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  1. Home
  2. Understanding Forklift Forks

Click HERE to return to our Fork and Fork Extensions selection.


Forks are a frequently overlooked on a lift truck due to their how they simply work.  However, when you need a different sized fork or your old ones are past their prime.  It can be hard to know what you need to replace them.  Here is a basic guide to get you on your way.

Fork Wear (knowing when your forks need replacing)
You should check your forks to make sure they haven’t been worn too thin with a Fork Arm Wear Caliper regularly to make sure it is still capable of carrying it’s rated load.  Forks are considered worn beyond their carrying capacity once they are at 90% of their original thickness.  In order to check this, you apply the outer jaws of the wear caliper to the shank portion of the fork because it is rarely worn.  Then you apply the caliper to the heel of the fork and check to see if the inner jaws slip past at any point.  If so, they are worn past 90%.
Fork Wear Caliper Gauge

Fork Styles
Forks come in two basic styles and a few specialty styles.  Read below for a general description of each.

ITA Style Forks

Identifying Forklift Forks The most common of fork is the ITA style which are divided up into classes.  These classes define the carriage height that they can mount to.

 Class 2 = 16" Carriage height
 Class 3 = 20" Carriage height
 Class 4 = 25" Carriage height

 Typically any forklift from 1500-5500 lbs. will have Class 2 forks.  6000-11,000 lbs capacity lifts will be Class 3.  11,500-17,500 lbs capacity forklifts will be Class 4.  After that, most forklifts use a shaft mount or propriety mount.

Shaft Mount or Pin Mount Style Forks

shaft-mount-pin-style-forks Next we have shaft mount style forks which mount on a pole on the carriage.  Most of the time when you see these, they are mounted on an older forklift or a larger one.  They are also frequently seen on fork positioning attachments, skid steers, and telehandlers.  These are typically custom built and thus require a special form to be filled out in order to purchase.

 PLEASE CLICK HERE if you need a shaft mount form to fill out so we can get you a  quote.

Length / Width / Thickness Selection
After we get the style of fork nailed down, next we need to establish the length, width, and thickness of the fork.  Expectedly, the thicker and wider the fork, the longer it will last and the less it will flex.  However, thinner forks are good for tight confines and lighter loads.  Please see the chart posted at the bottom to check what fork size would be best for you.  As for length, most warehouses prefer 42” forks due to a skid being 48” long and so if the fork is fully inserted, it can carry the load without penetrating out the other end and damaging merchandise or walls.  However, there are special situations where longer forks are required to handle long loads or loads that are out of reach.  72” forks seem to be the preferred length in these situations.

Taper of the Fork
Forks can come in different tapers to enable a load to be picked up in different ways.  Typically the main difference is how thin they need to be at the tip in order to pick up a given load.

• Standard – No beveling, normally, tapers begin 16" to 24" from tip and end with a 3/8" tip.
standard taper fork

• Full Taper - Taper begins at heel of fork and extends to tip, ending with 3/8" tip.  Can be polished or not.  Good for getting under plywood or cardboard boxes.
full taper fork

• Full Taper & Polished - Same as the Full Taper above, but the fork is polished

• Fully tapered w/ bottom bevel – as the name states, the fork is fully tapered and will have a bottom bevel at the tip (also called a chisel tip)
full taper fork with bottom bevel

• Fully tapered w/ top bevel – same as above, but beveled on top.
full taper fork with top bevel

Tip Styles
There are three main tip styles.

• Style 1 – This is the most common tip.  The front of the fork is flat with a gently rounded edge.
standard fork tip

• Style 2 – These are a fairly sharp fork without the flat front section (popular for block forks).
style 2 fork tip

• Style 3 – These are almost completely flat across the entire width of the tip and are standard on forks over 7” wide.
style 3 fork tip

Specialty Forks
Among all of this specialty forks for single purpose loads which go beyond the scope of this page.

• Block Handling Forks (brick forks) – These forks are predominantly for lifting concrete blocks in large numbers.  These forks are really thin and are usually used in quantities of more than 8 at a time in order to spread the load more evenly and reduce the risk of the skid losing structural integrity.
Block & Brick Forks

• Bolt-on forks – These forks are fairly rare because they bolt directly to the carriage and diminish any ability to move them laterally.
Bolt-onn Forks

• Coil Handling – These forks are chamfered on the edges to enable them to move coils of steel, reels, concrete pipes etc. when straddling the load is desired.
Coil & Pipe Handling Forks

• Tire Handling – Similar to the coil handling forks, these forks have an inner chamfer to handle tires without damage.
Tire Handling Forks

• Corrugated Handling – These forks are typically used to lift loads that are not on skids or blocks and thus are really thin to enable them to fit between the load and the ground or split loads.  As the name implies, they are popular for lifting corrugated metal.
Corrugated Forks

• Drum Handling – These forks are obviously designed to better lift drums.  They have radiuses cut out of the inner edges of the forks that are designed to lift 55 gallon drums.  Using these in conjunction with a rotator will allow you to have the ability to not only lift, but tilt a drum for dumping.
Drum Handling Forks

• Offset – These forks are primarily used to allow the forks to reach beyond the standard width of the forklift’s current carriage.
Offset Forks

Fork Extensions
One other consideration is to use FORK EXTENSIONS.  These are an economical way to get the length that you need if you only occasionally handle loads that require a long fork.  However, extensions are not intended for extended use and will wear rapidly if left on for extended use.

Fork Vocabulary:

Blade – The horizontal portion of the fork upon which the load is supported.

Heel – The radiused portion of the fork connecting the blade to the shank.

Shank – The upright (vertical) portion of the fork to which the supporting hooks are fixed.

Hooks (or clips, hangers) – Lugs attached to the shank to support and retain the fork on the carriage.  They may be made as non-integral hooks (attached to the shank) or as integral hooks (formed integrally with the shank).

Tip – The free end of the blade that is inserted into the load.

Positioning Lock (or pin assembly, locking pin) – Device for locating the fork on the carriage (typically at the top of the shank on the hook).

Tube – The tube used for mounting the forks onto shaft-type carriages.

Fork Overview
parts of fork

Fork Capacity
This chart is a basic chart describing the minimum capacity of the forks that we stock.  Capacity is per pair @ a 24" load center (thus the x24).
fork capacity chart