Introducing a new product to the Mechanical Elements family of Do-It-Yourself Plans — the gantry crane I-Beam clamp. A simple product we give as Free Plans in our launch celebration! Well, is it really FREE Plans? Yes. Use the coupon code on the Beam Clamp Product Page to get the plans for FREE.
The I-Beam Clamp is a simple product to solve a couple things for owners of a Gantry Crane. For a lot of Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts, the garage is not quite big enough for everything you have (or want), so equipment flexibility is a big blessing. This new Beam Clamp magnifies versatility for our Line of Cranes.
So, if have a Mechanical Elements crane, (or other I-Beam style crane), then check out this new product. Read below for some useful applications – one might help in your shop. The clamp may be the perfect enhancement as a solution for something you are needing.
What is a “Gantry Crane I-Beam Connector Clamp”?
In a typical application, the main beam of a gantry crane attaches at each end to the legs or supporting elements. For many cranes, the main beam is an I-Beam which is known for its high strength to weight ratio. This image shows a main I-Beam attached to the crane legs using bolts through holes drilled in both the leg top and the I-Beam.
The bolting method is, of course, a very sturdy attachment, but it’s not very flexible. True, you can turn this leg around and bolt it with the top plate facing the opposite direction, but this only allows a leg adjustment of several inches.
The NEW beam clamp, does not require holes drilled in the gantry crane I-beam. It is not as strong a bolt connection, but for the right circumstances, it offers a unique way of attaching. This way, the main beam attaches in a flexible way, allowing the leg to position, then secure, anywhere along the I-Beam. This allows the I-beam to effectively change length to meet the needs of the moment.
The I-Beam Connector Clamp is another fun Solution! from Mechanical Elements.
Made For The Do-It-Yourself Builder:
The NEW clamp design is simple, and the implementation is easy as well. The intent is to clamp a flat plate on the I-Beam without drilling holes. This gives infinitely variable positioning to clamp the legs anywhere along the length of the beam.
Optionally, it allows you to connect other items directly to the beam, securely, anywhere along the beam, also without drilling holes.
A frequent hiccup in connecting things to an I-Beam comes because the inside horizontal faces of the beam flanges are not parallel to the bottom face. While this is great for beam strength, bolting can create issues. Sure, there are special tapered washers to compensate for the angle, but they still require a hole for the bolt.
To conquer the problem, the Beam Clamp side parts are cut from C-Channel or from a section of I-Beam. This makes the angles match perfectly.
I-Beam Connector Clamps & Gantry Crane:
Here are a number of really cool applications for the new I-Beam Connector Clamps. In our shop, we find they come in useful for many different situations. Here are a few ways we use them. You may find other great ways that make sense for your gantry crane i-beam as well.
Gantry Cranes made with plans from Mechanical Elements are big, and the legs bolt-on at the I-beam ends. Sometimes it’s nice to change the distance between the legs just for storage or for working around other equipment.
With the I-Beam Connector Clamps, the gantry crane legs are no longer constrained at the beam ends. The legs can easily move to any spot along the beam you want. Pull them in a little to accommodate space, or a lot for greater lifting capacity. It also makes crane storage much easier.
For gantry crane leg connections, like in the image, use at least two clamps for stability. Make sure to use gussets or other stiffening as well for Gantry Crane Safety.
On a personal note, I love an extra long beam on my crane for many things. However, with the normal setup, it’s too long for convenient storage in my garage. At full length, it’s hard to fit around the car and workbenches. With these beam clamps, I just move one leg so it fits perfect over my workspace, then raise the beam so it’s out of the way. It stores there, ready to lift. Just back the trailer in, lift the goods, pull it out, and set the goods on a cart. No crane moving needed. Then, when I need the crane for other duties, it’s super easy to re-adjust the main beam length.
