DIY Gantry crane for unloading tool

  • Advertise with us

« back to Jigs & Fixtures forum

Forum topic by William Shelley posted 02-23-2017 07:54 PM 4579 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

609 posts in 2521 days

02-23-2017 07:54 PM

I find myself needing to unload a 1000lb+ tool from the bed of a pickup truck or a trailer in two days and I have two options:

Try and build some kind of ramp and slide it out,


Build a gantry crane that can straddle the pickup/trailer, and use a harbor freight chain hoist to lift the tool out, drive the truck/trailer away, and then lower the tool down.

It’s just going to be me, so I’m leaning towards option #2 because it feels safer. The tool is my new jointer/planer, ships in a 8ft long x 4ft wide x 5ft tall crate, and I expect it to be somewhat topheavy.

Does anyone have any advice for this?

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

24 replies so far

View Redoak49's profile


5177 posts in 3041 days

#1 posted 02-23-2017 08:31 PM

Rent an engine hoist or buy one from Harbor Freight is the way I do it.

Be careful…

View hotbyte's profile (online now)


1053 posts in 4027 days

#2 posted 02-23-2017 09:12 PM

You’ve got two days…nothing but big bowls of Wheaties until then and a few cans of spinach on hand for delivery!!!

Or, rent the engine hoist as mentioned.

View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

609 posts in 2521 days

#3 posted 02-23-2017 09:13 PM

My concern with an engine hoist (i’ve never used one) is that it won’t be taller than the height of the pickup bed + the height of the crate.

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

View mike02130's profile


170 posts in 1725 days

#4 posted 02-23-2017 09:18 PM

Place a set of pipe staging/scaffolding on either side of the truck as a base for a beam or whatever to hang your hoist on. Lift with hoist then drive truck out. Worked for me with an 800 # machine.

-- Google first, search forums second, ask questions later.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4420 days

#5 posted 02-23-2017 09:20 PM

You are correct. If you rent one that has enough reach, it will not have enough capacity. You have rafters in your shop/garage? If so, get 2 4X4 posts to support a rafter and place them on each side of the truck or trailor. Use a chain hoist to unload.

View Woodknack's profile


13552 posts in 3432 days

#6 posted 02-24-2017 01:10 AM

Frank Howarth on YouTube moves big machines, you’ll find his videos helpful.

-- Rick M,

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1972 days

#7 posted 02-24-2017 03:23 AM

William Shelley,

I have rented engine crane hoists in the past. From what I recall, maximum lift height is 101”, depending on the engine crane hoist rented. Additionally, my local rental store offers gantry cranes for rent, but from what I recall these are expensive. I looked for gantry crane rental in Portland but found nothing on the internet. However, if the engine crane hoist will work, this would be the easiest and least expensive approach. Here is one in Portland with a lift capacity of 91”, although I know that a heavier duty model tow-behind model with a lift capacity of 101” exists since I rented one. Here is the Portland rental…

For reference, I measured my pickup bed to be 32” from the ground. My jointer lift points are 26” from the floor plus 4” for the pallet; available lift would be 91” – (32” + 26” + 4”) = 29”. Therefore, in my case the 91” lift capacity would work. But I do not know about your machine and whether the 91” lift capacity would be enough. But the bigger question in my mind is whether the lifting reach (36” to 50”) is sufficient for the engine crane hoist to carry the machine off the back of the pick-up truck.

I would forgo the ramp idea. It would take a lot of time to build and if your get the height of the ramp wrong (relative to the height of the pickup bed), a lot of time would be spent making adjustments to the ramp when the machine arrives. Also, a new 1000 lb machine running away on the ramp would make for a very bad day.

The homemade gantry crane could work, but I personally would overbuild it and ensure that it is very stable with a very broad and sturdy base with anti-racking bracing. If the base is not sufficient, the crane could tip or collapse. If not sturdy enough, it could break under load. Then there is the time required to design and build the crane; it will probably take longer to design and build than you think (at least that is the way things seem to go for me). Two days is not very much time. However, in spite of my misgivings, if well designed and well built, your plan sounds ok to me.

View HerbC's profile


1820 posts in 3911 days

#8 posted 02-24-2017 04:06 AM

Rent or borrow a forklift???

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View bigblockyeti's profile


7189 posts in 2773 days

#9 posted 02-24-2017 04:15 AM

You can buy a receiver hitch mounted crane that will allow you to load and unload big stuff by yourself while taking up far less room than a gantry when not in use. I know I’ve seen them with capacities up to 1000lbs. but I’m not sure if many are avalible that exceed that.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View runswithscissors's profile


3129 posts in 3077 days

#10 posted 02-24-2017 04:22 AM

With the crane mounted in the receiver hitch, how would you swing the crate around to place the load on the ground?

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4420 days

#11 posted 02-24-2017 05:05 AM

Jbrow, The capacity of a crane is the load it’s capable of handling. The boom length would work with an engine crane by removing the tail gate, but what is the capacity of the lift with the boom extended? Easiest method is use a rafter if possible. Next would be to build a gantry out of 4X4s, not too hard or expensive. 8= 8’ and some large screws or bolts is all that’s needed.

View Holbs's profile


2378 posts in 3081 days

#12 posted 02-24-2017 11:10 AM

I had same issue when it came time to remove my 500lb Jet planer from my pickup. I forget the weight limit of this manual lift I rented, but their were larger units available if needed. But being 1000lb and 8’x4’ long with the price tag of your machine, I would certainly find professional hydraulic help to make sure it is safe.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1972 days

#13 posted 02-24-2017 01:40 PM


Interstate Rentals list the lift capacity of the engine crane hoist to which I posted the link as 1500 pounds. Since there are no notations regarding a reduced lift capacity with the extended arm, I presume the lift capacity to be 1500 pounds even with the arm fully extended.

However, your point should definitely be a point of conversation with the rental company before renting the engine crane hoist (or any other piece of lifting equipment). It would certainly make for a bad day to watch the arm bend or brake and damage a brand new $4000 machine.

View them700project's profile


300 posts in 2070 days

#14 posted 02-24-2017 01:48 PM

Generally there are marking up the outrigger that show what the capacity is at each distance. From what I remember the last one I used started at 1500 but dropped to 500 when fully extended. Depending on what your looking for that may be enough. But you may not have the height if its not extended and you need the 1500.

as another idea I set up my table saw alone and got it out of my truck by sliding it down an atv ramp

View Matt Rogers's profile

Matt Rogers

112 posts in 3022 days

#15 posted 02-24-2017 02:25 PM

I would think that you could build a gantry crane very fast and cheaply. Then have it to use for other tasks. Construction lumber is strong and cheap, otherwise all of our houses would fall down (don’t go into ow it is crap these days, I know it is not what it used to be). A doubled up 2×8 nailed together would support an allowable load of about 2500 pounds on a 8’ span. This data book is great in determining wood strengths and capacities. You have to guess the Fb of the wood you are using, but that is also available online if you search for the species you have. Go up to 3-2×8s and you have more than enough for a full 2000 pounds with a huge amount of leeway. Build the supports well braced – a quick and strong way would be to build a simple “wall” with a triangular shape and some angled and vertical 2×4s, with a notch in the top to fit the top beam and plywood both sides. 2×4s are super strong when braced with plywood. Then you only need bracing from the wall to the beam. Find a way to make that brace bolt on, and you can break the entire unit down and store it for next time.

-- Matt Rogers, and

showing 1 through 15 of 24 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics