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Installing a new lathe

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Robin Graham01/09/2014 19:40:45
945 forum posts
295 photos

Hi. I've recently moved house to a place with about 550 square feet of cellarage, which is destined to become my workshop/mancave. This is quite an upgrade from the 12 foot square spare bedroom which I had been inhabiting. I have ordered up a new (Chinese) lathe (Axminster CQ6230A-2/910)as a start to equipping it. Before anyone says you could have got a much nicer second-hand Colchester or whatever for less, yes I know, did I lot of research, but was suckered by the 400 quid off deal Axminster were giving last month... Anyhow, the cellars are floored with the original flagstones (circa 1800) which are quite uneven. I'm reluctant to pour concrete all over this bit of history, so my problem is how to set the machine (about 550kg) on the existing floor. It occurs to me that I might put some sort of plastic sheeting over the flagstones where the lathe is to be sited and pour a plinth over that, which would be removable when the time comes, but I have no idea if that is a sensible idea - I know nothing about building materials or techniques. Any ideas gratefully received, Robin

Edit: How I'm going to get the d**n thing into the cellar in the first place might be the subject of another thread...

Edited By Robin Graham on 01/09/2014 19:43:02

Dusty01/09/2014 20:25:42
489 forum posts
9 photos


Like you I know nothing about building materials or techniques, but having said that I would have thought that a plastic membrane under a concrete plinth would cause the plinth to be liable to move. I would venture to suggest that machine mounts would be a better option, provided that the flagstones were solid these would enable you to level the machine on the uneven floor without damaging the flagstones. I do not envy you getting the machine into the cellar, sounds like a job for a specialist to me.

Peter Tucker01/09/2014 20:37:26
183 forum posts

Hi Graham,

What you are sugesting sounds fine.


Tony Payn01/09/2014 21:08:32
10 forum posts

Wow, that's a big heavy lathe. Looks like it comes with a stand which no doubt sets the machine at comfortable height if the stand is placed on the floor. I think the idea of pouring concrete over the floor (with a plastic membrane to allow removal of the concrete in future) is good, but the weight of the lathe may well crack it unless it is pretty substantial in itself. Making it too thick though might raise it up too high.

I was inspired by some web articles about lathes made from concrete during World War II. I wonder if there would be a benefit in making some sort of reinforced concrete plinth, similar to how concrete floors for buildings are reinforced with steel 'rebar'. Something along the lines of making a box mould, laying in the rebar (they usually bend the ends to stop the rebar pulling through the concrete), placing in position over the plastic membrane and pouring in the concrete. Perhaps a depth of 5 inches or so? With some rebar in the lower half and also some in the top half.

The benefit would be to spread the load of the lathe evenly to the floor over the entire surface area of the plinth. Machine mounts will put the loading at specific points which may do untoward things to your flagstones, and depending on how they were installed, might they move under point pressure?

Might be worth looking in machine mart for some chain hoists or similar to help you move it. Some of the engine hoists might be useful too, but not sure of their maximum weight capacity.

Robbo01/09/2014 21:16:13
1504 forum posts
142 photos


Before you pour concrete over the flags, with or without a membrane, suggest you lift up a few flags and check what is underneath. It was quite common to just lay them on dirt, or some other unstable substrate, in which case it matters not what you put on top, it will still be unstable.

Might be better to pull up a few flags and dig out and concrete a good solid base where the lathe is to be. You can always stand the lathe on feet and slide the flags underneath.


Clive Foster01/09/2014 22:34:28
3103 forum posts
107 photos

My workshop floor is simply the common builders green (waterproof) chipboard tongue and groove underflooring boards. Laid direct on concrete with re-enforcing mesh and left naked with no finish or protection applied its still in good order after nearly 10 years. Well up to supporting quite heavy machinery viz Smart & Brown 1024 lathe, Pratt & Whitney model B lathe, Bridgeport mill on their standard feet without damage.

Flagstones tend to be cold and damp so in you position I'd put a good quality membrane down and cover with self levelling compound. The load wills pread nicely. Probably best to set battens at intervals and do the job in several steps to help get a true surface. Just glue the flooring board together and down. Make sure you get the quality green stuff. Round here the allegedly just as good natural colour stuff is rubbish. Very dusty and soft surfaced.

I'd not worry that much over what's under the flagstones although you may need to check drainage and damp venting. Even an apparently dry cellar may vent a little water through its surface and joints to keep things in balance beneath If they have been there many years and are properly settled the falgstones ar'ent going anywhere. Heck I know of a Bridgeport, Harrison 15" lathe and Victoria U2 mill which are basically sitting on plain dirt with about 3 sheets of 3/4 ply underneath. Helped move them in and all seemed to work OK but .... Turns out that particular workshop was built by simply sinking a normal shed style wood flooring under frame into the ground with an outer ring to build the walls on. Then more or less infilling with dirt before nailing plywood on top and building a timber shed on top. Current occupant put another layer of ply down 'cos it was all a bit springy and added a third layer where the machines were going just in case. Yikes!!


