I'd recommend learning how to file flat, square and to dimensions before getting into the manual or cnc world. It takes some dedicated practice,but well worth it. I learned while starting tool & die school, then later when I went to gunsmithing school in Trinidad I was way ahead.
Today, the CNC world has much to offer startups and students. Fusion360 is the cat's a$$ considering you can download it for free, solid model and spit out world class code with it for machining center or even 3D printing.
I've thought of casting parts from reclaimed brass cases. So I could go from scraps to gun. Seems to me it is all very do-able but the home scratch builder likely gives up light weight for sturdiness unless you know how to properly heat treat thinner materials for strength.
Gunmaker, your suggestion about learning to file reminded me of an interesting skill trained in Germany.
My Father had a German Mechanical Engineer working with him. In Germany even today I suspect young Jouneymen wishing to become Meister (Master) and be able to open a business and accept trainees had to pass Meisterprufen... Masters Tests.
One example is a fellow taking the Meisterpruf for glass blowing was provided a simple sounding test: blow a spring our of glass. The thing about springs is that any variation in angle, spread, diameter etc. jumps out. It's HARD to pass these tests.
The first training challeng my Father's friend suffered was being handed two lumps of steel and a file. And an order to create two identical cubes. Sound easy? The cubes serve as gages for each other. Any error in size or angle on a single facet requires correcting all the other facets. They started out with big lumps of steel and ended up with two little cubes.
The bottom line is that learning how to file isn't just a matter of dexterity, but of attention to detail.
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