Be Careful When Mounting Hose Reels to Walls

hose reelHose reels make it easy to store heavy duty industrial hoses used to keep your workspace clean. But it pays to put a little thought into mounting a hose reel on an exterior or interior wall before you begin.

Hose reels themselves don’t tend to be all that heavy. They may weigh a few pounds at most. But their weight significantly increases once you add the weight of the hose. And if it’s a retractable hose reel and the hose is filled with water, the weight is going to be even higher.

You don’t want to wait until your hose reel falls off the wall before you realize it can’t handle all that weight.

Mounting a Hose Reel

The hardware that typically comes with a hose wheel is usually graded to hold the weight of the reel itself as well as a single, standard sized hose.

The problem is that many businesses will connect more than one hose together. Or they will use reinforced hoses that weigh more than the typical industrial hose, adding more weight to the hose reel than it is designed to carry.

Hose reels typically come in crank-operated models or self-winding retractable hose reels. If it is a retractable hose reel, the torque of the spring rewinding the hose can also add additional pressures, potentially resulting in failure of the mounting hardware to hold it securely in place.

And when the hose reel rips off the wall, not only will it make a huge mess but it can cause a lot of other damage as well.

Reinforcing the Hose Reel for Additional Weight

If you plan on using heavier hoses or multiple hoses on your hose reel, it’s a good idea to buy hardware that can carry all that load.

You also want to avoid mounting the hose reel onto siding or plaster board because that’s not going to end well. Instead, find some studs or sink some masonry bolts into mortar over brick, rather than mover mortar joints which are weaker.

Freestanding Hose Reels

All of these issues can be avoided if you buy portable hose reels or hose reels that are freestanding or floor mounted rather than mounted on walls.

For one thing, you don’t have to worry about it being ripped from its bearings. For another, portable or freestanding hose reels give you more range so you are limited to using them in one area of your business.


The Science Behind Scissor Jacks

scissor jackOlder drivers can remember when floor-standing jacks came standard with most cars. These devices used a lever — usually the crow bar — to jack a car’s bumper up inch by inch when changing a tire on the roadside.

Floor-standing jacks went out of vogue about the same time donut spare tires started to become popular. And for the same reason:  Space considerations.

In order meet tougher fuel standards, automakers were challenged with finding ways to make cars lighter and smaller. So things like bulky floor-standing jacks and full-sized spare tires were some of the first things to go.

Scissor Jacks Now the Industry Standard

Not all new cars even come with spare tires anymore. But those that do almost always have scissor jacks.

The benefit of scissor jacks is that they offer the same easy lifting capabilities as floor-standing jacks but they can be twisted down into a very small, compact package that can easily fit inside or under a donut spare.

Scissor jacks are not only lighter and smaller than floor-standing jacks, but they are also less like to tip over in mid-use, making them safer as well.

How Scissor Jacks Work

Scissor jacks are remarkably simple to use … even by Millennial drivers who don’t know how to change a spare tire.

They utilize a concept known as large force amplification. In simple terms, this means that the easy task of turning a nut with a lever is enough to raise an automobile or truck weighing thousands of pounds.

There are two critical parts to the scissor jack. The first is a two-piece mechanism. The second is a self-locking screw. Working in tandem, these two parts allow extremely heavy vehicles to be lifted through an extension of the scissor mechanism, which is held in place by the resistive force of the screw.

If the screw wasn’t able to hold the weight of the vehicle, the jack would instantly collapse, creating a hazardous situation for the driver changing the tire.

Fast, Simple, and Easy

The scissor jack’s central screw has an end-mounted circular ring that is designed to accommodate a large metal arm. Like the standing jack, this is usually the tire iron (although scissor jack tire irons are a lot shorter, smaller, and lighter than old school versions).

When inserted and turned in a clockwise direction, this arm drives the screw through the scissor mechanism’s central pivot point’s threat. The jack elongates and the vehicle lifts easily. Spinning the screw in the opposite direction lowers the vehicle to the ground.


