I was born/grew up in: ON
I now live in: ON
I completed my training/education at: I first learned about machining in high school shop class. I did a co-operative education program while in high school. Every afternoon during school I earned credits towards my graduation by working hands-on in a machine shop with journey people at a local company. Through this, I learned about the Tool and Die trade. When I graduated high school, I entered into an apprenticeship to become a licensed red seal Tool and Die Maker. Along side my apprenticeship, I also attended Conestoga College.
What I do at work
What a typical day will look, depends on the specific project I am working on. We have a binder with pages of information and drawings for customers, about the parts that are to be machined for the project. I will cut off the materials needed and machine the blocks to create the finished product. Sometimes this can take weeks to months to complete the total project of machining and assembly. As a Tool and Die maker, each day is different. For big projects, you might be doing the same thing however for weeks at a time. For example, I might be working with a grinder for a couple of hours or couple of days.
All the equipment that I use is specialized, such as mills, lathes, surface grinders and more. The tools I use depend on the job at hand. Some projects might also require welding and/ or heat treating. On other jobs I might be using a drill press, or CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. Often, I have to build a specialized tool that holds, bends or shapes a piece of metal during the build process.
Every project comes with its own challenges and problems to be solved. For example, sometimes the metal might not bend or form the way you need it to. You have to determine the correct tooling so that the parts form to the shape that is required. Sometimes, it can be a trial and error process, by creating different methods, continuing to make adjustments until it is just right.
The science of metallurgy is a large component of this skilled trade. Different types of steels react differently under heat, forming and blanking. There are different grades of metal, meaning that different metals have different compositions. Which can result in some metals not forming as easily as others where they could possibly crack. When you work with metal, you have to know the compositions and characteristics of those metals to be able to work with them.
Part of a Tool and Die makers job is not only creating new parts, but also completing repair work. Recently I was doing a repair job on a 4 inch think steel plate that had a corner broken off. This was a 3 foot by 3 foot plate of steel that weighed approximately 1100 pounds. In this repair, the corner had not fully broken off though. Sometimes, these types of repair jobs you can clamp and weld back together, but this one, the corner had to be taken right off to complete the repair properly. First, I had to remove the broken corner by using a press. Then, grind the broken surface edges to prepare it, to have the corner welded back into place.
My career path is
I always planned to be a skilled tradesperson. In high school I took shop classes where Machining was my favorite. However, I also took automotive, electrical, drafting and woodworking. I did a co-operative education program and worked in a machining shop, where I learned more about the Tool and Die trade. When I finished high school, I entered into a four year, 8000 hour apprenticeship program to become a Tool and Die tradesperson. This program also had some in-school time as well, where I attended college through night courses. My father was also a Tool and Die maker and encouraged me to consider a career in the skilled trades.
The biggest challenges I faced were learning a new skill of machining and forming steel. In Tool and Die, you build tools and shape flat steel or wire. The process of metal forming was different and new from what I had learned in high school and machine shop. A Machinist will create individual parts, but a Tool and Die maker will go beyond this by taking the individual parts and assembling them together, to create what is called a die. You create the tool, which is the individual pieces that are part of the die, that are used to cut, shape, and form metals. You also produce dies that are used to shape the metal in the stamping processes. For example, a die might be used to stamp holes in a strip of metal, which then uses a larger punch to stamp out the washer. You can also make metal molds for shaping plastics and other materials.
I am motivated by
Generating a project from material raw stages, into a finished completed product. That I created it from scratch. Having the option to be working on new and different projects, allows a growth of knowledge and opportunities, and that you never stop learning.
As processes and products evolve, so does the types of materials that are used, and the dies I create and repair, always keeping the job fresh, new and exciting. I get to be part of the beginning stages of the creation process in how new products are developing in their evolution.
How I affect peoples’ lives
I take pride in what I do. I enjoy seeing the finished product, as it brings satisfaction and gratification. When I say that something is finished, I know I’ve done the best work I can and I’m proud of it.
People don’t realize that Tool and Die makers have a large impact on their daily lives. The parts I make may be used to build automobiles, furniture, building materials or appliances. Even an item as simple as a pop can, they are created using a deep draw die.
Outside of work I
I am active and enjoy fitness routines, but considerably enjoy spin classes. I have been a long time military history enthusiast, as many of my family members were part of the Second World War. This includes a large collection of Military cap badges, and having the opportunity to visit Dieppe, Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge. Apart from working
My advice to others
Secondary students should explore classes such as drafting or blueprinting, machine shop, welding, math and trigonometry. Other classes if available that could be explored would be science, in metallurgy and metrology.
If you enjoy problem solving, having new opportunities daily, and enjoy working with your hands, then I would recommend this skilled trade as a career! Regardless of what you do, make sure you enjoy it.