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Tool List for the Beginner Amateur Machinist

micrometerFirst, let me say that this list will never be complete. Second, if you asked 10 machinists to put together a list like this, you’d get back 10 different lists. Because of this, my list will be contested by many readers, of that I’m sure. If you think I’ve omitted something, please post a comment. I’m sure this list will continue to grow long after I’ve posted this – but that’s the beauty of the internet.

Keep in mind, this list is intended for the beginner. Someone who has just purchased a shiny new lathe or mill and has no idea what tools they need to buy to go along with it.

I’ll try to list the most important items in each category first. In some cases I’ll provide links to further explanation on some items (like which brands to look for, which size, etc).

Safety Equipment:

  • Eye Protection
  • Ear Protection
  • Steel Toe (or thick leather) shoes with a hard sole (to prevent chips from poking through).
  • No Gloves, Jewelery (rings, necklaces, watches, etc), Long Hair, Long Sleeves – nothing that could get caught in moving machinery.
    • If you have long hair, get a hat to tuck it under. “Pony Tails” can still get caught.

Hand Tools:

  • Calculator (any cheap scientific that has Sin, Cos, and Tan functions)
  • Screwdrivers (#2 Phillips, 4″ Flat)
  • Pliers
    • Needle Nose
    • Diagonal Cutting Pliers
    • Channel Lock Pliers
  • Hex Keys (metric and fractional sizes)
  • Files
    • #2 Smooth Cut Mill Bastard
    • Jewelers Files
    • File Card
  • Scribe (carbide tipped)
  • Deburring Tools (Noga or Vargus brands are good)
  • “Fishtail” (for setting up threading operations)
  • Thread Pitch Gage (for measuring threads)

Measuring Equipment

  • 6″ Scale (5R or 16R with 100th’s)
  • 6″ Caliper (vernier, dial, or digital – buy a cheap Harbor Freight one, if you need better accuracy you should be using a micrometer anyway).
  • 1″ Micrometer (vernier – Etalon, Starrett, Browne and Sharp, and Mititoyu are all good brands – buy a good quality used micrometer off of ebay).
  • Magnetic (“Mag”) Base (Noga is a good brand)
  • Test Indicator (Interapid, Browne and Sharp, or Mititoyu brand)
  • Travel Dial Indicator (1″ – buy a cheap one in case you destroy it. Harbor Freight is fine).

Lathe Tool Bits:

  • High Speed Steel (HSS) blanks that can be ground to any shape (you’ll need a bench grinder if you plan on grinding your own tools).
  • Indexable Inserts
  • Carbide Tipped
  • Boring Bar

Mill Tool Bits:

  • End Mills (assorted sizes to fit your needs)
    • 2 flutes (for soft metals like aluminum)
    • 4 flutes (for harder metals like steel)

Tool Boxes:

  • Kobalt/Craftsman (this is the minimum quality tool box you could choose. You’ll soon find that the drawers on these mechanic-style tool boxes are far too large for your small tools. Avoid cheap brands like Husky or Harbor Freight).
  • Kennedy (better quality, smaller drawers which is ideal for all the small tools you’ll acquire).
  • Gerstner (best quality, but expensive. If you plan on making this a lifelong hobby or profession, consider a good quality wooden tool chest that will help protect your tools from rust).

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About Tyler

Tyler is a hobby machinist and 3D printing aficionado. He teaches computer programming and web development at Highline near Seattle. Tyler founded Projects In Metal in 2008 because he was frustrated by the lack of free plans available for hobby machinists.

32 comments

  1. Well, I must add!

    If your like me, one day you`re gonna get a metal chip in the ole eye, and it ain`t no fun. I can rember my first time, did I panic.  It wasen`t so much that I had a metal in my eye but the fact that it was HOT! darn thing burned my eyeball, so being me, I started running around the shop like a chicken with its head cut off. I soon attracted the attention of the guy that owned the shop, close friend and very much admired, anyway, he asked me if I had a book of matches, hmm, well being the smoker that I was I just happen to have one. He sat me  down in a chair,then plucked out a match from the book and with the fuzzzzy end of that match he removed that chip right out of my eye.I haven`t found any thing yet that will pick up the jaged edge of a chip like the fuzzy end of a match.

    So needless to say, I keep a book of matches in the top of my box just close to the mirror in the lid just in case….MC 

  2. In reference to chalking a file I do it all the time as I have draw filed many a rifle barrel.  Soap stone does work but I have found what they call railroad chalk at the office supply that really works.  Each stick is about 1″ in diameter by 5″ long so goes a rather long way and is relatively cheap.

    Filing is a task few people know how to do as it is a lot more then dragging a file across metal.  In high school shop one required project was to file a 1″ cube from steel.  That was a semesters work to get something accurate and looking nice.  Many thanks to good ol’ Mr. Greer.  Mustang Army Lt.Col. and really neat guy.  I do feel I DO know a little about filing.