Make Safety a Priority When Working on Your Vehicle

Normal_tire,_spare_and_jackFor many people, working on their own cars or trucks isn’t just a way to save money, it’s also fun.

But anytime you work with heavy, mechanical objects, safety needs to be a top priority. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. The last thing you want is to ruin an enjoyable time playing under the hood or beneath your car.

Here are some safety tips for staying safe while working on your car, truck, or other vehicles.

Have the Right Tools for the Job 

Before you begin, make sure you have everything you need to do the job from start to finish. This includes any repair guides, owner’s manuals, or technical service documents to which you may need to refer.

It also includes safety equipment such as an ABC-rated fire extinguisher and a first aid kit, as well as personal protective equipment like safety goggles, a tight-fitting coverall that won’t get caught on spinning fans or moving parts, and gloves that can protect you from chemical fluids.

It’s also a good idea to take off any jewelry, such as watches, rings, or chains before you begin so they don’t get snagged. And either wear a hat or tie up any long hair so it won’t get caught.

Light and Air

Two of the most important tools you will need are light and air.

Make sure the area where you are working is well ventilated. Never start a motor in a closed garage because the carbon monoxide fumes created by the engine exhaust are toxic. Instead, keep the garage door open at all times or work outside.

Working on your vehicle outdoors will also give you plenty of light so you can see what you are doing. If weather or other variables force you to work in a garage, make sure you have work lamps or other light sources.

Working Under Your Vehicle

If you need to work beneath the vehicle and you don’t happen to have a hydraulic lift in your garage, park the vehicle on a flat concrete surface then use floor jacks that are rated to support the weight of your car or truck. You will need at least two sturdy jack stands, as well as wheel blocks.

Use a crawler designed for automotive repair use to gain access to the undercarriage of your vehicle. This lets you roll in and out easily, increasing the safety.

It’s also a good idea not to work alone when repairing or maintaining your vehicle. Having a buddy not only keeps you company but also improve safety if an emergency occurs.

What to Look for When Buying New Casters and Wheels

cartsA lot of different types of materials handling equipment rely on casters or wheels to get the job done.

Casters and wheels come in many different sizes and materials. Plus, they attach to the materials handling vehicle or other devices in different ways.

For example, casters and wheels used on furniture dollies are typically bolted individually onto the bottom of the devices, while the wheels used on two-wheeled hand truck usually share a common axle and are held in place with a pin.

And wheels used on office chairs usually have a post that fits into a holder at the bottom of the chair’s base.

Shopping for New Casters and Wheels

Many people will simply buy replacement casters and wheels from the original manufacturer of the equipment needing repair. It’s faster, easier, and most convenient in most cases.

But you probably will end up paying a lot more for OEM casters from the device’s manufacturer than you would for universal casters or wheels. In many instances, casters and wheels are interchangeable, so you don’t necessarily have to pay full price for replacements.

A better plan is often to use the caster’s reorder number — generally found on the caster itself or in the Owner’s Manual of the equipment it is used on — to search online for a cheaper yet similar replacement. Incidentally, if you can’t find the owner’s manual, most makers of materials handling equipment have downloadable versions available on their websites.

What If There’s No Reorder Number?

castersIf the reorder number is not available, then you can use the caster’s or wheel’s dimensions to find a replacement. These dimensions also should be available in the paper or downloadable owner’s manual. Or you can measure it the old fashioned way with a ruler or tape measure, although this will be less accurate.

When reordering wheels and casters, it’s usually a good idea to get a couple of spares just to have around for when you need them in the future. That way, the next time a caster breaks or a wheel is ruined, you don’t have to go through the whole process of reordering all over again.

If your equipment budget allows it, on some pieces of equipment it’s also a good idea to replace all the casters or wheels if something goes wrong with one of them. This ensures they will all wear at the same rate, rather than have one new caster and three old, worn ones.

Hose and Cable Reels Increase Workplace Safety

hose reel
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hoses and cords are commonly used in many different types of operations. Whether they are water hoses, air hoses to power mechanical equipment, or even electrical cables, hoses and cords provide a valuable service.

