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Thread: Little Different Shop Tour

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    Little Different Shop Tour

    I visited a guy's shop today, and was impressed enough to tell y'all about it. Sorry, I took no pics, but you'll have to trust me on this one...

    The Backstory

    I had a couple of benchtop drill presses listed for sale last week on Craigslist, and among the various inquiries, one was from a guy who wanted to buy both drill presses, and was willing to pay me an extra $10 to deliver them to him. He told me he was a student who also worked full time, so was unable to come pick them up. He also said he had a small machine shop in his garage, and the drill presses would be a great addition. For some reason, I liked his story, and I liked the idea of keeping my shop's location unknown to strangers, so I agreed to sell them to him and deliver them this weekend. The only downside was his location. He is in Compton. Not only is it about 35 miles of some of the worst freeways in the world between here and there, it was in Compton. Pretty well-known for its inner-city gangs, drugs, violence, racial issues, and poverty. The sort of place long-haired blonde guys like me tend to be wary of. The buyer, Andres, assured me he was in a relatively decent, mostly-hispanic neighborhood, living with his dad and brothers in a duplex his dad owned. I tend to get along OK pretty much everywhere I go, so I was game.

    The Delivery

    Saturday afternoon I drove (or should I say crawled on the freeways) to Compton, and thanks to the navigation system I found the house pretty easily. (Not a good area to be pulling over to get out the street map.) The neighborhood was not rich by any means, but clean, with houses that showed their owners' pride, and kids playing outside at the end of the street (which was a dead-end). Dad answered the door, and when I told him I was the guy with the drill presses, he had a younger brother take me back to the detached garage to meet Andres. As we approached, Andres came out and introduced himself, then waved towards the garage saying "Sorry, I was running a part in there." He's young (23), but he was dressed nicely (not in the baggy "costumes" a lot of other 23-year-olds in the neighbor wear) and looked like a decent kid.

    We went to my SUV and he checked out the drill presses as I assembled the heads back onto the columns, then we carried them into his shop.

    The Shop Tour

    I wasn't really prepared for what I saw when I stepped into his little detached garage/shop. the first thing I noticed was the computer. Then, to the right, was the machine I'd heard running when I was outside the shop. It was a large Haas CNC vertical milling machine, making the last few passes over an aluminum Toyota emblem. This is not your typical hobbyist machine shop. He also had a full-sized Harbor Freight metal lathe, but the CNC mill was the centerpiece of the shop. Still, he was very happy to be adding my two little drill presses to his tool collection.

    As it turns out, Andres works full time as a machinist at Northrup. He's also going to school full time working on an engineering degree, and on the side, he's machining car emblems and other accessories (like custom steering wheels) and selling them on eBay. His "business" has been so brisk he's hired a cousin to run the machine in his absence while he's at school and work. It's gotten to the point where he's trying to decide if he should finish getting the degree, or take some time off to expand his business. He's a busy kid, but he seems to have his head on straight and is willing to put in the hard work necessary to get ahead. He seemed to be doing pretty well, too. That Haas machine was not cheap, and I noticed as I left that he had a dressed-up BMW 325i parked behind the house.

    Not only was I impressed with what this kid had accomplished, I was surprised to discover it in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. It showed pretty clearly that our preconceived notions are just that -- notions. You really can't judge a book by its cover.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  2. #2
    Well he's a machinist, what did you expect?

    All kidding aside, you make a valid point. U-2 came out with a song quite awhile ago called "Where the streets have no name." Many believed it was because he wrote the song after returning from Ethiopia, where indeed the streets are unnamed. But atlas, that was not the intent of the song. He wrote it because in Dublin, your class status is dictated where you live. Apparently in that city, you can see a well dressed person and know what part of the city they live in.

    In some ways that is what happened to you. The streets had no real meaning, but the town did, and you based your opinion on that. Not that I am faulting you here, many of us do the same thing.

    Myself, I hope he continues with his education. Granted he could make a go of his CNC operations, but life in general is feast or famaon. Right now he is on the rising crest of business, but if something happens, at least with an education he will have something to fall back on. If business does go south, he may find himself as a full-time machinists. Unfortunately, machinists are a dime a dozen and pay as such...

    As for a younger person doing well in happens all the time, you just never hear anything about it because human interest stories do not make the headlines like drive by shootings, triple homicides and gang wars do.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Decatur, Illinois
    good story, vaughn. thanks for posting it. we need some balance in our society with young driven people to offset the ones that make the news for the wrong reasons. i have two granddaugters that age who are hard working and taking care of business.
    99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name...Steven Wright.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Fort Washington, PA
    Great story... nice to hear among the "not so nice" stories you often hear in neighborhoods like that. Just out of curiosity though, first thing that came to my mind was how he aquired a CNC in the first place. Did he go to a bank and finance it as a business investment (which seems to be paying off)? Just curious.
    Build it Break it Fix it ...repeat

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway
    "(Not a good area to be pulling over to get out the street map.)"


    Many and many a year ago, I was driving north with my girlfriend, and got lost in the EL LAY basin. How I stumbled into Compton is still beyond me. I stopped at a gas station to ask "anyone here know how I get to Malibu?" They looked at me. They looked at the blond sitting in her BMW. They looked back at me. I swear, they thought I was from Mars, or worse...

    I spent a few years teaching at Fisk and TSU. Those kids knew what it was like in the basement, and were working hard to make sure they stayed out of it (in the case of Fisk), and find a way out (in the case of TSU). They worked WAY harder than most of the kids I've taught at private (entitlement) universities. None of them would ever say, like a white kid once said to me at an exclusive private university: "I don't need to learn to write well. My secretary will do that for me!"

    Anyway, that's a great story. It's good to know your machines found a home where they'll be valued...



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    New Springfield OH
    Great story Vaughn!!!

    As for bad neighborhoods, I used to run the city all the time, (NYC) One job I worked was delivering aluminum extrusions for Excel out of Warren. It was nothing to go to the city with 15 to 20 stops. Since you only averaged about 3 or 4 stops a day leaving the city was not an option, at that time the tolls in and out of NYC ran about $65 for a semi.

    You wouldn't believe the places I slept over night, needless to say parking for trucks is very very slim!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Odessa, Tx
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Mickley View Post
    Great story Vaughn!!!

    As for bad neighborhoods, I used to run the city all the time, (NYC)

    You wouldn't believe the places I slept over night, needless to say parking for trucks is very very slim!!!
    Yeah I would, 'cause I slept in quite a few of those places up there too when I had to drive over the road after my flying career had to be prematurely curtailed. I absolutely HATED it up there, and actually quit one trucking Co. after I got a new "Young" dispatcher that had a penchant for sending me there, and then taking two or more days to get me a load to get out of there. (I wasn't too fond of the Miami area either for the same reasons).

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