Moving “The Lathe”

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The Lathe
in working order
The Lathe, in working order, with the head stock, apron, tail stock, and most of the bed visible.
First question:  How do you move a six-foot long 1904 Hendey toolmakers' lathe that weighs at least 1500 pounds into a basement, when the only conventional entrance is a curving, wooden stairway that probably isn't strong enough to support it?

When we first got it, in the early 1960s, The Lathe was delivered fully assembled to our drafty, detached, unheated garage by the crane-equipped truck of the scrap dealer who had bought the other "worn-out" machines from the place Dad worked.  When the truck driver heard our plans, he ventured the opinion that we were all crazy.

Nevertheless, Dad began the next day to disassembled it in the garage.  When most of the parts had been removed, Dad jacked the bed up, put 2×4 cribbing under each end to hold the legs off the floor, and unbolted them.  They and the rest of the "small" parts went down the stairs to the basement.

Even stripped down, the bed was too heavy
The head stock
The head stock, powered by flat belt from the transmission above it.  The solid bar above the cone pulley is an identifying mark of a Hendey.
and too long to come down the stairway, but Dad had a plan.  He and I lifted first one end of the bed and then the other, removing one layer of cribbing at a time, lowering it onto a cart made from an old pair of coaster wagon wheels.

He and Mother then rolled the bed on the cart to the nearest basement window, a distance of about 35 feet.  By the time they were half way there, the hard rubber tires from the wagon were in shreds.  By the time they reached the window, there were no tires on the wheels.

After passing through the basement window, which was no more than twelve inches high, the bed descended a specially-built ramp made of 4×4 lumber with lath nailed to the top to keep it going straight.  I would estimate the angle of descent to have been about 20°.  Gravity assisted all the way, as Mother and Dad, outside the window, held the ropes to insure it didn't assist too much, and I stood by the ramp and watched to be sure the bed was staying on the track.

Once it reached the floor, the bed was rolled on pipes across the cement laundry room floor, down the one-inch step into the rest of the basement, and into place.  We then raised it on cribbing so the legs could be reattached, and Dad spent the next several months worth of spare time cleaning, painting, reassembling, hand-scraping the ways, and looking for a like-new single-phase motor powerful enough to drive it. 

The motor,
The head stock & transmission
The head stock and transmission. The quick-change gear box can be seen below the cone pulley and tool tray; the electrical controls are visible above the chuck.
when he finally found one, was carried down the basement stairs by my dad and my uncle.  Watching as their faces turned red and their eyes bulged out, I honestly thought we were about to lose both of them right then and there.

It finally all came together, though, and ran like a champ if you didn't try to take too large a cut, in which case either the flat belt would start slipping or the spindle would start jumping, as the main bearing was a bit elliptical.  Between the four-speed transmission and the back-gear, it had eight spindle speeds, from 20 to 660 R.P.M.

Over time, The Lathe began to accumulate accessories, too: a face plate, a nearly complete set of collets, a steady rest for which Dad fashioned a set of maple jaws when we lost a branch off one of our trees.  My contribution was an 18-inch piece of 6×6 timber with a wide cylindrical notch in one side, suitable for supporting the three-jaw chuck while it was being installed or removed.

Never one to leave things as-is when improvements could be made, Dad added a few modifications over time, too.  He put a lever on the motor to shift the brushes, which would, in theory, reverse the motor.  He also added a thread-chasing dial, even though the carriage on a Hendey could be reversed without disengaging the half-nut.

Right from the beginning, The Lathe proved to be a valuable asset.  Among the projects were parts for my model railroad, "Nader lights" for our 1966 automobiles, special tools for us to use at work, and twice it was used to make modifications to a commercially-available thermocouple to make it fit the old furnace in the house next door.  We all marveled that we had ever been able to get by without The Lathe in the basement.

The bed, hanging from a hand winch.
Second question:  How do you get it out again?

Dad died in 1987, but The Lathe remained in the basement, where it was still used from time to time by family and friends, myself included.  It was still there when Mother died in March of 2003.

Since none of the heirs could afford to keep the house, and none had room for a major piece of metalworking machinery, The Lathe was going to have to go, and the best way we could think of to do so was to offer The Lathe and its accessories free to whoever could remove it.  But who could free our "Princess" from her dungeon?

After several missteps, the task was given to a family friend who had experience moving machinery and other heavy objects, and a respect for old machine tools.  Did I say old?  Sorry, I meant to say "classic."

