How do I lift big rocks into the bed of a truck?
April 2, 2008 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What's the best (manual) way to lift some beeeg boulders?

I want some landscaping boulders for my yard. Buying them is expensive, for sure (7 cents a lb?) But the BLM has several collection areas, where with a rock gathering permit ($15.00 a *ton*) you can go hog wild.

My thing? I hate yards filled with cheesy, football sized rocks. I want the majestic stuff. I don't have access to a skid steer (ie bobcat), it would just be me, my buddy, and our muscles to get the biggest possible boulders we can into his truck.

I was wondering about something like this to use, or perhaps rigging up something with 2 or more farm jacks. (You can see by my reliance on Harbor Freight links I'd prefer to accomplish this on the cheap.) Also, a series of steps to work it up to the truck bed level?
posted by BleachBypass to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This could do the trick, I guess. But please be careful and make sure you understand exactly how it works before trying this at home or at the rock garden.
posted by NekulturnY at 10:15 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Use a block and tackle, come-along, or electric winch to drag them up a solid ramp.
I would never use that shoulder harness thing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:19 AM on April 2, 2008

Rock weighs about 170 lbs/cubic foot, so you probably won't be getting the really majestic stuff with the shoulder harness.
posted by electroboy at 10:21 AM on April 2, 2008

A lot of wood. Jack up one side, brace with wood, jack up other side brace with wood, repeat until level of truck bed. Winch into truck bed. Repeat. Hard to explain. Google pyramid building theories, maybe a ramp you can roll the big boulders up into the truck bed.

Or dig a little pit that you can back the truck into where you can drag rock directly into the bed of the truck with a winch or whatnot.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:25 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Well firstly, as someone who tried something like what you're suggesting with a friends landscaping, I can caution you that big rocks get REALLY heavy relative to their size. You're risking serious physical and vehicular damage without the proper equipment. Anything over about 300 lbs and you're really gonna wish you had sprung for that Bobcat.

Ok, that aside, we used a variety of tools, from come-alongs and straps to a winch that was mounted on my buddy's Jeep to move those big bastards. If you can find a ramp like the on the back of moving trucks (we found one in a junkyard) that helps to get it up the bed. You will need many muscles helping you. That harnass thing will just hurt you and prove worthless.

And what others have said above. Good luck and dont get crushed.
posted by elendil71 at 10:30 AM on April 2, 2008

You don't need to roll them up the ramp. Just use very solid planks or heavy plywood, and drag them up with the winch. You could put some burlap or something under the rock to make it smoother. Piece of cake. Just don't use that shoulder dolly. Imagine being the person who loses his footing--you know where the rock ends up?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:33 AM on April 2, 2008

The Stonehenge DIY guy.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:40 AM on April 2, 2008

My Dad often carries home 50-130 lb rocks from hiking trips for my Mom's rock gardens. These are those much-abused football sized rocks that you dislike- we weighed one that is the size of a beach ball and it weighed 140 lbs, so you are going to run into big problems fast if you want really "majestic" boulders.

Might it be worth it to rent a bobcat and a trailer for the day(s) you are planning your grand adventure? Then a) you get to play with a bobcat and b) you won't run the risk of hurting yourself in the process.
posted by arnicae at 10:40 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: In a trail building project a few years ago, we had chain "nets" with handles all around, to make it easier for 3-4 people to lift large rocks and carry them to their new home. With 3 people we could lift/carry a rock that was a little bigger than a 17" CRT computer monitor.

More recently, my wife and I collected a bunch of soccer ball sized rocks and transported them in our Astro. A small load (say, 3-4 dozen rocks at most) pretty much bottomed out the leaf springs on the van. As someone above said, rocks get heavy fast.

Assuming you can find a way to get them into a truck, I'd strongly recommend renting a heavy duty pickup that's meant for hauling this kind of material. Your buddy won't be happy if his truck's suspension is ruined.

Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Bobcat rentals are something around $150 - $200 per day. A hernia operation will run you a few grand, depending on your copay.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Cheaply, safely, quickly. You get to pick two. This is not a job to be done with manual labor unless you have a ton of time to kill.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:15 AM on April 2, 2008

What you do is you pay some other cheap bastard a little money to move them. If anything goes wrong, it's not your truck or tibia. Seven cents a pound is 70 bucks for a thousand pounds, right? That sounds like a good deal for something that will last forever.

