After reading the articles by Entropy, Dixie and others, I thought perhaps my experience in starting my shop would be of interest. I have always read with much interest all articles that applied to small shops, because my shop is small, and naturally I would be more interested in the small shop. I would like to hear from others who have a small shop and who started, so to speak, with nothing. .
My start occurred about twelve years ago when I was 18, and living on a farm. I first started in with electricity, the same as a great many boys are doing today. I kept this work up a short time, all the time I could get when I did not have to work on the farm, and that was not much, as I preferred to work in the little shop than out in the field.
I made up my mind I must have a lathe, so I begged my grandfather for one. He bought me a No. 5 1/2 Barnes foot-power lathe. When it came, in five boxes, my grandfather bet me a dollar I could not put it together, but lost his bet as I soon had it assembled and a piece of iron in, doing my first lathe work.
There being no shop in town, I soon had a number of customers come to me to get work done. I picked up quite a few dollars, which I spent for small tools. I soon bought a set of 2 horse-power upright steam-engine castings, which I finished with the exception of boring the cylinder and turning the fly-wheel and crank-shaft. It was not long before I had to have a boiler, so I went to work and built a small porcupine type of boiler.
Things ran along in this way for a little over a year. Then I wanted to move to town and start a machine shop. So I had to ask my grandfather again for a little help to get started, as I had spent what little money I had made for small tools and engine. My grandfather rented a small piece of ground near the grist mill and put up a small building 18x24 feet, bought a 21-inch Snyder drill press, a piece of shafting, a few pulleys and what belting was needed. This was my shop as started in July, 1896.
I took steam from the mill boiler and did not use my boiler except when they were not fired up. In about a year I bought a 22x22x5-foot planer. I had previously bought castings for a small emery wheel, on which to do saw gumming and other grinding, which I finished up myself. I also bought a 10-horse-power upright boiler and steam pump.
Business was good. I had one man working with me, but got crowded for room, so in the spring of 1898 I started work on a larger shop. I bought a lot and put up a two story brick building 28x50 feet with three rooms; machine room, boiler room and blacksmith shop. I also bought a 24-inch New Haven lathe, a large emery grinder and a power saw. Such is my shop at the present time.
Two years ago I took up the manufacturing of gasolene engines to fill in my spare time. I am situated in a good farming country, with no competition, the nearest shop being ten miles distant.
In regard to money matters I have had no trouble to speak of in getting money due me and have not lost over $15, which I think is doing well. I have not over $75 book accounts that I cannot get any time I go for them. While this $75 is not really good, I have not given up hopes of getting it.
Dixie's method of "50 per cent, deposit required on all work" is a good thing, but I do not think I could ask it here with success, as a large amount of work is brought in by the hired men, who are not able to pay or who do not generally have any money with them and would have to go out and borrow it, in. order to pay the 50 per cent, deposnt. To those not known or customers who are slow pay, I require cash when work goes out.
I heartily agree with Dixie about buying a small steam engine and boiler. They are more bother than. they are worth, for a good gasolene engine is much better and takes much less looking after. It is started in a minute and all expense stops when the engine is stopped. In a small shop the engine is not needed all the time, but when steam is used, steam has to be kept up just the same. I use steam in the winter and' a gasolene engine in summer when no heat is required.