Several months ago I needed a pallet jack to move the new Milling Machine & Lathe crates around the workshop. With the combination of a special sale and a discount coupon I was able to purchase a pallet jack from Harbor Freight Tools for about $180. ( Haul-Master – Item #68760 )
The pallet jack comes 48″ long and I need it to be 30″ to fit under my Machine Tools; therefore, the purpose of this project is to shorten my pallet jack by 18″.
Possibly I could have purchased a shorter one, but where is the fun in that?
No sense making you wait to see the finished project … Here it is!! *Ta-Dah!*
I painted it flat-black because, unlike a factory floor or warehouse, I don’t want it to stand out in my workshop. ( Photo shows the 18″ cut-out orange sections )
For those of you interested in possibly shortening a Pallet Jack of your own, I decided to put in over 100 photos in hopes it will better help you see the steps.
Those of you not interested in shortening a pallet jack see Photos #1 & #2. *grin*
This website post is meant more for individuals new to metal fabrication & welding … All of you experienced metal fabricators *smile* already know how to do this, so the in-depth explanations & photographs are for those wishing to learn more about small home workshop metal fabrication.
If you click on any of the photos below you will see a much larger image …
Years ago I use to work on boats and found in most cases the engine mounts were precisely positioned and then everything else had to fit around the engines.
What this meant as a metal fabricator is anything else in these boats needed to be placed off reference points when added, repaired, or replaced.
( Not much use for a level on a boat when installing items *smile* )
Usually I would take 3 measurements (triangulation) from different set points on the engine and use those dimensions to make scribe marks for cutting and replacing items.
This pallet jack project uses some of those techniques …
Wanted the pallet jack to have parallel extensions of equal length when finished.
To make sure this was the case, used a large Sharpie marker to darken the scribe areas to allow better visualization of the scribe marks.
I will usually make several scribe marks for better measuring and fit-up accuracy for use later during welding phase … and also in case there is a measurement change or one of the scribe marks gets cut-out in the fabrication process.
If you haven’t tried the larger Sharpie markers you should buy a few different sizes and make sure to get a MAGNUM Sharpie … I have been using the same one for months!
At first I planned to just cut out 17″ … but later decided to take out 18″… However, this was not a problem because I had made several scribe marks 1″ apart on both sides of the area to be cut out of the extensions.
The fun challenge of this project was to cut apart and then re-weld back together a ‘shorter’ pallet jack, while disassembling as few parts as possible.
Other than taking off the handle to make it easier to flip over on the welding table, the only parts I needed to remove were 2 pins and their snap-rings.
Finding my 90° snap-ring pliers was the real challenge, but that was remedied when I bought 2 new pairs in Phoenix during my Metal Scrounge.
As you can see in the photographs … I decided to use a reciprocating saw & grinder with a thin 0.045″ disk for the initial extension cuts.
Once again the little Scissor-Lift table came to my rescue by allowing me to adjust the table height so I could clamp the pallet jack extensions to the side of the table knowing at some point the extension would be cut free of the pallet jack and want to fall.
I talk highly of the Small Workshop Scissor-Lift Table because it was a fluke that I ended up making it and I thank Orlo for asking me to make his “ORLO Assistance Lift” every time I use my little Lift-Table because I made it for myself after seeing how well Orlo’s lift worked.
( Click Here to View Scissor Lift Table Post )
I first cut the extension edges facing up and then I clamped on a piece of scrap metal to the top of the inner square metal tubing so that I could cut down as far as possible but not worry about scratching or cutting into the inner tubing.
On later cuts decided a piece of Angle-Steel worked better as a cut guard.
As you can see in the photo below, I tried to cut about 1/16″ to the side of my cut line mark.
I can’t cut a straight line with a reciprocating saw to save my life, but I can clean up an edge with a grinding disk pretty good … So decided to leave a little extra metal to clean off vs. cutting too much off with the saw.
At this point … I went ahead and removed the two pins & snap-rings …
… Then continued to use the reciprocal saw to cut on the other side of the extensions until I felt the blade touch the scrap metal ‘guard’ clamped to the top of the inner tubing.
