Lift In / Lift Out Wood, Pipe, Canoe, Kayak or Ladder Rack for Your Pickup

Assembling the Framework

This wooden pickup carrying rack lifts in and out of the bed when you want to use it.  Ratcheting tie-downs secure the framework to the bed of the truck.
This wooden pickup carrying rack lifts in and out of the bed when you want to use it. Ratcheting tie-downs secure the framework to the bed of the truck.
Cut 4 2x4s 6 inches taller than the cab roof from the floor of the pickup bed.  The will be the legs of the frame. You can use 2x6s instead, if you want a heavier frame.
Cut 4 2x4s 6 inches taller than the cab roof from the floor of the pickup bed. The will be the legs of the frame. You can use 2x6s instead, if you want a heavier frame.
Cut 4 2x4s 4 inches narrower than the inside of the pickup bed to allow for the sideboards you'll add later.
Cut 4 2x4s 4 inches narrower than the inside of the pickup bed to allow for the sideboards you'll add later.
Drill holes at the center of each joint where the cross members intersect the legs. bolt the cross members to the legs with carriage bolts. Make sure the cross members are on the inside of the frame. Repeat with the other pair of legs.
Drill holes at the center of each joint where the cross members intersect the legs. bolt the cross members to the legs with carriage bolts. Make sure the cross members are on the inside of the frame. Repeat with the other pair of legs.
Lag screw 2x4 side boards to the frame as shown. Predrill holes for the half inch lag screws and tighten the lag screws. Use a washer between the head of the lag screw and the wood. Repeat on the other side.
Lag screw 2x4 side boards to the frame as shown. Predrill holes for the half inch lag screws and tighten the lag screws. Use a washer between the head of the lag screw and the wood. Repeat on the other side.
Add a couple of galvanized screws beside the bolts to stiffen the framework.
Add a couple of galvanized screws beside the bolts to stiffen the framework.
Predrill and attach half inch eye screws to the outside of the legs at the top facing front and back. These will be used to tie down the frame and stuff stacked on the rack.
Predrill and attach half inch eye screws to the outside of the legs at the top facing front and back. These will be used to tie down the frame and stuff stacked on the rack. | Source

Level Your Long Loads

This handy frame lets you haul anything that's too long for the bed by strapping it to the top of the frame. It lifts in and out over the tailgate and uses bungee cords or rachet tie-downs to hold it in place when in use. Always remember to stop about 15 minutes after you start your trip to recheck the tie-downs. Sometimes a shifting load can loosen the straps or bungees.

One note: If you have wheel wells in your pickup, install the lower side boards high enough that the bottom edges of the lower side boards will clear the wheel housings by an inch or two.

This thing is easy to build and loadable by two fair sized men or by one relatively manly man who understands Archimedes principles of leverage. You can load a piano in the back of a pickup all by yourself if you know how its done properly.

But, that's another weblog.

Drawings and story (c) 2011 by Tom King. All rights reserved.

Loading the Rack

I custom fit this rack to my truck by screwing big 1-1/2 inch eye screws in convenient places on the wooden rack so that I can stretch bungee cords between them and anchor points in the truck bed. You can use rope and some fancy knots too if you'd rather. Doesn't matter which, but if the rack isn't tied down, you'll regret it. A canoe can go airborne on you and take the rack with it and that my friend would be a big old mess and dangerous to anyone driving behind you.

When you're loading a canoe or any long load, the easiest way, especially if you're loading by yourself or if your helpers are a 12 year-old and an 10 year-old, you can just lay the boat or what have you behind the truck, lift the end closest to the vehicle and leave the other end safely on the ground. I put an old quilt under the stern of my canoe so it doesn't get scratched when I slide it forward.

Slide the end of the canoe or long load onto the back end of the rack, then move to the low end, lift it up and slide it onto the rack. Then, tie it down immediately. Make it a habit to tie the boat down right then, lest you get distracted and forget. It's easy to do. You wouldn't be the first person to take off with an untied boat on top. At about 30 or 40 mph, they tend to become airborne if not secured properly.

With the rack tie-downs in place you shouldn't need to tie the front or back ends down, but I do it anyway because I prefer to be overly safe than massively sorry. It's pretty easy to run a line through the painter eyes on the bow and stern of the boat and tie the ends to the steel eyes you'll find under the bumpers of your truck or car. These are left from the manufacturing process and are used by car makers to attach the vehicle frame to the assembly line. They make handy tie down points for car-topping a canoe.

If the bow or stern tie-down ropes rub against the paint on your hood or tailgate and you don't want them to do that, get yourself some of those foam swim noodles they sell for kids to play with in the pool. Get the ones with hollow centers. Cut the noodles long enough to protect your truck's paint where the tie-downs touch the truck. Feed the ropes lengthwise through the holes in the noodles and then when you tie them down, just slide the noodles over the rope where it rubs against the hood. The noodles will prevent chafing.

If your rope won't easily go through the noodles, you can split the noodle halfway through, push the ropes into the cut and then duct tape the noodle back together as shown.

This rig not only secures your canoe, it protects your truck as well. And the more bungees involved the better I always think.



Actual Photos of Completed Racks

What the rack looks like with the tailgate down. Can be made with 2x4s or over-engineered with 2x6s as shown
What the rack looks like with the tailgate down. Can be made with 2x4s or over-engineered with 2x6s as shown
Thanks to my friend Scott for the pictures
Thanks to my friend Scott for the pictures
Side view of rack with canoe loaded.
Side view of rack with canoe loaded.

Padding and Protecting with Swim Noodles

Cut your swim noodle to a length that will protect the paint on your hood or tailgate.
Cut your swim noodle to a length that will protect the paint on your hood or tailgate.
Slice the noodle halfway through to the center hole.
Slice the noodle halfway through to the center hole.
Pull it open and wrap around the rope. (this picture shows a pipe being wrapped rather than a rope.
Pull it open and wrap around the rope. (this picture shows a pipe being wrapped rather than a rope.
You can also use the noodle to wrap over the top of the wooden rack to protect the canoe's gunwhales from rubbing against the rack.
You can also use the noodle to wrap over the top of the wooden rack to protect the canoe's gunwhales from rubbing against the rack.
If you wrap zip ties around the noodles they will stay in place on top of your canoe rack and protect your boats quite nicely.
If you wrap zip ties around the noodles they will stay in place on top of your canoe rack and protect your boats quite nicely.

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Comments 2 comments

twayneking profile image

twayneking 4 years ago from Puyallup, WA Author

Thanks for your concern, Floyd, but I wrote the "original" website. The 2-by-6 frame was overkill and too heavy to make lifting it in and out of the truck bed practical. Bolts tight and tied down to the bed, the 2-by-4 frame is plenty strong. I use the lighter frame to carry a couple of normal sized canoes. If I were hauling a pair of 20 foot war canoes, I might prefer the 2-by-6's but that's mostly cause I like things over-engineered. Not to fear, Floyd. the engineering is sound and the 2-by-4 framework does fine. I did add a couple of metal angle braces to stiffen the structure a bit. I used nails on the 2-by-6 frame for the same purpose. Either way you want to do it, the construction is the same. - Tom


Floyd Young 4 years ago

The original website states to use 2x6s NOT 2x4s, this is bad information that could cause someone to get hurt or damage property.

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