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Octane Workholding – Featured Customer

Located in Danville, Pennsylvania, Octane Workholding has a long history spanning back to 40 years. This family business started in the 1980s, welding farm equipment and doing general repairs. As time went on, Octane Workholding began shifting toward building bespoke equipment. As the equipment became more complex, machining became a larger part of their business, starting with manual machines and working towards CNC machining. They started to realize the amount of knowledge that they would need to learn to master CNC machining. After machining thousands of parts and gaining experience, they learned what tools were needed to succeed as Machinists and started their journey. They developed value-added products for their own use that are now available for everyone and provide educational materials that are aimed at lessening the steep learning curve of this trade.

Octane Workholding has dedicated years to mastering their CNC abilities. We were able to get in touch with Derek Pulsifer, President of Octane Workholding, to discuss how they got started, current business, and so much more!

How did you get started with Octane Workholding?

Basically, I grew up in our family shop but did not start working full time until after college. Things were heavily fabrication-oriented with only a few manual machines. After a few years running manuals myself, it was decided we would go the CNC route. Teaching myself to be a Machinist was often a struggle with no formal training or peers to reference. Being a family machine shop and working alongside Octane Sr., it could be a lot like an episode of Orange County Choppers. Most of what I share today was learned through thousands of hours of researching and learning the hard way. 

How did you get from welding farm equipment and doing repairs, to manufacturing workholding setups?

Like many things in life, things progressed and customers’ needs shifted. Our fabrication shop has built a lot of equipment for the food, pharmaceutical, and power generation industries for several years. As we gained more customers, things slowly shifted toward more job shop-oriented work. Jobshop work is a surefire way to gain experience quickly. As a Machinist, there were many times I went in search of a solution for common problems we faced. After finding solutions that didn’t fit us, I designed the products we now make today. Thousands of unique parts and decades of experience later, we knew what shops like us were probably encountering as well. Octane Workholding was created to provide solutions to common machining problems. We continue to offer quote-based work to customers through our machine shop in addition to Octane Workholding. We are Craftsmen.

What machines do you currently have in your shop?

We have several manual machines from the classic 1960’s Bridgeport to heavy-duty Cat50 verticals. The machine I actually began on is an old South Bend lathe. Production sawing, Roll Grooving, Shears, Press Brakes, Waterjet Cutting, Welding, and Rolling machines. We also have various new CNC machinery from lathes to verticals. 

What CAM/CAD softwares do you currently use?

I program with both Mastercam and Solidworks. We use Autocad products for 2D applications like Waterjet Cutting. The advent of Fusion 360 has really benefited the industry by bringing affordable software to everyone. I would like to experiment with more CAD/CAM systems to help those who come to us with specific programming questions related to Fusion 360 etc.

What materials are you most often working with?

We primarily work with stainless steel, but no material is too difficult to work with. Materials and SFM are a bit like speed limits on the road, Hastelloy is like a 25 MPH zone, and Aluminum is like the Autobahn. Superalloys require patience and the right recipe.

What sets Octane Workholding apart from the rest of the competition?

I think people appreciate honest companies that actually engage with their customers.  Treating every customer with the same respect, no matter the size of their company. Social media has made helping anyone that needs it, a message away. Whether individuals buy our products or not, we believe the whole industry benefits from the freely available educational materials.

Can you talk about the coolest/most interesting project you have worked on?

We do a lot of neat work but one project especially was great to work on. It is also one of the few that can be made public. Making 11.00″ Custom Scissors for the first time. These Scissors quickly became an obsession once work began on them. Programming them was the first step. Machining them without creating time-consuming custom fixtures was the next challenge. Once they were machined the real fun began.

Having never made Scissors or Knives professionally, I knew the next part would be a learning experience. After ordering some fine grit belts for our sanders, the polishing and sharpening had begun. To begin, I went about polishing the handles and rough sharpening to establish a reference edge on the blades.

Having some paper on hand it was time to give them a try. Success, they cut paper! Now for the real test, they were being created to cut plastic bags. Dread started to creep in as the first cut simply folded the bag in half. This was not good. Ok, what is wrong here? These feel razor-sharp, but they are paperweights at this point. Back to the drawing board. After doing some research on the great UK makers continuing this art, a hollow grind seemed like the solution.

What do we have that can do a hollow grind? A small wheel will put a deep radius if brought back to the blade. I have to make a large wheel so the hollow grind can be shallow. I’ve got it, a faceplate adapter mounted to the Old South Bend, some sandpaper glued to the outside should work! So it began, the journey into learning to hollow grind.

After hours of making things worse and worse, I cannot bring the grind from edge to edge smoothly. Some more research and it seems the technique is to “turn the key”. Wow, it feels unnatural but it works! Finally, a successful hollow grind is performed.

Now for the real art of Scissormaking, the Putter- (fine Scissor Craftsmen which I am not) must sharpen and skillfully assemble them. The final act is to bow the blades carefully such that the edges intersect. They must meet perfectly along the length of the blade as they cross.

One more test, they cut the plastic bag as it passed right through it. This was one of the best moments in my career as a Machinist.

What are your current product offerings?

Our best-selling product is our t-slot cover, The Octane Chip Guard. We also currently offer mounts that offset your Renishaw Tool Setter. Table space is a premium for any milling machine. When the Tool Setter is outside the work envelope, additional work holding or parts can be placed. 

We also offer a T-Slot Drop in Workstop, our drop in workstops can be added at any time, even when access to the end of the t-slot is blocked. This adds a lot of flexibility to set up parts, especially if you forgot to add them beforehand (has happened more than I care to admit). There are a lot of products waiting to be released, but the demand for our t-slot covers has taken priority for now.

Having machined thousands of parts with unique setups, a product that enabled quick changeovers was essential. Cleaning a t-slot is a job Machinists have dreaded for a very long time.  Being silicone, it is extremely easy to trim a piece to fit any setup. Setting up a job for production requires only a few extra minutes to place our t-slot covers. One big problem with vertical machining centers is chip evacuation. Not only does covering the t-slot prevent chips from ever entering the groove, but it actually promotes flushing of every corner of sheet metal. Flood coolant normally is trapped within the grooves, which prevents any chance of the chips being evacuated. Unattended operation is always the goal with any CNC machine, our Chip Guard allows an operator to open the doors to a clean machine. In-process chip fans or automatic washdowns are possible. Safety is also a big issue for any shop. Most Machinists have encountered a chip ricocheting from the t-slots back at their eyes. The color options add a sleek look to any machine. We also offer black for an incognito approach.

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

Manufacturing is all about process reliability. You may save a few dollars on a tool, but end up paying dividends when said tool fails unexpectedly. A quality tool that increases performance or extends unattended operation, is critical.

Can you talk about a time that Harvey Tool or Helical products really came through and helped you?

