The problem with being an amateur/home/hobbyist machinist is that you may be self-taught. There are some good web sites, videos and books that you can learn from, but sooner or later you are probably going to have a question you would like to have answered by someone who (you hope) really knows what they are talking about. And that is when it helps to belong to some good forums or email discussion groups.
I have learned a lot from the ones I belong to and I would like to recommend a few of them. Obviously, there are some good groups that I don’t know about. I would really appreciate it if you would tell me about them in the comments so I consider adding to this list the next time I update it. I would also like to know what makes them good or unique.
Here we go, in alphabetical order:
- 7×12 minilathe (Yahoo Group) – “Topics Include: Homier, Grizzly, Harbor Freight, Einhell, Micromark brands of 7×10, 7×12, 7×14, 8×12 mini lathes, metal turning, machinists, CNC, lathe and tooling modification, projects, tips, hints, and tricks for the mini lathes. Beginners and experts welcome! If you want to learn about machining metal on a lathe, this is the group you’ve been looking for.” This is a huge group with more than 6,500 members. It is a very helpful and knowledgeable, especially for those who own Chinese-made mini-lathes. It also has a huge amount of message traffic, about 800-950 messages per month lately.
- 9x20Lathe (Yahoo Group) – “This is a semi-moderated public list for owners/users of the imported 9×20 Lathes sold by Jet, Enco, Harbor Freight, and others.” This group has about 6,600 members and in the last three full months their message traffic has been between 550 – 850 messages per month.
- CNCZone.com (Forum) – This is an excellent forum about all kinds of CNC machines, not just those for metalworking, but also woodworking, plasma cutting, wire foam cutting, etc. It is good place to seek advice whether you are an experienced professional or a beginning CNC or CAD/CAM user. You will also find lots of help if you are trying to convert a manually operated machine to CNC operation. They have many sub-forums dedicated to specific brands of machines, including mini-lathes and mills. You will also find interesting and active sub-forums about metalworking-related topics that do not have anything to do with CNC, such as casting, welding, and projects like steam and Stirling engines.
- GrizHFMinimill (Yahoo Group) – “This is a group dedicated to the discussion, use, toolmaking, and ranting about the minimill sold by Grizzly, Harbor Freight, Atlas and whoever else picks up the ball on these little mills.” This group has more than 3,100 members and lately it has had about 300-400 messages each month.
- Home Model Engine Machinist (Forum) – This forum was started for those with an interest in building running model engines from castings or bar stock, but it has grown beyond that. You will also find lots of help and information about machining, tooling, casting, machine modifications, machining with disabilities, and many other topics. You will also find lots of pictures here, which is why this forum is one of my favorites.
- Practical Machinist (Forum) – This forum is geared more toward professional machinists and machine shop owners and managers. But you will also find lots of hobbyists here and a wide range of topics including gunsmithing and antique machinery.
- Taigtools (Yahoo Group) – “For Owners and Users of Taig Lathes and/or Mills.” This group has more than 3,100 members and about 100-200 messages per month.
That is my “Top” list for now. Here are a few other places where you can find discussion groups and forums:
I can’t resist plugging one more group. Mini-Mills is a Yahoo Group that I run about using, modifying, and buying tooling for the various Asian made mini-mills, such as those sold by Grizzly, Harbor Freight, Micromark and others. Related discussions about machining and metalworking are also welcome.
Many of our members came from a similar group that disbanded. You will find a lot of expertise there but not a lot of message traffic compared to similar groups. So it is a good group to join if you would like to learn or share your knowledge without having to worry about your inbox filling up too quickly.