Lt. Col. USA, Ret., Author and Publisher.
The Skunk Works

Having been an aircraft mechanic for years, and being a "natural-born tinkerer," I have always loved working with metal. My grandfather, Loyed Hoff, was a Blacksmith in Huntington Park, California when I was growing up. He had a great blacksmith shop behind his house, and I used to spend hours out there building "things." 

Later, when I attended Spartan School of Aeronautics, one of the classes was aircraft welding. I loved working with the metal, building airplane components. At the same time I was working part time at Atlas Cycle Sales in Tulsa as a motorcycle mechanic. We had a lathe in the shop which we used to fabricate our own bushings for older, more obsolete motorcycles. Working with the lathe was great fun and I really enjoyed the precision work which required micrometer measurements to within a thousandths of an inch.

After Spartan, instead of jumping directly into aviation, I went back to my old job on Catalina Island as a commercial diver, working for Hansen Mooring Service. We spent three days a week in the water, changing and repairing moorings in Avalon Bay and Descanso Bay, then two days in the "yard" doing land work: scraping and painting bouys, welding chain, and building "stuff."

After retirement of the Tulsa Police Department, and moving to the country, I built a garage big enough to hold a small welding and machine shop. What you see here is the result of  micro-managing every inch of space in a 10x24' area.

My first effort at machine shop work was on a Smithy multi-purpose machine. It is a combination lathe and mill. It was great to start on, but I could only build small projects like miniature cannon barrels for models, small tools, and other do-dads. I outgrew the machine within a year, much to the consternation of my wife.







  The Smithy was replaced by a 13x40 Grizzly gearhead lathe. It has come in handy for building bushings, spacers, tools, drifts, and steam engine parts for my model steam engine hobby. Someday I would like to build a replica of "The African Queen" complete with my own home-built steam engine, then steam up and down Fort Gibson lake, blowing the steam whistle and doing by best impressions of Bogart (which are really bad).






I also chose Grizzly for my milling machine. This model has power table feed and fluid cooling, however I don't use the fluid as it makes such a mess and is time consuming to clean up at the end of the day.I'd rather make chips, then use the shop vac. (The blue tank behind the tool box is the pressure tank for our water well, not a bomb!)








One of my projects was building the new engine mounts for our dive team's "new" dive boat. (See  A friend donated a 26' cabin cruiser and trailer to the team, which we modified by gutting and cutting the cabin off. Originally the boat had a V-8 inboard which was now missing. I designed this mount for the transom so that we could power the boat with an outboard motor. This idea originated back in Avalon where my dive-tender boat was a hull that my boss resurrected from a burned out Chris Craft cruiser. He used the intact hull, gutted the boat, and hung a 115 hp Mercury outboard on the back. Our project was not as crude, but we weren't in a hurry to get the boat in the water either.