How to make a hand operated water pump

Written by finn mccuhil
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How to make a hand operated water pump
A homemade water pump won't be as picturesque as this, but it will work. (Old fashioned water pump image by JKeen from

Transferring water from one container to another can be a slow, tedious process. Carrying buckets from one location to another quickly becomes a test of endurance. Electric transfer pumps are convenient but expensive. A homemade manual pump can be made from parts readily available at your local home improvement store. You should be able to assemble the pump in under an hour for around £13.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 10-foot section of 3/4-inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • PVC cutter or hacksaw
  • 5/8-inch dowel rod, 4 feet long
  • Drill
  • Craft foam at least 1/8-inch thick
  • Scissors
  • 5/8-inch steel washer
  • 3-inch wood screw
  • Screwdriver
  • PVC primer and glue
  • 3/4-inch PVC T-fitting
  • 3/4-inch PVC check valves (2)

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  1. 1

    Cut a 4-foot piece from the full section of PVC pipe. PVC cutters make a square, finished cut. If you use a hacksaw, clean the cut ends with sandpaper before assembling.

  2. 2

    Drill a pilot hole into the centre of one end of the dowel rod. The dowel rod will be used as a piston for the pump. Put the pilot hole as close to dead centre as possible.

  3. 3

    Cut three, 3/4-inch circles of craft foam. The best way to ensure a tight fit is to place the foam on a hard surface and press firmly with a short section of pipe. Cut the foam with scissors following the indentation made by the interior of the pipe. The closer the fit, the more efficient your pump will be.

  4. 4

    Center the foam gaskets over the pilot hole on the end of the dowel rod. Place your steel washer over the foam and insert the wood screw through the centre of the washer. Secure the washer and foam gaskets to the dowel rod by tightening the wood screw into the pilot hole with a screwdriver.

  5. 5

    Set the 4-foot section of PVC and the completed piston rod aside.

  6. 6

    Cut the remaining piece of PVC pipe in half.

  7. 7

    Prime and glue one piece of pipe to each side of the T-fitting.

  8. 8

    Prime and glue one check valve onto each pipe on the sides of the T-fitting. The arrows on the check valve indicate the direction of flow. These must both point in the same direction.

  9. 9

    Prime and glue the 4-foot section of PVC you cut in the first step to the side opening on the T-fitting. After the glue dries, insert the dowel rod, gasket end first, into this piece of pipe.

Tips and warnings

  • For solid glue joints in PVC, apply primer to both surfaces to be joined with the applicator inside the can lid. Apply an even layer of glue to only one surface of the joint. Twist and press the two pieces together firmly. Do not stress the joint for at least 15 minutes after gluing.
  • This pump is operated like a bicycle pump, by pulling and pushing the dowel rod. The one-way check valves allow the fluid to move in only one direction. Water is drawn into the pump on the pull stroke and forced out on the push stroke.
  • Adding threaded hose fittings to the opening of each check valve will increase the pump's flexibility and utility.

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