Instructions on How to Make a Simple Pulley

Written by sylvia cini
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Instructions on How to Make a Simple Pulley
A well with a pulley (frozen wishing well image by Colin Buckland from

Pulleys are simple mechanisms used everywhere from window shades to construction sites to make our lives easier. Before people had motorised machines to pump underground water, they used buckets and pulleys to lift water from wells. Build your own miniature, old-fashioned well to help you understand the functions of pulleys, and you will get ideas on how to apply pulleys to other tasks you need to accomplish.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • 1-gallon plastic bucket with a single metal handle
  • Single-wheel, fixed pulley, no larger than 1 inch, with a hook
  • Twine
  • 3 wire hangers
  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Plastic cup
  • Duct tape
  • Hot glue gun and stick

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  1. 1

    Carefully untwist the top of each wire hanger, using pliers and your hands. Continue to bend the hangers until they fairly straight.

  2. 2

    Wrap one hanger around the bucket handle so that both ends of the wire are wrapped through the same holes as the handle. This will help the handle support weight and forms the top frame of your "well."

  3. 3

    Twist the remaining two hangers around each other. Bend them to form an arch like the handle that is already in place.

  4. 4

    Lay your hanger arch over the handle so that they form an X and there are four points where the X touches the bucket. With your scissors, make two more holes in the top rim of your bucket where the wire is touching the plastic. There should now be four holes evenly spaced along the top of your bucket.

  5. 5

    Insert the ends of the wire through the new holes so that the arch is affixed in the upright position.

  6. 6

    Tie the two arches together in the middle of the X with duct tape and twine.

  7. 7

    Hook your pulley to the top of the frame (the middle of the X). You may secure it with string or tape, but this is not necessary.

  8. 8

    Cut a length of string three times the height of the bucket. Thread it onto the pulley wheel.

  9. 9

    Attach your plastic cup to one end of the string by cutting a hole in the top rim of the cup, pulling the string through it and knotting the string securely. Reinforce the knot with hot glue.

  10. 10

    Drop your plastic cup in the big bucket, and fill the big bucket with water. Using the free end of the string, raise and lower the cup to draw water from your well.

Tips and warnings

  • Use tape or thin plastic tubing to cover the exposed wire hangers.
  • For a more impressive project, use larger supplies; replace the bucket with a wash basin, and use wood planks or plastic pipes to build the frame.
  • If your plastic cup does not sink far enough to pick up water, attach a small weight to the bottom. Real wells rely on the force of a bucket dropped from a height to start the sinking process.
  • When transporting your well, empty the bucket of water and carry it from the bottom. This will make it easier and safer to move.

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