Sunday, May 19, 2013

Loading Steel Safely (Cactus Tool)

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This is how I bring in steel from the local supplier, and store it on a rack in my shop. I do this safely, and without personal brute force. How the parts are shaped, and the tool built, will be a different article.

I used to do this out in the open on my driveway. But I am getting older, and some of this is way too heavy to be handled manually with any safety. So, I now have a shop with overhead hoists and a crane.


I have a half-ton pickup that I use to transport steel. This particular load calculated as 1028 pounds, which is close enough to be safe. Overloads affect handling, and must be discouraged. Make two trips (or more) if need be. Make sure the tires are aired up fully before you go. Also make sure you have your binding straps, chains, wood “stickers”, caution tape, and duct tape on board, before you go.


As indicated in Figure 1 (all figures at end of article), I have tied the two groups of steel together into a single unit with binding straps, and secured this unit to the truck bed with chains in two separate places (each end). You do not want this load to shift, no matter what! This stuff is cut to a variety of 8-foot and 10-foot lengths for ease of cactus tool fabrication, and includes some 4-foot “drop” material that I also plan on utilizing. The original stock as-purchased was typically 20-feet long, excepting the big ¼-inch plate, which is sold as 4 by 8 foot items. I pay the supplier to make the cuts for me.

The big plate is resting on wood “stickers”, so that I can get a chain underneath it when I get it to the shop. Likewise, the smaller group is resting on “stickers” on the big plate, for the same reason. You want the load centered left-to-right, and as far forward as possible in the bed of the pickup. The further aft the load, the more likely it will fall entirely on, or even aft of, the rear axle. A load on, or aft, of the rear axle leads to completely unacceptable handling characteristics while driving!

Note that I duct-taped the chain hooks so that they cannot rattle loose. I also attached a yellow caution “flag”, even though nothing protrudes 2 feet past the tailgate (a legal requirement if it does). With the tailgate down, I can “contain” up to about 8.5 feet, except that the law requires it must be “tied-in two places” if the tailgate is down. That’s another reason why I chain it two places the way I do.


My shop has an overhang out front. There are two crane rails that extend from inside the building out through the doors, and out under the overhang. Your situation might be different, but in any event, park your truck under the crane rail with the load centered under the rail. (My truck looks tipped, but that is because the driveway on that side is not level.)

Have some steel sawhorses inside, upon which to deposit the material: wood will not handle the weight. Figure 2 shows my truck lined up and ready to unload with the overhead hoist. Figure 3 shows the freshly-unloaded material resting on the steel sawhorses inside the shop. It’s simply easier and safer to maintain elevation of the load with sawhorses: there is less raising and lowering involved.

Everybody’s situation is different. This time, I set up another pair of sawhorses deeper in my shop, closer to the steel rack, and used the same rail-mounted hoist to move convenient groups of items there. From there, I used the traveling-rail crane to move individual items to the rack. See Figure 4.

On other occasions, I have gone straight to the crane from sawhorses near the front of the shop. I have also deposited straight off the truck to sawhorses deep in the shop. There are many ways (all different in detail) to do this safely. Just stay out from under what you are moving, in case it falls. And, pay very careful attention to where each item’s center of gravity is located: lift there for best control.

Moving Material Inside the Shop

You can see the overhead rail crane in my shop quite clearly in Figure 4, as well. This is a cross beam hung from two trolleys on my two building crane rails. Upon that cross beam is another trolley bearing a chain hoist. By moving the cross beam, and moving the trolley along the cross beam, I can move very heavy items to any desired location with pinpoint accuracy. (My limit is 1500 pounds between the rails.)

That overhead rail crane is how I place individual pieces on my steel rack, which is behind the blue hydraulic press frame, along the left wall, as viewed in Figure 4. The cross beam does require ballast weight on the opposite end, when moving heavy items out to its end. That is because my building crane rails are centered in the front doors for greater general-purpose utility, not mounted along the walls. Overhead cranes and crane rails, and storage racks, need to be engineered professionally.

Storage of Material

I built custom steel racks from material left over from the construction of my shop. These are very strong, capable of safely holding several tons. Figure 5 shows the material just unloaded stored on these racks, along with other material that was already there. The keys to such rack design are (1) strength, (2) wide-open access requiring cantilever rack arms, and (3) biggest, heaviest stuff always stores lowest, yet off the floor (you do have to get a chain underneath it). Figure 6 is a longer view, showing the entire set of steel racks, capable of holding material up to 21 feet long (steel pipe).

Other Related Articles on this Site (date highlighted on this one)

2-9-17....Time Lapse Proof It Works cactus being crushed and composted
7-30-15......New Cactus Tool Website
...................turnkey site for info,  photos,  videos,  purchases
1-8-15……Kactus Kicker Development
………………production prototype & 1st production article
1-8-14……Kactus Kicker: Recent Progress
…………..….testing a revised wheeled design (experimental)
10-12-13..Construction of the Tool
………………building a “Kactus Kicker” (plain tool)
5-9-13…….Loading Steel Safely
……………….transport and storage of materials
12-19-12…Using the Cactus Tool or Tools
…………… the tool is employed (applies to any model)
11-1-12….About the Kactus Kicker
..…………….painting and rigging finished tools (plain tool)
12-28-11..Latest Production Version

………………new bigger snout and barge front (plain tool)

Figure 1 – On the Truck

Figure 2 – Lined Up for Unload

Figure 3 – Off the Truck

Figure 4 – Switch to Crane

Figure 5 – Off-Load at the Rack

Figure 6 – Steel on the Rack