Last week in
Part 8 we covered the
layout of the new workshop and how storage is arranged. This week, I install the
Moving the Machines
Regular readers will know that the new workshop
that has been built in this series is a replacement and upgrade for an existing
workshop. That workshop, positioned under my elevated house, has been
progressively equipped over the last eight years. Access to that area is down a
very steep driveway, and over time a lathe, mill, bandsaw and other machinery
have been moved down it.
So how were those machines moved? In most cases,
the machines were transported to the door of the workshop (except there aren’t
any doors!) in a 6x4 trailer, lifted off the trailer with a hydraulic engine
crane, and then moved to the right spot with the same crane. This pic shows the
vertical mill being lifted into place with the engine crane.
The only exception to this was when I purchased a
sheet metal folding brake. The machine was bought sight-unseen on eBay, and when
I went to pick it up, it proved to be much larger than the pic suggested! It
weighs, I estimate, something like 750kg. I was able to (just) get it home on
the trailer, the seller having available a forklift that could lift the bender
into the trailer.
At home, I used a neighbour with a bobcat to lift
the bender off the trailer and move it down the steep driveway. But there
disaster struck, with the top-heavy bender toppling over, hitting the ground
with a tremendous thud. Despite the impact, it was undamaged. The neighbour
departed, and I then spent a full a full day pulling the machine apart until it
was reduced to component pieces that I could just move with the engine
crane. The bender components were then re-assembled in the designated location –
and then the bender never moved again!
So what’s the point of all this? Simply, how to
get all these machines into the new workshop...
Despite having used a car and trailer to transport
most of the machines to the old workshop, I couldn’t do the same to get them
into the new workshop. Why? Because, the driveway is too steep to allow a car to
pull a heavily-loaded trailer up it. Well, if I had a large automatic
transmission all-wheel drive SUV, it could be done, but not with the cars I
have. Furthermore, that approach would not work with the bender anyway – no car
could pull that trailer load up the driveway.
The bobcat neighbour has since moved, but I
decided to take the earthmoving machinery approach again.
I rang the contractor who had done the shed
earthworks and he inspected my problem. He thought the situation was tight for
space, but suggested his bobcat equipped with rubber tracks would be able to do
the job of moving the machines – even the bender. He said that the cost would be
under AUD$200, and – interestingly - he’d need to use his best driver.
In the event, he sent two workers to do the job.
And, much to my astonishment, it all went smoothly – no dropped machines, no
damage to the shed or the house. This is what some of it looked like.
As can be seen, clearances for the bobcat were
tight. Here is the under-house workshop area, with the machines lined-up to be
Carrying the lathe up the steep driveway. The
bobcat has been equipped with removable forks.
The new workshop doorway had only just sufficient vertical
clearance (2.1 metres) for the bobcat to enter. In fact, the
bobcat’s flashing roof-top light needed to be removed.
The bobcat was able to position the machines
correctly: here the vertical mill is being lifted onto its bench.
Carrying the big one - the metal folder! With an
excellent driver, very good assistant and careful work, the bobcat achieved the
task of moving this very heavy and awkwardly-shaped piece of equipment with
The folder had to be placed in exactly the
required position – it’s too heavy to move afterwards! The driver was capable of
such precision that after it was placed in approximately the correct location,
the forks could be used to push one end (then the other), 10mm at a time. Note
the tiny clearance behind the bobcat – this tracked machine can pivot on the
So after about 1½ hours of work, the lathe, mill,
bender, workbench and table saw were all in place. Now, what about setting them
Machines with accurately ground ways like lathes
and vertical mills should be carefully set up, primarily so that there is no
twisting of these ways. Apart from machining test pieces and then measuring, the
only way of achieving this is to use an engineering quality bubble level.
These levels are much like normal levels except
they are extraordinarily sensitive – for example, the bubble moving across the
full viewing scale when just a normal sheet of paper is placed under one end!
Bought new, these levels are very expensive but I bought mine secondhand on eBay for around
The aim with the level is not necessarily to get
the machine level! Confused? Don’t be. Imagine the level placed across the
machined ways of a lathe, at right-angles to the lathe’s longitudinal axis. The
bubble of the level indicates perhaps that the lathe is not absolutely level in
this direction. Note this bubble reading and then make the same measurement at
the opposite end of the lathe bed. If the bubble shows a different level, the
bed of the lathe is twisted. It’s in dialling out twist of this sort that
the level is used.
The first step is to use packing to ensure the
machine tool isn’t able to be rocked or wobbled by hand. Then assess the twist
in the lathe bed (or in the milling table) and counteract it by placing further
packing under the points of the machine support that are low. It’s rather
disconcerting to see how placing a very thin shim under (say) one leg of the
stand of a lathe can result in a clear change in the twist of the bed! What
looks immensely rigid and strong actually isn’t.
If the machine tool is not bolted to a stand,
place the shims directly under the machine. If the machine is bolted to a stand
and shimming the stand does not correct the situation, consider placing the
shims between the stand and the machine.
I used a tyre lever and a block of wood to lift
the corner under which the shim was to be placed.
Shims can comprise steel or aluminium – if using
the latter, make sure that the shim supports a large area. For the very thinnest
shims, I ended up using wet and dry sandpaper – the thinnest material I had on
hand that would be relatively stable.
It’s easy to chase your tail and spend literally
hours on this task, so rather than get everything dead-level, in the end I
decided to quit when the machine was rigid and twists were negligible.
the machine is not sufficiently level to bring the bubble of the level onto the
scale, you can place a sheet of paper under one end of the level. The thinnest
paper I found suitable for this was a cash register receipt (arrowed). Then when
assessing twist, transfer the sheet with the level.
Few people building a new workshop will be
confronted with the problem of moving the machinery up a very steep drive way.
But if considering the purchase of heavy machinery, remember that the facility
for moving it from a trailer or truck into a home workshop exists with a local
And keep an eye out for a secondhand precision
engineering level – it’s an ideal instrument to be shared amongst a group of
Next week: finished!
observant will have noticed that the concrete floor of the new workshop has not
been painted. I had initially intended doing so but after further thought,
decided against it.
advantages of a painted floor are: it’s easier to clean up spills because the
paint forms an impermeable layer; there is less concrete dust because the
surface of the concrete is sealed; and the workshop looks better. Another
possible advantage is that, depending on the colour, more light can be reflected
under cars on which work is being carried out.
I thought the disadvantages outweighed these: expensive (more than AUD$600 for
an epoxy coating); the need to wait at least a few months for the concrete to
properly cure; and the likelihood that the paint would need to be replaced
periodically – even if that’s only every 5 years, it would still be an enormous
effort (or do you just paint around machines, benches, storage shelves, etc?).
the floor remains as cast.
Interested in home workshop projects and techniques? You’re sure then to be interested in the Home Workshop Sourcebook, available now.