Aside from Harvey having tools available as standard, which would be a custom item for the majority of companies. We buy chamfer mills regularly for finishing bevels. The angle being accurate is paramount for finishing. If the angle is off at all, a step can be felt on the finished face. Being confident that a tool that is programmed to cut a feature is accurate, saves us a lot of time. We also rough some heavy stainless steel beveled rings. The heavy chips accumulate due to the 2.00” length of cut., so the solution to this problem was the following chipbreaker endmill – 5 FLUTE, CORNER RADIUS – CHIPBREAKER ROUGHER, VARIABLE PITCH (APLUS).  We are all familiar with the corncob style roughing endmills, which actually create chips that are too small, causing those chips to end up getting into the coolant tank. Helical chipbreaker endmills create a swarf that is the perfect size, as it fits neatly into a container for recycling. The other added benefit is tool life. The bevel rings tend to trap the swarf inside themselves, which can lead to recutting chips that were destroying tool life. The chips were able to be evacuated easily which lead to a 4x’s increase in tool life and a process we could walk away from confidently.

We noticed the education section on your website, not too many companies will add these sections, why do you feel it is important to spread knowledge?

The world saw more technological advancement in 100 years than in all recorded history through manufacturing.  While I may not be part of the next great advancement for humanity, perhaps teaching an aspiring Engineer, will lead to one. Providing the tools for brilliant individuals to go out and make an idea a reality, is something we are committed to. Future generations need to understand how critical manufacturing is to our way of life. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Learn cad/cam first. Watching YouTube tutorials and educational content likes ours can help accelerate the learning curve. Becoming proficient as a programmer and designer can lead to higher starting salaries. If you can walk into a shop with some knowledge of programming, you may bypass a lot of the red tape companies might present to a new employee. Machining is often the easiest part, work holding and programming are often the biggest hurdles. Not everything has been invented yet, perhaps your niche will be making ornate pens, flashlights, knives, firearm parts, etc., creative designs are always in demand. Many successful businesses started in a garage with a hobby machine. Designing your own products can lead to a booming business that can sustain your family and eventually your employees’ families. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the In The Loupe community?

We are adding more and more educational material to our website.  It’s definitely worth bookmarking for anyone interested in learning more about this trade.

  • Speeds and feeds for turning, drilling, surface finish charts, etc.
  • Threading data like you would find in the Machinist’s handbook, but easier to find and read.
  • Educational articles on topics like quoting, lathe education, mill education etc.
  • Fun DIY projects you can make, like a tap follower.
  • Programming examples and curriculum are in progress with more information being added.

To learn more about Octane Workholding find their website here. Also, you can follow them on Instagram @octane_workholding.

Olson Manufacturing – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Logan Olson, Olson Manufacturing

Located in northern California, Olson Manufacturing specializes in handcrafted, customizable golf products that are made with utmost attention to detail from the highest quality materials. Logan Olson, its owner, was introduced to the game of golf by his grandparents at a young age and fell in love with the sport, especially how individualized it is, and how one’s own effort and dedication is paramount. It is because of this love of golf that Logan began designing, and making, his own putters. Soon after, Olson Machining was born.

Now with years under his belt, Logan took time to reflect about Olson Manufacturing, his passion for golf, high-quality tooling, and where his inspiration for his designs originated.

Photo Courtesy of: Logan Olson, Olson Manufacturing

How did you get started and learn how to machine?

I got started in manufacturing coincidentally with making putters: A project that went from a solely digital design to learning a CAD program. It turned into something I wanted to bring into tangible space. A friend of mine introduced me to a manual machinist that had a small machine shop at his house. He had just purchased a personal hobby-sized CNC machine and was kind enough to let me hobble my way through learning the fundamentals of machining on it to design a putter. A year later, I held a barely recognizable chattery mess of a putter and my journey was just beginning.

Where does your passion for golf come from?

I was introduced to the game of golf early on by my grandparents. The individual nature of the game, surrounded by the need to depend on your own effort and dedication as a means to success, has really paved the way for me as a business owner. The need for honesty and integrity, even when it might be easier to take the other road out, has allowed me to stick through the challenging aspects of creating a machine shop and allow my business to thrive in this fast pace, ever-changing world.

What is the inspiration in your designs?

From a design aspect, my number one priority is to do my absolute best to execute the task of creating the best putter I can for the end-user. Customization, additional design aspects, as well as other details, are a welcome addition to a putter that will perform at the highest level. When it comes to the design of creating a custom build, I try to forget that the piece I am working on is a putter altogether and pull my inspiration from other places and different crafts.

It’s always fun when people ask what I do as a machinist to tell them I make golf clubs. There’s always a hesitant humorous laugh as they respond with an, “oh that’s nice, or good for you”. That always seems to change as soon as I show them what I actually make.  The following response is usually more on the stream of “you seriously make these, or wow, that’s not at all what I expected.” The detailed craftsmanship of sword makers, clockmakers, and jewelers is where I try to pull my main inspiration from.

 I do a lot of commissioned work for customers ordering a specific putter that they themselves design, however, I think my true voice as an artist and machinist lies with the putters I make where the designs can flow out of my own imagination with no guidelines or restrictions.

What is your favorite putter you’ve designed?

I’ve had the opportunity to create a ton of really cool and unique projects in my years as a putter maker. It’s really hard to pick out a favorite. I try to say that my favorite putter I’ve ever made is the one I’m currently working on or excited about. I could probably make a list of the top 20 maybe, but picking an individualistic favorite would be tough.

Who is the most famous contact that you have worked on a project with?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a handful of professionals on the PGA tour as well as the LPA tour and Web.com tours. Feedback from this caliber of players is really the driving force of development for what I do. They can offer some of the most keynotes that help drive changes every year. I have a hard time picking apart a favorite project, but every time a professional golfer comes aboard I always seem to learn something new.

What sets Olson Manufacturing apart from the competition?

In a world where mass production and system efficiency control the consumer market, utilizing old world craftsmanship in companion with cutting edge technology, I can create one of a kind personalized and unique products. That’s not a touch you can find buying something off of a shelf. Knowing that only 1 pair of hands might have spent hours, days, even weeks just creating a putter, I think is something a person holds value to once they acquire one of my putters.

What machines do you currently have in your shop and what materials are you machining?

I use all vertical mills at my shop. With the exception of one of my largest machines, having a 4th axis. Everything I run is all 3 axis machining. I really cut everything under the sun. The bulk of my machining consists of stainless steel, mild alloy carbon steel, and aluminum, for fixture making. However, with that said, I do a very large amount of copper as well. The bulk majority of my inlay work is done in superalloys and some exotic blends such as Zirconium-Titanium alloys, Titanium Damascus (Timascus), pre-hardened high carbon Damascus steels, mother of pearl, bronze, and a handful of other materials.

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

When I’m working in an environment where the part I am making is a one-shot kind of deal or the material is incredibly hard to get/ expensive, not having the ability to remake the part is why customer support and applications engineers are indispensable. When you’re off purchasing a cheap tool from an unknown company you are unlikely to be able to pick up the phone and say “hey, I’ve got a .030” tool going 1” deep in titanium, this tool can’t break haha can you help me out?”