Once I had done as much as possible with the reciprocal saw … then finished the initial cuts using the grinder and the 0.045″ thin cutting disk.
As shown in the photo below, the little scissor-lift table held the metal extension after being cut so I could make ( if not a straight cut ) at least a safer final cut.
The angle steel guard did it’s job with no cuts on the inner metal tubing.
Flipped over the pallet jack and made the same cuts on other extension …
Put the cut-off extensions on the lift-table and lifted them up to a good working height so I could make the final measurements for cutting out 18″ from the pallet jack extensions using the horizontal band-saw.
… as mentioned before … changed the cut-out measurement from 17″ to 18″ …
Many of these just-for-fun workshop projects are done between other projects, with days or sometimes even weeks passing before working on them again.
To help make it easier for me to remember what I was doing, I put yellow electrical tape on the extensions with reminders as to the dimensions to cut-out and arrows as to which side of the line to cut.
… Didn’t make any wrong cuts this project … so maybe the tape helps? *smile*
Also used the Sharpie markers and scribe to mark L’s & R’s on the different parts so that I could keep the right side parts on the right side and the left side parts of the left side … Once cut off it can be really hard to tell which side was which.
Not sure if it made any difference but got into the habit of putting ‘Port’ or ‘Starboard’ on parts when removing them for repair … later just got lazy and used my bulky underwater video camera and took videos of items before and during the removal of them for repair.
This new ‘GoPro‘ video camera would have worked great for underwater SCUBA video all those years ago… but a GoPro Underwater Housing mount is a different project for a different day…
As you can see in the photos … Was able to cut the extensions on the horizontal band-saw without having to take apart any additional pallet jack parts.
Next step was to make the inner metal tubing initial cuts …
These cuts were easy to do in the little horizontal band-saw …
Being paranoid about dimensions as I am… had to double check to make sure both inner metal tubing lengths would be the same before I cut the final one.
The extensions were cut and I left about 1/16″ extra metal on each so that I could use a sanding disk on the grinder to clean up the edges so they were perfectly straight.
The pallet jack worked great but when I checked out the inner tubing mount ends it became obvious why one of the pins was tighter than the other side … It is hard to see in this photo but one of the nuts was welded crooked.
Later you can see how this issue was fixed …
While I could have made the final cuts on the inner tubing at this point decide to clean up the extension ends first on the chance needed to take off more than the 1/16″ extra allowed.
I used these Grinder Sanding Disks that can be purchased at LOWES … they seem a little expensive but they last longer than most people think.
To each their own… but for me, I feel the trick when using metal sanding disks with common metal fabrication projects is just to buy the heavy 36 grit disks because as you use them they will continue to work only they will have a softer sanding feel to them as they wear out.
Try and save your new disks for times when you need a disk that will do very quick sanding off of metal areas … Then save the old disks for use on icky projects like removing paint or rust.
As you can see in these photos I do over half this project with an old grinder sanding disk and only switch to the new one when the old one is completely destroyed.
The sanding disks made short work to create straight edges on all cut parts.
I didn’t have to remove the handle, but since I was doing this by myself without anyone to help me lift items, decided it was best to remove the handle so it wouldn’t be flopping around when I flipped the pallet jack over on the welding table.
You have to assemble the handle on the pallet jack when you purchase it from Harbor Freight Tools, so it is just reversing the same process to remove the handle.
Once the handle was off I had a much easier item to move around on tables.
Lowered lift-table to floor and put on pallet jack and then raised it to a good working height and clamped it down so I could add some additional scribe marks prior to grinding off the edge paint and cleaning up the edges with the sanding disks.
This project was pretty straight forward … but on many repair items I like to make lots of reference marks and add additional marks ‘just-in-case’ because once you cut & grind items it is very hard to know the exact measurement unless you have reference points/punches/marks to refer back to when re-assembling.
Welded metal tends to at the very least shrink and in bad cases warp; thus, reference points need to be in all directions to check for warping & shrink.
Added a few more reference scribe marks using the large Sharpie (Blue Arrow)
As you can see below, before grinding off paint for welding I cleaned up the end edge and the paint actually made it easier to see the scribe line for grinding.
