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I have a lack of engineering experience

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David Smith 4223/05/2017 20:18:10
5 forum posts

I live in Manchester and wondered whether there is anywhere I can learn basic engineering skills.

lathe & milling work etc. I have a large garage that is crying out to be filled with tools but don't really know where to begin!

Any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Neil Wyatt23/05/2017 21:05:29
17732 forum posts
697 photos
77 articles

Hello David,

Welcome to the forum.

It's a shame that you have just missed the Doncaster show - you woudl have picked up some enthusiasm and ideas if nothing else!


Boiler Bri23/05/2017 21:30:12
832 forum posts
197 photos

Hi David. There are lots of model engineering clubs in the Manchester area try searching them out and making a visit. The one in Rochdale is very friendly.


BERT ASHTON23/05/2017 23:49:18
69 forum posts
46 photos

Hi Dave I have PM you.

richardandtracy24/05/2017 08:47:42
938 forum posts
10 photos

In many ways you can get the basic knowledge from books, so when confronted with a machine you know what the bits are, how to operate it & roughly what to do.

This reprinted book is a really good starting point: **LINK**

Then, the Gingery 'Build your own metalworking workshop from scrap' series cannot be surpassed. You don't have to do any of it, but reading through the series will show you every technique you are likely to need and a few more. It will also show you the conditions where precision is necessary and where it is not (a concept a number of model engineers find hard to cope with - knowing what is 'good enough for the job' will save you huge amounts of time over the years). The series is here: **LINK**

The Gingery series, starting with a furnace, going onto making a lathe, shaper, milling machine & drill press is really a walk through the industrial revolution, teaching & implementing everything that was is currently useful to come from it. Yep, I am a fan, even though I've never built any of the machines shown. With that grounding, you will then know enough to have an idea of what else you need to know, and what questions you need to ask to get that information - a vitally important skill.

All the best,


Russell Eberhardt25/05/2017 10:28:27
2574 forum posts
85 photos

I found the book The Amateurs Workshop to be a good starting point when I set up my first workshop with no experience.


Howard Lewis30/05/2017 21:17:02
3149 forum posts
2 photos

The Amateurs Lathe by Sparey is also a good reference book. AS you find a need you can buy some of the Workshop Practice Series; not every one but just the one that you need at a particular time.

But DO join a Model Engineering Club. It will be surprising if you are not made welcome, and offered advice and help, and possibly invited to someone's workshop to learn from them, to enlarge your knowledge.

If there are several; shop around to find the one that best suits you.

Stay on this Forum. You will get a LOT of advice, and some banter, on all sorts of subjects.

Visiting shows, even smaller local ones, will give you ideas, and show ways of doing things. Exhibitors are always pleased to talk about their work.

You may not get it right first time, or every time.

The man who never made a mistake never made anything!

When you make a mistake (hope fully not damaging to the machine or yourself) find out why and how. Ask if you are unsure.

"Experience is what allows you to recognise the mistake, the next time that you make it". Above all, learn from your mistakes, and learn how to recover from them.

You are entering into a satisfying hobby. The satisfaction comes from having solved problems and having an end product to show for it. But learn to walk before trying to run. Better to succeed with a simple oscillating engine than to fail and be totally disheartened by failing to complete a triple expansion engine.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time!

Enjoy yourself!


David Paterson 431/05/2017 02:09:39
83 forum posts
8 photos

My current view on people who are worried about making mistakes:

How to learn to use a lathe -

  • put a 20 litre paint tin at the end of your lathe.
  • Use the lathe
  • when the paint tin is full of discards you will be experienced
  • you will not have stopped learning.


There are people in my family who are scared of mistakes in craft, typically, the cost of recovery has been a couple of balls of wool, or in one case this year a trip to the firewood pile for another piece of carving stock.

Howard Lewis03/06/2017 17:47:36
3149 forum posts
2 photos

Absolutely correct! We learn something new each day, preferably from someone else's knowledge, or mistake, rather than our own!

Another good reference book is The Model Engineer's Handbook, by "Tubal Cain". It contains data on a whole load of different matters, workshop practice, calculations, materials, tapers, screw threads, to name just a few.


MW03/06/2017 18:29:06
2051 forum posts
51 photos
Posted by Howard Lewis on 30/05/2017 21:17:02:

The Amateurs Lathe by Sparey is also a good reference book. AS you find a need you can buy some of the Workshop Practice Series; not every one but just the one that you need at a particular time.



++1 Very good book, doesn't matter how old it is, it still has tons of information for the budding engineer. Very good writer.

PS; I know of an American book that I have become fond of, simply because it also contains a lot of obscure information about particular finishes you can apply to different metals, some chemical. The book is called The Home workshop guide or something like that, by a man named Doug Briney, he does a lot of his work with the sherline machines but he still has a lot of useful things to say for people who own other machines. 

