In the past, I’ve used physics, creativity, and luck to lift or move heavy loads, such as woodworking and metalworking machinery. Now, I’ve got a Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 2-ton shop crane at my disposable, and it has changed everything.
I have had mixed experiences with Harbor Freight tools and equipment in the past, and although they’ve been much more positive lately than not, I was hesitant to buy one of their shop cranes.
Note: The test sample I’ve been working with was provided by Harbor Freight (at ToolGuyd’s request).
I had been looking at other brands, and it was difficult to make sense of the huge swings in price. Were the cranes and hoists at other retailers and industrial suppliers better? Would the Pittsburgh shop crane be “good enough?” Or would it be a mess?
This particular model is new and updated compared to its predecessor. At first it looked like just a change in branding and appearance. Yes, the new model looks sharper, but there’s more to it.
My Harbor Freight PR contact explained that the new 2-ton shop crane features:
- Overall improved structure
- Locking rear casters
- Tie down hoops
- Improved casters and cotter pins
It also has an internal load limiting device to prevent overloading.
These changes were made to comply with ASME PASE standards, and also to “improve overall customer experience and ease of use.”
I was very curious at that point.
The shop crane legs fold up for storage, but would still take up some of my valuable shop space.
I asked whether there’s much of a difference between 2-ton and 1-ton models, and was told that their footprints are similar, with the 2-ton having extra reinforcements and the larger hydraulic ram size.
I was very curious about the new Pittsburgh model, but wasn’t convinced yet to reach for my wallet. I requested a test sample, and it arrived a few days later via truck along with a hydraulic lifting table – more on that another time.
To be frank, I was impressed with the packaging. The outer box was beat up a little, but everything inside was neatly packaged.
The hardware was nicely presented and made the assembly process extremely easy.
I was also impressed with the instructions. They were 9 out of 10 for a Harbor Freight product, with the only niggle being that I might have benefited from more beginner info.
For instance, I learned via observation that the end of the jack handle can be used to twist the hydraulic jack’s release valve.
The hydraulic jack was easily bled and did not require any filling, which is completely opposite of my experience with the lifting table.
The shop crane isn’t exactly effortless to fold the legs up and down and pin them in place, but I believe that’s due to my garage floor being uneven. To get around this, I carefully lift the middle when installing or removing the pin to switch between usage and storage modes.
Ideally I should move or rotate the crane to a different part of the floor that’s better leveled along each leg axis, but I’m short on maneuvering space right now.
I used the crane a couple of times now, most recently to lift my new 370 lb benchtop mill into position on its stand. The mill came with lifting instructions.
I’m just getting over a neck and shoulder injury, and my lower back has seen better days. I don’t think I would have found an easy way to safely lift the benchtop mill otherwise. My neck and back are thanking me for taking a chance on testing the Pittsburgh crane.
The Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 2-ton shop crane made things easier. If not, I would have balked on getting a shop crane – again – and likely would have had to disassemble the mill to move its major components separately.
It still requires a lot of care and planning to lift or move heavy equipment, and I read up on as many rigging safety guidelines as I could find.
The question I sought to answer is this: is there any reason not to buy the Pittsburgh 2-ton shop crane?
For the longest time, I convinced myself that this, and other cranes like it, were mainly for use with car engines. Yes, that’s a popular application, but it has already proved to be versatile in my use for lifting small and heavy machines.
Also for the longest time, I wondered what the compromises were. I can’t speak about its predecessor, but this model feels quite solid to me.
It’s easy to use, and feels very secure. I took things slow, but at no point did I doubt the crane’s strength or reliability.
Is it worth the floor space? I’m still thinking about this. So far, yes. It solved two major equipment-lifting problems for me. I could have definitely used this crane in the past.
One thing I like is that all of the separate parts moved around easily. If I don’t think I’ll be using it for a couple of months, I might disassemble it and put the pieces in the basement or attic. But, we’re also planning on getting a shed. That will free up space in the garage, and I might have space in the shed for the crane, although if I do that I’ll likely keep the hydraulic ram in a temperature-consistent space.
With more value-priced tools and equipment, it’s often clear where money is being saved. Here, I couldn’t find any obvious compromises or tradeoffs. It proved to be a near-perfect solution to a need.
I cannot guarantee that your experiences will mirror mine. But I can tell you that this has been a positive experience for me.
The crane is $369.99 plus shipping, which is $136.98 to my zip code. The freight company was paid for curbside delivery with a lift gate. I asked the driver to bring it up the driveway, and tipped him $20.
I was hesitant about an in-store ordering or pickup option, not knowing how large the box would be. It’s too heavy to lift – the crane weighs 197 lbs and has a 220 lb shipping weight.
But in theory Harbor Freight store associates could helped me get it in the back of my SUV, as all stores should have lifting tables for customer use or assisted loading. Once home, the crane can be removed from an SUV or truck bed in pieces.
I have been very happy with the shop crane. Will I feel the same way a year from now? 5 years from now? I hope so.
All of my concerns and hesitations seem to have been for naught. Harbor Freight did a great job with this one. So far, there has been no obvious downsides.
Thank you to Harbor Freight for providing the test sample.