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DIY Sanford and Son Boat Lift

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    Posted: September-29-2015 at 2:14pm
A couple of CCFs have made comments on my rebuild thread about my homemade boat lift, a few have sent me private messages. Here are a few pictures of my lift. I fabricated this lift in 1992, therefore it is now 23 years old and needs some updating.

I fabricated the lift out of structural channel and angle iron that I had left over from a project. I used what I had and therefore it is pretty stout. If I was building it today I would probably build it out of lighter materials and do more engineering than brawn. After fabrication I threw in on a trailer and took it to a galvanizer near Chattanooga to have it galvanized. The cradle was built to be exactly like my Correct Craft trailer cradle. The lift pivots on the front on homemade 2" pipe hinges that are also galvanized. It hinges in the front the rear drops to launch the SN. Chains on the rear prevent it from dropping lower than necessary to submerge the cradle to the depth necessary for loading and launching the SN. The cost to have it galvanized back then was around $100. I could have primed and painted it for around $50 back then. I think I made a good decision.

The plastic barrels were purchased for a few dollars each, sourced from a local chemical company. They had been through a barrel wash before they were released for sale. They are piped together with a common water hose and each barrel has a 2" hole in the bottom rear. The air pump was made out of the guts of an Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner. The motor/fan was mounted in coffee can, and the entire contraption was secured in a cheap plastic tool box mounted vertically on the dock. The controls consist of a couple of typical 90* throw gas valves and a light switch to turn on the blower. Just about any shopvac can be used for a blower, think high volume-low pressure. Air compressors are not a good idea, since they take too long to get the volume that is needed.

After 23 plus years the barrels have broken down from the UV rays and now will not hold pressure, so this winter I plan on sourcing new barrels. In the pictures you will see that I have placed an old I-beam under the boat cradle to support the lift over the winter in the case it loses its air and submerges.

I think purchasing a boat lift from a manufacturer is the way to go if you can afford it, but when I built this I was young, pretty poor, and had more energy and skill than money. Overall it has served me well. There is also a picture of the SN sitting on it at the beginning of my rebuild threat. Next time I am up at the lake I will get a few more pictures to add to this thread. Hopefully it will help someone who might be contemplating a similar project.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-29-2015 at 2:52pm
Arklie,
Nice work and engineering! What did you use for a compressed air source?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gary S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-29-2015 at 3:04pm
The air pump was made out of the guts of an Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner. The motor/fan was mounted in coffee can, and the entire contraption was secured in a cheap plastic tool box mounted vertically on the dock. The controls consist of a couple of typical 90* throw gas valves and a light switch to turn on the blower. Just about any shopvac can be used for a blower, think high volume-low pressure. Air compressors are not a good idea, since they take too long to get the volume that is needed

Pretty ingenious. Courious as how long to launch and how long to get back into storage posisition?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote C-Bass Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-29-2015 at 3:25pm
Nice work! This looks/works exactly like our Hydrohoist. Lift/lower times on ours is probably 2-3 minutes. I think early models lowered a lot slower but they started adding a bypass valve that lets air escape without running back through the blower.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote C-Bass Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-29-2015 at 3:30pm
Do you have a hard stop on yours that limits how far it sinks?

You have to be careful lowering ours without a boat on it. Once the floats dump enough air to lose buoyancy, the lift starts to fall and pick up momentum and can slam against the hard stop pretty hard. When the boat is on it, the boat's buoyancy helps slow the descent.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Watauga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-29-2015 at 4:30pm
The decent depth is controlled by the length of chains mounted on the rear corners. As far as the speed of the decent and ascent, it is purely controlled by the size of the gas valves. Speed could be further dialed in by enlarging the holes in the bottom of each barrel, e.g., larger holes may increase the speed up and down, since water and air could be displaced more quickly. I assume the speed of lifting could be increased by a stronger air pump.

