With the strength of an electron

Amazing how strong the little buggers are!

After lifting a number of items up to the mezzanine over the weekend with the chain hoist (and it was every bit as slow as I expected), I was excited to get the delivery today of the electric winch that David had mentioned in the comments recently.

Price was a very reasonable $105, and it can lift 125kg (or 250kg if you double the line up with the pulley and hook supplied).

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The dimensions of the crane arm (red, then black portions) were too large for the supplied clamps, so I took a piece of steel I had to hand, and after removing some welded brackets from either end, it slipped perfectly into the inside of the crane arm.  It is long – about 1200mm, and only about 350mm sticks out the front.  I am well aware that this means any load is now further forward than the furthest load point that was originally designed for the crane, but it is a simple calculation to work out the new maximum loading.

Given I had already scaled back the maximum load I would expect the setup to carry, I am well within the safety margins of the crane.  And as the winch with a single wire is only rated for 125kg, that further prevents ‘a situation’.  Only? for a little over $100, I am very happy with the 125kg/250kg load capacity of the winch – more than enough for my requirements.  Of course, when calculating the new maximum loading on the crane, I have had to factor in the weight of the beam I added, and the weight of the winch.  See – my engineering degree is finally useful for something!!

This is a pretty sweet setup!  The other benefit of the beam I added, is it can still be removed and the whole setup used elsewhere if I need an electric lifting winch.  Either that, or at that price I might just get a second one if I need to.

When I was talking about the possibilities earlier and mentioned the 4×4 winch I have, and that it wasn’t suitable for lifting, this winch aptly demonstrates why.  There is a mechanism on the cable/drum that actively locks as soon as you release the power button.  A winch used to pull vehicles out of the mud, or whatever other use you have one for (I have it bolted to the trailer to help pull heavy loads in) does not have this feature, so when you stop winching if you were lifting something, the load would remain on the motor, gearbox and bearings.

I still want to work out a bit of a platform of some description, so it is a quick task to load and unload rather than having to rig each item up that is to be lifted.

So there you have it – now I’ll be able to easily store items away, or get access to them, without having to try to manhandle them up a steep ladder, or spend forever yanking on a chain hoist chain!

On the up

Took a while to think through the best mounting option for the crane. There are three things that needed to be considered.

1. Vertical load down. This is by far the easiest force to resist, as the structure supporting the mezzanine is already in place, transferring the load down the vertical beams to the slab.

2. Rotation. A single mounting point with an arm extending out creates a significant bending moment. Trying to resist this force is tricky- a C section beam is not good to resist this. However, I am going to ignore this force, and assume that rotation is unrestricted. This then means point 3 is very important.

3. Vertical load up. If the front of the crane (mount) is pushing down, and that cannot go anywhere (it is a solid beam), then the back end of the mounting point is trying to lift.  This was the force I was most concerned about, and the solution was a second beam that distributed that load over a number of bearers.

How much load?  See if I can work it out with rusty mechanics.  The arm is 1000mm long (close enough), and at that length has a maximum loading of 230kg.  The base plate is 250mm, so therefore the vertical load will be 920kg.  This already has the flooring on top, so the weight of that can be subtracted.  Let’s estimate it is the weight of a single sheet of redtongue (it’d be more, but as there are joints that will decrease the overall effect).  A sheet weighs 50kg (I knew the damned things were heavy), so that drops the overall load to 870kg.  This is spread over 4 joists.  So each one is being lifted with a 220kg load (rounded up).  More than I am comfortable with, so it would be worth reinforcing the floor with a couple of beams to the ceiling – given that directly above is one of the main ceiling frames.  In the meantime, this is the maximum permissible crane load.  If I restrict the crane to lift a maximum of 112kg, this means each floor joist carries a vertical load of 100kg.  That sounds pretty good as a safety factor.  Any weight added to the floor above increases the permissible load, and instead of factoring that in, that just adds to the safety factor, rather than used to permit a greater load.

