C3 Mini-Lathe Metalworking Beginners

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Metalwork Workshop discipline

If you have owned a mini-lathe for a while, I can almost guarantee that sooner or later, you'll start referring to the place you keep it as "The Workshop". Before you had any metal working tools, it was the "shed" or "spare room", but once you have more than 1 metal working tool gathered together, it magically becomes a "workshop".

As you buy / beg / borrow more tools, a strange thing begins to happen. A linear correlation starts to effect you. You find that the more tools you have, and the more projects you start (and maybe finish) the longer and longer it takes you to find each tools as you need it.

Also, if you contemplate a project, maybe just a simple part that will take less than 1 hour to complete, you might find yourself looking at your workshop - the unruly and untamed mess of tools and projects, and quickly decided to entertain yourself in a different way. It is a bit like kitchens. Walking into a nice clean organised kitchen, where everything is put away in its assigned place fills you with a nice warm glow, and makes you want to go on and create something in the kitchen. The same with a workshop.

Walking into your metalworking workshop and finding all the swarfe cleaned up, all the tools arranged, and a nice range of stock sitting on the the shelf is bliss. You will quickly feel inspired to make something out of some of that nice metal stock in your workshop.

Now, I have seen some pretty impressive metalworking workshop in my time. A couple of large fixed machines, and a whole slew of "stuff" in chaos. It looks like a giant has taken a large shovel and just heaped junk up against the walls, and formed it into unfathomable piles on the worktops. How can anybody produce their best work in such an environment?

The amount of time wasted in a chaotic workshop is vast. I myself have easily spent half my time searching for a particular item and cursing my own disarray. And an even worse effect takes hold - because you cannot find the best tool, you end up bodging the work and using the wrong tool!

So what give you a nice metalworking workshop where you mind is uncluttered by mayhem and free to create? Well, first of all DISCIPLINE. You have to be disciplined. Each time you use a tool, put it back roughly where it came from. That is the obvious bit. However, bear in mind that when you first buy a tool, be it a simple tap, or a complex drill, you do not know the best place to keep it. So, each time you use a tool, think afterwards. Bear in mind where it was when you looked for it and picked it from. Was that the best place to keep it? Might there be a more sensible place to keep it? If it is something you use but once or twice a year, then put it away in a drawer out of site. The more things in sight, the more clutter there is to distract the mind. Should the item be closer to the lathe? Closer to the mill? Do you only ever use that item on the mill? Put it near the mill.

Remember, you will not instinctively look for an item in the "assigned" place - you'll will always looks first for an item in the most obvious place. Let the layout of the workshop evolve and let time find the best place for everything.

Secondly, the only way a metalworking workshop is going to stay anywhere remotely under control is frequent tidying. When you are cutting metal on the lathe, how easy is it to transfer the aluminium swarfe into the waste bin every few minutes? Extend that thought... would it not be better to have two, or three waste bins?

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At the end of working in your metalworking workshop, always allow time to clear up. This might not be the same day - but always plan this into your schedule. Today I will make a widget, and tomorrow evening I'll tidy up. If you think that today you will make a widget, and tomorrow another widget, and a third the next day, the last metal widget will never get made, because you won't be able to face the mess on the third day. In the same way that you must train your mind to accept that setting up a job on the lathe or mill is just as time consuming as cutting the metal, you must also budget for time to keep the workshop under control.

Don't let your hobby metalwork workshop take control of you - take control of your workshop. I am naturally a disorganised fellow. My kitchen is a mess of stuff, my bedroom is mess of clothes, but in the metalwork workshop, there is control: If this were not so I would not make half the things that I do.

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