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Starting my own shop?

yunggun51

Plastic
Joined
Nov 5, 2022
I’m 26 y/o, graduated from trade school at 19, been working in a toolroom since 20. I have extensive experience with CNC mill and lathe, manual mill and lathe, surface grinders, Mastercam, solidworks, tools, dies, molds, cavities, shimming, etc etc etc you get the gist of it. This past May I purchased 12 acres of land with plans to build my new home and garage(machine shop) next year. And since then all I’ve really been able to think about is the possibilities of opening my own machine shop. I just can’t get away from the thought that I really don’t want to spend my entire life working in a factory. Although, I do have a great job. I’ve spent countless hours researching machines, watching YouTube videos, drawing blueprints of my garage to see what would fit where. I feel I have the experience and knowledge on the machining side of things. But on the business side I feel like I could end up easily over my head. Surely there has to be some shop owners in here who could give me advice, pointers or anything. Get a new machine or old machine? How to find my first customers? Where to look for work? Business tips and tricks? Taxes????

Obviously, this is all just a dream right now. But the more I think on it the more it seems it could be a possibility and a real opportunity. I don’t know, someone help me out here.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
There's hundreds of write ups on this site alone about how people got started, how to sell yourself and pro's and cons of buying new VS used machines.

IMO, the majority of folks are not cut out for success in self employment. The common denominator of those that make it work well is they are good at figuring out what they are good at and quickly adapting to becoming good at things they aren't good at.

The problem in this field is often that people with a great deal of ability and skill aren't always the best with people. They're not great at selling themselves or communicating well with customers.

The getting the work part is harder than the doing the work part.
 

MwTech Inc

Titanium
Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Location
Fishersville VA
Garwood is correct.
Use the search engine and prepare to spend many hours reading.....also search on shop mgt section too....
This question comes up so many times folks just won't respond again, and again and again........
If you really have the motivation to start a shop then doing your homework shouldn't be an issue.
 

implmex

Titanium
Joined
Jun 23, 2002
Location
Vancouver BC Canada
Hi yunggun51:
Not to rain on your parade or insult you in any way but if you've only been in this trade for six years you do not have "extensive experience with CNC mill and lathe, manual mill and lathe, surface grinders, Mastercam, solidworks, tools, dies, molds, cavities, shimming, etc etc etc you get the gist of it."

You are actually not much more than a beginner who has licked the easiest, part and liked the taste.

So, you need to make a plan that acknowledges that reality as you grow into your dream.
If your vision is job shopping, you will have a hard row to hoe...it takes a good bit of experience to quote a job and plan a job and execute a job and still make money at it.
Not to say it can't be done, but it's definitely no cake walk these days anymore.

However, if you have a product line in mind, your execution challenges are much more forgiving, but your task burden will be much bigger, as you come to grips with all that it takes to sell your product.

None of it's easy but it is very rewarding to be the master of your own destiny.
So I say go for it, but have some humble pie once in a while too...it's not such a terrible flavour and it will help you make better decisions.

Cheers

Marcus
www.implant-mechanix.com
www.vancouverwireedm.com
 
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DouglasJRizzo

Titanium
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Location
Ramsey, NJ.
It sounds like you're on your way, but your journey is only begining.
If you've got the land and the plans, then you have the luxury (literally) of staying at the job you like (and pays) while you slowly, and methodically plan your next step.

Don't rush this.
I've written plenty on this here, and I've started a shop twice.

DON'T be in a hurry to dump your job, unless you've got another big dollar offer waiting.

Step by step...
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
Something to think about- If you are good, I mean really good as a machinist/mech engineer/toolmaker/problem solver/whatever- You can name your price right now and for the foreseeable future.

If you have those attributes, but you apply them to self employment you can do OK until it comes time to grow past just yourself. It is very hard to hire the same skills you have.
 

DavidScott

Titanium
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Location
Washington
only difference is a day job you go home and the work stops.
I don't know about you but I make WAY more $$ in my shop than I ever did as an employee, and enjoy the work way more as well.

Being a good machinist or tool and die maker won't do you any good if you aren't good at business. I started out as a mold maker but ended up doing production machining as it is far easier, way less risk, and for me way more profitable. To really answer your questions would take at least a few hundred pages but in the short term.

