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Moving to Australia - Moving Workshop Machines

Any experience of moving a home workshop abroad?

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Les Britten11/04/2019 08:07:51
2 forum posts

Hi All,

I have been a secret lurker of this forum for a number of years now, and thought it was time I picked your thoughts, in particular the Aussie members.

I have been into model engineering for some time now, and built up my collection of machines grabbing some bargains when they present themselves.

However, due to a job change I am now in the process of relocating my family and home from the UK to Brisbane. As such, I have 2 lathes (Chipmaster/Harrison L5) and a Bridgeport that I either need to take with me or… sell?

If I take with me, handling and quarantine are my biggest concerns with general cleanliness being picked upon (apparently any seen contaminant may result in cleaning/treatment charges) and machines in their nature have plenty of nooks and crannies on them that can hold "contaminates". If I sell, I may have to buy one of those “Import” ones that some/do/don’t say stay well clear of or give up the hobby.

So… To take or not to take? Has anyone on this site done something of this nature, or advise me where I can get good machines from Australia. I had contacted someone from the Queensland Model Engineering Society in Brisbane, and he had advised that he imported a Bridgeport from here in the UK suggesting what I found was the lack of good/reasonable second hand machines that we see here in the UK.

Any thoughts welcome,

Many thanks,


vintage engineer11/04/2019 10:20:53
259 forum posts
1 photos

The best way to clean them is steam clean as this will kill any bacteria. As for packing crates OSB is the preferred timber as it is disease free.

Hopper11/04/2019 10:45:38
6606 forum posts
347 photos

Hi, I live near Brisbane, well 1100 miles north but close enough. smiley It's the closest large city to me.

It would be worth bringing your machines with you if shipping cost is not prohibitive. Bridgeports, Chipmasters and Harrisons in good condition are rare and expensive here. And Brisbane is not much of an industrial centre so not a lot of good used machinery around for sale.

I brought a container load of old motorbikes into Australia from the USA some years ago without any dramas. I contacted Australian customs and quarantine departments in advance by email and they were quite helpful. (Note customs and quarantine are two different things.)

Not sure how it works for someone immigrating, but generally customs want to levy a 10 per cent general sales tax on the value of the items being imported and shipping costs. Up to you to provide some "proof" of cost such as receipts etc. and list of what's in the container. No need to totally itemize each spanner, just "box of tools" etc.

Quarantine-wise (or bio-security as they call it now to make themselves sound more important) their main concern was bringing actual dirt or soil into the country that might contain hoof and mouth disease etc etc. They are not so concerned with grease and oil. But I degreased and washed everything down to make sure prior to packing.

They also are concerned about wood coming in that might contain borers etc. I had boxed bikes and parts in brand new plywood and they did not blink at that. Others have required fumigation, so best to sort that out in advance with the biosecurity guys online.

Another thing to check is asbestos. Secondhand vehicles being imported now have to be certified as asbestos free by an asbestos expert. (What a racket!) I have no idea if this also applies to other machinery, so best to check with the quarantine/biosecurity department prior. Apparently it is a LOT cheaper to get it done before shipping than on arrival.

Your shipping agent/shipping company/removalist might be able to offer more advice too.

Good luck with the move. (And I'm sure you'll love the almost perfect weather year-round in Brisbane.)

PS. Home and Workshop Machinery Ltd who advertise in the back of MEW magazine export used machines worldwide. They may be able to give you some advice if you ask them nicely.

Edited By Hopper on 11/04/2019 10:51:50

Edited By Hopper on 11/04/2019 11:08:04

Simon Collier11/04/2019 11:08:12
480 forum posts
63 photos

Excellent information from Hopper. However he is wrong in one particular. Brisbane is unfit for human habitation being hideously hot and humid. It has no winter, not even the mild season we call winter in Sydney.

Hopper11/04/2019 11:25:32
6606 forum posts
347 photos

LOL. Come try Cairns for hot and humid.

Here's a Bridgie for sale Link for $6,600 but 1,000 miles away from Brisbane so shipping cost would be hideous. And as we all know, the tooling and accessories would add as much again on a bare machine like this. No Chippies or Harrisons listed.

Peter Sansom11/04/2019 11:32:33
110 forum posts
2 photos

I would agree about the Brisbane humidity. Winters are great, can wear shorts and t-shirts all year. At least 6 months of the year it is too hot and humid. I am about 45Km north west of Brisbane.

The humidity is a machine killer and a constant battle. It also means that outside is unpleasant for up to 6 months of the year. After 12 years the humidity is too much and we are in the process of moving south 1600Km to somewhere that has 4 seasons.

Enjoy the move.

