Machining Solo

By Lloyd Graff

Chuck DeLong says he “can’t deal with people,” but he loves his old CNC machines, which he cajoles to run perfect pieces like other people baby their pet Corvettes.

DeLong’s machine shop is out in the sticks, yet only 30 miles from the Charles River in Boston where he keeps his 37-foot Silverton Sport Fisherman. He says it’s the boat he doesn’t use because every fill-up is $1100.

When he isn’t boating Chuck is running his Hardinge CHNC-1 and CHNC-3 lathes which he claims make parts just as exquisite as a 2010 Mazak or Mori if you treat them with respect and use sweet oil. His operating philosophy is to run his machines slowly but steadily and then adjourn to his desk to write boating articles.

DeLong is 64, he loves being a machining artisan. He makes 100 grand in a crappy year like 2009 and $150,000 in a livelier one. He works a lot of hours at the shop but looks for any opportunity to bop over to the nearby lake to use his boat of choice, a 1965 Cavalier ski boat with Chris Craft engines, made in 1965. He bought the boat on eBay three years ago.

Chuck just bought a 1994 Haas VF-2 CNC mill from Graff-Pinkert, which he also spotted on eBay.

DeLong likes the solo business life. He used to have 20 employees, but shed them for the companionship of his vintage Hardinge and Haas buddies. He prefers the simplicity of doing it all by himself.

His introduction to the machining business was in 1959 when his parents bought three Brown & Sharpes which they ran in their basement. His folks would trade places running the machines. Their house was filled with clackety background noise, but after all these years he has developed a talent for tuning it out.

On Boston's Charles River

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