As Craig mentions relative to his Hydro-Hoist, I also have 2 valves. One is placed immediately next to the air pump, between the air pump and the lift, the other is mounted on a tee between the first valve and the lift. I will take a picture of it next time I am at the lake. For now, see the caveman sketch below, apologies to union plumbers and real engineers. You can get a faster launch if both valves are open, but sometimes water can back-feed into the blower canister, which is not a good thing. Obviously, the valve mounted adjacent to the blower should only be opened when lifting. The other valve only opened for lowering.

It only takes 3 or 4 minutes to launch or retrieve, I would like for it to be faster but the slower speed allows me more control in making sure the boat is centered. A faster speed might be more dangerous for inexperienced users.

Typically the lift is lowered to launch the SN and if left in the down position all day and lifted at the end of the day when the fun is over. If the lift is raised without a boat on it, then yes, it will take much longer to lower the lift the next time since there is considerably less weight forcing it down.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fanofccfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September-30-2015 at 12:10am
I like it. Good work.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jstainer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March-13-2018 at 10:43pm
can I ask how much your boat weighs that you use this DIY lift for? I'm about to try the same type thing and have a 2200Lb dry weight triple Pontoon! Any certain style fittings you used to fit the barrels bungholes? and any certain placement of the drums? Thanks so much for the help, and Looks Great! I hope mine works out the same!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Watauga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March-13-2018 at 11:39pm
Hi Joe,
Off the top of my head I believe my Ski Nautique probably weights 1700 lbs, but I am not sure. Stick around, and I am sure one of the older, and wiser, members will be around with that information. Before I restored the SN it was pretty waterlogged and the lift didn't have any trouble with lifting the ole girl.

For your application you can simply do the arithmetic to calculate the volume of storage you need to make your lift function well. That is, if your barrels are 40 or 50 or 55 gallons each, as an example, simply calculate the weight each barrel would lift by multiplying the barrel gallon capacity by 8 pounds. So theoretically, a 50 gallon barrel would lift 400 pounds while it is totally submerged, minus the weight of the barrel and anything attached to it. You do not want your steel structure normally submerged except when launching the boat, therefore you need extra capacity to lift the heavy structure above the surface of the water. But when you do that you lose lifting capacity. The part of a particular barrel that is above the surface of the water is not providing lift, so you need to allow for that.

Your lift would be wider and longer than mine and therefore would allow you to simply add more barrels to reach the volume needed to lift your pontoon out of the water. Remember that because your structure will also be larger and thus heavier, you will need to make an allowance for that as well. The same size blower would work, only take longer to fill the tanks.

As for the bungs. I used the bungs that came with the barrels. They are plastic and had a threaded center indentation that was already threaded for standard pipe thread. All I did was drill out the center of the indentation. I used standard galvanized fittings with adaptors that are readily available at your local plumbing supply or box store. When you source your barrels, make sure the bungs come with them because I found out that almost every barrel manufacturer has it's own bung thread. More of those barrels are imported from across an ocean and many are not interchangeable with others. In fact, when you purchase your barrels I would recommend you get extra bungs while you are at it in case you have issues later on, like leaky bungs that are susceptible to UV caused degrading. Later on you may not be able to find them.

One other thought. It's not a great idea to launch or retrieve the boat with people on board, but it happens occasionally. It you have a few people on board when doing so you will need the capacity to lift that much more weight. So, think about that, and fuel, gear, rain-water, beer, etc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jstainer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-05-2018 at 1:47pm
Thanks for the reply! I will take all of your info into careful consideration! So you are saying you used the 3/4" center threaded area on the one bung? And just drilled out the flat area in the center of it? Will that or does that allow enough air in and out fast enough? Also.. are those Plastic bungs strong enough to withstand the pressure? Id assume so.. being they carry and contain heavier weights when full of liquids...
You said you used a 1" garden hose for air? How does that hold up? I was planning on using this rubberized poly hose the local hardware store has in stock.. I believe its one inch inside diameter.. but would be going down to a 3/4 inlet adapter into the bung.. sound ok?
I was originally planning on 8,   55 gallon drums.. but may go with 10 to be safe.. finally my biggest question.. as my scientific mind is going nuts about it.. haha but What size hole did you drill in bottom of drums for water release/inlet? And did you drill holes in all drums? My thought was that if the air forced water out of the highest drums in the set, that they would just blow bubbles while the ones further back and down in the set would still be pretty laiden with water.. do i drill holes in all? Or just in back ones? Finally.. My brother in law is in Construction and says he would use Unistrut for ease if building the frame... sound sufficent enough? Its pretty strong stuff! Ill try and post pics when done!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shierh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-05-2018 at 4:24pm
that's so cool.

