Frequently Annoying Questions

Despite the snarky title of this article, I really don’t mind when people ask questions. I’d be happy to answer all of them and engage with every one of you. However the challenge is that for the viewer, the conversation is one-on-one. For me, the conversation is (checks dashboard) one hundred eighty thousand to one. I am standing in a sportsball stadium full of people yelling at me. As much as I would love to answer every question personally, there are unfortunately not enough hours in the day. Also this stadium is outdoor and it looks like rain.

Add to that conundrum the fact that most people only watch one or two videos before asking their question. Thus, even though I have answered all the questions in this list dozens of times in hundreds of videos, people keep asking them. My hope is that maybe this document might help everyone get their common questions answered while also letting me get some sleep. Win win! Plus I can get some much-repressed sarcasm off my chest. Triple win!

It’s worth noting that questions are often asked in a way that violates the Commenting Policy. If that’s you, then may Metallicor The God Of Machining save you and I hope you find help for the demons that clearly plague your heart.

Without further adieu (but brace for more snark) here is the list of Frequently Annoying Asked Questions:

  1. Why don’t you just get a Bridgeport?
    You may not be aware of this, but Bridgeports are huge. Like, really huge. People often ask this with the subtext (or rudely-expressed un-subtext) that Bridgeports are cheaper than a new Asian machine. That’s actually less true than you think it is, and in fact I did a whole video on that very topic of Bridgeport pricing and the intricacies of value. Since you have time to ask this question, you have time to look up that video. All that said though, while Bridgeports may be cheap in some contexts, square footage is the most expensive thing on Metallicor’s steel-covered earth. The vast majority of hobbyists do not have as much space as they would like, and clearly have less than you if you’re asking this question. Furthermore, while you may live in an area where old industrial machinery is lying around like borscht in a beet field, most people do not. In my area, for example, there has never been a Bridgeport or comparable machine listed for sale within a 500 mile drive in all the years I’ve been doing this. If that’s different for you, great for you. But understand that your life experience is not universal, and maybe reconsider assuming that other people must be stupid for making different decisions than you would. Perhaps the world is more complicated than you think.
  2. OMG Step Bits
    This is a catch-all for all the variations on the questions “why don’t you use step bits” and “you know step bits exist, right?”. Yes, I own and have used step bits many times. I’ve shown them on my channel many times. The reason I don’t use them in a situation where you might is usually related to the depth available. The Step Bit Mafia seems blissfuly unaware that step bits require a lot of space beneath them because they are long and you have to go deep to reach the diameter you need. That makes them substantially less useful in model engineering and small hobby work than said Mafia seems to think. When they are appropriate, I use them. Watch more of my videos and behold my carrying the torch for the Good Word of Step Bits.
  3. You should use [weird liquid] for cutting oil!
    Cutting oil is quite a vast landscape of superstition, religious fervour, and mad science. There are a lot of strange ideas for cutting oils, and things that people swear by that are clearly terrible ideas. My favourite of these is milk. Multiple people have scolded me for not using something that goes bad in days and stinks for life in a situation wherein my machine tool will covered in said liquid. If you don’t see the flaws in this plan, Metallicor will have little to feast on when your brain reaches his Eternal Table. The fact is, I have two cutting oils that I use- Rapid Tap for ferrous things, and WD-40 for everything else. These work perfectly for me and I haven’t seen any need to change. I’ve tried lots and lots of things, but I’ve landed on these and I like them. You use what works for you and let’s leave it at that, shall we?
  4. Why don’t you use [tool I don’t have]?
    The funny thing about machining is that there are as many ways to do things as there are machinists. There are also virtually infinite specialized tools for every situation. Unlike (apparently) many hobbyists, I am far less interested in accumulating tools, and far more interested in using them to make things. That means I don’t have a lot of tooling that you might. The way we do jobs adapts to the tooling we have. It’s amazing how often people tell me I’m doing something wrong in a video where I demonstrate success at doing said thing. Once again, use and enjoy your tools, and I’ll thank you to allow me to do the same. I always appreciate tips about new tools that I may not be familiar with, or new techniques I may not be aware of, just don’t be a dick about it, okay? Cool.
  5. Why didn’t you just buy [thing I made]?
    Oh, honey. Oh, sweet summer child. If you think hobby machining is about saving money or getting cheap tools, you are in for a rude awakening. We do this because the point is the journey, not the destination. If I have to explain to you why making things is more fun than buying them, then I weep for your soul. For any given tool that you see me make, I can’t even buy the steel for what Amazon will ship you the finished tool. That’s always been true and always will be true. That’s not why we do this, and if you need this explained, then machine shop work is not the hobby for you.
  6. What lathe and mill do you have?