Also decided to add a ‘punch mark’ in case I needed some extra triangulation points when it came time to check the tack welded extensions later.
As it turns out the cuts were very straight and the two parts fit together better than expected so didn’t need to use many of these reference points.
Closer view of punch mark in photo below … At times punch marks are good to add because they will still be visible even after some grinding of the paint or metal.
Also I will at times make 1 punch mark on the Left (Port Side) Part and 2 punch marks on the Right (Starboard Side) Part … this way if my L’s and R’s get removed for some reason I then can usually find the remnants of the 1 or 2 punch marks.
( Use 1 punch mark because I am left handed, thus #1 hand … Hey, it works? )
Ground off the end paint and made a V-Notch in metal in case I needed to see if everything was flush on bottom while it was clamped to table upside-down.
Closer view of the V-Notch ~ Can also be used to place a bolt in a guide hole on my welding table and pull everything tighter to welding table surface.
Used the file to take off some of the inner sharp edges to save on fingers cuts.
After doing the extensions connected to the pallet jack, then cleaned up the tips.
Still able to access everything without having to take apart any more parts …
If you have a lathe and want a simple fun project … Take one of your scribes and cut it down in size because it is very helpful when you need to scribe a mark in a very tight area during a project.
I paint a lot of my tools odd colors like pink or yellow so I can find them in a workshop filled with silver colored Stainless & Aluminum.
Now that the extensions were cleaned up ready to weld it was time to double-check the inner tubing measurements and then cut them on the horizontal band-saw.
Once again used yellow tape to remind me of measurements and side to cut …
Storing the little band-saw under the welding table is very helpful when need to make a quick cut … Just pull it out on the band-saw’s 360 degree turning wheels ~ make the cut ~ and then push it back out of the way under the welding table.
( Band-Saw Website Post ) & ( Band-Saw Stand SolidWorks Model on GrabCAD )
All items are ready to clean up for welding … after one extra fix …
While it probably would have worked just fine as before … Once I noticed the crooked factory weld fit-up on one of the inner tubing mount ends … well, just had to fix it …
If you don’t have some Anti-Seize … Get Some because it will save you lots of wasted time … anyone that lives in a marine area already knows this but everything corrodes and Anti-Seize only takes seconds to put on but makes everything easier to take apart and fix years later.
Plus… if you have good ventilation where you weld, you can put a little ‘Never-Seize’ on your threads and you will have a much better chance of not buggering up your thread with weld splatter … plus they are ready for installation after welding.
If I am welding aluminum I use ‘Pam Cooking Spray’ instead of anti-seize.
As an added level of protection, sometimes I will wrap the threaded areas in electrical tape because even if it melts during welding it comes right off with a wire brush.
Very easy fix for this part … just made a cut almost all the way through complete part … made sure cut was on opposite side of where mount was angled out … then pushed metal gap together until mount was straight.
As you know, weld metal shrinks, so good idea to leave it a little bit more open than you need and let the cooling weld metal pull it in … over time you learn how much you need for each situation and type of metal.
As you can see in photo below … the part looks much better after fix. *smile*
Could have sand-blasted these parts but decided just to use the Dremel tools to clean out extra paint before welding so not to get as much grit in parts.
If you don’t use Step-Bits in metalwork projects… Wow are you missing out!!!
They will change they way you approach projects … Don’t think they are just for thin sheet-metal … I commonly use them on 1/4″ to 1/2″ metal and they are FAST, clean cutting, and don’t catch when hand drilling like normal large bits. Outstanding for drilling!! … Did I mention they drill Fast!!!
They are inexpensive and wonderful!! (Step-Bits ~ Harbor Freight Tools)
Finished cleaning off paint to prepare for welding …
Next was time to move pallet jack onto welding table with the Scissor Lift table.
Since I am going to be using this ‘shortened’ pallet jack to go under stands for heavy equipment, decided to add some extra metal supports in the tips.
Had the pallet jack on welding table but decided to fix the front wheel mounts first because they were pinching the plastic wheels whereby they would not turn.
