Precision Machining

Precision Machinists use many machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, grinders, and drill presses, to produce precision metal / non-metal parts. These parts must be made to exacting standards, and the machinist uses precision measuring instruments to ensure accuracy and that the parts meet quality guidelines. A machinist reads and interprets specifications and blueprints, calculates dimensions and tolerances, lays out their work and marks pieces for machining. Precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. They use their knowledge of the working properties of metals and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed.

The job of the precision machinist combines mental ability with manual skills – to develop a project from a blueprint requires careful thought and an understanding of mathematics and design of work holding devices in conjunction with the engineering department, as well as good mechanical ability. You will be making one of kind items for research and development, tooling, fixtures and small run batches. You may be required to fit and assemble the machined metal parts and subassemblies, and verify their dimensions, strength and hardness.

Traits and Talents

If you like working with your hands and machinery, are able to follow instructions precisely and enjoy building things, you might be suited to a career in this field. As a machinist, you need good mechanical aptitude, ability to estimate and measure accurately, and you must be able to work independently at tasks where mental concentration is essential. You will work on many different types of machines. You should have good eyesight and hand-eye coordination, as well as the strength and endurance to lift heavy objects and stand for long periods. A basic understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics, metallurgy and mechanical drawing would be an asset.

Education and Training

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required. 
  • Completion of a four-year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some college or industry courses in machining is usually required to be eligible for trade certification. 
  • Trade certification for machinists is available, but voluntary, in all provinces and territories. 
  • Trade certification for automotive machinists is available, but voluntary, in Ontario. 
  • Trade certification for machinists (CNC) is available, but voluntary, in New Brunswick. 
  • Interprovincial trade certification (Red Seal) is also available to qualified machinists. 
  • Several years of experience as a machinist, tool and die maker or machining tool operator may be required for machining and tooling inspectors.

The Workplace

Machinists perform some or all of the following duties: 

  • Read and interpret engineering drawings, blueprints, charts and tables or study sample parts to determine machining operation to be performed, and plan best sequence of operations 
  • Compute dimensions and tolerances and measure and lay out work pieces 
  • Set up, operate and maintain a variety of machine tools including computer numerically controlled (CNC) tools to perform precision, non-repetitive machining operations such as sawing, turning, milling, boring, planing, drilling, precision grinding and other operations 
  • Fit and assemble machined metal parts and subassemblies using hand and power tools 
  • Verify dimensions of products for accuracy and conformance to specifications using precision measuring instruments 
  • May set up and program machine tools for use by machining tool operators. 

Skills for Success

The key Skills for Success for this career path are:

  • Reading
  • Numeracy 
  • Problem Solving 

Sample Job Titles

  • Tool and die maker 
  • Machining and tooling inspector 
  • Machine tool set-up operator 
  • CNC Machinist 
  • Machine shop inspector 

Companies and Sectors

  • Manufacturing industry 
  • Transport and trade industry 
  • Metal fabrication/production 
  • Machine shops