UPDATE - Oops, a lawyer just saw my site and flipped. Unfortunately I can't tell said lawyer to take a hike as she's my sister. So in the interests of familial tranquility, I have to add this annoying disclaimer.

This web site outlines how I tackled some projects, while doing my best to be safe, legal, and all-around sensible. Just because I could do these things without crushing any limbs, burning down the house, letting the dogs out, destroying my car, annoying the local gendarmerie, or running afoul of Town Hall, does not guarantee that you will be able to do the same. While I hope that the material here will prove helpful, you emulate my procedures entirely at your own risk.

Latest Update - July 2, 2005

Bridgeport in the Basement

Moving an ancient Bridgeport mill over the river and through the woods, and eventually down a hole

The Problem: A Bridgeport mill (old cylinder ram model [under construction - meanwhile, here's the patent] with an M head and the little 32 inch table) has to be moved from Gold Machinery, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to the middle of Massachusetts, a matter of a trifling 60 miles or so, and moved into a residential cellar which lacks any civilized access to ground level. Furthermore, this is a solo effort, and I have no heavy moving equipment (pickup trucks, trailers, dollies, cranes, etc) and nobody I can borrow such from, at least not locally. It looks like this will be a Learning Experience.
I have no experience whatever with trailers; nevertheless a trailer seems like the way to go. First, the trusty Tercel needs a hitch. I found a pretty good bolt-on one from Hidden Hitch. I bought their wiring set too. Apparently auto flashers aren't happy with the extra load of the trailer's directionals, so a trailer can't simply be wired in parallel with the car's lights. I ran the wire out the trunk as shown, which wouldn't be too good if I was using this every day. The hitch is rated for Class I trailers, which are limited to 2000 pounds gross weight (trailer plus load) and 200 pounds weight on the hitch. As the mill weighs something like 1500 pounds, I only have about 500 pounds available for the trailer itself. The commercial trailers I've seen either weigh more than this, or can't carry 1500 pounds. It looks like I will have to build something more optimized to the job.
Skipping over a boatload of work, here is the result, a light Bridgeport-sized Class I trailer made almost entirely of 2x6 inch lumber, held together with a hundred-odd 3/8x3 inch lag screws. The heads of the lag screws holding the bed to the trailer frame members are in counterbored holes, so the cargo sits on wood and not screw heads. Everything can be completely disassembled by removing the lag screws. I bought some commercial steel fenders but they had no adequate provision for attachment to the trailer, and they fell off somewhere on Route 495. So I made some wood ones. They look dorky but are much stronger than the metal ones.

This picture was taken after the mill was moved, as is obvious from the devil's hoofprint stamped into the wood.
The view of the underside of the front beam of the trailer and the coupler shows the reinforcing caps. Unsupported wood didn't look strong enough at the attachment point for the coupler, so I welded up these caps of 1 1/2 x 1/8 inch angle iron. They are clamped to the wood top and bottom by a pair of 3/8-16 threaded rods, thereby keeping the wood in compression so it won't split. The lower cap made a good place to attach the safety chains, too.
The trailer axle is from a '91 Tercel junker. The brake components have been removed. Someday I will get around to chucking the hubs in a lathe and cutting off the brake drums, just to save some weight. The wheels are stock Tercel items, and fit both the '91 axle, and the '96 which will be towing the trailer. The Toyota rear suspension - coil springs, trailing arms, and panhard rod - is not easily adapted to this trailer, so I used spare leaf springs and U-bolts for my '57 MGA. Those macho studded A-size snow tires fit the Toyota but are a bit bigger than the 155-13 Michelins I have on the car. The 155s are rated at substantially less than 1000 pounds, but the snows are rated just over, which is what I need for a Class I rig. So, onto the trailer go the snows.
A bottom view, showing the structural arrangements (but not the fenders). I considered making the main structural members of rectangular steel tubing, but I wanted to be able to disassemble the trailer for storage, and to do such a trailer in steel, I'd be welding and drilling little bolt tabs for weeks. Also, I wanted a wood bed, so that I could nail chocks around the mill. I believed that a wood frame with several box sections and diagonal members would be sufficiently strong, stiff, and light - and so it proved.
I have no photos of the actual haul. Doing this whole project solo, I had nobody to delegate to get some action shots. But as we see here, everything survived the trip from Rhode Island in fine form.

If I was going to do this often I'd put stronger springs on the trailer. The MGA is a stiff little car but its springs just aren't enough for a 1500 pound load - I think I came back the whole way with the wood frame resting on the trailer axle. I kept the speed down - 45 max - and made it a point to dodge potholes.
The mill is kept in place with 2x4 and 2x6 chocks nailed to the trailer bed. That's about 40 feet of 800-pound chain there. I left it as one long piece so I could use it with the hoist later, without being stuck with a bunch of useless little pieces of chain. I made chafe guards out of some old washing-machine drain hose, which fit easily over the chain links. The chain is shacked to six good forged eyebolts (not the feeble type used to hold up clotheslines) bolted to the bed. I didn't bother to invert the head during transport, as is standard practice with J heads, because the M head is so light - it can't weigh more than 20 pounds with the motor removed, a far cry from the J head's porky 200 or so. Also, the oil runs out of the M head if it's tipped over.
A derrick and chain hoist lifts off the head, ram, and turret in one big lump. The M head isn't heavy, but the ram and turret sure are. The hoist is a 2000 pound Chinese cheapo. The derrick is made of iron plumbing-type pipe, 2" nominal size (heavy and annoyingly expensive, if bought new).