I can count back just in the last year at least a dozen times I’ve spoken with a Harvey Tool rep on one of my micro tools for a cutting recipe recommendation for an application that kept me out of the dog house. I think we could all talk about coating, cutting life, and tool performance all day long, but I could argue that being able to make a phone call and have an engineer reassure you something will work, is the most important thing of all when it comes to quality tool performance.

What is the smallest Harvey tool you have used and the largest Helical tool?

I’ve used a .02” diameter 3 flute tool for stainless and carbon steel, which would likely be the smallest. I regularly store a .04” tool in my tool changer for pocketing on small inlay work. I used to be scared to sneeze on them in fear of them breaking, now they’re as dependable as any tool in my library and I require them daily for all kinds of machine work. The largest tool I run from Helical is a 6 flute ½” endmill for HEM roughing. I find that’s really as large as I need to go.

If heavier cutting is necessary I’ll lean on an insert tool. I really think some people would be amazed though, at the MRR you can get with a ½” tool. These modern toolpaths are incredibly powerful in comparison to some of the older style machining strategies. Give me a ½” tool in stainless full depth at 250 inches a minute and I can move some metal.

Can you talk about a time that Harvey Tool or Helical products really came through and helped your business?

This would go back to one of my earlier answers for the customer support argument. I was running a billet of pre-hardened Damascus steel for a putter I was making. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Damascus at all, but if you picture high carbon steel blended, smashed, and forged together with a nickel alloy, then hardened, I think you can paint a picture. Oh yeah, and nickel alloys are famously fun to machine… think Inconel, Monel, and Hastelloy… fun stuff. So take that billet and make a putter out of it haha.

Anyways, this stuff is harder than a coffin nail and is eating my 80 dollar endmills for breakfast like it skipped dinner the night before. I was down to my last ½” tool that could do the machine work on this putter and didn’t know what I was going to do. I called up Helical, and an applications engineer not only gave me a recipe that ended up saving me but sent me the skew for a tool that worked way better than the one I had in the spindle. I ordered a package of them, and ever since that day, they are my go-to in Damascus.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice would be to learn as much as you can. In today’s world, the internet is an incredibly powerful tool and platform for the machining community. There is basically a video out there somewhere you can watch that can probably answer any question you might have. It’s insane. I’m 24 years old and started as a machinist at 19-20. There is absolutely no way I could have gotten to where I am today without countless hours of YouTube scrolling and video binge-watching. It’s great stuff and you should soak it in like a sponge as fast as you can. 30 years ago the machinists would look at the stuff we are doing today and call it Wizardry. We truly are living in an incredible time. Live, learn and love what you do.

To see more of Logan and Olson Manufacturing, you can follow him on Instagram @olsonmfg

R & S Machining – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of R & S Machining

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, R & S Machining specializes in 4 & 5 axis machining and manufacturing of aerospace components. Since R & S was founded in 1992, they have instilled a spirit of hard work and determination to exceed customer expectations. Equipped with up-to-date machines and automation, R & S Machining has high-quality equipment to keep them as efficient as possible to stay ahead of the competition. The highly skilled men and women operating the manufacturing facility are committed to a high quality standard to meet all customer requirements. Because of this commitment, R & S Machining has been able to expand its facilities in the past four years by more than 225,000 square feet.

We were able to get in touch with Matthew Roderick, the lead programmer for R & S Machining. Matthew took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about R & S Machining, and how the company continues to grow.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

Can you tell us a little about R & S Machining?

R & S Machining is dedicated to continual improvement and growth. We strive to buy very high quality machines and tooling. We also equip most of our machines with automation. Whether it is a bar feeder, pallet changer, FMS, or robot, nearly all our machines have some form of automation to increase our lights out production. In the past 4 years, we have built a new facility and purchased a new facility. We have grown by more than 225,000 square feet and 35 employees in this timespan. With the backing of our ownership, continued success and relationships with our customers, very dedicated employees, and high-quality reliable manufacturing equipment, we are in a league of our own and continue to strive towards our goal of becoming the powerhouse manufacturing company of the Midwest.

R & S Machining currently uses Hermie, Okuma, Makino, and Kenichi machines in the facility, while utilizing CAM/CAD software such as Siemens NX, Catia, and Mastercam.

How did R & S get into Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing?

Our president worked at Boeing for 10 years. When he left to start his own company, we were given an opportunity with the Boeing Company to manufacture aerospace and defense components based on the quality of work that our President produced during his time with them. We continued to produce high quality products with an emphasis on on-time delivery and the rest is history.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

What sets R & S apart from the rest of the competitors?

We take on all the work that our competitors no quote or refuse to do. The complexity of parts that flow through this shop is like no other place. We believe there is no other company that can produce the complexity level of parts that we make in the time frames we are given by our customers.

Customer satisfaction is maintained through effectively applying the quality system. Continued training and process review enable R & S Machining to meet customers’ ever-changing requirements. 

What is your favorite project you have had come through the shop?

We manufacture Inlet Ducts for a variety of Fighter Jets. The complexity of these parts is unmatched and the creativity in programming the parts in the CAM system has to be at its peak. Some of these parts require programs of 600+ toolpaths with a majority of them being full 5axis simultaneous paths. Then, when you get to see the machine throwing a 1,100 pound block around like it’s nothing at 2000 IPM in full 5axis simultaneous motion, it’s pretty humbling.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

What is your connection with the Missouri SkillsUSA Competition?

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit national education association that serves middle school, high school, and college/postsecondary students preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service (including health) occupations. SkillsUSA’s mission is to empower its members to become world class workers, leaders, and responsible American citizens. It emphasizes total quality at work—high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education, and pride in the dignity of work.

Over the past 4 years, we have had many of our employees participate and win in the competition. We have had 5 employees win the district championship, 5 employees win the state championship, and 3 employees win the national championship.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

We rely on high quality tool performance to meet the tolerancing demands of our customers. Our tolerances range from hole tolerances of +.002″/-.001″, thickness tolerances of +-.01″, profile tolerances of .03″, critical hole tolerances of +-.0002″, and critical hole true position tolerances of .007″. We also rely heavily on lights-out run time overnight, so having a high quality tool that you know is still going to be cutting effectively in the morning and throughout the night is critical to our operation.

We had a 50+ quantity stainless steel job that we were only getting 2-3 parts per tool using tools from a different manufacturer. We changed our tool to a Helical endmill and left everything else the same and made over 30 parts before having to change out the tool.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

There are tons of cool and flashy things out there, but you can not skip the fundamentals. They are the building block to your entire career and they are the concepts you will use every single day. Use the technology to further your skills, not the basis of your skills. At the end of the day, you always have to know feeds and speeds, depth of cuts, work holding, and what you can get away with.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the In The Loupe community?

Helical tooling is unmatched in the HEM hard metal category. These tools have changed the way we manufacture parts and give us the confidence we need to accomplish our high precision and complex parts.

If you want to see what is next for R & S Machining or reach out and ask them some questions, you can follow them on Instagram @randsmachine.

