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workshops, workshops, workshops, worktruck??

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  • workshops, workshops, workshops, worktruck??

    To make a long story as short as possible, I am considering using a large box truck (Ford L9000, 24ft box, 33000 lb gross, steel diamond plate floor, 10 liter diesel, auto trans, 2500lb lift gate) as my workshop. I already have the truck, and really am not using it right now.

    I bought a large, old, metal lathe off ebay (14in x 60in). I also bought a electric motor/generator set at a recent NASA auction that has a 20kw 240v 3phase output. All I have to do is adapt a gas/diesel engine to drive the generator, mount it in the truck, and wire the box, put in fixtures, etc...

    I am currently using my carport (1-car carport) as my workshop (open on two sides - moisture and cold are real problems). Also, wife wants the carport back for winter..

    Anyone ever seen or heard of someone fitting a large truck/trailer as their primary shop before?

    I am looking for any ideas into the problems/advantages of such a setup.

    Also any advise, if I decide to do this, like: how to level the lathe when the floor obviously won't be level all the to ground the unit when using the generator.. etc


  • #2
    I posted this once before.
    IN - Around Chattanooga Tn.
    A old guy had a school bus with lathe, mill,saw, cutting torches and generator. He'd rent himself out to companies for thier shut-downs. Sleep in the back on a cot and do work throughout the rebuild. Usually he'd bore couplings and other small jobs but stay busy. He didn't take a bath through out the job.

    He made a check for himself and one for his shop.

    He is not around any more that I know of, this was in the seventies.


    • #3
      That sounds like a pretty good idea to me. When you find the milling machine you'll be wanting, just drive over, load it in, and lock it down. Sure solves the problems of delivery and handling heavy tools.

      Just curious, how exactly would you go about securing a Bridgeport mill in truck or trailer if you intended to both use it there and to drive around?

      A while back I posed the question of putting my woodworking equipment in a trailer to keep the dust out of the other tools in my shop. The idea didn't seem to pass muster. I wonder what the response will be to this question.

      Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.


      • #4
        As far as securing items, I think I have that problem beat. I was going to weld plates with threaded studs to the steel diamond plate floor, then just bolt the item to the plates. That would also give me a way to level the items, but what to level to remains a concern.... I am guessing just level in reference to the truck floor.


        • #5
          Sure, sounds good. Better than a friend o'mine who has the whole shop on a 160 x 35 ft ship. Not easy keeping a straight weld bead when the swell rolls in broadside. Truck sounds easier.


          • #6
            My only real concern is that the truck will not have as stiff or heavy duty suspension as a bus. (sounds like it might thou)

            Bus drivetrains are really about ten ton trucks.

            Problems with bus.. it won't run highways speed. Yours might be better at that..

            Leveling, well 4 hydraulic jacks/hardwood blocks will suffice, that is what we used to tattoo at the long meets.

            CNC at bike meets, brake covers, personalize.. = Money.. Just cutting out inserts for Saddle bags at $75 a set.. Money.. More then tattooing and not all the hassle...


            [This message has been edited by ibewgypsie (edited 11-30-2003).]


            • #7
              A few years back at the Offutt Air Show the Air Force had a mobile machine shop there. Air Force Blue step van, but it was fairly well equiped. If I remember right it had a lathe, about 12 X 36, small mill/drill, bandsaw,hydralic press,air compressor, and some welding equipment. I believe it could be ran from a generator on board or hooked up to line voltage. The whole floor was pretty heavy gage steel and it also had leveling pads that could be put down. Mark


              • #8
                Army has put all kinds of shops on 2&1/2 tonners since WWII.
                OTR bus, (AKA G'hound) will certainly keep up


                • #9
                  I've never done anything like this but I do know they use lathe's and other machines on ships. I think there was a thread some time back on that or some similar mobile situation. I remember words like mounting each machine on it's own solid plate or mount.

