Moving lathes

I originally posted this on the Practical Machinist forum: Moving an HLV-H to my basement shop (photos & story)

Jim Rozen suggested that I put up a link to the photos of pulling a Heavy 10 out of my basement and replacing it with a Hardinge HLV-H. Here’s the story that goes with the pictures. Link at bottom.

I am in the process of setting up a small shop in my basement. Many have questioned my sanity at putting machine tools in the basement, particularly since I don’t have a walk-out and it is something of a hassle to get a bulky object around to the back to in order to go down the basement. I have persisted nonetheless. My first machine was a 1976 South Bend Heavy 10 that I had a piano mover move home and then down the basement. Watching them work and reading various posts here inspired me to work carefully and safely move a Rockwell mill, Logan shaper, and Walker Turner bandsaw down the basement by myself. It seems that it takes me about 6 hours to move a machine from the garage down the basement, but I don’t mind being slow so that nothing gets damaged along the way.

Now my shop is still not up and running, and I have made hardly any chips, but along comes a local auction with a Hardinge HLV-H. So now I have a problem: the HLV-H is a potentially interesting machine, but I already have a nice small lathe. Immediately the rationalization process started & I began to think about how I might be able to get this machine. I’d read enough to know that this was worth going to take a look at, and I’ve seen several of the Hardinge lathes, but I’d never run one. I was the first person to the auction preview and asked if I could apply power to the lathe. The owner was not there but the auction company rep looked at me and decided I must know what I’m doing…looks can certainly be deceiving. I ran the machine through its speed ranges, listened to the gears, and checked the various feeds. The only thing I noted was that there was a small but increasing amount of drag as the carriage was moved to the tail stock. Based upon what I’d read about the Hardinge I decided that while the bed had some wear, it was fairly minor. I chatted with some of the rebuilders who came and were looking at the machine as well as a few machinists who were also looking at it. It seemed that I was looking at an HLV-H in very good condition.

I started calling some riggers to get quotes on moving the machine as this was well beyond what I had done before. One didn’t want to mess with residential moves, and another looked things over carefully and decided that they could do it. I now had another cost to factor into my choice to bid or not. I knew the machine had some value and eventually set my final price. Since it was an on-line auction I waited and watched as the bids spiraled upwards, nearing my price. With a few minutes left the bidding went over my limit, but my wife encouraged me to keep watching and asked what it was really worth to me. With her encouragement I put in my max bid of 6250 and a moment later watched the auction close with my bidder number taking it for my max bid. I’m not sure which is a bigger “Hardinge rush”: running the machine or winning the auction for one.

This time I was the second person at the auction and I arrived to find the rigger waiting there with a flatbed and forklift ready to pick up the machine. Took a little bit to get the lathe out and onto the truck, but I was glad to have a rigger doing it, particularly when I could see just how top-front heavy this machine was. The rigger had several crews busy that day, so the plan was to only put the Hardinge in my garage and then come back the following week to swap the Heavy 10 for the Hardinge in the basement. When we got home, the rigging crew looked at the situation and said it would make the job go faster if they used a crane. My eyes must have bugged out when I heard that, but the more we talked it through, the more sense it made. So the next week they show up with a 27-ton boom truck and another flatbed with tools.

I’d already cut another door in the basement to allow easier access to move the lathes in and out of the shop, so the first step was to swing the toolboxes over the house and put them in the backyard as this was where most of the action was going to take place. The thought of a 2200lb toolbox plummeting through the roof was not pleasant, but I figured it was a good validation that we could move a 1700lb lathe. We anchored a large sheave to the larger of the toolboxes and then ran the crane cable through the sheave and down into the basement to draw the Heavy 10 up the stairs. After using a come-along to move things by myself this looked like the deluxe way to move machines! Once the Heavy 10 was outside we re-cabled and lifted it over the house and put it on the driveway. The process was reversed for the Hardinge. Part way down the stairs we heard the sounds of gushing liquid and I realized with some horror that I’d not drained the sump. Fortunately a bucket and rags were available to mop up most of it, but it did make quite a mess. There were some additional challenges once the lathe reached the bottom of the stairs, but they were solved after a bit and the machine rolled fairly smoothly into the shop.

Once it was all done and the trucks pulled away, my wife put down the camera and said to me “you are one stubborn man.” My reply was that the word probably begins with S-T-U, but more likely ends with P-I-D.