Defiant CNC – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

Twenty years ago, Jeremy Taylor worked as a Tool and Die Apprentice and was well on his way to earning his Journeyman Certification, when he fell in with the wrong crowd and found himself in trouble, criminally. As a result, he found himself facing a lengthy prison sentence but was determined to make his time incarcerated as constructive as possible. During his sentence, he earned his undergraduate and MBA degrees, taught himself Spanish and Italian, and used his limited access to computers to stay updated on all things CNC machining, including the evolution of tool making and advanced manufacturing.

Today, Taylor owns Defiant CNC, a 2-year-old machine shop located in Orlando, Florida, that specializes in performing a wide variety of machining operations, including CNC Milling, CNC turning, laser engraving, finishing, quality control, CAM/CAD, inventory management, technical drawings, and ERP services. Defiant CNC machines everything from components for underwater welding robots to tools for helicopter repair kits, to even tools for pastry decorating and jewelry making.

Along with owning his business, Taylor also spends his time working with The Community, a company that focuses on preparing prisoners to reenter society.

We spoke with Taylor to learn more about how he changed his life’s trajectory; his new business; the ERP system he built, himself; and what he values most in CNC tooling, among other topics.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

How did you first get started in machining?

I started off as a Tool and Die Apprentice. I was making tremendous progress towards my Journeyman Certification until I got myself into trouble. I had done a great job of learning very sophisticated toolmaking techniques and CNC programming/machining. Unfortunately, when I was a few months away from obtaining my journeyman’s card, I was incarcerated for 14 years. However, I utilized that time to significantly change my life trajectory. While in prison, I taught myself Spanish and Italian, kept as up to speed as I could (given very limited access to computers) on the evolution of tool making, CNC machining, advanced manufacturing, computer hardware, and software, completed both an undergraduate degree and an MBA via a mixture of mail and online access.

Today I am a completely different person than the one who wasted the great opportunities I had before my imprisonment. Somewhere along the line during the time when I was 18-19 or so, I fell in with the wrong people and took a path that led to me wasting what should have been the best years of my life. Rather than give up, I used that time while confined to continue my education and prepare myself for a productive role in society after my release. Getting back into machining played a huge role in my current success. Defiant CNC has only been in business for a little over two years, but the best is yet to come.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

What machines are in your shop?

Defiant CNC currently has 4 mills: Doosan DNM 4500, Chevelier QP 2040, Toyoda Stealth 1365, and a Manual Bridgeport Mill. We use Fusion 360 on all of our milling machines. We also have 5 lathes: Emco Maier 365 Y, Miyano BND-51S, Miyano BND-20S5, Miyano BND-34S. and a Miyano BND-42S. Finally, we have our two support machines, a Cosen MH-1016JA Bandsaw and a Boss FMS Laser for Desktop Fiber Marking.

What industries have you worked with?

We have worked with a large variety of industries, including aerospace, defense, automotive, commercial, and medical. Working in these industries allows us to machine in all different materials: Aluminum (7075, 6061, and 2024), Stainless Steel (303, 304, and 316), and Steel (1018, 4140, and 1045).

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

What sets Defiant CNC apart from the competition?

We provide an array of machining-related services including milling, turning, CAD design, engineering, and laser engraving in-house. We also provide a number of services through vetted partners such as heat treating, welding, and plating. However, what sets us apart from the rest of the competition is the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that I built, which is customized specifically for our shop. Not only does it allow us to streamline our operations, but it also allows us to give that something extra to our customers. I create portals and give our customers access to all their past and present jobs with us. They can check the status of any of their jobs as they move through the production process. We take just as much care managing every aspect of the business as we do machining parts.

Typically in small-to-medium-sized shops, the data structure is to create a series of customer-job-part revision folders, and put the customer data there. This data structure is rarely planned for growth. I created an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system using Airtable, along with other API-friendly applications, because the software has Product Data Management (PDM) built into it. PDM is the architecture of the data storage system which, in a nutshell, is the organization, storage, and retrieval of any data that might be tied to a manufacturing process. Since Airtable has a built-in PDM system, we are able to store all our CAM files, G-code, setup documents, tool data (where we log important data about our Helical and Harvey tools), fixture data, and any other data that needs to be tied to a step for making a part. We now have a place to bring together product data (images, instructions, inventory, links, etc), customer information (CRM data), data on sales, marketing development and deployment, a schedule, and more, all in one place. All of the integrations and automations that I built saves hours of manual work and prevents a multitude of mistakes.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

What is your favorite job you have worked on?

I just finished a production run on a job where I completed 12 pieces of two different parts out of hardened 17-4 stainless from start to finish. The cycle time was just over four hours. Each part required three operations after the stock was sawed and heat treated. I designed, modeled, and made two sets of fixtures for each operation in order to load one set while the other was being machined.

When have Harvey or Helical products helped your business?

A majority of the endmills that we stock are Harvey Tool and Helical products. We utilize Fusion 360, which has a tool library full of Harvey Tool and Helical products. About a week ago, we purchased some Harvey Tool flat bottom endmills which saved substantial time on a large production run because we no longer had to circular interpolate a hole. Whenever we are in a pinch and need a tool quickly, Helical Solutions and Harvey Tool always come through.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

Why is high quality tooling important to you?

High quality tools allow us to spend more time machining and less time changing tools. Our go-to tool is Helical’s 3 flute – 40-degree helix with ZPlus, whether we need 1/8 end mills or 5/8 endmills, they get the job done.

What advice do you have for others who want to try High Efficiency Milling?

Consider the material that you are cutting. Consult with your tooling vendor and/or documentation on their website to obtain a starting point and go from there. Helical Solutions has great information on their website and on their social media accounts, with regard to their products. It is worth consulting these sources when utilizing their tools.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Learning needs to be continuous. Don’t just expect to learn everything that you need to know in one place. Constantly increment your skills in every aspect of machining.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the “In The Loupe” community?

I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about my experiences with Harvey Tool and Helical products and my business. I use Harvey Tool and Helical products because they work well. I will continue to document my usage of their products on my website DefiantCNC.com, as well as my company’s social media accounts (@defiantcnc on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook). Be sure to check them out.

Photo Courtesy of: Jeremy Taylor, Defiant CNC

Workshops for Warriors – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Workshops for Warriors

In 2008, Hernán Luis y Prado, a United States Navy officer, noticed his fellow service members looking for a successful path in life after service. Hernán decided he needed to make a change. He set out to make a difference for his fellow service members by starting Workshops for Warriors, a state-licensed, board governed, fully audited, nonprofit school. Its mission is to provide quality training, accredited educational programs, and opportunities for its students to earn third-party nationally recognized credentials to enable Veterans, transitioning service members, and others to be successfully trained and placed in their chosen advanced manufacturing career field.

We had the honor of speaking with Marine Veteran Scott Leoncini, an instructor at Workshops for Warriors, about the accomplishments and amazing work Workshops for Warriors does for our Veterans.

What Does Workshops for Warriors Offer for Our Veterans?

