Mechanical Workshops are really fun. Period.

The past two weeks, we had workshops, which are conducted so that students gain practical engineering knowledge. There are 2 workshop courses that a student has to do in IIT Madras before he can graduate - Electrical (WS1020) and Mechanical (WS1010). The UG batch of approximately 850 students is split into 2 halves. One half does WS1010 while the other does WS1020. Ideally the courses have to be done in the winter, before 2nd semester and in the summer, before the 3rd semester - with one course done in each period.

But due to the water crisis in Chennai during the summer of 2019, students weren’t allowed to stay during the vacations and so, the workshops that were scheduled then were postponed to this winter (2019).

Right now, I’m doing the Mechanical Workshop (WS1010). It has 5 modules in it:

Each module is for 3 days, and at the end of the 3 days, we have to write a report on what we did in the workshop and what we learnt from it.

Foundry and Smithy

Short description: Most painful. Most demanding. No goodies.
Long description: This was the first module I did. The first day was filled with lot of boring info like types of moulds, where sand-casting is used, defects and so on. The day ended with a demo of making a sand-casting mould of a pattern, which we had to do the next day, and the day after also. The second day seemed really long. All we had to do was put sand over the pattern, make the sand compact. Then put more sand, make it compact. And to make it compact, we had to use our hands. Dammit. Try hitting sand for 2 straight hours. It hurts man. A LOT. On the third day, we did the same thing again, but this time, the workshop technician performed another demo, on die-casting. That provided a short break from hitting sand (for about 10 minutes).

Power Tools

Short description: Bit pain. But free goodies.
Long description: Here, we got to play with jigsaws, power drills and many other “dangerous” tools. On the first day we were given an idea about what the shop does, how to choose the right material for a particular product and so on. We were then showed how to make a simple half-lap joint, which we had to make in groups of three. On the second day we got to make a pen stand, which we could take home with us. This was the pen stand I made (I painted it red and black over the weekend out of boredom.) pen stand


Third day was big boys’ day. We got to use metals for the first time (and sadly, only time). We had to make a spanner that looked like this:


The metal spanner

We had to use a circular saw to make the extrusions in the edges, file them so that there aren’t any sharp edges, and make the holes with huge drills that were bigger than me.


Short description: Peace AF. No goodies. Really fun to do. ASMR.
Long description: Milling was fun. We had to make a shape that sort of looked like a 3D “Y” with a material like wax. milling shape

Cross-section of the shape

Essentially, milling is just cutting the excess material. There are two types - vertical, in which the cutting blade can move along a vertical axis, and horizontal, where the blade is placed horizontal. We used a vertical milling machine. Initially there was a cylinder and we had to trim it down to a cuboid of 28x28x100 mm. Second day, we had to make the bottom part of the shape by milling the edges. Third, we had to make the top groove and complete the job. We were also given a demo on CNC machines, which are basically gigantic machines trying to replace human millers. Then, we were given a new shape, which we had to mill, as a test (to see if you learnt something or not). The shape was really easy - it was just the top part of the previous shape on a cylinder. All we had to do was trim half the length of the cylinder to a cuboid of cross-section 26x26 mm and make a groove at the top of it. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take the jobs we made as they had to be given back for evaluation.


Long description: Welding turned out to be umm… not upto my expectations. Having experience in soldering, I thought welding was just soldering, but with a different soldering material and a really huge soldering iron. Boy was I wrong…!

Unlike soldering, welding had to be done wearing a really uncomfortable dress made of some heat-resistant material. Then, the actual welding had to be done while covering our face with a mask, through which we couldn’t see anything except for the electric arc.

For generating the arc, we had to touch the electrode to the base metal and quickly take it and maintain an arc length of about 3mm. Well, you had to be really quick, otherwise the electrode will stick to the base, and it’ll be really difficult to take out. Add this to the fact that if you see the arc with the naked eye, you can’t see anything for another 5 minutes.

Only good parts were:

  • We were separated into group of three, and my 2 partners did some really good welding. So, my assessment went really well (IFYKWIM xD).
  • We had to write the report in the third class for half-an-hour and that’s it. No lengthy writings.


Short description: ASMR
Long description: This was just milling, but instead of using a wax-like material, we had to use metal (mild steel). Another major difference between the two is that here, the workpiece is rotated and the blade is moved back and forth, whereas in milling, the blade rotates and the workpiece is moved back and forth.

This was so satisfying to watch! Man, the way the blade cut through the workpiece was very very satisfying AF. The first day, we had to turn a given metal cylinder of some length down to 130mm and also smoothen the circular faces. The second, we had to drill holes of about 2mm in diameter on the circular faces and then trim the diameter of the cylinder to 26mm. The third day, we had to do something called step turning -

The result had to be like this:

The only frustrating part was that the blade moved really slow in “auto mode”, slower than I could move it by hand. But, sadly, we could not do it by hand as the surface would not be of uniform thickness then.

As I’m writing this post, it’s 12:00 AM and I have to go through 260 pages of “notes” (not notes, rather a scanned book) for tomorrow’s (today’s) test and also write reports for the modules other than welding. So yeah, Imma head out.

Ight Imma Head Out