How to Make a Crane Using Simple Machines

Written by shad morton
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How to Make a Crane Using Simple Machines
A crane using pulleys to move a load. (crane image by Christine F Saulnier from

A simple machine is a machine that uses energy to complete a task or its unique function. The advantage of using a simple machine is that it makes tasks easier for the operator. There are six simple machines: inclined plane, wedge, screw, lever, wheel and axle, and pulley. By using only these machines you can construct a model crane that can produce a controlled and recurrent result as per the scientific method.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 24-inch-square block of wood
  • Large lazy Susan
  • Small lazy Susan
  • 2 rectangular pieces of wood, 12-by-1-by-1 inch
  • 2 pulleys
  • 2 eye screws
  • 2 wooden discs, 3-inch diameter
  • 2 wooden dowels, 1/4-inch diameter, 1-inch length
  • 13.6kg. test fishing line
  • 1/4-inch wood screws
  • Drill
  • Philips screwdriver bit
  • 3/8-inch drill bit

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  1. 1

    Secure the wooden block to the large lazy Susan using four wood screws, one at each corner of the block. The block is the base and needs to be heavier than the object lifted or else it will topple. The large Lazy Susan allows the base 360 degrees of rotation.

  2. 2

    Screw in the smaller lazy Susan directly to the base in the top right corner. This Lazy Susan will give the main arm a point to pivot on.

  3. 3

    Prepare the main arm and arm support out of the two rectangular pieces of wood by mounting a pulley onto each at the top. Screw in two eye screws at about one fifth and four fifths of the total length of the main arm. These will be used to thread the cordage and provide support from the support arm.

  4. 4

    Fasten the main arm onto the smaller Lazy Susan with two screws; this piece is used to support the main pulley and cordage. The main arm block should bisect the Lazy Susan.

  5. 5

    Mount the arm support into the base block on the same side as the main arm, exactly halfway from each end, and so that it sticks up at least 7 inches away from the top of the base.

  6. 6

    Prepare the wooden discs. First drill five 3/8-inch holes equidistant around the circumference of each disc. Fit and glue a 1/4-inch wooden dowel into one of these holes; leave it sticking out in both directions because the inside will be used to secure the cordage while the outside will be used to reel in/let out the cordage.

  7. 7

    Screw the two wooden discs into the base; because the discs need to rotate freely, drill a 3/8-inch hole in the centre of the disc. Then, secure them to the base -- one in the exact centre and the other 5 inches in the opposite direction of the main arm -- with one 1/4-inch screw apiece.

  8. 8

    Drill a 3/8-inch hole through one of the outside holes in the wooden discs into the base after the discs have been attached . Insert a 1/4-inch wooden dowel so that the reels can be locked in place; to achieve this effect, the dowel needs to be both in the base and the disc at the same time.

  9. 9

    Tie the cordage around the inside of the discs around the wooden dowels on the main arm. Thread it through the two eye screws and around the pulley. The cordage has to be strong enough to support the weight of the object to be lifted, yet thin enough to be threaded through eye screws. A 13.6kg. test fishing line will do the trick.

  10. 10

    Tie the cordage around the dowel on the inside of the support arm, run the cord around the pulley and tie it off on the main arm at the eye screw closest to the pulley.

  1. 1

    Rotate the base of the crane to the desired angle.

  2. 2

    Using the arm support reel, adjust the height of the main arm and lock it in place.

  3. 3

    Let out the cordage on the main arm and secure it to the object being lifted.

  4. 4

    Reel the object up using the main arm reel; once the desired height is reached, lock it in place.

  5. 5

    Rotate the base to horizontally move the object and adjust the support arm reel to move it vertically. Unreel the main arm reel to set an object down.

Tips and warnings

  • The longer the arms, the greater the range of motion.
  • The base of the crane has to be heavier than the object lifted to prevent the crane from tipping over.
  • Be careful using power tools such as drills and screwdrivers; wear gloves and use eye protection.

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