Hopper11/04/2019 11:35:20
6606 forum posts
347 photos

LOLz again. I'm thinking about moving to near Brisbane to get away from the heat and humidity of Cairns. Lived in Bundaberg for few years and weather there was PERFECT.

Gumtree Australia has a couple of Bridgeports around that same $6,000 mark. And a Harrison for about the same. Not sure how that compares with UK prices? No idea of condition though. Many  machines here are used and used and used and used until dead as replacement cost is not cheap.

Edited By Hopper on 11/04/2019 11:37:42

Edited By Hopper on 11/04/2019 11:39:05

Baz11/04/2019 14:40:21
755 forum posts
2 photos

The dealer says very nice condition, obviously he walks around with a white stick and a guide dog, I counted at least 50 drilling’s in the table, that makes it used and abused.

Kifayat Hussain11/04/2019 15:36:00
3 forum posts
3 photos

Hi Les,

I recently moved to Adelaide about an year and a half ago and had my tools and machines in storage in Malaysia.

During this period, I was constantly looking for local options on buying tools and machinery to get back into the hobby. I must mention that prices here are not as competitive as in the UK for good lathes and mills.

Have a look at Gumtree as some may have advised.

I eventually decided to ship my SC2 lathe, SX2P mill, bandsaw and other tools to Adelaide. I used a company called Seven Seas and booked their large MoveCube. I did a thorough hand clean of my machine tools and oiled them for the 2 months long sea journey. I had crates made for the heavy stuff out of plywood and other light tools wrapped in packing paper in cardboard shipping boxes.

I did not have anything pressure cleaned or fumigated. As long as there is no dirt/soil attached to the tools such as garden tools, or any infected wood or articles made of tree bark etc, you should not be worried.

Many people interpret Australian regulations as being zero tolerant but its not as harsh if you follow the basic guidelines.

Ensure you have a proper packing list and declare everything in as much detail as possible. This will help make the customs and quarantine process a breeze.

My stuff arrived last month and went through customs and quarantine inspection at Melbourne before it arrived in Adelaide without any issues.

Any items that you have owned for a period of more than 12 months are tax exempted if you are a returning Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident. This also applies if this is your first time arriving in Australia as a new Permanent Resident.

Some things to consider are replacing the UK to Australia sockets which can be done after arrival to meet local safety standards. I will eventually do the same as all my tools have UK sockets. Also consider the fact that most homes will not have 3 phase power to run big machinery such as a Bridgeport unless you bring along a phase converter.

Best of luck with your relocation to Brisbane.

Edited By Kifayat Hussain on 11/04/2019 15:41:47

Speedy Builder511/04/2019 18:07:28
2641 forum posts
217 photos

Will your new employer pay for the move. Our son moved to OZ 10 years ago and the new employer paid for the move on condition he worked there for 2 or more years. Leave the problem to the shipping agents and make sure the agent / employer pick up costs for port duties and quarantine. At least you don't have the problems of importing a vintage car - oil, Brake dust, asbestos clutches / brake shoes, vehicle conformance - the list goes on.

Now my son finds out that he can only trim the garden trees by 10% unless he has a permit for each tree. They seem to grow more than 10% every year. But hey ho, he lives in a bungalow with asbestos walls which are "coated", so not allowed to cut holes, add screws, hooks etc without an asbestos crew coming in. And they worry about a 2CV with brake shoes and clutch which MAY have asbestos in them. Worrying really.


Grotto11/04/2019 22:16:05
148 forum posts
92 photos

When I moved from th UK to NZ, I ended up getting a container. The cost was about the same as shipping a few individual items. Went with a 40 foot one in the end, as the total cost wasn’t a lot more than a 20 foot, and it saved making tough decisions about what to take and what not to take. It also meant I had an excuse to buy a load more stuff as it wouldn’t have been sensible to send it only 3/4 full.

I've never regretted it, just wished I bought a few more tools before I left, as the selection on decent stuff here is more limited, and prices are much higher.

It's quite a lot of time and work trying to source decent quality replacement tools if you leave it behind, much better to keep the tools you know and trust.

you could always buy some stuff before you leave and sell it for more in Brisbane to subsidise the cost of a container.

Bazyle11/04/2019 23:34:26
6377 forum posts
222 photos

And buy the container to become your new workshop laugh

Sam Stones12/04/2019 02:45:27
880 forum posts
326 photos

In ’72 Les, my move to Melbourne was payed for by my employer, a multinational.

My lathe and all my tools along with several pieces of furniture and household valuables, were collected from my UK address and shipped by container. I have no evidence or memory of a quarantine inspection but, much to my dismay, everything was delivered to my new address on an open truck.

