44 Echo

What is 44 Echo?

44E is the army MOS (military occupational specialty) designation for machinist. Or at least it was when I was in from 1988 to 1994. In July 2010, the army combined welders (44B) and machinists into one MOS. They are now called Allied Trade Specialists (91E).

This site is mostly machinist related stuff. Or at least shop related. Mostly.

Some days…

Some days just suck right from the start. Brand new tap. Cold rolled steel. Second hole.

Broken tap stuck in the part.

Government job

OK, so we've all made personal projects at work at one time or another. My co-worker Dale took it to a new level.

Dale's hobby is repairing and servicing clocks and watches. There's a tool for winding mainsprings called an Ollie Baker. Why spend $300 on an Ollie Baker when you can make one at work for 4 times the cost?

Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder. Homemade Ollie Baker mainspring winder.

If you missed it at the link above, here's a demonstration video on how to use the mainspring winder.

Vise stop modification

This is a vise stop that you can buy at any of the machining related industrial supply stores. It clamps onto the solid vise jaw.

Purchased vise stop.

The problem that I run into when using this type of stop is that I can't cut all the way around the part when using it. I'd end up cutting through the stop. The stop is easiliy disassembled, so I made an alternate front piece that can get underneath the vise jaw.

Alternate front stop piece that puts the stop below the vise jaw.

Now that the stop is below the vise jaw, I can cut all the way around the entire part.

Image shows how the cutter can cut all the way around the part without the stop interferring.

Highly recommended!

I got a new pair of work shoes. They were Dr. Scholl's brand. They were so soft and comfortable I was constantly telling my co-worker about them.

Eventually, it came time for him to need some new work shoes. I recommended those shoes to him again. He decided to go with them. He agreed that they were super comfortable. About a month later, he showed showed me this.

The sole of Dale's shoe is peeling off.

Not quite what I planned

I was kneading a kethup packet. Then this happened.

Ketchup packet squirted ketchup on my desk and Space Mouse.

Wrong button

Sometimes when you press the wrong button on the control, it doesn't really matter. Other times, well…

Indicator that has been soaked in coolant.

Making the world a better place

I went to basic training with Starbuck. He is from Wisconsin and was going to play french horn in the Army Band. It wasn't until 25 years later, when we reconnected, that I learned that we were both in the 1st Armored Division in Germany.

Starbuck's basic training picture.

Today, he's using his smarts to help doctors treat cancer. You can read his interview here.

Thanks for making the world a better place, Starbuck!


This is my kind of classical music!

Or here's another version...

5 years!

Tomorrow, November 30, 2022, is my 5 year heart attackiversary. I'll be celebrating. Irresponsibly.


Been there, done that.

Shirt says Machinist. Using a high school diploma to fix what your college degree messed up.

"Order for Clad!"

Really? Does Clad even sound like a name???

Restaraunt receipt for the name Clad.

A responsible adult

I was recently asked to drive a family member to a medical procedure. Since they were going to be put under for the procedure, the instructions said they needed a responsible adult to stay there during the procedure, then drive them home afterward. I was a little nervous about meeting the requirements.

It's a good thing they didn't specify a mature adult. I would've had to decline.

My alarm clock

This is an add-on to my earlier Rise and Shine post. This is what I wake up to every morning. It's called Morning Strum.


I needed some new work socks so I bought two packages of these. "The REAL Work Sock."

Package of brand new work socks.

After about a year, I started noticing a small hole in them when I took them off. A day or so later, that pair also had a small hole too. What the ???

I was starting to wonder if I had a hole in the bottom of my shoe. It was during the winter. My sock would've been wet from walking on the snow and wet ground if that were the case. It wasn't.

How odd that they all developed a hole in the same spot. Perhaps it's the start/end point of the thread when being manufactured, making it the weak spot?

Ten socks that all have a hole in the same place.

Finders, keepers!

I laughed way too hard at this.

News story. After stealing beer from a store, when the manager told the suspect to return the beer, the suspect said they're mine now.

1970s fun

Just some 1970s childhood fun. That's all.

One kid riding a tall unicycle and two kids riding bicycles.

Memorial Day 2022

Today, on Memorial Day, I got an email from my squad leader at Ft. Carson. Ft. Carson, CO was my first duty assignment after basic training. Typically, soldiers go to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) right after graduating from basic training. I went through a 2-year machinist training program in high school during my junior and senior years that allowed me to skip AIT and go directly to my first duty assignment.

