Introduction: Step-n-Start - a Motor Pull-Starting Assist for Those That Need a Little Help

Picture of Step-n-Start - a Motor Pull-Starting Assist for Those That Need a Little Help

I proudly purchased one of those nasty little 2kW generators from Aldi's figuring it would get us by if we lose power after a storm.  The only thing I didn't count on is that I'm the only one in the family that can pull start a small engine.  When I conducted "Generator 101" at my house I found out that my petite wife and girls didn't have the practice or strength I had and that they couldn't get it started.  This instructable details the solution to the problem that my daughter and I built.  It is a pedal that  one pushes down using the strong muscles in one's legs. It redirects the energy to pull the cord for the Generator.

=== UPDATE 2013-03-04 ===
When we had our last power outage my lovely wife humored me by making an honest AND SUCCESSFUL attempt at starting the generator with the Step'n'start.  I was very pleased :)

=== UPDATE 2012-07-26 ===
Many thanks for all of the encouragement.  It's really overwhelming with the >10,000 hits in 3 days!  We found that the 1/4" bolts for the pulleys are not beefy enough, so please use 3/8 if you build one of these.  We had to change them out.  We have also found that the 4-to-1 ratio is a bit much and that 3-to-1 works better for our generator.  My wife was not successful in trying it tonight, but her hip was bothering her and her electricity wasn't out.  Please do let me know how yours turn out if you make one.  As an aside, I'm also trying to encourage work ethic in my kids and I've received some PM's about selling them.  I asked Emily if she was willing to make them for $30 each and she seemed tickled at the idea.  So we are considering selling them via ebay if you lack the resources needed to make one.  I think a cottage business where the reward (money) is proportional to the effort invested would be a great way to instill work ethic AND show how an idea and being industrious can pay off.  I did check USPS and from Ohio to California it was < $27 shipping.   If there is interest and we'll set it up.  Again, many thanks for all of the feedback.  She thought it was really cool to read it. 
Thanks, yeltrow & helper :)
=== End update ===

Materials Required:
2 ea. 2x4's 48" long
2 ea. 2x4's 18" long
1 ea. Hinge
1 ea. 3/8x9" (8 can work) bolt
1 ea. 3/8x3" bolt
1 ea. small piece of plywood or OSB 12" x 12" or so for the gussets.
22 ea. 1-5/8" Long Drywall screws
10 ea. 1/4x1.5" Lag Bolts to hold the hinge
10 ea. 3/8 cut washers.
10 ea. 1/4" cut washers
2 ea.  3/8" Lock nuts
4 Pulleys (or make your own from Corean countertop scraps or a cutting board or something else).  3/8" bore.
5ft 3/16" Diamond braided rope
3/8" PVC pipe

Tools Required:
7/16" Socket Wrench
3/8" Drill Bit
1" Spade Drill Bit
2" Hole Saw if you make your own pulleys

Step 1: Determine the Length of Pull of Your Generator

Picture of Determine the Length of Pull of Your Generator

We have to know how much cord is available so we don't rip the cord off the machine.  I found I had about 50" of cord.  I planned to use 4 wraps of the pulleys with about 12" of pedal travel.  4 wrap x 12 in travel = 48 total inches of travel.

Step 2: Get Hole Saw to Make the Pulley

Picture of Get Hole Saw to Make the Pulley

I used a hole saw to cut a disk from some Corean countertop scraps.  They are about 1/2" thick.  I cut four of them out.

Step 3: Turn a Groove in the Pulleys

Picture of Turn a Groove in the Pulleys

I used a lathe to put a groove in the edge of the pulleys so the rope would stay in.  We bored out the 1/4" hole to 3/8 with a 3/8" drill bit.

Step 4: Cut the 2x4 to Two 48" Pieces

Picture of Cut the 2x4 to Two 48" Pieces

If you start with an 8 foot long board, you can get two pieces 47-15/16, but that should be close enough.

Step 5: Locate the Hole for the Pulley and Drill

Picture of Locate the Hole for the Pulley and Drill

I located my hole about 1.25" in from the end and 1/2" from the bottom edge of the 2x4.  This gives us more meat for pushing down on the axle bolt for the pulleys.  I wanted the board to be more pressing down on the axle bolt than pulling it down and splitting the grain of the board.  My assistant marked the location of the hole by hitting the bolt with a hammer.  She then center punched the hole and drilled it clear through the 2x4.  A LONG drill bit is needed. Alternately, the hole can be marked and drilled from both sides, but that is harder.