Workshops for Warriors offers two primary tracks of training, both taught by Veterans: welding and machining, Scott explained. After choosing a track, students become a part of the 16-week accelerated program. Those with only a minimum of four months and one nationally-recognized certification can walk across the shipyards and gain employment. Workshops for Warriors remains committed to providing free training to Veterans who do not have access to living-wage jobs. U.S. Veterans often face challenges as they transition to civilian life, including significant barriers to civilian employment. In addition to the hard technical skills, our students are also learning soft skills such as attitude, communication, work ethic, teamwork, time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution.

A proven path into a rewarding career can eliminate problems like unemployment, homelessness, broken families, and suicide. The problem of Veteran unemployment does not have easy, short-term solutions. Workshops for Warriors is uniquely positioned to expand proven innovative techniques to give Veterans marketable employment that will allow them to build careers and families. 

How Did You Find Workshops for Warriors and Become an Instructor?

After I left the Marines in 2009, after serving two tours in Iraq as a combat engineer, I desired an action-packed career. I thought my best option was to start a career in law enforcement. I got a job at a security company and worked there for a few years. During this time, a close friend of mine tragically passed away in a helicopter crash, leaving behind his pregnant wife. This made me reevaluate my current life with my wife and two children. I decided I didn’t need that action-packed career, and that my family comes before anything.

Another friend of mine actually told me about Workshops for Warriors and how it was giving him career skills in welding, and he talked about a machining program. When I showed up, I had no idea what was in store for me. I started learning all about CNC machines, and how to program and run these things. It was eye-opening and I was having a great time. After my first semester, I was asked to become a teacher’s assistant and I’ve been teaching here now for almost five years.

Where Does Your Passion for Teaching Come From?

I love teaching Veterans and helping them transition so they don’t have to go through the same five years I did of, “What am I going to do with my life?” I’ve gone through the same situation a lot of the people coming to us are currently in.

I think that there are three fundamentals that anyone looking for a career or path can apply to their lives and be successful. You have to show up on time, you have to work hard, and you have to be willing to learn. I didn’t know anything about machinery when I first got into this field. When I went through it as a student myself, I applied those three things to my work habits, and now I’m an instructor. I had pigeonholed myself for a long time. But you have to recognize that there’s always something else, something up next and that’s what I want to help teach the Veterans who come through here.

What Courses Does Workshops for Warriors Provide?

We offer many different courses, including CAD courses in Solidworks and CAM courses in Mastercam, and we offer welding courses for Gas Metal and Flux Cored Arc Welding. We also offer advanced training in Flowmaster Programming and Waterjet Operation, 3D Printing, and Robotics. With these courses, we offer many credentials to start a real career. The machining program is accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). NIMS is recognized by the United States Department of Education. The welding program is accredited by the American Welding Society (AWS), which is the worldwide leader in certification programs for the welding industry.

Thanks to private donors, Veterans and transitioning service members are able to become trained and certified in our advanced manufacturing programs. Students can apply to enter one of our programs, or take specific classes that meet their needs.

What Jobs Have You Seen Veterans Acquire After Workshops for Warriors?

We have seen many success stories from Veterans once they leave Workshops for Warriors. One Veteran, in particular, visited us in search of direction in 2019. The machining program had one spot left for the semester, so he took it. He is now certified in machining and welding. He entered a job market that was struggling after his graduation. But he still had a job lined up with 5th Axis Machining in San Diego. His future plans are to own his own business to support his family.

How Could People Help Support Workshops for Warriors?

They can donate directly to us on our website, or on our Facebook page. Or, people looking to help support us can reach out to us by email, [email protected], or by calling us at 619-550-1620, with any questions. We also accept equipment donations for each program, welding, and machining. You can also support us by following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or our newsletter.

What Advice Would you Give to Anyone Looking to Start a Career Path?

After leaving the service, I fell into a depression. I kept thinking, “I’ll never be as good as I was back then.” It was hard to not have “Marine” be the primary part of my identity, so I became blinded by my obsession with still being the superhero kicking down doors. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Be flexible and make sure to show up on time, work hard, and be willing to have an open mind and ready to learn. Test your comfort zone. When I left the service, I only knew how to be the man with the gun. Workshops for Warriors gave me a chance to be more than that – it gave me a direction in life. I now get to do what I love and help my fellow Veterans.

To learn more about Workshops for Warriors and their mission you can visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Heavy Duty Racing – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

Heavy Duty Racing is a manufacturing company based in Stafford, VA, that specializes in motocross, off-road motorcycle suspension, and 2-stroke engine modification. Its owner, Pete Payne, grew up racing motorcycles. Later in life, he even taught classes on how to race. Simply, Motocross and motorcycles became Pete’s passion.

Pete always looked for ways to enhance his motorcycle’s engine, but quickly realized that no shops in his area could design what he was looking for. To get access to the parts he would need, he would have to rely upon companies from far away, and would oftentimes be forced to wait more than three weeks for them to arrive. Because of this, Pete decided he would need to take part manufacturing into his own hands. He purchased a manual lathe, allowing him to make modifications to his two-stroke engines exactly how he wanted them. Quickly thereafter, Heavy Duty Racing was born.

Pete discussed with us his love of racing, how he first got into machining, the parts his shop has designed, and tips and tricks for new machinists.

Pete Payne Heavy Duty Racing
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

How did you get started in machining?

Since I was a kid I have been riding motorcycles and racing motocross. I went to a tech school in the ’80s and learned diesel technologies. When I realized nobody in this area could help design the engines I wanted to make, I decided I needed to learn how to do it myself. I have a friend, George, who is a retired mold and die maker that also worked on motorcycle engines, I asked him for some advice on how to get started. George ended up teaching me all about machining and working on engines. I really learned from failures, by trying new things, and doing it every day. I started Heavy Duty Racing in 1997 and we have been modifying and designing the highest performing engines since then.

turning motorcycle part on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

What machines and softwares are you using in your shop?

We currently have a Thormach PCNC 1100 and a Daluth Puma CNC Lathe (we call it The Beast, it’s angry and grumpy but it gets the job done). We also have a Bridgeport Mill, Manual Lathe, and a Tiggwell. When we were choosing software to use, they had to be easy and quick to learn. We weighed our options and decided to use Autodesk Fusion 360 about 5 years ago. We mostly machine cast iron and steel since most engines are made from those materials.

What sets Heavy Duty Racing apart from competitions?

We have a small hands-on approach and treat every part with care. We don’t have a cookie-cutter process so we are very flexible when it comes to customer needs. Since each part is different, we don’t have set prices and have custom quoting on each part. We value our customers and tailor every build to the rider, based on the weight, fuel, and skill level of the rider. We make unique components for each rider so they can have the best experience when they hop on their bike. We are just focused on letting people do what they love.

metal racing parts made by Heavy Duty Racing
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

What is the coolest project you have worked on?

In 2016, MX Tech Suspension in Illinois gave us the opportunity to build an engine for them to display at their event. We got to go to California to watch them demo the engine in front of thousands of people. It was very nerve-racking to watch it live but the experience was amazing. The engine was later featured on the cover of Motocross Action magazine. It was very cool to see something we dedicated so much hard time toward get that much recognition.

