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Discussion Starter #1
It's springtime, and time to start cleaning up the yard and woods of all the deadwood that has fallen from the trees over the winter and continue my battle against the buckthorn.

I'm just about to start building a bed insert for my Ranger for hauling brush. I don't want to chew up the bed with thorny trees and logs, and also want to raise the sides of the bed to better contain the brush as well as creating some protection for the occupant(s).

My idea came after seeing a picture of an aftermarket flat bed available as a replacement for the dump bed of the Rangers. What I intend to do is make a "sled" that has raised panels across the back of the seats and on the left and right, but is open to the back and extends as far as possible out over the open tailgate to still allow the bed to dump without hitting the ground. The basic shape would be like a big scoop with an extension out over the rear wheels to handle longer brush, and I should be able to get about 60" in total length.

I intend to make it drop-in, and plan to use a rubber horse mat as a liner between the bed and the "sled." I want the liner to completely cover the bed and tailgate (which will be left in the down position), and I found a sheet of vulcanized rubber horse mat at Mill's Fleet Farm here in western WI. The roll measures 60" x 96" and is approx. 1/4" thick and it cost about $65.

If my measurements are accurate I'll need a piece 75" from bed rail to bed rail (basically a flatted "U" shape), and 60" from the top of the front bed wall (behind the seats) to the lip of the tailgate. I may make some floor mats for the cab out of the remainder.

I'll need to cut out the corners to make the flaps to wrap up the sides, and am contemplating gluing the edges together to make a tray form (or just leave them loose?). Anyone know of an adhesive that can be used to bond vulcanized rubber to itself? I don't want to bond the rubber to the sled as it may come in handy to have the rubber liner available for when I'm not using the sled, and since the rubber itself is fairly heavy, the added weight might make the whole thing too unwieldy for a single person to get install and remove the sled.

I've found a supplier of baltic birch plywood that sells it in 60" x 60" sheets, which will allow a single sheet for the floor with no joints or gaps (the bed width is about 53" at the floor). That should help the longevity of the sled and aid in creating a smooth surface for dumping. I plan to use 5/8" thickness at $44/sheet. Since the bed walls have that narrowing lip at the tailgate, the floor will be wider inside the bed, but that will prevent the sled from sliding out while dumping.

I'll post pictures as I make progress...
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Bed Insert for Ranger - Part 2

Well, it almost took a year but I finally finished the brush insert:

Ranger Sled-Built2.png

I used a piece of 3/4" Baltic Birch for the floor, and 5/8" for the sides. The nice thing about Baltic Birch is that it comes in 5' squares rather than 4' x 8' sheets, so I wouldn't have any seams in the length or width of the insert (both over 48"). In hindsight, I think 5/8" (or even 1/2") would have been sufficient for the whole thing, as it's a bit heavy. If I'm by myself, I have to use a block and tackle to lower it into the bed. I use the two D rings on the back and the two eye bolts near the top to attach to the block and tackle, so I can raise or lower it into position.

I framed each of the plywood pieces with 1.5" square stock that I ripped down from 2x4s, and glued and screwed it all together. I lined the interior surfaces with FRP and sealed all the joints with silicone so I can just hose it out after a dirty job. I put aluminum angle iron on all the inside edges for protection from branches. Paint was a high gloss dark grey for durability, about six coats all together.

Here it is sitting on a table:

_MG_4178.jpg

_MG_4179.jpg

_MG_4180.jpg

_MG_4181.jpg

_MG_4182.jpg

The notches on each side along the bottom edge fit over the tailgate flanges, ensuring the insert won't slip out when dumping.
Here's a closer look at one of the notches:

_MG_4182-2.jpg

_MG_4183.jpg

_MG_4177.jpg

I put a boat winch with a 20' strap on the underside, with a couple D rings to use as tie-downs. I doubled up the thickness of the lip under the winch to 1.5" for strength (so it wouldn't flex under load) and flush mounted four carriage bolts under the FRP to hold the winch. I rounded all four corners of the lip where the strap runs so it wouldn't wear too quickly.

