One of the major drawbacks about being a Fitter is that should you want to set yourself up with a decent machine shop you need a lot of money and quite a bit of space. Sure, you can get those cheap (normally Chinese) machines, but in my experience, most of those aren’t that good. It’s a choice… toys or real tools, and do you have the space?
Over the years I have amassed a fair amount of hand and power tools, as most blokes do, but I have resisted the urges to buy any large machines, like lathes or milling machines. Having said that, until now I have got by fairly well without them; you learn to improvise.
Given that I have quite a few “custom” bits to make for this project I decided that it was worth the effort to look for somewhere I could have access to a machine shop. The alternative is that you pay to have your machining done, but that’s not really why I learned a trade…
Some years back I had access to the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) workshop here in Canberra, but the contact I had there has now retired, hence I am no longer able to use their machines. Bugger!
To cut a long story short, Sharon was set the task of finding somewhere for me to work, which she did.
Even though I am not a Vietnam vet, because of my military background I was able to join the Vietnam Veterans Association here in Canberra. To my surprise they have a very well appointed machine shop and, for the meagre price of the joining fee, I now have full access to it.
They also have some nice woodworking machines, not that I need to use them currently.
For a relatively small association, they have a surprisingly large amount of trade quality gear. The major items in their workshop include:
- milling machine
- surface grinder
- sheet metal guillotine
- segmented bend break (sheet metal bender)
- sheet roller
- manual bar bender
- hydraulic pipe bender
- fibre wheel and cold cut-off saws
- MIG, TIG and stick welders
- plasma cutter
- bead blaster
I have already made use of their lathe, machining tapered seats on the flanges for my new 3″ exhaust brake and I used the bead blaster to clean up the subframe mounts I made.
Very few of the association’s members are trades qualified so they rely on a few that are to assist or train those wanting some work done. I have already offered my services as another person who can supervise users in the machine shop; an offer that was taken up quickly.
With my primary role as a carer these days, I cannot commit to a regular work schedule, but we will work something out I am sure.
What I do know is that I now have somewhere else I can build/make stuff, and that is a really good thing. There is the added benefit that I will also have some other guys I can bounce technical ideas off.
I am definitely a happy camper now that I have access to this workshop.