Why is high quality tooling important to you?

We are making really difficult machine parts so we need tools that can last. Micro 100 tooling lasts and does the job. The thread mills we use are 3-4 mm and 14 mm and they last longer than any competition out there. The thread mills do not chip like the competition and the carbide is super strong. Breaking a tool is not cheap, so to keep one tool in the machine for how long we have has really saved me in the long run. We found Micro 100 one day looking through our distributor’s catalog and decided to try some of their boring bars. After about 5 holes, we realized that these tools are the best we have ever used! Micro has had everything I’ve been looking for in stock and ready to ship, so we have yet to need to try out their custom tools.

Most engine tolerances are no more than .0005” taper. You need the tooling to hold tight tolerances, especially in engines. Just like with tooling, minimizing vibration is key to getting the engine to last longer. We need tight tolerances to maintain high quality and keep engines alive.

machined metal racing part
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

The same advice I’ve given to my son: Don’t be ashamed to start from the bottom and learn from the ground, up. Everybody wants to make cool projects, but you need to learn what is going on around you to master the craft. Learn the processes and follow the steps. It’s very easy to break a tool, ruin a part, or even hurt yourself. Don’t be scared of quality tools! Buying the cheap stuff will help you with one job, but the quality tools last and will save you in multiple situations.

Follow Heavy Duty Racing on Instagram, and go check out their website to see more about them!

Hybrid Machining – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining

Located in Holland, MI, Hybrid Machining uses machining skills combined with 3 different 3D printing technologies to manufacture complex projects. Hybrid Machining is a manufacturing company that can take the customer’s design from start to finish, allowing customers to dictate their path. Rather than focusing on a single product, Hybrid has listened to customer needs and presented solutions that, in many cases, customers didn’t know were possible. Jeff Robinson, the owner, took some time out of his day to answer some questions about Hybrid Machining.

How did you get into manufacturing?  

I started working in an architectural shop during my high school years.  I quickly realized that there was a more advanced part of the industry that I was missing out on. Therefore, I started researching CNC Routing.  I fell in love with the technology and have been studying it ever since. 

What sort of machines and materials do you use in your shop?

We currently run a Datron Neo, Fanuc Robodrill, and a CR Onsrud 5-axis Router. We work primarily with wood, plastic, and non-ferrous materials. We currently use Autodesk Fusion 360, FeatureCAM, Powermill, Vectric Aspire, and AlphaCAM for CAM.  For CAD, we run Fusion 360, Inventor, and Solidworks.

hybrid machining datron neo
Photo Courtesy of: Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining

When did you start using 3D printing and how has it benefitted you?

I have been 3D printing for just over a year.  It was the first technology that we initiated here at Hybrid Machining, and it has allowed us to provide the best solution to the customer no matter what the requirements are. By expanding into 3D printing, we can help the customer decide which technology will work the best for their part. Many times, we take the “Hybrid” approach and use both additive and subtractive technologies together.

How have you adapted during the Covid-19 outbreak and how has it changed your business?

We started by stopping normal production to form a non-profit called 3DC19 with other local, small business owners with the sole purpose of 3D printing and assembling plastic face shields.  Hybrid Machining became the distribution center for the efforts.  Collectively, we produced and donated 75K articles of PPE to local hospitals, nursing homes, doctor offices, and first responders.  You can learn more about the efforts at www.3DC19.com. We have also been machining a lot of acrylic face guards for customers so that we can help them to get their office staff back to work safely. 

fanuc robodrill machine
Photo Courtesy of: Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining

What sets Hybrid Machining apart from the rest of the manufacturing community? 

We have a serious passion for educating our youth and local businesses on the rapid changes currently happening in the manufacturing industry and preparing them for the impact that Industry 4.0 will have on our lives in the future.  We want to produce knowledgeable people just as much as we produce products, and we do this in our unique Learning Lab.  We team up with local schools, vocational schools, and community colleges to help them spread the word about manufacturing.  We also intend to do ‘Lunch and Learns’ with local businesses to help them understand what other manufacturing methods and advanced materials are available on the market today.

What is the coolest project you have had come through the shop?

Many years ago, at my previous shop, we worked on the presidential handrail that the last three presidents stood behind during the inauguration.

hybrid machining metal business card
Photo Courtesy of: Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining

Are you using HEM techniques to improve cycle times? 

Yes, we use a couple of the fastest and most nimble machines on the market: the Datron NEO and the Fanuc Robodrill.  We leverage the machine’s tools’ high accelerations and deceleration rates, along with HEM, to drastically reduce cycle times for our customers.  This allows us to be competitive against over-seas importers.

What do you have to lose other than cycle time? You purchased the entire tool, not just the tip, so use it!  You will be surprised how the different the machine will sound and you can get parts done faster with less tool wear.

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

The tooling is super important to the success of a project because the tool is what is doing the work.  I like to tell people, “Why would you buy a high-end sports car with all bells and whistles and then put crappy tires on it?  All that power and handling is worthless unless you have good tires.”  The same goes for tooling.  You can have a half-million-dollar machine that is super-fast and accurate and yet still produce a terrible part with cheap tooling. 

When was a time that Harvey Tool, Helical Solutions, or Micro 100 saved the day?

Harvey Tool helped me get through some tough composite projects in the past.  Their technical support team was extremely knowledgeable on the subject matter and helped me pick the right tool and parameters to get the job done. 

machined metal part from hybrid machining
Photo Courtesy of: Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

NEVER STOP LEARNING.  Things may be going great at first and you think you have it all figured out, but then a new technology comes and swipes you off your feet.  Spend your spare time studying industry trends, talking to other business leaders, new and old, and preparing for the future.

 Is there anything else you would like to share with the “In The Loupe” community?

We are extremely thankful that Harvey Tool spends a lot of time developing ‘material-specific’ tooling.  We spend 90% of our time in that section of the catalog.  We recently tested out the new wood cutters and are extremely happy. We pushed these tools at speeds and feeds that are unbelievable.  We also use the Harvey Tool plastic cutters on a regular basis. 

Here at Hybrid Machining, we are blending the lines between routing and milling.  For many decades, the line had been fairly clear. There were certain types of jobs you ran on certain types of machines.  We are blurring those lines and are using the best tools for the jobs.  For instance, we use the 24K RPM spindle on the Robodrill to run it more like a router than a mill.  Therefore, we call it the “RoboRouter”.  We can produce wood and plastic parts at unbelievable speeds while achieving surface finishes that are off the charts.  This is not conventional practice, but the team at Hybrid Machining is willing to blaze the path forward for others to follow.

To check out more about Hybrid Machining go to their website or follow them on social media!

Harvey Performance Company Opens New 79,000-Square-Foot Manufacturing Plant in Gorham

GORHAM, ME (October 13, 2020) – Harvey Performance Company, the parent company of the Harvey Tool, Helical Solutions, and Micro 100 industrial cutting tool brands, last month opened the doors to a new, 79,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Gorham, Maine, to support the tremendous growth and product demand its brands continue to experience.

