By John S. McClenahen It's been months in coming. But machine tool builders in the U.S. believe they are finally seeing the beginning of recovery from the 2001 recession. U.S. machine tool consumption in September, as measured by gross new orders, totaled $175.79 million, up 24.8% from August, according to the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association (AMTDA), Rockville, Md., and AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va. New orders for metal-cutting machine tools were $160.29 million in September, up 22.4% from August. New orders for metal-forming machine tools were $15.5 million in September, up 57.2% from August. "We are clearly seeing the early signs of recovery in manufacturing," says Ralph J. Nappi, AMTDA's president. "Both broad and specific indicators suggest we are at the beginning of a long and painful climb from the bottom." Machine tools still have a considerable distance to go. Gross new orders for the first nine months of this year totaled $1.389 billion, 16.1% below the $1.656 billion booked during the first nine months of 2002.