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What is a Machinist?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Machinists are trained professionals that have been certified in the operation of specific types of machine tools. Generally, this certification involves working with metal to produce a wide variety of tools, metal implements such as engine parts, building materials and sculpting and shaping metal plating. Here is more about how the role of a machinist in various industries, as well as why the need for training is essential before obtaining certification.

The machinist often is charged with the responsibility of producing a product that will meet with certain industry standards. In many cases, those industry standards are in place to ensure that the finished product meets or exceeds any standards that have been imposed by a government agency. One example of where this is true is the shipbuilding industry. Machinists will be called upon to shape and structure such items as bulkhead materials, rivets, and metal plating that will result in a strong infrastructure for any type of boat or ship. Since the specifications for these types of items are very exacting, it is important that the machinist who is charged with producing the items understand fully the importance of the standards. Machinists in the ship building industry will operate the machinery in such a way that there is no question of the integrity of the finished product.

In order to make sure that the machinist has a complete knowledge of the standards as well as the proper operation of the necessary machinery, many corporations require that the machinist go through rigorous training. Depending on the location and the circumstances surrounding the production process, this training may take place on an apprentice basis. In a number of countries, a machinist will be required to take a written exam as well as produce sample goods that may be evaluated. Upon successful completion of the training, the machinist is free to work within any industry that recognizes the credentials issued to the machinist after completing the training.

Not every machinist will work with metal, although that is the more common application. There are also machinists that specialize in working with other types of solid materials, such as hard woods. In those cases, there is also training and some type of certification that comes into play as well. The point is to make sure the budding machinist is fully aware of quality requirements, safe operation of the machines, and proper handling of the materials.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon244226 — On Jan 31, 2012

I have been machining and am about to start a career to become a tool and die maker like my dad. Anybody can use a cnc machine but it takes a real machinist to do it by hand.

By anon91296 — On Jun 21, 2010

Being a machinist is much more than knowing how to operate machines.

The highest/most experienced machinist is a toolmaker.

A machinist knows how to use the metal that is being machined, and can turn that into a usable object.

Thank you for allowing my input.

I was a welder for 25 years and had many opportunities to work with machinists and toolmakers. These people were amazing artists and never failed to impress me with their knowledge and skill.

WiseGeek rules!

By anon74303 — On Apr 01, 2010

After spending twenty-one years as a machinist, I have never had to obtain a certification. I have operated everything from manual lathes and mills to complicated 5-axis gantry mills using CNC controls. Anyone with the ability to learn can become a machinist. No test or certification is required.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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