machinist's Handbook", "Contemporary Manufacturing Processes" by J. Barry DuVall. and "The Farm Shop" by Wakeman and McCoy.

The Farm Shop is a bit dated, because of the tools avaliable now, but still contains plenty of good information on set-up and make due. The Machinist's Handbook was my bible in the Machining classes and when I was working at a plastic pipe plant. The Machining Processes book was a good overview for the production management portion.

Good luck and welcome to another world of fun and practical hobbies :cheers:

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I'm an amateur, but I started out with a lathe from Sherline. It was really small and underpowered but I sure learned a lot. They're geared almost exclusively to the home machinist and have great customer service. I've got access to bigger and better machines now but still go back to notes I made from that little lathe. I'd recommend getting any and all of the above mentioned books and then just getting to it. Get whatever machine you have space and money for and start doing it. It's really a good time, nothing cooler than when a part comes out just perfect.

Here's a page with lots of good suggestions including the books mentioned above. http://www.sherline.com/resource.htm


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Hmm... that's a bit like asking "I want to be a competition shooter, what book do I read?". ;)

There are some books, but a whole lot of it is getting your hands on machines and turning perfectly good metal into chips. Having somebody show you the ropes helps, but you can manage on your own.

If you're going to get hobby-sized machines (everything not-needing heavy equipment to move), be aware that a lot of what's in the 'textbooks' needs adapting. Not that it's bad, but it's aimed at shifting metal at the maximum rate, which doesn't translate so well for smaller machines. If you're going to move a Bridgeport into the basement, that's a little different. Some will depend on what kind of work you want to be doing as well-- the machines and tooling needed for say, RC Jets is different than Pistolsmithing is different than Riflesmithing and Hot Rod Engine building.

I'm pretty much self-taught and have a raft of machining books, but nine times out of ten I hit the internet for info-- there's a forum for everything these days.

"Machinery's Handbook" is sort of the reloading handbook of machining-- it has formulas and specifications for nearly everything you could imagine (what size hex key for a 4-40 set screw? What are the standard dimensions for that hex key?"), but little actual instruction. Pick up a used copy-- there's not a lot of difference between editions but the price drops dramatically.

South Bend's "How to run a lathe" is available cheap, and while somewhat dated (with most everything CNC these days, manual machining books are almost all dated to one extent or another) is a pretty good starter for lathe work. IIRC the Sherline Tabletop Machining book is a good intro as well for the little guys. If you don't even know where to start, you might look for an old shop-class type textbook-- I have one called Shop Theory that pretty much covers everything from hand tools to lathes to mills, planers, grinders and shapers and so on at an introductory level. Further down that path is things like Moltrecht's Machine Shop Practice series which attempts to cover those topics in excruciating detail.

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Thanks all....great suggestions so far, and I know it's a pretty broad question/subject. The plan isn't finalized just yet, but I'm expecting more along the lines of a Bridgeport in an outbuilding...buy once, cry once. I figure what I'll be doing is mostly turning good gun parts into scrap metal for a long time, and also doing some projects for work that aren't gun related....more like brackets, fixtures, connectors for oddball things that you can't just get off the shelf. I'm all for diving right in, but I'm not quite at the point where I have room for the mill, so I figured anything I could read might help speed things up. R,

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if you can get three phase power wired to your outbuilding, that opens up tons of possibilities WRT used equipment.

I just go to St. Louis Craig's List and type in "bridgeport" , "lathe", or "mill" in the search window.

I will also type in "machinist" too. that brings up a bunch of hits from books to dial indicators to micrometers to sine bars.

check out your local libraries too. plenty of information there that is probably out of print now.

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Not a direct answer, but, in my opinion, this is the best resource out there...

Those and a little instruction from an OLD machinist!


I learned to run toolroom machinery by an oldtimer that didn't memorize feed rates, cut his own tooling and used sight, feel and sound to move metal.

Now for a more direct answer, as most others have suggested, these would be my picks: Machinery's Handbook, Mark's Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers, old steel books e.g. Bethlehem Steel's Modern Steels, old copy of American Society of Tool Engineer's Tool Engineer's Handbook, Text-Book of Advanced Machine Work (old and slightly outdated, but all the basics remain the same).

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