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Bucket forks

Started by Crusarius, September 05, 2017, 01:03:29 PM

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So I am working on building a sawmill. I knew eventually I would want a set of forks for my tractor. What I just realized is that the steel I purchased for the sawmill build is really heavy. (I knew this before but I just decided I should not keep trying to move it all myself). I am not all that bright, and can sometimes be a little slow, but I finally decided to make up a pseudo set of bucket forks to lighten my heavy lifting.

So here is the build. Hope you all enjoy.

I started scouring the shop for the materials I was going to use. I knew that I wanted roughly 4' long forks with a tapered end and a hole for a hitch ball or lifting clevis. I found a piece of 2"x4"X.25" angle. This would turn into the fork tips. I reinforced them with 3/8" plate. I drilled a 1" diameter hole for the clevis. I used 2x6x3/16 for the forks.

The bucket mount was a little more challenging. I needed something to spread the load across the lip of the bucket and to support the tips of the forks. I used the same piece of 2x4 angle that I used for the tips.

I also wanted it to be width adjustable. Since I am in the middle of the sawmill build I just happened to have the perfect materials for this in stock. I used 2.5" 11 gauge tube welded to the forks. This tube slides perfect over 2" .188 wall square tube. I also used the 2.5" to create standoffs for the slide rails.

The 2.5" was welded directly to the angle and then the 2" are to be welded between the 2.5" after the forks are slid on. This gives me the option of adding a backplate at a later date simply by inserting 2" into the tube.

I made a spring clip for the underside of the bucket just to give it a little more stability. The primary reason for this is it kep falling off when I was trying to test fit everything. I made a press brake quite a while ago and it always seems to come in handy for stuff like this.

This is a view looking at the end of the brake.

In the testing phase I realized that the angle the forks ended up at would not work. I was unable to see them from the driver's seat. I ended up having to shorten the vertical tubes and flip the entire assembly over. This made me very happy since I had already full welded that part. I definitely did not screw around with the welds.

To be continued...


K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid
Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without
1989 GMC 3500 4x4 diesel dump and plow truck, 1964 Oliver 1600 Industrial with Parsons loader and backhoe, 1986 Zetor 5211, Cat's Claw sharpener, single tooth setter, homemade Linn Lumber 1900 style mill, old tools


Phase 2:
So as I mentioned above I had an issue with not being able to see the end of the forks. My initial thought was "crap I really don't want to cut those welds". So after some pondering, staring and ignoring and some more pondering I figured out how to fix it without to much work. The vertical 2.5" square pieces I had made 6" long. The 2.5" piece was offset. So after some measuring and thinking I figured out if I cut 1 3/8" off the end of the 2.5" verticals that would make it so the forks would hang below the vertical. The best thing about this was I was able to fit it in my chopsaw and bandsaw so I did not have to make the cuts by hand.

This is how I originally had the frame setup.

This is how it ended up after the modifications.

The angle is now leg up instead of down. The good news is I still get the same strength just in a different way.

The forks are now flush with the bottom of the bucket. This makes the bucket level indicator close enough to the level of the forks that lining up to pickup a skid is so much easier.


I placed the tube on the end of the forks in a way that they would help hold the forks in place.


I just realized how disorganized and chaotic my thoughts are. Maybe I  need to slow down and take it easy :)


During testing I bumped the tips of the forks on the ground and the entire assembly bounced and fell to the ground. I decided to add the turnbuckle you see inside the bucket. The previous owner had cut a hole in the bucket for drainage so I decided to just use it.

That little turnbuckle addition worked great to keep the forks connected to the bucket.


With the weight of the forks and no support for the frame the square tube twists and locks in place. This works great in preventing the forks from moving. But it does not work great for when you want to change the location of them.
I ended up adding a center vertical with a hook that goes over the back of the bucket. This allowed me to rotate the frame into place and keep it there. I originally started with just a clip over the bucket. But after testing and bouncing it around I found that without something to hold it on it liked to bounce off. I added a spring clip to the front side of the bucket. This worked very well in keeping the clip from bouncing off.



Here is the completed assembly minus the other 2 uprights for the back plate. I do have them made just not on in the picture.


here is the complete assembly in the paint booth.

This is my little helper.

Me grinding

Me welding

completed assembly with all 4 colors of paint since I kept running out...


Good job.  You'll use them a LOT.
K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid
Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without
1989 GMC 3500 4x4 diesel dump and plow truck, 1964 Oliver 1600 Industrial with Parsons loader and backhoe, 1986 Zetor 5211, Cat's Claw sharpener, single tooth setter, homemade Linn Lumber 1900 style mill, old tools


hopefully tonight I will get a chance to play with them and see how they work. little concerned since I can bounce on the forks and lift the back of the tractor. I really need to get my tires loaded.