Step 6: Mark the Pedal Board Where the Pulleys Go

Picture of Mark the Pedal Board Where the Pulleys Go

We stacked washers in between the pulleys to figure out how wide the notch needed to be.  Then we traced the edges of the pulleys on the board to give us a guide to cut by. 

Step 7: Use Jigsaw to Cut Slot for Pulleys

Picture of Use Jigsaw to Cut Slot for Pulleys

Step 8: Countersink the Bolt Head and Nut

Picture of Countersink the Bolt Head and Nut

We drilled a hole 1" in diameter about 1/2" deep on both sides of the board. This had to be done so the bolt would not rub when the pedal moves.

Step 9: Bolt the Pulleys and Washers Into the Pedal

Picture of Bolt the Pulleys and Washers Into the Pedal

We inserted a washer on each side of the pulleys to keep them from rubbing against each other.  This would make them harder to turn.  A nylock (nylon insert lock nut) is used to keep it from coming apart.  The bolt should not be too tight or the fork will squeeze the pulleys and make them hard to turn.

Step 10: Measure the Travel to Figure Out How Long the Boards Should Be and Cut

Picture of Measure the Travel to Figure Out How Long the Boards Should Be and Cut

Although 18" is probably a good length it is good to know where this comes from.  I wanted 12" of travel so we put the board with the pulleys against the bottom frame piece (the other 48" board) and marked the "start of travel."  Then we swung the pedal up and marked where it moved 12".  Then we added about 2" for the pulley.  All of this added up to about 18". 

Step 11: Mark the Upright Pieces and Drill the Pulley Bolt Holes

Picture of Mark the Upright Pieces and Drill the Pulley Bolt Holes

Each of the 18" uprights will have a 3/8" hole drilled in them to support the other set of pulleys.  We put these holes closer to the edge of the board so that when force would be applied to them more wood would be in compression than tension.  The first one was marked with the bolt, center-punched, and drilled.  We use the first one as a template to locate the bolt hole for the second upright.  The bolt was hit with a hammer to transfer a mark to the second upright.  Then that upright was drilled.  This way we knew for sure that the bolt holes would line up.

Step 12: Bolt the Hinge Onto the Base Board

Picture of Bolt the Hinge Onto the Base Board

The "Base Board" is the 48" 2x4 that doesn't have a pulley bolted to it.  It gets a hinge in this step.  We traced the hinge to make sure it didn't move while we bolted it on.  Then we drilled pilot holes for the 1/4" bolts.  A washer goes under each bolt head.  The 1/4 x 1.5" lag bolts we used to hold the hing on.  If you use a different style of hinge you may have to use flat head screws instead of hex heads like we used. 

Step 13: Put in One Bolt on the Pedal to Line Up the Hinge

Picture of Put in One Bolt on the Pedal to Line Up the Hinge

We laid the pedal board on top.  Then we traced the hinge for reference as well as we could.  Then we swung the pedal all the way up so we could put ONE bolt in the center  of our hinge.  We drilled a pilot hole for one of the 1/4" lag bolts and tightened it.  Then we swung the pedal back down against the other board and moved it side-to-side to twist the hinge so both boards would be lined up against each other when the pedal was all the way down. 

Step 14: Complete Bolting the Pedal Hinge Down

Picture of Complete Bolting the Pedal Hinge Down

We CAREFULLY swung the pedal back up WITHOUT MOVING THE HINGE.  Then we marked the holes.  Then we center-punched the holes and drilled pilot holes for the remaining bolts.  Then we bolted the hinge to the pedal. 

Step 15: Make a Set of Gussets for the Uprights

Picture of Make a Set of Gussets for the Uprights

A set of gussets is needed for the uprights. These can be any triangle shaped piece of plywood or OSB.  We cut ours in triangles and THEN realized the pedal would hit them on its travel downward.  Then we put a set of guide strips on our uprights to keep the pedal from getting stuck on the gussets.  An improvement on this step would be to trace the uprights on your gussets and include the guide strip in them as one piece.  You might even be able to get away with NO uprights and just the gussets if they are made of thicker material and made 18" tall. 