As it turns out, one of the flaws in my design is that with a load of brush in there, it's difficult to turn the crank. Right now I'm contemplating how to mount the winch outboard and to the side so I can crank it unobstructed. I think if I moved it to the side and mounted it vertically that would solve the problem:

_MG_4184.jpg


Here are some shots of it in the Ranger:










In the dumping position:






Even though the insert is locked into place by the edge notches when dumping, I discovered that with enough weight on the tail end (such as if you were to sit on it), it was possible to tip the insert up out of the bed. I strapped it in place with a ratchet strap and that took care of it:



I took it out for a trial run today and took a huge load of brush out to my burn pile - I piled the load up higher than the roof and some of the branches were 10' - 15' long. The winch strap held everything tight. The best part was being able to dump the load in one motion. My previous method was with a small 4' x 8' trailer, but with trailer loaded up, I had to off load the brush one piece at a time. Once the load had been compressed by a strap it was tough to get it all untangled - being able to dump it is a lot easier and the FRP makes for a slippery surface without anything getting hung up, plus it's a bunch more maneuverable without the trailer. Moving the winch out and off to the driver's side will also help when I'm dumping. Even though it doesn't hit the ground when it's level, throw in a few bumps and it's easy to drag it through the dirt.
 
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Great idea and nice work, Thomas! With that FRP liner and aluminum edging, that thing will probably outlive the Ranger and you! After seeing your pics, I agree that 1/2" or 5/8" ply would have probably done the trick and saved you a bit of weight. Something like that would sure come in handy around my place!
 

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Very nicely done Thomas, nice write up too.
 

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A+++ on your project. Well thought out, and I always respect someone who builds something and then realizes they may need to tweak it a bit to have it perfect. Thanks for sharing!
 

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Nice build!
 

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Nice set up.
 

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Great write up, great pictures. Nicely done. I could also use one of those inserts.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Repost to fix old broken photo links (10 photo limit reached in original post).

Well, it almost took a year but I finally finished the brush insert:


Here are some shots of it in the Ranger:

_MG_4189.jpg

_MG_4188.jpg

_MG_4187.jpg

_MG_4186.jpg


In the dumping position:
_MG_4190.jpg

_MG_4191.jpg

_MG_4192.jpg

Even though the insert is locked into place by the edge notches when dumping, I discovered that with enough weight on the tail end (such as if you were to sit on it), it was possible to tip the insert up out of the bed. I strapped it in place with a ratchet strap and that took care of it:

_MG_4194.jpg

I took it out for a trial run today and took a huge load of brush out to my burn pile - I piled the load up higher than the roof and some of the branches were 10' - 15' long. The winch strap held everything tight. The best part was being able to dump the load in one motion. My previous method was with a small 4' x 8' trailer, but with trailer loaded up, I had to off load the brush one piece at a time. Once the load had been compressed by a strap it was tough to get it all untangled - being able to dump it is a lot easier and the FRP makes for a slippery surface without anything getting hung up, plus it's a bunch more maneuverable without the trailer. Moving the winch out and off to the driver's side will also help when I'm dumping. Even though it doesn't hit the ground when it's level, throw in a few bumps and it's easy to drag it through the dirt.
 
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Really nice work.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Really nice work.
Thanks.

Six and a half years later and the insert is still working well. It's great to haul grass clippings too when I bag while mowing. I've also used it to move river rock around my property, though I've found if I load it too full it becomes difficult to dump.

It's held up well, and true to design all I have to do is hose it out. The only part that's worn out is the winch strap, but that was to be expected from all the rough tree bark/logs/thorny brush.

In the winter it comes out and gets replaced with 500 lb. of concrete blocks (under a vinyl tonneau cover) as a counterweight to my Boss plow setup.

_MG_4040-800x800.JPG _MG_4041_1.JPG _MG_4042-800x800.jpg

Tom
 
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