Also decided since had to take off front wheels to fix mounts might as well weld in the extra tip support metal at the same time.
Found a scrap piece of thick paper and cut it to an approximate length …
Then marked and cut edges of ‘Test Paper’ to fit into tip support area …
Put the test paper on top of metal and marked where to cut with Sharpie …
Used the Porta-Band-Saw connected to its tabletop vertical mount to cut the flat-bar to fit into the tip area to act as extra supports.
Very easy cuts … Didn’t even have to clamp saw stand to welding table …
Tested fit-up then cleaned off paint with grinder & Dremel tool.
Doesn’t need a lot of weld, just enough to secure it without warping tip area.
Welds on front and back and on upper side areas worked just fine …
As you know, freshly cleaned off metal that has then been welded will start to corrode within minutes … sometimes just overnight you have a part covered in rust.
If possible I like to paint welded part on repair/remodel projects like this as soon as the metal has cooled enough I can touch it with my hand.
Started again next morning after paint had dried …
Just in case – Drilled holes in side supports for inner metal tubing … Sometimes when repairing or redoing metal items one doesn’t know what quality of metal was originally used, but you can do some tricks to make sure welded items are always safe.
For example, you can weld on extra metal supports like the ones shown below but you can also add bolt holes on both ends of the supports and after welding you can drill through supports and original welded item and then run bolts or pins through. This way even if metal or welds are poor quality then the bolts will hold enough in an emergency situation.
If these parts were aluminum, I probably would have added extra support bolts… but for this project the metal turned out to be good quality for welding so I just drilled the holes to be able to show them in this post.
At this point, I would normally use the fancy-dancy TIG welding machine to weld this thin wall tubing together, but for this project I am attempting to use fairly common tools… So instead of TIG I am using a 110v MIG welding machine that would work in any small garage workshop.
( Miller ‘inverter type’ Multimatic 200 MIG (Wirefeed) welding machine )
Hard to see in photos, but beveled edges to allow weld metal full penetration.
Next used a piece of Angle Steel as a guide to clamp together inner tubing parts, and then tacked together what I could see — In some situations, such as this, I have found it’s better to just go ahead and completely weld the visible sides before removing clamps.
Usually, tack all sides first but have learned with this thin wall tubing best to clamp very heavy and then weld what you can see and then let cool to the touch.
Then once cool, remove clamps, grind smooth, and then re-clamp with many clamps until straight again and weld final sides.
Checked measurements before & after welding and everything held perfect.
Also… as you can see in photos the inner tubing is straight after being welded.
I did scallop in a little too much when grinding the weld areas, but knew had full penetration weld and also I would be welding on extra support metal supports so wasn’t too concerned about the slight scalloping.
I ground off bottom & side welds prior to welding on support metal …
Tacked then Welded on the extra side support metal on inner tubing.
Painted the inner tubing after welds had cooled to allow hand touch.
Next aligned and clamped the Extension Tips to the Pallet Jack body.
Made sure to use V-Notch to check all metal was clamped flush to welding table.
Used measuring reference marks on bottom of pallet jack as-well-as a visual inspection with the flat edge of a level to make sure that everything lined up.
Tack welded the wide area of extensions that was against welding table …
Then clamped on 3/16″ flatbar side supports inside of pallet jack extensions.
I knew I would have to weld the top of the pallet jack extensions last so while these inner side supports will add a lot of strength, I really put them in there to allow me to weld up the pallet jack extensions securely without having to worry about warping when I flipped over the pallet jack and made the final welds without being clamped down heavy.
Tacked and then plug-welded the holes to secure the inner side supports.
Before… During … and After tack welding parts together checked reference dimensions to make sure the extensions were parallel and straight.
This was the point whereby this project was going to be perfect or crooked … So used the Cross X-Style measurements to make sure both extensions stayed parallel and straight.
Tack, check reference dimensions, Tack, check dimensions… repeat & repeat!
Not much to say here… just a lot of clamping and tack welding and checking …
After final tack made then welded up all the parts … Ended up 27″ perfect!!