My squad leader was Sgt. Austin. He was a welder. He was also from Michigan. Sgt. Austin was very well liked in our platoon. He was a genuinely good guy. He was one of the first guys that I tracked down when I started trying to get back in touch with my army friends after 20+ years. He ended up retiring with over 30 years of service.

Sgt. Austin sent me this picture from his house on Memorial weekend.

Sgt. Austin's house, Memorial Day 2022.

God shed his grace on thee.

Northeast blackout of 2003

That's what they're calling it at Wikipedia, anyway. It was around 4:10 PM on Thursday, August 14th, 2003.

We were getting ready to shut the shop down for the day. Quitting time was 4:30. We could've simply locked the building and left if it weren't for the big bay door that was open.

There was a chain that could be manually pulled to open or close the door in case of a power outage but it was about 30 feet up from the ground. I'm not sure why it was up so high (safety reasons?), but it was.

At this point, it was our only option. But how are we going to get up that high to access it? A hi-lo, a parts basket, and an extension ladder was our answer. Not the safest setup by any means, but it got the job done.

Two guys standing in a parts basket and a guy holding a ladder.

Besides, there was nothing to fear. Coach was taking charge. ;)

Two guys standing in a parts basket, hoisted up by a hi-lo, with and a guy at the top of the ladder.

That's the Coach's feet at the top of the ladder.

Sadly, since these pictures were taken almost 20 years ago, one of these guys is no longer with us. Rest easy, Bob. You always made us laugh. :)

Wooden Insignia Plaques

I ran across these wall plaques on ebay. They are made and sold by patriotix. The individual pieces are CNC laser cut. Pretty sweet! Here's a few that I hope to buy in the future.

Ordnance Corps insignia

Ordnance Corps insignia wall plaque.

3rd Armored Division patch

3rd Armored Division patch wall plaque.

1st Armored Division patch

1st Armored Division patch wall plaque.

4th Infantry Division patch

4th Infantry Division patch wall plaque.

Creative idea and superb craftsmanship! Nice work, patriotix!

My newest and favorite blanket

If you know, you know.

Blue blanket with beavers on it.

Pneumatic vise driver tool

I sometimes go from parts with a small vise opening to parts with a large vise opening…and then back to a small opening again. To minimize all the manual work of cranking a 10 inch vise open and closed all the time, I made this driver tool that connects my pneumatic impact wrench to the vise.

Homemade pneumatic drive to vise adapter.

This end fits on the vise…

The vise end of the adapter.

And this end fits my pneumatic impact wrench…

The pneumatic end of the adapter.

Here it is mounted on the impact wrench…

The adapter mounted on the impact wrench.

Here's the whole thing put to use…

The adapter mounted on the impact wrench and the vise.

Fliegerhorst Kaserne patch

A patch I bought on ebay.

Fliegerhorst Kaserne banner patch.

My buddy Chris

That's all. Just my buddy Chris. I've talked about him here before. We ate the same shit sandwich for eight weeks back in 1988, but we made it through the other side.

Chris' basic training picture.

Were you talking to your family?

I had a busy day ahead of me when I got home from work. I set my phone down in the kitchen when I walked in and then went upstairs. I was upstairs taking care of a package that needed to be mailed, doing some things online, and finishing up some other stuff. I had to make a quick trip to the store before my errands were done for the day.

When I got back downstairs to the kitchen, that's when I saw I had a text message. It was from my buddy Kevin, who I was stationed with in Germany. We went to Desert Storm together.

Keving Thompson in Kuwait.

Kevin is from Alabama and was also a machinist in the army, though he was trained in vehicle recovery as well. It seems like he spent more time driving the wrecker, pulling out and helping stuck vehicles than he did machining parts back in those days.

Kevin and I lost touch 30 years ago when we parted ways in Germany. We reconnected in 2016. Here it is, 2022 and we had shared many emails and text messages over the last six years, but for whatever reason, we hadn't spoken on the phone. His text said to call him when I get a chance.

Kevin is the guy who texts me every year on Christmas. Kevin is the guy who texts me every year on Thanksgiving, and on the 4th of July and on Veteran's Day…and every other holiday.

