Bill Rosener, Ph.D.
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Homemade Truck Crane

An Easy Way to "Raise the Grain"
By Bill Rosener

Whether driving around town or visiting the local green waste dump, I frequently came across logs that were too heavy for me to lift. So I started looking around for a safe and easy way to haul these logs back to my shop. I initially considered purchasing a commercial truck crane for $500 that would have been bolted to the bed of my truck. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to lug an extra 170 pounds of weight everywhere I drove. I was also worried that a bolted down truck crane would get in my way when hauling other items like plywood. Would a crane even meet my needs? With concerns about making a poor purchasing decision, I decided to make my own truck crane. My primary design goals included a crane that could be:

  1. Removed easily.
  2. Provided full access to the truck bed.
  3. Folded for easy stowing.
  4. Allowed the ball mount (hitch) to be usable even when the crane was installed. (i.e., I could have both a trailer hooked up and still have access to the crane).
  5. Required little or no modification (i.e., drilling holes) to my vehicle.

To meet these requirements, I decided the first step was to create and mount a second receiver hitch on my truck. This secondary receiver hitch was constructed from a few short pieces of square tubing.

I used pre-existing holes in both the bumper and the frame, to determine its location. This second receiver hitch provided additional strength and stability - allowing the weight of the entire crane to be reduced while also allowing the crane to be positioned to the side of the truck so it did not interfere with truck bed access.

Next, I created the bottom portion of the truck crane from some 2” square tubing and some round pipe The bottom portion of the crane slides into the secondary receiver hitch and has a square opening that aligns with the main receiver. When the ball mount is inserted into the main receiver hitch it slides through this square opening securing the bottom portion of the crane. If the hitch pin is secured with a lock, then both the ball mount and the bottom part of the crane become theft resistant. The top part of the crane was made from some 1” and 2” square tubing. Once assembled, I use a chain hoist to lift logs in the air.

Fortunately, I had all the metal and even the chain hoist on hand. However, if I you had to buy everything, you would probably spend around $50 on metal and another $50 on a chain hoist. (Currently at Harbor Freight, a 1 ton chain hoist sells for $45). With this crane, I can now select and load logs that are both longer and wider - often delaying the cutting of logs until I am home. Below a few advantages of cutting logs at home:

  1. Allows me to more carefully study grain patterns and decide on bowl orientation before making any final cuts.
  2. Allows me to be more generous with removing end-grain checking. From what I have read, this is important since many cracks in bowls are because turners did not remove enough end-grain cracking.
  3. Allows me to turn larger bowls.
  4. Allows me to store the logs in an upright position to promote spalting. At which point, I can remove the insect damage on the ground and still have enough log left to meet my requirements.
Typically in under 5 minutes, I can load a log onto the back of my truck. While not shown in the images above, I typically use a support stand on the bottom of the crane when lifting extremely large logs – since the maximum tongue load on my bumper is only 500 pounds. Overall, this homemade truck crane has allowed me to haul home some really beautiful logs, while also saving my back.

MP4 Video of this truck crane lifting a 442 pound (220 kg) log.

MP4 Video of the bottom portion of the truck crane.