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How/where to have steel parts machined?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by neurotictim, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. So I'm working on a project, and I need small pieces of steel machined to certain tolerances. I'm working with a machinist friend to build a prototype, but if this idea (which I'm keeping to myself at the moment) takes off, I may need to have a number of these pieces made. I'm not expecting to start a business or anything, but I could see selling a dozen or two. He's taking time out of his day to help me out with the prototype, but he won't have time to machine a bunch for me. Stainless steel, if it matters.

    So does anyone have any input as to how I'd go about contacting an individual or company that does small-batch milling and tapping?
  2. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    I usually start with a search online from my zip code, or open Google Maps on my Droid, click the around me button, then type in what I am looking for. Once I find a place, for something like what you're doing, I drive to the one I pick and chat someone up.

    For the record, I just did this myself. I needed a piece of aluminum crafted for a part on my coffee roaster. The Google Maps method is what I used, and I ended up meeting a really cool guy who runs a top notch metal fabrication shop. When he couldn't do exactly what I needed done, he referred me to another guy in town who did. Win/win/win.

    neurotictim and 48thStreetCustom like this.
  3. Do you have a good drawing? How complicated is this--welded, turned on a lathe, milled on a milling machine?
  4. placedesjardins


    May 7, 2012
    Ironically enough, they are usually called 'machine shops'.
    I worked in heavy industrial construction in the past and I had to transport big (I mean each one had to be loaded by a crane) pieces of steel that needed to be machined on this one project. They were shims for a paper machine. I could only put one in the back of an F-150 per trip. When they loaded two in the back, something like the axle was grinding against something. Anyway, an engineer marked out where to shave off steel and the machine shop was able to do it.
  5. Your buddy is the floor sweeper who gets occasional turns on machines? I can't see why you need to make such a vague enquiry when he should know exactly what services you need.

    A large chunk of expense is in setting up the machine processes. If your bud can program CNC in the desired format, for beers, you can knock them out in batches. Perhaps your doodad is so simple it can be done more economically going machine to machine.
    MattZilla likes this.
  6. My buddy is a civil service metal fabricator/engineer who typically spends his days fabricating parts for F/A-18s and various helo platforms. He's spending some time after hours in the shop helping me fine tune the design. It's pretty straightforward, requires milling and tapping, but no crazy complex shapes or anything. He has precise technical drawings to go by, drawing that he helped me develop.

    I was actually hoping to find an online or local small parts place, purely because the machine shops in my area are either devoted to engines - I'm a car guy, know several local machine shops - or much bigger, heavier pieces. I'm looking for small batch, small part machining. I don't mind paying for setup, but these big guys want orders in excess of 1000 pieces, which is far more than I can reasonably expect to sell.

    So *what* I'm making isn't really pertinent to TB, just wondering if anyone had any knowledge of small batch manufacturing.

    I may take some time off next week and do exactly what you did, Mike. Seems like a solid idea, if I can find someone that doesn't mind sending me to their competition.
  7. Well, I have a small machine shop in my basement, that's why I was asking if you have a drawing. My lathe is apart at the moment but the milling machine is ready to go. Among some of my other job descriptions, I'm also a registered mechanical engineer and I've spent years, actually decades, in machine design.

    A commercial machine shop will charge anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour. As mentioned, setup is the big time-killer for a lot of jobs. But it also takes time to procure the steel, cut it on the bandsaw, clean it, package it when done, etc. Not to mention overhead.
  8. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    When I needed something prototyped I just went to the closest machine shop. The fella who worked with me was glad to give me the names of nearby-enough shops that were better equipped for doing a batch of the 3d cutting and subsequent heat treatment that my piece needed. My dad's advice that worked for me- find one civilian millshop and they'll lead you to one that'll do what you need.

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