Doug Plank’s Elevator

In January of 2021 I built a DIY elevator for my shop. It gives me convenient access to the 16′ x 20′ loft in my shop. Storing large items like seasonal decorations and such is no longer an issue. Recently, Doug Plank reached out to share some information on his homemade elevator setup. Just as with my DIY elevator, assume your own risks and research and understand the building codes you are subject to in your location if you build one of these. Here’s what Doug had to say:

Built my own elevator about 10 years ago when I built my garage/shop. I framed for live load upstairs for future possibilities and wanted storage access in meantime. Some things that have worked well for me:

Looking up from below you see that I hung the winch from a 3 inch (schedule 80) pipe that rests on the vertical tracts. My “stress trail” is very short this way and only the mounting brackets supplied with the winch have fasteners. Everything else is “stacked” to the floor. No additional building structure is required, only some verticals to have something to attach the rails to.


This pic shows how I attached the cable looking from the rear of the platform when it is upstairs. This method of attachment ensures the best pull from the center. It also pulls from the bottom which again minimizes the stress trail. It pulls smoother, less likely to “chatter” as it moves connected this way. Notice the steel brackets in the corners the cable attaches to. These go underneath the double 2 x 4 brackets that hold the guide rollers and support the platform.

I have made a couple of modifications to the cable attachment. I went to a 6-inch pulley to increase the wear life of the cable, less likely to fray. I also put another pulley/hook on the bottom attachment cable rather than just grabbing it with the hook, again to increase the life of the cable through a gentler radius than bending over the hook.

The next pic shows the double wood bracketry that holds the rollers in the track vertically and supports the platform. I used Stanley barn door hardware. (15 feet of track). A major feature here that takes the quality of the ride up from somewhat jiggly to a very smooth and quieter glide is the addition of Teflon pads to the inside of the brackets rubbing the outside of the track (white). I made wear strips for each side of one rail about 12 inches long the width of a cutting board from Wally World. You can cut on the table saw and trim burrs with a knife. I used countersunk screws and adhesive to hold them in place. Have not replaced them in over 8 years. We use this elevator often. Notice I said one rail. One rail is the guide rail and does the job. If you try to do this on both rails, you are asking for binding and chatter. No advantage, more problems.

Be sure to spray down cable windings with WD40 monthly to extend wear. I also recommend using stainless steel cable. Cost more but lasts much longer and has higher tensile strength. I have replaced cable twice in nearly 10 years of use. When you see “frays” it’s time to change. Large diameter pulleys increase wear life substantially. You can also increase life by pulling a few feet through and cutting it off. Mount a limit switch upstairs so that when the platform is nearly up your upstairs lights come on automatically.

When I built the garage, there was so much safety BS going on among contractor, architect, building permitters that I shut it down and boarding up the hole calling it future stairwell. When they all left and I had my CO in hand from the county, I built this in about 2 days (with that time to think it through more).

(I did add angle iron braces on each end from the front corner of the platform to nearly the top of the backside. We used it 4-5 years without but it had just a little bit of bounce that the braces eliminated making it feel better.)

Some improvements I have made over the years of use:

Large pulleys = extended cable life.

Was:
Now:
To turn on ceiling lights automatically on way up. My wife was leaving the lights on and I had to come up with something. Hit limit switches a couple of feet from the top. Here you see the switch about to be tripped.

Angle braces stiffen the platform. Worked well without these but they eliminate a little bounce from flex in the wood angle brackets at each end and feels more secure:

Some more views of how I attached the cable. Again, I lift from the bottom corners. I used the brackets that came with the barn door track rollers that are made to attach the rollers to the door. This helps eliminate stress through the platform structure and I think the platform glides better.

In the second picture, you see the lifting bracket from below to the left. You can see the Teflon guide strip that is on both sides of this rail only. The angle bracket is under the wood bracket and the bolts for the roller go through this for additional support of the structure and increased wearability. I reinforced all joints with metal framing plates.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Good article and impressive design/build. Mechanical engineering at it’s best. I too have used HDPE cutting boards from Wally World in projects for my shop because it is very tough, low friction and cheap. Nice work.

  2. I need to figure out a way to add an elevator to my workshop. Unfortunately my access can only be in the middle as that is the tallest point of about four feet from ceiling. Would have to figure out a way to mount the motor to the side for spacing restrictions.

    Only two days!! You are an engineer wonder…:)

    • Thanks. If you don’t have to have a passenger lift, it can be done with cables and pulleys. There are some commercial products out there that you may want to look at prior to building for your situation.

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