Building A Workshop Crane From Scratch

Buying tools is all well and good, but it doesn’t suit the ethos of Youtube channel [Workshop From Scratch]. Building what you need is much more the go, and that’s demonstrated ably with this home-built electric workshop crane.

The crane is put together in a straightforward manner using basic steelworking techniques. Plates and bars are machined with a drill press, bandsaw and grinder, though we could imagine you could use hand tools if you were so inclined. An ATV winch is pressed into service to do the heavy lifting, powered by a set of 12V lead acid batteries placed in the base. This design choice does double duty as both a mobile power supply for the crane, and acts as a counterweight in the base.

The final result looks sharp in its orange paint finish, and does a good job of moving heavy equipment around the workshop. The legs are reconfigurable, so that even very heavy loads can be lifted with appropriate counterweight placed on the back. It’s a significant upgrade on the earlier version we featured last year, which was hydraulic in operation. Video after the break.

8 thoughts on “Building A Workshop Crane From Scratch

  1. Have to point out that you should not use a winch as a hoist. Their braking mechanisms aren’t inherently safe. Hoists are designed such that nothing short of a catastrophic failure of major components will drop the load. Usually, this is done by using a worm gear somewhere in the transmission, which can’t be back-driven. Winches are more lenient with their mechanisms, because, generally, failure of a winch is more of a nuisance than a disaster. There’s good reason there are explicit warnings on winches that say not to use them for lifting.

    1. I agree with the electric winch sentiment, it presumably does not have a ratchet or a worm drive to stop a sudden release.
      A few years ago I built (er, bodged) a bespoke lifting trolley to lift old PDP-11 minicomputers and peripherals into and out of the standard DEC H960 rack.
      These being on the order of 40kg each, it was worth the effort to make the thing and save a potential injury. I used a hand winch which has a ratchet to prevent the computer crashing to the floor.
      You can read about the construction here, and how to build one:

    2. In my case I use a winch for lifting engines in and out, and the engine can’t go anywhere down if it was dropped, as I have a chassis in the way stopping it. While out of the car, I simply don’t get under it, and lower it down to a trolley.

      I also have a broken engine hoist (the ram is unserviceable) so this looks like a great idea to get it going again, replace the ram with an adjustable solid link, and use a winch and a pulley on the end of the arm. But I’ll look into getting a “lifting rated” winch.

  2. Totally appreciate the ethic of building something like this, but taking the comments above, I simply can’t see how it is worth it in a few ways.

    Harbor Freight has a 2-ton lift for “only” $240. I get that time is money, but money is also money. But counting raw materials (unless you truly have free scrap from, say, a day job in a machine shop), and counting shop time to scratch build one, it is hard to argue this is remotely economical. Plus HF stuff goes on massive sale from time to time, up to half-off. I’m cheap as hell when it comes to things like this, but for a piece of equipment that will probably see extensive use, it would be worth it to me just buy it.

    Only exception I can see is if it for special use, or has to physically fit in a spot where the commercial variety won’t, or something of that nature. Even in that case though I would probably buy and modify the commercial one.

    Having recently pulled and replaced a couple engines with my dad, I don’t see any way to NOT get under the load. On my back on the creeper under the engine, I made it very much a point to only stick my arm under the motor as we fennagled in the motor mount bolts. Rather it crunch an arm than my chest. I get that [abjq] says if you drop a motor it “can’t go anywhere”… except chop off your fingers if it falls even an inch while you are trying to line up the motor mounting holes.

    Also, from the article, he is using it to move around heavy shop equipment. Even if not inherently dangerous, dropping something “heavy” even a foot or two onto… your foot… can ruin your day properly.

    Again, don’t want to take anything away from what looks like a nice fab job, but wouldn’t be a project for me. Thank you for sharing though.

    1. The issue with some of the HF stuff is that if you read the fine print by “ton” they mean 1,000lbs not 2,000lbs.
      I am definitely torn on trying the 2 ton HF and similar or trying to buy / build out something more rated for 6,000 or 8,000 lbs for the very issues you mention.

    2. spot on! those engine hoists all come frome few factories in china they are all the same and you can find cheap. I wouldn’t risk my life or health with atv based winch it would be better to buy cheap hydraulic acutator (i forgot how its called in english that piston that lifts hoist arm…) you can get them for like 50euro. Its great project tough i like how clean he did it but that engine choice was bad. Maybe if he’d used proper hoisting winch there are those sets that you can put on your shop I-beam to create crane that be safer. He could also add some stoper/break on cables.

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