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Folks Of Interest Machine shop specialists ? A question ?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by VANDENPLAS, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. The Ross engine thread debacle got me thinking.

    Ive dealt with numerous machine shops over the years

    1-One specialized in high horsepower racing engines of all types.

    2-my buddy does all vintage engines, even Babbitt engines

    3-your regular run of the mill head jobs and 4 banger everyday stuff

    4-and now at work a shop that just does industrial , propane and diesel.

    I asked my buddy if he was interested in doing the jobs my work sends out n he said no way not my thing. We do a lot of head jobs so it easy but steady work. He had no interest.

    i asked the run if the mill shop we used at the last dealership I worked at if he was interested in building my 261 inline 6 and looked at me like I asked him to bake me a cake, he had no clue.

    when I had my Buick I asked the shop we deal with st work if he would be interested in building my nailhead, and he said “ sure, but it’s not what I do”
    I asked him recently about building a 302 ford roller motor, and he said he could do a stick rebuild but if your looking for performance mods to take it some place else.

    My question is, why?
    I know the older engines can have little tricks and issues but to be that specialized to me seems a bit strange?
    Anyone know why?

    And I’m not talking flat head fords or bangers or high performance olds or Pontiac , but just regular ford fe’s or Mel’s Chevy big or small blocks.
    Etc. Just a decent street cruiser and a lot of shops run the other way.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
    tractorguy likes this.
  2. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 3,394

    from illinois

    1st guess , to many lawsuit happy ,"I didn't get my own way" jerks
    2nd , not enough of that sort of work to support tooling up for it ...
    tractorguy and VANDENPLAS like this.
  3. More trouble than it's worth probably. Unless they need the business dealing with the general public on these types of things is generally a nightmare. Especially these days when there are 1000 "experts" on the internet telling everyone how they are getting ripped off.

    Sent from my SM-G950W using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    mctim64, tractorguy, pitman and 2 others like this.
  4. To be fair,,,,,it is a lot of work after all .
    If your a one man operation,,,,,and do good work,,,you will be inundated with jobs to do.
    Then,,before long,,you have to hire help .
    Then ,,,,the economics get involved,,,,,,money,,,bills,,,,paperwork .

    Myself,,,,,I plan on staying a one man operation,,,if I ever get a chance to start ,,LoL.
    I would like to do it after I retire,,,,so I could put whatever time is needed to it.
    But,,,,I wouldn’t need to do it all the time to pay the bills,,,because my retirement would be paying the bills.
    So,,,,,if I had one engine to do,,,great,,,,,,,two,,,okay,,,,,,three,,,,,,still goood.
    But,,,you have to draw the line and schedule accordingly,,,,,,otherwise,,it becomes a JOB,,,,and if I’m retired,,it’s no longer fun !

    Tri-power37, Hnstray, mctim64 and 3 others like this.

  5. oldolds
    Joined: Oct 18, 2010
    Posts: 3,170


    One of the problems is the research involved in doing different engines as far as measurements and clearances. Then when you customize it can all go out the window.
    Two different stories involving this.
    One friend opened a small production machine shop. Small runs of the same part. Another friend asked him if he could do the machine work on a lawnmower engine rebuild. He said he could if given all the specs. He did not know where to look them up and felt that would take longer to find than the job would take to do. So how to charge was the problem for him.

    The second story, A friend has a small engine rebuild shop. Mostly stock rebuilds for local garages, people restoring cars ect. He has an excellent reputation. He also is not afraid of hi performance work for the local circle track guys. One winter he rebuilds 2 427 Ford engines for 2 different people. He is a Ford guy and has done a few before. Both guys bring him pistons from a well known place. It may have been Keith Black, but maybe not. He rebuilds both engines. Both blow the tops of the pistons off in the first 10 miles. Many angry words were spoken. He said they did not break them in correctly. He did the job right. The owners said different. The pistons were sent back. The manufacturer said not their fault. If the rebuilder had read the paperwork he would have seen they require different specs than stock. Both people never gave him that paperwork. So who's at fault. Everyone seems to think it was the rebuilders fault. He should have known better.
    tractorguy, VANDENPLAS and Lepus like this.
  6. KB hypereutectic pistons had that happen a fair bit at one time .
    It all goes to being a little tight in the bore,,I guess.
    However,,,,they always break at the machining line.
    Maybe,,,it is a little of both,,,a little too tight,,,or a cutter with a sharp radius leaving a stress riser in the piston .
    Mopar Helllcat engines have had a few failures similar to this,,,always after being run very hard at the strip,,,,,very hard !

