Francis Atkinson – My First Job in the Toolroom

My first job was working in the toolroom on a radial drill, drilling bolsters for press tools.
Then I worked on a centre lathe. Milling was the most difficult of the machining processes as it required more setting up experience. Never up mill, always down mill, otherwise the component moves and can be fired across the toolroom. Sawing on a horizontal miller was a tedious job. The saw used to spin on the arbor if you did not use the key.

I then became a gear cutter and tooth rounder, then a horizontal grinder and then circular grinder and I also liked using a Butler Shaper. You could just sit watching it traverse the component. My most difficult machine was a Swiss Tool grinding machine with a fitted microscope to measure angles. I can still grind a twist drill by hand and thin its web and grind a pip drill to drill sheet metal. What I also enjoyed was welding both stick co2 and TIG. Best of all was flame cutting thick steel plates. What an exciting thing being an apprentice was.

I went to Halifax Technical College one day a week. I took the Certificate in General Engineering, then took T1, then T2, then T3 and got a distinction, so they moved me onto S1, then S2. I then sat and passed my ONC. After getting an ONC you were allowed in the drawing office doing jig and tool design and special purpose machine design. I had made it first in a boiler suit machining, then a brown smock in the toolroom and then a white smock, tie and suit in the drawing office. They were very happy days.

I took the first year HNC in Halifax. The third year did not do day release so I went onto evenings at Bradford Tech. for my second year and final year HNC, which I gained at Bradford Tech. Then it was back to Halifax on the Institute of Works Management ‘IWM’ 3 year course, which I achieved.
I will write a full account of my work experience for the LAE some day for all to read.


Francis Atkinson – May 2021