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Would YOU put a small mill and lathe on casters?

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erikmannie

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I joined this forum because I just bought a Precision Matthews PM-25MV with DRO and PM-1030V with DRO. I also bought the stands for these machines from Precision Matthews.

My shop is a 2 car garage that I have all to myself, but it was already almost full before I bought these machines. It already has a bicycle repair area and six welding carts, among other things.

I am always moving most of the welding carts off into the bicycle repair area when I work at my welding table. I only bring the welding carts that I will use for that task.

I will be putting my welding table and two workbenches on casters, but I sure am reluctant to put the mill and lathe on casters. I Googled the matter, and it led me to a thread on this forum which shows that it can surely be done. I wanted to ask whomever is willing to chime in if they would do it. I am really leaning toward putting the machines in a prime spot, leveling them and leaving them there for their entire life.

It seems to me that one would have to check the level after moving the cart back to it's spot.

I should also point out that I am just starting out in machining. I am signed up for three classes that start in a few months. The closest training that I have had is bicycle frame building where we used a Bridgeport knee mill and a large horizontal mill. The instructor let us watch, but we were pretty much forbidden to touch the milling machines.

I will be using the machines to make parts for electric bicycles. It sounds like I should do my MIG and stick welding, grinding, and torch cutting as far away from the machines as I can.
 

cathead

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Welcome to the HM forum group!


I can appreciate the advantages of wheels on some shop tools but it is probably not a good idea on a lathe or mill.
Back in WWII, lathes were bonded to the floor with cement for rigidity and accuracy. Also any tendency for a machine
move around during operation would be a safety hazard. It's best to find a spot for your machines and leave it at that.

Good luck on your bicycle endeavors. It sounds like you are well on your way to an interesting career.
 

Downunder Bob

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WElcome, Yes I would highly recommend that you don't put lathes and mills on casters. If you absolutely have to move them make the casters so that you can wind them up an down and after each move you have to resettle the machine so it is flat and square.

The only exception would be in the case of mini machines if you set them on a very rigid base and square them up then the you can move them about base and all, but larger machines will,be a problem
 

DiscoDan

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I have a small P&W horizontal on a very sturdy metal cart with casters that lock and I have not had any issues.
 

mikey

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My lathe and mill are on Carrymaster leveling casters and I actually prefer it this way. I can easily move them by myself to clean or work on them if needed but they are rock solid once the wheels are off the ground. The mill need not be level; just stable. The lathe is re-leveled after every move (admittedly not that often) and checked every 6 months as part of my routine maintenance. I also re-level it after doing something heavy or if the work was out of balance. Lathes do not stay level; even one that is permanently mounted needs to be re-leveled from time to time. In a crowded shop, mobility can be an important option.
 

Flyinfool

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As mentioned, casters are not ideal and accuracy will suffer. If the reduced accuracy will not affect your needs then the answer is easy.
If Mobility is required, and since you have welding capability already, I would build a VERY stiff cart with retractable casters so that the machine is sitting solid during use. If you think your design is stiff enough, double the strength and you might be close to stiff enough. Look at how stiff the machine looks, The machine is no where near stiff enough and will flex in use. Your base needs to be even stiffer. The bases made by the manufacturer are stiff enough when permanently mounted and leveled.
If you make that stand with just 3 points of contact it will always sit solid on all 3 points. If you have 4 or more contact points then it will always be rocking due to slight unevenness in the floor. The very best concrete work is not flat. You can make the cart with 4 casters for better stability while moving it around as long as the casters are retractable so that the machine is resting on 3 points for use.
 
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kb58

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... If you make that stand with just 3 points of contact it will always sit solid on all 3 points. If you have 4 or more contact points then it will always be rocking due to slight unevenness in the floor. The very best concrete work is not flat. You can make the cart with 4 casters for better stability while moving it around as long as the casters are retractable so that the machine is resting on 3 points for use.
This is exactly what I did for my PM935 mill for these same reasons.

For my Webb TSL-800 lathe, I compromised because it's got six leveling points. I used four leveling castors and two machine leveling pads.
 