Yet hoses and cords also create a potential safety hazard, especially when sprawled across high traffic areas. They are a serious trip hazard. Plus, when they are run over by forklifts and other heavy equipment, they can easily fray, become worn, or burst.

Hose and cable reels help improve workplace safety. They also can save your business a lot of money.

Avoiding Accidents

A single trip and fall accident can cost a business big money in medical bills or workmen’s compensation claims. But if the accident victim can prove that the business left the hoses or cables lying around negligently, it also could result in a lawsuit.

Hose and cable reels can improve workplace safety by reducing the risk of trip and fall accidents. They also can minimize liability by creating a safer, more secure workplace.

Another consideration is leakage. When hoses are left out, they can become easily damaged by equipment or other hazards. If hoses carrying gas or live electrical cables are split open, they can create a serious safety hazard.

Hose and cable reels help prevent leakage of gas, water, oil, and other workplace hazards by allowing hoses to be stored safely when not in use, or only extending just enough hose or cable to get the specific job done before retracting back after work is finished.

Improving the Environment

Using hose and cable reels to store these items when they are not in use can also make your workplace less cluttered.

When workers, vendors, and visitors to your worksite see hoses and cables unwound or, even worse, knotted up, they are going to think you don’t care about the conditions of your business. A messy workplace is also a less productive workplace.

Some hose and cable reels are spring-loaded, so they can automatically retract hoses and cables when they aren’t being used. Others need to be manually cranked or reloaded with cables or hoses. Both types help clean up work areas, providing a neater and safer environment.

Reducing Wear

Another benefit of hose and cable reels is that they reduce wear and tear on your equipment, allowing for longer use and minimizing replacement costs.

In these instances, hose and cable reels can actually pay for themselves in a relatively short time.

How Hydraulic Jacks Let You Lift Thousands of Pounds

Hydraulic jack (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Hydraulic jack (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

When you need to lift a car to work underneath it or move a heavy piece of industrial equipment, you wouldn’t risk injuring yourself by trying to hoist it with your bare hands.

You probably would use a specialized lifting tool such as a hydraulic jack to safely lift and move heavy object. But how can hydraulic jacks allow users lift everything from crates to trucks to even houses?

The answer is right there in the tool’s name: Hydraulics.

How Hydraulic Jacks Work

Hydraulic jacks rely on force that is generated by pressure. While there are all types of hydraulic jacks, nearly all of them work on the same principle.

A hydraulic jack has two cylinders, one larger one and one smaller one, that are connected. As force is applied to one cylinder, due to this connection an equal pressure is generated inside both cylinders.

But because one cylinder has a larger area, the force produced by this cylinder also will be higher, even though the overall pressure produced in the two cylinders remains the same.

To lift heavy loads, a pump plunger will move a liquid through the two cylinders. Despite the hydraulic jack’s name, this liquid usually is oil, not water.

When the plunger is initially drawn back, it opens a suction valve ball which draws oil into the pump chamber. As the plunger is pushed forward, the oil then moves through an eternal discharge check valve into the cylinder chamber.

As the suction valve closes, pressure builds within the chamber, producing the force that can be used by the pump to lift heavy weights.

Bottle Jacks and Floor Jacks

The two most common types of hydraulic jacks used in industry are bottle jacks and floor jacks.

Bottle jacks resemble the type of car jack most people used to have in the trunk of their car. Shaped like milk bottles, bottle jacks can lift anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, depending on their size and rated lifting capacity.

Bottle jacks are still widely used for lifting vehicles, but their use is increasingly spreading to other industries. For example, many hospitals will now use a type of bottle jack to move and lift heavy medical equipment.

Floor jacks use a shaft that pushes on a crank that connects to a horizontal lifting pad. Floor jacks generally have a higher range of vertical lift than bottle jacks.


5 Things to Look for When Buying a Mechanic’s Crawler

crawlerA mechanic’s crawler is the little board on wheels that enable auto mechanics and others to slide under cars, trucks, and other equipment.

