The true cost of tooling up an at-home machine shop

Tom
By Tom Suddard
Dec 16, 2023 | machine shop, Making stuff, Tooling | Posted in Features | From the April 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

After six installments of “Making Stuff,” we had a garage full of machine tools and the basic skills to draw and build almost anything we could ever want. And if you know anything about machining, you’ve probably been screaming at every page: “WHAT ABOUT THE TOOLING!? TALK ABOUT THE TOOLING!” 

Don’t worry, we heard you, but figured …

This content is available for GRM+ members and Grassroots Motorsports magazine subscribers only.

You can read it for free in 62 days or subscribe to GRM+ to read right now.

Subscribe now

Already a member?

Login to read

Join Free Join our community to easily find more machine shop, Making stuff and Tooling articles.
Comments
kb58
kb58 UltraDork
2/15/23 11:22 a.m.

Totaling up receipt is what businesses do. An at-home situation means that other factors are at play, such as: making stuff for fun; getting time away from a spouse; making things to sell (for a profit,or not); enjoying the puzzle-solving, etc, etc.

If forced to total up the real expense of our hobbies, we would - from an accounting perspective - very likely conclude that doing anything for fun makes zero financial sense. Why even ask the question... other than generating web traffic... it couldn't be that...

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
2/15/23 11:26 a.m.

In reply to kb58 :

Pretty much sums up my experience with film photography. It's really fun, but walking out of the camera store $50 poorer with only three or four rolls of film (and not including development) is a tough pill to swallow.

MiniDave
MiniDave Reader
2/15/23 2:39 p.m.

Any hobby beats what it costs to walk around a golf course chasing a little white ball.....IMHO of course. I can't think of a worst way to blow wads of money and time.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/15/23 8:14 p.m.

In reply to MiniDave :

I got into cars because it was cheaper than mountain biking.

Granted, this was when you could find a half decent used car for $1200 and a half decent mountain bike was $3000.  OTOH, I also managed to avoid the really expensive parts of biking, like waking up on a trail with a snapped handlebar and broken collarbone...

DaleCarter
DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
2/16/23 2:29 a.m.

"expensive" seems to be pretty abritrary in this hobby. A new autoX or track enthusiast won;t even blink at spending $3000 on coilovers and sway bars or $4000 on a set of wheels and R-spec tires, but watch their head spin when you suggest they spend $2000 on a helmet and HANS. Their eyes glaze over when you recommend spending as much on coaching and data as that set of wheels and Hoosiers cost.

 

This entire shop build is equivalent to the entry fees, insurance, travel, fuel and consumables you would burn in four or five track-day weekends with a Miata. Do it in a Vette or P-car and it's 2-3 track weekends. For the same money, this gear will pay dividends for as long as you are in this game, as long as you are willing to put in the time to learn how to use this gear properly. 

 

I'm outfitting my new shop and this guide is invaluable.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
2/16/23 11:00 a.m.
DaleCarter said:

"expensive" seems to be pretty abritrary in this hobby. A new autoX or track enthusiast won;t even blink at spending $3000 on coilovers and sway bars or $4000 on a set of wheels and R-spec tires, but watch their head spin when you suggest they spend $2000 on a helmet and HANS. Their eyes glaze over when you recommend spending as much on coaching and data as that set of wheels and Hoosiers cost.

 

This entire shop build is equivalent to the entry fees, insurance, travel, fuel and consumables you would burn in four or five track-day weekends with a Miata. Do it in a Vette or P-car and it's 2-3 track weekends. For the same money, this gear will pay dividends for as long as you are in this game, as long as you are willing to put in the time to learn how to use this gear properly. 

 

I'm outfitting my new shop and this guide is invaluable.

Well said. That doesn't begin to count what seriously good cheapskates can do.     My small lathe I got because they were going to throw it away.  My vertical mill I paid $200 for an old. 1880's  belt driven one con retired to electric probably some time in the 1930's. 
  Yeh it was impossible to get the nice finishes  and accurate to 10 million nano seconds stuff but hey. It worked for me. 
   Now I just gotta find somebody with machine tooling who will trade me for wood working  equipment. 

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/16/23 7:01 p.m.

Super useful guide, will be examining those numbers when I start building a shop next summer.

Also-lol:

akylekoz
akylekoz UltraDork
12/18/23 7:12 a.m.

Up her in the land of manufacturing there are constant auctions as one shop closes and another opens.  Skids full of consumables and other accessories go for cheap.  I'm going to one this week, not a great one for me but we have our eye on a paint line. 

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
l3aCXpiAYlycHn2Cxws1PFdsFVFAiDiz0e3GJTcY5B1618fNTYZocGbE8OkCMc5l