Step 16: Screw Gussets and Guide Strips to the Uprights

Picture of Screw Gussets and Guide Strips to the Uprights

We made a set of guide strips from some scrap material the same thickness as our gussets ( again, you could integrate your side strips into the gussets as one piece if you like).  We drilled pilot hole and screwed them to the uprights to make two mirror image pieces.  Note that the bolt holes are one the far edge of the boards from the pedal. 

Step 17: Screw the Uprights to the Base Board

Picture of Screw the Uprights to the Base Board

We used four 1-5/8" drywall screws and one 3" drywall screw to attach each of the uprights to the base board. 

Step 18: Countersink the Bolt Head and Nut (if Needed)

Picture of Countersink the Bolt Head and Nut (if Needed)

The pulley that bolts to the upright needs put on.  The longest bolt we had was about 8" instead of the 9" I would have liked.  We use a 1" spade bit to countersink the head and the place where the nut would go because of our short bolt.  It also kind of nice not having it stick out. 

Step 19: Cut PVP Pipe Bushings to Center the Pulleys

Picture of Cut PVP Pipe Bushings to Center the Pulleys

We had some 3/8" PVC pipe kicking around that we used to make a set of bushings.  These center the top set of pulleys so they don't wander.  We put the pulleys and three washers through the uprights temporarily.  Then we measure the gap we had to fill.  Then we marked two pieces of PVC to fill this gap.  Our pulleys were 1/2" thick (same as our plywood).  We needed to fill about 3.5" inches so we cut the two pieces 1.75" long. 

Step 20: Bolt the Pulleys on and Put a Rope on It

Picture of Bolt the Pulleys on and Put a Rope on It

We bolted the pulleys on and then it was time for the rope.  We threaded the rope through each of the pulleys starting by going from the hinge end.  We went over the top of the first pulley.  Then the rope goes around each of the other three.  We tied our rope off on the bushing on top pulleys with a bowline (google...) so it wouldn't slip. Then we used the propane torch to cut and fuse the braided rope at the same time.  We tied an additional bowline in the other end to put the pull start tee handle through.  Note: We later untied the rope from the top bolt and tied it to the bottom pulley to change the ratio from 4-to-1 to 3-to-1.  This makes it a little easier to start the generator.

Step 21: Ready to Test!

Picture of Ready to Test!

After we tied the rope on it was ready to test. We figured out that my daughter doesn't weight enough with a 4-to-1 or 3-to-1 pulley setup to start the engine. I had no such problem. I don't recommend stomping on the board to start the engine. I used more of the motion of climbing a stair. This started the engine very easily on the first time. I did reduce the ratio from 4-to-1 to 3-to-1 by tying the rope to the bottom pulley instead of the bushing. It works fine for me that way too, even though it reduces the travel to 36". 2-to-1 does not work for me at all. Please let us know how yours turn out!

Thank you for the time you spent looking over my instructable. If you have read this far and are thinking, "This was great and totally worth a buck" You can help me continue to make more instructables by making a donation using this link to my ebay store. Thanks, and keep building! -- Yeltrow


cuyler1 (author)2017-08-10

A couple of years ago I found an youtube vid of a man who built a small equipment starter utilizing a cordless drill motor and a rack gear of some kind where the pull start cord ratcheted from the bottom to the top as the drill spun. This vid has disappeared or was a sham. I began having strenght problems and couldn't start my mower. I'm glad I found yours as I need to build this apparatus before big money buys your idea and video to bury it.

JamesG77 (author)2016-03-22

Please show a picture of where the rope is tied to the pulley.

imark77 (author)2015-06-21

now the money will be in making them for lawnmowers, as with 3 people we still couldn't start it.

dough51342000 (author)imark772015-08-29

try a high torc drill with socket attachment. Is best way if u have to pull alot!

dough51342000 (author)2015-08-28

I think this a great idea. Some of these small engines are hooked up the a drive that are to pull even in top running order. Try pull starting Little Wonder Pavement Blower 5 HP or 5Hp Briggs chipper and keep machine still. Getting a chipper started will make a man out you. I think this great for elderly cause you save on your back and shoulder. If was you I market put patent it. I already looked if u market it yet. Get gift for fathers!

