"Facilities Careers: What’s the Hottest Facilities Jobs of the Instrument Makers? "

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Instrument makers have been involved with various facilities jobs in their entire career. They are also called experimental machinists and model makers who fabricate, modify, and even repair mechanical instruments, or mechanical assemblies of electrical or electronic instruments, such as chronometric timing devices, barographs, seismographs, and so forth. Workers do this by following blueprints and engineering sketches and using machine tools, welding and heat treating equipment, precision measuring instruments, and hand tools. Generally, experimental machinists assemble prototype, or original, equipment that will be used to test design specifications.

Because instrument makers often work on their own with facility jobs, their job calls for highly developed manual skills and reasoning abilities, they have considerable prestige among their fellow employees. Instrument makers must be familiar with the use of instruments in production, research, and testing work in government and industry. They must also be familiar with the various tools and machines used, such as lathes, drills, grinders, and milling machines.

Instrument Making Process

Moreover, in their facilities careers, instrument makers often work closely with engineers and scientists in the development of ideas and designs into experimental models, special laboratory equipment, and special purpose instruments. Experimental devices made by these craft workers are used, for example, to regulate heat, measure distance, record earthquakes, and control industrial processes. Furthermore, these skilled crafts workers often work from rough sketches, verbal instructions, or ideas rather than from detailed blueprints. Thus, in making parts, they frequently have to use considerable imagination and ingenuity. Instrument makers sometimes work on parts that must not vary from specifications more than one ten-millionth of an inch. To meet these standards, instrument makers commonly use micrometers, standard measuring instruments, and special equipment or precision devices, such as the electronic height gauge. They often work with a variety of materials, and it is not unusual to find them working with steel, plastics, ivory, or platinum.

In their facilities maintenance jobs, often instrument makers, are called upon to design, build, and test the finished instruments for proper operation. In large shops or where other different operations are involved, the instrument makers work with other specialists, each making a part of the instrument. Although instrument makers, regardless of what they are working on, have similar basic duties, they may be known by a special title. The jeweler, for example, is usually located in firms making instruments and apparatus and works on delicate and highly sensitive instruments and apparatus, such as barographs, thermographs, chronometers, photographic recording instruments, and balance mechanisms, which demand high-level precision work. Parts mechanic is usually found in the light, heat, and power industries making jigs, dies, and other special tools for use in the construction and repair of electrical instruments. The precision-instrument tool maker is usually employed in the communication and research laboratory, making and assembling scientific tools, instruments, and apparatus for experimental projects. The job may involve laying out cutting lines of such structural parts as brackets and housings on such stock as silver, steel, and plastic, using square, rule, and scribe. This worker will also cut and shape parts, using machine tools such as lathes, presses, milling machines, and so forth.

Because of the nature of the work, people who are interested in becoming instrument makers for facilities employment should have a strong interest in mechanical subjects and a superior ability to work with their hands. Because instrument makers often work alone or with little supervision, they must be resourceful people who can take initiative. They often must study the individual parts of the instrument and visualize their relationship to the completed instrument. Because of this, they should have better-than-average spatial relations ability. Instrument makers must understand how the instrument is used and the principles involved in its operation. Instrument makers take considerable pride in their creative, yet mechanical, work.


Employers generally prefer applicants for entry jobs as instrument makers to be high school graduates with courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, science, and machine shop work to further boost their facility careers. In addition, technical schooling in electricity and electronics is considered desirable in this field. Most instrument makers come from the ranks of machinists or skilled machine tool operators. These craft workers must work one or two years under close supervision on relatively simple tasks before qualifying as instrument makers. Moreover, those interested in qualifying as instrument makers usually must pass an oral or written examination, or both, and be able to demonstrate their ability by performing the various tasks involved in instrument making.

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