Harvey Performance Company was quickly outgrowing its Sanford Drive facility in Gorham, Maine, where Helical Solutions products have been manufactured for more than 15 years. The new manufacturing facility, which is just 5 minutes away on Raceway Drive, will become home to Helical Solutions product manufacturing and will serve as an innovation hub for all Harvey Performance Company brands.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this new facility,” said Harvey Performance Company Senior Vice President of Sales Jerry Gleisner. “We’re quite literally opening the doors to countless opportunities for us to serve our customers in ways unmatched in the industry.”

“This new facility is an exciting step for our business, as this investment will create opportunities for us to continue to grow,” said Harvey Performance Company Vice President of Operations Steve Vatcher. “In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we worked closely with state and local officials to ensure that the completion of our new facility was done in a way that prioritized the health and safety of all involved. I couldn’t be more proud of how everyone came together to make this facility a reality during these unprecedented times.

“When it is safe to do so, we look forward to hosting the Gorham community, our neighbors for more than 15 years, at our new home for a ribbon cutting ceremony to share this exciting milestone with us.”

Harvey Performance Company’s New Manufacturing Plant Will:

  • Expand upon its current research and development capabilities to design, test, and manufacture innovative and high performing cutting tools.
  • Accelerate Harvey Performance Company’s new product growth while maintaining its in-stock status and same-day shipping options for all catalog standard items.
  • Host its distributor partners and customers in a state-of-the-art setting that showcases its capabilities.
  • Meet the needs of the market by scaling the size of Harvey Performance Company’s business in the future, through added machines and personnel.
  • Attract, recruit, and retain high-quality employees, engineers, and operators with a high-class work environment.

Schon DSGN – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

In 2012, engineer Ian Schon wanted to put his skill for design to the test. He decided to challenge himself by designing a normal, everyday item: a pen. His goal was to take the pen from the design concept to manufacturing it within his own shop. Ian designed his pen how he thought a pen should be: durable, reliable, compact, leak-proof, and easy to use. Most of all, though, he wanted the pen to be of a superior quality, not something easily lost or thrown away.

With the design concept in place, Ian started his work on engineering and manufacturing his new pen. He made many prototypes, and with each discovered new features and additions to better his design. Today, Ian manufacturers his pens through local fabrications in Massachusetts, using local supplies. He makes them from 6061 Aluminum, unique in that it molds to its users’ hand, over time. His pens are designed to outlast its user and be passed on through generations.

Ian was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his manufacturing success.

Schon DSGN silver wrist watch with black band
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What sets Schon DSGN apart from competition?

I think I have a unique approach to designing and manufacturing. I design things that I like, and make them the way that I want to.  I don’t rush things out the door. I’m not thinking about scale, growth, making a big shop, etc. I just want to live a simple life where I make cool objects, sell them, and have enough time in the week to sneak out into the woods and ride my bike. This ethos takes the pressure off a lot, and that makes the workflow freer without as much stress as I had in my past career as a product development engineer.

This workflow isn’t for everyone. it’s not a winning combo for massive business success, per se, and if you audited me you would tell me I’m holding back by not scaling and hiring, but I like it. I see myself as a hybrid between artist and entrepreneur. I love doing things start to finish, blank paper to finished part on the machine. Owning that entire workflow allows for harmony of engineering, machining, tooling, finishing, R+D, marketing, etc. Further, it ensures that I don’t miss critical inflection points in the process that are ripe for process evolution and innovation, resulting in a better product in the end.

I’m sure the way I do things will change over time, but for now I’m still figuring things out and since I work largely alone (I have one amazing helper right now assisting with assembly, finishing, and shipping) I have lots of flexibility to change things and not get stuck in my ways.

Also, by working alone, I control the music. Key!

schon dsgn turning metal on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Where did your passion for pens come from?

My friend Mike had a cool pen he got from a local shop and I was like “man I like that,” so I made one with some “improvements.” At the time, in my mind, they were improvements, but I have learned now that they were preferences, really. I made a crappy pen on a lathe at the MIT MITERS shop back in 2010, and that summer I bought a Clausing lathe on craigslist for $300 and some tooling and started figuring it all out. I made a bunch of pens, wrote with them, kept evolving them, and eventually people asked me to make pens for them.  I didn’t really intend to start a business or anything, I just wanted to make cool stuff and use it. Bottle openers, knives, bike frames, etc. I made lots of stuff. Pens just stuck with me and I kept pushing on it as a project for my design portfolio. Eventually it became something bigger. Turns out my pen preferences were shared with other people.

Schon dsgn gold and copper metal pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What is the most difficult product you have had to make and why?

Making watch cases – wow. What an awful part to try and make on a desktop Taig 3 axis mill and a Hardinge lathe in my apartment! I started working on machining watch cases in 2012, and I finished my first one in my apartment in 2015 (to be fair, I was working on lots of other stuff during that time! But yeah, years…). What a journey. Taught me a lot. Biting off more than you can chew is a great way to learn something. 

What is the most interesting product you’ve made?

When I worked at Essential Design in Boston I worked on the front end of a Mass Spectrometer. The requirements on the device were wild. We had high voltage, chemical resistance, crazy tolerances, mechanism design, machining, injection molding – truly a little bit of everything! It was a fun challenge that I was fortunate to be a part of. Biomolecule nanoscale analysis device. Try saying that ten times fast.

I have something fountain pen related in the works now that I find more interesting, and very, very complex, but it’s under wraps a bit longer. Stay tuned. 

Schon dsgn gold and copper metal pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Who is the most famous contact that you have worked on a project with?

I have made watches for some incredible customers, but I unfortunately cannot talk about who they are. Most of my watch work outside of my own parts is also under NDA which is a bummer, but hey it was great work regardless.

Same thing with the pens. I know that some of my pen are in the touring cases of a few musicians, one of which is in the rock and roll hall of fame. But I have to keep it tight!

Before leaving to work for myself, I was part of a design team at IDEO in Cambridge that designed the new Simplisafe Home Security System. As an engineer and designer, I got listed on the patents. That wasn’t machining and was more design and engineering of injection molded plastic assemblies,  but it was still cool, though! Cutting my teeth in the design industry before machining helps me a lot with the creative process in the workshop. Lots of overlap.

What capabilities does your shop have?

I utilize Citizen L series sliding headstock machines to run my company. These are Swiss Machines (though made in Japan) with twin spindles and have live tooling for milling operations. I got into this type of machining after getting advice from friends in the industry and subcontracting my work to shops with these style of machines for 7 years.

Beyond the Swiss Machines, I have a new Precision Matthews Manual Mill, a Southbend Model A, a Hardinge Cataract Lathe, and a bunch of smaller Derbyshire lathes and mills. Most of these are for maintenance related tasks – quick mods and fixtures and my watchmaking/R&D stuff. I also have a Bantam Tools Desktop CNC machine on the way, a nice machine for quick milled fixtures in aluminum and nonferrous materials. I tested this machine during their development phases and was really impressed.

What CAM/CAD software are you using?

