In my opinion, one of the best side benefits of having your own home gym is making and using your own homemade equipment. Some guys take making homemade weight lifting equipment to a whole new level.
In one of my many surfing sessions on the "net", I ran across Paul Grandy, a retired Department of Defense worker who makes some of the best homemade weight lifting equipment I have ever seen!
I emailed Paul and asked if I could post some of his photos, and I pieced together the text from some of his many forum posts. He could sell this stuff with no problem, but as he said, "business is a hassle with all of the insurance needed".
Text and photos by Paul Grandy.
I make all my equipment, but it's cheaper to just buy it. Steel is expensive unless you're close to a distributor of Mexican steel. Welders usually charge a rate starting at $70 an hour in my area. I'm kind of clueless about what people need plans for. All you have to do is look at a piece of equipment and you can see how it's built.
All the hardware components can be ordered online from like www.mscdirect.com, McMaster Carr, and others. Then you need all kinds of metal working equipment like chop saws, drill presses, lathes, tube benders, welders, etc. That is unless you get some local machinist and welders to do it, but they charge plenty.
When I first started I used to take the steel to machine shops with a drawing and tell them what to cut and where to drill the holes and what size the hole needed to be. But invariably they'd screw it up about 5% of the time. Even on commercial equipment in the stores I see screw-up's like a hole sitting in the middle of the tube for no apparent reason.
My thinking is that if you want something done right you better do it yourself. And that thinking has led me to accumulate more machine tools than exercise equipment. I just hope I never decide to move because it will cost me a small fortune to ship all this stuff!
This is a picture of a Seated Calf machine I made.
It works like the typical ones, but it also has swappable components. In this picture the seat has been swapped to the end so you use your body weight. Additional weight can be put on the 1 1/2" schedule 40 pipe at the front. Everything can then be swapped from end to end.
I would estimate that it cost about $250 in just metal, parts, and paint to make this. That doesn't even include my labor time. It probably took about 40 hours of labor spread out over 10 weekends. I've seen plenty of Seated Calf machines around for less than $200 and used ones for under $50 bucks.
Here are 3 more:
A back machine at a 75 degree angle:
A pec machine at a 65 degree angle:
And a seated shrug:
I've got several others, but I don't have pictures of them. Two of them are so unique that I don't want to display them on the internet. I'm thinking someday that maybe I can sell the idea to some company.
When I first started to weld, I started with a stick, but quickly moved on to a MIG with CO2/Argon because I got tired of grinding off all of the spatter. But it does take a lot of patience.
With the exception of the welding and painting I do most of the machining in my basement. So I spend my Saturdays working out twice a day. Between sets I'll go into the next room and drill a hole or cut some steel. It usually takes me about 8 weekends to build a machine. And I've always got a couple other projects going at the same time and it's usually something like refurbishing some kind of machine tool or making some other gizmo.
Barbell squats were putting too much pressure on my lower back and my back was starting to hurt like hell, so I created this thing. I call it the Y machine - like why did I build it.
I bent a couple of bars in the shape of a Y so they would rest on both sides of the pelvis and hooked it to a Chinese made machine with a stack that I have. Works great. It's kind of like a 2 way leg extension.
It's kind of a no-brainer. You just get in it and stand up. I've finally maxed the stack out. The channel cam adds 45lbs to the stack, but at that weight my lower back still hurts a little. When the glutes contract they pull on their connections to the lower spine.
If I bend over like for donkey calf raises it actually feels OK. Guess I'll have to build some arm rests. If I add to the stack I'll have to add a levered arm just to get started.
I'm thinking about going 'one step' up on Mike Mentzer. His thing was 1 set of 10 repetitions. I'm thinking 1 set of 1 rep. On this new machine all I have to do is stand up and hold the position. It's not like standing with a bar on the back and resting. The channel cam is constantly pulling. I'll just load up on creatine and baking soda to counteract the lactic acid.
Just grab the handles in front and press down with your forearms. It's easier than cable crossovers or the Iron Cross:
I just finished modifying my old Shrug Machine:
I haven't painted it yet. Too cold in my garage so it looks like crap. It'll do till spring when it warms up.
I just cut the old one apart and added some parts. I disconnected the seat into a stand-alone unit. I bought an olympic dumbbell handle and cut it in half for the plate holders and clamped them on with a shaft collar. This is actually cheaper than my old way of making them from scratch.
The grip is 8 position adjustable. A large washer with 8 holes welded to a shaft-collar on the bottom. A spring on the shaft that I just push down on to rotate it around.
Eventually I might put a back rest on the seat unit. I'm too old to be doing all that seriously heavy stuff like real deadlifts and shrugs.
I got bored and decided to make a seated tibia machine:
This didn't cost me anything but my time. I used spare parts from other machines I had cut up. There are plenty of little gizmos that you sit on the edge of a bench and stick your toes in. Even one you hang with your feet hanging off the edge of a bench. Probably just as good as this considering how little bodybuilder's actually exercise the muscle. But not as comfortable as my homemade one.
This thing you sit in. Pivot is perfectly aligned with my ankle joint. Knees are locked down with pads. Don't need much weight on it either.
I'll probably use it a few times just to see how sore I can make my tibia muscle and then recycle the parts into something else.
Here's the latest project I just completed. It's not exactly exercise equipment, but a piece of equipment to make exercise equipment:
It's an old Craftsman Power Hacksaw that I bought from some guy up near Baltimore. It had been sitting in his shed for 30 years and it had 30 years of crud and rust on it. I cleaned it up real nice, mounted it in fiberglass tray, and built an auto-cutoff switch on it. I use it for cutting small pieces of steel. It chugs along at a snail's pace, but I can just go away and ignore it and come back later and the steel is cut and the machine is off. The bigger stuff I use a band saw, chop saw, or a carbide multicutter.
You have to admit Paul's homemade weight lifting equipment is pretty cool! I don't think too many of the readers of this website (myself included) will have the skills, or tooling available to make anything close to what he has made. I think he enjoys making the stuff more than using it. Building your own gym is a hobby for most of us, but Paul has taken it to the next level.
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