They are sometimes called mechanic’s creepers as well as crawlers — which is pretty creepy by itself — but there is nothing scary about using one of these convenient devices. They can be used for both heavy industry as well as the occasional homeowner who wants to change their own motor oil or make simple car repairs.

Mechanic’s crawlers come in all shapes and sizes and with a variety of different features. There are inexpensive bare bones crawlers that are essentially a piece of plywood with four casters all the way up to deluxe models with special padding, high-durability wheels, and other perks.

Prices for mechanic’s crawlers range from around $20 for the most basic models to more than $200 for top of the line creepers.

So how can you tell what type is right for you? And what sort of things should you look for when choosing a mechanic’s crawler? We’re glad you asked!

Sturdy Backboards Are Essential

Arguably, the most important feature on a crawler is the backboard. This is where your upper and lower back are supported.

It’s also where the least expensive models tend to cut corners. Look for crawlers that have reinforced backboard that are going to provide adequate support. This will help eliminate backaches and other injuries later.

Avoid Steel Wheels

Steel wheels, like the kind found on the cheap pair of roller skates you had as a kid, probably aren’t going to give you the smooth ride you want. Having to roll off your crawler to free up a stuck wheel is inconvenient and time-consuming — not to mention uncomfortable if you are under a car.

Instead, look for crawlers with urethane wheels that have ball bearings inside.

Low-Profile Design

No matter how busy your shop is, you probably aren’t going to use your mechanic’s crawler all the time — or even very often. So it’s often useful to choose one that has a low-profile design for easy and convenient storage.

Crawlers that can be slipped into a vertical space are a space saver, as well as help avoid slip and fall accidents.

Recessed Wheels

Another handy feature to look for are recessed wheels. These allow you to get closer to the ground so you have more room to work with when you are under vehicles or machinery.

Crawler Materials

A lot of workers complain about wood crawlers because they tend to absorb motor oil, coolant, and other fluids that can easily leak onto their surfaces. With wood crawlers, a single spill can last a lifetime.

Instead, consider crawlers made with heavy-duty fabric that is oil- and chemical-resistant, as well as firm padding for added comfort.

Labor Department Offers Safety Help to Smaller-Sized Contractors

protective eye gearWhile the biggest construction contractors often have teams of safety and health specialists on staff to help identify and eliminate safety hazards, smaller-scale contractors who make up the majority of construction businesses are generally on their own.

Until now, that is. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a new guide designed to help small to medium sized construction companies develop their own proactive safety programs that can improve workplace safety and reduce the amount of workplace injuries.

The guidelines are outlined in a new PDF document entitled “Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction”, which can be downloaded for free HERE.

Keeping Workers Safe

The idea is for contractors to use the document to create health and safety programs using simple steps that anybody can follow, including training workers on how to identify and control hazards themselves, inspecting job sites together with line-level workers to identify potential problems with equipment and materials, and developing effective responses to emergency scenarios before they happen.

The benefit of the new OSHA guide is that it can be scaled to fit practically any sized construction business, from the smallest two-person operation working on short-term projects to larger companies with dozens of employees working on multi-year jobs, according to Dr. David Michaels, assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.

“The recommendations outlined in this document will help contractors prevent injuries and illnesses on their construction sites and make their companies more profitable,” Michaels said in a news release announcing the release of the guide.

Benefits of Increased Workplace Safety

Implementing the recommendations outlined in the new OSHA guide will do more than just reduce workplace injuries and make job sites safer. It also can help improve productivity and quality, improve employee morale, and even improve employee recruitment and retention.

Small- to medium-sized companies that institute better workplace safety standards can benefit from a more favorable image and reputation among clients, suppliers, and peers within the industry. And as any contractor can tell you, your construction business is only as good as its reputation.

Even if contractors already have a safety program in place, it’s a good idea to review the recommendations because there are always new construction techniques, materials, and equipment being introduced into the industry.

There’s also more diversity today in the overall construction workforce. So people from different backgrounds — who often speak different languages — are often working side by side. Plus, the aging workforce and the rise of a sedentary lifestyle means that more workers than ever before are a higher risk for work-related injuries.


