View Full Version : My first engineering shop experience

02-03-2013, 07:46 PM
So anyway I thought I would share my experience as a first timer in an engineering shop. To cut a short story to a very short story basically my next-door neighbour her brother has an engineering shop making various parts for Ferraris Jaguars and Audis. So she has an interest in CNC machines. I was showing her my latest wood carving and telling her how bad things are in the IT contracting market at the moment when she tells me her brother is looking for a CNC operator to do some weekend shifts. So I go and see him and he gives me a Friday Saturday Sunday 10 hours or as long as I need to basically complete 300 parts. So my training was with an operator who had started only four days before but in honesty it wasn't brain surgery. Now don't forget I haven't done any physical work for about 30 years well other than the odd bit of household DIY. Anyway I arrive at six o'clock in the morning the next day to begin my training and the guy training me is just excellent. I get a grip of it quite quickly I mean this is operator work not setting up CNC's for full production etc. The money is not great I admit but once he'd left after about two hours I quite happily sunk into my own world with my Walkman on the radio and ploughed on. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting the sheer physical side of the operation the parts are mounted on a template choke and they are bloody heavy. I'm not small, I did a bit of weight training when I was younger then cover the muscles in a nice layer of fat but my arms were getting tired around the 80 mark. And there was some delicate work using a needle file on an air drill to do and I noticed I was losing my dexterity by about that time. I'm also quite amazed at the age of the people in the workshop, it is not a huge workshop but it has lots of equipment, there must be 24 big machines and probably only five of them operating during the Friday shift, although I don't know others are used during the night shifts. Yes getting back to my point that there was probably seven people in this workshop and I'd would say I was the second oldest at 47 the rest were under 22 years old. One of them was saying who looked as if he had just left school that the part that I was doing one of the holes had to be drilled manually x3 because the tool suppliers had supplied the wrong drills and he had 800 of them to do with three drills in each. I saw him standing at this post drill for 10 hours solid thrashing away at these parts. I suppose when you young you can do that kind of thing but I think that if the boss had started me off with that job I don't think I would have started the second shift. Anyway I had a quick word at lunchtime with this young lad joking that he wouldn't have to go to the gym tonight or at least he could just exercise one side of his body as the other had had a thrashing. Yes he laughed unfortunately that job you're doing, one of the main drills had snapped off and as I said before the suppliers had sent the wrong parts which they had ordered in to supply the job so they had to reorder the correct ones, luckily they had been able to source a single one from an old supplier. Hence why he was spending two days drilling 10 hours a day and he wasn't happy it was a shit job and it seemed he tended to get them. Andy explained that this was the last hundred and now the machine as I used was doing the job for him and he could move on to more challenging projects.

So today Saturday I turned up at six o'clock at the workshop keys in hand to open it up no problem. I wake up the workshop lights, power up the compressor and reach the HIRCO’s operating panel. It's completely dead. Now I had been told that the last operator who did an evening shift would leave it on overnight ready for me to start. Unfortunately this wasn't the case and seeing as my boss was on holiday it was six o'clock in the morning I wasn't happy to wake him up. Luckily hanging at the back was a manual, so I tentatively flicked through the pages and found the warm-up procedure I thought what could possibly go wrong if I try to start the machine? So I followed the procedure and it began with a fault that the door was shut which was strange for me as normally I would expect that the machine would want to warm-up with the door shut. So I saw the fault number and traced through the manual and followed the procedure, low and behold the machine started to warm-up then started to click into life and the next minute the manual button was flashing which I knew I had to switch to auto as I had been taught that for tool changes. There was already a part ready for milling in the ,machine and off it went. First part finished I de-burred it and got out the callipers and gauges for a quick check, everything was perfect. So at about the 15th part I’m sat in the little booth next to the machine whirring away with the needle file deburring the part when the machine decided to make a loud vibrating sound ,then much to my dismay a very audible bang! Just as I was getting up from the stool (oh by the way just I’d like to point out that I was on my own in the workshop) the boss's dad came wandering up the aisle. “How's it going David”, he asked? The machine was still finishing its cycle as I sheepishly looked up and said “Alan I don't think it's going very well the machines just made a horrendous noise and banging”. So he took a couple of tentative steps away from it. I open the doors checked around within the machine no obvious damage drop the vacuum and pulled off the part and collar and placed it in the vice I then took off the part to examine it, blew it off with some compressed air and looked inside the second drill hole, and there was half the bit. The third hole not being completed. I looked at up and showed him the part and said “that's not good is it?” He's not an engineer so when we contemplated changing this particular tool neither one of us had been shown how to. Or for that matter where to get a fresh bit. So begrudgingly at 8:30 I decided to ring the boss and explain what had happened. I had this inkling in my mind that there wasn't a replacement for it. Anyway the boss confirmed that ,and said unfortunately something like that happening meant it wasn't as simple as changing the bit and he would have to sort it out on Monday morning. So that was the end of my shift and I can't help feeling sorry for the lad who drills the holes , as I have no doubt they will take out the broken drill and carry on without it and he will have another stack of the parts to do. Anyway besides the repetition and physical side I actually have to admit I enjoyed it. Compared to what I normally do I was under no pressure I just had a certain amount to achieve and that was a satisfactory day for the boss. Also what I do as a contractor means I’m normally sat browsing the Internet for 70% of the time absolutely bored shittless at least having to stay switched on and something to do made my day flyby. I doubt that after a few months of doing the same thing 10 hours a day four days a week I would be quite as enthusiastic. Luckily for me it's not a career future as I intend to find another contract at some point. But between the operator work and my own CNC work, I'm finding it a good balance, it gives me four days a week to do my thing and pay the rent which is always a good thing. Hope you didn't get too bored with my tale.

