The Green Shed

I Decided to Try Metalworking

It was probably 5 or 6 years ago that I stumbled up on Clickspring, the mesmerizing YouTube channel where Chris builds incredible machines that are both functional and works of art, all in his small home shop. Whenever a new video came out I'd wait until I had a quiet evening, then pour myself a glass of scotch and sit in front of the TV, enraptured by the beauty, precision, and attention to detail.

From there the YouTube algorithm took over, and my feed has been chock full of incredible machinists, both home and commercial. Lathes, mills, presses, grinders, welders, micrometers, and dial indicators have been sparking joy ever since.

At some point I had the thought, "Maybe I should try this." At the time I opted not to; getting into the hobby isn't cheap, and I didn't want to find out after a few weeks that I didn't actually enjoy doing this myself.

Then, two things changed.

First, time passed. 5 years later I was still fascinated by the idea of making something out of these raw materials. I've done a fair bit of 3D printing, so I was familiar with what it took to design an object that needs to exist in the real world. Metalworking would be a major level-up.

Second, I had an HVAC unit installed in my garage, which meant I could work out there during the warm months, which is most of them. Without that option I'd either have to work in the house (not an option) or during the extremely brief window of cool weather (too short to be worth it).

So, this holiday season, I decided to finally go ahead with it, and purchased a Sherline mini lathe.

There was a 15 business day lead time on purchases at the time. My lathe arrived in late January, 2024.

IMG_1314.HEIC 954 KB

The unboxing and setup process was enjoyable. It took a few hours to get setup, but thankfully I had the required parts on hand. (The biggest unexpected requirement was a board/shelf to mount the lathe tool. Sherline recommends you mount the lathe to a board, not directly to a workbench. I had the needed wood lying about, but that was pretty lucky.)

In the 10 days or so since then, I've been practicing, building little fidget toys mostly. Facing, turning, measuring, and cutting threads.

And I've been loving it!

So far it's been everything I hoped it would be. It's fun, challenging, and a tremendous outlet for creative energy that has nothing to with screens. After sitting in front of display all day, I desperately need an outlet that isn't computer related. Metalworking has been perfect.

IMG_1449.HEIC 1.45 MB
IMG_1448.HEIC 2.38 MB
IMG_1447.HEIC 2.42 MB

The precision of metalworking was one of the key attractions for me, and I haven't been let down. I was able to turn a little threaded fidget toy that has essentially no visible seam between the two parts. I can't tell you how much I love that. (The accuracy of this lathe has been incredible. I'm so pleased with it!)

IMG_1515.HEIC 1.51 MB

My most recent accomplishment has been this little pen. This was more challenging than the other parts I had built to that point, and required mixing all techniques I was still learning. It's a pretty simple little thing, but I'm immensely proud of how it came out.

I'm only just getting started on this journey. I have a lot of project ideas ahead of me. There's no rush to any of it, of course. That's part of the delight.

P.S. If you want to follow along, I often post my progress on Instagram here