Edited By Clive Foster on 01/09/2014 22:35:24

Ian Parkin02/09/2014 06:38:26
1016 forum posts
236 photos

I recently bought a newer colchester student to replace a well worn one that I had in my celler workshops.

The floor in mine is just flags laid straight onto the ground ( 1860 )

The lathe sits on pads of 30mm hard rubber about 200mm square at each corner levelling point.

How are you going to get that big lathe downstairs?

On mine I had to strip down to base, bed, and headstock and between 3 strong mates and I were able to carry it upstairs ( 625 kg) and then the new one downstairs

JohnF02/09/2014 08:19:24
1146 forum posts
189 photos

Robin, sounds like it's a Victorian house? Well most of these cellars are damp, and more than you might think. Personally I would tank the cellar, there are quite a few companies do this at reasonable cost but it depends on where you live and how long you intend to be there to justify the cost, my guess it's a long term house?

The stone flags are quite valuable so you could lift these and sel them to offset some of the cost. The floor would be best concreted with a membrane and if you did not want to go to the cost of tanking the place I would then line the walls with studding with a membrane behind it and board the inside with material of your choice, plasterboard, plywood, etc.

hope this helps and good luck. John

ps see your messages

Edited By JohnF on 02/09/2014 08:22:03

Oompa Lumpa02/09/2014 08:28:48
888 forum posts
36 photos
Posted by Robbo on 01/09/2014 21:16:13:


Might be better to pull up a few flags

I would be cautious of doing this unless you know how thick they are. Sandstone flags generally are not light and recently I was very interested to see 5" thick flagstones being pulled out from a cellar. Apparently this is not unusual.

(The thickness that is. Having seen John's post above, this is exactly why they were being taken out, they were being sold)

Self levelling compound on a membrane will crack unless thick enough and the cost would run well into a second mortgage if you were to pour it thick enough. It is designed to adhere to the concrete floor you are trying to level. I would consider a de-humidifier in a cellar or you are likely to run into damp problems. Leave it as it is and use good quality commercial machine "feet" with anti-vibration built in and save yourself all the hassle.

OR - build a shutter for a concrete plinth and throw some mesh in. Irrespective, you are going to need some sort of insulating mat to stand on or suffer the consequences. This is very much suck it and see. Just go for it, there is nothing stopping you doing these things afterwards. Personally, I would paint everywhere white now if the cellar is empty and then go read the article about workshop lighting. Just the mention of the word cellar conjures up visions of dark and damp in most peoples minds so you need to get that addressed first.



Edited By Oompa Lumpa on 02/09/2014 08:31:17

Clive Foster02/09/2014 10:52:31
3103 forum posts
107 photos

As Graham says thin self leveling compound on a membrane is considered bad practice due to the risk of cracking. However my limited, 5 cases, experience of self levelling compound on a membrane suggests that it may not be a major problem provided whatever is underneath is solid with no tendency to move. The one I pulled up after about 6 years varied from 1/8" to 1/2" thick and was fine despite having machines stood directly on it. Cracked apart wonderfully when I heaved on the membrane to shift things tho' which made for an easy clearance. Admittedly it was a short term job which worked out well.

If you use the sort of flooring board that I did cracks in the levelling compound won't really matter as its primarily there to transfer loads directly down through the boards onto the substrate. Large voids are the worry not cracks. That board makes excellent short ramps for machine moving too if you put full length timber wedges about every foot. I have a 7" step into my workshop and a 2 ft 6 long by 4 ft wide ramp made in that manner took all the machines effortlessly. Great as shelves and bench tops too.


Gordon W02/09/2014 11:39:26
2011 forum posts

I would just put heavy timbers on a plastic membrane, if working hight is a problem just extend the timbers to have standing room, railway sleepers are about £20 each round here. I would be very careful of any tanking and new floor solutions. this can make groundwater rise up the walls and cause more damp, get a good expert to advise.

