The Best Machinist Tools: A Comprehensive Guide

The Best Machinist Tools: A Comprehensive Guide

Machinists are some of the most hardworking professionals in the industrial sector. They play a very important role in ensuring that manufacturing facilities and other industrial hubs across the globe can function at their best.

However, a machinist cannot do anything on their own. They require assistance to do the task. They need help to get the job done. In particular, they need measuring tools to ensure their work is accurate.

This article lists 11 essential tools every machinist should have to do their job well.

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Digital and Vernier Calipers

Telescoping Gauge

Ball Gauges

What Does A Machinist Do, Exactly?

Machinists are people who use machines to make metal parts. They usually work in factories, but some work in machine shops and tool rooms.

A machinist will do the following daily:

  • Make use of machine tools like lathes and grinders.
  • Read and interpret computer-aided design (CAD) and blueprint files
  • Install computer numerical control (CNC) machinery.
  • To calculate dimensions and tolerances, use measurement equipment (such as those indicated below).
  • Make machine parts.
  • To assure quality, measure, and test final machine parts.
  • Show completed machine parts to supervisors or customers.

11 Essential Measuring Tools for Every Machinist’s Toolbox

Micrometers are tools used by professionals in the industrial field to measure the size of an object. There are several different micrometers, but the most common is the outside micrometer. This tool calculates a thing such as a bar or a block.

Micrometers have a spindle that attaches to a calibrated screw. The operator winds the screw until the measured part is sandwiched between the spindle and a fixed anvil.

Micrometers are a tool that machinists use to gather important information. This information helps them do their job more efficiently.

Machinists use two types of calipers for their measuring jobs: digital and vernier.

Digital calipers are among the most flexible equipment available to machinists. They have an extensive range, which means they can be used to measure both interior and exterior items.

Digital calipers are easy to use. You just put them in place and push a button to measure. The result will show up on the screen.

Vernier calipers are similar to digital ones but have no digital components. They are simple to operate and serve as an ideal backup for machinists.

A telescoping gauge is industrial measurement equipment used to determine the size of a hole. It does not give the measurement directly to a machinist. Still, it needs to be used in combination with a micrometer.

Telescoping gauges work by being inserted into a circular hole. Two plungers, then lock in place. Using a micrometer, the machinist pulls the indicator out of the hole and measures the distance between the two plungers.

Ball gauges are tools machinists can use to measure small circular sizes accurately. They work similarly to telescoping gauges but can be used on smaller holes.

Pin gauges are a great way to measure tiny holes. They come in sets, and they are very easy to use.

You will need to use a pin gauge to measure a small hole. You will stick the pin gauge into the hole and see if it fits. Try your set’s next biggest pin gauge if it doesn’t work. Once you find the size of the hole, that is what the measurement is.

A dial test indicator is a tool used by machinists to determine whether an object is flat or square. It is also capable of measuring depths and distances. This tool is helpful for machinists since it offers a variety of functions.

When creating parts, it is essential to ensure they meet the specifications. To do this, the machinist must ensure that the part they are building is level. A self-leveling laser is perfect for this.

What makes a self-leveling laser great is that it is very simple to use. You place it on the object you want to check if it is level and then read the level. It makes it easy for anyone to use, even someone who does not have a lot of experience with machines.

A measuring tape is an essential tool. It is often needed to get the job done. Sometimes, it is the only tool you need.

A measuring tape is an excellent way for machinists to measure length. They use it for material selection, fabrication, machine maintenance, and many other tasks. It is important to have a good measuring tape to do your job well.

Many machinists also need to check angles regularly to get important information. Using an angle gauge is the best way to do this.

An angle gauge can measure angles very precisely. It is helpful for machinists because they need to measure angles often in their work. Angle gauges are relatively cheap, so they are a good investment for anyone who does machining as a profession.

Protractors can be a backup for angle gauges. If the digital angle gauge malfunctions, the protractor can help measure angles. They are also affordable, so it is a good idea for machinists to have one just in case.

Pressure gauges are handy for machinists who work with fluids and hydraulics. They use pressure gauges to measure the pressure in a given space. For example, a machinist might use a pressure gauge to figure out the pressure inside a machine with a lot of air or fluid moving around.

Machinists must accurately track pressure levels because high and low-pressure levels can be dangerous. With a pressure gauge, they can work confidently and safely.

Toolkit Extras

We’ve discussed some of the key tools that every machinist requires. Other devices, though, can be helpful.

First a set of combination squares. These are ideal for creating and verifying angles. They also help machinists find the center on the ends of shafts.

Before drilling a hole or doing any other work, it is important to mark where it needs to be done. It can be quickly done using a center punch, specifically for keeping positions.

Thread wires are a tool that machinists should always have. These wires help measure the pitch diameter when creating threads. Some machinists may rely on their instincts to do this, but using thread wires can help ensure a higher degree of accuracy.

Finally, the essential thing for machinists is to be safe. It means having earmuffs, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots. It will help keep you safe while you work.