carterson4 (author)2015-08-21

piper1234 (author)2015-01-15

just when using power tools is a good idea to tight hair and cover it, so any turning or swinging bit or saw catches it o_O

imark77 (author)piper12342015-06-21

that's a good point.

insert sarcasm here > but it's probably illegal in this country anyway, 1st world problem.

primosanch (author)2014-10-11

This is absolutely ingenious! Thanks for sharing.

brankif (author)2013-10-26

Great Job. I had a problem starting some of my small engine equipment after surgery. I hope you like my solution also,

learnfromthepros (author)2013-07-16

Help. You mentioned they might be for sale on ebay. Can you tell me whether this is the case? If so, under what name (of product or seller)? Very interested in purchasing one for me!

phreddy (author)2012-12-15

What a life saver!!!
At the end of the summer I couldn't start my lawnmower nor my Rotivator. Didn't have the strength. Now I will have to look to modify your brilliant idea to suit my needs.

Gooru (author)2012-08-24

"As an aside, I'm also trying to encourage work ethic in my kids and I've been asked about selling them."

For a while there, I thought you were talking about selling your kids! The next few sentences were positively hysterical.

The "Step-n-start" is a wonder concept. Nice job.

GrimRipper1080 (author)Gooru2012-09-24

I was almost too scared to read the rest of that paragraph!

Chucknsc (author)2012-07-29

Boss consider yourself very lucky to have such a neat daughter as you have. Count your blessings as I have two sons, neither of which took up my trade as a machinist/fabricater . I have a paid for shop with plenty of equment that I guess when I pass will all be auction off for pennies on the dollar. My two are okay and all, one is a computer tech and the other is a public school teacher. Oh well, again count your blessings .

nathanielg (author)Chucknsc2012-07-29

i take your equipment, no need to auction it. :)

ak47freak (author)2012-07-28

I am going to try and make one that is adjustable for my grandparents so they can start the lawnmower, generator, and rototiller all with one ?? "E-Z-Starter?", "Stomp Starter?", "Step Starter?", "Wooden-Standy-Rope-Pully-thingy?"

In typing this i had a thought!!! i know amazing right...

What about relocating the lower set of pulleys to the uprights that hold the upper pulley set, and adding measured holes for the lower set to be relocated to when using it on different equipment such as a lawnmower with a shorter cord pull? like so?
l l \
l l \Rope
l l \
l l-------------------------------------l
Bottom l l O O O O O l TOP
l l-------------------------------------l

ak47freak (author)ak47freak2012-07-28

................l l.......................................\
................l l.........................................\Rope
................l l...........................................\
................l l-----------------------------------l
Bottom...l l.......O...O.....O....O............O.l Top
................l l-----------------------------------l

p.ingenhoff (author)2012-07-28

SUPER Idee. Ob das auch bei einer Motorsäge funktioniert?

Bill WW (author)2012-07-26

Love your instructable! My wife had a problem starting our lawnmower, had to buy her another, now we have his/hers lawnmowers. I like inexpensive fixes like yours better.

Can you or somebody tell me how to add the rectangles with pop up text to the photos?

milesfromneihu (author)Bill WW2012-07-26

You SHOULD be able to add the rectangles just by dragging a box on the picture. Then a box pops up where you can type in your comment. This does not work perfectly for all systems though. On my Linux tablet, results are iffy.

Bill WW (author)milesfromneihu2012-07-27

Thanks for your help with the text rectangles, Miles and Yeltrow.

yeltrow (author)Bill WW2012-07-27

After uploading the images, just click on it and start to drag. It will pop up a box for you to type the mouseover text into. Instructables has a great interface for this type of work -- I wish my company had such a friendly interface to modify our procedure documents....

crispy912 (author)2012-07-26

This is a great idea and an answer to my situation. I would be very happy to buy one, as I don't have the tools and/or ability to build my own. Your daughter is a gem and you two make a great team!

mainah (author)2012-07-26

I wish my "cutie" helper was around to help me but alas, she's way down in Florida.

a2e (author)2012-07-26

I think its a great idea that you teach your girl to properly use tools; I bet she is creative, intelligent and you can only expect her to go beyond. Besides, it is a cool way to document the project and to show others that "anyone can do it".

