electronic.alchemy :: how to move a monotype
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how to move a monotype

Created by hww3. Last updated by hww3, 16 years ago. Version #7.

I recently moved a small Monotype composition setup from Dave Clinger's shop upto my "barn" in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The whole process began in early September when I heard from Rich Hopkins that Dave was looking to find a new home for some of his equipment. After a few back and forth emails, we came to an agreement and I started making plans. Things ended up being busy for me, so we ended up settling on picking things up on a Saturday in early November. Neither of us wanted to get stuck working in bad weather, so we couldn't really put it off any longer.

The Game Plan

The event ended up being a marathon weekend. Luckily, I planned ahead and took Monday off from work in order to give myself some time to tie up any loose ends. My "assistant" for the move was my father. He actually rearranged his vacation so that he could meet up with me in Baltimore… truth be told, I think he enjoys these "adventures" as much as I do! We started out in Baltimore on Saturday morning around 8AM. I had reserved a one-way 20 foot straight truck from Budget, and the plan was to pick it up, drive to Richmond to load everything up, and then drive it all back to Pennsylvania, a total of around 600 miles. No matter how you look at it, it was destined to be a long day. The drive to Richmond was relatively non-eventful, the weather was sunny and surprisingly warm. Our truck was a relatively new diesel, and gave us no problems (which is somewhat unusual, based on past rental experiences).

The pickup would be split into two parts: the caster was stored at the farm of Dave's son in law. The keyboard and all of the ancillary equipment was in Dave's shop in downtown Richmond. The plan was to pick up the caster first, as we felt that it would be the most likely source of problems during loading. After the caster was loaded, we'd travel to Dave's shop to pick up the rest of the items before heading north. Dave estimated that we could be back on the road in 2 and a half hours, but that proved to be overly optimistic, if only because we ended up doing a fair amount of chatting before and after.

The farm is right in the middle of plantation country, and the drive in was quite picturesque. By the time we backed the truck around to the building where the caster was stored, Dave and his Son in law had the caster loaded onto a forklift. It seems that the strange goings on had brought the whole family out...

Preparing the caster for travel

Make sure that you have drained the oil from the oil pan. The oil pan spills very easily, and you'll be doing yourself a big favor by making sure that there isn't any left to drip out.

Remove the pump and mould, if possible. Crank the pot up and use rope to tie the pot securely to the caster.

If there's any possibility that the machine will be exposed to humidity or wet conditions, it's wise to coat the exposed surfaces with a good quality penetrating oil spray (WD-40 will probably work for short trips, but for anything longer than a few hours, you'll want something better, like "Sprayon Penetrating Oil and Lubricant," which I've found works wonders and is available from Grainger.

Once you've prepared the machine, you'll need to get it ready for loading. While there are several possible ways to do that, the following technique is fairly simple and has worked well for me on several occasions. Your mileage may vary.

Materials required: pallet, plywood, 2x4s, screws, large hook eyes and ratchet straps.

  1. Find a good sturdy 42" or 48" wooden pallet. If you're planning on building a full crate for your caster, you'll need the larger, as the caster is almost exactly four feet square. The pallet should be in good condition, and the sturdier, the better. You'll want one built with at least 2" material for the uprights.
  2. Lay a sheet of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood cut to the size of the palette down on top of the palette and screw down. The purpose of this piece of plywood is two fold: it provides extra rigidity also prevents anything from spilling through the cracks in the palette decking. This is extra important if you're planning on building a full crate.
  3. Position the caster squarely on the palette. Exactly how you do this will depend on the rigging equipment at your disposal. The easiest method is to use a forklift, though we've had success with steel pipes used as rollers. If you're using a forklift that has adjustable forks, you can bring the forks together so that the forks slide into the opening in the base of the caster that forms the "feet" of the caster. That way, you can just pick it up and put it down onto the pallet without have to use bars to get the caster off of the forks.
  4. Butt and screw 6-8" lengths of 2x4 to the up aginst the four sides of the caster base. These wooden blocks will prevent the caster from twisting or creeping on the pallet.
  5. Strap the caster to the pallet using ratchet straps and screw eyes (you'll want ones that are #2 or heavier, and at least 2 1/2 inches long. Your goal is to attach one strap to each side of the caster. Avoid running the strap over any delecate parts; there are 2 or 3 very obvious spots, including one or two large holes in the frame. Drill a pilot hole through the plywood into the pallet frame, making sure to catch the uprights. Attach the eyes and tighten. Hook up the ratchet straps and tighten until snug. You should end up with something that looks like http://hww3.smugmug.com/gallery/963021/1/44309962/Large.
If you're loading the caster into a rental truck that has a wooden floor, you may want to screw some wooden blocks up against the pallet so that it doesn't "walk" around while in transit. Most rental trucks have walls that aren't built to withstand any amount of force, so any strapping of the caster to the walls will be a primarily psycological endeavour. Nonetheless, it's probably a good idea to strap the caster to the walls, in order to counteract any tendency to tip. This might be a good time to mention that the whole object here is to make the laws of physics work for you. Everything we've done has been designed to lower the center of gravity of the caster and to make it less likely to tip over. Remeber that it's far easier to prevent a heavy object from tipping over than it is to stop it once it's started to move.

