Reacher/grabber tools can be pretty helpful, especially if you have limited mobility. But the typical grabber tool that you find in stores is pretty short and can only pick up very light objects. What if you wanted to reach something that is far away or heavy. In that case, I recommend building your own pole mounted grabber tool.
In this project, I show you how to make your own heavy duty grabber tool that can be mounted to the end of a broom handle or painting pole.
Step 1: Watch the Video
Here is a video walkthrough of the project.
Step 2: Materials
Here are the materials and tools that you need to complete this project.
2 x 2 Lumber (actual dimensions 1 1/2" x 1 1/2")
1 x 6 Lumber (actual dimensions 3/4" x 5 1/2")
1/4-20 bolt that is at least 2 1/2" long
3 x 1/4" washers
2 x Screw Hook
Painting Pole or Broom Handle
1/4" drill bit
11/16" drill bit (preferably a forstner drill bit or paddle bit, but a hole saw can also work)
Scroll Saw or Jig Saw
Step 3: Measure and Cut the Boards
The first step is to cut the lumber. Cut the 2 x 2 board to a length of 15 inches. This will be used to make the stationary arm of the gripper. Cut the 1 x 6 board to a length of 22 inches. This will be used to make the closing arm of the gripper.
Step 4: Cut Out the Gripper Arm
Next you need to cut the closing gripper arm to shape. In order to be able to grasp objects, the closing arm needs to have a curve. This will let it grab around an object and hold it.
Take the 1 x 6 board and trace out general shape that you want the arm to be. Try to keep in mind how you want to use the grabber. The thicker you make the arm, the stronger it will be. However a larger grabber will make it harder to manipulate smaller objects. I just made a short arch.
Once you have a shape outlined, cut it out with either a jig saw or a scroll saw.
Step 5: Drill Holes for the Pivot Bolt
To open and close, the gripper arm will pivot on a bolt. So we need to drill a hole in both pieces so that we can mount the bolt.
First you need to decide how the arms will be positioned. You want the moving arm to be able to open wide enough to grab something and you want it to be able to grip the object securely when it is closed. You also want the opposite end of the moving arm to stick out on the other side of the stationary bar so that you can attach a rope that will pull the gripper closed. Spend some time moving the parts around until you find an orientation that you like.
Next mark the center of the board where they intersect. Drill a 1/4" hole in these locations on both boards.
Step 6: Drill the Pole Mounting Hole
The stationary bar will be attached to the pole. So we need to drill a hole in the end of the board that is just smaller than the threads on the pole. So take the pole that you intend to use and find a drill bit that is a little smaller than the threads. I found that an 11/16" bit works really well.
A paddle bit or a forstner bit will work a little better than a hole saw. A hole saw leaves a lot of material that you will have to tear out with needle nose pliers.
Step 7: Bolt the Boards Together
The two boards are attached together with a bolt, a nut and three washers. Slide one washer onto the bolt. Then insert the bolt through the first board. Add on a second washer on the other side of the board. Then fit on the second board. Lastly add a third washer and a nut to hold them in place. Don't tighten the nut too much or the boards will stick and not open properly.
The washers aren't absolutely necessary. But they make it a little easier for the board to pivot. If the boards are bolted directly together the wood rubbing together will create a lot more friction.
Step 8: Attach a Pull Cord to the Closing Arm of the Gripper
The gripper arm will be closed by pulling a rope that is attached to the back end of the arm. So select a rope that you want to use. Then find a drill bit that is a little bigger than the rope. Drill a hole in the back end of the closing arm.
Feed the rope through the hole. Then tie a knot in the end to hold it in place.
Step 9: Attach the Pole to the Gripper
Now you need to attach the gripper assembly to the end of a pole. Just insert the threads of the pole into the mounting hole. Then screw the assembly onto the pole. If the wood gets stuck or it is too tight to turn, unscrew the assembly. Then go back and forth, screwing and unscrewing the pole. This will loosen up the wood and carve the threads into the inside of the whole.
I highly recommend using a pole with metal threads on the end. This will grip the wood a lot better. But plastic and wood threads can work as well.
Step 10: Add an Opening Spring to the Gripper
If the closing arm of the gripper is heavy enough, it will fall open on its own just from gravity. But if this is not the case, then you need to add a spring to pull the arms open.
The simplest way to do this is add a screw hook to each board and connect an extension spring between them. Position the hooks so that the spring will pull the arms completely open but will not be over stretched with arm is closed.
Step 11: Optional Modifications
You now have a basic pole mounted gripper tool. But there are a lot of ways that modify and customize the design.
For instance, you can add a second closing arm for greater stability. Just use a longer pivot bolt and add a second bolt on the back side of the closing arms to hold them together.
Another option is to modify the inside of the arms to make it easier to grip object. You can do this by cutting teeth into the side of the arms. Or you can drill holes in the side and add pegs. These can make it easier to grip certain objects.
Another useful addition might be to add a strong magnet to the end of the gripper. This will let you pick up small magnetic objects.
Step 12: Use Your Pole Grabber to Reach Far Away Objects
Now that you have a heavy duty long range gripper tool, you just need to find some excuse to use it. Are there dead branches hanging in your tree from the last winter storm? Do you need to rescue a stuck kite or quadcopter? Maybe you need to reach something on a shelf that just happens to be 20 feet off the ground. You could even use it hold a zombie at a safe distance. Use your imagination.