Moving a Colchester Student Lathe down a hill….

Yes, you read that right; down a hill! ;)
I bought a Colchester Student/Master MK ’1.5′ lathe on eBay, because I wanted to upgrade from my teeny-tiny Myford ML10. It just wasn’t big enough anymore for what I was doing with it.

So I won the auction and then it dawned on me what kind of challenge I had gotten myself into. Sound familiar? ;) The lathe was stored in a shed, at the top of a steep garden. The shed itself had 3x concrete (cracked and unsafe) steps leading onto a concrete path. So I had a week to figure out how to get that lathe safely out of the shed and down the garden.

Here’s the trailer I rented locally. £55 per day. VERY cheap! I can only recommend if you’re in the Reading area. Small family run business and a pleasure to deal with. =)

My mate Simon agreed to give me a hand. I think he also likes random (and insane…) challenges! ;) We arrived in Redditch (near Birmingham) after a 2 hr drive. This is the view of the inside of the shed at the top of the garden. The lathe owner had sadly passed away last year, and left all these nice tools to his daughter. He had owned the lathe for the previous 30 years, and had obviously taken good care of it. It’s the MK ’1.5′ model, short-bed, with the gap in the bed. So it can turn up to 18″ in diameter and turn both Metric and Imperial threads. It even had a taper turning attachment! =)

This nice chap is the best friend of the previous owner of the lathe. He was EXTREMELY helpful and a pleasure to have around. It would’ve been a lot more difficult without him and the rest of the family all helping us moving the lathe.

I’ve managed to get a 7/8″ Whitworth Eyebolt on Amazon, for around £10. Not bad! Rated for 2 tons. We cleaned 30 years of swarf and God knows what out the threaded hole and then screwed the eyebolt in. If you’re not aware of this, Colchester located the eyebolt precisely where the lathe can balance when you lift it. As long as you move the tailstock and saddle to the rear of the bed.

We then used a chain to lift the lathe with the help of a 1 ton engine crane.

We maneuvred the lathe around slowly until we got it to the door.

Once we had the lathe on the ledge of the door, we put down multiple layers of plywood sheets with wooden beams underneath, to level the whole lot.

We then used a heavy wall box section to which I had welded some loops, so that we could suspend it between the 2x engine cranes. We then rigged the lathe onto the box section bar and lifted it again.

Action shot! =)

We then used a chain hoist to slowly draw the lathe out of the shed, along the bar. We took things VERY slowly, ensuring the the lathe never started swinging, as once it starts gaining momentum, it’s very difficult to stop.

Getting there slowly. We ensured that both engine cranes were nice and stable throughout this maneuver. I didn’t take any chances, as I didn’t want anybody to get hurt.



When we got it to the end of the box section, we lowered the lathe onto the engine crane’s legs.

Note the chain hoist secured against stakes in the ground. This is to stop the lathe from rolling down the garden…

Moving along nicely (but very slowly….)

It took 30 minutes to get this far (or not very far….) Slowly and safely does it!

Here’s a better shot of the incline of the garden.

This is 15 minutes later. The more we did this, the better were getting at the whole thing. Having the concrete path under the plywood also helped a lot.

35 minutes later….

20 minutes later….

Another 25 minutes and we were at the bottom of the garden. It was almost 18:00hs by now!

A further 10 minutes and we had another step to negotiate.

We built another ramp, supported by heavy timbers.

We did this EXTREMELY slowly. I had no appetite for the lathe to go careering down the ramp and slam into the kitchen door. The caution paid off, because we didn’t damage anything (or anybody!). =)

Last corner to negotiate!



We then lifted the lathe and all the various bits onto the trailer.

By the time we had secured it all and covered the lathe, it was 20:10pm! =/


I dropped off Simon on the way home and eventually made it back by 23:10pm. Bloody long day if you ask me! I obviously couldn’t unload the lathe that late at night, so I just left it all on the trailer. This is a picture taken this morning. In case you’re wondering: the Citroen C3 had very few problems towing the trailer. We were still within the towing limit for this car (which is 1100kg for the 1.4 engine). It struggled a little up the hills, but it was otherwise quite happy to maintain 55-60mph.

I then started unloading all the bits by myself…

The centre of gravity was nicely balanced over the axles, so the trailer didn’t rock and swerve around. It was tracking beautifully! I could barely feel it, and then only going up the hills.

Details of the rigging. We secured one of the straps through the eyebolt. Turned out to be a very good idea, as the lathe never shifted or moved.

I made a deal with the daughter of the previous owner, and she sold me all of these tools along with the lathe. They’ll be put to good use! =)

Right then. Here’s me trying to get the lathe off the trailer by myself. Funnily enough, if you take your time and don’t do anything rash, its perfectly possible to accomplish this.

I stuck a piece of round steel under the front of the lathe…

And then used the crowbar to slowly move it forwards, towards the edge of the trailer. Where I could then grab it with the engine crane.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Eventually I got it to here. Which was about how far I wanted to go without risking trouble…

Hook the engine crane on, lift a little….


….and rotate the lathe slowly by hand. Piece of cake! ;)


It then started raining…. =/ Luckily I had coated everything liberally in engine oil.

Next: stick a bar across the inside of the garage door, and use that to secure the chain hoist and pull the lathe towards the garage. I was unable to push it by hand, because the punny little wheels on the engine crane had started to dig into the asphalt!

As you can see here, I first tried a piece of rope to extend the reach of the chain hoist. The rope however just kept on stretching. So I abandoned that idea!

I then used one of the cargo straps rated for 2 tons, and that worked a treat!

Not without the engine crane giving me grief though! We had damaged this wheel yesterday, and it had now locked itself into an awkward position, when I tried to pull the crane backwards with the chain hoist!

Sorted the wheel….

Eventually I cleared the edges of the trailer and then moved the trailer and car forward.

I then lowered the lathe onto the engine crane again and put down the ply sheets again (sorry forgot to take photos!) My neighbor then helped me to push the lathe into the garage. Once I had the ply down, it was relatively easy to push the lathe along on the level surface.

We got it into the garage and off the engine crane and then simply sat it on 2x sturdy pipes. Because the contact patch between the lathe and the floor was now soooo small, we were able to maneuver the lathe into it’s location in a matter of minutes.

I then cleaned it all up and played around with the gears a bit. Luckily the previous owner had converted the lathe to single phase, so I didn’t have to buy an inverter! =)Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

And here’s some of the other bits that came with the lathe…

One thought on “Moving a Colchester Student Lathe down a hill….

  1. HI, You look to have got a good machine there, and that slope looks fearsome! I have a Mk1 student and have been trying to get a taper turner attachment for some time, but I have yet to find a complete one, and most ppl seem to want more than I paid for the lathe for incomplete ones!! If you don’t mind me asking, what did you pay for it? I am lucky really because my workshop has three phase, and my Student plugged straight in, and worked faultlessly. Good luck with your turning, and remember to be safe, it’s a bit bigger and more powerful than a Myford, but also a lot more rigid.
    Phil, East Yorkshire

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