To start, I took a jigsaw and cut a hole in the flooring to the size of the plate.  I wanted to mount the crane directly to the beams, not the floor.  There was another reason for this – the crane has a 2200mm range of movement, and as there isn’t that much head room, dropping down 120mm or so to the beam gained some operating range as a bonus.

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After marking the position of the first set of holes, these were drilled, and the plate bolted in position.

Then, from underneath, I added a second beam that spanned 4 joists.  This was screwed into position, and bolted to the mounting plate.  Screws are fine in this case as the load is upwards.  For that reason, the crane can only operate when it is on the side of the hole.  Best restricted to 45 degrees either side of the hole when carrying a load to ensure the rear beam is only loaded upwards.

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Photo 1-03-2014 11 33 45Once the base was secured, it was time to assemble the crane itself.

Photo 1-03-2014 11 42 25The vertical beam is bolted to the base flange.  The base flange is mounted on a short post that has an angled thrust bearing at the end to carry load.  Curiously, the grease nipple on the lower section is nowhere near the bearing it is meant to grease.  Makes me suspicious the Chinese stuffed up reading the plans, as where the nipple is located just under the flange would be just about the perfect distance in, if only from the other end.  Either that, or you are expected to fill the entire void with grease.  Possibly, but as there is a hole at the bottom (underneath), I would expect over time (or on really hot days) for the grease to find its way down and out, dripping all over the ground floor.  Might have to plug a cork in the hole, then get greasing.  But seriously, even if left dry, this will not be getting enough use rotating around the base for grease to be needed.

Photo 1-03-2014 11 49 57The horizontal arm is bolted to the top, then the ram bolted between the two.  It is a mechanical, hydraulic (oil) 3 tonne ram, with a really good operating range.

Finally, the extension arm with the hook is added, and secured at the 230kg point (extended over the hole). A chain hoist hooked on (temporarily, until the electric winch arrives)

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It looks the business, and the first tests worked well.  So then I lifted some serious loads up (around the 60-70kg range).  Yup.  Works.

So then I moved onto lifting a bunch of crates I had waiting up to start clearing some of the ground floor space.

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Lifting one of my original entertainment cabinet side units (and a bit of a selfie at the same time).  After the entertainment unit was decommissioned (marking the end of CRT TVs), it became a tool cabinet in the previous shed, with the centre section being a tool sharpening station.  This time around, the cabinets don’t fit the look and feel of the ground floor, so they are heading up to the relaxing section of the upper floor (the what?!!)  Hmm – giving the game away a bit……. more on that in time 😉

The two outside cabinets look good up there, so will be used to store woodworking books, some display items etc.  But what will happen to the centre section?  No longer required for a TV, no longer needed as a sharpening station.  It might be time for my carefully made entertainment section to meet Mr saw, and separate the top section that is no longer very useful, from the two cupboards that could still be utilised – perhaps under the new sink.  Just thought of that – interesting.

100 bottles of beer on the wall

26 crates of tools in the shed
26 crates of tools
And when one of those crates gets unpacked
There’ll be 25 crates of tools in the shed.

Still slowly working through the boxes and crates of tools packed over a year ago, finding them new homes, or at least placing them where their home should be so I get an idea of just what storage options I still need.  Getting to the point that I will need to start making some, which will be good. I’m also looking at some other options to complement some cupboards, such as a collection of Festool systainers on roll boards stored under the TWC for all the miscellaneous items (abrasives, glues, various handtools etc).  Have to have a chat with my local Festool dealer (and yes, I mean that in the drug-dealer way – damned addiction that it is 🙂 ).

I am still finding items that will no longer be required, and so the sales pile is slowly growing.  Latest items include a Makita 3612 router, a Triton 184mm circular saw, a Triton Router table and stand, a scrollsaw, and a Dewalt radial arm saw.  This is also related to the Festool drug – as I look to upgrade tools, my current ones go on a hit list.  Still looking for expressions of interest (or preferably, offers to buy!) on the Torque Router Master, and the TS10L 52″ 3HP cast iron tablesaw.

On the mezzanine front, I decided the best option was a small crane arrangement from Hare & Forbes.  Costs only $209, so quite reasonable for what it is.


