View Full Version : Strength of 2x12 lumber as a ramp

05-27-2010, 01:45 PM
Hi, I need to get my lathe/mill outta the basement.
Need to get it over stairs..
600lb IH mill (Table/head removed) and 12x36 1000lb lathe.
If I use two 2x12's as ramps (4 stairs) how long a span could they go unsupported with 600lbs weight in one section, or 1000lbs spread out over 5' or so?

Should I use a much longer ramp then the stairs to reduce the pulling angle?
I plan to hook the mill/lathe onto a 'sled' made outta many 2x4's to go up the ramp, and tow the sled up via hand winch for control (My friend says to use a car to pull it directly, But I think thats stupid because cars are not known for precise control, especialy not automatics with torque converters)

Im thinking of using some 6x6's to help block up the ramp

I don't know what wood this would be.. just whatever I can buy at home depot or the local lumber yard as standard construction wood. Likey gonna get pressure treated (outdoor) 2x12's as I don't want them rotting.

Should I just give up and call a moving company insted? :P The guys who moved all my furnature mentioned if I called they could get someone over to do it..

05-27-2010, 01:52 PM
If you can put some temporary braces under the stairs and lay some "Ramps" on top of the steps.

Make sure everyone is in a safe place at all times.


Tony Ennis
05-27-2010, 01:56 PM
Do you intend to orient the 2x12s horizontally or vertically? In the former case, they'll support a huge amount of weight as long as they aren't allowed to twist. In the latter case, they'll support far less. I don't think I'd play, "You Bet Your Mill" on two 2x12s without some serious bracing.

I'd wager four 2x4s on edge would be stronger than two 2x12's that are flat - again, as long as they can't twist.

If you're not completely sure you can do this, and you don't yet have the ramps made, a moving company could be better.

05-27-2010, 02:06 PM
4x4s would be better. Use 4 of them spread evenly.

Can the stairs runners and steps take 1000lbs? Can your rigging hold 1000lbs on an angle? I'd used at least a doubler pulley on each end to reduce your load on whatever is holding the load down the stairs.

05-27-2010, 02:20 PM
I used three pressure treated 4x4's when moving my Tormach without an issue. Two would have worked fine but used the third as security. Just think things through then take it slow and easy.


Roy Andrews
05-27-2010, 02:22 PM
i would go to a scaffold rental place and rent a couple scaffold planks. they are an engineered LVL board that are very strong and certified. i have a bunch of them if you would like to borrow them.:D if you use standard dimensional lumber check closely for knots and cracks and support it with cribbing every 16-18". the width of the board adds very little to the strength. you could use 2X6 but support cribbing is a must. if you can run the boards right on the stairs that should be good as long as the stairs are built well.

Your Old Dog
05-27-2010, 02:46 PM
I wouldn't hesitate to put a 600 pound mill on my basements steps. I weigh 275 and any one of my stairs will hold my weight. If planks were laid on those stairs then at least 3 stairs would come into play if 600 pounds was placed over one stair. But your mill will likely rest over 3 stairs which should bring 5 stairs into play to hold your 600 pounds. It certainly wouldn't hurt to offer a little moral support with a 4x4 placed vertically under the middle of the steps run from underneath.

On the subject of planking. Pressure treated will be more slippery for you then dried timber. Also, look for grain structure that enhances the strength. Lay the board flat and look at the end of the board to read the grain structure. Vertical grain will be the strongest and those boards are normally reserved for scaffolding and cost about twice as much. But, you can find boards that may not be perfect but the grain runs more vertical then horizontal and they will in fact be stronger. Choose your boards by looking at the end of the pile for grain when selecting 2x4's. They all cost the same but some are stronger then others.

Either way it's going to be a bear of a job! :D Good luck and hope you get to drink your beer with unsmashed fingers. I would not hire furniture movers to do this unless you just can't find anyone else. My lathe was moved with 4 young guys who put themselves in harms way and I would have been responsible had they been hurt.

In the drawing below, anything on the right log would work for you but likely be very expensive if quarter sawn. However any of the 3 pieces in the middle cuts of the left hand low would give you radial and not tangential grain and would be stronger. Not sure how big of a deal it would be for your 600 pound load if used as skids?

05-27-2010, 02:48 PM
I find that a useful way to think about this is to convert "600 pounds" or "1000 pounds" into a number of people. Could five 200-pound guys stand on the planks safely?