Michael W

Edited By Michael-w on 03/06/2017 18:31:38

Carl Wilson 403/06/2017 20:10:02
670 forum posts
53 photos
Lathework, a Complete Course, by Harold Hall, is a fantastic book. Also Harold Hall's website is a mine of information.

There are lots of great tutorials online too. I often find its easier watching someone do it over reading a description. LH Sparey's book is worth reading too. Filled with lots of little nuggets of info. One such being the use of old bearing races as parallels.
David Smith 4207/06/2017 17:33:34
5 forum posts

Thanks to all for your advice. Just bought myself my first lathe so currently in the process of learning what it's all about.

Another question if I may?! Can anyone recommend anywhere in Manchester I can buy bar/stock from (so I can start filling my scrap bin!!)



Boiler Bri07/06/2017 19:33:27
832 forum posts
197 photos

Search out Manchester metals on the web. Sure they will have offcuts.

Peter G. Shaw07/06/2017 20:08:33
1077 forum posts
44 photos

From my own experience, just get on with it. It doesn't matter how many mistakes you make, each one will add to your knowledge. Also, don't bother too much about breaking things, again, each time you break something you will add to your knowledge. As long as it isn't something large and expensive, that is, but even then a lathe can withstand a certain amount of abuse. How do I know, erm, well, er, been there, done that, (and written some of it up for MEW). What I mean is that things like drills, taps, ie small engineering tools should be regarded almost as disposable items.

In respect of materials, something I very belatedly learned - don't bother with "a bit of good stuff from Evans the Scrap". And apologies to any scrap man called Evans! Instead get some freecutting EN1A or 230M07 steel (the same really, just different nomenclature) to practice on. You can always try to use that bit of "good stuff" when you have got some experience in. The reason for saying this is that I struggled for years trying to use some scrap from work, and then when I finally gave in and bought some free-cutting stuff, the difference was amazing.

Above all, enjoy.


Peter G. Shaw

not done it yet07/06/2017 22:21:38
4507 forum posts
16 photos

The one thing I have either missed, or has been omitted is safety. You can break as many cutters, scrap lots of bits, etc while learning but you need to be safe. You have not offered information on what you have bought. Even small machines can kill or maim.

U-toob videos - they are not all good - and a search for any new procedure on the forum, or elsewhere, for tips and advice is always well worthwhile.

If you are not sure, ask someone or somewhere before proceeding. Enjoying making chips is good. Breaking tools is annoying, but all part of learning. But don't learn the hard way about safety!

David Smith 4219/06/2017 21:22:35
5 forum posts

Many thanks for all your help.Bought myself a Boxford ME 10. Busy making mistakes but it's all good fun.

Neil Wyatt20/06/2017 20:18:30
17732 forum posts
697 photos
77 articles
Posted by David Smith 42 on 19/06/2017 21:22:35:

Many thanks for all your help.Bought myself a Boxford ME 10. Busy making mistakes but it's all good fun.

Excellent choice and that's the way to go!


Perko721/06/2017 08:05:45
320 forum posts
24 photos

David Smith 42, i started out in a similar position to you, had a lathe (inherited in my case) but no idea how to use it, so read a few online tutorials and 1950's ME magazines and set to work. Haven't broken anything important (yet) and now three years on i can do most things that i can think of. Might take a little longer than others, but that's part of the process of learning. Regarding making mistakes, i turned 10 axles for a 5inch gauge loco before i got one i could use. The cost was an offcut of steel bar which i got for next to nothing, a few kW-Hrs of electricity, a couple of HSS tool regrinds, and several hours of enjoyment.

Mistakes are only that if you don't learn from them.

Geoff P.

John Flack21/06/2017 10:13:54
169 forum posts

Whilst there is much good advice and reference points above I have a thought that missing the "There's a hole in my bucket dear Liza" route you miss out on the learning curve. If everybody copies from others where will advances and improvements come from encouragement to innovate and experiment should not be overlooked

David Paterson 422/06/2017 00:04:44
83 forum posts
8 photos
Posted by John Flack on 21/06/2017 10:13:54:

Whilst there is much good advice and reference points above I have a thought that missing the "There's a hole in my bucket dear Liza" route you miss out on the learning curve. If everybody copies from others where will advances and improvements come from encouragement to innovate and experiment should not be overlooked


My comment that sort of kicked of this string was really about having the confidence to get started and the need to persevere with confidence. Absolutely support your comment about the need to read and ask as much as you can.

I had a recent (house renovation) experience with my son who drilled two holes in the wrong place in a window frame. he is working his way through plugging them and drilling new ones. No stress from me, lick of paint to cover the mistake. he will tackle the next one head on.

I do note that Geoffs comment talked about the low cost of turning axles - good that he didn't start with the expensive castingslaugh.

I have been trying to make very small screws for some watch restoration. Currently up to 6 without success after some very helpful advice on this forum. No's 2&3 would screw in, but under magnification really didn't have good enough thread form. have broken the last 2.angry I am leveraging all the skills and experience I can get - one mentor simply showed me it was possible and said get on with it.

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