Hoist lifted lumber rack- Is this a good idea or just plain crazy?

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Forum topic by WoodenSoldier posted 09-04-2011 12:06 AM 5893 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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161 posts in 3912 days

09-04-2011 12:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: jig lumber rack hoist suspended danger storage cable

I haven’t been on in a while because I’ve been quite busy. I recently purchased my first house and finally have my own garage. Those of you who may have seen some of my photos before might remember the dungeon I used to work in.
So now I have my own space, which I filled up quicker than I thought it would. There is a ton of built in cabinets all around the garage which is great for storage, but it also means I only have 1 usable wall. I have been trying to come up with creative solutions (emphasis on the creative) to store lumber without using up the entire wall.
The ceiling in the back of the garage is quite high so the wall goes up to about 14 feet. That’s a lot of unused wall space in my opinion. So I came up with this idea:

lumber rack 2

lumber rack1

It’s a rack suspended by a cable system and lifted by a 500 lb hoist. Its been a while since I took a physics class but I believe the mechanical advantage would be 3, meaning theoretically, it could lift about 1500 lbs including the rack.
The back of the rack would have fixed casters to let it run smoothly up and down the wall. I would probably also use some strut material to put it on a fixed track so that it could not go side to side or pull away from the wall.
I don’t know if I’ll actually do it or not, but it’s an idea. Please give me your feedback, especially if all of you engineers.

-- Create something everyday.

6 replies so far

View Murdock's profile


163 posts in 3451 days

#1 posted 09-04-2011 12:18 AM

Assuming the structure you attach it to is strong enough my biggest concern would be the wood shifting as the rack moved.

I think you would certainly need some sort of system to prevent it from shifting and even worse falling off. Even with casters and a track there will be vibration, may not cause a problem at first, but over time I would be concerned.

As you load different types/amounts of wood the center of gravity will change and what was smooth at one weight/arraignment may vibrate at another. I am sure there are ways to engineer this to minimize issues, but I am not an engineer so I cannot fully comment beyond my personal experience and ‘gut’.

I love the concept, and would love to have walls that tall in my shop.

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3893 days

#2 posted 09-04-2011 12:38 AM

I built something similar in my barn, using an electric hoist instead of the b&t, and use it regularly to move lumber from the main floor to the loft where my shop is.

You can pick used electric hoists up very inexpensively and operate it with your thumb.

Maybe another option for you?

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Grandpa's profile


3263 posts in 3643 days

#3 posted 09-04-2011 12:40 AM

I have a thought. If you have the space to lower it and retreive your lumber….why raise it. You have to have that space near the floor for retreival. If you plan to move things in and out of that space then you have a legitimate argument. Don’t use screw in anchors for the pulles on the tops of the 4×4’s or whatever those are. Use a strap to go over the outside of the 4×4 and bolt through the 4×4. If you are afraid of the lumber falling off the rack then throw a rope around the lumber and tie it to one of the 4×4’s. Contractors tie lumber to their headache racks that way. Should work if you can keep the pulleys attached to the joists in the ceiling. Strapping going through the sheetrock and bolting to the joists wouldn’t be a bad idea. This would have always be near a wall to support the load. 1500 pounds is a lot of weight and it adds up in a hurry. When dealing with human safety, engineers usually design for a 5 to 1 safety factor. At least we did at the company where I worked.

View Sylvain's profile


1157 posts in 3467 days

#4 posted 09-04-2011 01:04 PM

Hi Woodensoldier,
As Grandpa said:
_”If you have the space to lower it and retrieve your lumber….why raise it.etc …”

I don’t knout how tall you are. I would build a mezzanine, a kind of balcony if you prefer. With 14ft ceiling if you have 9ft headroom below, there is 5ft left which should be enough if you only go there occasionally to select or store a piece of lumber. I would use the hoist to lift up or down the lumber. Limiting the risk to the duration of the operation.

In your design you already identified 2 problems:
you need tracks to ensure
- that the left side and the right side tend to move together;
- that the top wheels remain against the wall (as the center of gravity of the rack is not under the lifting system it would tip toward the room);

I see other matters of concern :
- there is no “parachute” in case of cable failure (see the safety device of elevators). On some garage car lift there would be a kind of ratchet system on each track so when you let it come down an inch or so, the hooks engage and the load does not remain permanently in the cable and you can work safely. There is a handle so that the ratchet system can be disengaged so the car can be lowered when nobody is under it.
- although, due to the tackle use, your 500 lbs hoist would have the torque necessary to lift 1500 lbs , the tension in the horizontal and single vertical part of the cable would be the full 1500lbs. This would eat the safety factor out of the cable.
- when using cables on a block, be sure t to use big enough diameter blocks because otherwise it would rapidly cause your cable to fail. (depending of the type of cable, there is a minimum radius related to the cable section)

I think this is a piece of engineering much more tricky than building a mezzanine.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3795 days

#5 posted 09-05-2011 06:57 PM

I am no engineer, however, I would say that I concur with the above: Storing lumber like that is a bad idea. The wires will be at high tension, constantly, and could result in them wearing excessively in spots. When a high tension cable snaps, you don’t wanna be near it, if you like the idea of keeping your head attached to your shoulders…

That also brings to another point: With that current setup, for safety reasons the area underneath it will have to be kept clear, so you might as well leave it on the ground.

However a loft would probably be a good idea, since you can store your lumber on something solid, and then you can use a hoist to lower it. A small hoist carraige would weigh probably 100lbs or so, which the cable could probably support 24/7 so long as you replace the cable yearly/bi-yearly.. That said even better you could make it so that you can swing the carraige up onto the loft, to virtually eliminate that load, and then just swing it out when you need to use it.

That said, I really don’t like the OPs idea one bit. Falling objects kill. Leaving an object suspended for periods at a time so you can work under them, is a really dangerous proposition. Ask yourself, do you really want to risk becoming a paraplegic or being crushed to death, to save some space.

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View WoodenSoldier's profile


161 posts in 3912 days

#6 posted 09-05-2011 08:09 PM

Thanks for all the great suggestions, guys.
I too thought it was a little crazy but it was fun to think about.
I thought a little bit more about adding a ratcheting track to the whole suspension system but then I realized that I was going a little overboard for a lumber rack and probably only entertaining the idea because I enjoy coming up with crazy contraptions. I think I’m going to go with an idea like Sylvain’s. I am building a rack much like Mark Spagnolo’s and I’ll hang the electric hoist at the ceiling in front of it to help get wood down from the top level. Might as well, I got the hoist for free and I’ve got no other use for it.
I’ll post pictures when I’m all done

Happy Labor day (or Labour day for all Brits and Canucks)!

-- Create something everyday.

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