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IndustryArena Forum > MetalWorking Machines > South Bend Machinery > Moving machinery with a Pallet Jack
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  1. #1
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    Moving machinery with a Pallet Jack

    It seems the first big challenge in DIY retrofitting is to get your heavy mill or lathe home. That's a challenge daunting enough to keep many from ever buying a large machine, be it a Bridgeport mill or a Monarch lathe.

    My hope is that if we get enough good advice and experience posted here, we can move this thread to the FAQ section for everyone's benefit.

    Many of us have used an engine hoist (shop crane, as Harbor Freight calls it) to move our equipment, to get it onto and off of a trailer and even to move it into position. These shop cranes are great for lifting in place, however, I can say from experience, that actually scooting a mill along using a shop crane is tricky and leaves you feeling like you're cheating death, or at least narrowly missing an injury.

    A lot of folks feel that it is outright unsafe to move a mill with a shop crane. There are a few posts from people who had a mill tip over on them!


    So how do professional Machine Movers (also called Riggers) do it? They have 10,000 lb forklifts to lift and transport the equipment, and "skates" to maneuver the machine the final distance into spaces forklifts can't fit into. I got to thinking about this -- is a pallet jack essentially the same thing as these "skates" that riggers use?

    If so, it seems that the combination of a shop crane ($150 from HF) and a pallet jack ($200-$300) would make moving machinery affordable and much safer than the shop crane alone. If you don't think that cost is affordable, compare to $195/hour for Riggers, including their lunch break!

    So has anyone used this combination to move Bridgeport-sized machinery? How well did it work? Are there safety concerns, or is this in fact a good way to go? I found three seperate ads on craigslist for used pallet jacks (2 ton) for under $100, so that sounds like a pretty attractive option.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Advice? Let it rip!

  2. #2
    Monkeywrench Technician
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    Pallet carts are somewhat flexible and have a 3 point stance. I have done it before but a knee mill is working on the limit of one of these carts. For a cheap DIY try using 5 or 6 pieces of 2" pipe and roll the machine same as the Egyptions built the pyramids.
    Your riggers are expensive - my charge out is $56/hour for machine moving and you wont pay for our lunch.
    Forklift and or overhead crane is best for moving a knee mill, their center of gravity is relatively high.
    www.integratedmechanical.ca

  3. #3
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    Check out the local fork lift rental places and/or towing services.

    We had to move some stuff lately and both came in REAL handy.

    The fork lift place delivered and picked up a machine that easily lifted what we had to move. Paid a daily fee that was cheap all things considered.

    The towing service lifted and transported the equipment onto a flat bed once we spotted it outside the shop. And it was MUCH cheaper than the riggers and the towing guys did as much/little damage as you'd let them.

    If you're doing things in a house, shop environment, you might try "Two Men and a Truck". They can supply 'muscle' which can come in handy.

    When you move a machine, the factory manuals usually show you how to lift them. Follow the instructions TO THE LETTER.

    A "bridgeport" is lifted "high" (right under the knee head close to the column). Lift it "low" and COG is real high and it gets real "tippy". You HAVE been warned.

    A lathe should also be lifted "high". When we moved our CNC's, we put a couple bars under the beds and dropped slings down to them. Lifted and moved them slowly and effortlessly as COG was kept below the lift point.

    Learned a lesson when we moved and dropped a bench lathe (minor road rash thankfully) recently. Lifted it by putting lift forks under bed - it rolled off.

    Righted it by putting a 30" piece of pipe in the chuck and ran the steady rest up against the other end. Lifted it straight up, self-righted itself easily and moved easily thereafter. We'll use that method here on out as it keeps the COG below the lift plane and the thing isn't "tippy".

  4. #4
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    If your gonna be real serious about moving equipment around I suggest taking a material handling class at the local tech college. They will teach you what to watch out for and how to properly lift items so that they stay level durring lift and also what kinds of lifting mediums to use ie chain, cable,sling.

    I also suggest just buying a set of actual skates. Last I looked a set of hillman rollers 8ton were about $700 but there were some lighter duty ones for less money also. I believe you can rent different kinds of skates from the rental shops also. When we moved our safe into the house we had some low profile heavy duty furniture skates.

