Introduction: An Elevator for My 10'x12' Storage Shed

About: Old inventor, reverted back to my 10 year-old self. A shop full of tools, a boat, race car, 3D printer and a beautiful wife who wants me to invent things for around the house... Now how cool is that?

When the town we live in told me I couldn't replace an old shed with a new, larger one because they had increased our property's setbacks to 20' along the sides and 50' from the water, I was forced to place a much smaller one, closer to our house (It's OK, since the old shed is still in place, outside the setbacks and "grandfathered" in... I'll make that bigger too... By going up... Revenge can be sweet:)

Still, I wish it had more room in the new shed.  The kind of shed I purchased was the "lofted barn" type.  It didn't take me long to change the "loft" part into a "floor" part, nearly doubling the inside storage space.

After I completed the new floor, and within an hour of struggling to get a heavy box up the ladder, I was busy designing and making an elevator... All the while nursing a sore back that lasted a week.

Step 1: Preparation:

After drawing up a number of ideas, I settled on one that took up the least amount of space.  The ladder was already in place and I had left additional space in the overhead to fit bulky materials, so I decided that would be the best place to locate the elevator as well.

In order to keep the platform as level as possible, without having to handle multiple lifting lines, I settled on a rig that "ancient" drawing boards used.  If you went to school before the 90s, chances are you've seen one.  The drawing board rig keeps the platform perfectly level in one direction.  I could have placed another just like it facing the opposite direction, but opted instead for a simple bridle that keeps things steady as long as the load is somewhat balanced.

I purchased all the parts I needed at our local hardware store.  I chose 2 sizes of line, which is a bit of overkill.  One for the hoist, (3/4") and a lighter line for the stabilizer (5/8").  Using 5/8" for everything may have made things a bit easier and less expensive.

Step 2: Rigging the Lifting Portion:

The elevator uses 2 rigging systems.  The first is the hoist.  This is the one that lifts the platform and lets it down again.  It employs a single, 50' line and 9 pulleys.  The drawing only shows 7 of these pulleys, as the other 2 are used for my "customized" cranking system, but more on that later.

What you'll need for the basic elevator:
50' of line (you shouldn't need all 50', but it will be more that 25')
7 pulleys
5 heavy hooks
2 heavy rings
2 shackles
Screws and tools for mounting it all

Start by fitting and building the platform you'll use for your elevator.  My platform is 2' x 4'.  Every situation will be different, but suffice it to say, you'll be cutting open a section of decking in your loft or floor and will need to support it with appropriate lumber and joist hangers. I cut a 4'x4' opening, half of which is used to house the platform.  The other half holds the ladder.  The reason I opened a single large opening as opposed to 2 smaller ones is the larger opening will allow me to wrestle bulky items into and out of the "attic".

Step 3: Stabilizing Rig

This is a separate rig from the hoisting rig.  It's sole purpose is to keep the platform level as it's being raised and lowered.  Here's what you'll need:

1. Line... A 25 foot bundle should be enough.  This doesn't need to be as strong as the lifting line, so you can save some money here.
2. Pulleys... 4 of them.  The same goes for the pulleys.  You can save cash by reducing their size.  There's some stress on the line and the pulleys in this rig, but it's constant and not related to the weight of the load.

What you'll be rigging is one continuous loop, twisted in the center to form an "X"  The vertical portions of the line are fixed to the lift.  when one side is moved up or down, the line fixed to the opposite side moves in the same direction, the same amount.  Very simple and very reliable.

The negative with this rig is it's always present, whether the platform is up or down.  In my shed, I wanted this rig to be as out of the way as possible.  I mounted it next to the ladder... A good compromise in my case.  The ladder backs up to storage racks so it's underside is dead space more appropriate for storing items that won't be needed much.

When mounting the pulleys, try to get them as square as possible and as close to being in line with one of the longer sides of the lift as you are able.  Obviously, an unbroken "loop" of rope is impractical, so you'll be starting and stopping the ends of the line at one side of the platform.  The other vertical side passes the platform in the middle of the rope, so a simple clamp will keep it locked in place.

Step 4: The Hoist:

I purchased an inexpensive trailer winch off the internet, but quickly realized the winch was both too small to hold the 3/4" rope I had chosen and the gearing took the 4-to-1 ratio forever to crank.  I pulled an old bronze sailboat winch out of storage and put it back to work.  In order to line everything up, I had to add another pulley, but at the moment, all's well in my elevator equipped storage shed. :-)

Update #1:  I forgot one part: In the last photo, you'll see a 2x4 attached to the lower half of the left end of the 2x8 platform.  There's a matching piece attached to the top half of the 2x8 that defines the opening.  When these two meet, it stops the upward movement of the platform.  if I had planned right, I would have made the stops out of 1x4s at both ends, but since I was building by the seat of my pants, and didn't have any 1x4s, I screwed plywood down about 1 inch over the opening to stop the opposite end.  I'll fix this as well.

Step 5: Update:

After mulling it over, I decided to re-think my priorities and went back to my shed and eliminated a few pulleys from the system.  I managed to reduce the number of pulleys from 9 to 6, reducing the friction in the system by about 30%.

First, the bad news:  The line no longer runs through a clean system, devoid of wear points.  The 4 pulleys that changed the lines direction from left-to-right and top-to-bottom is now done with 2 pulleys.  Because the line's angle from the top pulleys to the bridle changes slightly as the platform goes up and down, the line that goes through the pulleys used to change direction moves from side to side  as well, making contact with the pulley's steel frame. contact points can be filed down, but it's not an elegant solution... But hey, it's a shed.

I also had to lower the bridle height at the eve side of my platform.  This takes a bit of stability away, but nothing I can't live with...  I'm adding a photo of how to tie a "stopper knot".  I use stopper knots to tie off the bitter ends of line that run through fairleads and eyes.  They don't add weak points to the line and are very easy to untie.  Basically, a stopper is a granny knot with an additional loop around the standing part of the line.  Some people call this a "figure 8" knot because of the way it looks when it's being tied.

Good news is, I now have 3 additional pulleys to play with and the platform goes up with less effort and comes down without any effort whatsoever.

Another area where friction can appear is in the line itself.  Braided line is smooth and runs through pulleys easier than laid line will.  If you use braided, try to find some that has colored fibers woven into it.  Besides looking pretty, the contrasting colors makes it easier to tell if the line is twisted.  The photos of the line in my system show what happens to twisted line.

It becomes distorted and "lumpy".  All these lumps trying to squeeze through the pulley blocks adds a lot of friction.  Untwist your line when you rig it, and check it once in a while to insure it isn't causing you grief.  If your system seems to be getting harder to work, check your lines for twist.

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