One way of moving and installing a Harrison M300 lathe

In the summer of 2004 I saw an eBay auction for a Harrison M300 lathe and decided that was the one I would get to replace my small Myford Super 7. I'd considered buying a Harrison V330 from a dealer the year before, but agonised over the decision so long that the lathe was gone when I phoned to say I'd take it (probably just as well, with hindsight). However, during that period I'd spent a lot of time measuring my very compact workshop, using CAD to examine possible locations. So by the time this new one appeared I knew I could just about manoeuvre it in with an inch or two to spare. This one was 4 years younger (1999) than the V330, in excellent condition and very well equipped. In the end, I got it for the same price as the older, well-used, ex-industry V330 so it was a bargain from my point of view.

It was one of a pair that had only seen about 3 years use in a new school's technology workshop. It was still in-situ and the new term was starting in one week so the school wanted it removed while the place was empty of kids. The biggest problem was that the school was in Devon and I was located in London - meaning a 440 mile round trip.

M300 in its original setting


Surprisingly, the eBay ad didn't feature a picture. This is the shot the school manager sent me when I asked if he had any photos of the item. It was obvious that if you cleaned off the dried coolant and oil there was an almost new M300 underneath. I crossed my fingers and toes and hoped he hadn't sent the same shots to other potential bidders. In the end there was only one other serious bidder. It turned out he represented a Harrison main agent, the same agent who had sold the machine new to the school a few years previously. They obviously knew the machine in question, so didn't need a photo to prompt a bid. If the original main agent was trying to buy it back, it must be a good one. After cleaning, it would probably have gone on sale at twice the price I paid, plus VAT.


The lathe was exactly as pictured above when I arrived with a hired Transit van to remove it. I'd bought a 2-tonne engine crane with all-swivel wheels specially for the task. First I disconnected loose cables and removed the splash-back. I then checked that the lathe's four holding down bolts had been removed, swung the crane into position and began to raise it using a lifting sling. Nothing moved for a while, the crane began to bend and there were lots of creaks from the cabinet. Then there was a loud bang as the paint seal between the base and the floor was broken. The lathe must have been installed before the paint had cured - the lathe had become 'glued' to the floor. If I was doing that again I'd lift the tailstock end first just to break the seal at one end, rather than trying to lift at the centre of gravity and 'suck' it all off the floor symetrically.

Parked outside

Initial defeat

A second lift was abandoned when the headstock end still refused to leave the ground cleanly. It turned out the installer had used some sort of bolt gun to fire a heavy stud into the concrete floor through a hole in the base of the electrics cabinet - presumably as a belt-and-braces earth terminal. When this was unscrewed, the lathe was finally airborne.

The nearest exit was only a few yards away, but outside was acres of loose gravel - so that one was out. The next nearest door was about forty yards away across a gym - but the crane would have pressed deep grooves in the parquet floor. That left the main rear entrance, which meant pushing the loaded crane about 80 yards through the school along carpeted corridors with the occasional small lip to negotiate. Pushing the heavy crane on carpet was like swimming in thick treacle. I don't recommend it. Even with an extra helper or two it took an hour to move the lathe the 80 yards to outside hardstanding.

This is where the real problems started. The van I'd hired looked plenty high enough to accommodate the lathe and crane, but in order to raise the lathe high enough to clear the lip of the floor, the tip of the crane jib fouled the roof. Various approaches were tried without success. It was also clear that even if the lathe could be wangled in somehow, it would be a pig to get out again. The hired van was due to be returned in the morning with no extension allowed (it was already booked out to someone else). I had visions of the lathe later becoming stalled half-in, half-out while the van blocked the narrow street where I lived and with the hire company threatening to sue. It was already late afternoon and I had a 220 mile drive ahead of me before unloading in the dark. I decided I had no choice but to retire gracefully and return another day with a properly thought out system. The lathe had to be parked out in the open near the school's rear entrance (see above) and the town searched for spray grease to coat it against a week's weather. Luckily it was a coastal town so there were garages with marine spray grease available.

2 tonne engine crane

Round two

My first thought on getting home was to put the lathe back on eBay, to try to cut my losses and leave the problem to someone better equipped. I'd taken some reference shots before we left the school with just that in mind so I uploaded a listing. But as the week progressed I began to hatch a better plan. If the lathe could be swung sideways, the jib would fit low in the gap between headstock and tailstock. But I knew the transit wasn't wide enough to take the lathe sideways - the raised wheel arches get in the way. So that meant something like a tail-lift lorry. But how do you get it off the tail-lift and into the lorry proper? In addition, a narrow street and sloping ground at the delivery point would mean the tail-lift could only ground at one corner.

Then I hit on the idea of loading onto a Transit flatbed from the side, with the crane's legs able to pass either side of the Transit's rear twinwheels. This seemed to solve all the problems I'd encountered - so I cancelled the eBay auction and booked a second vehicle. Luckily the good weather held and was clear and dry for the whole week that the lathe stood outside the school (greased and tarped though, just in case).

M300 en route Dropsides keep loose stuff in
As you can see in these pictures, a dropside was hired, which is a flatbed but with added side boards that let you load loose items too (like the crane). It also has sunken lashing hooks inside on the flatbed, so you get the best of both worlds. Even though the crane could only place the lathe about a foot in from the side, the Transit's suspension system equalized the load well and there was no tendency to list. I used a pallet to take up the gap in front of the lathe to prevent it sliding forward on braking. It was also strapped to side and rear to counter any tendency to tip on corners. The slow, gentle journey home was uneventful and the lathe came off as easily as it went on. See the list at the bottom of this page for more moving tips.

