"One Perfect Part at a Time"

Working Small

Looking back years ago when I was in high school (early 1960’s) I can now realize I was infected with a drug addiction that made me want to make things. Mostly small things because all I had were a few hand tools I could buy from the “pusher” at the hobby shop. The reason could have been the pusher’s store was directly across the street from the high school.

My addiction disease started well before high school but once I was so close to my source, I became totally hooked. I also became serious first name friends with the shop owner that lasted more than 25 years and we only disconnected because I moved 1600 miles away in a career change.

Fast forward. So looking back in my teenage years I got interested in model building and hand tools that would assist that interest. One piece of pure unobtainium drug paraphernalia back then and used for “scratch building” wonderful things like HO steam locomotives was call a Unimat lathe and mill. Today I am a dealer for the Taig Tools line of very similar and actually better performing drugs um… tools. It’s funny how far I have come 50 years full circle in my addiction.

I have completed some huge construction projects in my working career, but I still love making small things I dreamed about making more than 50 years ago. Working small fulfills a fantasy about being able to create on a small and manageable level, things that in real world dimensions, a single person cannot do alone for a number of scalable reasons. Reasons are such as material, cost, quantity, time and available space.

I have constructed experimental full size aircraft and flown them. Yea, for me! But I have constructed far more model aircraft with far less expenditure of the scalable items and still had a wonderful experience. It’s a matter of choice and neither is wrong. Different strokes for different folks and it’s only a brag that I have done both to make me qualified to judge.

I am looking at the craft of jewelry making because the skill and mind set (culture) is very applicable to small or micro size shop and model work. Just take out the precious metal and stones and you have a model maker. A jeweler with a micro mill and micro lathe is a machinist/model maker.

I am not saying it would be a good career move. I’m just comparing skill sets…

I can feel very good working small. It is a totally different experience than a blood and sweat old line machine shop where a Bridgeport mill is considered small. The moves are the same but there is a huge cultural difference.

Newbie’s are still breaking gears in mini-lathes and mini-mills because they are trying to work them beyond their low cost plastic parts design limits. It’s the influence from heavy iron forum “old boys” still bragging how much they can “hog out” with their slow turning heavy iron.

Small tools prefer high speed and technique to brute strength. Ask a dentist.

Look around for what is and has been done with Taig and Sherline machines. Search the Internet. You’ll find a whole lot of fun and wonderful results, many times in a work space under 100 square feet. Hint: http://www.jrbentley.com/

I am not saying small size projects and model making are the only ways to have fun in a workshop. Big machines and projects are literally tons of fun. I am saying doing small work is an absolutely acceptable and honorable skill that stands on its own merit and is in no stretch of fanaticism a 2nd class demotion from real heavy iron machining.

In fact it may be like comparing a brain surgeon to a cow butcher. Both use saws and knives to do their work. HA!

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