Operation: Gypsy Hauler

Welcome to Project Week – crowd, standing in unbridled anxiety cheer with joy in their hearts… oh wait, they were apparently gathered to celebrate the selection of the new Pope.  Well, if they were here for my post they would be cheering just as much (or perhaps not).  It doesn’t really matter you are stuck listening to my ramblings on the latest episodes of  Brian the Handyman.  This also buys me some time while I get to work on another batch of real pictures and reset the bar on the reader expectations.  Apparently a few of the previous posts were considered pretty good and I just can’t have that pressure on me.

The first project topic of the month is for you physics fans out there.. or mechanical engineers or carpenters or for that matter weightlifters.  Let’s start with a problem.  What’s the best way for two individuals to move 50 sheets of 1/2 inch 4×12 plaster base drywall from a garage to the walk in basement across a sloping grass path?  Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock

wait, let’s make this a visual daily double.  Does this shot convey the enormity of the situation?

Maybe some additional context.  A high school kid and I pulled these sheets off of a lift truck and hauled them into the garage – just the two of us – cocky high school kid and slightly fit 45 year old.  This was one of those events that you resign to knowing you will be hurting after it’s done but you have no other choice but to get it over with – kind of like when I had my second degree black belt test and had to do my sparring time with the higher degrees.  The latter left me with a severely damaged shoulder socket that had to be surgically repaired – the drywall unloading just left me with a locked up back.    But I digress from the original question … what’s is your idea for the best approach to get these to the worksite?

Did you say .. “Duh, take some of your 2×4 stash and build yourself a hauler cart”   If so, damn you are good.  If not, then please accept our parting prizes.  Needless to say, I went the Tool Man way and got to work building myself a cart.  One thing that could not be overlooked is just how heavy those drywall sheets are.   They were still tapped in pairs making them a force to be reckoned with.  Yes, I could have separated them, but that would take the fun out of it and doubled the trips – double doo doo.  First thing was to build a strong base.  Taking a page out of the shelves I built for the basement, I went with the stacked 2×4 approach.  I also added the same cross supports which made it a spitting image of one of  the shelf layers.  The intent was to design it to fit through one half of our double doors which was the constraint for how wide the carrier could be.  Knowing that the weight was going to be factor, it was decided that the carrier should be evenly distributed over the base width.  Noodling on it a bit came up with two options.  One approach would be to slant the drywall across the entire width.  Imagine a set of 2×4 straight up on one side and other 2×4’s connecting at the bottom of the base and then attached to the tops of the other 2x4s.  Actually don’t waste your time imagining that because I decided to nix that idea.  Instead I went with a two sided approach requiring an upside down V down the middle of the platform.  Since I made that.. I can actually show you how that looks.

Hit the jump to find out how this all worked out!

That would allow me to put an equal number of drywall sheets on each side and keeps the force more directly targeted to the wheels.  This is where it became a little interesting.  Taking the lazy way out I slapped the two 2x4s down and attached them at the top with the plan to hook the wide end directly to the cart.  A few seconds after making the first one it dawned on me that the three supports (figuring three would get me by from the start) all had to have the exact same angle or the boards wouldn’t sit properly on them.  Crap, the build phase just became a little more involved.  Now I had to fix the angle on the one that was built so it could be transferred to the other ones.  Noodling some more resulted in the need for a cross board to hold the angle.  No problem.. slap a board across the tw… double crap.  Anybody guess the problem with that before I did?   If you can visualize the two 2×4’s that make up the upside down V, consider what the attachment points looks like for the cross board.  Yep, it’s staggered by the width of the 2×4.  Fine, add a gap board to the middle of the V (on the low board of course) and then pat yourself on the back when you finally fix the angle.  Two more of those supports and it’s starting to take shape.

Maybe you thought about how the offsetting 2×4 issue would propagate when it came time to fix it to the cart.  Maybe you didn’t.  I didn’t but then quickly realized the same damn problem exists when trying to add it to the deck crossbars.  Guessing my grade school nuns were covering their ears when that light bulb went off.  Luckily, the solution didn’t require any thought since the answer was the same…spacer board.  You can actually see them quite well in the picture above.  My mechanical engineer brother will undoubtedly laugh when I recount that the stability of the upside down Vs left room for improvement.  They were downright wobbly down the length axis.  Eying the stack of drywall set my spidey senses on full alert.  As you can tell, that answer was quick in coming – one extra 2×4 across the span would lock those in sufficiently for the intended task.  Confession.. when designing the method for fixing the angle, I had no idea it would be an ideal attachment point for the stabilizer board.  Kudos to my subconscious genius heheheh.

Probably time to comment on the wheels.  These were the most expensive component in the whole build.  A complete hour in the Menard’s aisle resulted in over 72 dollars worth of wheels.  Experience told me that steal wheels would be a dangerous with the rock portion of the driveway.  I shall take the time to thank my brother Ron for that teaching moment.  He gave me an awesome gift of a skateboard when I was young and stupid.  That gift was awesome by the way – dangerous as hell… but one awesome gift.  The skateboard industry has come a long way since those early days and kids the world over should recall with glee the day they switched from hard clay wheels to rubber.  Want to know what happens when a hard clay skateboard wheel rolls up on a teeny tiny pebble?  IT STOPS DEAD IN ITS TRACKS.  Want to test Newton’s First Law of Motion?  Then strap some clay wheels on a plank of wood and take off down a driveway with a few pebbles scattered about.  Note, you might want to have someone there with you ’cause ya gunna need sum stitchas (internal and external… it’s gonna be deep).  Mom wasn’t exactly pleased with her middle son after that little incident – BEST GIFT EVVA!

