Working from engineering drawings, toolmakers make precision tools and special guides and holding devices that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials used in the production of a range of products from furniture to parts for aircraft. To make all these tools they mark the design on the raw material, then cut it to size and shape using lathes, drills, milling machines, grinding machines, precision cutting machines and computer numerically controlled machines. Toolmakers usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. In huge organisations, some may work shifts, overtime and weekends. They work in toolrooms and may wear protective equipment, such as overalls, boots, goggles and ear protectors.
A toolmaker should be able to read and understand engineering drawings, have good hand-to-eye co-ordination, have an eye for detail, have maths and computer skills, have an interest in science and technology. Toolmakers may work in manufacturing companies with their own toolmaking departments, or specialist workshops making components to order for other companies. Employers are located in most parts of the country, mainly in large cities, particularly in the West Midlands, the North West, London and the South East, and in Scotland. The usual way to become a toolmaker is by completing an advanced apprenticeship in engineering, either as an apprentice machinist or multiskilled apprentice. Companies may also recruit from their own craft employees and provide extra training in toolmaking.
Apprentices normally spend a foundation period of several months away from the workplace, learning engineering workshop skills at a training centre, with day or block release at a college. They then spend two or three years working on the shop floor of their company, continuing to attend college part time. Only trainees with a high level of ability are likely to be encouraged to specialise in toolmaking. An experienced toolmaker may be promoted to supervisor or inspector, overseeing a toolroom or workshop. Promotion to workshop manager may also be possible. With further qualifications, some craftspeople gain promotion to technician level posts and register with the Engineering Council as an engineering technician.
The author Thomas H. Lindblom talks about toolmakers. The usual way to become a toolmaker is by completing an advanced apprenticeship in engineering, either as an apprentice machinist or multiskilled apprentice.