    JP

  5. #5
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    Rolling along on pipe or round bar as Darebee suggests is more tedious but sometimes more stable than pallet jacks. There are a few things to watch for: Make sure the floor is smooth and clean because the tiniest chip will stop the pipe rolling. Remember the machine moves forward on the pipe and will eventually get past the balance point so three identical lengths are needed. Check the floor for level! This might seem unnecessary but poured concrete floors in commercial buildings often undulate an inch or more in a distance of 10 to 20 feet. A 5000 lb machine on rollers can run away down a slope and the person caught between it and another machine may suffer more than just bruises. (Guess how I know this ) For lifting always use equipment that is rated well above the weight of the machine; if you are right on the margin and do not lower it smoothly the bounce when try to stop it can go over the limit and fold up your engine hoist. (Ditto) And as NC says lift from a high point and especially with forklifts make sure the center of gravity is centered on the forks or toward the mast. Dropping a bench lathe is nothing compared with dropping a 5600 lb, ten feet long turret lathe from a height of 18 inches. That attracts attention from two blocks away!

  6. #6
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    A few things to point out:

    #1
    If you do hire riggers, the machine becomes their responsibility until moved into place. This is something you need to consider especially as the machine becomes bigger. Size isn't the only reason, rare and exspensive machinery can benefit from a riggers experience and insurance policy.

    #2
    Using pallet jacks to move machinery is iffy at best and requires at least two or three people just to roll the item around and keep it up right. A pallet jack by the way is not a riggers "skate" in any shape or form, it is just what the name describes a tool for moving pallets. Pallets by the way that normally have good load distribution. I can't say that I've never moved a machine with a pallet jack, but the voice of experience demands that I point out that it is less than optimal.

    #3
    Fork lifts are commonly used to move machinery around with varing degrees of success. A already pointed out you can have huge problems with some machines that are not well balanced. It does pay to read those manuals that come with the machines. Like all things large though the size of a fork lift does get in the way.

    #4
    If you really want to move machinery around like a rigger then the reasonable thing to do is to buy/rent the tools the use. Get the rollers (skates), pry bars, comealongs and whatever else you want or need for the project and have at it. Do realize that you will not be working with the same experience level that a rigger would have.

    #5
    If you can budget for the machine you should be able to budget for the move of the machine. It all comes down to $$$$$$s in the end. Ask yourself if you can afford to loose the investment that you currently have in the machine to a mistake made in moving the hardware around. If you can't put the move on somebodies insurance policy (hire a rigger). If you can afford the lost atleast minimize the potential negative by using the right tools. A pallet jack really isn't the right tool and combined with the wrong machine can be down right dangerous. Riggers exist for the simple reason that any other specialist exists, that is to help the consumer manage his risk.

    It is sort of like electrical work, almost everybody in this forum has some ability to do electrical work in his shop. To some extent or the other. The thing is many of us would not build a new shop and do everything required to complete that shop including the electrical service. Especially if the business or work is still a priority. Might be different in retirement or for a home project but it is hard to make money while you focus on building a facility to work in. In other words everybody at some time or another has the need for the serivces of a specialist.

    #6
    Consider disassembly! Personally I've moved some rather large tools into my shop, in the cellar, with out any help. Things like a band saw and a lathe. I did this by disassembly before moving. Disassembly to the point that the part feel light, then carried them or slide them down the steps. Works for a home shop for machines to the small end of the spectrum or those with a lot of parts. Just make sure abotu the light part of the deal, a frame of a band saw can get very heavy when bearing against you shoulder on the way down the steps. Back to your proble this woouldn't work with larger CNC machines, but then agian the steps to the cellar would hold against the weight of a Bridgeport or anything else.

    #7
    This brings up the next item. Know everything you can know about the physical machine. It size in all demensions, its weight and the weight and size of all of its sub assemblies. It also doesn't hurt to verify that the machine can sit where you expect ot put it. For example if you break a Bridgeport down into components you still have to deal with one piece that is about 700 pounds. Knowing this you might make a determination that a break down isn't worth it.