Note the strange mottled look to the gray finish. It seems that someone once repainted this mill in a color very close to the original Bridgeport gray, but they didn't do a very good job, as most of the new paint is crinkling and peeling. Wire wool removes it, and reveals maybe 80-85% original paint underneath. The slightly lighter gray in the photo is the new stuff.
Extra 2x6 boards are always handy.
With the head, ram, and turret safely out of the way, the derrick lifts the mill enough to pull the trailer out. The trailer is light enough to wrestle around by hand.
The head, ram, and turret are wrestled around to the back of the house, and the derrick is set up again. Note that one leg of the derrick is now shorter, and braced over the bulkhead door.
The view from the infernal regions.
The head, ram, and turret are lowered down the stairs, sliding on loose boards.
This experience convinced me that loose boards aren't so good for this sort of activity. I used a more rigid slide for the mill move, made of my usual 2x6 inch lumber and 3/8 x 3 inch lag screws. Lag screws of that size are getting hard to find in my area, as I seem to have exhausted the local supply.
And here she is, all comfy on the floor. Were I to do this again, I'd take the motor off (easily done without the hoist) and separate the head from the ram (also easily done without the hoist), so that I could clunk the turret and ram around without worrying about damaging anything on the head.
Here is a cart I put together for this project. The rolling parts are doubled-up wheels from two identical old Sears lawnmowers. The axles are sawn from a piece of 1/2 inch diameter steel rod. The structures the wheels are in are 2x4s doweled and glued together. The upper cross pieces are attached with the ubiquitous lag screws, so this thing can be disassembled easily for storage. The vise is a sturdy no-name item which came with the mill.
Trouble on the horizon - the forecast is rain. I set the mill on some 4x4s, squirted oil on all the bare metal surfaces, and draped a plastic sheet over everything. A new sheet is a worthwhile investment - there's no need to use that old one that's lying around, the one with the tears and holes in it. Residents of Cambridge MA may note that this makes my lawn look a bit like the big central courtyard at MIT - a flat lawn with a stupid modern sculpture plopped down off to one side. MIT has an ornate neo-Classical facade which clashes badly with the sculpture. I count myself fortunate to have no such problem, as my house looks like a big alphabet block without the alphabet - not a damn thing classical about it.
Better weather next day. I set up the derrick and lifted the mill onto the cart. Everything rolls easier on the plywood than on the grass. I levered the cart along with a leftover piece of 2x6. One of the plastic lawnmower wheels failed under load (no real surprise there) but the other seven held up just fine.
The mill has been rolled around back to the bulkhead, and the derrick set up as before, with one short leg and two long ones.
Now is when we separate the sheep from the goats, all right.

Previous experiment had shown that the chain slung under the knee would be at a balance point, and the mill would hang at about the right angle to go down the stairs. So, down we go, with some convincing from the ubiquitous 2x6 lever.
It's all a matter of viewpoint. Somehow she looks a lot bigger from down here.
At a certain point on the mill's way down the ramp I ran out of hoist chain. It is only a six-foot hoist - not quite enough - so I had to reposition it. The mill still needed support to keep it from crashing down the ramp, so I chocked it from below (with a 2x4 lag-screwed to the ramp boards). I then disassembled the derrick, placed one of the derrick legs across the bulkhead, and slung the hoist from that. Then I pulled the mill back up a few inches, and removed the 2x4 chock.
Here's how it all looked at the business end. This would have been a lot more complicated if the mill had one of the larger tables, as the 32-inch table just cleared the sides of the doorway. Widening the doorway is impractical, it being concrete. I took off the handles but that only increased the clearance by two or three inches.
Those of you who have never had occasion to see the nether region of a Bridgeport will be interested in this view.
Finally, down on the floor, with no damage to the mill or Yours Truly.
The mill can be rolled around the cellar on my trusty little cart, or on pipe rollers, or whatever, but she still has to be lifted a bit to be put on them. The ceiling is seven feet to the bottom edges of the joists, and the derrick won't fit, at least not gracefully. But the hoist can still do the job when slung from 2x4s attached to the joists with my trusty lag screws. Should the lag screws pull out, no great disaster, as things don't have far to fall - only a few inches. And we know better than to stick our hands or feet under heavy objects suspended from temporary rigs, right?

The Chinese cheapo hoist had one of those attractive orange covers on each side, but one side fit so poorly I took it off, and just exercised due diligence to keep my fingers out of the mechanism. Despite the poor cover fit, the hoist worked well.
Here she is, finally backed into her corner.

