A Southbend movie about single-point cutting tools

I’m posting this video for a couple of reasons.  First, I often enjoy watching movies from this era and I thought some of you might too.  More importantly, it contains knowledge that is still true and useful more than 70 years later.

3 comments to A Southbend movie about single-point cutting tools

  • Scott E
    July 1, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Reply

    This took me back a few years! I actually watched this film while in Trade School. At the time we were given 1/2″ key stock to practice grinding tools. Then we would use them to turn aluminium stock. If correctly ground steel key stock would turn aluminium just as well as HSS tools on steel. After becoming proficient at tool grinding we were given real HSS tool blanks which we would keep in our lockers and use throughout the 1, 2, or 3 years of training available, if you needed another tool blank you had to purchase your own replacement. 1 year students got basic entry level training. In the 2nd year the student could enter the trade as a certified machinist. The 3rd year was journeyman level tool and die and required the certified Machinist to have worked in the trade for at least 2 years. I attended this trade school while working nights in a machine shop reconsigned by the school. I attended all 3 years. I went on to work as an inside machinist in a shipyard. After a couple of years I transferred to Alaska where I worked on the Trans Alaska Pipeline. When that ended I entered the U.S. Navy where I became a Gas Turbine Systems Tech certified as E and M classification. This came about because while working on the pipe line my job was a millwright installing backup Gas Turbine power plants.

  • Rob
    July 1, 2011 at 4:59 PM | Reply


    I’m a mostly self-taught amateur machinist and I’m very curious about how professionals were trained in the “old days” and also how they’re trained today. I’m also wondering what it’s like to work as a machinist. So I’d love to hear so more stories if you or someone else would like to tell them.

    Also, do you agree that the movie’s training is still useful even though it’s old? I don’t want to help spread outdated or incorrect information.


  • Scott E
    July 1, 2011 at 8:30 PM | Reply

    We had half a day class room time and the other half on the shop floor making chips. In the summer shop time was in the morning when it was cool with class time in the afternoon. In the winter it was opposite so the temperature could rise. There was no heat or air conditioning in the shop. Back in the day this was the normal operating condition in most all machine shops. The closest thing to CNC machinery we had was a hydraulic operated tracing lathe and a tracing mill. A template was loaded in the machine and it followed the contour of the template. This was before temperature sensitive electronics became commonplace. “Programming” them required laying out and cutting sheets of aluminium into templates.

    Anyway; the school would contract jobs to do which would help defer the cost of training and materials. Going out and finding work for the shop was done by 2’nd year machinist trainees. Getting out and finding jobs was part of the training. The school also accepted walk in work on a case by case basis. It was operated sort of like an apprenticeship program. Whatever work could be contracted was doled out to students to learn by doing. Class room time was spent going through the Machinery’s Handbook, shop math, and blueprint instruction. Everyone had to purchase their own copy of Machinery’s Handbook and math workbooks. Shop time was spent learning to turn blueprints into product and how to set up machinery to do that work. We did a lot of work for the military back then because the military would come in and recruit students. When you graduated from this trade school after the second year you could go through boot camp and immediately become a non-commissioned officer (E-4) working in a machine shop environment. Completing 3 years would increase your rank to E-5. You also got preference over other recruits for premium duty stations or billets.

    Today’s training is much different. The shops are climate controlled due to sensitive electronics. My old trade school is still in business after all these years. It’s operated by the State of Alabama. The military is no longer involved. Today it does it’s part by attracting industry to Alabama. Mercedes-Benz was recruited primarily due to worker training in trade schools operated by the State of Alabama. It’s a part of AIDT.

    Life as a machinist in the old days was tough. (Especially when Jimmy Carter came along.) In the winter you froze and in the summer you burned up. Heading out of the shop to a ship to make drawings of parts to be made for repairs usually insured you became a mechanic for that job too. That’s also how I got electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic training because one of them were always involved as well. Luckily the guy I worked with loaned me his books so I taught myself how to work on all of it. I got so good I became a Millwright and went to Alaska with a crew from the Ship Yard. I made money hand over fist. We worked from can to can’t sometimes staying on the job for 30 hours straight. Here is a description of what a Millwright does.

    After Jimmy Carter came along and destroyed the economy I became unemployed like a lot of other people at the time. (Obama is even worse!) I ended up going into the U.S. Navy. Due to my prior experience and training I became a Gas Turbine Systems Tech. When I graduated from Boot Camp I became a Second Class Petty Officer (E-5) and was sent to Electronics Schools. I had never worked on Computer electronics and this greatly concerned me. I talked to the Master Chief about it and he told me that I was already a qualified GSM due to my background installing Gas Turbine power plants and the Navy needed people that could work on anything and everything. He told me if I flunked out I would retain my rank and become a GSM. Electronics was much easier than I thought it would be. The math was actually easier than that required of a machinist and when you think of electrons as oil flowing through a hydraulic system converting transistors to valves, resistors to orifices, and diodes as check valves it clicked in my head. I ended up finishing every class in record time graduating in the top 5%. At graduation I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer GS-1 without the E or M designator because I was qualified as both of them. I did 6 years active duty in the Navy and was then recruited by the U.S. Army. This was when the Army started getting M1 Abrams tanks that have a Gas Turbine engine. I started working on just the power plant but eventually migrated to repair of the entire tank including fire control and thermal vision systems. I’ve travelled to every place in the world where M1 Abrams tanks are used. BTY I’m retired now.

    This Video is just as applicable today as it was back then. Sure; we have insert tooling virtually eliminating the need to hand grind tool blanks. Their are times that grinding a tool becomes a necessity. One primary example is cutting piston grooves for rings for that model engine. A few minutes grinding a tool so you can plunge cut the grooves for the piston rings is much less expensive than ordering a special insert and holder, that you may never use again. If you repair machinery you may find some bastard thread requiring you to buy the part from the manufacturer, unless you can grind your own cutting tool and cut that bastard thread design into the part your making to replace it, because your at the top of the world and it will be 3 months before the replacement part arrives (been there and done that).

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