Toolmakers, also known as tool fitters, make tools that are used by other engineering craftspeople and operatives. These can include jigs, gauges, dies and moulds.
Working from engineering drawings, toolmakers mark out the design on the raw material (usually metal or wood), then cut it to size and shape using a combination of lathes, milling machines, grinders and precision cutting machines. Some toolmakers specialise as machinist toolmakers, others as toolmaker fitters, and some as tool repairers.
A high proportion of machine tools used in industry are now computer numerically controlled (CNC). This means that they are controlled by a computer application and their operators need to be qualified to program and operate them. Toolmakers work very closely with CNC operators, and many become machine setters. The main objective of a machine setter is to effectively set, program and maintain production on CNC machines.
For information on CNC roles see profile: CNC Machine Tool Machinist.
Toolmakers normally work a 39-hour week, Monday to Friday. In large companies they may have to work shifts, including nights, usually on a revolving basis. Overtime and weekend work may be available.
They normally work in factories, but some may be based in smaller workshops. Overalls, protective goggles, earguards and boots are usually worn.
As a toolmaker or machine setter you should:
Many companies now aim to train multiskilled craftspeople rather than specialists. Numbers of toolmakers have reduced due to the growth of computer-controlled machining and precision casting techniques.
With additional training, toolmakers can progress to technician level.
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