Phil Whitley02/09/2014 13:12:36
1437 forum posts
147 photos

Hi Robin, I am just completing a very similar job, and this is what I did. It is not in a cellar, it is a house in East Yorks that is built on solid chalk, and also built into a chalk bank up to the depth of the first floor. The down stairs floor was victorian clay tiles on top of fine chalk gravel which was underlayed by solid layered chalk. Needless to say it was very damp. The tile floor was taken up and dug down 6" it was then levelled, a damp membrane was put down, followed by 2" jablite insulation, Which was also placed round the wall edges to a height of 6" as perimeter insulation, another membrane, and 4" of concrete. Both membranes are folded in the corners, not cut, and made big enough to go about 2 feet up the walls all round. I then screwed 1" x 2" tanalised lath (tile lath) to the walls, placing a layer of plastic (for brickwork) DPC behind the lath. 2" jablite was fitted between the laths and fitted tight up to the perimeter insulation.The entire wall is then covered with DPM which goes behind the overlap from the underfloor membrane so that any moisture drains down into the subfloor and percolates away The walls can then be finished with plasterboard or whatever you like. It is quite a lot of work, but it has turned a damp, smelly, unusable building into a warm dry area that can now be used for any purpose, and the cost of materials, even using readymix concrete was under £1000.. I have some pictures if you are interested, and if I can work out how to post them!


jonathon cary02/09/2014 15:55:12
44 forum posts
I helped someone do something similar once but he used mild steel channel as a frame on the floor and sat a machine on it..I had to drill holes in it for the 1/2 inch bolts with a hand held electric drill as there wasnt enough power for anything bigger..Great fun(?)
Gary Wooding02/09/2014 15:57:47
967 forum posts
253 photos

I had the same problem as you. I purchased a Chester 12x36 Geared Head lathe and had to get it into my cellar workshop. The lathe weighs about 650Kg and I was warned NOT to remove the headstock to ease getting it down the cellar steps. I didn't remove the saddle 'cos it helped to balance the lathe during the move. The bed was attached to a hefty lump of wood that could be used as a skid. All moving was done on short lengths of scaffold pole rollers.

I rigged up a sort-of ramp on the cellar steps - it had saw-tooth shaped supports that rested on some of the stone steps. I also made a reinforced surround to the cellar door, which held a length of scaffold pole to which I fastened a small block and tackle. The lathe was manoeuvred to the top of the cellar steps, and the block and tackle used to control the descent. The rest was just plain sailing by the use of rollers and an engine crane.

The lathe sits on machine supports on a 4" thick concrete floor laid over a membrane on earth. It was installed in 2003 and its fine and stable.

I made some duck boards to stand on - warmer than the floor and the swarf drops through the slats.

my lathe.jpg

Edited By Gary Wooding on 02/09/2014 16:02:16

Robin Graham02/09/2014 23:10:32
945 forum posts
295 photos

Thanks for all your replies - much food for thought! It seems I might (or might not!) get away with my original idea, or at least a variation on it. It sounds as if that if I put down a membrane in the area where the lathe will be, build a box and pour self-levelling stuff, then top off with some stout timber to spread the load I might be OK. It's unlikely the flagstones will move - they've been there over 200 years and the surveyor said that there was no sign of any movement. He thought it unnecessary to drill cores to investigate the foundations - he reckoned the place would still be standing when the new builds down the road were distant memories... Although from a purely practical point of view it would doubtless be best to take out the flags and redo the floor I doubt the council would allow it even if I wanted to. We're in a conservation area and this year they've tightened up the rules to include internal alterations. We'll have to apply for planning permission even to open up the original fireplaces!

The house is stands on the corner of two roads - the one to the side runs downhill from the front, so the area at the back (a cobbled yard about 12m square) is actually on a level with the cellar floor and there is a reasonably wide door (about 95cm) leading directly from the yard into the cellar. The place used to be a pub many many years ago, so I suppose this is how the ale got in as there is no evidence of a hatch. I'm hoping a 2-tonne engine crane, some sheets of ply to lay over the cobbles and scaffold poles will get the machine in there.

Damp may be a problem, it's hard to say at the moment as I've had the cellar (wet) sandblasted to get decades of crud off the walls and ceilings, but I have a dehumidifier down there and it's gone down from 86 to 74% RH at 17C in three days and still falling, so I'm hoping. Sparks in on Thursday to replace consumer unit (the present one one has proper fuse wires!) and run new power/lighting circuits, all quite exciting.

Thanks again for all your advice, I'll post again when things have moved on. Robin

Edited By Robin Graham on 02/09/2014 23:15:52

Phil Whitley03/09/2014 09:21:43
1437 forum posts
147 photos

Hi again Robin, It sounds like a beautiful old building, and having a level(even if cobbled) yard door entrance to the cellar is excellent. Remember that the secret to get rid of a lot of dampness is ventilation, if there is moisture in the air it will condense on any surface that is colder than the air, the trick is to get the air moving and keep it moving through and out of the building all the time. Low speed fans use very little energy and can move the damp air out of the building. Also something I forgot to put in my first post......Check all your rainwater downspouts and gulleys, and check that the undergound drains that take the surface water away are clear and not leaking anywhere. Some years ago a friend bought an old vicarage with a very damp cellar, and we found that most of the damp was actually coming from blocked surface water drains which were flooding over and letting the water go down between the ground and the house wall, We lifted some of the gulleys out of the ground as they had sunk, and found that the reason for this was that rainwater was going down between the gulley and the house wall and had washed all the fill out from under the gulley. When we put these right, the dampness dissapeared although it took about 6 months, and we did install some fans as well.Where in the country are you?