Game was not to take apart pallet jack parts and I love to weld so it was just easier for me to quickly cut out metal tabs, lower inner tubing mounts and connect them with the pins & snap-rings.
Easiest part of the whole project … cut … clean of paint … re-weld … done.
The words “Clamp Hold” were there to remind me to make sure when I removed the clamps to put down inner tubing that I had at least one clamp still holding pallet jack to welding table so it would not flip off of the table. *Laughing* (Almost did it!!)
Tested pins to make sure everything was good before re-welding metal …
Used a welding magnet to hold metal in place while tacking back together …
Cuts from the 0.045″ cutting disk made perfect gaps for full penetration welds.
Didn’t want to mess up inner tubing paint so put some old welding gloves over the inner area and then welded up metal.
Welding under pallet jack done … Let everything cool before flipping over …
Used the time while cooling to re-install mounting pins & snap-rings …
Did ya notice those nice new Snap-Ring/Retaining Ring pliers?
I’ll try not to loose these new pliers … still haven’t found old ones. *sigh*
Flipped over pallet jack and ready to cut welding groove and then weld …
Did one last check of reference dimensions and all was good … 2 welds to go!!
Don’t need the V-Notches anymore so decided to use a piece of copper found on Phoenix Scrounge to help fill hole in this somewhat thin metal.
For all you experienced welders out there… YES *smile* … Yeah, we could easily fill this one without the copper backing but the point of showing this is to help people new to fabrication.
Plus wanted to test out cutting copper with this NIKX STIKX on band-saw!!
Rounded the edges of copper so it wouldn’t catch on any weld edges under …
As you can see the copper fit between inner tubing and weld area for good fit.
Made little tack welds from outside touching steel and moved in … Didn’t try to weld onto copper, instead it is there to help hold weld metal and you weld inward to close hole.
Make a few tacks, let them cool a few seconds and continue to add more tacks.
Many ways to do the same thing, I just used normal weld settings and tacked in because this plug-weld was just cosmetic and was going to be ground off.
Harbor Freight Tools also sells a hand held copper ‘spoon’ tool that you can buy for about $10 and it works great … on mine the plastic handle is sticky (??) … so I wrapped it with blue electrical tape.
I did the other side with the Welding Spoon … both worked the same. *smile*
Used the 0.045″ Grinder Cutting Disk to cut a welding groove in upper area.
Welding groove went all the way through to bottom so I would be able to make a full penetration weld with one pass and not cause any additional warping of extension.
Welded top area with a single pass on each side… Done with the Welding!!!
Ground off the top welds and finished cleaning up the side a little more …
Solid metal even after grinding because welds went through to the other side.
Once again used little lift table to move heavy pallet jack back down to floor.
Put on handle and didn’t even have to make any adjustments … Bonus!!
Tested the Pallet Jack in full up and full down positions … and halfway, etc.
Works exactly the same … Lifts up great, but also turns on a dime!! *Yay*
Of course, no longer covered under warranty nor does Harbor Freight have anything to do with this re-build, so they have no liability for my ‘Shortened’ pallet jack … It’s just for my own personal use in my workshop.
As mentioned before, I don’t want this pallet jack to stand out in my workshop so I painted it flat-black and once dry will put some reflective tape on it for when used outside.
Later I will use the left-over orange metal cut-outs you see in the photo below to make a pair of extenders to bolt on the ends of the pallet jack for those few times I need long a long pallet jack.
Well, that is pretty much it. I put these longer type posts on here just for the fun of it because I enjoy seeing other people’s projects and learn a lot from them and feel that maybe some of the items I put on this website may help others in the future.
I am starting to judge my projects by the pile of grit and dust when done *lol*
As you can see the Pallet Jack fits in the smaller areas of my workshop and can still turn around and move items much easier than before.
– – CHEERS – –
UPDATE: No sooner had the paint dried on this ‘Shorter’ pallet jack when I used it to move my new Milling Machine & Stand over 5″ to the right. Only took 30 seconds and the pallet jack worked like a charm!!
Cool thing is DRO works on a normal tablet so can read my email in shop 🙂
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