DIY Skeletonized $3 Pot Lifter

Skeletonized $3 Pot Gripper

Continuing on my gear hacking spree, the next unwilling victim is my aluminum pot lifter. I’ve been using an Open Country aluminum pot lifter for the past two years and really like the added security and safety it affords me when lifting my hot Snow Peak 600 cup up off of a stove or out of a fire. No one likes to burn their pinkies.

The Open Country pot lifter costs just $3.25 from REI which is just about the cheapest pot lifter/grabber on the market that I am aware of, but it’s far from the lightest. Weighing in at 57g it’s almost twice the weight of the MSR LiteLifter which weighs a mere 28.3g and costs a whopping $15. The MSR version is lighter simply because of the design which uses less aluminum – less metal means less weight.

Back Country Aluminum Pot Gripper

A popular weight reduction technique seen in pocket knives/tools is called skeletonizing and even if you’re not familiar with the term, chances are you’ve seen examples of it such as the Leatherman Skeletool – probably the best example I can think of. It’s a simple process; you drill out or remove as much of the material (in most cases that’s metal) as you can without reducing the strength or stability of the item. Which got me thinking… hands up if you know where I’m going with this.

Heck I can drill holes! The Open Country pot lifter is made from aluminum, which is one of the softest and easiest metals to work with, and I have a drill press, files, wire wool, and pretty much all the tools I would need in my garage – sounds like a perfect DIY project to me.

Skeletonized $3 Pot Gripper

The target weight to beat, or get as close to as I can, is that of the pricy MSR LiteLifter (28.3g). I didn’t know if that was possible but I was certainly willing to drill the crap out of my $3 pot lifter in order to give it a shot. Being the OCD geek that I am, I took a little time to mark out a center line on the top handle and eyeball roughly where I wanted the holes to go. I used an automatic center-punch to mark where each of the holes would go and to help stop the drill from skipping on the surface of the metal. I also got a little creative with the positioning and size of the holes I wanted to make.

Skeletonized $3 Pot Gripper

As you can see from the photos, I drilled a lot of holes in both the top and the bottom handle to reduce the weight. Even without the benefit of making the gripper lighter weight, I actually think that my skeletonized version looks a lot cooler than the original – maybe Open Country could think about doing this themselves to compete with MSR. You’re welcome Open Country, I’m looking forward to my first royalty check.

Skeletonized $3 Pot Gripper

Drilling holes in any type of metal will create a lot razor sharp burs, which will shred your hands and fingers (the voice of experience). So, I took some time to clean up all the edges of the drilled holes on both sides with some very small jeweler’s files that I have. Once the sharp edges were removed I gave the entire surface a good rub down with fine wire wool to give a clean, satin-brushed finish.

Oh the new weight? After drilling all of the holes and tidying up, the final weight of my $3 pot lifter was an amazing 28g exactly! That was a hair under the weight of the more expensive MSR LiteLifter (28.3g). I’m pretty sure that I could remove an awful lot more metal without jeopardizing the integrity of the gripper or impeding its function, but for now I’m really happy with the results and will definitely be carrying this with me from now on. I think it looks really great, what do you think?

Disclosure: The author owns this product and paid for it using their own funds.

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  • Andre

    Nice hack. If you do any other light machining you might like one of these de-burring tools, they come in very handy and are pretty cheap.
    http://www.amazon.com/General-482-Swivel-Deburring-Handle/dp/B00004T828

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Andre, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a tool! It would have come in very handy.

  • Andre

    Nice hack. If you do any other light machining you might like one of these de-burring tools, they come in very handy and are pretty cheap.
    http://www.amazon.com/General-482-Swivel-Deburring-Handle/dp/B00004T828

  • http://listeningtothewinds.blogspot.com/ Brad Neal

    nice… wouldn’t have thought of it.. well maybe eventually..

  • http://whysprs.info/ whysprs

    nice… wouldn’t have thought of it.. well maybe eventually..

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Andre, I wasn’t even away that there was such a tool! It would have come in very handy.

  • JJ_Mathes

    nice job…it reminds me of crop circles  :^)

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Ha, yeah it does a bit. I’m thinking of drilling out even more holes…

  • JERMM

    nice job…it reminds me of crop circles  :^)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Ha, yeah it does a bit. I’m thinking of drilling out even more holes…

  • http://sourceoutdoor.com/blog/ Ben

    Such a handy little thing but would never of thought of it!

  • http://sourceoutdoor.com/blog/ Ben

    Such a handy little thing but would never of thought of it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Lowe/1217265585 Steve Lowe

    Hmmmm… I tried this last year on my pot-gripper and the weight was the same… Maybe I need more holes. i dont need anymore in my head so maybe I can add more holes to the gripper.

    Nicely done.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Wow, I’m surprised it weighed the same! Do you have a set of digital scales? As you can see I drilled the crap out of mine and have even considered drilling out even more, but it’s already lighter than the MSR version so I’m happy with it. If you have a photo of your that you can share I’d love to see it. You can attached photos to the comments here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Lowe/1217265585 Steve Lowe

    Hmmmm… I tried this last year on my pot-gripper and the weight was the same… Maybe I need more holes. i dont need anymore in my head so maybe I can add more holes to the gripper.

    Nicely done.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Wow, I’m surprised it weighed the same! Do you have a set of digital scales? As you can see I drilled the crap out of mine and have even considered drilling out even more, but it’s already lighter than the MSR version so I’m happy with it. If you have a photo of your that you can share I’d love to see it. You can attached photos to the comments here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18101205595092823244 Basti

    Nice hack! But why din’t you skip it completely? I’m using a long handled spoon as a pot grabber. Actually it’s more some kind of pot handle than a grapper. I’ve cut two very small slots right under the rim of the pot. These slots fit the spoons handle perfectly! Just need to slide the spoon through the slots to lift the pot! (My friend and I call this a “Griffel”, a german mix for Griff-Löffel / handle-spoon)

  • elson

    sept. 14, 2012. Brian, if you choose to drill out another pot lifter in hopes of making it still lighter and more artistic, you can send me your old one, thanx

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Maybe, we’ll see :) I had wanted to take out the large pop rivet holding the two pieces of the handle together so that I could more easily drill holes in the lower handle section, but that never happened. Glad you thought it was artistic in some small way, I really just did it to have fun, the minimal weight difference was an added bonus. Sometime I just like to hack stuff for the sake of hacking!

  • elson

    sept. 14, 2012. Brian, if you choose to drill out another pot lifter in hopes of making it still lighter and more artistic, you can send me your old one, thanx

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Maybe, we’ll see :) I had wanted to take out the large pop rivet holding the two pieces of the handle together so that I could more easily drill holes in the lower handle section, but that never happened. Glad you thought it was artistic in some small way, I really just did it to have fun, the minimal weight difference was an added bonus. Sometime I just like to hack stuff for the sake of hacking!