Investing in Lift Tables Can Save You Money in the Long Run

Photo courtesy of Southworth Products Corp.
Photo courtesy of Southworth Products Corp.

Quick: What is the average height of all the employees in your workplace? In the US, the average height for men is 5 foot 10 inches. For women, the average height is 5 feet 4 inches.

But that’s the national average. Most of your worker are going to be either taller or shorter than that. So if you provide work tables or surfaces designed to be used by people who are one particular height, they are going to be either too tall or too short for most of your work staff.

Having equipment that isn’t the right height for the workers who use it can lead to increased workplace injuries. Whenever people have to bend down or reach up to perform tasks, it puts strain on their backs, necks, arms, shoulders, and other parts of their body. Over time, this can lead to a wide variety of injuries, all of which will cost your business money in terms of workmen’s compensation claims, lost productivity, and down time.

Lift Tables to the Rescue

Lift tables allow workers to raise or lower their work surfaces so that they are at a comfortable height. Regardless of how tall or short a particular employee is, work tables can easily be adjusted for maximum comfort and productivity.

Work tables aren’t cheap. They can even run into the thousands of dollars, especially for a high-quality work table that is going to provide years of service. But in the long run they can pay for themselves many times over in the form of savings from future injury-related expenses your business won’t have to pay out.

A single workmen’s comp case can cost a business thousands of dollars. A lawsuit can cost even more. But a work table offers a sensible solution that enhances employee comfort, reduces the risk of injury, and even boosts your business’s productivity and profits.

Lift and Spin Tables

For an even more efficient work surface, consider lift tables that come equipped with a turntable that allows workers to spin whatever they are working on toward them whenever they want.

This reduces worker movement by preventing them from having to walk around the work table in order to access various parts of whatever they are working on. Both lift tables and pallet loaders are easy to use, spring-operated, and strong enough to handle even the heaviest loads.

Successful businesses look to the future. Now you can save time, money, and potential employee injuries in the future by investing now in the durable, safe, and efficient lift tables from


Mechanics 101: How Air Compressors Work

Photo by Peter Southwood (via  Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Peter Southwood (via Wikimedia Commons)

Most shops have an air compressor lying around somewhere. These helpful devices use compressed air to power some of the most common tools in the workshop, including drills, grinders, nail guns, sanders, spray guns, and even staplers.

But how do air compressors actually work? And can they be repaired in-house if they break down, or do you need to pay extra for specially trained technicians to make the repairs?

Air Pressure and Air Volume

There are many different types of air compressors, including one-cylinder, two-cylinder, rotary screw compressors, and more. But they all pretty much work according to the same principle.

Compressing air is essentially a two-stage process in which 1.) Air pressure goes up, and 2.) air volume goes down. Typically, this effect is created by use of a reciprocating piston.

While moving back and forth, the piston essentially creates a vacuum. When the piston retracts, the area in front fills up with air. When the piston extends, this same air is compressed. It also is pushed through the discharge valve, usually into a reinforced air tank that is strong enough to hold pressurized air.

Reciprocating piston air compressors, which are the most common type used today, have five major components: The crankshaft, connecting rod, cylinder, piston head, and valve head.

Powering Up an Air Compressor

In most cases, either a gas engine or an electric motor is used to power an air compressor.

On one end of the cylinder are the inlet and discharge valves. These devices, which are shaped like metal flaps, can be found at opposite sides of the cylinder’s top part. Air is sucked into the cylinder, where the piston compresses it before releasing it through the discharge valve.

The most common type of air compressors used by tradesmen run on positive displacement. This is when air is compressed within compartments, each of which reduces the volume of the air, or the amount of space it takes up. Most have air tanks, although some very small and less powerful air compressors are composed basically of a pump and a motor.

The air tank stores air within specific ranges of pressure until it’s needed to power equipment. As it the pressurized air is released, it can power pneumatic tools connected to its supply lines. Throughout this process, the air compressor’s motor will turn on and off in order to maintain the proper pressure inside the tank.

From air conditioning units to pneumatic tools and more, air compressors are one of the most widely used types of machinery in industry.