Real People Real Stories - In Conversation with Derek Schuetz

Our mission here at Tormach is to empower people who make things, and what better way to do that by sharing the stories of the Tormaker Community - people just like you.

New to CNC machining? Derek Schuetz has owned Tormach machines since 2017, and describes them as "forgiving learning machines". He enjoys Tormach's modular designs so he can build it up when required. Hear more from Derek below!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, Derek! 

A: I bought a Tormach PCNC 440 mill back in 2017 when I first started machining and that was my first milling machine. Then I got the 770MX mill and the 15L Slant-PRO lathe in October and November of 2020.

I make and sell fidget toys and utility knives, just the general everyday carry (EDC). Everything I make is something that I use, then if people like it, I try to figure out a way to mass make it in my own shop. And by mass, I mean, a couple hundred is usually what I sell as it's pretty small scale.

Q: What machine do you have? 

A: I have the Tormach 770MX Mill and 15L Slant-PRO Lathe

Q: What has been your biggest success with your Tormach this year?

A: I went into CNC machining thinking that it was just easy, so I bought a PCNC 440 because I was doing a business of 3D printing and I'm like “I want to make things out of metal, so I'll just buy a CNC”. It was a huge learning curve, but you know, at least I had a machine that was capable and with the 440 it was a real program and not a desktop machine. Then once I did like a Kickstarter campaign of a utility knife that I designed, I kind of hit the limits of my 440 and it was just too slow.

So, I did the math to see how much faster going to an MX machine was going to be and it allowed me to do a single part that took 35 minutes down to about 12 minutes. So, I was able to mass make around 500 knives for Kickstarter.

Q: And with all the good there is some bad...what's been your biggest failure in your shop?

A: There have been some hiccups, but it's as much of a machine as you make it. I'm not doing any crazy tight tolerances or heavy cutting - I bought the machine knowing what I would be doing with it, and I've only moved up; I went from nothing to a PCNC 440, so that was cool and I could cut metal with the machine in my garage. Then I went to a 770MX and that doubled the speed, doubled the power, which was amazing. I still don't even know what's better than that. I'm coming from zero experience, so everything is always an improvement.

The Tormach community is really supportive. That’s what's great about this machine - you can find a lot of Facebook groups or Instagram. And if they've had a problem, they'll kind of walk you through it. But I mean, it's hard for me to say, because I came from no experience, but the PathPilot user interface seems pretty easy. The number of resources available also made learning it pretty easy.

Q: What do you like about your Tormach?

A: The machine works way better than I expected. For example, my neighbour (an experienced engineer) was a bit skeptical the 770 could do a decent job for such a low price. But after trying it out, even he was impressed with its power and accuracy.

Looking back, I wish I’d gone for the full enclosure—it’s amazing just how far that thing can sling chips! But one of the great things about the 770 is that it’s modular, so I can build it up when required.

Q: How would you describe your Tormach in 3 words?

A: Forgiving Learning Machine.

Q: What would you say has been your best creation to date?
A: My biggest success was a product I called the chill pill. It's just a magnetic clicking toy. That's what I bought the 15L Slant-PRO lathe for because I can just literally turn it on, load a bar material, walk away and it'll spit out 36 parts. That's a really nice convenience having that now with a bar puller and the tool changer.
My most intricate is definitely the knife. It consists of 17 parts, 4 of which I machine but it starts with just a single plate of aluminum. I just throw it on there and must use three different setups to make it. To me, going from zero knowledge to being able to make a part that has some pretty good tolerances to work well, was a big accomplishment for myself.


Q: What's one piece of advice you'd given to someone starting out with a Tormach machine?
A: I’d say look at what you're making and see if it's going to be possible with the machine. When I went from the PCNC 440 to 770MX, I knew exactly what time savings I would get and what I would gain from the machine. Right now, I'm kind of on the fence, thinking whether I want to go bigger and go to another machine? Do I need more power? Do I need more speed? Or am I at a point where I can just comfortably make this? So, you know, buy what you need and then if you have the space and the money, get the biggest machine possible.
In terms of learning how to use the machine - honestly, YouTube is your best friend, plus a couple of Facebook groups. There are a few that you can join that are pretty much all Tormach users and its people asking questions, solving problems, giving suggestions, and you can get a lot of knowledge from that.


Q: How would you rate Tormach out of 5 stars?
A: I'd give it a 5. It's just great. Any kind of problems, I can get hold of Tech Support quickly and easily. COVID made it a little bit more challenging, but they were still responsive and able to resolve anything I needed. The support from the Tormach community is huge, too. The machine may seem expensive to buy, but for what you get on a CNC machine and your ability to service and maintain it yourself, it’s well worth it - and the ability to just be able to make parts in your garage is fantastic.

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