There was no point in cramming a container with bulky low density items, so beds, mattresses, etc. were disposed of.

Buying new here is best left to those who have commented above. I’ve been out of the action too long. Starting again, if I could afford it, I’d buy a good 2nd hand Myford. cheeky

Sam smile d

Good luck with your move. This is still a great country.


Edited By Sam Stones on 12/04/2019 02:46:50

Neil Lickfold12/04/2019 05:56:48
889 forum posts
195 photos

When you pack and crate your machines, ensure that they are bolted / secured to the platform it is sitting on. I placed 75mm square around the base of the Lathe when we shipped USA to NZ back in 09 as well. Placed all the tooling into manageable sized boxes made of 16mm OSB with strip nail holding and reinforcing the corners. I packed the tools with rags and bubble wrap. Sprayed everything with crc long life. Steam cleaning is not required but you want no dirt and no oils or coolant in anything. I wrapped everything up so even an ant could not get in there.

Dont know what happened to the shipping container, but the jolt it had on the journey was enough to crack one of the 1-1/2 inch thick slates in the pool table. Quite a few other things had some damage as well. But all the tools and machinery was just fine.

Good luck on your move.

Perko712/04/2019 07:02:16
427 forum posts
33 photos

As a lifetime resident, Brisbane is a great city to live in, relatively safe, relatively easy to get around but a bit spread out, a couple of reasonable model engineering resources, and a good climate most of the time (granted it can get a little steamy in summer, and our summer storms can be a bit frightening at first). Humidity effects on workshop equipment can be managed, usually it's your sweat that causes the most problem. Working outside in summer is possible as long as you have some shade and a couple of cold beverages to refresh yourself regularly. Skin cancer is a major risk in these regions so pale-skinned immigrants should quickly adopt the 'slip-slop-slap' sun-smart message. Nasties in summer are usually the mosquitos (mozzies in aussie language) and the midges or sand-flies (about 1/4 the size of mozzies but just as fierce).

Have not imported any equipment into Australia so can't comment on that aspect, but agree with others that good 2nd-hand machines of hobbyist size are pretty thin on the ground, so would recommend bringing yours with you. Main suppliers of new machines are Hare & Forbes, and Ausee who advertise on this site. There are a number of companies who deal in 2nd-hand machines but mostly industrial-size stuff.

Let me know when you get here, happy to show you around. I live about 30km to the west.

Kiwi Bloke13/04/2019 02:22:03
690 forum posts
1 photos

Good luck with your move. Don't sell anything - in fact fill all possible container space with gear bought at UK prices because it'll be more expensive at your destination, or will be oriental stuff of questionable quality. Research the market and make a bob or two. I wish I had...

We moved from UK to NZ in 2005. The workshop equipment filled a 20ft container. Everything possible was crated, the bases being 1in ply on spacers of sufficient height to allow a pallet truck underneath. OSB board walls. Machinery was bolted in and smaller items packed tightly into compartments. All bare metal was sprayed with anti-rust stuff. It was a lot of work. Ensure nothing can move or rub against anything else. Weeks of gentle movement at sea, and brutal treatment at the docks can do amazing things - there is no shortage of horror stories.

Everything was fully insured. Beware that some policies are void if the shipper does not unpack the lot. However, I was more worried by the ship going down, or the container being lost. Since the move, I have seen photos of stacks of containers falling off ships, being dropped by cranes, etc. Had I seen these before the move, I think I may have chickened out... Luckily, everything survived.

I was warned to beware the idiot bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to get in the way of common sense. Bio-security is taken seriously in NZ. The presence of a foreign fruit fly in Auckland recently made front-page news and caused panic, just like it did last time. I tried to research what hoops I was expected to jump through. Apparently, any timber used for packing, crating, etc. had to be 'treated' and 'certified'. What treatment and certification? By whom? No information. Then I found a document stating 'if treated timber is used...' (my emphasis). So did timber have to be treated? No-one could tell me. Containers were often fumigated with methyl bromide (IIRC), which sounded like it would do precision machinery a power of no good. I eventually found the 'phone number of an NZ inspector and asked for guidance. He said, in effect, that if nothing crawled out of the container when it was opened, it would be OK. Probably. Ah, the famous Kiwi 'She'll be right' approach in action. As I said, bio-security is taken seriously here.

When the other container of household posessions had to be cleared through customs, etc, I had to fill out a questionnaire including questions about whether anything was of plant or animal origin (complete with DIRE WARNINGS that it was prohibited!). "Er, what about wooden furniture, books and papers, cotton and woollen fabrics, leather shoes, etc." Look of puzzlement from bureaucrat. "Oh no, those don't count." That was one of many WTF moments. I lost 1 1/2 stone in the month of the move. Make sure you have an ample supply of stress pills.