How much pressure is on the drum when there is air in it? what kind of fittings on the drum to keep them from blowing out?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jstainer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-05-2018 at 4:35pm
It doesnt seem to be about pressure.. but rather volume.. not really pressurizing the drum other than to push the water out of the drain hole.. ive seen the big company or manufacturers Lifts.. their expensive poly tubes or floats use this same science of displacement. The way I see it.. These poly drums hold im some heavy heavy fluids and gels or soaps etc etc.. if the fittings hold that while being bumped, rolled, dropped and banged around.. they shoukd easily hold even a little air pressure haha.. I hope..
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-05-2018 at 5:38pm
Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

that's so cool.

How much pressure is on the drum when there is air in it? what kind of fittings on the drum to keep them from blowing out?

All that's needed is about 24" (water column) so a turbine type blower can be used.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Watauga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-05-2018 at 11:41pm
Hi Joe,
I'll try my best to answer your questions. Here is a typical closure plug. Make sure your barrels have these type of plugs. As I said earlier, you may encounter trouble finding the correct ones after the fact; my experience is that each manufacturer has their own thread and overall diameter.



As you can see, the center of the plug is threaded for 3/4" NPT. Simply drill out the center and tread in your adaptor. Each barrel typically has to bungholes. You need one of these plugs for each barrel. And you need one that hasn't been drilled out for the other bunghole. I used teflon tape to seal the treads on both bungholes plugs and the threaded adaptor(s). As you can see in the pictures of my lift, you will need to orient the barrels so that the plug with the pipe adaptor is at the 12 o'clock position.

I used a commercial garden hose to plumb all the barrels together, because I'm cheap. A commercial garden hose is typically long enough to provide all the hose you need at a minimal cost, and they are typically quite UV resistant. I have no experience with the hose you mention, but my guess is that it is expensive and not very uv resistant. It might work, though.

Relative to the holes drilled in the bottom side each barrel. I used a 2" hole saw, as I remember. Each barrel must be drilled, because if you don't there will not be a way for the water to be pushed out by the air. Same thing for lowering, there must be a way for water to enter each vessel. The size of the hole will be one of the controlling factors on lowering and lifting speed and control. You are right about the barrels near the front of the lift blowing out air before the rear ones. It is expected since the rear barrels are doing the heavy lifting since the front barrels are nearer the pivot point. No big deal, don't worry about that at all.

Relative to the Unistrut or kindorf. I have only experience with the typical type used by electrical contractors. Maybe your BIL has some heavy-duty stuff in mind? I build stuff to last and would never consider using that stuff to build something like this. That's my opinion, and I would not want to offend you in any manner. I think that stuff is basically a toy. When you use the lift for the first time you will be amazed how much force the lift has to endure to pick the boat up. My guess it that to obtain the rigidity you ultimately need to prevent the lift from bending double you would need to use a lot of that stuff sam witched together in some configuration. Then think about wake wash from the lake, winter weather, storms, etc. To use substitute structural steel for the Unistrut is not going to add much to the cost, and may in fact be less expensive. The Unistrut Ive seen has a wall profile of about 1/8", it will not last under this type of stress.