We talked for about 20 minutes. His southern drawl, his sense of humor, his expert use of southern expressions…he hadn't changed a bit.

Keving Thompson in Saudi Arabia.

After the phone conversation, my wife asked me, "Were you talking to your family?" I said, "No, an old army friend from Germany." It wasn't until later when I was in the shower that it occurred to me. (I do some of my best thinking in the shower.) The correct answer to my wife's question was "yes." I was talking to my family. I was talking to one of my brothers, Kevin Thompson.

Wow, you suck!

No, really. WOW!, you suck!!

Postcard informing me of my free upgrade.

How nice of them. I got a postcard in the mail a few months ago. My internet speed is getting upgraded and it's free. It won't cost me anything! How cool is that?

Today, I get this with my bill…

Notice that came with my bill informing me of my increased prices.

This is the second time that my internet speed has been upgraded for "free", only to have my monthly bill increased a few months later.

Mr. Rogers sums it up nicely.

Mr. Rogers flipping the bird.


I got this email a few days ago. I was not kind in my survey comments.

Screenshot of WOW email asking how I like my free upgrade.

Rise and shine

I use my cell phone alarm to wake up in the morning. It's been quite a few years now. Probably close to fifteen years. I'm not sure what the norm is these days. Everyone I ask does this also, but that's a pretty small sampling.

I've always been a deep sleeper. Sleeping through an alarm blaring was a common occurrence in my teens. Digital alarm clock, volume set to max, that annoying buzzer going off…


It always seemed like getting up for work in the morning required such a startling, get-your-ass-out-of-bed! type of sound. And the alarm clock had to be far enough away that I had to get out of bed to turn it off. I never considered any other options. I thought an alarm that sounded too soothing or pleasant would encourage me to keep sleeping.

It never really occurred to me how stressful it was to wake up like that. I just knew I hated my alarm going off in the morning. It was like being woke up every morning with the immediate feeling of a heart-pounding Holy shit, the house is on fire!

I was quite surprised that a mellow alarm tone woke me up with no problems. It's a game changer! It still sucks getting up at 4 a.m., but it sucks a lot less.

Maybe it's something that you'd like to try.

Chap Stick

I really shouldn't feel this much joy and sense of accomplishment just from using an entire stick of Chap Stick.

Completely used stick of Chap Stick.

Who knew cutting steel could be so pretty?

Cutting D2 tool steel just makes the prettiest colored chips, doesn't it?

Chips from cutting D2 tool steel. Chips from cutting D2 tool steel.

Merry Christmas!

Well, look what I got from one of my friends at work. My buddy Dale told me a while back that he'd make me a set of lapping tools when we were slow. What I didn't know is that he made them during the middle of December while I was home from work isolating because of covid. He gave them to me for Christmas!

Lapping tools in a wooden box.

Actually, flapper tool is a more accurate name than lapping tool. Lapping is a more precision process than what we do with these. You stick a piece of emery cloth in the slot and wrap it around the shaft. With the tool in the drill press, it's used to flap open holes. Like for cleaning the carbon out of a hole after heat treat, or for opening up a dowel hole for a little more slip fit. I thought I could easily find a video online but this is the best I could do. It's wood, but same concept.

And check out the sweet ass box that he made for them. A nice wooden, dovetailed box! A square box like that stacks and stores nicely in your toolbox. I love it! Thanks Dale!!

Lapping tools in a wooden box. Lapping tools in a wooden box. Lapping tools in a wooden box.

Uh oh!

Covid-19 test package.

Yup. :(

Positive Covid-19 test result.

Missed an important phone call

Sounds legit. I better call them back as soon as possible.

Gone but not forgotten

I saw these shirts for sale online and thought they were pretty cool. When I was stationed in Germany, I was assigned to two different units that were on Fliegerhorst Kaserne. It was completely closed around 2007.

I'll never forget my time at Fliegerhorst Kaserne.

Shirt that says Fliegerhorst, gone but not forgotten.

Chris name plate

A name plate for my pal Chris. Chris and I went to basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ together over 30 years ago (Alpha Assassins!). Then about a year later, we bumped into each other at Ft. Carson, CO. What are the chances? Anyway, I made his name plate out of aluminum.

Chris name plate.

I cut an angle on the bottom so the letters are tilted up a little in the front.

Side view of Chris name plate.

