Concrete floors and tin can machines

Written by David Savage

Originally published as Concrete floors and tin can machines in Woodworker Magaine / Circa 1991 - 1992

Part 2 of a series of 2

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bench saw machine

OK, enough about dealers. What do you do when you have bought the things? Well you have got to get it back to your place and having got it back you have got to get it inside your place. Bear in mind these machines, as I said earlier, can weigh anything upto a ton so the sensible approach is to have them delivered on what is called a “HIAB” or a crane lorry. Now crane lorries are great fun. Before I discovered them it used to be much sweating and heaving, getting machines down off lorries onto forklift trucks, getting fork lift trucks across steps upto workshops. Now the answer is to insist that any machine that I buy comes on a big crane lift lorry. And I mean a big one because we have to park the lorry outside our shop and get the machine inside a door which is some fifteen feet from the kerb. It is a wonderful sight seeing one of these dirty great machines dangling on the end of the arm of a crane. A good crane lift operator can more or less set the machine down exactly where you want it inside the door and into your workshop. When, like me, you have attempted to lift a one ton machine up a six inch door step you will realise what a superb service this is.

A good crane lift operator can more or less set the machine down exactly where you want it inside the door and into your workshop.

So having got the beast into your lair what do you do with it. We have found that three or four scaffold tubes make pretty good aids to moving old cast iron machines around the workshop. You put two tubes down underneath its toes and poke one up its bottom and it will generally go where you want it to go, but then wouldn’t anybody!

So you have spent the winter playing three dimensional chess, working out where it is these machines are going to go, you have got them delivered and what’s the next step. Well I suggest that a close look at your floor would be a good idea. Concrete floors are great for hefty old ladies. Don’t worry too much about tin can machines, they can go more or less where you would like to put them, but heavy cast iron machines do like to be on a fairly level surface. This is especially important with machines with cast iron carcases and frames because cast iron is one of those materials that settles to accommodate the shape of the floor that it is sitting upon. So you put a heavy planer thicknesser on a concave floor and in a few months, or maybe less than that — maybe only a few weeks, the machine will settle into that concave. This will do two things, firstly it will put stress on the bearings and cause premature bearing failure and secondly it will possibly put the tables out of true. The way to avoid this is to set a straight edge or bubble on each of the tables and set all of them level by packing up beneath the feet of the machine or by adjusting set screws if they are provided in the adjustable feet of your machine. Provided that you understand the machine has been designed and constructed to run with its tables level and you provide that condition you should have no problems.

 However, I have found that the heavier the machine is the less vibration I get at the cutter head.

By “Tin Can” machines I mean those machines with probably a good heavy cast iron table and a fabricated carcase or under carriage. I know it sounds rude but I think that most modern machines fall into this category, we have two or three in our own workshop and I have had quite a number in the past that have served me very well. However, I have found that the heavier the machine is the less vibration I get at the cutter head. Now modern machine manufacturers will claim that by sophisticated engineering and the balancing of cutter blocks they can eliminate all vibration. Well I would hate to disagree with learned experts but I think I must in this case do so. The point about vibration is important because if your job is bouncing up and down on the machine table you are not going to stand a very good chance of getting a clean cut because the cutting action is compromised by the vibration.

As I write this now we have a new machine shop just on the point of coming into operation. The machines have been installed, most I think have been wired up, they have yet to be finally set up and levelled and none of them as yet done any work in anger, at least not in my hands. I would think that of the four machines that I have decided to install in there all of them are over 20 years old and I would think that all of them will serve me for a further 20 years, if not Brian Stacey at Daltons will be getting a ear full.

The machines we have decided to put in are a “Wadkin BAOS 12″ planer thicknesser”. This is a nice little tool which is quite expensive at nearly £2000.00 + VAT, but Planer Thicknessers get a lot of work and are quite complex machines, so I feel this is money well spent. Along side this we have installed a small Wadkin bandsaw, I think the model is MZF this is a Bandsaw of fabricated heavy gauge steel rather than cast iron construction. I paid probably as much for a Bandsaw over 20 years old as I could have for a brand new Band Saw’ of the same size. Having seen it I think I have made the right decision. The third machine which is more or less taking up half of the available space in this machine shop is a “Wadkin BGP Panel Saw” with a scribing attachment. I must admit having been talked into this machine by the various craftsmen here, I will report to you later on how well it does the job, all I can say about it at the moment is it’s damn big. The last one to come was a superb “Wadkin EQ Spindle Moulder”. I paid a lot of money for this machine over nearly £2500.00 + VAT, but it has been totally reconditioned by Daltons. I am glad I bought this now, though at the time I was worried I was spending far too much money. It will I am sure last us many years, it has been beautifully re—conditioned, it looks superb and I am sure it will serve us very well. Just how well I will report to you later on, when we have got it working.

David Savage
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