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Metalworking: Doing It Better

Machining, Welding, Fabricating

Metalworking: Doing It Better

Tom Lipton


Looking for the eBook version? Click here.



This book draws heavily from Tom Lipton's bestselling Metalworking Sink or Swim. It will help you develop new metalworking skills and improve those you already have. The most substantive changes between Metalworking: Doing it Better (DIB) and Metalworking Sink or Swim (SOS) are found in the page layout and design.


A short table of contents has been added to each chapter, and sections now are numbered in the Table of Contents and throughout the text, making it easier to find topics. Subsections are now listed in color and many headings for subsections have been added. Most pages are now self-contained and whenever possible, topics begin on new pages or columns. Photos are now almost always on the same page as their text reference. Another user-friendly feature is the expansion of the index, which is 60% longer than the original one.


Both the author and Industrial Press want owners of SoS to realize that there is no compelling reason to also acquire DIB. The publishing goal for Metalworking - Doing it Better is to broaden the appeal of the acclaimed text and photos in SOS by making the content more user-friendly for the home hobbyist and fans of DIY. If you are planning to pass along your copy of SoS, however, we recommended DIB instead.


This collection of priceless tips, tricks, skills, and experiences from a veteran of the trade is presented in a way that captures the readers’ attention to improve their skills. It includes shop-tested descriptions and illustrations of creative and unique techniques and observations from the author's four decades in metalworking. The book is perfect for hobbyists and veterans alike, and for those who work out of either small shops or garages, backyard facilities and basements. It will help any metalworker perform better and faster!


Users will learn: The shop environment. Basic generic skills such as drawing and sketching, accuracy, speed, shop math and trigonometry, and angles. Setting up your shop, including floors, light, heating and cooling, workbenches and tables, air supply, raw material storage and handling, safety equipment, filing, sawing, rigging and lifting. Manual and CNC lathes. Manual and CNC mills. Welding. Flame straightening. Sheet metal, patterns, cones, and tanks and baffles. Sanding, grinding, and abrading.



  • Covers hundreds of shop-tested techniques. These creative and unique techniques have been shop-tested by the author the old-fashioned way, by repetition and hard work.
  • Features hundreds of 4-color photographs. Metalworking —Doing It Better includes over 900 4-color images personally photographed by the author to illustrate the methods he describes in the book.
  • Fully integrates text and photographs. The guide has been designed so that in virtually every case, the tips and the supporting photographs appear together on the same page.
  • Provides wide range of topics. Many of the topics address specific trade skills, working with manual and CNC lathes and mills, as well as welding flame straightening, sheet metal, sanding, grinding, and abrading. Earlier chapters focus on general across-the-board skills, including essential shop math and trigonometry, accuracy, speed, drawing, and sketching.
  • Includes extensive guidance for setting up your workshop. Chapter 4 helps you with shop basics — finding the right floor and lights, heating and cooling, workbenches and tables, air supply, storage and handling of raw materials, and much more.
  • Written from a folksy, personal perspective. The tips and techniques are presented as an ongoing, informal conversation between the author and the reader.

Tom Lipton

Tom Lipton is a career metalworker. He learned to weld at the tender age of nine and has worked in many different job shops that required machine and sheet metal work, along with welding fabrication skills. His industrial experience encompasses consumer product development, laboratory equipment, medical devices, and custom machinery design. Along the way Tom refined his metalworking skills to a high level. He has been awarded six U.S. patents for unique designs. Tom’s hobbies are, no surprise, mostly metalworking projects. He’s also an avid backpacker and motorcycle rider. Between his wife’s requests for custom machinery and his own inventions, Tom is a busy guy in the shop. Nonetheless, now and then he accepts requests to give private lectures and in-plant demonstrations related to the metalworking field. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, who is also a metalworker and a fine artist besides, together with their Australian cattle dog.

Visit Tom’s blog at and see him on YouTube at


Chapter 1: Diving In

  • Welcome to Doing It Better
  • Personal Learning
  • Shop Environment
  • What’s a Journeyman Anyway?;
  • Thursday Nights
  • Format

Chapter 2: Brain Food

  • Communication
  • Drawing and Sketch
  • Minimizing Screw-Ups
  • Accuracy
  • Speed
  • Shop Math
  • Mass, Volume, and Area
  • Angles and Shop Trigonometry
  • The Metric System
  • Computers and the Metalworker
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • Want to Make a Million Dollars?

Chapter 3: Bean Counters Lounge

  • Engineers and Metalworkers
  • Shop Talk
  • Dimensioning
  • Other Tips

Chapter 4: Setting Up Your Shop

  • Floors
  • Light
  • Food Areas
  • Heating and Cooling
  • Workbenches and Tables
  • Air Supply
  • Raw Material Storage and Handling
  • Material Identification and Characteristics
  • Safety Equipment
  • Tool Crib
  • Bench Work
  • Filing
  • Saws and Sawing
  • Rigging and Lifting

Chapter 5: Manual Lathe

  • Learning to Love the Lathe
  • Getting Started with the Manual Lathe
  • Step Turning
  • Threading in the Manual Lathe
  • Multiple Start Threads

Chapter 6: Manual Milling Machine

  • Bridgeport Mills
  • Suggested Improvements
  • Spherical Surface Generation

Chapter 7: CNC Mill

  • Working with CNC Equipment
  • CNC Mill

Chapter 8 CNC: Lathe

  • CNC Lathe Programming
  • CNC Lathe Part Making

Chapter 9: The Welding Shop

  • Getting Started
  • Layout Work
  • Some of My Favorite Hand Tools
  • Welding Tables
  • Brake Bumping

Chapter 10: The Lost Art of Flame Straightening

  • Limitations
  • How Flame Straightening Works
  • Heat Input
  • Mapping
  • Applying the Correction
  • Straightening Shafts and Tubes
  • Special Applications of Heat Shrinking
  • Correcting Weldments

Chapter 11: Sheet Metal Shop

  • Layout Work
  • Blank Length Calculations
  • Patterns
  • The “Yank” Method
  • Forming and Layout of Cones
  • Tanks and Baffles

Chapter 12: The Abrasion Department

  • Sanding, Grinding, and Abrading
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Radius Grinding

Chapter 13: The Junk Drawer

  • Miscellaneous Tricks Without a Home
  • Ideas for the Shop Floor

Closing Thoughts

Appendix A: Squaring Blocks without a Tool Change

Appendix B: Recommended Reading List