📝 ITEMS IN THIS PROJECT | disclosure – some affiliate links below:
→ Superstrut trolley blocks: https://amzn.to/2Mh6cp0
→ Electric hoist: https://amzn.to/2MheTQc
→ Fall arrester: https://amzn.to/367iQ11
→ Superstrut: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Superstrut-1-5-8-in-x-1-5-8-in-Silver-Electroplated-Half-Slot-Channel-Strut/1000192655
To guide the elevator up I’m using four pieces of 1-5/8” Superstrut. The loft floor is 10′ off the ground and to allow over travel into the upstairs space, three of these will be used for vertical travel. The fourth will be used to suspend the hoist.
The hoist is a generic hoist I picked up online. You can find these electric hoists from various vendors with various load capacities. They all look the same so my guess is they are manufactured in the same place and branded for different vendors. The one I picked has a 500-pound single line and 1000 pound double-line lifting capacity.
The hoist comes with two lifting straps. I’ll be using the shorter strap as a means of attaching the platform to the hoist.
For some means of safety, I picked up a fall arrester. Unfortunately, I ordered the wrong size. This one is just under the 500 pound capacity of the lift so I need to either replace it with a larger one or add a second one of this size.
A bag of 1/2” bolt hardware is needed to connect the trolley blocks to the platform. If any of you out there have access to a Tractor Supply store, they always have the best prices on basic hardware.
Four trolley blocks will be used inside the Superstrut to keep the lift tracking vertically. These are just steel plates with four bearings on one side made to fit inside the Superstrut.
With the design done and the materials in house, I started the build by drilling a bunch of small holes for mounting screws.
As you can see, with a single hole the screw heads interfere with the travel of the trolley blocks.
The solution is to cut a countersink for each of the holes. This will allow the screw head to sit lower. To prevent going too deep with the larger drill bit I used a washer and a block of wood as a depth stop. This worked really well I did have to come back and make a few of these holes deeper.
I didn’t record any work upstairs in the loft. My entire focus was completing the work without falling through the hole in the floor. Moving the camera would have just been a distraction. The starting point upstairs is two 6×6 posts 10′ apart with a board connecting them to hold the mini-split. I’ll add the vertical Superstrut, 2×4 bracing behind them, horizontal Superstrut support brackets, the hoist, and a dedicated electrical circuit for the hoist.
Step 1 is to add the left side Superstrut referencing off of the left side of the opening and an inch or so below the horizontal mini-split board above.
A filler piece is needed to go below the full section on both sides. I can go ahead and cut two pieces to the same length.
The offcut piece was clamped to the side of both the top full section and the bottom short section to make sure they are perfectly in line when securing them to the wall.
I secured the right side in the opposite direction; bottom to top. First, a spacer block of wood was used on the floor to locate the track at the exact spacing I needed.
Then the full-length piece can be carefully stacked on top and clamped in line with the bottom piece with the offcut. The spacer block was used again to make sure the two tracks remained parallel.
Before starting this build I worked out the entire design in SketchUp. For those who are interested, I already published a video covering my design process. The entire design calls for four sheets of 1/2” CDX pine plywood. Nothing fancy. This is a purely utilitarian project and I just need it to function, not necessarily look a certain way. I used the CNC machine to cut out all of the pieces while I finished breaking them down and prepared everything for assembly.
For increased strength without a lot of weight, I went with a torsion box style platform, which is where the assembly starts.
Then the sides and back panel can be added. The platform connects to the sides with mortise and tenon joints and to the back panel with a wide face glue connection. The sides connect to the back panel with a few finger joints.
Next, the assembly is flipped on it’s back so the platform interior webs can be added. I made sure to use way more glue than what was necessary as any extra glue would just act similar to caulking around all of the edges.
More glue and the bottom of the platform is installed. I am using nails to hold the pieces together but that’s just until the glue dries. The main holding power comes from the glue after it dries.
The last piece of the platform assembly is a wide rectangle that goes across the lower back panel. This is to further strengthen the back panel right where the lifting strap will be.
And the last step for that day was to create the brackets for mounting the horizontal Superstrut upstairs. Four brackets total with two pieces of plywood each. After that I let everything sit over the weekend for the glue to fully cure.
Back in the shop on a Monday, the work starts by breaking down some solid wood boards. Wood pricing is pretty crazy at the time of making this lift. It was actually less expensive to buy southern yellow pine 2×6 boards than it was to buy white pine 2×4 boards. These pieces are for added support for mounting the trolley blocks.
My SketchUp design called for a 1/2” spacing away from the wall so a spacer block was slid into place and the lift pushed against it. Then the outside solid wood piece was attached with a lot of glue and a few wood screws from the inside.
Then the trolley blocks are attached with a few 1/2” bolts.
With the bolts in place, I could measure and fit a board between the bolts on the inside of the lift. The purpose of these pieces is to add strength to the side-to-back connection.
While the glue dried downstairs I shifted focus to the loft. Again, I didn’t record anything as I didn’t want to get distracted by a camera while working over a hole. The vertical Superstrut is secured to 2×4 studs behind them. The studs are secured to the top plate below as well as the backside of the horizontal board for the mini-split. Each stud and both 6×6 posts have one of the plywood brackets secured to them with glue and screws. The spray foam insulation was scraped off at every connection point. The horizontal Superstrut sits into the brackets with no mechanical fasteners. The fit is pretty snug and there aren’t any lateral forces. The hoist is bolted to the Superstrut and is powered by a dedicated circuit. This allows me to keep power to the lift off at all times unless it is needed, which is good for safety both in preventing kids from using it as well as removing power from the hoist in the event that the mini-split above it overflows from its condensation drain.
This is when I realized I forgot to install the lifting strap before bolting the lift in place. I had to use a pry bar and a bunch of blocks to lift it off the floor enough to gain access to the bottom. Then I could fish the strap through. Speaking of fish, I used 50lb fishing line to help feed the strap around the back of the platform. This roll of fishing line has more than paid for itself in the random times I’ve used it over the years.
Down comes the cable and I can test the entire setup for the first time. I had two immediate observations.
First, there is a little spring to the lift when I bounce on the platform. I initially thought it was from the Superstrut bending under weight but I now know it was more from the Superstrut twisting as weight is applied to the lift. This is because the mounting location of the hoist is not directly above the cable as it exits the hoist. Instead, the mounting location is just centered on the housing of the lift. I ended up solving this a few days later by adding a pulley to the platform to double up the line and securing the end of the cable to the opposite side of the rotation on the Superstrut.
With the lift all the way up you can see the clearance I have on the front side. This is the result of precise planning and then just following your own directions.
The second thing I noticed is a few of the screw heads in the Superstrut were too high and causing some random interference with the trolley blocks. Drilling the countersink slightly deeper was an easy fix for this.
Here you can get a good look at the upstairs work completed with the loft in the up position.
And finally, the lift can be used as it was intended to be used. This is definitely one of those projects that instantly deserves a spot atop the “I should have done this sooner” list. This adds an incredible convenience to access the 16′ x 20′ storage loft in my shop and I finally have a place to store seasonal items like decorations and bicycles.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them and I’ll make a follow-up video on my Jay Bates 2 channel. Take care, and I’ll talk to you in the next video.