Eeesh, back on topic.  So I ended up going with hardened rubber wheels.

Look close at the first three pictures … particularly at the wheels.  It is hard to tell, but I went with a set of swivel wheels and a set of fixed wheels.  I wanted to be able to turn the cart, but due to the weight also wanted to be able to control it – keep in mind we were going downhill through the grass – too much freedom might cause too sharp of a turn which would could launch the boards off the cart – speaking of which.. wanna know what happens when your banana seat bike’s front wheel is turned accidentally too sharp for the back wheel to compensate for.. well you get to experience Newton’s Law AGAIN and it will require even MORE stitches to the exact same place on your chin where the skateboard exposed your bone – except this time the doctors freak out about the gaping hole enough to recommend your mother NOT come into the room.    I wonder if she got the same “How could you ever let your son have such a dangerous toy” speech like she got the last time”?

The good news is the drywall carrier was finally together.   There was a quick embellishment added to help prevent any accidental passenger departures while on the move.  I had some thin strips of wood laying around that fit the bill for that concern.  Tacked those to the outer 2×4, and kickouts were checked off the concern list.    It was time for a maiden voyage.  It was going to be full of peril, danger to life and limb at any moment, an opportunity to experience the thrill of a ride to the hospital (maybe even stitches)… sooooo who’s gonna be the victi.. I mean lucky person to share this first?  One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy, three ringy dingy .. Howdy Ron! R Ya Busy?   (seemed only fitting with the whole stitches thing don’t you think?)  The loading went perfect.  Put one side of the drywall on the edge of the cart and on the count of three flip the other end up and drop it against the supports.  A spin of the cart and repeat.  Note, we I did take care to make the load order end with the swivel wheels on the back side allowing the pusher to navigate (always thinking!).  The moment was at hand.  Get up some speed, plow through the short stretch of rock, turn onto the grass and manage the chaos of a hundreds of pounds of drywall careening down a small hill all the time trying to keep the back wheels angled toward the door.  Somehow this played out a lot better than my many mental run throughs.

Don’t get me wrong.. there were a few hitches.  There is actually a 6 inch difference between the grass and the porch cement.  That was tackled by manually lifting each wheel up (back did not appreciate that).  Then I realized the door threshold was a combination of metal and plastic and  not engineered for the weight destined for it.  If it worked once it was bound to work a second time – bend, lift, feel the pain, switch sides, bend lift feel the pain, push the back forward, bend, lift, feel the pain, switch sides, bend lift, feel the pain.  Eureka! Ladies and gentlemen we have splashdown.  Best part.. no stitches!

There were only 11 more trips to go.  My brother had done his time so I let him of the hook and eventually called in another friend (clearly with impaired judgement) and finished the task.  Ever looking to improve the experience and more importantly save the back I made a few modifications to the process.  First one was to run a rope around the short side of the cart to make sure the downhill side drywall sheets didn’t decide to earn a merit badge for grass diving.

Then made one of these.

Purpose: remove the need to lift the cart up onto the cement.

Those front crossplanks prevented the ramp from being pushed into doorway.  You can actually see the step up better in the following shot.

About now you may be asking yourself.. what’s up with that hole?  That whole is a direct result of the number 11 – did you really think the UofI let me out without knowing a little math – you Michigan or Iowa fans can leave that one alone.  For those breaking out the toes, that’s 50 sheets bundled in groups of two – cart carries two of those bundles at a time and .. carry the one, divide by 7… you’re left with a straggler.  For stability reasons, one seemed too dangerous so Pakage and I decided we’d just double up one of the sides.  Okay, laziness may have had something to do with it.  The last load made it down the hill with only slightly  more difficulty, but it came crashing down (literally) when it was time to push it up the ramp.  The force vectors calculations on the ramp design failed to properly account for the extra weight.  There would be NO lifting up the cart ends on this one.  Only option was to unload the extra sheets first – suckage.

Then there is that threshold to deal with.  No problem.. grab more scrap wood and whip up a ramp.. more accurately a double ramp.

with extra height in the middle to keep it above the highest point of the threshold.

Yes, it ended up broken, but not due to the drywall.  Actually that story will come out in the next project post so I’ll leave you with some suspense.  Thanks to the hauler, all the gypsum sheets were successfully transferred from the garage to the basement.  Not sure who is more pleased.. me for being able to continue work on another project or my wife who got her garage bay back.

One in the books (none in the hospital) – take it easy everyone!

2 thoughts on “Operation: Gypsy Hauler”

  1. Very nice project summary! I’m not sure the pictures quite capture the massiveness of your transport vehicle, which performed miraculously and delivered the drywall around the house, down the steep grassy slope, and around into the basement with ease. I was ready to deliver all of the sheets at the time.

    BTW, I do take credit for saving you much greater harm this time with the past lesson from the skateboard. And yes, I still hear about that from Mom, despite the fact that you were no doubt doing some dangerous maneuvers with it.



  2. Did Linda make you type that hehehe. Trust me, it was much better with the ramps in place – if we would have to lift that cart for all the trips we would would have made a chiropractors year. As far as size goes, you can kind of use the dwarfed ATV as as size indicator. Definitely on the larger size.

    Wait a minute.. why does the skateboard story always end with someone claiming “I” was doing something dangerous? Me of all people… crazy talk.. over 35 years and still nobody knows what happened that fateful day (but definitely NOT doing anything dangerous). To be honest, I can still recall with great clarity slamming chin first into that concrete stoop and then the realization that only my brothers were home to treat me – and yes, Mom has admitted you deceived your little brother and didn’t put the bandaid over the actual cut!!!!! (evil).


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