I Bought And Moved A HAAS TM-1 CNC Mill And This Is How I Did It
The saga of this HAAS TM-1 CNC milling machine begins over 10 years ago when I first met my friend who's name I won't reveal, but happens to rhyme with Park MtChicken. At the time, he had crammed a HAAS TM-1 into a tiny little shop with such low clearance that the head raised above the drop ceiling tiles. Soon after I hired him to produce my first product, Scopemonkey Iphone Microscope Adapter, he moved to a new shop, sold the TM-1 and installed a HAAS Mini Mill.
Although the Mini Mill was a much better production machine, he never stopped talking about how the TM-1 was the best prototyping machine on earth.
In 2011 I purchased a Tormach PCNC 1100 so that we could have a real machine to make prototype parts on. It was a huge upgrade from the tiny Sherline, and Taig CNC Mills that I had previously, but it was still no HAAS. At the time I had power, space, and financial constraints, so the Tormach 1100 fit the bill. It has served us well, cranking out many prototype and production parts. We will continue to use it, especially since Path Pilot is such a great CNC control software.
Fast forward 10 years, and I check the surplus websites every once in a while to see if there are good deals on CNC machines. Last year I picked up 3 HAAS CNC GT-10 Lathes and had them moved for less than my Tormach cost. We’ll be using those to start making Marksmiths and pens at our shop. My friend was astonished by a good deal I found and wanted me to keep an eye out for him, so when I saw this HAAS TM-1 posted in Asheville, NC, I knew that it was a match made in heaven. I didn’t want it because it didn’t have a tool changer, but his opinion was that not having a tool changer keeps you focused and out of trouble. To each their own.
I sent him the listing for the machine, and he freaked out. It was like he was reunited with a child who had disappeared years ago. He ended up winning the machine for over $10,000 which is a great deal considering that they resell for $15 to $20k. He says that he accidentally added a 0 to the bid amount, because his limit was about $7,000, so after the adrenaline and beer wore away, the reality set in of the cost and hassle to move the machine, he retracted his bid.
A few weeks later, I’m checking the surplus site again, and I see that the machine has been relisted and only has 30 minutes to go, and the current bid was just over $4,000. I thought we can’t let this machine sell for less than half of the cost he would have bought it for initially! If I won it, I would give him first dibs, as I didn’t really want to go through the hassle of having it moved.
I put in a bid for $5,000 at the last second and ended up winning it for under $5k! Wow, that was crazy! I offered it to my friend for the winning bid cost. It was a tough decision for him, but he passed on it again. He was too worried that he would get lost in machining again.
So now the reality set in of having to move this 2 tons of bricks from Asheville NC 200 miles to my shop. I contacted the machinery movers that I’ve used in the past, but they were not available, and their semi truck would have been a bit long to fit in the weird loading dock area.
I’ve used USHIP in the past with limited success, so I put as much detailed information on there as possible. The biggest problem I have with UShip is that most of the bids that you receive are by some logistics company that schedules trucks and they don’t bother to read the descriptions. I needed someone that could load, transport, and unload the machine. There was no help or forklift at the loading location, and limited help unloading.There were also some clearance issues that the machine had to pass through ~83in height doors, and the loading dock at the pickup location was unusually low, measuring only 42in in height instead of the standard 48in. That 6in difference may not seem like much, but when you have to move about 6,000 lbs including the electric pallet jack, you need a good ramp.
Price quotes were all over the place, from about $1100 to $2700. The mover who quoted $2700 did look like they knew what they were doing and had experience moving CNC machines larger than this one. They had pictures of VF2 sized machines on a flatbed. However, $2700 was too much, especially since my normal machinery movers had previously charged $2000 to move 3 HAAS GT10 lathes weighing about 3100 lbs each at the same time. I ended up picking someone who bid $1200, because that seemed like a reasonable price for a days work moving this, and I spoke with them on the phone and over email going over all the nitty gritty of how to move the machine. They agreed that they could do it with his 26ft flatbed truck and did not foresee any issues. So we scheduled a date to pick it up.
On the morning of the pickup date, the mover contacted us saying that the place that they went to rent the electric pallet jack from were all rented out. Sucks that he didn’t reserve one ahead, so we rescheduled, and they were going to reserve the electric pallet jack. The next time I checked in the night before to make sure all was good, and they asked if they could reschedule to a few days later on Wednesday. I said OK, but let's get it done! At this point I am out on family vacation, and my employees at the shop will be taking care of receiving it.
