How To Build a Scissors Jack Stand

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It became obvious I was going to need a scissors jack stand for lifting ceiling panels and holding them in place. For one thing, I’m building our new home in southeastern Arizona single handed, so there’s no such thing as having a couple of helpers hold a panel in place until it can be secured. For another, these are no ordinary panels. They are, in fact, heavy OSB strand boards, each one measuring four feet by eight feet and weighing at least forty pounds per. Maybe fifty.

Why on Earth would a do it yourself home builder use something like that for the ceiling? Isn’t there the fear that one of those weighty beasts will fall down and smunch your tiny, redheaded wife?

One reason: Cost. No, I’ve never seen anyone use that stuff as a ceiling material. So? Even with the skyrocketing lumber costs around here–those very boards have inflated more than 30% in the last six months–there’s still nothing else that solid at anything near that price. Yes, Pam has expressed concern about boards possibly falling, but there’s a container on site with twenty-five pounds of decking screws in it; that ought to be enough to make everything all nice and safe!

That left the question of how to safely get those puppies up there. Here’s the answer.

Step #1: Grab a couple of 2″ x 3″ studs in eight foot length, drill 3/8″ holes dead center in each board, and bolt those things together.

Step #1, two studs bolted together.

Step #1, two studs bolted together.


  Step #2: Two "X-legs" ready to assemble.


Step #2: Two “X-legs” ready to assemble.

The crosspieces are added next. These were cut in forty-inch lengths, then attached to the “X-legs” with 10d nails.

Step #3: Scissors jack complete.

Step #3: Scissors jack complete.


That’s all there is to it…that is, if it works as advertised in my fondest daydreams. The pivot bolts have a washer on both sides of the board to reduce the likelihood of either a bolt head or a nut “grinding” into the wood. As for tension adjustment, the nuts were turned down until they were “just snug and a tiny bit more” as determined through the feel of a short handled adjustable wrench.

Then it was time to call it a day. Sundown, you know. Not that it took all day to put this little contraption together–the sun was almost down when I started. Anyway, one cool thing about the design is how it folds up completely flat for storage; check it out.

One scissors jack stand, folded for storage.

One scissors jack stand, folded for storage.


The stand in action

It took a few bits of trial and error to figure out the best way to go about it, but yes, the scissors jack stand does the job. Or at least the stand part does, anyway. Here are the steps:

1. Set the stand up where the next ceiling board needs to go, adjusting the leg width so that no more than an inch or two of clearance remains below the trusses (to which the board will be fastened).

2. Prop the heavy but thankfully inexpensive strand board up against the nearest top leg tips.

3. Lift and slide, making sure the legs don’t slip-slide-wiggle out of position as you do–because if that happens, you’ll suddenly be wearing the board.

4. Grab the variable speed drill, which has a Phillips head bit in the chuck, and power drive a long sheetrock screw up through one corner of the board and into the truss above it. The sheetrock screws have fewer threads per inch than decking screws, but they were a lot cheaper and will definitely hold better than plain old 8d nails.

5. Repeat the process until the board is sucked up tightly to the trusses and the stand is no longer needed.

6. Remove the stand and drive lots and lots of screws while repeatedly reassuring your wife that the fifty pound board will no way, no how fall down on her head.

A couple of safety notes: With the stand in position, driving a twelve inch spike into the dirt in front of each leg will prevent the arrangement from collapsing without warning. A quick notch hand-sawn into the leg will allow the leg to cup the spike a little, providing additional security.

I’m actually pretty tickled with this cheap “helper”. It cost roughly $10 in materials to build, cheaper than a 12-pack of beer for a human performing the same function, and it does allow me to put up heavy ceiling boards without assistance. Not bad. As of sundown today, one point five boards in place, thirty-eight point five to go, and the entire ceiling will be done.

Then perhaps we can use the scissors stand for a clothesline hanger thingy?

Scissors stand in approximate position but not fully raised yet.

Scissors stand in approximate position but not fully raised yet.


Raised and ready to support a board.

Raised and ready to support a board.


No-slip spike securing a stand leg.

No-slip spike securing a stand leg.


Showing the notch cut into the leg
Showing the notch cut into the leg

Showing the notch cut into the leg


A board propped up, ready to be lifted into position.

A board propped up, ready to be lifted into position.


Board atop stand, not yet fastened to trusses.

Board atop stand, not yet fastened to trusses.


Board attached along one side only.

Board attached along one side only.


Board secure; the stand can now be removed safely before adding the rest of the sheetrock screws.

Board secure; the stand can now be removed safely before adding the rest of the sheetrock screws.


Done and done!

Done and done!

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