Chewy

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I have the PM30-MV on casters and the PM1228VF-LB on 4x4's and metal shims. The mill works OK on most stuff but is not as rigid/ vibration proof as I would like. I have not settled on final shop arraignment so it will stay on 4" casters from Lowes. The PM stand is bolted to a reinforced piece of Advantech flooring as it is more dense than plywood. Go to Frank Hoose
and look at how he solves that problem. I am making the blocks now for my mill. Frank has a whole lot of info on the 1228 that will be the same as yours.

On the lathe, there are plenty of people who mount on mobile stands or tool boxes. There are a zillion articles and videos on how to mount and level a lathe. Bottom line is if you only work on small items you can get by with it. On longer items you start to get taper and bad cuts. A lathe must be straight/level/plumb across the bed to be accurate. With that in mind, I placed the lathe on wood blocks and shimmed it until a Starret 98-6 level said good. The lathe can always be moved later if needed. Your space and money will dictate your choices as did mine.

Building a drop down stand as suggested above is an alternative. Again if you are working a long piece you will have to re level after moving.

Good luck and hope you enjoy you new machines!!! Charles
 

BGHansen

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I had a Grizzly mill drill mounted on casters and never had a problem with accuracy. Mine was set on a piece of 1/2" plate steel that was bolted to an angle iron frame. The base had 1/2"-13 nuts welded to it in the corners with carriage bolts running to the floor. Pretty simple to crank up on the carriage bolts, roll it around, and run the bolts back down to take the weight off the casters.

No experience with a lathe on casters. I have moved them with an engine hoist or gantry crane a number of times. I check level after a move, then again in a week or so. If you were on casters and had leveling feet, seems like it'd be the same gig. If your work was within a few inches of the head stock, any twist in the bed would be pretty minimal, depends on the accuracy you are looking for.

Bruce
 

benmychree

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Twist in a lathe bed also effects how the carriage bears on the ways, it would tend to wear unevenly, not a good thing! For small lathes that are mounted to a bench on three points, this is not a problem, but lathes with four or more mounting points it is a problem, ideally lathes with four or more mounting points should be bolted to the floor and carefully leveled crosswise if mounted on four points, and leveled on both lengthwise and crosswise if more than four points to avoid a droop or hump in the middle of the bed. Also, a Starrett # 98 level is nowhere near sensitive enough for precision machinery leveling, being graduated in .005" per foot per graduation. Levels for precision leveling are graduated .0005" per foot, or even finer. A better approach for small lathes mounted on four points might be use of the two collar method of eliminating taper.
 

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I also work out of a two car garage and do machining, welding, grinding, powdercoating, metal forming and a little woodworking in the same space. I keep my RF30 mill/drill, 9x20 lathe and Atlas 7b shaper covered when not in use. The lathe and my surface plate are the only things that are not on castors in the whole shop and with that small of a space with that much machinery just about everything needs to move when different processes are going on. And the things that don't move are the hardest to clean around and under. Any inacuracies with lathe, mill, and shaper were not due to being moved in my experience. They were from mis adjustment, bad QC, wear and lack of experience. And all have gotten better with time and experience. YMMV.
 

wrmiller

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When I had my small lathe and mill, I had them mounted on 40" roll around toolboxes. I reinforced the tops to help alleviate twist, but my machines worked just fine. I did make some screwjacks to make the toolboxes more stable though.

I even have wheels on my PM935 mill. But it sits on the levelers when running. No wheels on my bigger (1340) lathe though.
 

RJSakowski

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Setting up a mill on casters, or free standing for that matter, can present a danger of tipping if the table is moved to an extreme position.This is particularly a problem with smaller bench type mills. The design should be checked for that possibility. I would check by moving the table to the extreme position and carefully add my body weight. If I sensed that the mill was starting to tilt, I would consider the design unsafe.

One solution is to place the casters on outriggers to increase the size of the footprint. Another would be to add some ballast to the base.
 

C-Bag

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Setting up a mill on casters, or free standing for that matter, can present a danger of tipping if the table is moved to an extreme position.This is particularly a problem with smaller bench type mills. The design should be checked for that possibility. I would check by moving the table to the extreme position and carefully add my body weight. If I sensed that the mill was starting to tilt, I would consider the design unsafe.

