Moving Stuff

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What About Moving Stuff

Heavy? No wheels? Flat tires? Steep hill? Stuck in mud?

Can't move it.

Look. How easy is it is to grab a pen and walk a mile? Relatively easy.

Can you walk the same distance with a laptop computer? Yes, but mildly harder.

What about with a desktop computer? Maybe. It'll hurt.

A standard size refrigerator? No.

Without Power Tools

Let's first consider moving stuff without power tools. We do this all the time.

Clothing! It just hangs onto us everywhere we go.

When we move things close to the center of our body (like how we move our clothing), it can seem effortless.

But start holdings things farther and farther away from your body and the lever action will really take a toll on your body.

Once our back starts bending we lose more and more stability and the bodily danger level jumps rather quickly. Ever tried bending over to pick something off the ground without bending your knees? The back strain!

Anyway- it's good to pay attention to the lever action and how strained and contorted the body is becoming when anyone tries to move stuff. Read the principles on this- it'll save your body- keeping your back straight and bending your knees and so on.


Our hands are a great way to hold and move stuff. Handles are often the difference between moving something with ease or difficulty.

Handles don't need to be exactly hand-fitting or solely as a handle. If you coil up an extension cord you find yourself a nice hole to slide your arm or hand into for carrying the long thing. A laptop computer doesn't have a handle but it's not so bad carrying it under one arm. Pens are small enough to just be handle-able.

But other times, especially with heavier objects, a handle is a must. A full, heavy tool box would be much less useful without a nice handle at the top or side.

Then Again

Many times, objects that don't get moved much don't have handles. Refrigerators, for instance, usually don't have a transportation-dedicated handle. Often, people have to find well-shaped contours and grooves to hold onto as a team to move really heavy stuff.

The rationale is probably that it's not worth the effort to add a handle function to something that doesn't move during its use (like furniture), but in practice we really should be making all parts of our technical system easy as possible. It's going to get moved. Make moving it easy.

Just add some handles, dang it- we can always remove it afterwards if aesthetics is the concern. It saves a lot of moving frustration and minimizes the risk of severe injury.


As objects grow in mass towards the "can't carry" category, wheels are usually the right choice.

One of the problems with wheels is that pneumatic (air-filled) tires can burst, spokes can break, plastic hubs can crack, and so on.

The worst part? If something's heavy enough to have wheels on it, it might become junk on the ground if its tires blow out- it becomes much less junky if it's easy to replace the tires. A wheelbarrow with flat tires might still roll on the ground, but it'll be much harder to move and maneuver with.

Wheels on weird terrain is harsh too. Ever try moving a conventional wheelbarrow across a field of small, medium, and large sized rocks and mini-hills? With a heavy load it's a heck of a challenge. Things spilling everywhere and whatnot. That, mud, water, and plants are where the need came for tank treads and tracks.

Takeaways- have reliable wheels and easy replacements. Use wheels in appropriate conditions and let tracks handle the rest.


Sometimes a dependent tool network doesn't seem so bad- assuming that everything still works. Need to move your cement mixer? Oh, it's too heavy? Designed to be moved with a tractor? No tractor? What!

Tool dependency and complexity incurs an important compromise. Example- a shovel and wheelbarrow is slower at moving sand from one place to another than a bucket loader for a tractor; but a tractor has a lot more complexity risk and resource dependencies associated with its need for fuel and hydraulic fluid as well as the reliability of its transmission, steering, and power systems.

Another example- a piece of equipment is engineered such that it takes a very complex technique of hitting and positioning it into a proper form in order to transport it.

Takeaway- reliability is key when it comes to transportation dependencies. People will stick with simple, reliable tools and techniques with good reason until higher-complexity systems become reliable enough (unless the perceived benefit is extraordinary, in which case some are willing to take the risk).


Sometimes there's a tough tradeoff between movability and performance. For example, if you have a flat steel table to do work on, then adding a hook on the middle of the table prevents you from placing large objects flat on the table. The hook is nice to hoist and move the table with, but if your workpiece is high-centered and wobbling, that's no good.

Hooks on the side or underneath the table can work, but adds some moving difficulty. It's possible to cut a square hole in the middle of the table and then add a round handle or hook underneath the table that is still accessible from above. Mildly more difficult to move, but at least large stuff can be placed on the table.

Sometimes workarounds for movability are not so easily conceptualized. Other times it seems nigh impossible. Those times will bring out your ability to effectively compromise between important traits of hardware.


The world has much to do with moving stuff. If you know what really matters, you'll find moving stuff and designing for ease of transportation a simple thing.

Best of luck.