I, Ben Hofmann, nominate myself for the 2016 What’s In Your Box toolbox giveaway. I am a husband and father of 3 boys, and I do machining as a hobby. I love learning new things, and the past several years I have really enjoyed learning about machining by some very capable machinists on YouTube. Some of my favorites are Keith Fenner (of course!), Tubalcain (mrpete222), Pierre Beaudry, Phil Desjardins (I hope I spelled both of those right – and to think I’m half French Canadian myself), Keith Rucker, Randy Richard, Dale Derry, Tom Lipton, Tom from Tom’s Techniques and several others. All of you have been very instrumental in helping me to learn machining tips and techniques that I haven’t been able to get from books and inspiring me to try new things.
I’ve always been one who loved to create things and work with my hands. From a young age, I loved working with my father and grandfather in their shops every chance I was able. Both of them focused their skills on woodworking, so that’s where I focused my energy as well. I only experienced and developed an interest in metalworking once I was an established adult and already established in the workforce. At this point, all of the things I have learned about metalworking I’ve gleaned from books and videos. I have not had the privilege of any face to face mentors. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken advantage of a metal shop class in high school when it was available. Now it seems there are fewer of these training opportunities available. There are none left in my local area.
One of my main interests is the live steam railroading hobby. I am a member of a club (one of many nationwide) that promotes ride-on scale trains. Our club also gives public rides several times through the summer months. Many of my short, mid, and long term goals for machining relate to building some of my own equipment for the live steam hobby. I hope to begin with some riding cars, then move to a scratch built electric locomotive based on a real world narrow gauge diesel, and eventually I hope to build a working, scale steam locomotive. Most of the machining I have completed so far are things for around the shop. I am currently working on a taper attachment for the lathe modified from an old Popular Mechanics article from many years ago.
A toolbox would mean quite a lot to me, as it would allow me to move more quickly my focus into some of my longer term projects as disposable funding allows with less worry about funding some of the needed tools along the way. I have always enjoyed and appreciated the tools that I have. Some have quite a bit of sentimental value to me as well, as I inherited some of my grandfather’s tools when he passed away in 1990. You can see some of his old tools in my nomination video on the pegboard behind me, notably the antique looking back saw, the set of wood chisels, hand drill, hack saw and brace. Both of my machine tools, the mill and the lathe were purchased from individuals in the live steam hobby, who have both since passed on, and who unfortunately I didn’t have enough opportunity to learn as much as I wanted from.
So to those of you that produce machining videos on YouTube, I want to say a huge “Thank You” for sharing and passing on your knowledge, skill and insight. You have all been invaluable teachers and virtual mentors to me as I grow and learn in my own skill as a metalworker. Hat’s off to you!
Here’s a link to the live steam club I’m a member of, and a few photos from our invitational meet in 2010, showing me operating some of the club owned equipment. One is a game we played with the bowling ball on a flat car. We were to traverse a section of track forward and reverse through a couple of switches, attempting our operation to be smooth enough that the bowling ball would stay in the center section of track on the top of the car without falling off either end into the cradle. It was a timed event, and I did not win! It was lots of fun though. These are the most recent photos I have of myself at the club, since I focus on the trains rather than pictures. I can certainly tell by looking at myself in the photos that they’re old!