How to Make a Simple Pulley System

Written by michelle brunet
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How to Make a Simple Pulley System
A fixed pulley system easing workload. (cistern pulley image by JCVStock from

Human intelligence is responsible for inventing and developing machines that have made life easier. The University of Arkansas says that simple machines, like pulleys, levers and inclined planes, reduce workload. Students start learning about simple machines in elementary school. One way to reinforce this curriculum module is through constructing simple pulley systems. A pulley is a device that rotates and facilitates lifting heavy weights.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 1 Wire coat hanger
  • Scissors
  • String or rope
  • 1 wooden spool (thread or wire removed)
  • 1 weight
  • 1 cup hook
  • Wood
  • Nails
  • 1 yard stick
  • 1 clothesline pulley
  • 1 book
  • Masking tape
  • 1 binder clip

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    Fixed Pulley

  1. 1

    Make one snip in the centre of the straight, horizontal portion of a wire hanger.

  2. 2

    Insert and crisscross the severed ends of the hanger through the spool's hole. Adjust so that the spool rotates easily. Bend each end of the wire to prevent the spool from coming loose.

  3. 3

    Place the hanger on your closet's rod or on a cup hook.

  4. 4

    Cut a piece of string or rope long enough to start from the floor, loop around the pulley and go back to the floor, with some additional rope to tie around the weight you have chosen.

  5. 5

    Tie the rope around your weight, such as a milk jug, book or water bottle. Loop the rope around the pulley. Pull on the rope to lift your weight. Untie the weight and lift it without the pulley system. Compare whether it is easier to lift the weight with or without the pulley.

    Movable Pulley

  1. 1

    Tape a yardstick to a table, allowing three to four inches to hang off the edge. Place a book on top of the ruler to hold it more securely in place.

  2. 2

    Cut a long piece of rope. Clip one end of the rope to the edge of the ruler hanging off the table with a binder clip.

  3. 3

    Loop the rope through the clothesline pulley, so that the pulley is sitting in the middle of the rope.

  4. 4

    Cut off a shorter piece of rope. Tie one end to the centre bolt of the pulley. Tie the other end to a weight, such as a milk jug or water bottle.

  5. 5

    Pull on the loose end of the long piece of rope to lift up the weight hanging from the pulley. Remove the weight and lift it on its own. Note which process was easier.

Tips and warnings

  • Try making a simple machine using two pulleys.

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