I use Fusion 360 for quick milled stuff, but most of my parts are programmed by hand since the lathe programming for Swiss work can be done without much CAM. I’m sure I could be doing things better on the programming side, but hey, every day I learn something new. Who knows what I’ll be doing a year or two from now?

schon dsgn turning wrist watch on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What is your favorite material to work with and why?

Brass and Copper. The chips aren’t stringy, it’s easy to cut quickly and the parts have this nice hefty feel to them. Since I make pens, the weight is a big piece of the feeling of a pen. The only downside is I’m constantly figuring out ways to not dent the parts as they are coming off the machines! My brass parts are like tiny brass mallets and they LOVE to get dinged up in the ejection cycles. I ended up making custom parts catchers and modifying the chutes on the machines to navigate this. I might have some conveyors in my future….yeah. Too many projects!

schon dsgn disassembled wrist watch
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

It’s not just important, it’s SUPER important. As a solo machinist running my own machines, being able to call a tooling company and get answers on how I should run a tool, adjust its RPM, feed, DOC, or cutting strategy to get a better result is invaluable. I find that as much as I’m paying for tool performance, I’m also paying for expertise, wisdom and answers. Knowing everything is cool and all (and I know some of you out there know everything under the sun), but since I don’t know everything, it’s so nice to be able to pick up a phone and have someone in my corner. These tech support people are so crucial. Being humble and letting support guide me through my tooling challenges has helped me grow a lot. It’s like having a staff of experienced machinists working at my company, for free! Can’t beat that. Micro 100 and Helical have helped me tons with their great support.

schon dsgn multicolored fountain pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

When was a time that Harvey, Helical or Micro product really came through and helped your business?

The Helical team (shout out to Dalton) helped me nail some machining on some very wild faceted pens I was working on this month. When I switched to Helical, my finishes got crazy good. I just listened to recommendations, bought a bunch of stuff, and kept trying what Dalton told me to. Eventually, that led to a good recipe and manageable tool wear. It was great!

I also like how representatives from the Harvey/Helical/Micro family often cross reference each other and help me find the right solution, regardless of which company I’m getting it from. Nice system.

The quiet hero in my shop is my Micro 100 quick change system. It just works great. Fast to swap tools, easy to setup, cannot argue with it! Too good. 

Schon DSGN silver wrist watch with black band
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Find a mentor who supports you and challenges you. Find a good tooling company, or good tooling companies, and make good relationships with their tech support so you can get answers. Make good relationships with service technicians who can help you fix your machines. Be a good person. Don’t let yourself become a hot head under the pressure of this industry (since it can be hard at times!), cooler heads prevail, always. Be open to seeing things from other viewpoints (in life and in machining), don’t be afraid to flip a part around and start over from square one.

To learn more about Ian and Schon DSGN, follow them @schon_dsgn and @the_schon on Instagram and check out his website. And, to learn more about how Ian got his start in the manufacturing industry, check out this video.

Rennscot LLC – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of David Bamforth, Rennscot LLC

David Bamforth is the founder and CEO of Rennscot LLC, a manufacturing company based out of Woburn, Massachusetts, which was created to meet product design demands of both individual and commercial clients. From idea to prototype, and eventually to final product, Rennscot LLC prides itself on its ability to make part ideas come to life. David took some time to talk with us about Rennscot LLC, his company’s machining capabilities, and much more.

Assortment of end mills and tool holders at Rennscott LLC
Photo Courtesy of: David Bamforth, Rennscot LLC

What capabilities does your shop have?

We are mostly a mill shop with two verticals and one 5-axis machine. We also have a small bar fed lathe, a larger sub-spindle live-tooling lathe, and some design tools like a Faro Design Scan Arm. We work predominantly with aluminum, but sometimes see brass, stainless, titanium, and steel alloy jobs come through. We use Fusion 360 for everything and currently all 4 of our machines are Haas.

What sets Rennscot LLC apart from the competition?

We are a bit different from most shops because, in addition to machining services, we also offer design services. A lot of our jobs are won because we are a one-stop-shop from idea to producing the final product. Recently we have been making a lot of parts for vehicle restoration. Typically, we are just handed a part and asked to reproduce it.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Problem solving and learning new skills. We are a pretty young team and love being challenged by new projects. We also pride ourselves on being pretty innovative with our machining strategies to help reduce lead times and cost for our customers.

cnc machined metal part from Rennscot LLC
Photo Courtesy of: David Bamforth, Rennscot LLC

Where did your passion for automobiles come from?

Like many, I have always been passionate about cars. I have some great memories of going to car shows with my dad and watching any TV show with a car in it as a kid. Nowadays, I spend my personal time taking our shop development car, a Porsche Cayman, to the track.

What is the coolest product you have made?

We have had some pretty unusual characters bring us some really cool projects. Currently, we are working with a guy from Connecticut on laser scanning a model Mercedes C10 Le Mans car that we will CAD model, so a full-sized car body can be reproduced. It’s a really interesting project, trying to take a 1:43 car and blow it up to full size. Eventually, we will help design and manufacture many of the machined components on this car. Also, we once made a custom billet alternator mount in just 5 days for a 996 Porsche GT3 with a Chevy LS engine in it. We really enjoyed being part of that project and the V8 sounded amazing on track!

cnc machined metal part from Rennscot LLC
Photo Courtesy of: David Bamforth, Rennscot LLC

What is the most difficult product you have made?

We once worked on an enclosure for a handheld x-ray machine. The part was only about 1”x 1.25” x4” and only had .040” walls all around. The main pocket was machined with our go-to Helical ¼” reduced shank end mill. It also had #0-80 taps all along the top edge of the enclosure, making for a few broken taps! It was a pain to get dialed in but once the process was proved out it was really rewarding to get consistent good parts off the will.

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

Once we started using high quality end mills, we immediately saw an improvement in tool life and surface finish. We also really enjoy using tools that are backed by a company that puts out so much information and resources to help its customers out.

When was a time that Harvey Tool or Helical products really came through and helped your business?

We have had several moments when we hit a wall while building a process for a new part, and Helical’s phone support helped us find the perfect tool for the process. The combination of great phone support, having such a vast array of product offerings, and all of the tools always being in stock has helped my business tremendously.

Rennscot LLC machine shop assortment of harvey tool and helical end mills
Photo Courtesy of: David Bamforth, Rennscot LLC

Are you guys using High Efficiency Milling (HEM) techniques to improve cycle times?

Always! All our mills are spec’ed with HSM and 12k RPM spindles, and we take full advantage of this with chip breaking roughers. Honestly, we are so young that we have only ever used HEM techniques, so I’m honestly just confused by companies that don’t use it. Not using HEM is like not driving a car on the highway because it’s too fast.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Machining is probably the most in demand and most satisfying industries that someone can get into now-a-days. There are a lot of companies that are in demand for green machinists who are just eager to learn. I would recommend putting together and sending out a resume to local shops that shows that you have the ability to take on projects and complete them.

If anyone is interested in learning more about what we do our manufacturing website, rennscotmfg.com is a great resource. Also, check us our on Instagram at @rennscot.