Moving a Bridgeport Milling Machine Into A Basement Shop

How do I move a Bridgeport Milling Machine? Well, this is how a bunch of old croakers do it…………..
At long last my buddy Dave Bluett pulled the trigger on buying Robert Vogel’s  Bridgeport mill.  I wasn’t present for the negotiations, but judging by the amount of time they took, it must have been excruciating.  Finally, moving day arrived, and a tow truck was hired to do the grunt work. I wasn’t present for the 1st half of the load, but was told it went very smooth.  On hand were Mr Vogel, Dave, Eric Hoffmeyer, Sharon, Kenneth (Sharon’s son), and myself (at least at the offload).
**New** added 9 pictures for “Loading” mill, Thanks to  CAMS member Mark Long, who was kind enough to allow their use here. Mark was part of the crew that loaded out at Robert Vogel’s house and provided the pics and descriptions. A story without a beginning isn’t complete, so Thank you Mark, for filling in the blanks.

1. Sitting in the basement stripped down ready for load out…




2. Moved outside and staged to be lifted out by chain-fall…

3. Upward lift begins…

4. Everybody needs a chain-fall attached to their home…

5. Just about out of the basement…

6. Rolling on pipes across the stones toward the truck…

7. Ready to come-along up the ramps into the truck…

8. Rolling up the ramps into the truck…

9. Tied down, ready for the drive to Dave’s home. No free beer, but there was a free lunch courtesy of Robert and his wife Helena…

**Back to Mick’s Pictures…

Heres Dave (on the left), and Eric (on the right) rigging the ram with  some strapping.  The rigging strap is pulled in on the rams ways when the load is lifted, binding the strap stationary (at least that is the theory in a static universe).

There is Eric hooking the wrecker up to the mill as Kenneth looks on.  We took a few minutes to get the Mill set squarely on the wreckers wheel dolly, because we were headed down an off camber hill, in a fairly rain soaked back yard, and wanted the base pretty secure.

This is the point I started to get nervous, the ground was VERY soft, and the wheel dolly was flexing more than I wanted to see. As it tuned out, the dolly acted more to just keep the base steady (stationary) during the trek across the sloping back yard. Eric was quick to put us all at ease by repeating the phrase: “Don’t worry; I’m an Aviator!”, and shouting out Gyro readings during the move. It had a great calming effect. Eric proved to be an expert loadmaster, all kidding aside.

Here we are at the basement stairs (it took about a half hour to get lined up).  I started to get nervous again, because the rigging straps had shifted a little, putting the knee side of the mill a little low.  I was kicking myself for not bringing my eye hook to screw in the top of the ram, as this would have given us a hard point to snatch the load, and allowed us to level the load by moving the ram, but I forgot it, so…………

That’s Eric and myself wrestling the base into position, to rotate it, and drop it down the stairwell. The tow truck driver waited till we had 1500 pounds hanging 6 feet over the stairwell to ask us if we got that strap at the Dollar Store.  Thankfully, Eric knows a bit or two about rigging, and bought the good stuff.

Kenneth has the base on some rollers, and Eric is on the inside with his Johnson bar. I’m on the camera, trying to get my legs to stop shaking, and Dave and Sharon are handing over some shekels to the tow truck driver.  I have to give credit to the driver, I don’t know if I would have attempted to do this move, given the rain soaked ground, and the motley crew  we had on hand, but he did a great job of getting the mill in place.

Eric and Kenneth move the base on rollers with Eric’s Johnson bar, to get it to its final resting place.

Here it is in place after some other equipment was shifted slightly, so that the drawbar could be raised between the floor joists. A minor point, but a good thing to get straightened out before you fix the tool in place. At this point everyone was pretty whooped, and the decision was to quit work for the day, and finish assembling the mill tomorrow.

Here is the old Chicken thief hisself, and his willing accomplice, Sharon, happy to have the mill in the basement. Time to call it a night, and get back to it tomorrow……………..

……….Continuing on day two:

Here’s some of the hoard of parts that awaited us on Sunday morning (there were lots more).

Here’s the spindle head installed. I can laugh about it now, the two of us were huffing and puffing while Sharon tried to keep the four long bolts aligned in the spindle head (that thing got heavy!). In hind sight I would nod the ram head so that the four long bolts faced downward, laid the spindle head on the table, and raised it up to the ram head. It woulda been easier on the arms, for sure.

Dave inspects the pulley head, much lighter, and a one man job.

The motor is next. Two nuts, and your done. Dave found a couple of really nice quick change nuts in the loose parts box, that will make for fast belt adjustments. They didn’t show up till after the pics.

With the VFD Hobb-Knobbed together (temporarily),  we couldn’t resist a little test run. Dave fills the oil points before we fire it up.

