Lift Truck for a Small Shop

Contractors discuss ways to get heavy materials up to and down from an upper-floor loft in the shop. July 11, 2013

I have a 1200 square foot one-man shop. Fortunately I have 16 foot ceilings, so I've built a mezzanine for storage and a spray booth above the office. However, now I need a way to get cabinets and material up and down. I've been looking at "walkie stackers" since that's about the only thing small enough to move around the shop. I thought about a hand-crank Genie Superlift, but that seems very slow. I'm also looking at a used Yale electric walk-behind straddle lift (with new battery) from the local forklift dealer.

Does anybody have experience with these machines? I know they can be very expensive to repair, so what's a good brand to look for, and what should I watch out for? They are asking $4,150 for the Yale, what would be a fair offer?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
Clark (and others) make smallish, sit-down forklifts that might be in that price range. I can relate to your size limitations but I purchased a used, 6000lbs, triple-mast forklift for $3,900. This has more versatility and a higher resell value.

From contributor F:
I would pick the machine that would give me the most versatility and I would have to think that would be a forklift with a tall enough mast to get into your second level. Then you would have the ability to unload trucks as well which for me would be the bigger advantage.

From contributor G:
We found a Crown reach truck that you stand up in to operate. It was $4,000 used. It will lift 5500 lbs which is important for us because we need to unload full lifts of melamine. It has a 20 foot lifting height and will turn in a very tight circle. I think these are ideal for the small shop.

From contributor R:
Forklifts are a dream to have around, but with your space I would hang an electric cable winch from the trusses. Use a low platform as an assembly table, but then have slings that will hook up to the winch and pickup the table with the work on it, and lift to the mezz. If you don't need the table, just lift the platform up and store it near the ceiling when not in use. A friend of mine rigged an entire section of floor at the end of his garage. He backs his pickup into the garage, unloads on this raised deck, then lowers the entire section down to the basement. Genius! It takes minutes to even take his metal lathe down there.

From contributor H:
I have three walkie stackers around my shop. One of these I modified into a manlift (see video). In the video it is set up as rough terrain with outriggers, but it can be removed from the rough terrain frame and used in tight spaces in a 1200 square foot shop. I have a like-new Big-Joe with 10' platform height that I use as a stock elevator for the shop's second floor. The third one is a Big-Joe 8" platform that I plan to modify to replace the rough terrain use of the one in the video. None of these will ever replace the versatility my 11' reach 5000lb Toyota forklift, but my forklift cannot be easily maneuvered in my small shop.

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From the original questioner:
I just purchased a lightly used Clark electric 3-wheel forklift with a brand new battery for $3000! It's a lot more lift than I wanted, but this will be able to unload freight trucks in the street and do everything else. All the walkie stackers I can find are going for well over what I paid, so for the price this was a no-brainer. The next challenge will be to re-arrange the shop to free up some aisle space. I'm thinking that raising the assembly bench as Contributor R said makes sense.