Loading and unloading the caster

With the caster strapped securely, the next task is to get it into the truck. By far the easiest method is to use a forklift. Many rental trucks have liftgates, but this is an extremely risky approach, as the weight of the caster is often close to the capacity of a properly maintained liftgate, which is often not the state yours will probably be in. Additionally, liftgates tend to tip down due to weight hanging off the end of the lift platform.

So, let's say a forklift isn't an option… what are the other possibilities? If you have access to a loading dock, rental trucks (other than U-Hauls) are often dock-high, which should get you within a few inches. A pallet jack can be used to roll the pallet onto the truck. Alternately, you can use pipe rollers to move the pallet onto the truck.

Instead of using a rental truck, a trailer might be a better option. If you have access to a pickup truck with sufficient towing capacity, U-Haul rents a very servicable dual axle trailer that's low enough to the ground that you can fashion a ramp and either roll the pallet onto the trailer or use a come-along to winch the pallet onto the truck. A key consideration when using this approach is to avoid stressing the pallet.

Finally, a roll-back tow truck can be used to load (or unload) a caster, and then either transported directly, or for longer distance moves, transferred to a rental truck. There are usually a few inches difference between a roll-back and a truck bed, but this can be overcome with blocks and rollers. I've used this approach with casters (and presses, as well) with very good success.

Obviously, on its own, a caster will be a little top-heavy. Hopefully, you've strapped it sufficiently to a good quality pallet so that you will have effectively lowered the caster's center of gravity. I've moved a few of these machines very long distances using this technique, and haven't had any problems.

The Triumphant Arrival

We arrived at the farm in Pennsylvania around 3:30 AM. We had pre-positioned a car at the barn so that we could park the truck and drive home in relative comfort. We arrived at home at 4:00 AM, and I don't remember my head hitting the pillow.

Things started back up at the farm around 9AM when Grant, a friend of the family, arrived with his roll-back tow truck. The plan was to roll the caster onto the tow truck using a pallet jack. Once it was on the roll-back, we would drive around the side of the building to the door; tip the bed back and slide the pallet with the caster into the barn. There was a slight difference in height between the two trucks, so it took a little bit of coaxing to get it across. This where it really helps to have a solid pallet, because we were able to tie a cable around the pallet and winch it across. In less than 15 minutes, we had the caster transferred to the roll-back and unloaded into the barn. It took another 90 minutes to unload the rest of the items; I've decided that loading and unloading the keybars were my least favorite part of the process.

It might also be worth talking briefly about how we moved the keyboard. Two people can move a Monotype keyboard; which weighs about 300 pounds. You'll want to remove the keybanks, stop bars and other assorted items from the keyboard. Be careful that during the process you don't bend any of the keybar rods that are exposed… you can render a keyboard completely useless with very little effort.

Once all of the extra parts have been removed, two people can lift the keyboard off of its stand (simply lift it up, and it should slide right off). We moved the keyboard from place to place by putting it onto a hand truck that we kept low to the ground.

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