This part of the story, I can only tell you second hand, because I wasn't able to be there while any of the moving was taking place, but I did make frequent visits to the house in the evenings, to photograph the progress that had been made during the day.

A skyhook.
A skyhook.
One key to the operation was the I-beam (left) running the length of the basement, which in addition to holding up the house was to serve as the lifting point for much of the operation.  The bottom of the beam is somewhere around six feet from the floor.  It was anticipated that some of the lifts might actually have to be made by pulleys hung from objects bolted to the top of the beam.

The Transporter, raised.
The Transporter, raised almost level with the window out of which the bed is to go.
The other major component was a "transporter," (right) a flat-topped lift with wheels, designed and constructed specifically for the job by our friend.  It was designed so its major parts could be carried down the stairs and assembled in the basement.

Once the transporter was assembled, two hand winches slung under the I-beam were used to the lift lathe bed off the floor.  The transporter was rolled under the bed, and the bed was lowered onto the flat platform on the top.  From there, it was rolled over to the window, and the platform raised to be level with the bottom of the window.

Outside the window, a track made of 2×6's laid end-to-end would spread the weight of the bed as it was moved to the waiting truck, so as not to make a bad impression on the lawn.

Below are a few more of the pictures taken on the same day as those above.

03   05
The motor and transmission hang from the ceiling, their mounting post dangling, with the lathe bed, still on its legs, near by.
The quick-change gear box and the rods and lead screw that ran the length of the bed.

Below, the head stock on a two-wheel hand cart, ready to be wheeled over and taken up and around the stairway, one step at a time.
Left, another view of the motor, transmission, and electrical wiring.
That's a one-horsepower, 110-volt single-phase motor with patent dates from 1914 and 1916 listed on a brass plate affixed to its top.

I returned the next evening to take more pictures, and here are the signs of progress I found:

09   13
Its legs now removed, the bed has been lowered to the floor and turned upside down so that eye bolts may be screwed into the bolt holes used to attached the legs.
Another view of the same.  The Transporter stands nearby, its platform lowered, ready for the next day's load.  One corner of the window can be seen in the upper right corner of the picture.

10   11 Once long ago, a draftsman at Hendey inked his compass, leaned over his drawing, and in a matter of a few seconds drew two concentric arcs.  Those same arcs can be seen here, a hundred years later, in this pair of cast iron legs.
Above, left, various of the major parts, already moved up to the garage, ready to be loaded onto the truck.

By the time I got there the next evening, the lathe bed was gone, with only two faint tracks in the lawn outside the window showing where it had gone. . .

Nader lights:
A federal safety law that became effective, I think, in 1966 required, among other things, all new automobiles to have lights visible from the side, near the front and back of the car.

A chassis punch
A chassis punch
The two halves, placed on each side of the sheetmetal, with the screw passing through a small hole, shear a large hole as the screw is tightened.
Automobile design prior to that often had the sides of the body extended beyond the headlights in the front and the tail lights in the back.  At night, at certain angles, these cars would have no lights showing at all. 

The first implementation of these lights often were additional light assemblies added to the sides, almost as an afterthought to the design.  At the time, these were commonly called "Nader lights," in recognition of the work of Ralph Nader in pushing for safety features in cars.  Car designs since that time have included side visibility in the parking light housing.

My dad, perhaps because he was injured in an auto accident as a child, was quick to adopt safety features as their benefits became apparent.  He installed seatbelts in the cars he owned, starting with our 1949 Ford and continuing until the cars he bought came with factory-installed seatbelts.  He also put amber inserts in the front turn signals of our 1956 DeSoto, but that may have been just showing off.

Dad's 1966 Ford and my 1966 Opel were candidates for Nader lights, so dad designed and made light assemblies with aluminum bodies and amber or red lenses, that could fit nicely into holes made by the largest size chassis punch he owned.  The bodies were held in place by large diameter fine-pitched nuts which threaded onto the body of the assembly from the back.  Each assembly contained a bayonet socket for a #57 (14.0 Volt, 0.24 Amp, 3.36 Watt) lamp. 

It takes some nerve and a conviction that you can carry through to take a center punch and hammer and deliberately deface a perfectly good automobile, then drill through the fender.  Dad's largest chassis punch's screw was so large we actually had to use a smaller chassis punch to make a hole large enough.  

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