How to make wood pulleys

Written by randal thomas
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How to make wood pulleys
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Using incorrect methods to manufacture your own wooden pulleys can result in off-centred pulleys or pulleys without enough depth to safely wheel a wire or rope. Such situations can render your pulley useless or create an unsafe work environment. Correctly tooling your own wooden pulley creates safe, effective pulleys. Follow proven steps to manufacture your wooden pulleys.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Lathe
  • Half-moon knife
  • Band saw
  • 4-inch by 4-inch by 2-inch block of wood
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Flat-shaping knife

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Lay the ruler diagonally across one of the 4-inch sides of the block of wood.

  2. 2

    Mark a straight line from corner to corner using your pencil.

  3. 3

    Lay the ruler diagonally across the remaining two corners of that side of the block of wood.

  4. 4

    Mark a straight line from corner to corner, so that you have an X on the side of the block.

  5. 5

    Cut off the corners of the block of wood using the band saw. You do not need precision, so just cut approximately 3/4 inch (approximately the width of a thumb) off each corner, so that you have an octagon-shaped block of wood.

  6. 6

    Clamp the block to your lathe and secure the lathe's centre pin into the centre of the X.

  7. 7

    Turn on the lathe.

  8. 8

    Press the flat-shaping knife against the spinning block, working the tip back and forth along the width of the block. The blade will "jolt" at first because of the corners, but as you hold it in place, it will smoothen out as the block shapes into a wheel.

  9. 9

    Center the wheel by placing the lathe's ruler guide against the wheel, using the 1-inch mark to find the centre of the 2-inch-thick wooden wheel.

  10. 10

    Hold the pencil at the 1-inch mark until you've made a dark line that indicates the spinning wheel's centre.

  11. 11

    Press the full-moon knife blade up against the spinning wheel's centre, holding the knife firmly and making sure not to move the blade. Hold it in the centre of the wheel until you've carved approximately a 1/2-inch groove into the wood.

  12. 12

    Remove the wheel from the lathe.

  13. 13

    Drill a hole in the centre of the X using the drill fitted with the 1/4-inch drill bit.

Tips and warnings

  • For safe pulley operation, a 1/2-inch groove should house a maximum wire thickness of 1/4 inch. To keep wire or rope from slipping out of the pulley's groove, make sure the groove's depth measures 200 per cent of the wire's thickness.

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