Strength and length of the I-Beam determine a gantry crane capacity. When a beam is long, say 15′, load capacity is lower than when the beam is shorter, like 8′. Using the I-Beam Connector Clamp to re-position the legs, the effective length of the top beam can shorten as needed, thus increasing capacity.
To illustrate this, we’ll use numbers from our Upsized Crane plans. With a 6″ steel I-Beam along the top, at 16′ length the crane capacity is 2200#. Shortening the top beam to 12′ increases crane capacity to 3200#. Shorten the beam again to 10′, and capacity rises to 4000#. The I-Beam Connector Clamp makes all these configurations possible – all with the same gantry crane. Just mount the legs with proper spacing, and secure them for the load you need.
A gantry crane is a wonderful piece of equipment for so many applications. One drawback is the load must be between the 2 legs. Sometimes that’s not convenient, so we have to use an engine hoist (or other style crane) for reach. Hoists also have limitations – often with height.
So, in certain situations, these new I-Beam Clamps can change a gantry crane into a cantilever. However, it is very important to understand the limitations and potential crane failure modes. THIS IS ONLY FOR LIGHT LOADS. And, I’ll point out that the consequences of doing it wrong can be lightning fast and catastrophic. Yet, with proper care, it is possible, and very useful.
A word of CAUTION: The I-Beam Connector Clamp does NOT defy the laws of physics.
If you configure a crane for a cantilevered beam, it REQUIRES counter-balance. If you try to lift something on the end of the beam, that is heavier than the other leg, the crane will tip and come crashing down – doing lots of damage, perhaps injuring you or someone else.
Use the cantilever VERY carefully! Use it only with small loads, and ONLY with proper counter weights on the other end of the beam! Please don’t use this to earn the Darwin award.
Along with having the counter-balance right, make sure the end of the beam is blocked so a trolley (if you are using one) cannot roll off the end. On the rare occasions that I use the crane in this way, I put a large scissor clamp on the beam web to accomplish the task.
To hang something from an I-Beam (gantry crane or other) in a non-permanent way, just fasten it to a plate, then clamp it to the beam. The I-Beam Connector Clamps will hold the plate in place, yet it is easy to move or remove the clamps and plate later.
You can mount it under the beam, or for more security, clamp it on top of the beam. These beam clamps don’t care about top or bottom.
Or, (side note), if your needs are for a light duty attachment or hanging items quickly from a beam, then try this fun little I-Beam skyhook. While it’s not nearly as strong, it’s even simpler and easier to work with than the clamp. Check out that Solution! too.
Please Note: We recommend using the I-Beam Clamps in pairs, so make the plate long enough for one on each side of the load. Load capacity is a function of the material, so live within the limitations of your particular clamp system.
An I-Beam Connector Clamp makes a great trolley stop for your gantry crane. You may need a separate plate for the space, but when the clamps are not busy holding the crane leg, they can certainly limit motion of the trolley. Keep it from rolling too far one side or the other. Or, make several so they are ready when you need them!
Restricting motion of the trolley is a great way to add a little safety in some situations. Use the clamp when it helps, then take it off when you want full trolley movement along the beam.
How To Get Free Plans:
As mentioned above, Free Plans are available for the Gantry Crane I-Beam Connector Clamps. The product page shows a price, but use the Coupon Code on that page to get plans for free.
Free Plans are available for a limited introductory time, so get them now, while the getting is good! (Well, we extended it through COVID just because, and now we are just leaving it Free because the plans are popular, and we appreciate you.)
Oh, and speaking of crane accessory plans, we have more! Check out the crane beam lifting plans. It’s an add-on, or maybe more correctly, it’s a Gantry Leg Conversion to our other crane plans. The goal is to help raise and lower the upper I-beam (and upper portion of the leg) easily and safely. If you raise and lower your gantry crane I-beam often (like I do going in and out of the garage, and working around things in the shop), then this conversion is a fantastic time saver. And, it makes it a one person job.
Enjoy the Beam Clamp Plans! – On M.E. – the Do-it-Yourself Mechanic.