GiveALilBit (author)2012-07-26

This is really really smart. Last winter I was stranded in a horrible snow storm, trapped in a house in the woods for 5 days with no power, no food, and no running water. When I found a generator in the garage I was relieved, until after about an hour trying to start the thing, reality set in that I was just not strong enough to start the thing. It was devastating having the thing sit right there, and not be able to use it. Anyone who owns a generator should read your instructable.

chuckyd (author)2012-07-26

Who cares if it works? You spent time teaching your child, and that's the real lesson here.

Spokehedz (author)2012-07-26

It makes me glad to see parents working through problems with the kids as well... Practical knowledge, given in a practical way.

The project was good too, but honestly I am more happy with the teaching of children.

13blue (author)2012-07-26

Boy am I glad you thought of this! and then shared it! Awesome.

Simply Logic (author)2012-07-26

i like :)

dblumenstetter (author)2012-07-26

Awesome! You are the kind of people we need when the zombies come! :)

Quester55 (author)2012-07-26

Great idea, we would try it, but both of us have very limited use of our legs and I have none. But your idea is well thought out , Not to mention the Quality time you spent with your daughter, Believe me, She'll never forget it.

Chadifornia (author)2012-07-26

Great job, wish I came up with it. Haha I will be passing this on to all my family. Thanks and keep up the great work.

somewhiteguy (author)2012-07-26

This idea is awesome and very well documented. I'll be making one for my grandmother who gets a generator from my uncle but doesn't have anyone there to crank the generator all the time.

axiesdad (author)2012-07-26

Great Instructable! Thanks for the idea. I"m going to start planning something similar that I can adapt to several different gas powered tools. Yesterday I was fighting with a reluctant chainsaw; a while back it was a balky snowblower. Something like this would make it a lot easier to keep pulling the starter over and over.

f5mando (author)2012-07-26

Very smart design and device. I also applaud your involvement of your female sprog. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing and explaining so well, too.

Gordyh (author)2012-07-26

I'll have to build some thing like this for my dad, who at 72 has a hard time starting his weed trimmer.

The only thing I might add is some light duty cross bars, to just clear the pulley's. In an attempt to keep the rope on the pulley's while moving it around from storage to where needed. Just an idea for those who may have trouble bending over to restring the rope to the pulley's.

I also applaud your success at keeping the little one actively involved and thinking ;-)

digitjim (author)2012-07-26

Really smart, I like your thinking.

hammer9876 (author)2012-07-26

Great job empowering your ladies. May I suggest, though, that a hat is not just a fashion accessory? It also keeps hair away from power tools.

dreiseratops (author)2012-07-23

Does the rope get int he way of your leg?
I wonder if you could turn it to face the pull starter on the tall side...
Im not understanding the need for a ratio when using ones leg to start.
Dig it though.
Good idea.
Id rather rip a string than get more slap scars from pullstarter backfires.

Ive kind of wanted to bring back a winder & spring start back.

chrwei (author)dreiseratops2012-07-26

I believe it's "gear up" pulley so that it pulls the rope a greater distance than your leg moves.

steven.davis.w (author)2012-07-23

This is great, now my wife has no way of getting out of mowing the lawn.

Mike73 (author)2012-07-23

We usually don't have such heavy storms and power outages here, but if we would still be in the US, I would most likely have such a thingy, too. And I bet I would make a rig like yours, as my wife and my little one couldn't get it started either.
Great solution.

Mimikry (author)2012-07-23

Simply brilliant!

l8nite (author)2012-07-22

love the fact that you're teaching your daughter how to use power and hand tools. My grown daughters can change a tire or the oil in their car, rebuild their back deck, lay a tile floor or most recently totally remodel a store space by tearing down and rebuilding walls and hanging shelving and the project you shared is really cool !

heathbar64 (author)2012-07-22

this is the kind of genius I appreciate. using your intelligence to solve everyday problems.

rondust (author)2012-07-22

Really smart, I like your thinking.
Its good to see you are teaching your little girl how to use tools and how to construct, kids are way too sheltered these days.

Got to build me one as well.
AND I thought it could be utilised for the old lawn mower with some slight mods. No more shoulder strains.

pghjim (author)2012-07-22

Brilliant and simple. One of those, "Why did I think of that?" projects!

rimar2000 (author)2012-07-22

WOW, I have exactly the same problem, with a cheap 2.2 KW Shimura generator. Your solution could be my solution. Thanks for sharing it.

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