Some MIT Machine Shop Videos, A Let’s Build Resource

MIT’s robotics lab has posted the videos from it’s basic machine shop class.

A Youtube  playlist.








These are great look at how a good prototype shop is set up.  While there are no CNC machines in the videos, for prototyping, you don’t necessarily want a CNC machine to make you parts.  For many parts the programming and set up time for CNC is much longer than just making the part on a lathe or vertical mill.  Also there’s a lot you can do with just the basic tools.

For prototypes you don’t need the fit and finish of the finished  product and you certainly don’t want the industrial design to enter into the picture before you have something that works.  The prototype stage is where you go from your hack to something that can be made.

One thing that I’ve found important is that you really need to understand how parts get made.  It’s not enough to send parts off to the shop, you should know at least a little how to make parts yourself.  My university did not provide access to a shop like this and I’ve felt that loss.  If you can’t get that access at your university try a makerspace.  If your makerspace doesn’t have  Bridgeport or a toolmakers 14×40 lathe maybe see if other members are willing to pool resources and do some shopping.  One advantage of the CNC becoming more prevalent in industry is that rather than having three mills in the prototype shop, they  have one and sell the other two.  Mills and lathes are become rather inexpensive to buy.

For that matter, the mini mills and lathes at Harbor Freight and  other places are more than adequate for many things and there’s a lot of stuff out there on addressing their deficiencies.

If you expect to only have room for a very small shop and your project is very small you could do worse than buying a Sherline mill and lathe.

I own the mill and lathe and have used them to make real parts.  The
Sherline tools are also hackable and can be converted to CNC.  Most importantly they fit into a very small footprint on a bench.


Some good Youtube channels for metal working.

Keith Fenner.

Tom Lipton’s Oxtoolco.


Outside Screwball.

The Let’s Build Series.


One comment

  1. MadRocketSci · December 8, 2015

    One of the more useful things I’ve done while in grad-school was to spend a week or two learning how to use the bridgeport and lathe in our school’s machine shop. Another week or two fabricating a test fixture.

    I’ve made quite a few more things since then, for experiments. It is really enabling to be able to spend $40 at McMaster and build the thing I have in mind, instead of wasting all sorts of time producing detailed drawings, (and arguing about the necessity of purchasing the supplies, and whether I really need these supplies and shop time, and whether I’ve really thought it through really really hard.)


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