This Mystery We Machine

In the beginning, there is an Idea. The Idea dwells in the human mind, in the mind of one or in the minds of many, but always as a product of conscious, purposeful thought.

Columns From: 7/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Mark Albert

Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.

In the beginning, there is an Idea. The Idea dwells in the human mind, in the mind of one or in the minds of many, but always as a product of conscious, purposeful thought. It has no other being but in the mind.

By force of its own transcendent existence, that Idea must find expression in metal. So the Idea gathers Energy of will and desire out of those who thought it, and the Energy becomes machining. Thus it is that every machined workpiece is truly made of metal but also begotten of the mind. The workpiece embodies the Idea.

Energy is the mind shaping matter, even though the machine that the mind commands may act without hand or eye to move its axes or guide the path of the tool. It is a wonder to see the many modes this Energy takes.

Behold the lathe: the Energy is in the spinning metal as the tool plunges in and across the workpiece. And lo, the chips curl away like tendrils which mound up quicker than the mower's hay. Likewise, behold the mill: the Energy is in the spinning tool as it pockets and profiles and drills and bores. And lo, the chips pile up quicker than the blizzard's driven snow. Behold the grinder: the Energy is in its wheel as it spins, passing to and fro upon the workpiece. The sparks fly like a thousand tiny meteors against the darkest sky.

And behold every other class and category of machine tool, wherein the Energy is activated. Yes, even the thunderbolt, the waterfall, and the sunbeam have their counterpart as a machining process, in electrode, waterjet, and laser. Indeed these are marvels to behold, each with its own technology. Nor have all manners of machining been invented, for many lie unimagined and undreamed of.

Thus, the Idea takes form through Energy into the metal, charging it with Power. There is but one workpiece, yet it is Idea and Energy and Power.

The Power of the workpiece lies in its potential to fulfill its functional purpose. It may now combine with other workpieces to become the most complex of assemblies or it may stand alone simply as a work of art. It may become part of a vehicle or a weapon, a mold or a die, an instrument of medicine or of music, a toy or a tool. This is Power to save lives, change lives, ease lives, or enrich them.

So it is with all machining. Energy is begotten of the Idea. From Idea and Energy proceeds the Power. This is the pattern of all creation, indeed, the very image and likeness of the Being Who Made All.

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