    19Eddy30 and VANDENPLAS like this.
  7. Here's an exception.

    Back in the early 80's, our company had an old 10T Clark forklift, that was who knows how old. I had talked my boss in to restoring it, because an equal size replacement lift was big $$!
    The engine was an old Continental flathead 6 cylinder, and was totally worn out.

    The ONLY shop in all of Central Florida who would touch it was the famous Bo Laws Automotive! So here was a famous, NHRA record holding, race engine shop going to the opposite end of the spectrum. I got a fully rebuilt Connie, done right!
  8. dirty old man
    Joined: Feb 2, 2008
    Posts: 8,912

    dirty old man

    Hypereutectic pistons require a much larger gap in the top ring, IIRC it's approx. .006" per 1.000" of cylinder bore. And yes if it's too tight it will snatch the tops off the pistons as described.
    19Eddy30, VANDENPLAS and lake_harley like this.
  9. RichFox
    Joined: Dec 3, 2006
    Posts: 10,020


    If you have an engine shop, your doors are being kept open by repeat work from local garages. And they need their stuff back quickly. The same engines over and over again. Some body comes in with a 59 Olds or a 57 Buick. You might want to help them. But you need to pay bills to. And that means staying with your bread and butter, You need to find a local race shop. Some body who isn't set up for Toyota and Honda motors.
    mctim64, tractorguy, warbird1 and 4 others like this.
  10. ekimneirbo
    Joined: Apr 29, 2017
    Posts: 1,998

    from Brooks Ky

    Here is the thing, machining metal is simply about finding a way to restrain and orient something so you can cut it. A machinist in a general purpose shop can use general purpose machinery and find a way to make his machines do what you need, but it will not be monatarily efficient. Machine shops have special fixtures or even machines that hold and orient the parts. Simple one off jobs use generic tooling like vices and clamps and the time needed to position the part often takes longer than the actual cut.....when using general purpose machines.
    An automotive machine shop has machines, fixtures, and tooling designed to reasonably quickly position automotive parts. They do the same job types over and over and they get better quicker and faster (hopefully) because of the repetition. On the other hand they will struggle to machine non-automotive parts because their machines aren't designed for that work.
    Take a machinist from either company and while they may do quality work, there will be a learning curve to become proficient in the other venue. Different machines and different techniques.

    Do NOT take your engine to a conventional machine shop and let them machine it. If you want to rebuild an engine you must be willing to spend the needed money on the right shop. Pinching pennies usually results in failure later.

    Its not about "what" type of engine you want machined......its just that machining ANY engine is kind of a specialized segment of machining. Its not about the ability of the machinist, but about having the correct machines for the job types. As an example, a general purpose machine shop is not going to have a cylinder honing machine or an align boring hone, or valve grinding machine.......but they can probably find some way to make their non-specialized machines do most of those things. But time is money.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  11. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 29,593


    Rich pretty well nailed it. A friend of mine who ran a one man machine shop for over 40 years would work on just about anything you took in and do an excellent job but the odd ball stuff fairly often got sidelined for the daily bread and butter jobs from the shops that counted on him to get their valve jobs or bore jobs out in a reasonable time. My "no rush" stuff usually came out of there a lot quicker than I expected though. He usually told my buddy who was in there all the time to tell me it was done and my buddy would tell me as that was in the days it was just too hard to get me on the phone at work.
    bchctybob, warbird1 and VANDENPLAS like this.
  12. jaracer
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 1,114


    I'm lucky, there is a shop in Portland, Bearing Service, that is now run by the third generation. He does excellent work but he isn't fast. He does just about anything. I've had him do my 312 Y block while his dad was still working in the shop. Last year I had him do all the machine work on my 401 Nailhead. I did all the assembly myself so I got to see the quality of the work; first rate.
    bchctybob and saltracer219 like this.
  13. MeanGene427
    Joined: Dec 15, 2010
    Posts: 1,814

    from Napa

    Funny, I have a Clark IT40, 4K lift with the Continental six, converted to propane, and has a generator with the power steering pump driven off the end of it- works great. Also have a 1947 Clark Trukloader, which is a tiny lil forker, but lifts 1k to 7ft, lives in the shop, and has a 4-cyl Conti that the size of a toilet tank. Those old engines, and many other oldies, are pretty simple to work on, and stock specs for older car engines can be found in old Motor Manuals- again, not difficult
    lil forksm2.JPG
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  14. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 15,077

    from oregon

    I worked there for a short time in the mid 70's.
  15. hotrodlane
    Joined: Oct 18, 2009
    Posts: 245