The Beginner Machinist’s Basic Tool List

Two tools merit substantial expenditure. The eight-inch calipers are equipped with a zero-to-one-inch micrometer. You can use these tools frequently, and their quality will often decide the quality of your job. At the same time, I advocate acquiring at least one inexpensive pair of calipers for abuse and loaning purposes. Maintaining these two tools in excellent shape and securing them in a toolbox is a must.

If you remember only one item from this entire post, it should be this point.

Never store micrometers with closed jaws, mainly if they are not carbide-tipped. Leave a void. Otherwise, they may gradually erode, resulting in inaccurate measurements.


8-inch calipers are a solid and inexpensive alternative. Obtain one of each and use the inexpensive ones for marking lines and the pricey ones for accurate measurements. And protect them with your very life)

Set of micrometers (0-3 inches) – a good option – don’t even bother with the economical choice.

A few additional tools are required, but you don’t have to overspend. I will provide a high-quality and inexpensive recommendation when it makes sense.

Obtain the item with a 12-inch steel rule. It is essential for marking and testing angles, locating the center on the ends of shafts, and checking squareness to a certain degree.

There are never enough dials. I would suggest starting with three if possible. Two have a mag base, whereas one has a mag back. You will employ them daily. You also don’t have to spend more on this; the less expensive models are acceptable. However, I prefer always to have at least one high-quality one.

It is how you label your workpieces and (hopefully) avoid making stupid errors. Again, this is a common daily occurrence.

Scribe – economical choice (expensive ones are a total waste of money, in my opinion). Ensure that the one you purchase has a carbide tip, and you will be OK.

In school, there are typically many jokes regarding these instruments.

Use these to mark drilling sites and for a few more innovative applications. They are inexpensive, and machinists typically use them frequently.

Puncture punch Is a suitable alternative (already inexpensive, do not spend less). Center punching is a good and cost-effective choice (I would choose economical to save money).

OK, I’d classify this as optional. If you do a lot of repairs, you will utilize them frequently; otherwise, they may sit in your toolbox for a while. However, they are inexpensive and reasonably practical when you need them.

Which is optimal for you depends on how frequently you utilize each. If you deal with manual machinery or regularly perform repairs, you will use them more.

Once again, a standard item. Typically, this is how one verifies that a part is sitting flat in a vise, checks for various gaps, and performs multiple additional sanity tests.

It is infrequently used for accurate measurements, but you will employ it often. I am unsure whether spending more will result in obvious value.

It is how internal diameters are measured. They are not as precise as an ID microphone, but they cost a fraction of the price. These are particularly prevalent for lathe work.

However, a dial bore gauge should be used instead for actual work. Using a telescopic gauge to measure anything with more than half a thou accuracy is reserved for the exceptional. One thou plus or minus is more reasonable.

Technically, you can check the pitch of threads by measuring them with calipers, but this is significantly more practical. In addition, internal threads are difficult to inspect without one. Since this item is not particularly expensive, it makes sense to grab one.

It is the most affordable thread pitch gauge choice. It is a pretty simple tool for which further expenditure is not required.

These are not essential, but they are convenient and inexpensive. It allows you to determine your offsets and tool location without leaving any markings on the part. If you don’t pay enough attention when using damp paper to touch off, you could leave a little scar on the workpiece.

A budget option is not even worthy of mention.

The three-wire method is a standard method for determining the pitch diameter of threads. Sometimes it is sufficient to match threads by touch, but you may not always have access to a matching component. Therefore, you require these wires.

Before stepping foot in a machine shop, you should always ensure that you can read fractions. Otherwise, you may be asked to leave.

It is unquestionably required. You will utilize its frequently. Obtain metric and SAE measurements from 1/4 inch or less to 7/8 inch. I wouldn’t spend too much on them, as they tend to get “borrowed,” and it’s best not to cry in front of everyone if one is broken/lost/stolen.

It is a difficult decision; you can pay more than this, but I would choose the decent option. These are essential tools, and inexpensive ones tend to damage bolt heads severely.

Once more, daily use. In a machine shop, socket head cap screws are pretty popular, and these socket heads require Allen keys. I have a ratchet set with hex drives, which allows me to utilize a ratchet wrench or breaker bar when necessary. However, there is nothing wrong with beginning with a small collection. Get metric and SAE, and make sure the SAE set is at least 3/8″ long. It is what you’ll use for the 1/2-13 SHCS, possibly the most common fastener you’ll ever encounter.

It is the most popular method for replacing inserts in carbide tooling. Always retain a whole set in good condition. Avoid lending them out.

It is a good choice. Identical, purchase these.

You should already be aware of their function. You’ll require one.

Set of screwdrivers – excellent option – economical alternative. Despite having fewer pieces, I’m leaning toward the superior set for whatever reason. Perhaps I’ve had awful luck with inexpensive screwdrivers.

You don’t need a large one, but a small one that fits in a toolbox drawer is beneficial. It will save you from constantly damaging your flat screwdriver. In addition to shipping container disassembly, this is likely to be used for taking apart work and holding and moving big objects.

