Cutting Tool Engineering
January 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 1

'Ya gotta wanna'

By Michael Deren

During the holiday season, I usually have time to reminisce. This season, I thought about how or why people entered the metalworking trade. Anecdotally, it turns out some didn’t know what they wanted to do and took a job in a machine shop right out of high school, while others learned the trade at school. Then there are those like me who just fell into it after drifting about in the working world. I give a lot of credit to the people who knew from the start what they wanted to do with their lives.

Reasons for entering the trade haven’t essentially changed much over the years. Newcomers’ interest in manufacturing also hasn’t changed over time. Many enter the trade bright eyed and inspired, knowing they will make a decent buck for their efforts. They are proud of their accomplishments when they make a perfect part and disappointed when it’s not up to spec. Many get their “book smarts” at a vo-tech school and then get their “street smarts,” or practical knowledge, in the real-world shop environment.

When I attended high school, the students who took shop, whether it was auto, wood or machine, were treated as second-class citizens. They had no future—or so many other students thought. But auto shop students went on to become auto technicians, repair shop owners and custom auto and motorcycle builders. Some even demonstrate their skills on popular television shows. And their incomes are sometimes higher than many doctors and lawyers. Wood shop students became furniture makers, cabinet makers and boat builders. Machine shop students became machinists, designers, engineers and shop owners. All are craftsmen.

What does it take to be accomplished in our trade? As my favorite comedian, the late George Carlin, said so succinctly in one of his routines, “Ya gotta wanna.” Simply translated, this means only people with drive really succeed in this business.

Ya gotta wanna get up early and go to work. How many people do you know who want to get out of bed at four or five in the morning to go to work? Not many, but machinists often rise early 5 or maybe even 6 days a week to go to work and don’t complain about it.

Ya gotta wanna get dirty sometimes. How many people don’t mind getting dirty at their job? It’s a constant reality whether you’re a machinist, supervisor or engineer.

Ya gotta wanna use your brain to process a part. How many people who ride a bike, drive a car, fly in a plane or use a lawn mower don’t have a clue as to what it takes to make a part for those machines, let alone make the parts fit and last as long as they do?

Ya gotta wanna absorb information like a sponge. Too many people are complacent in their jobs, as I am from time to time. Others begin to stagnate. Metalworking professionals read the trade publications, take continuing education courses, attend seminars and trade shows and continue to grow and become better at their trade.

Ya gotta wanna be the best at what you do. How many people do you know who just go to work, put in their time and do a mediocre job? Not you, though. You strive to be the best at what you do. You don’t hesitate to offer assistance and, on the flipside, can accept criticism, realizing it only betters your product.

Going into 2010, I would like to give credit to those who are persevering in these tough times. You are in this line of work not only because you want to be, but also because you are proud of your work. That’s the mark of a true craftsman. CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at
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