    Machine shops are not what they used to be. The machine shops today mostly are so busy with production work that it cost them money to even take the time to talk to you about your little one off job.
    dirty old man likes this.
  16. 54vicky
    Joined: Dec 13, 2011
    Posts: 1,599


    the biggest problem today is the ability to purchase a fully done crate engine.I realize that crates are limited in makes but no shop can compete with the reality if they do not have a OB11 port on the vehicle you want the engine for they have no concept of what you want as there scanner needs to plug in to tune it:rolleyes::rolleyes:.think about Dorthy(we are not in Kansas anymore)by that I am saying times have changed and not for the better sadly oh Archie where did the good old days go?
  17. jaracer
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 1,114


    That would be when Brian's dad was running the shop, right? Was the grandfather still around?
  18. Engine shops are often a 2 or 3 guy operation. Many their bread & butter is Chevy SBC and BBC engines, 302 Fords, etc. These are proven formulas and they probably have everything they need on hand. Get into odd motors and they have to do research and dig up hard to find parts.
  19. OK I am probably out of my league here but maybe I can add some insight.

    Some shops specialize and they do that for a reason. Here is an example.

    In 1972 my Ol' Man decided that he was going to specialize. His specialty was not so much in a specific engine but in a specific price range. At that time he decided to not work on anything worth less than 60K. Why you may ask? Well at the time he could charge 250 for an oil change and tune up on a Maserati or 25 bucks (give or take) for a tune up and oil on a Chevy. He didn't get as much work but didn't need as much and in a year he was doing as much as he would have if he was working on everyone's old hoopty.

    The truth is that to a real mechanic/machinist there is really no difference in a Nail head or a Wedge head. The nail heads don't breath as well but as far as general work they are just engines. Performance work is a little different but generally the same theory applies. To us on the HAMB there is a big difference (I am using the word "us" loosely here). That is where they get ya, you need someone who specializes in engine X. no you don't you need an engine builder or mechanic that knows their trade. But as long as you need someone who specializes someone who specializes has got you by the short hairs.

    There is another reason to specialize. if you specialize in a specific engine say, Ford FE, you can buy parts in bulk and have them in stock. Better cost break and better parts availability. If I had a machine shop for example or even if I was going to build you an FE for example today farming out the machine work I would have to order parts. I have had FE parts take as long as a month for me when I was in KC. If you catch my drift.

    As for the kid who looked at you like a cow looking at a new gate on the inline 6 you just met someone who did not know that all 4 stork internal combustion engines are just 4 stroke internal combustion engines. Well that and he didn't know that parts are available. LOL

    Take this or leave it I know that after 50- years of this crap I am totally lout of my league.
  20. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 15,077

    from oregon

    Yes he was but I don't remember that he was doing much hands on work, I was only there about a month or so.
  21. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,488


    Its good to know which businesses to stay away from.
    dirty old man likes this.
  22. saltracer219
    Joined: Sep 23, 2006
    Posts: 822


    I have been involved in machining and building engines for 50 years, If there is one thing here that stands out is the distinct possibility that the machinest did NOT pay attention to the Piston manufacturers specifications! O.E.M Cast pistons, Hyperutectic pistons and forged pistons all come with different clearance specs for both cylinder wall clearance and ring end gap as well as where and how to correctly measure these tolerances. These specs are usually different from each manufacturer so, IF YOU DO NOT pay attention to the manufacturer's specs than you will likely experience a failure such as described here! 99% of the time there is a tech line available, if you have any doubts....use it, it is your friend!
  23. Someone is not going to agree with this but I am going to say it anyway.

    If you want an engine built and you are not an automotive machinist the next best thing you can do is find a shop that does automotive machine work. learn to use a micrometer (an idiot can do it), do your own measuring, buy your parts and tell the machinist what machine work you need done. Take it home measure everything again and screw the bitch together.