One solution is to place the casters on outriggers to increase the size of the footprint. Another would be to add some ballast to the base.
+1. The table my mill came with was heavy duty(all 1.5 square tube w/1/4" steel top) and was the width of the mill table, NOT the base. I thought it overkill at the time but now I realize it makes total sense. The mill table dictates the footprint, not the base. So it makes for a totally stable base for castors with no possibility of tipping in any direction. Also makes for a good top under the side of the mill table for tools etc and big enough for a toolbox with drawer under it. I don't often move the mill but when I need to I'm so glad it's on castors or I'd be getting out the engine hoist otherwise. The castors I got are from medical equipment and use a square tube mount and were easy to make levelers.
 

B2

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Hi,

I purchased a bigger mill PM 940M CNC VS with stand and put it all on locking casters. The casters are actually mounted to 3/8" thick steel plates which together form a dolly. Since, I was putting the Mill in my basement area and had a tight fit I made the dolly to move the mill. I then took it off the dolly amd mounted the dolly to the base before lifting the mill onto the base. I also block the wheels, but it is be better to lift the mill slightly off the wheels and block it to the floor. On the casters it vibrates slightly during heavy milling load but this is probably because without blocks it is not quite level and the wheels do not touch the floor equally. Also, I had move the control cabinet from the back to the side so it could be opened from the front and this creates a bit of a lever arm load on the mill. Nevertheless, the mill is heavy enough to handle this. The control electronics and box are heavy.....maybe/almost 200#s. However, I have not found the mill to walk around during operation. I designed the dolly plates to fit and bolt to the mill base (drilled holes and tapped into the base) after the wheels were bolted to the plates... and this still allow me room to slide my auto floor jack under each end to lift it slightly for the blocking. Here is an early picture of the installation. https://www.hobby-machinist.com/attachments/pm940m-cnc-front-i520-jpg.274812/

The machine is heavy, as are the base, the 6" mill vise (~90#s) and the dolly (~95#s) . This weight may make the machine more stable!?

I found the additional height to actually be comfortable to work at. The casters and dolly plates added about 6 to 7 inches to the
height of the work surface. I also found that the cast base material is not the greatest stuff for tapping. I used 1/4-20 and found that it worked better if the tap holes are undersized.

Good luck.

Dave
 

mattthemuppet2

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I don't see the problem if the bases are wide enough or the casters are far enough out that the machines can't tip if one of the casters rotates under the base or an unexpected load occurs. For machines that size I doubt bolting the base to the floor will increase rigidity or accuracy enough to notice above simply bolting them to a stout base. I would suggest locking casters at a minimum and consider easily settable jacks that will lift the bases off the casters if the machine will be in place for any length of time.

To the OP - one thing to do with your limited space is to forget how it looks now and to make up some plans with a blank sheet. Where can you get stuff off the ground and up on the walls (eg. bikes, lesser used tooling)? Where can you nest tools? eg. I have 3 bikes up on hooks on my garage wall, with a 4x6 bandsaw between 2 of them and a 3t arbor press on a stand between the other two. One of my girls bikes fits between the legs of the arbor press stand. My 10t hydraulic press (less frequently used) is behind one of the other bikes on the floor. The band saw is on wheels so I can move it out if I need more space. A welding table will take up alot of space for sure, so no great ideas for that one, but you can probably fit alot of stuff underneath it (some of those welding carts?). What does the space look like? Mine is 1/2 of a 2 car garage with a car in the other half, so all of my gear is in a square C shape along the outside walls with a bike work space in the center.
 

silence dogood

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I have very limited space in my shop. Even though I have 8" lathe and a mini mill, both of these machines are on casters. Both benches are made very rigid with thick braced tops that should eliminate twist. If these rigid benches are on an uneven floor, they will rock. When I move the bench around, I lock the casters and put a shim under the free caster. I've been looking into self leveling casters (just casters with springs) that I could make. Or make a walking beam suspension on the tailstock end, that way it would be a three point with a four point support. The legs of the bench also lean out especially the width. Adding weight such as tooling will help in keeping the center of gravity low.
 