US Army Ordnance Corps

In the army, machinists fall under the Ordnance Corps. This is the Ordnance Corps insignia.

US Army Ordnance Corps insignia.

Here's the pin on my dress green uniform.

US Army Ordnance Corps insignia.

Haas tool change

C'mon Haas. Is this the best you can do? You can't come up with a better design that DOESN'T piss coolant all over the toolholders during a tool change? Surely you guys gotta know how important it is to keep the taper of the toolholders clean and free of debris. And this is what you came up with? Good gawd!

O'Keeffe's hand cream

This stuff works. It. Just. Works. Most hand lotions, you put on multiple times a day and you still have dry hands. I wash my hands frequently at work and they tend to get dried out, especially in the winter months.

I put this on once a day, at night, before I go to bed. Even through Michigan winters, I don't get dry, cracked hands. It's amazing!

O'Keefee's hand cream.

Dale name plate

Things were slow at work so I created a model and cut my co-workers name, with raised letters, into a piece of steel.

Dale name plate.

Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree at work. Yeah, we go all out.

Christmas lights shaped like a Christmas tree.

Homemade dovetail cutter

Ingenuity at its finest. Nice job, Steve!

Homemade dovetail cutter. Close up view of a homemade dovetail cutter.

Wheelwright Restorations

I was stationed with Ray in Hanau, Germany. I think he got there in late 1991 or early 1992. It was some time after we got back from Desert Storm. I remember he wore the 101st Airborne Division combat patch (Screaming Eagles!) from Ft. Campbell, KY. For reference, here's the 101st patch.

101st Airborne Division patch.

Ray was a craftsman, no doubt about it. He was then, and he still is today! In 1998, Ray started Wheelwright Restorations in Wheelwright, MA. Here's a video of him giving a tour of his shop and demonstrating the use of some of his equipment. Great job, Ray!

Vintage caliper

Look at this beast!

Top view of a vintage caliper.

It's a vintage 3" caliper. I don't recall where I got it but when I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I think it was at a garage sale. There's so much to love about it!

According to the patent documents from 1941, it's called a Compound Tool. That's probably because it's capable of taking multiple measurements. This particular caliper can take both outside and inside measurements. Most calipers of today are capable of measuring in 4 different ways.

I've seen all kinds of calipers in my day. As a machinist, when I see a "precision tool" that has fraction graduations on it, it brings a smile to my face the same way a caliper made of plastic does.

Close up top view of a vintage caliper.

Check out the little dimple at the end of the body that keeps the movable measuring face from being able to slide off the end of the tool. How about the small piece of bent spring steel on the back? It applies just enough pressure to keep it from moving after taking a measurement, yet still slides freely. Both simple, yet effective. I love that in a design!

Close up top view of a vintage caliper. Bottom view of a vintage caliper.

Army gloves

Army black leather gloves. These were issued to me in Nov 1988. That's almost 33 years ago from today. I keep them in my toolbox and still use them at work when I need some work gloves.

My friend Chris, from basic training, summed them up perfectly. "They're good gloves. They're just not good at keeping your hands warm."

Leather army gloves.

Chuck key handle

I was assigned to an aviation unit in Hanau, Germany in the early 90s. As a machinist, I worked in the sheet metal shop in a support role. The sheet metal guys were MOS 68G, known as Aircraft Structural Repair, if my memory serves me correctly. Apaches, Cobras, Hueys, and OH-58s were a few of the different helicopters that we had regularly parked in the hangar.

One of the tools my squad leader asked me to make for him was a nice big handle for his chuck key. Inside the hangar, pneumatic tools were required during maintenance because of the high flammability of aircraft fuel. The chance of sparks from an electric drill or other electric power tools couldn't be taken in this environment.

I got a piece of aluminum, knurled the handle, turned the end down and drilled a hole to insert the chuck key. Then put in the cross-hole to press in the small pin. This was 1992-ish, so I completely forgot about making this until July 2020 when I got back in touch with Perez.

Almost 30 years had passed and I'm catching up with my old squad leader. "Remember that chuck key handle you made me in Germany? I still have it out in my toolbox. I still use it. I'll send you a picture of it." After he said it, it kinda sounded familiar, but I couldn't have pulled that old memory up on my own.

Here's the picture he sent me.

Large chuck key handle I made around 1992.

