I want one!
Dead Drop spike from Make Online


Change of Pace

Dusting off the cobwebs here. The initial purpose of this blog was a good attempt but perhaps too ambitious with the limited time I have between work, children, and other activities. So I’m going to change up the format to be more of a collection of metal working projects and neat examples I come across online.

Getting started #1 – The Big 4

When I first started researching getting started in hobby machining I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and the diversity of opinions about what you need tool wise to get started.

Having gone through a year of “starting”, I’ve decided to make a list of the tools I now own, and rate them in importance based on how much I use them.

The Big 4

These are the 4 primary machines you need to get going.  Theres many debates about the necessity of having all 4. You can get by without a grinder or bandsaw and many of the lathe and milling operations can be performed on the other with some different tools or setups. But in my opinion it’s just not really worth the extra effort, tooling, and elbow grease required to try and do the normal machine shop operations without all 4.

Mini Lathe

The basic machine shop tool. It excels at performing concentric operations on round stock, but by no means is limited to that. Lathes can handle square, hex, or any other shape can be mounted to the chuck, faceplate, or between centers. The lathe rotates the workpiece while the cutting tool remains in a fixed position and is moved into the workpiece via the carriage, cross slide, compound, or tailstock.

Mini Mill

On par with the lathe, the mill fills in the gaps of what the lathe can’t do. Whereas in the lathe, the workpieces is usually rotated, in the mill the workpiece remains fixed to the mill table, and the cutting tool is rotated. The cutting tool is attached to the mill spindle which remains fixed in the X-Y axis, but can be moved up/down in the Z axis. The workpiece rests on the milling table, which can be moved precisely in the X and Y axis. The mill by default makes cuts in straight lines, but with the addition of a rotary table, can provide almost any cutting path.


Some argue that a bandsaw isn’t really required  to get your show going, but I honestly can’t fathom getting started without it. The ease of use and the amount of time it saves cutting stock more than makes up for the investment in it. I can’t imagine trying to hacksaw 1″ or greater brass, aluminum, or steel on any consistent basis. The same goes for parting off those pieces in the lathe.


A bench grinder allows you to grind your own lathe tools, sharpen toolbits, grind profiles in stock, and tons of other uses that you never realized. It’s really a general purpose machine that opens up many options and is also the cheapest of the big 4 to invest in.

As part of the Getting Started series of posts, I’ll soon be creating a dedicated post to each machine, which will then be added to their respective dedicated pages.

A simple project idea – Dead Drop spike

Make Online has a post about a Dead Drop spike that’s currently for sale in their Maker’s Marketlace. The maker, Brian Dereu, also has some other cool projects and things for sale there (Brian Dereu’s store). This seems like it would be a great simple beginner project on the lathe. A single bar of aluminum, some turning, tapping, drilling and threading.

Make Online’s Dead Drop spike

Dead Drop spike from Make Online

Dead Drop spike project idea

And so it begins…

Here be the first post…

The time has come to shape metal with metal, avoid flesh with metal, drain the bank account for metal, and live to tell the tale.

I’m still aggregating all the sources I want to include here, bear with me as I get a better feel for how I’d like to organize the site, and come up with good topics to post.