View Full Version : Machine shops

02-16-2008, 09:40 AM
I've noticed from the posts here that nearly all machine shops (claim to fame) build racing engines and have (at least, access to) engine dynos. Some even have a flashy web site.

The local machinist I took my head to also builds (Nascar) racing engines. But every city probably has some sort of (Nascar) track around so I'm not surprised/impressed by this. They don't advertise, don't have a website, but are highly respected and do fine work. And their engine dyno is actually off-site in the owner's home shop (where he has a side business which specializes in Corvette restorations.) When I picked up my block after they did the cam bearings and crank polishing, the had also tweaked the main bore alignment (no charge). They are also the ones that turned me on to GM EOS.

Another machine shop I use is adjacent to the owner's home and whose equipment rivals the competition. Any custom machining (like Alfin brake drum mods) goes to Steve. Lots of experience and heavy into air-cooled VW engines. And EXCELLENT work. Again, no advertising and I found him from word-of-mouth recommendations. The good ones don't need any more business, they're always back logged.

Point is, building racing engines is not a criteria for good machine work, nor is a fancy store front. Or a web-site.

So do your homework, ignore the flash and keep in mind that racing engines don't last that long anyways. So compare apples with apples. You want machine work (and/or engine building) done right that will last. I farm out the machine work but do the assembly myself. Much more fun. Less expensive too. And I can honestly say "I built it."

Just my Saturday morning $.02 ymmv

02-16-2008, 09:47 AM
dont suppose he has the weber dcoe 45 specs for a vw 1600 /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

02-16-2008, 10:39 AM
I agree. The machine shop that did my work I got through word of mouth. He specializes in racing motors also, (that's where the big bucks are) and older engines. Not unusual to see a couple of straight eight Buicks in there. The fact that he never did a TRactor motor before did not turn me off. As long as I could supply him with all the dimensional data he said he could do the machining. I supplied him with the neccessary parts for the head work and the installation of the cam bearings. Everything on the engine fit perfectly when I put it together and plastigaged it.

02-16-2008, 10:49 AM
dont suppose he has the weber dcoe 45 specs for a vw 1600 /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

I would think yes. He builds some pretty extreme engines for VWs. Contact info:

(Steve)Daniels Machine Shop
Lynn Road
Augusta, ME 04330
phone: (207) 622-7826

02-16-2008, 10:57 AM
Peter, I'm of the impression we know some folks in common. /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif

My favoured machine shop is 50 miles south of us. They do a lot of diesel truck work, the owner is a pal and actually grew up in the same western PA region as we did. His work is excellent, he's done everything from straight six Rollie engines to Ferrari head/block work for us. "Race engines"? Yeah, he fields his own car. The "toy" work we take to him seems to fascinate him, he enjoys it. Took him for a ride in one of the Ferrari cars on which he did the machine work.

His grin was stuck in the "on" position for a while. /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

02-16-2008, 12:52 PM
Now that is diversifying. Diesels and Ferraris. He could throw all the parts from both engines into one pile and have no problem sorting.

02-16-2008, 01:48 PM

In principle, I agree with what you say, but feel that there are a few comments that I would like to make. Let me explain the situation here in my area. There are a very small number of machine shops left that do automotive work to the standards that I want mine done. Several excellent shops that did great work for me in the 80's and 90's are no longer in business due to the older guys who ran them retiring. Sadly, there were not a lot of young men moving into the trade at that time, so the supply of good machinists has been steadily declining.

This is one of the few that still is a good old fashioned auto repair facility that happens to do excellent machine work and does racing engines because it's the owners hobby.

I will probably pay a bit more than if I use another shop, but when I can't even get a ball park estimate for the work from three other shops because it's a "Triumph", I will go where I feel I will get the best job done.

What you say is true about flashy web sites and anyone can put one up. I rely on the customer references and what I've personally seen more than any web site before making a decision. I can walk into a machine shop and talk to the owner and have a pretty good idea what his capabilities are. It's just a fact of life that in today's world, nearly everyone uses a computer and if you want to be found by the customer base that you desire to appeal to, it's an unbeatable way to show your wares, so to speak.