    That is how I see it. Play safe

    Thanks
    Dave

  7. #7
    Monkeywrench Technician
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    FYI

    My local rental shop has machinery skates for $100/day
    A forklift should be $350/day + shipping (normally $85/hour).
    Renting the needed and proper equipment is best.
    Machinery skates under a knee mill is SCARY - forklift is best.
    www.integratedmechanical.ca

  8. #8
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    Excellent advice and info guys! It sounds like a pallet jack isn't as much of a step-up as I thought it was.

    That was a good suggestion to take a class on material handling. I had done a quick search of the web looking for resources to show me the right way to do it, but came up empty. I may go look for a local class!

    This post was intended to be general Q&A about the next best DIY method to move a machine and usually that move is to or from a location. Of course, calling a rigger is the absoulte best option, for the many good reasons stated in posts above. I was hoping to zero-in on the most effective DIY method. I think it's safe to say we should keep the underlying theme of "Call a rigger, unless you're willing to take on risk and learn to do things right!"
    In my particular case, I am thinking mainly about moving machinery around in my garage. I have a 20' x 20' two-car garage to work with and find myself scooting machines around to juggle the space.

    So I'm looking for a good way to move the equipment from one spot to another spot 10 feet away. I'd like to be able to do it on a whim, to move machines to get access to things behind them, or to rearrange the shop.

    Forklifts won't fit inside the 8' ceiling.

    Two DIY ideas seem to suit this situation:
    1. Buy the professional quality skates. (and maybe jacks too) Where would I look for these? What is the correct term I can use in a search of ebay or craigslist (without turning up skate bearings and roller skates?)

    2. Build a steel frame on wheels purpose-designed to lift my machines (they're both Series I Bridgeports). I'm thinking 4" square tubes welded into a frame that can lift high, but remain stable (big footprint). Is this crazy talk, or can such a thing be practical? I'd buy the steel from a scrapyard and weld it together myself. Something that could fold down quickly for storage, perhaps.

    I invite your opinions!

  9. #9
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    "So I'm looking for a good way to move the equipment from one spot to another spot 10 feet away. I'd like to be able to do it on a whim, to move machines to get access to things behind them, or to rearrange the shop."

    If you are only moving a short distance sometimes it is easier to use a long pry bar. Most machines have notches in the base and it is possible to walk the machine along working alternately on each side. This is energetic but often quicker than going to the trouble of jacking the machine up, putting skates under, moving it and then taking the skates out. Anything up to 5000 lb can be moved fairly easily with a pry bar.

    An alternate if you have anchor points available is to have a sheet of heavy plywood under the machine with a couple of strips of UHMW polyethylene as skids under it. A come-along will slide it very readily.

  10. #10
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    1. Hilman rollers can be bought from MSC or Grainger
    2. You could very easily build a small Gantry crane that just fit your cieling hieght and put a chain block in it or something. Look up Gantry cranes in catalogs like Msc to get an idea of size for I beam for load lifted. Still will be pain to move as when you try and move crane the machine starts to swing which then causes the crane to move in short bursts, much like with a cherry picker.

    JP

  11. #11
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    I have all 3 of my Bridgeport knee mills on pallets. When I want to move them around the shop, I just grab the pallet jack and move them as needed.

  12. #12
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    When I bought my Jet BP clone, I picked it up at the terminal, hauling it away with my 6x12 tandem axle trailer. I hoisted it off with a home made gantry crane made of wood. The main beam was a pair of 2x12s lag bolted together, 10 feet high. The pallet that came with the mill was designed for forklifts only. My pallet jack forks would not fit between the 4"x4" wood supports.

    I moved the machine into my garage pallet-less using a shop crane set in 1-ton mode. The small 3.5" steel wheels dug into the concrete of my driveway and would hardly budge. I had to take a pallet jack from the other side to assist the crane. It took me 30 minutes to move it 30 feet.

    So yes, those two pieces of equipment will help move a BP, but it's a royal PITA. I scratched up the base of my machine... chipped off quite a bit of paint and bondo. The engine crane is just too narrow, as the base gets wedged in between the legs.

    If you're tall enough, I'd recommend putting the machine on a pallet as Eric has done. I'm 6' and wouldn't want my machine to be raised more than 3-4". Any more than that and I'd probably curse every time I reached for the drawbar.

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