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Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting R2 into the pickup truck

This week was spent coming up with a way to get a (very heavy) crated R2 into the back of my GMC Pickup truck without destroying my back.

I looked at many options. The truck cranes at Harbor Freight, Motorcycle lifts, Jacks, and winches. Each option had it's drawbacks. Whatever I did had to be able to be set up and ready to go in 5 minutes. Plus I wanted nothing permanently mounted to my truck as I also use it to carry my kayak/sailboat. And the Kayak setup I used is what actually gave me my ideas. Using a bed extender ($39.00 at harbor freight) I was able to come up with a bracket that would hold a 8.5 foot square steel tube with a chain winch attached to the top. I had to cut the bed extender down to snug up closer to the end of the tailgate I then turned it on it's side and cut one side of the T piece that came with the extender. The T piece turns into an L piece and only serves as a long tube to hold the 8.5 foot steel tube. The steel tube actually rests directly on the ground so as not to stress any of the hitch extender welds. So most of the stress and weight is transferred directly to the concrete.

When I hooked it all up tonight, I wasn't sure how the crate / escape pod would lift with the chain winch but it was a piece of cake. In 5 minutes I had the crate in the truck and then back out. Temporarily I had straps on the escape pod that I was attaching the chain winch hooks to. Tomorrow I may add some O hooks (or whatever you call them) to the sides and then weight the escape pod down with several hundred pounds and try it again.

The actual chain hoist is a piece of engineering genius. This was my first time using one. It takes a little longer than a regular winch but you can literally operate it with 2 fingers. And once it's in position it is locked in. There's no way it (I hope) can slip. To raise or lower you just pull the chain clockwise or counterclockwise. I got this tip from my genius insanely crazy robot building friend in New Hampshire who lives on the side of his mountain and pulls down giant trees with these chain hoists to build giant robot laboratories by hand. If you haven't see his website, check out and click on "The Giant Robot Project". He is the most talented genius builder on planet earth. And very down to earth cool. Last year he came down and went sailing with me. He built his own sawmill to make lumber to construct a giant dome home and even hand built a road up the mountain through the forest. Sorry for getting off the subject at hand but just thinking about Jamie's projects inspires me.

After I do a few successful tests lifting a heavily loaded escape pod then I'll finish covering the structure and check this todo off my list. And I can take my droid anywhere and in any weather. $39.00 for the extender, $16.00 square steel tube, $44.00 for Harbor freight chain hoist = $99.00 total.
As Hannibal the leader of the "A" team says
"I love it when a plan comes together".


Mike D. said...

That looks like a pretty slick set-up Jim! Those chain hoist are pretty amazing.

The only design change I'd suggest is that eye bolt at the top where the hoist is attached. The threaded portion tends to not take side loads too well and I'd be worried about that fracturing when fully loaded.

A little better arrangement would be a welded loop with a gusset or you could probably do with a heavy U bolt. Harbor Freight sells a little bit of rigging, check back there for something a little more sturdy to serve as the main hoist attachment.

Jim Quinlan said...

I think that eye bolt will be ok Mike. It's stainless and I'm going to have nuts on both ends cinched down. It's a smooth operation with that hoist with no jerking or tugging.