And as far as the age old discussion about doing it yourself, that is a wonderful way to learn and to have a sense of pride in your car. I encourage everyone who can do do everything that they can. It will certainly help if you know what to look for when the car won't start or shuts off suddenly. I wish that I had the time to do everything again, as I still have all of my tools from my days in the business, but at this point in my life, I don't. This car is my hobby, not my paycheck. Although a lot of the paycheck seems to go to the hobby. I tinker with it when I want to and when I don't, I pay a trusted mechanic who I trust to do what I want done, exactly as I want it done.

I've rebuilt hundreds of engines, starters, alternators, rear ends. etc. over the years when I was in the dealership working as a flat rate mechanic. I supervised the repairs of thousands more when I went into management for another 15 years. I personally don't need anymore time building something unless I want to relax and enjoy myself.

I will be there and participating when my engine is going back together and into the car. That's good enough for me. At any point, I'll be able to pick up a wrench and continue along with Erik. But when my cell phone rings for business or I get sick of it, I'll get in my car and leave. That's my way of having fun with it. Here is where everyones mileage will vary. I simply prefer driving and fine tuning it.

That's why I like club events. I can go spend an afternoon at a tech session and help out or learn something new, but when I've had enough, I leave. I guess that after spending nearly 28 years working on cars or around them, I just don't get much pleasure from it.

Just my Saturday afternoon $.02.

02-16-2008, 02:35 PM
Are we talking an air cooled opposed 1600 or an overhead cam water cooled 1600?

02-16-2008, 02:44 PM

I agree. Here on Oahu we have a shortage(to me anyway) of competent, recommendable machine shops. One heavy duty truck shop, one father/son ex-dragster shop(no racetrack here on Oahu anymore) and a couple more father/sons that are breaking up. Then we have a couple of "fake the specs to get the business" shops and get em in, get em out as fast as possible, don't weld, replace it shops....

Only 28 years....?

How's the ringing in the ears, or did you get off the floor early enough to avoid tinnitus? Hope you got out before your back took on its permanent little curve bending over fenders....

It is sooooo much nicer now having an enjoyable hobby, than having a "must do this to keep a roof over the head" vocation.... Flat rate is the major factor in demeaning our industry and fraud in the workplace and practiced on customers... Flat rate breeds greed...

02-16-2008, 02:57 PM

I never got the ringing. I always wore good blocking headsets in the Dyno room and wore ear plugs while using an impact wrench or grinding anything.

The back is probably the same as yours, I'm sure. Don't bend at the waist to shave or brush your teeth or you may not get straight back up again.

Although it is nice to start a job and not have to worry about clocking on or off again.

And my deal with my mechanic is this. I know how long it takes to do the job correctly. Give me the starting price by the book. If you see an issue that will take more time, tell me and I'll pay for the proper way to fix it. He knows that I'd never not be fair with him and I know that he has no reason not to be fair with me.

You just CAN NOT always go by flat rate on a 30+ year old car.

Although I have been pleasantly surprised when Erik tells me that things went better than expected and the job is less that what we thought it would be. And with him, that does happen enough for me to notice it.

02-16-2008, 03:56 PM

You're absolutely correct. Trouble is, most of the better shops don't advertise (again, because they don't need to) so they're hard to find.

I found a list on-line. Here's an alpha list of all the machine shops in Rhode Island: https://www.plantfloor.com/states/ri/ri_metalworking_mchg_general_pre-a.htm#A

You'd know better than me which ones are good in your area. In my small town state, the "good ones" are the small
shops. I am lucky to find two good ones nearby.

Now up to 2.5cents for Sat!~

02-16-2008, 08:40 PM

The long list is deceiving (as it is in most states) because there are still a lot of tool and die shops that serviced the jewelry and injection molding businesses that bill themselves as "machine" shops. Many have made the adjustment from that type of business to another, but that doesn't make approximately 90% of them qualified automotive machinists.

And you are correct. The good ones don't have to advertise much at all.

Technically, I work for two "machine shops", by most of the definitions on that list. One makes precision dies for up to 600 ton stamping presses and does medical grade CNC work. The other does Swiss style medical implant grade machining down to parts only .050" in diameter and .120" in length. Both are machine shops but neither can do my crank or block.

You have no idea how much I wish that they could.....

02-16-2008, 09:37 PM
Thanks PeterK, and its a 1600 air cooled horizontally opposed Ron MacPherson