Neil Lickfold13/04/2019 05:45:53
889 forum posts
195 photos

H3.2 treated timber is OK for NZ or the equivalent. It will also pass Australian laws as well. I did not risk using Boric treated timber. No point taking the TV though, its tuner will not work in Australia, apart from the fact that the plugs are all different. No biggy, chop the end off and reconnect a new 3 pin plug. Small things like sanders etc, you can use an adapter plug for them. Sometimes its cheaper to buy that adapter plug in the country you are from, rather than the country you are going to. A real irony. Not sure with Australia , but bring a bed to NZ is not allowed due to dust mites in mattresses. So you can bring in the frame and ironically pillows with your flight luggage. Again something else to check on. Some countries also have a ban on small petrol engines, like chainsaws, weed wackers etc, again you'll need to check that as well.

Dont take, Honey, apples, or bottled water with you. It will all be confiscated on arrival.


Peter Sansom13/04/2019 14:14:37
110 forum posts
2 photos

Do not bring applinaces like fridges and freezers. They can have problems with the humidity, particularly frost free. They remove a lot of humidity from the fridge, which tehy then evaporate into the the surruounding air. Fridges not built for Australia often cannot evaporte enough of teh condesate and it will overflow and end on the floor.

A sister in law brought a fidge from Iman and has had this issue. Cannot get it fixed because it is not a local model. I have also had teh problem with a Fridge built in Brisbane, Teh manufacturer had to take it back and modify it.

Also voltages can be higher, up to 250 to 260V. Over 20 years ago it was agreed to drop teh ominal voltage to 220, from 240V. Queensland has been slow at this, wath with electronics.

Also be aware ov severe Electrical storms.

Les Britten17/04/2019 22:14:12
2 forum posts

Hi all,

Thank you for all of your supporting messages. After I posted that initial message, went to see the machines and then decided to sell them. However, after all of your support, I rolled my sleeves up and decided to take them with me. As such, you lot have a lot to answer for its it all doesn’t go to plan!! 😉

I have cleaned the machines to the best of my abilities, I couldn’t bring myself to get the pressure washer over them given the long journey ahead of them, as such, I went for the degreaser (jizzser) & rag approach with the help of a compressor (yes I know before I get told off!!) and was mostly happy with my efforts. The only downside is those really hard to get bits that your can not get to unless you take apart the machines. i.e. under the headstock, knee of the mill etc. I then applied a good spray grease on the ways and I will leave at that and hope for the best.

The machines are being crated and loaded buy the moving company. My new company are paying for the house move, but will not pay for the heavy lift items. As such, it will cost me around £2500 for my workshop doing a door to door move. I didn’t think too bad given the cost of replacement machines, and it is a door to door move to the other side of the world.

Sadly, I will have to leave the stash of oils etc. behind as it was recommended to leave these behind. I was told that in a can they would be classed as hazardous goods, but in a gearbox, well that would be fine…. Make any sense here? I will also be leaving behind my Elliott 10M due to lack of cleaning time, but as least I will have the lathes and mill! Pity, look past the surface rust, and there was a really good restoration project there. (Was a late model)

I was surprised to hear that the humidity will play havoc on the machines, I was thinking the other way around given that most of my “rust” battles are here in the winter with the cold damp conditions.

Perko7, thanks for your offer to meet up, will get in touch once we are settled in, Am looking to live in a similar area. Currently looking from the Springfield, Greenbank, Jimboomba etc. areas. Hopefully I an find a place with once of those workshops to rent!! Please let me know if there are any areas to stay well clear of.

Will let you all know how it goes, start packing tomorrow, we fly out on the 25th and the container leave the port on the 29th. Yikes!!!


Hopper18/04/2019 01:44:11
6606 forum posts
347 photos

All the best with the move. If you can get all those machines moved door to door for 2.5k you are streets ahead. You'd pay that much to get machines shipped to you from within Australia if you purchased such machines here from Sydney or Melbourne etc.

Don't worry too much about the humidity on your machine tools. WD40 and spray can lanolin do a good job protecting them. It's all I use here in the tropics with 8 feet of rain a year (yes, 8 feet!). So you won't have any insurmountable issues in Brisbane.

Most houses here have a double car garage attached to the house and plenty have a similar sized back shed as well if the previous owner had a boat or hobby workshop etc so should not be hard to find accommodation for your machinery. Check out for an idea of the market. Housing prices are in a bit of a decline at the moment so you might snag a bargain.

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