Machinist Projects and Hobbies

By Ann Duncan
Building steam engines is a typical project for machinists.

Not to be confused with a simple machine operator, a machinist constructs metal parts using machine tools, such as lathes or a milling machine. Generally working with sophisticated blueprints or specifications, machinists draw on their understanding of metal properties and knowledge of tools to produce precise parts. As the United States Department for Labor projects a decline in related employment, hobbies and projects are a means for machinists to utilize and develop skills.

Steam Engines

A model steam engine is a suitable beginner’s project, which can be easily constructed in a small, home workshop. Models vary in size, style and complexity, ranging from a simple two-cylinder steam engine to slightly more challenging models comprising “Stephenson revers steering.” The latter is inspired by the renowned locomotive pioneered by George Stephenson in the 1830s, which played a defining role in steam-power engineering. Typical machine tools required to build a model steam engine include a lathe, drill press and milling machine. J.E Howell Model Engine Plans offers information and guidance on building a range of model steam engines.

Tool Making

Tool making is another popular machinist project. These include cutters, grinders, disk sanders or specialist tools to refine precision parts. One advantage of tool making is that it offers an inexpensive alternative to expanding the home workshop. Another benefit is that supportive components can be constructed to protect valuable equipment or safeguard parts during the making process. A spring center, for example, is an easily constructed tool, which can be used to maintain tap alignment in future projects.

Gifts and Accessories

Gifts and accessories are also examples of machinist hobbies. Metal Project Plans offers several specifications for items suitable for amateur machinists or those with limited machining equipment, such as metal roses, tool boxes, speaker stands and tape dispensers. Clocks or jewelry offer more challenging examples of gifts or accessories for seasoned or precision machinists.

About the Author

Based in London, Ann Duncan has been writing online since October 2009. Her monthly articles in entertainment, culture and politics are published on PonderBoxes, a social-commentary blog. She has a Bachelor of Science (with honors) in sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science.