But you had better have a good place to put them when they arrive (a place accessible by any heavy equipment your carrier is using, and not in the way of any addition or patio or deck you might build one day), because it'll cost you again if you later decide that they aren't in the right place or not oriented correctly. Also, try to pick a place that isn't interesting to the local tagging idiots or you'll be removing paint from them all the time. And -- I don't know -- do you need to provide them with a solid surface or can you just drop them in the muck?

Maybe you could split the cost with an immediate neighbor. Or do you want the biggest rocks on the block?
posted by pracowity at 11:23 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Damn. I could just visualize that filing cabinet as a big rock (: I suppose majestic is relative...

I really like the come-along idea. The other thing that appeals to me about renting a heavy duty truck is it may be possible to get one with a lift gate. This would increase the haul (from a smaller Toyota pickup) and possibly individual rock size, too. That said, my friend is pretty brave, we do half-cu-yard loads of gravel in his truck fairly frequently.

It may be worth it to eventually get the bobcat, but that's more for when the rocks are sitting in a pile in my front yard, for placement, otherwise, we'd have to get it to and from the rock site, too.

...Now, where do I get one of those Archimedes brand levers?
posted by BleachBypass at 11:49 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm, $70 seems low, I think I may be wrong.

Just checked, the place I was thinking of is .25 per pound, so a bit steeper.
posted by BleachBypass at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Stupid volume, always cubing my cost. And for what?
posted by BleachBypass at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2008

Engine Hoist?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:17 PM on April 2, 2008

I don't move rocks, but I do move machine equipment that is heavy like that.

One way I do is is by renting a car trailer. The easiest one tilts upward, we push the equipment up, and tilt and lock in in place.

However, forklifts are my friends normally.
posted by dripped at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2008

I recently moved a boulder larger than a 2-drawer file cabinet ... by myself. In your case, with 2 guys, something the size of a filing cabinet is definitely doable. I moved mine in a way similar to zengargoyle's suggestion above.

Here's how I moved it.

To start things off my boulder was in the back yard. It needed to get though the gate, to the front, and onto the trailer. The easiest way I found to move this beast was to get it up onto a sled made of railroad ties, and roll it on either metal pipe or large wood dowels. I took 3 ties and strapped them together with ratcheting straps. To get the boulder on the sled, zengargoyle has it exactly. I used a 6ft wrecking bar (about 1" dia, ~30lbs) to get under one side, pry up, and slide a scrap piece of 4x4 under it. Repeat by stacking the wood until you have enough clearance to slide the sled and the rollers under it. Reverse steps to lower it onto the sled. You may need to chock it with wood wedges/shims. Since I was moving it over a sidewalk, I used 3 scraps of wood closet rod dowels. As I pushed, the dowels would emerge from the back of the sled, I would move them to the front. There was always at least 2 under it.
When I got it to the trailer I used a mixture of scrap wood and 8x8x16 cinder blocks to raise the boulder/sled up to its level. The thinner wood allowed me to incrementally lift the corners up. They were replaced by cinder blocks when I had it raised the 8". Stacks of interlocking cinder blocks were much sturdier than towers of wood.
Once I had the boulder/sled up on the "scaffolding" of cinder blocks, I used the same dowel rolling method to push it onto the trailer.
It took a few hours and a lot of sweat, but I was able to move it solo.

With 2 guys working together, there should be no problem with this lift and support method.

If you don’t think your truck can take the weight, take dripped's suggestion and rent a car trailer. You can get them pretty cheap from your local Uhaul. Plus, the bed level on a trailer is usually significantly lower than that on a truck -- much less lifting.
posted by enobeet at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2008

Here’s another quick method I’ve used in the past. If you terrain allows, you can dig a small trench/hole for the wheels and axel/differential, and back your truck into it. You may be able to drop the height of your bed, relative to the ground, enough to roll the boulder onto the truck; likely with only a small ramp. It is kind of like your own temporary loading dock. Be mindful for clearance of exhaust, drive shaft, spare tire, etc. If you can’t pull out of the trench, just use a standard jack to lift the truck, one side at a time, backfill as you go.
posted by enobeet at 3:54 PM on April 2, 2008

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