C-Bag

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I picked up a 5gal bucket of these castors in a yard sale. They are used in med equipment and the guy said he got them off of equipment they were scrapping at a hospital. They looked brand new. As first I was baffled by the mount but it turned out to be easier than the usual bolt on as they plug right into 1 1/4" thin wall square tube. I then took some 1" bar stock and bored it 1/2" and welded that above the square tube. Ran a piece of 1/2" all thread though it with a nut and that's my height adjuster. I can get it dead level and no matter how long the whole thing sits the wheels don't seem to get flat spots. Got them on almost everything.
 

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Ulma Doctor

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i have one lathe on casters, a Shenwai 1236. (and i'd do it again if the need raised)

consider this point naysayers....
almost every naval vessel over 100 feet in length, will undoubtedly have a fully functional machine shop on board.
the machines are never level when underway.

can anyone tell me how the navy machinists can make just as accurate part when underway, as you can on your perfectly leveled lathe or mill to .0005"????

the naval machining must be magic, or, possibly too much emphasis is put onto esoteric gymnastics.

the latter appears true, in my pee brain
 

hman

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I've put several tools, including a 9x20 lathe, on a retractable caster system I came up with several years ago. Never did like the idea of the tool being able to roll when in use, so I retract the casters and let it sit on its feet. The casters are on a hinged plate, reinforced along the front edge to keep it straight and level. The "knee action" lift bar makes use of the two flat mating surfaces to maintain rigidity during while you're moving the tool around. Note that the lower pivot needs to flex in two directions (lift arm swing and caster plate tilt).

I've used this system with tools weighing up to 350 pounds and never had any problems. By positioning the pivot point of the knee action and the length of the lifting arm, you can design in the necessary leverage (within limits).

See also posts #18 and #23 at https://www.hobby-machinist.com/threads/bench-for-a-sb-9.63058/#post-608469

kHPIM2816.jpgkHPIM2817.jpgkHPIM2937.jpgkHPIM2939.jpgkHPIM2940.jpgkHPIM2941.jpg
 

C-Bag

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Very cool hman. Took me second to grok the whole thing as my eye got distracted by the wooden structure behind the lathe. I love those over center type mechanisms. Impressive.
 
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mattthemuppet2

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that's clever hman!

I made a rolling base for my 6x26 mill with levelling feet. Partly to raise it up a bit but also so I could move it more easily when needed. Push it into place carefully, then screw the levelling feet out until the casters are off the floor and the mill is more or less level. Wouldn't want to do it on a daily basis as it's a bit of a hassle, but makes rearranging the shop alot easier.
 

erikmannie

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Wow! I am surprised how many replies I got in less than 24 hours. This really is a friendly and helpful forum! I just found out that the PM-1030V with DRO is back ordered 10-12 weeks! The PM-1030V without DRO is available now. I will stick to my original plan and wait patiently. Like I said, my machining classes aren't until Oct-Dec of this year anyway. I had hoped to rent an engine hoist just once, but I guess that I will have to do the rigging on two separate occasions.

After paying $7,500 for the two PM orders (all of the money borrowed), I am actually too broke to buy casters at this point. My mill arrives in 2 weeks, so I will have time to mull over all of your informative responses (which I greatly appreciate).

A friend and I worked on a project this weekend which was a bicycle frame modification. With no mill or lathe in the shop, we did have enough room to work. Five of the eight (earlier reported to be seven total welding carts) of the welding carts were rolled into the side yard. I will try to upload pictures taken at the midpoint of the operation in the next post.