    As of this writing, my mill is a Precision Matthews PM-728, and my lathe is a Precision Matthews PM-1022. They are fine. I cannot tell you which machines to buy, nor can I tell you if machine X is better than machine Y, or what a fair price is for machine Z. I am not a hobby machine tool marketplace expert. I have these two machines, they work fine for me, and they are the only ones I have ever owned. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.
  7. Why do you call that tool [X]? I call it [Y] and I am very smart!
    Yes, I am sure you are very smart. Good looking, too. Your mom assures me so. That said, nomenclature in the machine shop is vastly less standardized than the angry pedants of the world assume it is. Every shop has different names for half the tooling in there, and don’t even get me started on the weird names that the British have for everything.  Ducks flying scone .  I read a lot of machining books old and new, watch a lot of videos, talk to a lot of machinists, and am exposed to nomenclature from all over time and space. That’s given me the perspective to say that nobody agrees much on what to call anything. You know what I mean when I use the words because you are literally watching me use the tool on video in real time while you’re getting angry about words. Accept that the world is a messy place and take deep breaths. It’s all gonna be okay.
  8. Why don’t you answer YouTube comments?
    As I said at the top, I would if I could. I used to, when the channel was smaller, but I simply don’t have the bandwidth anymore. Furthermore, it’s never just one question because if I answer, then the person replies again and I have to answer again. I can’t carry on conversations with checks dashboard 180,000 people at once. YouTube comment threads are a terrible medium for meaningful technical conversation, so it’s better to leave it to the wolves to fight amongst themselves. If you take the time to write me an email, or are a Patron, I will answer you as best I can. It’s also important to note that tone is very difficult to discern in YouTube comments, and many alleged questions are just people being poop-weasels and wanting to call me out on something. Again, see the Commenting Policy for the full run down on how I feel about that.
  9. Why didn’t you do [operation] on the mill?
    This question always comes down to one of two things- a failure of imagination by the question-asker, or a failure to understand how small my mill is. I get that most of YouTube machining are big kids with big machines who can seemingly do anything on their mills, but that is not me. My mill has 3″ of quill travel and about 5″ of vertical space by the time the vise, tooling, and fixturing are in there. Furthermore, being a hobby machine, it has only one power feed- the X axis. It’s also not very rigid. You know which machine has none of those problems? My lathe. I do a lot of things on the lathe for the same reason that hobbyists have always done. Lathes have a lot of Z-axis space, are extremely rigid for their size, and they can do any job with a little thought. That last part is important. Most new machinists and non-machinists struggle to visualize any operation not done on the mill, because mills are intuitive. People grok a spinning cutter and a part that moves on a sliding table. People do not intuitively grok how the lathe can do all the same things, and often much easier, just because the work is spinning and the tool isn’t. You are not stupid for thinking this way. Lathes require an intuitive leap to fully understand which takes all of us some time. It took me years of hobby work before I stopped running to the mill for everything because I didn’t understand how the lathe would have been easier. So, welcome friend. Your journey to Lathe Enlightenment has begun and it’s a hell of a ride.
  10. What do you do with the chips?
    You’re not going to like this answer, but they go in the trash. I know everyone expects me to recycle them or melt them into ingots or use them to rebuild civilization after The Fall. But the fact is the volume is way way too low for that to be worthwhile in a hobby shop. A machining operation may look like it creates a lot of chips on camera, but it rarely amounts to more than a thimbleful for a given cut. Trying to recycle them wouldn’t even pay for the gas to drive to the scrap yard and back. Big machine shops absolutely do recycle all their chips because they have huge amounts of them, and there are handy services for the purpose. For me, a month of machining barely fills a dust pan. The chips go in the trash, sorry.
  11. OMG Electrolysis
    There are a number of factoids that fall under the category of “here’s a cool thing that people think they know about the world and are constantly looking for moments to point out”. One of those factoids is that corrosion will occur between dissimilar metals in the presence of an electrolyte. That is of course true, but something being true and something actually mattering in the real world are very different things. In this example, dissimilar metals is a very serious thing on, say, salt-water boats. On a model steam engine or automated cat feeder that is going to sit on a shelf for a few years in your house? Trust me, it’ll be fine. This gap in understanding between when something is technically true and when it actually matters in the real world is often (I suspect) the difference between people who read a lot online and people who actually have experience building things. I would encourage you to spend more time doing the latter and worry less about things you read online until you’ve experienced those problems and have learned the practical boundaries of them.

That’s all the questions I have for now. Do you have one that you think should be in this list? Drop me a line and I’m happy to add to this as needed.



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