                  I would try something like this:

                  Construct a mounting (table) for each machine with heavy steel channel (8"?) on edge or an I or H beam of even larger dimension. Welded construction would likely be best. Mount these tables to the truck with a three point system to prevent any twisting of the truck's frame from warping them. The attachment points should be pivots or flexible enough to prevent transmitting torque. Some sort of ball mounts might be good or perhaps points in sockets with flexible restraints.

                  Set the truck on jacks while doing the "leveling" or your movements around the machine may move things far more than the accuracy you want. Remember that "leveling" is just an easy way to make the lathe flat, wihhout any twist. So once it has been brought to that condition via leveling, it can then be moved and tilted on a rigid mount and retain the accuracy. If you do not plan to mnve the truck, the jacks can be permanent. Leveling jacks can be purchased at RV dealers.

                  Paul A.
                  Paul A.
                  SE Texas

                  Make it fit.
                  You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!


                  • #10
                    THe Military (USA) had several standard machine shops on wheels (one was in a 2 1/2 ton "6x6" as mentioned above). I worked in one one Swan Island , housed in a semi trailer, made for "radio free europe". Nice shop, lathe, mill, small shaper, grinder welding equipment- all the goodies. We installed air conditioning. A small RV generator would have supplied power for the shop , but we had another trailer with generators and two more with transmitting equipment - 50,000 watts, with studio and recording equipments- RCA was prime contractor for set up. The books accompanying has floor plans etc. might give you ideas.

                    Main thing is think building like a boat- no waste space, every thing do two or more job when possible, and nothing put in so it cannot be removed when the need arises.

                    There have been links to sites with army TM-s posted here. Those equipments all had tech manuals, and the manuals would have floor plans and details. If you can find several installed set up's, you may avoid re-inventing the wheel. You can find info from at least 1940 to present.

                    Sounds like fun and good luck.


                    • #11
                      My shop is an 8x20 sea land with a 24' box you got me by 4'. It is cramped but functional. A full size mill requires a bit of a footprint to fully articulate. You can't mount it against a wall if you want to move the ram all the way back, and if you consider a 48+" table, 6" for handles and dials each side, plus 12" each side for mill travel and you hit about 7'. The lathe can go against a wall but you have to plan space to ensure access and adequate lighting to all lube and service points so you don't get tempted to neglect maintenance. Anyway, sounds quite doable to all small shops you have to remember that space is as integral to the shop as the machines so take the time to plan it correctly.

                      I don't know about instantaneous forces in a crash, and chances are you'll be the biggest object in any traffic collision but don't skimp on the machine restraints...


                      • #12
                        Crash forces can hit over 50 gees. I don't think there is any way to restrain something like a bridgeport against that kind of load. You need to make a protective structure for the cab like a headache rack on a logging truck. It stops the logs from decapitating the driver in a crash.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                        • #13
                          I think you are right .. I did not think a lot about what would happen in an accident.

                          There are lots of agressive drivers around here, but they generally move right on out of the way of a large truck .

                          Even so, I will be sure to build a cage of some sort to protect myself.

                          As you can tell, I have decided to go ahead and give it a try. I moved the lathe into position on the truck today and will be running wiring and loading tools over the next several days. I can already tell it will be a little cramped, but it does have 4 walls...

                          If anyone can think of any additional advise, please let me know now... preferably, before I make a big mistake



                          • #14
                            I've been mulling this over, and I've thought of some other things to consider. One is the safety issue, which I see has been mentioned already.

                            The other is the matter of taxes and insurance on a vehicle which you won't be driving very much. Depending on your location, that could be significant money.

                            Since you don't need the truck for it's original purpose anymore, maybe it would be wise to sell it to buy a trailer to put your shop in. Taxes and insurance would be significantly less on a trailer. Probably enough to cover rental of a truck to go pick up the machinery you'll be adding, or to cover the shipping cost if you decide to have someone deliver it.

                            The modifications you need to do to make the truck into a shop will probably detract from its value if you decide to sell it in the future. The same mods will probably add to the value of the trailer.

                            Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.