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Lifting Reels with the Reel Lifter

Lifting Reels with the Reel Lifter

This blog is about selecting and using lifting equipment manufacturer Caldwell’s reel lifter. It is co-authored by the original designer of the product back in 2013.

The product, available from FAD Equipment Store, was designed by Dan Mongan, special application support, new product development specialist at Caldwell. He identified a need for a product that can easily lift, upend, down-end, and pay-out reels.

The reel lifter sits in Caldwell’s Rig-Master rigging attachments range. It conforms to ASME B30.20 BTH-1 Design Category B, Service Class 0*. It can be rigged beneath the hook of practically any crane or hoist, within reason.

The origins of the reel lifter are actually in the utilities sector, where the first prototype was tested by one of Mongan’s associates. It was at this stage that the 500-lb. to 11,000-lb. capacity range was chosen, based on research into common reel sizes and weights.

That said, Caldwell can engineer and custom-build reel lifters to larger sizes upon request.

Components

The reel lifter is made of a few important components including, from top to bottom:

  • Swivel assy
  • Swivel assy lube point (only on certain models)
  • Rotation block
  • NPT straight grease zerk
  • Arm
  • Lift bar
  • Lanyard

The Model RL-.25 is made for an arbor hole dimension of 1.25 in. (minimum) and 2 in. (maximum).

The RL-1.5 is made for an arbor hole dimension of 2 in. (minimum) and 4 in. (maximum).

The RL-3 (with swivel assy lube point) is made for an arbor hole dimension of 3 in. (minimum) and 5 in. (maximum).

Caldwell RL-3 reel lifter

The RL-5.5 (with swivel assy lube point) is made for an arbor hole dimension of 4 in. (minimum) and 6 in. (maximum).

Initial inspection

It is important to thoroughly inspect all equipment before placing it into service because of excessive vibrations, temperature changes, and possible mishandling during shipment. Upon arrival, a qualified person shall inspect the following before initial use: 

  • Check overall unit for signs of damage or missing parts
  • Check all fasteners (nuts, bolts, etc.) for tightness
  • Check the unit for proper lubrication

Lubrication

Optimal operation is essential for maximum service. Establish a regular, lubrication schedule based upon severity of use and environmental conditions.

The life span of your equipment depends on applying: 

  • The right lubricant
  • The right amount
  • The right location
  • The right time

The load: reels

Reels are typically comprised of:

  • A tie rod
  • Flange
  • Barrel
  • Arbor hole

Flange diameters, flange thickness, and drum outside diameter can be calculated accordingly.

Lifting reels with the Caldwell reel lifter

Operation

The lifting bar’s home position is vertical by default. Pulling the lanyard upward activates the lift bar rotation from vertical to horizontal.

Before inserting the reel lifter into the reel, verify the lift bar has ample clearance for 90-degree lift bar rotation, clearing the drum walls and tie rods. 

Once the lift bar rotates 90 degrees to horizontal (slowly) hoist the reel lifter up until the lift bar's top surface is flush with the reel’s top, inside flange face.

We’ve shared here some of Dan Mongan’s operating procedures.

Vertical lift: standard reel lifter

Here is a multi-point operation plan for vertical lifting, using standard reel lifters:

  1. Examine the reel, verifying it is structurally sound, and the reel’s load, hence, wire, cable, etc., is securely fixed to the reel, preventing unexpected unwinding, during hoisting, transporting, and repositioning. 
  2. Verify the reel lifter meets the requirements of the reel: (a) size; (b) arbor diameter; (c) flange thickness; (d) reel weight.
  3. Before inserting the reel lifter, measure the lift bar length. Once inside the reel’s drum, the lift bar must clear the drum’s inside diameter and all tie rods, so the lift bar can rotate.
  4. Attach the reel lifter to a hoist, making sure the hoist’s rated capacity is equal to or greater than the combined weight of the lifter and load.
  5. Insert the reel lifter through the reel’s arbor hole diameter. 
  6. Keep lowering the reel lifter, making sure the lift bar clears the top, inside flange face. 
  7. Once the lift bar has cleared the flange, pull the lanyard upward, rotating the lift bar from vertical to horizontal. 
  8. Pull the lifter upwards until the lift bar is horizontally flush with the bottom flange face. 
  9. Before hoisting the loaded lifter, ensure all adjustments are correct and secure. 
  10. Perform a preliminary test lift of several inches, verifying reel stability, lifter position, and proper balance. 
  11. Confirm both the hoisting and transporting areas are free of people and objects of obstruction. 
  12. After confirming all verifications are correct, the loaded lifter is ready for hoisting, transporting, and re-positioning. 

Vertical lifting with a standard reel lifter

Vertical lifting with a standard reel lifter.

Upend lift: standard reel lifter

Here is a multi-point operation plan for upending, using standard reel lifters:

  1. Examine the reel, verifying it is structurally sound, and the reel’s load, hence, wire, cable, etc., is securely fixed to the reel, preventing unexpected unwinding, during hoisting, transporting, and repositioning. 
  2. Verify the reel lifter meets the requirements of the reel: (a) size; (b) arbor diameter; (c) flange thickness; (d) reel weight.
  3. Before inserting the reel lifter, measure the lift bar length. Once inside the reel’s drum, the lift bar must clear the drum’s inside diameter and all tie rods, so the lift bar can rotate 90 degrees.
  4. Attach the reel lifter to a hoist, making sure the hoist’s rated capacity is equal to or greater than the combined weight of the lifter and load. 
  5. Insert the reel lifter through the reel’s arbor hole diameter. 
  6. Continue guiding the reel lifter into the reel drum, making sure the lift bar clears the flange face.
  7. Once the lift bar has cleared the flange, pull the lanyard out—towards the swivel assembly, activating lift bar rotation (90 degrees).
  8. Guide the reel lifter out until the lift bar is vertically flush with the flange face.
  9. Using an upward pull on the reel lifter activated swivel assembly.
  10. As the crane travels, during upending, keep the hoist aligned with the reel lifter’s bail.
  11. Continue until the loaded reel lifter has rotated 90 degrees from the original start position (upended).
  12. Using a vertical lift, continue hoisting, transporting, or re-positioning the load.

Upending a reel with a reel lifter

Upending with a standard reel lifter.

Removing the standard reel lifter

  1. Lower the reel lifter into the drum, creating clearance between the horizontal lift bar and the top, inner flange face. 
  2. With slack in the hoist line, the arm rotates 90 degrees horizontal to vertical (home position). 
  3. Using a vertical pull (slowly) hoist the reel lifter out of the reel. 

Inspection and maintenance

Establish a regular, inspection and maintenance schedule, based upon severity of use and environmental conditions.

Always keep the lifter free from debris and well lubricated: lubricate the reel lifter weekly, or as needed, depending on severity of use and environmental conditions, maintaining bail rotation. Lubrication is essential for maximum service and reliability.

Purchase your reel lifter here.

A video of the product in use can be seen here.

*The relevance of ASME is in its name: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Much of the focus on lifting, rigging and other equipment is on its safe application in industry. We talk a lot about inspection, maintenance, best practices, etc. However, what makes ASME so relevant is that its “mission is to serve diverse global communities by advancing, disseminating and applying engineering knowledge for improving the quality of life; and communicating the excitement of engineering.”

In other words, “ASME aims to be the essential resource for mechanical engineers and other technical professionals throughout the world for solutions that benefit humankind.”

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