With the head complete, we installed the table. It seemed to make sense to get the overhead stuff done before we were tripping over the table. Here’s a shot of the table gib in its proper orientation, which is installed AFTER the table is partially installed.

While Dave slides the table in, I slide the gib in from the other side. The gib screw fits into a slot on the gib that slides it into a taper between the table and the saddle. this takes up the slop in the table. Proper adjustment here will make the table slide like its on glass with no sideplay.

Dave has to “jiggle” the table as I feed the gib in, to get it seated all the way.

And me adjusting the set screw for the gib.

Time to oil the table screw, and install it.

We temporarily installed the handle to run the screw through the saddle nut, and the installed the end cap for the screw bearings. (Get a load of Dave’s “steel toed sandals”!).

Next is the power feed, pretty straightforward, its keyed to the screw with a woodruff key (as are the handles).

Dave tries out the power feed. The table feed is as smooth as it gets.

We installed the DROs next, and tried them out. This was a little nit-picky, but a bit of patience goes a long way here. The scales are very delicate and deserve kit glove treatment. As it turns out, one of the scales was damaged and we got an error code on the X axis when we turned on the display. This was the low point of the day.

With all the fiddly work done, it was time to plug the thing in and try it out. After adjusting the belts again, and checking the oil, Dave sat down to play with his new toy. Aside from the DRO problem, He was very happy to have the mill in place, and running. It was another long day, but very satisfying.

All things considered, what seems like a monumental task to anyone that’s never done it before was not really that bad. Most everyone involved had moved something heavy before, so a 2000 pound mill was not that big a stretch for us. This was the first time I had dropped one down into a basement, and would advise anyone doing this to use a eye hook in the ram head, for sure. It allows you to balance the load PERFECTLY while moving. This is the way shown in the factory manual (along with a forklift). I moved my mill with an eye hook (off my trailer), and the seller,  Fred Eisner (another CAMS member and recommended dealer)  loaded the mill on my trailer without incident. Above all, we moved slowly, and carefully. No-one was in a hurry to get hurt. Nobody ever got “confident”; I think everyone had a queasy feeling in their stomachs when we had the mill hanging off the back of a tow truck over a narrow stairwell. I know I did. We double-checked everything, and SAFETY was job one. Everyone went home happy, and in one piece. At the end of the day Dave had a VERY NICE  (undamaged) mill in his shop, for much less than it would have cost to have professional riggers to do the job. I would say that this move is within the capabilities of most people, if they can employ the help of enough friends that have tackled the task before. Just be patient, and above all; be careful.

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8 replies
  1. tom angell
    tom angell says:

    Great job! This was no easy task but you all made it look as if it were. I really liked the pix. IMHO it’s important to document these moves so that others can get a chance to see how it’s done. Kudos to one and all!

    Tom A

  2. Reed Martin
    Reed Martin says:

    Congratulations to the new parents who look so happy.
    May you have many happy years of projects on the Bridgeport.
    Thank you for showing us all the stages of the big move.

  3. David Gery
    David Gery says:

    Hello, I just read (1/1/11) your account of moving the Bridgeport mill. I found it very helpful especially since I’m looking to do a similar move. I’ve acquired a ’76 (using your dating information – THANKS!)J head Bridgeport that is very basic except for a BP longitudinal power table feed. It’s no cream puff either but it came to me quite inexpensively. While I’ve used Bridgeports and many other machine tools for years (since ’64 actually)I’ve done little serious work on them. I believe that it will be fairly easy to remove the table on this machine but I do have questions about removing the head: Is this best accomplished by removing the 4 – 1/2″ bolts securing the head to the “knuckle”? What is the best position for the head to be in during removal? As it is typically used or rotated into some other position? What is the safest way to sling it for removal? Thanks for any suggestions you can give me and if all these sort of questions can be answered from another source please let me know about that instead of taking your time to duplicate it. Best regards, David Gery

  4. admin
    admin says:


    Glad it helped. Good luck with the move. There seems to be two schools of thought on moving a mill; One is to disassemble the mill, either partially or totally. The other is to move it intact. My preference is the latter, providing you have some help and the right equipment. Its going to be very heavy either way. The move we documented (Dave’s mill) was taken apart due to the small stairwell going into his basement shop. When I moved my mill it was loaded onto a rented trailer by Fred Eisner of Yonkers NY with a forklift. Hes done this many times, and I took his suggestions on moving it, and had no problems, even though I offloaded it alone.
    I did not remove the head, but lowered the knee and table, and rotated the head 180 degrees (spindle facing upward). Then I brought the table back up, put a block of wood under the motor to cushion it, and locked everything down. This brings the center of gravity way down (Very important!). The Bridgeport is really top-heavy with the head upright, and will tip VERY EASILY!. Once you get that much weight moving (tipping or rolling), it will want to continue moving. Flipping the head, and lowering the knee and table will allow you to hang the mill off an engine hoist with little danger.
    One of the beauties of this mill is that there is a threaded hole on the top of the ram to accept an eye hook (different sizes on some mills). When you pick it up with a hoist, you can move the ram front or back to balance the load to be perfectly level. You can then drop a couple of 4X4s on the base of the engine hoist, lower it, and it becomes very stable and easy to move.
    The mill will come off the trailer pretty easy if you have some rollers and a winch or come-along (and preferably a friend). The come-along (between the trailer and the mill) is to keep the mill from sliding off the ramp and tipping over. Remember, these things have alot of inertia, they will slide on metal, but when they hit the bottom of the ramp, the base will dig in, and the top end will keep going. This will ruin your day, or kill someone. Use the winch/come-along to slow the descent down the ramp. At this point, you can pick it up, and move it where you want it.
    The main thing to remember is to move slowly and deliberately, and think it out before you get that much mass moving. If you are in a hurry, you need to find another hobby. The last thing you need is to get hurt or wreck your new toy.
    To answer your question about removing the head: If you nod the head 90 degrees forward, so that the four nuts on the front of the head are facing down, and raise the table up to the head, you can take the weight off of it for removal. This will be a great help when re-assembling, the bolts will hang straight down, and you won’t need a third set of hands to feed them in the holes while wrestling the head onto them. Let the machine take the weight, and just raise the knee. The head is heavy, and will roll off the table. Secure it, and/or have help before removing it from the knuckle.
    Use a little caution, and enlist the aid of a few friends to help, but never forget how much this thing weighs, and that it will hurt you if you let it get away from you. Remember: An object in motion wants to stay in motion. Visualize what will happen when you shove that engine hoist with your mill a foot off the ground hard across your shop, and the wheel hits that stray bolt you didn’t sweep up. Be careful and be safe, and enjoy your new toy.


  5. Jim B
    Jim B says:

    Thank you for documenting this so well. I just purchased a bridgeport and need to get it home. Loading is no problem as there is a forklift there but at home I am concerned about getting it off the trailer. In the story you used ramps, what were the ramps made of to support that much weight? Once on the ground I have steel rods and an engine hoist to move it around.

  6. admin
    admin says:


    I wasn’t there for the first half of the move, but understand they used a combo of concrete block (solid) and wood blocking. The truck was backed up to a curb, so the rise on the cribbing was pretty low. The ramps were a couple of 2X12s set close together, with the cribbing bracing them (all pretty solid). I wouldn’t recommend 2X12s without support, you might have unpleasant results. The main thing to remember when moving your mill is that THEY ARE HEAVY! Use more cribbing than you think is necessary, and work slow and careful. When in doubt, stop and rethink the procedure. If possible, have some experienced help handy, you can never have enough help when moving a 2000 pound machine. Good luck with the new toy.


  7. Matt K
    Matt K says:

    Thanks for a great article. I also have a Bridgeport move coming up. No problem at the sellers end as they have a forklift etc. but I want to be there to make sure they don’t damage it and lock it correctly.
    I like the idea of dropping it onto the base of an engine crane as I have access to one. I need to move the mill about 150ft across a gravel drive so current plan is to move with the engine crane on boards. My main concern is tipping but I would prefer to move intact so will lower the C of G as much as possible. I have some heavy timbers so plan to temporarily screw the base to the timbers to increase base size.

  8. Giuseppe
    Giuseppe says:

    A comment by Giuseppe from Italy

    Congratulations Mr. Dave for his Bridgeport mill and for the excellent organization of transport, and it is understandable that there are moments that are shaking legs, it happened to me, but if you do everything well with calm then all is well. I also did a bit of negotiations before buying my Bridgeport took two months of hard work with the seller but then we came to an agreement, and in December 2011 I was able to crown the most beautiful moment my sogno.Il I do not know if it was for you, is when this machine came into my garage I made a big sigh! I completely disassembled this machine cleaned and painted with the original color now I’m catching up and replace some worn parts, belts, bushings and bearings sfera.ho had to buy a set of keys in inches, but the biggest problem for me is to move the cutter I had to build a shopping cart and to reassemble the parts heavier than me imprestaere a small elevatore.Appena will be completed’ll send you a bit of fotografie.e you already have worked with your bridgeport you feel? speak all good
    as a truly exceptional machine here in Italy. I hope my English is understandable is translated by GOOGLE.
    I hope you have a good job and a Merry Christmas

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