Cleaning down after delivery Cleaning up

Here you see the lathe and crane parked after arrival, with the lathe being cleaned and stripped. The cabinet's angled front waistband has been removed to make the lathe as narrow as possible (remove three screws, one in each end cupboard and one underneath in the middle). The front switchplate has also been unscrewed, disconnected and removed. A lot of items like the toolpost, topslide and chuck were removed and brought back on the first trip as the school manager warned us that in his experience anything loose would disappear once the kids got back. Next came the problem of moving the M300 up a step, sharp right through the porch and into the workshop...

A set of wheels

The M300 weighs about 650kgs all up. I made up a pair of wheeled boards, one for each cabinet column, and held in place by the cabinet's four large holding down bolts. The eight swivel trolley wheels spread the load well, with each wheel having a capacity of about 72kgs. 8 x 72 = 576kgs, which is fine for the reduced weight of the stripped down lathe. I used heavy-duty kitchen surface board, as I had some spare. You can get this stuff cheap from DIY stores if it has a damaged top or chipped corner. The thicker the better, but at least 30mm. Or get some free from a skip. The wheels I used came from Machine Mart - model number ML250S, part number 051320055. (Sink their mounting bolt heads flush with the top surface.) When it was mounted on the these boards I was able to push the lathe around easily on my own. I've marked one of the boards up with dimensions if anyone needs to make a pair. These fit the later style cabinet, so will probably need modifying for the earlier cabinet which has external foot-bolt brackets.

Trolley board constructed

Getting it rolling

I used a car jack to lift each end alternately and chock with wood inbetween lifts. It took about 4" of lift to get the wheel boards underneath and the bolts dropped in place and nipped up.

Trolley board dimensions Lifted with car jack Ready to roll

Next I made a platform at the level of the porch floor. This would allow me to roll the lathe in and manoeuvre it round a dog-leg and into the workshop. The porch door was removed, then the wheeled lathe was picked up with the crane and place on the platform, partially through the doorway. It was then easy to push and swing it through a reverse turn into the workshop. Final cleaning and fitting was done, some new guards fitted and the inverter drive and electrics tested while the lathe was still moveable. It was then jacked up once more, the platforms removed, footpads fitted and lowered into its final position. As I've kept the ramp and wheeled platforms, removal from the workshop would just entail the same process in reverse. I sold the crane for what I paid for it, so the actual cost was two van hires and a pile of diesel - could have been worse.

Door platform

Being rebuilt indoors In final position

Here you see the lathe being rebuilt after cleaning and before a new belt guard was fitted. As you can see there's no room for the splash-back - that's had to be stored away - but I do my cutting dry so the wall acts as a pretty good swarf guard. Everything has to be this snug to the wall as my workshop is shaped a bit like a corridor. I can now see that the Harrison V330 wouldn't have fitted as its bigger motor and control box project a lot more at the rear.

Moving tips (in no particular order)

  • If using a crane, get a foldable 2-tonne with swivels all round (for moving sideways) via eBay. With lesser capacities the arm can't be moved far enough out to give a decent lift - it's only 2-tonne capacity with the arm at its shortest setting. Don't ecconomise - you'll get most of your money back when you sell it anyway.
  • Prepare for the worst. Take spray grease and a tarp in case the lathe gets a soaking.
  • Get some heavy duty ratchet cargo straps so you can pull everything up tight when the lathe is loaded.
  • Remember, it WILL take longer than you think.
  • You can never have too many helpers.
  • Once loaded, don't do heavy braking when a queue appears or you may get pushed through the windscreen. And if it's going to tip over, it will be on a roundabout, so negotiate them accordingly.
  • Get a Transit sized twinwheel dropside for preference.
  • Stop regularly and check the load - driving loosens everything.
  • Take some 3' lengths of 2"x1" or 3"x2" timber, which you can use to pinch the crane forwards over small obstacles or ridges - it won't be pushable over even the slightest obstruction.
  • Never let any part of your body pass through the lathe's gravity shadow.
  • If possible give yourself a day to load and a second day to unload.
  • Vans are wider and taller than you think. (Except inside, where the opposite is true.)
  • Rehearse the whole process mentally and make a note of any tools or equipment you appear to need.
  • The earlier M300 bed has a convenient tapping near the headstock for a lifting eye bolt (12mm I think). Ship chandlers do nice stainless steel ones on eBay for little money.
  • The later bed doesn't have an eye-bolt tapping. So get a 2 metre cargo sling and wrap it twice round the bed web nearest the headstock. This avoids wrapping it around the whole bed, which guarantees bending the saddle feedbars etc. A 1 metre sling is too short to offer flexible lifting options - 2 metre is preferable.
  • Move the saddle and tailstock full right to help balance the bed better for lifting. The headstock will still sink but can be realigned by a strap pulled from the cabinet up to the crane jib.
  • Take some old carpet or similar to protect the lathe from banging against the crane upright when lifting or moving.
  • Make sure you take enough tools to prep the lathe before transport. Small electrical tools, wire cutter, junior hacksaw, appropiate spanners + adjustable, copper mallet, allan keys, larger screwdrivers, heavy gloves and lots of paper towel are just for starters. And wear steel toed boots if you have them.
Any questions I can help with, just e-mail:
web dot master at riscy dot uk

You can get more information on Harrison lathes by joining the Yahoo Harrison lathes group
neil f, 2003-2018

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