    Ya wanna play cars and or motorcycles, learn to do it yourself. It is just nuts and bolts.
  24. oldtom69
    Joined: Dec 6, 2009
    Posts: 544

    from grandin nd

    part of the issue is when machinists had to become engine builders-old days a machinist did just that,machined the parts so someone else could assemble the engine-usually the guy putting it together was the guy that took it apart-he knew all the "tricks" of a specific model or brand.Either job takes a certain set of tools,skills and level of cleanliness that sometime don't exist in the same shop.
    bchctybob and dirty old man like this.
  25. winduptoy
    Joined: Feb 19, 2013
    Posts: 2,400


    I'm fortunate in that the Automotive machine shop that I use has an owner (and friend) that has worked on almost everything over the years. He has at least one hand that has been with him thru it all as well. I fear for the day that he gives it up or drops dead. He did all the machine work and parts finding for my 6-71 Deetroit. When I got a forklift with a Perkins gas motor that had #4 son rodney out the side of the block, he found a block and gathered up all the parts. He has aligned bored and inserted more Model A and B blocks than I can count. He has done all the head work on the Cragar and RAJO heads for me and just found functional replacement exhaust valves for the RAJO when ModelTHaven sold me a "complete head"...less valve keepers....they are unobtanium.
    He has a Cummins 8.3 in for machine work and has done many 855's for me and my buddy
    He built a 220 International Silver Diamond engine for me and called asking what I wanted to do about the worn out rocker assembly and did I want the NOS one that he had on the shelf. He for years and years bought out other folks close out parts...and he knows he has them and where he has them stored.
    One of the reasons he does all this kind of work for me is that I work with him....he has given up on a lot of other folks he is getting picky and people mostly aren't willing to pay for one off work
    He made Jeff Brocks, Bombshell Betty, Bonneville record holder inline Buick 8 possible
    He can make a FE run like no one one time he was the #1 Ford mechanic in the nation
    Flatheads, no problem...he is Joe Abbins go to guy
    He has survived many other local machine shops closures... but he will not survive his own. He is in the same shape I'm in, no succession...could find no one that wants to forgo their life to please their customers and it takes some talent and investment as well....
    Doug is a rare breed.....
    Thanks to all of you that are a rare breed....
    Hnstray, 6-bangertim, Oldb and 4 others like this.
  26. LM14
    Joined: Dec 18, 2009
    Posts: 1,937

    Member Emeritus
    from Iowa

    Another problem is all the experienced machinists are getting old! I’ve lost several of my “go to” guys. I once walked into a fairly dark shop carrying a crank and from across the room the machinist asked “292 or 312?”. About floored me. I had never spoken to him about doing my Y block. He recognized the crank from 30+ foot away. Don’t find many of those guys these days.

  27. They had engine shops as far back as the late '50s that I know of. They were normally race shops at least the ones that I am familiar with were.

    There were also engine rebuilders as far back as the 'late '40s that I know of. I know I am not that old, but you pull a flatty out of an old merc and the rebuilders tag has a date of June '48 I would have to assume that it was rebuilt by rebuilder X in 1948.

    @oldtom69 you are absolutely correct in a bigger shop you had the guys that ran the machines and the guys that screwed 'em together. And as long as I can remember an average guy like you or me could take the big pieces to the machinist and screwed 'em together after he was done. ;)
    Old wolf and dirty old man like this.
  28. the shadow
    Joined: Mar 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,104

    the shadow

    you just have the wrong guys. My guy does it all lawn mower,motor cycle,marine,domestic, imports,industrial and hi-performance. he's been in business for 50 years and has the knowledge ,manuals and the correct tools to do everything but babbit bearings (doesn't have those tools but send that out to be done locally). maybe that's why he's always slammed with work because no one else wants to do it or doesn't know how. and he never gets a second look when he gives them a price (because they know no one else will do it) + he stands behind his work. I've gone out with him many times at night or on the weekends to help a "mechanic" get an engine up and running after they called and said they couldn't and it was because of something he did? He usually makes the "mechanic" look like an ass because they didn't have the lash set right or the timings off.
    bchctybob and dirty old man like this.
  29. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 11,113

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    Take a look at Hamber @mctim64 and his vintage style automotive machine shop.
    (Hanford Auto)

    He built my Y block and he builds all sorts of vintage engines.

    He does great work and he’s a good down to earth guy and a serious hot rodder too.

    I don’t think I could have got my Y block from a better guy or shop.
  30. Mr T body
    Joined: Nov 2, 2005
    Posts: 2,192

    Mr T body
    Alliance Vendor
    from SoCal

    The shop I had build my personal and shop engines for decades got tired of the BS and closed the doors and moved away. Kids/ricers/grinders all knew better than him and made each build a PIA. Wasn't worth the hassles in the end and he walked away. Now I have to spec everything for a "machine shop" and assemble myself. Is what it is.....
    dirty old man likes this.

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