05-27-2010, 06:09 PM
FWIW: I have a pair of 2" rough-sawn 2" X 12" cottonwood planks that are 9' long, with aluminum "ramp ends" bolted to one end of each. I load my electric golf cart onto the bed of my pickup truck by driving it up the ramps. The cart weighs more than 1000# with me on it, probably as much as 1300# when other stuff is also strapped onto it. Yes, the ramps sag, but they've not broken yet.

Personally, I think your plan will work fine: 2X12's with supports in the middle, machine on a skid, hand winched. You're right in thinking to not use a car to pull it with. Make sure the supports can't slip out, the worst thing that could happen would be for ONE of them to slip, causing the machine to tip.

The Artful Bodger
05-27-2010, 06:20 PM
I am sure you can do this but think every bit through.

The last thing I moved in that way was a big iron safe and the only scarey point was when it reached the top when it suddenly went from slope to horizontal.

Bill Pace
05-27-2010, 06:39 PM
I'm with jdunmyer, I,ve got a large lawn tractor that I load with 2x12s' on my pup truck often, and I would think it and me would come in well over #1000.

Spread over stairs the 2 bys should handle it easily, would think the physical part of getting it done will be interesting -- I'd want 2-3 buddies there;)

Your Old Dog
05-27-2010, 07:50 PM
....................-- I'd want 2-3 buddies there;)

Roger that and a cellphone and a quart of Mercurochrome :D

The Artful Bodger
05-27-2010, 08:07 PM
Roger that and a cellphone and a quart of Mercurochrome :D

Even better if one of your friends has a winch on his truck which can be positioned to do the pull.

05-27-2010, 08:27 PM
What type of wood?

It makes a very big difference. Fir is much stronger than pine and spruce is the best.

The Artful Bodger
05-27-2010, 08:38 PM
The wood is important but the real drama occurs when the load reaches the top of the travel.

john hawkins
05-27-2010, 09:09 PM
Tow Truck Would Be The Cats Meeeeow

Your Old Dog
05-27-2010, 09:56 PM
What type of wood?

It makes a very big difference. Fir is much stronger than pine and spruce is the best.

With the possible exception of balsa wood, I wouldn't worry about using any of the three mentioned given they will rest on steps that are supported from underneath.

Jim Hubbell
05-28-2010, 01:11 AM
As a " Plant engineer " I have moved many large machines. Here are a few tips which I feel are essential. (1) BOLT the machine to skids which should not flex excessivly with the machines weight set on one pipe roller between bolts. (2) DO use pipe rollers three at a time. (3) use pleny of cribbing fastened to the ramp planks. (4)do NOT be in a position with no escape route should anything fail. (5) be SURE your winch system will make the pull upstairs in one shot. Getting a new bite halfway up is not good.
The previous posts re. wood are good. Fir or larch with tight knots are fine.
Above all BE CAREFUL.
Oh, and never, never use steel on steel as ramps or skids.

05-28-2010, 09:03 AM
as long as there is support under them, either from the steps, or blocking to make the ramp longer than the stairway they'll work fine.

I don't know the actual working load of a flat 2x12, but have had some serious loads on them. (F250 driven onto a too-tall trailer for one) with no issues. With the mill you have a small footprint, so would want to support the underside of the planks.

Either way, considering typical stairs are around 8:12 rise, you're going to have a steep ramp so it's going to be a hard pull. (argument for longer ramps!) Remove whatever you can before hand, and make sure no-one is below the mill.


J Tiers
05-28-2010, 09:31 AM
Take a good look at the stairs.....

Most stair beams are basically 2 x 4..... wider board notched to the size of a 2 x 4. You MUST put at least one set of "feet" under the middle, preferably 2 spread from middle, or you are fooling yourself.

After you figure out how teh stairs are, THEN consider things to make the machine slide easily....

05-28-2010, 09:55 AM
I have a basement shop with 6 stairs to the Wonderland and have had to deal with this set up before. I think that your 2 planks will be fine and you can support them with "studs" to reduce any span you like.

When I had to move my lathe which was about the same weight as yours I set up a horizontal bar across the door at the top of the stairs. It was quickly knocked together and rested against the outside wall of the house. I attached a sturdy rope to the lathe and wrapped the rope once around the bar and was able to belay the lathe down to the basement - very well controlled and safe.

Of course you could use a come along or block and tackle to pull your equipment up or just use the above set up as a safety.

I hope your move goes smoothly.