02-03-2013, 09:16 PM
Fivetide i have to say i really enjoyed that, a jump into the unknown can be daunting but you showed that it can be a pleasure also.

03-03-2013, 12:03 AM
great story.. i still say now i enjoyed my minimum wage factory job making cable reels, more than the job i do now paid at almost twice what i was on back then

03-03-2013, 12:32 AM
I have got to say the machine when working is mesmerising , it takes just over 4 minutes to complete the job , changes 6 bits , sprays water like a tsunami washes away the swath ,makes hardly any audible noise. Thanks for the comments guys, but I have to admit there’s something manly about the machine , it sort of makes you feel good, you have a I suppose ,control over the thing that does your will and in a very powerful manner.. hey. whatever, it’s just a machine lol

blackburn mark
03-03-2013, 03:13 AM
brings back memories :)
I went the other way... most of my life as an engineer, good money hard work and bored shitless so i went for a job looking after disabled children in a respite home, shit money and first week at that was some scary shit but once i got my head together it was the best move id ever made, I'm not sure I was ever bored once in the five years that lasted
the way the NHS is going with closing services down i'm on my third re-posting now... I couldn't face going back on the shop floor!!!! my spine couldn't take it :(

03-03-2013, 03:44 PM
brings back memories :)
I went the other way... most of my life as an engineer, good money hard work and bored shitless so i went for a job looking after disabled children in a respite home, shit money and first week at that was some scary shit but once i got my head together it was the best move id ever made, I'm not sure I was ever bored once in the five years that lasted
the way the NHS is going with closing services down i'm on my third re-posting now... I couldn't face going back on the shop floor!!!! my spine couldn't take it :(

You know something Mark the thought of looking after disabled children would scare me out of my mind. It takes a special person to be able to do that and I salute you. I know just looking after my own daughter who to all intents was normal was difficult enough, I don't know how you cope when they have disabilities on top of the normal childhood traits. I have a friend that I haven't talked to for a few years whose wife looked after terminally ill children, I knew her when she was a fresh faced nurse training to do the job, and I also noticed over the years how she had changed, and that when she finally had her own children she could no longer cope with the job. Children are a strange anomaly that are genetically designed to make us want to care and protect them, so working with them in any way when they have problems or are sick takes more balls than I have.

On another note I'm beginning to ache quite a lot, I don't know if anyone has noticed this but when you get older the lactic acid tends to take two or three days to create the pain and this is my third day but luckily I thought ahead and bought in the painkillers and anti-inflammatory just for this moment.

03-03-2013, 04:04 PM
Loved your story. "no pain, no gain. G.

blackburn mark
03-03-2013, 07:39 PM
the thought of looking after disabled children would scare me out of my mind.

you would be surprised... when I started the service was looking for males to give a more balanced gender split... we had a plumber a coal miner and me (and a shitload of nagging women)
women are well good at juggling ten thing at once and organising shit and men have the glorious ability to roll along all laid back no matter how demented the situation got (generally speaking)
learning disability children may have their brains wired up back to front but they are still brimming over with mischief and they never grow out of it.... splendid fun

if you ever get the opportunity to give it a go id advise you to stick your neck out and give it a go
wiping backsides is only a tiny fraction of the job :P

LOL that lactic acid, I used to love that shit when I was 20... it starts getting on my tits now after a couple of days, someone nicked my exhaust the other week, I fitted a new one the other day and i'm still pissing and moaning when i have to stand my ass up from the sofa :)

04-03-2013, 07:49 AM
Very enjoyable post, great write-up Fivetide, thanks.

I hope I get someone as dedicated as Blackburn Mark to wipe my arse in my dotage.

04-03-2013, 11:11 AM
Thanks for the write up Fivetide, I enjoyed reading that. I think it's all good when you have various different parts to do, maybe get involved in the design a bit, getting to know a new machine etc. the repetition is what kills it (with the occasional bit of fun like shoes on fire when welding). At least that's what I remember from doing the odd few months at a metal workshop years ago.