1) How good are you at repairing cnc machines? If you can't then don't buy used. If you are then buy used but of a high quality builder that will support your machine without too much expense. Before buying used call up the MTBs tech support to find out what you can expect of them before you need their help, which you will. DO NOT buy a used machine from a cheap builder!

2) Learn everything you can about running a business as that is the most important part of owning a business.
 

RC Mech

Stainless
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Location
Ontario, Canada
It’s never said on this site but after taking a few business communication courses, I believe it’s imperative. Learn how to communicate professionally.

There is no shortage of withering turds in job shops that may be able to remove metal but are the most disorganized and unprofessional people to deal with.
 

e30ryan

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
Since you are already building the space, there is absolutely no reason not to buy some machines. Buy some cheap machines and have a go at it. It will not really cost you much. Make some parts, make some sales, and see if there is a market for you. See if this is something you want to pursue. Buy/upgrade machines as needed, and grow organically. Don't take out a million dollar loan to build your shop, just ease yourself into it.
 

cnctoolcat

Diamond
Joined
Sep 18, 2006
Location
Abingdon, VA
Here in Virginia/Tennessee region, there has not been a new startup machine shop open in the last decade or more, that I'm aware of. A few have closed over the years though, due to the owner retiring or passing away.

I would think other parts of the U.S. are similar. Which is to say there tends to be an actual shortage of precision machine shops in many regions!

Is your region one of them? If so, work should be easy to find starting out.
A vertical machining center is probably the first cnc machine you want to start with---maximum versatility for whatever jobs you can bring in. With cheap, capable CAD/CAM like Fusion360, you can be creating all kinds of wild stuff on a VMC.

A cnc lathe is great to have as well, and lathes can be safer-bets used.

It all just depends on the type of work you can drum up in your region. (You have to be outgoing enough to cold sales-call regional factories and larger shops.)

Good luck, and if you've really got the entrepreneurial spirit (like I had 26 years ago), go ahead and put plans together, and start making it happen!

ToolCat
 

Miller846

Plastic
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
First I have to say, by no means am I an experienced business owner, I’m just closing out my first year as owning my own startup shop but have learned a lot of hard lessons in this past year. The biggest mistake I did was trying to start “too small” so to say and buying a tormach mill because it was cheap. Well I managed to drum up some work and 3 weeks into owning it, the z axis lead screw sheared, rendering the machine useless with no support from tormach. I learned the hard way how important reliable equipment with great service and support is. I had to cancel the work i had just managed to get due to having no way to perform it, I had already quit my day job at this point, and went for two months of downtime while I sorted out getting the tormach taken back and finding a decent used machine. I got lucky and found a local, slightly used haas VMC with a clean service history in good shape and managed to start fresh and get more work in. I will say I’ve made more this year even with the downtime than I ever have as an employee, granted I’ve put in way more hours and the stress level is always high. I would say to go for it, just make sure to not make the same mistake I did and cheap out on equipment/tools that are vital.
 

Cole2534

Diamond
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Location
Oklahoma City, OK
My personal opinion is to keep your day job and moonlight for as long as you can, then do it another 6mo. Pad your assets- buy drills, inserts, mills, coolant, taps, wire, conduit, way oil, thrust bearings, vises, jaws, holders, stock, measurement gear...EVERYTHING you need to be successful before you leave your employer.

You may find that you can make some niche products with very high margins working but a few nights per week.
 

michiganbuck

Diamond
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Location
Mt Clemens, Michigan 48035
Unless you are super lucky you may spend 50% of your time will be out seeking jobs.
If you bid low to get work, that may come back to haunt you with a low shop rate and your costs going up.
Making friends with the local good customers can be good.
 

Mebfab

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2003
Location
Mebane North Carolina USA
Here in Virginia/Tennessee region, there has not been a new startup machine shop open in the last decade or more, that I'm aware of. A few have closed over the years though, due to the owner retiring or passing away.

I would think other parts of the U.S. are similar. Which is to say there tends to be an actual shortage of precision machine shops in many regions!
In this area no shops have opened. But the shops that are here have invested in better machinery. These are general job shops. They are in a race to the bottom. The customers are buying locally, regionally, and in some cases internationally. So you are competing with absolutely everyone. Unless you have a special niche or product. Forget it. Many other trades.......
 








 
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