Building Pallet Forks

It’s Just All Parts

Although it’s a pretty good forklift attachment, it doesn’t fit my needs, or my tractor/loader.forks7Primarily…’s set up for a skid loader, and my loader mounts are different.forks8After racking my brain to find a way to adapt the thing to my needs, I decided it would be easier, and stronger, to start from scratch.  Some dis-assembly required 🙂 forks7The headache rack, forks, and the plate that the forks hang on, will be used for the new piece of equipment.  The rest goes in the scrap pile I guess.

I could have made some skid steer mounts for the tractor, which would attach to the existing mounts, but…………I hate to add a bunch of junk to the loader out in front of the original mounts.  Just more to mess with, and more leverage on the loader.  Even another few inches at this point is able to multiply the forces on the loader.  Anal maybe, but this is Uranis Inc afterall 🙂 .

New Frame

All the pieces are cut, and two are capped.  I don’t like to cap tubing because it’s time consuming, but sometimes it’s necessary.  In this case, it’s to keep wasps out.

It’s important to mark layout lines prior to installing caps.  You never know if the caps are entirely square/accurate.  Because you will be doing some welding, and grinding, in the area…use a scribe to mark your lines.  You can lose a pencil line, whereas a scribed line will hold up to heat.forks12Now your good to go.forks13I generally use a small wire welder for capping.  Less heat on the edges, which prevents burn through.  Because I work outside, I find that a self shielding flux core wire does best (.030).  The welds don’t have to be pretty, they’ll be ground out to a radius anyway.  They do have to be waterproof though.

Basic fitup, is well………..basic 🙂  Usual techniques.

Take 2 pieces of tubing from the rack, and set them on saw horses.  Eye sight the pieces so they are planar/flat, using shims to bring them to spec.  (Stand off a good distance, and sight along the tops of the tubing, and shim until they’re exactly matching in’d be surprised how accurate the human eye is)forks15The perimeter pieces are clamped,  squared, and tacked.  Always check your diagonals for equal measurements, DON’T USE A SQUARE.forks14I like a heavy tack weld.  It should be enough to hold everything together even if it’s handled roughly when moving if need be.  In this case, I’m using 3x3x3/16 tubing, so I’ll tack with 3/32 7018.  Make your tack weld an actual mini weld, not just a small blob.

There are always gaps in fitup.  Especially when the pieces are cut on a chop saw.  The blade will deflect in heavy material.  To keep the gaps from throwing everything out of square when finish welding, I like to use a wedge to hold the gaps open when tacking.forks16Drive the screwdriver into the gap firmly, BUT NOT HARD ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY OPEN THE GAP WIDER.  Then run your tacks.forks17The wedge has held the gap open, and the tacks will hold the gap while finish welding, to prevent the gap from closing, and changing the dimensions.  This DOES work 🙂

The pieces are “faced”.  By this I mean that all of the pieces are tacked in place while fixtured ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE FRAME.  In this case, the scrap tubing is all on the underside.  Even the tubing that’s been hung to  support the middle members of the frame.forks18The underside of the frame will actually be the “face” of the frame in final assembly.  By fixturing all pieces during tacking on the SAME SIDE of the frame during fitup, you’ve guaranteed that the “face” will be absolutely flat.  Individual pieces of the tubing used for the frame can vary  in size.  Different production runs, different mills, etc.  Doing it like this is an insurance policy.forks20Now it’s ready for finish welding.

I like to do the flat welds first.   Good way t lock in the dimensions.

The frame is placed flat, and the welding starts.

Due to variances in fitup, some gaps are larger, some are smaller.

The small gaps can be filled in one pass.forks23Welding tubing can be a challenge with stick welding.  You don’t have a fast freeze filler when running 7018, and the heat input is high.  Plus, the tubing presents a special problem….the shoulders are rounded, and the gap can be pretty large.

When the gap is too large to fill with one pass (Sure, there’s guys that brag about doing it in one pass), you have to adapt, and do two passes.  First pass closes the gap.forks24Second pass closes it up.forks25The first pass gave you something to pile metal on.  A floor.  The second pass ties it all together.  There is no unwritten law that you gotta do it all in one pass.  Stick welding is a whole different animal.  This would have been a breeze with wire, but it’s a challenge with stick.

The flat welds were completed on both sides.  Then the frame was clamped to the trestle in the upright position.  All weld out was finished.forks21Everything turned out flat, and square.forks22I’m wearing 2.5x reading glasses these days, but I’m still able to see fairly well.forks26forks28The wrap-arounds are still good on both ends of a bead.  I’m grateful for that.  The aging process takes no prisoners.  The beginning, and end of a bead, when working with tubing, is sorta complex.  For me anyways.  From a cold start, to a hot finish…it has to be uniform.

The Carriage

The upper rail was salvaged from the old forks.forks38To remove the old material, and make it fit for use, I like using a scarfing tip.forks39To make the job easier, I leaned the piece against the bench to take advantage of gravity.  The melted material will simply dribble down.forks33The ends of the bar had to be scarfed in the flat position.forks34With practice, a scarfing tip allows you to get VERY close to the base metal.  It beats leaning on a grinder all day long 🙂

To separate the end piece from the bar, grind down until you see the parting line between the two pieces.  I got lucky on this one, the original weld didn’t penetrate deeply into the root of the joint.forks35Use a cold chisel to wedge the piece off the bar, and you’re in business.forks36forks37This turned out very well, sometimes it doesn’t, and requires more work.