I will work out the best method to securely fix it to one of the main support beams, and add additional reinforcement to counteract the bending moment it will create for the beam.  It will still use a chain hoist to lift I expect, given its operational range is less than the height of the mezzanine, but that will be a bit of suck and see when I get it installed.  2200mm of operating height isn’t too bad, given the mezzanine floor is at something like 2800.  It might just mean something that needs lifting only needs to start from about the height of a workbench, which is an interesting proposition (but I still can’t see it working without a chain hoist being involved).

Irrespective, once the item is lifted above the mezzanine floor, the crane rotates easily allowing the load to be deposited onto the floor, rather than having to be collected from above the hole.  Still need to sort out some balustrading around each of the openings.


I rigged up a temporary setup to see how lifting items up to the mezzanine would go.  Using a pulley for an electric 4×4 winch (you can see it in the photos from the 20m2 post earlier) and a rope, I tried out lifting one of the crates.

Proved one point – if you are going to lift items that sort of height, and that sort of weight (30kg or so – nothing too serious, unless it drops), it needs to be a serious approach.  A rope and a pulley hooked up on a dodgy overhead line is not a serious approach.

I’ve resisted the idea of using a chain hoist up to now, being a very slow operation, but it may be the best option.  At least when you stop and let go, it doesn’t go anywhere!  Still need to hang it off something, which is still proving to be the tricky point.  I also the little matter of having to find my chain hoist – it will be in one of the crates.  Question is….which one?!

Unpacked one crate – found it full of various drilling components – drill bits, forstner bits, drill press clamps and vice, and my green Bosch drill – the one that I think I burned out trying to use it to drive some bugle-headed screws.  The only indication of a problem was the forward-reverse lever was stuck.

Decided to take it apart – find out if anything was really wrong or not.  Sure was.  It is a brushed motor, and the plastic restraining one of the brushes had gotten hot, and sagged.  The sagging plastic had interfered with the forward-reverse lever, which is rather secondary.  Surprised the motor was still running to be honest.  Took it all apart as I decided it was a definite writeoff, and not able to be saved (or rather, given it was still running, that it wasn’t safe to save it).  Had a look through how the chuck works, including the hammer function, before tossing the lot in the bin.  I kept the actual motor – not because it is still any good, but so I can take some photos.

At least the contents of that crate found homes in the shed already.  Not every one will be that easy.

The Right Tool

One of the lessons I learned from the old man (hi Dad 🙂 ), who in turn got it from my grandfather, is the benefit of purchasing the right tool for the job, when you need it. You then have that tool the next time, and the time after that and so on.

It is also worth buying quality – as much as you can afford. I have no idea, for example, how many pop rivet guns I bought (or used) over the years, and each one only lasting a job or two before failing. Once I discovered the accordian pop riveter, I was hooked, and it pops rivets all day long without failing, and is a pleasure to use to boot. Sure it is heavy, but you can put your whole body weight behind it to really drive a stubborn rivet home.

It also holds true for the caulking gun I bought a number of years ago – still a perfectly capable tool today, and working without failing, needing replacement etc.

While finishing off the post removal with the chain hoist reminded me of this – I bought the chain hoist a couple of years ago for a specific job, and it has sat there for quite a while now. But when it came to the post removal, it was the perfect tool for the job. I started using rope from a tree to the hoist, and then around the post. The rope was strong enough, but in this application there was just too much elasticity in the rope. Replacing the rope with chain, and the full power of the hoist was able to be transferred into the post. Good for me, bad for the post!


Chain Hoist

As the force of the winch was transferred into the post, you could feel the tension in the hand chain – not that it was difficult to keep winding the winch with it – the power multiplier is quite impressive. The post got to a point, then there was that incredibly deep powerful crack sound, that only timber can make as it gives up the fight. Lumberjacks get to experience the concept on a regular basis, each time a tree is bought down by hand. There is no other sound quite like it.

One of the things I really want in the new shed, if possible. Enough height to have an I beam running the length of the shed, so I can use a carriage, with the winch attached.

Block & Tackle Trolley


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