Wednesday rolls around, and we’re out at the beach with family and friends for the first time in about 5 years, so I am not checking my phone. I get back to the hotel around 3pm, and there are several messages from the pickup location asking when the movers will be arriving, and that they have been waiting all day. Now maybe I forgot to mention that the mill was sold by Asheville High School, because their students now had the option to go take CNC machining classes at the local community college. So the engineering shop class teacher is scheduling us in on his unpaid summer leave to get the machine moved before the school year starts. So he is obviously frustrated and worried that the mover has not shown up yet. Why he hasn’t yet communicated directly with the mover who’s phone number he has, I don’t know.
I call the mover who says that they are leaving Charlotte, NC. Which could is about 2 and half hours away, so at this point they would be getting there by 5:30 at best. I ask them to call the guy at pickup and coordinate with him. The teacher is willing to stay if he has an ETA, but the mover never calls to coordinate. I tried to reach them for the next few hours with no success, and even the next day they never responded to any of the communication methods I had previously used with them. So the mover bailed on us, which if they were that flaky, was probably for the best.
This left me with only about 1 week to get the machine moved. I wouldn’t be able to find and coordinate with any other movers within that time, so now I was stuck doing this myself. At this point $2700 felt like a good deal.
I knew that a flatbed stake truck would be necessary to properly strap the machine down. Flat beds have rails on the edges of the bed that are used to attach the ends of the strap to, and the load is tied downwards. Proper distribution of the strapping end points on the bed rails allows you to keep the machine from tipping side to side and front to back. Flatbed trucks also have better protection behind the cab with a thick steel plate to prevent the load from penetrating the cab.
I called all the rental truck companies I could find, and all their flatbed trucks were out on long term leases. Ryder said they only have about 6 flatbed trucks in the whole Georgia Fleet. It was too late, but when I was picking up the electric pallet jack at Herc Rentals, I found out that they do have 26ft flatbed stake trucks available for short term rentals. You have to plan ahead though and fill out their paperwork to be allowed to drive the truck.
Box truck was the only remaining option. The nice thing about the box truck is that they have a lift gate, which was the only solution available to get the electric pallet jack into the box truck. I guess HERC could have forklifted it into the back, but they did not have a loading dock available. All their equipment was at ground level, and they had a metal ramp that was only suitable for a forklift.
So I rented a box truck from Ryder. That was easy enough. This video shows how we were able to relatively safely strap and tie down the machine.
The electric pallet jack was more difficult to find in a location that wasn’t too far from us (surprising considering we are in Atlanta). Finally found one that was rated for 4500 lbs and weighed 1000lbs, the Toyota 8HBW23.
The day before the move, I get a call from HERC saying that they checked the pallet jack (Toyota 8HBW23) and it had an electrical issue and would need to be serviced. I felt defeated for a moment, and then after explaining my situation of having everything else already scheduled for the move, they said that they have some heavier duty, 6000 lb rated electric pallet jacks (Toyota 8HBE30), and I said ok. The kicker is that thing alone weighs 2000 lbs. The liftgate on a RYDER box truck is rated at 3000 lbs, so hopefully it would work to lift it.
It ended up working, but was a little sketchy raising and lowering it on the lift gate. The electric pallet jack was so long, we could not put it on the liftgate sideways. We had to back it up as far as close to the truck as possible and leave the forks hanging off the end. Then lift and drag the forks for a bit as the pallet jack was backed into the truck. Although this pallet jack was essential to the move, it was not designed well for moving slowly. The controls were set too fast. You had to always make sure that you didn’t crush yourself between it and an object behind it. It had a large emergency stop switch in the center of the handle, which was designed to keep you from getting crushed, but when activated the whole thing would lurch forward (again to keep you from getting crushed). I accidentally hit the emergency stop with my hand while loading the CNC mill up the ramp into the truck, and that forward lurch rocked the machine. Fortunately it wasn’t enough to tip it over.
We also had a manual pallet jack, and used that for moving the mill out of the shop and onto the loading dock, because it was easier to control at slow speeds. The powered pallet jack was only used to move the mill in and and of the truck. We could have probably done it with the manual pallet jack, but it would have required using a winch or come along to pull it up the ramp into the truck, and would have been more difficult to stop the mill from rolling on an incline.
I arrived at the Ryder truck location at