Turn My Tractor Bucket Into A Forklift
After obtaining a tractor with a front end loader to move mulch, gravel, and such, we realized it didn’t move things that don’t scoop well. Wouldn’t it be cool to use the tractor‘s loader bucket to move non-loose-stuff, like things on pallets, logs, etc.? Could we repurpose it into a fork-lift? A little Web work found Sears has Item #SPM8069033429 Model # 145200 for a couple hundred dollars. Looks like a good solution, but two things concerned me. First, I don’t buy what I can build, and second, although I’m no engineer, I didn’t like the localized stress on the bucket, at least my bucket.
The Sears solution says it is good for 4000 pounds, but my compact tractor can’t approach that, nor does my need. I move a few hundred pounds of logs or a pallet occasionally. I want it to snap on and off easily. I also don’t want it to stress my aged compact tractor. As mentioned, I wondered, can I make this myself? A trip to Lowes found rigid conduit lots more expensive than galvanized “water” pipe, so I chose a ten ft. length of 1.25 inch galvanized water pipe for $24. I had about seven ft of 1 inch galvanized pipe lying around, for miscellaneous braces, and went to measuring.
As a young welder, I remember saying I can weld across anything I can step across and weld anything but the crack of dawn, but, it really is easier to weld pieces that fit as well as practical, especially pipe where it is very easy to burn the edge away, leaving you a hole to plug. These pictures from our “Chain Link Gate” project show that just a little hammer work makes the job easier. 1) The butt joint between a straight cut and a round pipe creates the “crack of dawn” scenario. You could use your angle grinder to cut a concaved end to the pipe, but I find this trickier than it sounds. 2) What works well for me is to slightly flatten the end of the pipe which is to welded to the round edge 3) almost closing the “crack of dawn” before striking an arc.
So, what is our goal? Looking at the diagram, where blue represents the shape of the bucket, we want the red fork assembly to snap into place. The key is to have pipe ONE forward of pipe TWO, so downward pressure from the top lip of the bucket places down-force on the forks ahead of the back “pivot point.” That way, if you bump the tips of the fork downward or drag the forks (within reason), the fork assembly doesn’t just pull out of the bucket. Pipe TWO and pipe THREE hold a rectangle rigid so the forks are always straight and at the wanted distance apart, 27 inches is perfect for me.Pipe ONE and pipe THREE distribute their loads so as not to stress pressure points on the bucket. Pipe ONE spans nearly the full width of the bucket, not only to hold the forks in the middle of the bucket but because the “sheet metal” bucket is not as stiff as the digging edge. Pipe THREE rides directly on the digging edge since it is reinforced and is the stiffest part of the bucket.
With an angle grinder, welder and about $35 in pipe, I ended up with this. The first reported use was described as “Works like a charm.”
CAUTION, PLEASE READ AND HEED: Be careful not to overload either the pipe or the bucket. I saw over 200 pounds standing on the end of these forks that extend 3 ft. out of the bucket. I figure by that, it will handle 300 pounds or more properly distributed over the forks. If this pipe isn’t strong enough, a 1 inch galvanized pipe slides inside the 1.25-inch pipe to add strength. Also, I recommend adding a couple vertical pipes for “roll-back protection” and to control tipping the load back onto you and the tractor if you lift such things. You may also find the hydraulics on a front end loader type bucket far touchier than a real forklift, so please learn the machine and its limitations before placing it under a load.