It is one of the instruments that, if used correctly, will prevent you from breaking a sweat.

Even though you should use a combination wrench set whenever possible (and the box end of the wrench whenever applying force), there are times when they will not work. Having an adjustable wrench on hand will come in handy sometimes.

A cheap adjustable wrench is the only thing worse than using an adjustable wrench. Buy the superior option if you can.

Helpful in removing chips from workpieces (never use these on rotating workpieces! ); you’ll also likely utilize these pliers for all the usual purposes.

It is uncomfortable to have pliers with worn or splayed jaws, as the difference is always noticeable.

Everyday application. You’ll use it to mark workpieces with your center punch, to stamp workpieces with letter/number stamps, and to show your rage when you mess up a 30-hour task on the Friday before the weekend. My personal choice is the heavier 5-lb hammers, but you get whatever you make happy.

Once more, daily use. These hammers typically have loose sand in the head, which prevents them from rebounding. It is the most effective method for lowering a square block in a mill vise. Very inexpensive and very beneficial.

Use daily. It is how you deburr your parts, blunt, sharp edges, and attempt to conceal stupid errors. A machinist’s set should consist of a mill bastard, double cut, single cut, half-round, round, and triangle file. Additionally, needle files are highly useful. Ensure that each of your files has a secure, appropriate handle.

Extraordinarily pricey but, in my opinion, well worth it. If you choose the cheapest option, it comes with inexpensive needle files. These are a must-have if you need to complete little, intricate, and incredibly professional-looking tasks.

It is ten times more efficient and convenient than using files for everything. You ought to be generating chips rather than breaking sharp edges.

Tool for a deburring – excellent solution – economical option. Choose the premium choice as it’s a complete set, but if you’re strapped for funds, the economical option will suffice.

Even if the shop you work for offers similar products, I do not leave this to chance. Utilizing “community” parallels in a vise will cause all your workpieces to be out of the square. It is preferable to have your own set that you can maintain. Indeed, these are daily-use items.

Parallel set – good solution – cost-effective option. These goods are readily destroyed (particularly when you’re just starting), so get cheap replacements and replace them as needed.

  1. 123 Block Set

Again, a handy tool. You can also create your own. Check out my machining projects page to learn how to create the perfect set (including drawings) if you haven’t already. Nevertheless, purchasing a set is not too expensive. I prefer a set of four, but you’ll need at least two in your toolbox.

There is no point in looking at pricey ones because they are sufficient. Expensive ones are reserved for inspection tools but begin with inexpensive ones, so you don’t panic the first time you ding one.

Regular use. It is how round parts are handled; you will use yours for machining and inspection. Minimum of two, and make sure it includes the clamps.

Vee blocks are a cheap alternative. No need to embellish.

It may seem strange, but please hear me out. It is beneficial for inserting O-rings, removing chips from problematic holes when compressed air is unavailable, and all sorts of other odd applications.

The dentist recommends the economical option. Cheap and delicious.

The necessity for them should be very evident. I would recommend purchasing ones that are superior to the inexpensive bulk cartons. Spend a few additional dollars on a pair of glasses with anti-fog coating and other valuable features if you want to wear them daily.

Get these safety glasses if you wear spectacles, and these if you don’t. The anti-fog coating is quite helpful for stores.

You’ll need somewhere to keep your tools. I always search for toolboxes with larger wheels so they can traverse uneven, worn, hot-chip-covered machine shop floors. You are considered a worthwhile upgrade for any toolbox: Adding high-quality wheels. In addition, ensure that you have adequate drawer space. You don’t need to spend $5,000 on this choice unless you’re attempting to flaunt your wealth. The issue is that everyone will know you are making up for something.

Machinist’s Reference Manual

It is possibly the most necessary item in addition to your calipers and micrometer. You will refer to it regularly after ten years in the industry. With regular use, your greasy palms will permanently stain drill charts, keyway standards, taper sizes, and every other often utilized paper.

Frequently Asked Questions About Machinist Tools

What Are the Different Types of Machining Tools?

The most common tools for machining are turning tools, milling tools, grinding tools, cutting tools, drilling tools, and boring tools. There are other machining tools, but these are the most common ones.

What Is Needed in a Machine Shop?

You may need different machines for the type of work you want. For example, do basic work, like lathes and cutting machines. You will not need a computer numerical control machine. However, if you do more advanced work, you must purchase a CNC machine.

What Is CNC Machine Tool?

Computer numerical control (CNC) is a way to automate the control of machines using the software. It is widely utilized in the fabrication of metal and plastic parts.

What Are Machine and Machine Tools?

The machine includes a lot of machines. But Machine Tools are unique because they have some specific features. They need to be power-driven, meaning they are not moved by hand. And they also need to be non-portable, meaning they can’t be easily moved around.

What Is Machining Equipment?

Machining is the process of cutting materials into desired shapes and sizes. It is done by using various tools to remove the material. The most common tools are lathes, mills, bandsaws, sanders, CNC machines, and turning centers.