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    • I started out 25+ years ago with a woodworking shop as a newly married home owner who needed furniture. Not long after that I started roadracing motorcycles and needed more metalworking equipment so bought a Bridgeport, a lathe, and a MIG welder. Most of what I made for years was motorcycle related but my day job is an engineer. I design robotic assembly equipment and it's pretty common when a machine is being built I'll have an idea late in the day and fabricate the parts at home that evening so I can hit the ground running at work the next day instead of getting in the queue at the machine shop. In fact, ten minutes ago I finished up this little detail for fastening a pneumatic gripper to a robot on a machine that will assemble diesel engine controllers at a plant in Poland.

    • Buy a cheap lathe/mill/welder/whatever and practice, practice, practice. I don't weld, but can turn expensive stock into worthless chips using my desktop mini-lathe and micro-mill. Sometimes the result is a useful part/item, too.

      There are millions of "how-to" videos on youtube. Some of them are very good.

    • I had to do it.

      Everybody in Steve Chu's group at Stanford had to learn basic machinning skills, all PhD students included, no exceptions. We were all building pretty complex experients in optics, microscopy, microfluidics, and what not, and Steve insisted that the brain behind the science had to be the brain polishing every micrometer of a part. I hated machining, but admired those with the skill and learned it. He was right, experimental science is very much a manual labor. There is a continuous loop between the thinking and the doing. Certain things cannot be outsourced.

    • There are all sorts of shops springing up all over the US that let you pay a membership for personal access. They're just like gyms, but instead of exercise equipment, we're talking CNC mills, plasma cutters, crazy table saws, water jets, 3D printers and more. And a lot of these places offer awesome shop classes where you get to learn how to work with all the tools. Check out places like Urban Workshop. The TechShop here in the Bay Area had it all, but unfortunately it looks like they went bankrupt.

      Another great option for learning is to take classes at a community college or through extended education at universities. Community college classes will probably be cheaper than a membership shop class, but might be more specialized per trade, like with welding cert classes, etc.

    • Whoa, that place looks awesome! I'll see if there's anything like that near me.

      There's also definitely some community colleges around, so I'll look into those. Since classes at a CC are usually pretty reasonably priced, that seems like a good route to take if I'm looking for instruction.

      Thanks for opening my eyes to some good options!