The Headache Rack

I see a lot of forks that don’t have enough protection from stuff falling over the back of the unit.  I felt this thing should be a bit taller than what’s available out there.  I’d hate to have something smash my radiator, or hood.  I’m also intending to use it for pushing, and bucking cut trees.

The rack was cut off of the skid steer attachment.forks60And, the lower portion was removed.forks61To adapt the rack to the new frame, it had to be set up so it would fit properly.  In order to fit the new mounts so that they would all be the correct height to match the frame, AND TO CENTER ON THE FRAME………I used a dummy top rail.forks48This provides a straightedge to work with.  The 3 mounts are then aligned to the dummy.  And welded on the rack.forks41forks42I generally have a great deal of trouble with anything round.  I’m simply not a good pipe welder.  All things considered, they came out pretty good.

The fit was within 1/16″forks46One of the ends was slightly long, and raised the middle support a bit.forks47Touch up with the grinder, and on it goes.forks62Anything welded to square tubing has to connect with the sidewall.  In fancy circles, it’s called the web 🙂  So, you can’t leave an unwelded end.  The entire headache rack mount has to be COMPLETELY welded on all sides.  Have to wrap the unwelded end.forks64I like to do this as a separate procedure, but it’s really all up to how a guy likes to do it I guess.


To attach the end mounts, I would have had to weld them un-braced.  I have a hard time doing decent welds when my arms are fully braced 🙂  Use whatever you can find to provide support for your left elbow, etc.  I used a ladder to lean my left arm on while welding.forks65

The Lower Carriage

This part keeps the lower part of the forks attached to the frame.

The first step is to mount a spacer to hold the ledge at the proper distance from the frame.

1 1/2″ square tubing is to be used in this instance.  The first step is to do the fitup.forks53After tacking it, it’s time to weld it.  At first, I used fairly widely spaced welds.forks66forks67Then, it occurred to me that the ends of the spacer would be under the most strain.  The spacer has to resist twisting from the bottom upwards when the forks are placed under a DOWN load.  A regular forklift doesn’t have down pressure in the hydraulics, but a tractor does.  It’s not a stretch of the imagination that I might accidently lower the forks, and allow the hydraulics to attempt to lift the front of the tractor.  Upward pressure on the forks.  So…the area near the ends was fully welded, connecting the skip welds together.forks71After the welding is finished, it’s time to straighten the frame.  Heat from welding will warp the frame.

Clamped, heated in the proper area, and it’s straight again.forks72forks73forks74Always shrink the outside of the bow when straightening.


Train-WreckSo, I’m ready for the next step…………..AND I LOOK AT THE SPACER THAT’S BEEN WELDED SO NICELY, AND I NOTICE IT’S THE WRONG SIZE TUBING!!!!forks70Shoulda heard that steel pop when I cut the tubing. 🙂  All the locked up stress from welding, and the subsequent straightening, sounded like a gun shot when it was released.

Fast forward a day………………….forks75I had picked up a piece of 11ga tubing, instead of the size I needed.  My eyes suck these days, and where the tubing had been previously cut with a chopsaw, it LOOKED like 3/16″ wall tubing.  GEEZ!!  Got to do it all over again.  The picture shows the RIGHT sized stuff.

So, we’re back on track now. 🙂

Now the lip has to be attached.

The piece of angle iron (3x3x3/8) is marked for cutting.  It needs to clear the frame.forks69A straightedge is used to transfer the sides of the tubing to the angle iron for marking.forks68After notching, the lip is fitted.forks114forks116You can get a pretty flush fit if you bevel the underside to accommodate the previous welds.

The lip is attached to the frame where the area is accessible on this side of the frame.  Note the smaller welds.  In most cases a full length weld isn’t necessary.  The frame is 3/16 material, and the lip is 3/8 material.  You always match strength of welds with the thinner material where practical.forks119Now the frame is flipped over to gain access to the other side for finishing the lip.  I try to do all that I can when the thing is one position rather than having to keep moving it around, but sometimes you plain just can’t get to stuff easy if you don’t move things.forks121This series of welds is prone to a lot of distortion.  You’re connecting 3 different pieces of steel in a small area.  Lot of stored up stress.

To prevent local pulling of the projecting portion of the lip, it’s restrained during welding at every point where it’s welded.forks122These welds were made with small 3/32 rods, in order to be able to get into the cove formed by the shoulder of the tubing, and the piece of straight 3/8.  For me, at least, these are difficult welds.  You have to make sure to fully fill the cove.  This requires slow travel.

This portion of the lip is attached with a series of small welds.forks117Which are later connected to form a continuous weld at this location.forks120Sort of a PITA, but I feel that this area will be under a lot of stress when in use.  This area has to resist the full weight of the tractor in some situations.

The other welds in this area were made while in the same position.  Slow overhead work in a tight area.forks118Once the lip was fully welded, the frame was placed upright, and additional reinforcements were added.forks123The notch in the piece of square tubing is for drainage once the entire assembly is fully together.  There will be additional steel at this point, added later.

to be continued

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