Book Review: Machine Shop Essentials

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Machine Shop Essentials - by Frank Marlow, PE -  04/08/05

Let me get right to the point: I really like this book!

If you're just starting out in machine shop work, or you need a refresher course, you will find this book to be an excellent tutor. It covers all the basic machine shop tools and techniques from hand filing through advanced lathe and milling techniques. It will teach you about all the parts of the lathe and mill; not just the names of the parts, but what they do and why, along with some interesting historical notes.

At 500+ pages, this book should keep you occupied for some time, but the text was easy to absorb, and I found myself reading on and on, into the early morning hours. Most books put me to sleep within minutes, but not this one. There's so much good information that I just wanted to keep going.

Just about every one of the approximately 500 pages of the main body features one or more beautifully executed line drawings by Pamela J. Tallman. These drawings not only illustrate the concept at hand, but are pleasing to look at for their own sake. If you like machinery and tools (and I doubt if you would be reading this if not) you should find these illustrations very enjoyable.

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Format and Content

The chapters follow a logical progression, starting with basic concepts such as measurement and hand tools, and work their way on to more advanced topics including turning operations and milling operations. Chapters 9 through 12 then cover several other areas of shop practice such as safety and tool sharpening. Here's a summary of the chapters:

1 Measurement Tools, Layout & Job Planning
2 Basic Hand Tools
3 Filing & Sawing
4 Grinding, Reaming, Broaching & Lapping
5 Drills & Drilling Operations
6 Threads & Threading
7 Turning Operations
8 Milling Operations
9 Fastening Methods
10 Machine Shop Steel Metallurgy
11 Safety & Good Shop Practices
12 Other Shop Know-How
Appendix I Sharpening Steel Lathe Tools
Appendix II Sources of Tools, Materials & Supplies

Like any good instructor, the author holds your attention by posing questions throughout the text. In fact, much of the text other than the chapter introductions follows this format. For example:

What tools are used to cut internal threads?

There are two common types of tools:

I actually had to search through the book to find a fairly short example. In most cases the answers are very extensive. If you study this book for a while, I would imagine that you would be well-prepared to pass a test in introductory machine shop practice at a technical college.

Just to give you a little more of the flavor of the book, here's a longer excerpt:

Other Threading Methods

What other methods are used to apply male threads and what are their advantages?

One of the things I like best about this book is that it does not just teach theory, but gives practical instructions and illustrations. The best way to illustrate this is to show a sample page:

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I apologize for the distortion of the page, my scanner is currently out of commission, so photographs will have to do.

Another feature of this book that makes it particularly valuable to the hobbyist, is that it does not deal exclusively with industrial-size machines. In fact, throughout the text and illustrations, Sherline®-brand lathes, mills and accessories are used to illustrate how the principles under discussion apply to the small home shop.  On the larger end of the scale, you'll find examples of Myford®, Logan® and Clausing® lathes, and an entire section that pretty much teaches you how to run a Bridgeport® (or Bridgeport®-style) vertical milling machine.

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Conclusion

At $44.95, this is not an inexpensive book, but it is a good value. Having done some writing myself, I fully appreciate the long hours of effort that go into producing a book of this depth and quality. Then of course, there are the years of study, training and practice that the author must put in to be qualified to write such a book. Put in that perspective, this book is a real bargain.

With gas prices going the way they are, this book may soon cost less than a tank of gas. And in the course of your career or hobby, it will take you a lot farther. (Update: 2/18/08 Just filled up my tank for $51. Guess I called that right!)

Here are some places you can buy it online:


Mini-Lathe    Mini-Mill    Bandsaw   Grinder  Anodizing   Lapping    Links   Safety     Premium Content

Mini-lathe:  Accessories   Adjustments   Capabilities    Chucks    Dial Indicators   Features   Getting Started   Glossary     Introduction   Materials    Modifications   My Shop   Operation    Reviews    Sieg Factory    Tool Grinding    Troubleshooting   Tuning     Versions