From Cams to CAM, the Nunn Brothers Train for Success

For nearly 20 years, brothers James and Joseph Nunn worked in the pits at racetracks and race shops, building and maintaining high-speed race cars. For them, every workday was different and, often, exciting. But, as time went on, a bigger challenge was around the bend—starting their own machine shop.

In July of 2015, the brothers opened their doors for business in a 6,000 square foot building in Statesville, North Carolina. They had limited equipment—one machine, to be exact—but plenty of drive, determination, and each other.

“The first year or two was a struggle,” James said. “We were getting some work from NASCAR race teams who were outsourcing parts but doing business in a competitive environment like that got complicated.”

Both James and Joseph continued to work full-time jobs and dedicated their evening hours to their machining operation. In January 2017, James made the decision to work at Machine Nunn CNC Shop full time. Shortly thereafter they added a second mill and two CNC lathes. Today they operate all Haas equipment including the VF2 3-axis CNC vertical mill, the ST20Y Y-axis CNC lathe, and VF4 3-axis CNC vertical mill. At the end of 2018, they added another Haas lathe, the ST15.

As business continued to grow, James knew he needed to focus on programming in order to keep the machines running at optimum capacity. It took a year of his time and complete dedication to learning how to program.

“Not being from the CNC side of things made it difficult to get started,” James shared. “We tried hiring guys who could work at night to help with programming—enough to get a part running. But that had clear limitations.”

They chose Mastercam for SOLIDWORKS because, as James said, “It’s perfectly suited to our needs.” The software allows them to program parts directly in the SOLIDWORKS environment, enabling them to not only communicate better and more directly with engineers, but also help them in the quoting process.

So, the Nunn Brothers reached out to their local Mastercam Reseller Barefoot CNC. For the better part of the next year, Barefoot Applications Engineer Jason Parks spent Saturdays, Sundays, and late into many weeknights training James on the software.

“I did everything I could do to move through the learning curve,” James said. “I took 10 online instruction classes which were helpful. But it was really sitting beside Jason day after day that helped me. I had my own personal Mastercam teacher, and I became a sponge. Everything Jason could show me, he showed me. Everything I could take in, I took in. Sometimes I’d get it the first time, sometimes it would take two or three, but I was persistent.”

James said he also learned a lot by studying Parks’ programming when Parks wasn’t there. “I would look at how he did something and then try to relate it to another part. I’d look at the toolpaths Jason had set, the numbers, and the options he had picked. It was all very instructive.”

Today, James is comfortable and confident using CAM software. The most valuable feature to him is Dynamic Milling. “It just does everything for you,” he said. You just enter the numbers, click on the lines that you want to cut from and to, define the avoidance region with a cut from, a step over, a feed, and speed, and you tell it how deep to go…and—boom! There’s your toolpath.”

Nunn Machine Shop floor

Their gratitude to Barefoot for all the training and support they’ve received makes them eager to pay it forward. The brothers are looking for ways to partner with Barefoot to make their shop a hands-on training center for younger people going to school for CNC machining and programming. “I think there’s a lack of machinist/programmers. We’d love for Machine Nunn to be a learning atmosphere,” he said. “We intend to keep exploring how we can become a part of education and training beyond the classroom.”

In just a few short years, Machine Nunn has built a reputation for expertise in welding, building car parts, and machining specialty parts, firearms, and gun barrels.

“It’s all about perseverance,” Joseph said. “There are a lot of people that just quit and say, ‘We can’t do that’. My brother and I have been working together for over 20 years and anywhere we’ve worked, it was never, ‘We can’t do that,’ but, rather, ‘We’ll figure it out.’”