05-28-2010, 10:17 AM
Just for grins look up load leveling engine lifts. It is a harness that adjusts the angle of the dangle on engine/transmissions when lifting by turning a crank. Since it is ratedfor engines and transmission combos, 1000 lbs?, it should hold the mill and may be of help while pulling if the weight doesn't want to pull straight. I rented one from Autozone for a day for cheap.

As has already been said, think and be safe. This operation is done quite often everywhere but make sure everyone is safe 1st and worry about surroundings second. No injury is worth a piece of equipment or a buggered wall. Think it through and communicate with all involved and you'll do fine.

05-28-2010, 10:58 AM
With the possible exception of balsa wood, I wouldn't worry about using any of the three mentioned given they will rest on steps that are supported from underneath.

Not necessarily. Softwood here is marketed under a blanket designation of "SPF". That means that your standard building materials such as studs and planks will be either Spruce, Pine or Fir. All three are sold without distinction between them. We have a particular problem with pine now. Nearly all the pine on the market is salvaged beetle kill since there are few living pine trees left. This salvage wood may contain very weak areas from either rot or the boring activity of the beetles and even if it doesn't it is much more likely to be internally shattered as it was felled dry. I am building a deck right now from salvage pine and I am having to pick the wood very carefully. I am also doulbling up the joists just to be safe.

05-28-2010, 02:32 PM
Hi, I need to get my lathe/mill outta the basement.

I'd reverse the procedure you used to get it into the basement. :rolleyes:

I think your plan is OK, there are a ton of good ideas and suggestion in the previous posts. The only thing I would add is use 3 2x12 instead of two and I would also screw 2x4s at 90 to the underside. It would make the 3 2x12 in to a unit and reduce twisting and wobbliness. I am sure there would be torsional twisting.

05-28-2010, 05:31 PM
I got them into the basement on 7' ramps made outta 2x4, but they where blocked in 2 places (in addition to the 2 end supports for 2' or so)
but that was very steep. wanted longer ramps hence the question of strength.

Basement steps where actualy concrete set into the ground, so they should be plenty strong.. New steps into new basement are wood and look sad.. but I can reenforce them and ATM, the mill/lathe can go into the garage.. untill I can put a post into the ground in cement for a winchpoint.. Or get my neighbor to allow a big truck in his back yard.. or use his truck..

but in the end after looking at what I had left to move, I called 'BC careful movers' since they did a good job on my antiques.. they did drop one toolbox onto its side (slowly) but paid me $80 for the damages done to it on the spot as an option insted of applying for an insurance claim (One drawer needs some metal banging to have it lock again, some scratchs but otherwise seems ok)
I decided to just take the cash since I assumed they just would banged some dents into it to 'repair' it and such since its a toolbox and not a 'cosmetic' item (even though it was pristene.... it was only $399 when I bought it)
Tools inside took a few dents and scratchs but oh well...

They will be coming tomarrow with ramps and a 'paino' skid and 4 people.. $140/hr or so.. :( oh well. Just don't have the time/equipment handy.
Apparently they plan to 'move it like a paino'. however that is... Somehow I picture 4 people playing tug-a-war with my lathe.

Gonna have to make sure they know that if the castings are damaged/bent its likey to need a full replacement.

The Artful Bodger
05-28-2010, 06:33 PM
Many houses in this city have access only via steep steps, sometimes 60 or 90 steps or so. The furniture movers manage to get things like pianos in and out often using 4 or 6 rugby players with shoulder harnesses etc. I hope your steps are wide enough for them!

05-28-2010, 09:30 PM
I like these cheap wire come alongs, Two of them will be necessary, one to pull and one for safety until you need to re-rigg and extend the safety one to take the load . I would double up the 2 x 12 and nail them together so they won't slip, even attach the planks to the stairs, and shore up the stairs underneath. wood columns are cheap as is blocking as necessary. If there isn't a continuous base for a pipe roller underneath then you will have to bolt runners on under the machines. Important that they can not break loose.. It is just a matter of pulling up on the load come along and keeping the safety one snug. One person can hammer the pipe rollers straight if they start to walk. Important to take your time and no one is ever behind the load or where if something breaks they are in harms way, Also I would use two pipes as rollers and as one reaches the center of gravity , you would tilt the load back and insert the second pipe at the front. If you don't think you are up to this, I would try to find some one with rigging experience Also a deadman to take the load, like a chain to a car or truck, I wouldn't rely on door framing. Good luck.