East Yorkshire

Howard Lewis12/09/2014 12:48:19
6005 forum posts
14 photos

With regard to ventilation, damp air is heavier than dry. Since you are in a cellar, you will need a fan to extract the damp air, and a fixed vent of adequate cross sectional area, to allow fresh air to enter.

My suggestion would be to run a duct almost down to floor level, from the intake side of an extractor fan.

A bathroom ventilation fan, mounted at floor level, might be suitable as ducting will be available for the outlet side. Not too near the lathe to avoid the swarf that will fall onto it

(Possibly wire the fan to run when ever the lights are on?)

If the fresh air inlet is outside the building, do shield it to prevent ingress of rain or any other sort of weather.

Some fairly fine gauze across it may exclude flies/moths /beetles/spiders etc.

If you have damp, you WILL have problems with rust, on the lathe, other machines, and corrosion of raw materials and completed items.

Since you don't want to recirculate the damp air, the fan exit duct needs to kept away from the fresh air inlet.

Once the lathe is in position, you ought to set it level, to ensure that there is no twist in the bed, to avoid inadvertent taper turning!

You can either adopt the method advocated in the Myford 7 Series handbooks, or use a sensitive level across the bedways at headstock and tailstock ends. (You may need to use parallels or some form of consistent packing if you have a VEE bed).

You just keep reiterating the adjustments until any twist is eleiminated. My preference is for screw adjusters, rather than shimming the feet, to maximise accuracy. (My lathe sits on six 1/2 UNF setscrews and nuts, and the 20 tpi thread gives a fine adjustment).

I found when levelling my old Myford, that the torque applied to the mounting hardware would affect the level!

If you are planning to use pumped coolant, there is the additional complication of setting up so that there is a slight "run" towards the drain hole in the chip tray, whilst keeping the bed twist free.

Since you are imposing a heavy load on a few points of the flagstones, they may settle. So it will be worth rechecking the levels after a month or two, and from time to time afterwards.

Good luck!


Bazyle12/09/2014 13:22:07
6295 forum posts
222 photos

As you have a solid floor you have absolutely no need for layers of concrete or self leveling stuff. The lathe stand will have 4 or 6 mounting holes in the corners of the cabinet sections. Just put jacking bolts through these. If holes not present and you don't want to make them you can use shims of metal and hard wood. Either way the flatnes of the floor is utterly irrelevant.

You already have a dehumidifier. Just keep it running and block off all the draughts. It will provide background heating aswell as free distilled water. Only if you find it is still filling its tank every other day will you need to take action. Since some walls are effectively above ground you can insulate them to advantage without too much risk of damp. The other walls might be more tricky to insulate without causing a problem of sealing damp in. If the floor proves to be seriously damp raise the lathe and machines on breeze blocks then create a wood suspended and insulated floor that has a 1in cavity underneath its DPC to allow forced ventillation

Robin Graham15/09/2014 20:24:10
945 forum posts
295 photos

Howard, coincidentally I was looking for extractor fans just before I saw your post. The cellar area actually consists of two separate vaulted 'compartments' with connecting doors. The first has a door to the yard and a bricked-up window, the second has a window and another door to the yard, both bricked up. There is also what looks like an old fireplace, again bricked in, in the first area. My plan is to open all the bricked-up bits eventually, but for the time being I think I shall make a hole [somehow (chain drill and chisel?) - my experience of of these things is zero!] towards the bottom of the bricked up old door in the second area, install an extractor and take a breeze block out of the old window in the first area so fresh air is forced to circulate through both. If the fireplace can be made to work... I'm reliably informed (thanks Phil W) that an average fireplace sucks 24 cubic feet a minute, so that will help! I think I'm OK with setting the machine to turn parallel, but don't understand why it makes a difference if it has a VEE bed or (presumably) flat bed? Can you elucidate?

Bazyle, thanks for reassurance about irrelevance of floor flatness - I'd had advice from other quarters about jacking screws also, so I'll give that a go. There isn't any significant damp coming through the floor, it seems to be the walls. Unfortunately the above-ground walls of the cellars have been cement rendered and covered in roughcast externally. I'll get that off so they can breathe.

Thanks for your input - very much appreciated. It's a bigger and trickier project than I'd anticipated, but then I thought it would be!


Phil Whitley15/09/2014 21:36:35
1437 forum posts
147 photos

I would still check the floor for damp Robin. When I did my place the walls seemed far wetter than the floor, but when I took up the tiles, put in a dpm and concrete, the walls dried out. It was damp from the floor condensing on the walls, which were colder. Get some air moving through before you commit to any work, it might dry out by itself, unless you have leaky rainwater drains, as we discussed before.


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