Engineering Patternmaker

The work of patternmakers in the metal and engineering industry involves the manufacture of durable patterns from materials such as wood, plastics, fibreglass or metal. These patterns are the starting point for a chain of activities leading to the manufacture of castings for products such as pumps and bearings.

Patternmakers work from drawings; they select and mark material to the shape and size and cut and saw it.  After the material has been finished off, it is assembled into the pattern or model, which is used by moulders to form moulds for castings.

Their tasks in more detail are to set up and operate machine tools, such as milling machines, lathes, drill presses and grinders, in order to machine castings or patterns.  They read and interpret blueprints so drawings of parts to be cast or patterns to be made, then compute dimensions and plan operational sequences.  They need to program computerised numerical control machine tools, design and create templates, patterns or coreboxes according to work orders, sample parts or mock-ups. They construct platforms, fixtures and jigs for holding and placing patterns, then assemble pattern sections, using hand tools, bolts, screws, rivets, glue and/or welding equipment, and repair and rework templates and patterns.  

Patternmakers lay out and draw or scribe patterns onto material, using compasses, protractors, rulers, scribes or other instruments.  They mark identification numbers or symbols onto patterns or templates, and clean and finish the patterns or templates, using emery cloths, files, scrapers and power grinders.  They apply plastic-impregnated fabrics or coats of sealing wax or lacquer to patterns that will be used to produce plastic, and paint or lacquer patterns.

Patternmakers work mostly indoors and use equipment such as woodworking, sawing and sanding machines, so that working conditions can be somewhat noisy. Patternmakers are on their feet most of the day.


  • foundries or pattern shops in the metal industry

  • boat, motorcar, aircraft and various industries

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a metal foundry

  • arrange to speak to a patternmaker in the metal and engineering industry about this type of career

  • contact the Department of Labour about learnership possibilities in your area

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