If the cart hadn't proven strong enough, I would have tried putting the mill on a piece of plywood with golf balls underneath (for years I've been looking for an excuse to try that), or maybe I would have used the old pipe roller technique. But no matter, the cart worked just fine. I used the hoist again to lift the mill enough to remove the cart.
However, putting the turret back presents a problem. The four bolts which clamp the turret to the top of the column stick out the bottom a few inches, so the turret must be raised quite high to put it in place. Unfortunately, the hoist takes up too much space to do the job, given my seven-foot ceiling. A lever arrangement comes to the rescue.

Doing this part solo was even more of a chore than the rest of the move. I'm still not sure just how I managed to hang off the far end of the lever while simultaneously getting all four bolts to go where they had to go, but I am sure I'm glad that there were no witnesses.
This looks like a good spot, flanked by two lathes. Actually, now that she's in and reassembled, it looks like there's plenty of room in there - maybe I could have fit a J head in after all.

Both sides of the mill are accessible, and the table is unrestricted. To rotate the turret much, the ram has to be pulled out a bit, otherwise its aft end is too close to the corner, but I don't see that as a problem.

Too bad that corner of the cellar looks like a prison cell. I don't think they make girlie calendars big enough to cover up those dreary cement walls. I will have to think of some other way to spiff the place up. I suspect I'll end up with the same stuff as everybody else - pegboard tool racks.

Next adventure - Three-phase wiring

Here are some other Bridgeport owners who have documented their Adventures in Moving - Now 'twould be a poor world indeed if people moved nothing but Bridgeports. So here are some other machine owner's interesting Adventures in Moving - Here are other Bridgeport owners with documentation of their non-moving adventures -
  • Kay Fisher has overhauled a round-ram M head Bridgeport of 1947 vintage. His page skips over the business of moving it, unfortunately. He concentrates on his adventures in stripping and painting, installing a DRO, and installing a one-shot lube system. The page has a link to a 2.4 MB pdf file of Bridgeport manual M-105H (for J head dovetail ram mills, not round ram M head mills). - Oops, never mind, link is dead.
My sources for moving supplies and parts -
  • I bought the wiring harness and basic hitch hardware from Hidden Hitch
  • The tail lights and hitch coupler are available from etrailerpart. Wal-Mart had a pretty decent stock of trailer components, too, last time I looked.
  • The chain hoist is a generic cheapie from eBay. I bought this one from awsometools for about $10, although it cost another $20 to ship - not too bad, considering how vital it was to this whole operation
  • The hitch ball, chain, shackles, lag screws, threaded rods, pipes, angle iron, and wood are all standard hardware store or Home Depot stuff.
Bridgeport mills, general info - not as much online as one would think. The official sites - www.hardinge.com, www.bpt.com, www.bridgeport.co.uk (these last two link to the same site) - don't seem to be of much use to owners of older mills.
  • Tony Griffiths has the big site for info on lathes, mills, and shapers, at www.lathes.co.uk.
  • Serial number info is here. Note - the machine serial number is the one on top of the front end of the Y ways. There is a sliding chip shield which can obscure it. The serial number stamped on the head is NOT the machine serial number.
  • PracticalMachinist is a forum devoted to all sorts of machine and machine-shop questions. There is a section dedicated to Bridgeport and Hardinge - not an obvious combination, at least before Bridgeport folded. Unfortunately some of the posted info on round ram and M head machines is downright bizarre. On the other hand, there's some good material on Van Norman hidden in there.
  • There are two Yahoo web groups devoted to Bridgeport mills -
    I don't know why there have to be two distinct groups devoted to the identical subject. Maybe it's a feud. Anyway, I can't report that I've been much impressed with either group.

    The two Big Questions always posted to these groups by new owners are -

    How can I get this thing running now that it's in my garage?
    The replies to this are inevitably from Variable Frequency Drive groupies, to which I say, phooey. The machinists who used your mill back when it was new didn't need VFD, and neither do you. Set yourself up for 3-phase the simple and cheap way, with an idler motor and a capacitor. I even show you how to do it.
    Where can I get the manuals?
    And they're no help at all on this one. A useful group would have these posted as GIFs or PDFs. It hasn't happened, at least not yet. I'd have them posted here, except that I don't have the right manuals either.

    UPDATE - Nov. 2004 - the bridgeport_mill group is making some effort to get a decent assortment of manuals posted. Check there for the latest developments. As of Feb. 2005, everything there is cataloged, described, and linked on my literature page.
    Aside from the two Big Questions, there's a lot of wasted bandwidth going on about paint. It seems to be a common belief that if one doesn't immediately disassemble and repaint one's newly-acquired mill, something terrible will happen. Speaking as an owner to whom nothing terrible has yet happened, I say again, phooey. This painting obsession sounds to me like the most sure-fire way to ensure that you get stuck with yet another unfinished project. Screw the paint - unless, of course, some barbarian has painted your machine a dire institutional green - in which case, full steam ahead.

  Updates: October 13, 2003
December 9, 2003
December 14, 2003
January 2, 2004
February 27, 2004
April 4, 2004
August 31, 2004
September 1, 2004
November 28, 2004
December8, 2004
July 2, 2005

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