Terry name plate

Another name plate I made during a slow time.

Terry name plate.

Roll dimension measuring tool

What the heck is that?

Roll dimension measuring tool.

Roll dimensions suck. I'm a firm believer that anyone who would put one on a print has never actually had to machine to one. Because if they did, they'd never put another one on a print again!

To clarify, inspecting a roll dimension on a finished part, in an inspection setting, isn't terribly difficult. The problem comes in when you're machining the part and need to check it in the machine. Then you may have to skim some more off and check it again. Rinse and repeat. Keeping the roll tangent to the two edges while getting a precise measurement is impossible. That's where this tool comes in! This is another recreation of an existing shop-made tool. And what a great idea it is!

You can see below how this tool takes the place of a 1" roll. Dimensionally, the top of this tool is the same as you would have when measuring over a 1" roll. This is a standard angle on these parts that gets clamped into a dovetail on the machine.

Roll dimension measuring tool diagram. Sample part to be measured. Sample part to be measured with measuring tool in place.

My original intention for recreating this tool was for inspection purposes only. But knowing how things go in the shop (all shops!), it was only a matter of time before I would need to use these tools for workholding. So I made these a bit beefier than the tool I was copying. Edit (July 2021): Guess what? I just had to use them for workholding!

Roll dimension measuring tool being used for workholding.

Note how much smaller the originals are.

My roll dimension measuring tool next to the tool I copied.

Vise lifting tool

I've got a pretty big (heavy!) vise for my machine. I made this vise lifting tool out of some scrap steel that was laying around. It's just two pieces of steel bolted together at 90 degrees with an eyebolt screwed into it.

The lifting tool gets clamped in the vise. It's this clamping power that allows the vise to be lifted in and out of the machine. Careful placement of the eyebolt hole centers the weight and keeps the vise parallel to the table.

Vise lifting tool. Vise lifting tool.

I rounded the nose off just to get rid of some of the weight...and it looks better that way.

Vise lifting tool. Vise lifting tool.

This is not my original idea or design. I simply recreated it. A co-worker of mine at a previous shop came up with it to lift the big vise there. That vise was even bigger than this one. Great idea and design, Keith!

Fresh coolant change

Ahhh, fresh coolant!

Closeup view of new coolant spraying.

There's nothing like the smell of fresh coolant in the morning!

Another closeup view of new coolant spraying.

What could go wrong?

"We need you to drill and tap for a 5/16 set screw to lock this pin in. The only place we can really do it is square to this little angled face. Oh, and by the way, the part is longer than your table and has to stick way up in the air."

The part was about 4 ft long.

As a machinist, the fun doesn't stop at making the tooling that we need to stamp our parts. I also get the occasional repair job on the shop equipment when something breaks or needs to be modified. This was one of those jobs.

Diagram of what they wanted.

Turns out it was about a 35 degree angle. The angle wasn't critical, it just needed to line up with the larger pin hole. aT LEAst I haD A nicE, saFE SEtUp!

Part in the machine tipped up at 35 degrees. Drilling a hole.

In the end, nothing went wrong. But if I wasn't careful, I could've easily ripped the lights out of the machine along with the air blast coolant system and who knows what else.

Slugs from a fourslide

It looked kinda cool how the slugs formed the long snake-like trail all the way back to the scrap chute.

Two long strings of steel slugs from a stamping machine.

Later, after thousands of parts were stamped, it was just a random mess of slugs.

Steel slugs gather on a stamping machine.


Micrometer warning sticker

Warning sticker that says Warning! Tampering with my micrometer may result in an ass whoopin you'll never forget.

Quote - author unknown

"Machinists are highly skilled people who play an important part in the manufacturing of almost all metal products. Modern society could not function without machinists and the work they do."


US Army decal for 44 Echo Machinist

US Army decal for 44 Echo Machinist.

Playing around at work

Things were slow at work so I modeled up the 4th ID patch and cut it into a block of steel.

For reference, here is the 4th Infantry Division patch.

4th infantry division patch. 4th infantry division patch cut into steel. Closeup view of 4th infantry division patch cut into steel.

Quote - Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

"Man is a tool-using animal. Weak in himself and of small stature, he stands on a basis of some half-square foot, has to straddle out his legs lest the very winds supplant him. Nevertheless, he can use tools, can devise tools; with these the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without tools. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all."