Machine Shop Operations

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The field of machining garners a great deal of interest and curiosity, but many outside observers are confused by the work we do. It doesn’t have to be that way. Even while complex machine tools demand a high level of expertise for proper safety and efficiency, making intricate parts still boils down to the careful use of a few basic shaping techniques.

Any metal cutting can be classified as either a roughing cut or a finishing cut. Roughing cuts remove the majority of the material, creating the general shape of the final product. Finishing cuts are used to “fine-tune” a workpiece, by cutting more precise shapes or conditioning its surface. Oftentimes, a major aspect of machine operations is the application of cutting fluid, which cools and lubricates the cutting tool. The following is an outline of the most common operations used in machine cutting.


Most people are familiar with drilling, and have likely employed the method often in their personal projects. The drilling tool is “fed” into the workpiece to carve a cylindrical hole.


Turning is generally used to create cylindrical shapes. A cutting tool is held parallel to a rapidly rotating workpiece, shaving off material with a smooth, circular motion. An exhaust pipe is a good example of a part achieved through turning.


Boring is often thought of as the inverse process to turning, but instead of cutting from the outside, a cylindrical hole is shaped and widened from the inside. Boring is used where high accuracy of a hole’s diameter is needed, like in the barrel of a gun.


Milling is like drilling, but is used more for shaping and removing larger amounts of material from the surface of the workpiece. Much milling is performed with vertical machines, which are used to perform the majority of machining processes in a shop.


Using an abrasive surface, grinding is performed on
a workpiece in much the same way as sanding. It is used mostly in the finishing process to smooth material or tighten its tolerance.

There are other less common operations, like broaching, planing, and sawing. Each one is used to make high quality, precision machined products at Lowrance Machine Shop.