Finally, Pete is wise. I use a vacuum cleaner motor to provide the air. I am not an engineer, but I think a typical shopvac probably only generates a few PSI of pressure out the exhaust, You don't need a lot of PSI, only a lot of volume. One of those cheap shopvacs that the box stores basically sell as a door buster on Black Friday for $29 will work fine.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shierh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 8:49am
Wouldn't the pressure in the barrel increase with weight pushing it under water when it is filled with air?   Curious as to how much.   Reason is that I am considering making a floating tiki bar using the same barrels.   It will not be as heavy as a 2300 lb nautique sitting on them though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 8:56am
Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

Wouldn't the pressure in the barrel increase with weight pushing it under water when it is filled with air?   .

Yes, the pressure will increase as the water is displaced by the air but only to the depth the barrel is pushed under water. IE: if you push the barrel 18 inches under water, the pressure in the barrel will be 18" water column. For those that prefer pressure in PSI, 18" of water column is .0.650291252 PSI


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10-4,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KENO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:06am
Nice edit job on the conversion tp PSI Pete.

You must have done the first one on your abacus and then decided to go to onlineconversion.com or one of those sites to get it right
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:11am
Originally posted by KENO KENO wrote:

Nice edit job on the conversion tp PSI Pete.

You must have done the first one on your abacus and then decided to go to onlineconversion.com or one of those sites to get it right

Well Ken, I actually used one of the online converters originally then, I was having breakfast and started thinking. I've always used 27" as a base line for 1 PSI so realized the original answer was wrong. Thanks for noticing the correction.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jstainer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:12am
Much appreciated! Cant wait to get started! I will definitely look further into the materials to use.. I heard great things about the unistrut! Saw tests of it holding up to over 2000 lbs of force bouncung and pulling on one spot.. so when all bolted together and working in unison.. its pretty strong stuff.. they also make a double width section.. loiks like a 2x6 box steel tube. Was planning on using that for main beams.. some of the hydro hoist models seem to use very thin materials... no clue how they hold up so well...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KENO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:15am
I asked Google cause the first number seemed awful small

As an estimation, I use 44 pounds per 100 ft (or .44 pounds per foot) as a thumb rule from back in my Navy days. That thumb rule was for saltwater but it gets you close
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does it make a difference if the container is not that rigid and may deform some?   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:18am
Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

does it make a difference if the container is not that rigid and may deform some?   

The tires on your car deform some but they still hold the car up!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Duane in Indy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:30am
Originally posted by 8122pbrainard 8122pbrainard wrote:

Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

does it make a difference if the container is not that rigid and may deform some?   

The tires on your car deform some but they still hold the car up!


Case in point Pete
tire deformation
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shierh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:33am
guess only way to increase the pressure is to completely submerge thereby reducing the actual size of the container,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:37am
Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

guess only way to increase the pressure is to completely submerge thereby reducing the actual size of the container,

To increase lift, the volume of the container(s) must be increased. Lift is determined by the displacement of the weight of the water. A cubic foot of water is about 62.5 lbs. There are about 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KENO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:41am
Originally posted by Duane in Indy Duane in Indy wrote:

Originally posted by 8122pbrainard 8122pbrainard wrote:

Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

does it make a difference if the container is not that rigid and may deform some?   

The tires on your car deform some but they still hold the car up!


Case in point Pete
tire deformation


Duane, you're just so predictable, I had a really good idea what I'd see when I clicked on your link
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Duane in Indy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:47am
Originally posted by KENO KENO wrote:

Duane, you're just so predictable, I had a really good idea what I'd see when I clicked on your link


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shierh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:47am
I meant completely submerge a container that was full of air. deeper you go the smaller the container would get and an increase in pressure.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 8122pbrainard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April-06-2018 at 10:55am
Originally posted by shierh shierh wrote:

I meant completely submerge a container that was full of air. deeper you go the smaller the container would get and an increase in pressure.

Yes, the deeper you go, the more pressure is needed inside but, that doesn't increase the lift. Think of a sub submerged just below the surface and then 100 feet below the surface. It's buoyancy is the same at both depths.


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