Chuck White

Agreed, if you're going to carry much of a load on the forks or in the bucket, load the back tires or otherwise add a ballast to the rear of the tractor!   ;)
~Chuck~  Cooks Cat Claw sharpener and single tooth setter.  2018 Chevy Silverado and 2021 Subaru Ascent.
With basic mechanical skills and the ability to read you can maintain a Woodmizer  LT40!


I usually run with the box blade on the back. it makes decent ballast but makes maneuvering much more challenging. Especially in my woods / yard.


Nice fab job on the forks.

Get the back tires loaded AND use a counter-weight on the back.  Those forks are on the long end of the lever.  It doesn't take a lot of weight to get the back end to come up.

If you use forks on the back of the tractor as well, you can make a counter weight on a skid and pick it up as needed.  Or just grab an oak log on the back.


thats not a bad idea. I typically use the box blade it works alright. Definitely need to load the tires though.


I was playing with the forks tonight. they work really nice. Will post some pics tomorrow I hope.


Looking at a guys bucket forks the other day. He cut a hole in the back of the bucket so he could see the forks, when he wants to use the bucket he bolts the piece of steel back in to cover the hole.

Nice job on the forks.


They came out nice. I purchased a pair of the clamp on ones and each one has a pocket for a vertical 2 x 3 and I have found it is a required feature when picking up a stack that is taller then the bucket or a top heavy item.
Hudson HFE-21 on a custom trailer, Deere 4100, Kubota BX 2360, Echo CS590 & CS310, home built wood splitter, home built log arch, a logrite cant hook and a bread machine. And a Kubota Sidekick with a Defective Subaru motor.


I got my forks from the junkyard. I was so lucky that the upper part of the
forks hooked right under the lip of my bucket.

Collector and builder of many things.
Love machine shop work
and Wood work shop work
And now a saw mill work


You will be amazed at how much you can't lift with the forks on the bucket instead of removing the bucket when forks are used.
Our 4020 john deer farm tractor would easily handle more weight with just forks than a 930 cat with forks mounted on the bucket.
Old LT40HD, old log truck, old MM forklift, and several huskies.


I know I will be limited. I am planning a skidsteer quick attach just didn't want to invest the time in that right now. So I made the bucket forks instead. Kinda dead in the water waiting for the wheels for my sawmill that were supposed to be here last saturday.


Here is the fully assembled forks after yesterdays test run. They worked better than I expected. I will be doing more when I get home tonight. It is still challenging seeing the ends of the forks but I think it will be tolerable. Especially after I get used to them. My biggest issue is now that the front of the bucket is 4' further out tiny little movements are amplified quite a bit.


Glad to hear they're working out.  Nice job.  It's good to get something like that done while you're in a delay on your main project.  They will come in handy.  Even with the limitations of bucket forks (and 3-pt) forks, they are a lot better than no forks.  You'll get used to having all that  new length in front, but they do describe a large radius when turning.  They don't take shock loads very well either. 

When you get to picking up things you'll find out how much counter-weight you need.  You probably have enough scrap steel laying around to make something.  Another project for one of those delays maybe.  A couple pieces of I-beam and some railroad track would add up pretty quick.

I knocked out a second counter weight this morning, because I need one at the sawmill and at the house too.  I can always pick up a heavy log for a counter-weight, but it just adds to the amount of side clearance I need. This one's just 8x8 solid blocks on a skid made of 2x4's on 4x4 stringers.  Not pretty, but effective.  20 blocks makes a pretty good ballast.



My forks aren't as pretty as yours, but it's not a beauty contest.  There are some challenges to putting forks on a 4-in-1.  That's probably why I've never seen any for sale.  These are fixed to the sides, which makes them a bit less versatile than movable spacing.  They work though, and I'm glad to have 'em.

Having forks on the back really increases what you can accomplish with tractor forks.  They'll handle at least twice the load the bucket forks will.  The also give you options on maneuvering loads.  A tractor is not very nimble in tight spaces compared to skid steers and forklifts.

Keep up the good work.  I'm looking forward to watching your mill come together.  I wish I had your fabrication skills.



I really like your skid idea for the rear. I may have to do something similar to that. you are correct I have lots of scrap steel around. I bet I could make a box for my quick hitch and load it with lots of heavy steel from work to. Might have to look into doing that.

Those forks looks really sweet. looks like they work great. Do you have anymore pics? curious on bottom detail.

Thanx for the compliments on the fab skills. Definitely feels good :)

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