Just for fun, my eight welding carts are (1) Dynasty 210DX for TIG, AC stick welding jobs, E6010 or stick welding applications that call for adjustable arc force, (2) Millermatic 252 with .035" solid wire and C25 shielding gas, (3) Miller Thunderbolt 210 for all DC stick welding except E6010 (this machine does not run E6010), (4) Dual cylinder gas welding cart with medium and heavy duty torches as well as cutting torch, (5) currently inoperable Lincoln IdealArc 250 which was gifted to me and needs a cosmetic makeover (future project which includes painting it blue and slapping Miller badging on it--ouch!) for AC stick, E6010 and jobs that require over 210A, (6) TIG accessory cart for purge box, filler rod, TIG fingers, TIG pens and tungsten sharpener, and (7) PPE cart for gloves, welding helmets, respirators, and shading lenses. Seven of the carts have hangers for steel brushes as well as trays for a gas cylinder, so I have my spare C25, Argon and Oxygen cylinders on my stick, TIG accessory and PPE carts respectively. All of my cylinders except for the acetylene are only 80 cubic feet, so they don't last long. I am not so happy with these small cylinders, but this is about all that I can lift without worrying about my back. I need to have a healthy back for my day job. I store my filler rod on the gas and TIG accessory cart, and my stick electrodes live on the stick welding cart; as such, these carts are heavy. I spend a lot of time rolling these carts around.

I will be reading a lot of this forum every night. My neighbor across the street has asked me to cease operations at 9 PM.
 
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hman

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Very cool hman. Took me second to grok the whole thing as my eye got distracted by the wooden structure behind the lathe. I love those over center type mechanisms. Impressive.
Thank you! As for the structure, at the time I took the photos, it was still a work in progress. Eventually added en E-stop, some tool holder racks, and a fluorescent light. Here's a shot of the lathe from March of this year, when I sold it.
kHPIM5822.jpg
 

erikmannie

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I forgot to say that we had to move two bikes out of the garage in order to make room to work. It is going to be tight quarters with a mill and lathe.

I am planning to put the mill and lathe in the area where you see the hydraulic press and blue bench vise/full face helmet.

Looks like the max file size is 2MB.
 

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hman

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Looks like mobility is the wqy to go for you! I like your tool rack ... plus what looks like a handful of awards above the work bench.
 

erikmannie

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Looks like mobility is the wqy to go for you! I like your tool rack ... plus what looks like a handful of awards above the work bench.
I have never won any awards; those are certificates of completion for taking short courses.

The mill and lathe, however, will be awarded whatever locations are best for the machines. I won't move the two water heaters (hidden behind the racks of bicycle parts) or the repair stand, bicycle ground anchors and tube bender which are bolted to the floor.

Are these machines hard wired or plugged in? They are both 110V.

I would be excited to move the mill and lathe every six months to paint the walls. I understand that one needs to allow access to the electrical panel of the headstock on the mill; I wonder how many inches from the wall. Maybe this would also be enough to room to paint the wall behind it. Maybe I could also leave that much room behind the mill to paint the wall and sweep the floor.

The bicycle wheels on the wall are in the way of putting a bench or welding table over there. Once the benches and welding table are on casters, this problem would be solved. Those motors need to be kept bone dry so they can't go in a shed.

I am starting to realize that I will be forced to use casters to provide myself a place to stand while I work at the machines.
 

erikmannie

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So I have 100% decided to choose mobility. I will be looking at the help above and choose something rigid and able to be made level.
 

mikey

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Have a look at the Carrymaster line of leveling casters. Not sure how much your machines weigh but I usually double the weight of the machine and buy casters with that capacity. For example, if the lathe plus stand weigh 500# then I would choose casters that handle about 1200# per set of 4 casters. For Carrymaster, that would be their AC-300 line (300# capacity per caster). If you can, use the plate type with the four holes as it is more stable. The stem type with a smaller top platform and one central stud works well, too, but the top bearing surface is smaller.

Similar brands, like Foot Master, are okay but I have used them and find that the Carrymaster brand is more solidly made. When you lower the leveling foot on these casters, this raises the wheel completely off the ground. Being able to raise each corner makes leveling very fast and easy. When you need to move your machine, just raise the leveling foot until the casters contact the ground and you're rolling.

My RF-31 mill weighs somewhere near 800# with the stand. It is on four AC-300 casters (what I had on hand at the time) and I can roll it around with one finger, honest. When it is sited and off the casters it is as stable and solid as I could want, with zero movement. You would think that having it up on a foot would allow for excessive vibration but there is none that I would attribute to the casters. I have since obtained some AC-600's with 2400# capacity but the current casters work so well that I don't plan on switching them.

Anyway, have a look. They sound like they would suit your mobility needs.
 
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