Pattern Maker

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Pattern Maker


When you mention the job of pattern maker most people think of clothing. However, there are many different types of pattern makers, such as those who work with wood or metal. These patternmakers (sometimes referred to as foundry pattern makers) make models in wood, plastic, metal, plaster of paris, or polystyrene to produce castings. Pattern makers also make core boxes which are used to make the cores that are placed inside a mould to create the internal cavity of the casting. They are inventive and creative thinkers and they are also good with their hands. Pattern makers have an eye for detail and an understanding of the basic principles of the materials they are working with.

Besides being good with their hands, pattern makers must be good with numbers to compute the dimensions of the pattern they are making. They use hand tools, woodworking machines and metal cutting machines to build patterns for the foundry industry, which produces metal castings of parts and components used in all kinds of industrial and consumer products. Increasingly, patternmakers are also using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology to design and create complex and intricate patterns.
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Pattern makers are interested in using their hands and operating machine tools to cut, turn, mill, plane, bore, grind and shape pieces to prescribed dimensions and finishes. They are good with numbers and able to compute the dimensions needed for the pattern they are making. Pattern makers are detail oriented and precise in their work. Whatever the medium or the technology, they must carefully check every detail of the patterns they build; any error they make will show up in the metal castings.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Reading and interpreting blueprints and working by hand or with hand and power tools
  • Planning and making a layout for a pattern from a mechanical drawing of the finished article
  • Calculating shrinkage and allowances for machining and converting these dimensions to very exact tolerances
  • Operating woodworking machines and other machining equipment
  • Finishing the pattern by sanding and coating with lacquer to a fine smooth finish
  • Making metal patterns from a casting made by a wood master pattern
  • Machining castings, filing, scraping and polishing castings to meet exact dimensions
  • Working at a variety of tasks that require creativity and great precision
  • Acquiring and using knowledge of wood, machining processes, and machine design
  • Pattern makers generally work full-time, usually indoors, sometimes standing or on some detail work, while sitting at a bench. They have a creative mind and the ability to transfer those details into a finished material form. Depending on where they are employed pattern makers are often in contact with other departments, such as the engineering, drafting, or mouldmakers production department.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Pattern makers are employed primarily in manufacturing industries such as aircraft, automotive and shipbuilding manufacturers as well as foundries and independent foundry shops.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Pattern makers have the opportunity to move among different industries with the right training. However, this job can be very specific and training is needed to work in different areas. Most of the potential for advancement comes with experience in the trade. Pattern makers may have the opportunity to become supervisors, specialty patternmakers or run their own pattern shop.

  Educational Paths  
Pattern makers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a pattern maker, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the pattern maker a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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