Introduction: Wooden Pulley Without a Lathe

This is a simple project that you can do with your pillar drill or drill press.

This pulley turned out quite nice.
It works best with mdf as it is really easy to work with it helps to have a sharp chisel and dust collection and mask is recommended. You could create any size your drill can take,and use different thickness MDF for different widths of pulley you might be able to glue a stack together and create a wider one or even a step pulley but maybe bolts or nails would be needed to keep them together.

Step 1: Cutting a Disc

Picture of Cutting a Disc

A circle is cut out using a hole saw.
A hole larger than the hole saw pilot hole is made for the bolt.

Step 2: Setup

Picture of Setup

A bolt is then popped through the hole with a nut on the other side

Tightening the bolt to almost 'nip' the wheel.
You can also thread the wheel so that you don't have to tighten it so much.

chuck the bolt into the pillar drill/drill press.
Set up another bolt attached to the could also clamp a piece of wood down.

Step 3: True Everything Up

Picture of True Everything Up

True everything up ,you could also cut out a circle using a router or jigsaw and then true it up.

Step 4: Create Your Pulley

Picture of Create Your Pulley

Then with a small chisel start to take out the 'middle' material

until you have reached the width and depth of you pulley.

Then sand down with 180 to about 400 or so doesn't need to be that smooth.


WoodCrafts 67 (author)2016-02-01

Nice work Tom They look great. A job well done

Reclaimer0418 (author)2015-08-28

You see... these types of tutorials inspire me...
I'm VERY limited on my tools which means, i'm very limited on the projects I'm able to start.
I have a dremel, a cheap black & decker drill, and a cordless electrical screwdriver.
No work bench, no table saw, etc etc etc...
You get the point... I'm broke, but... since I'm broke and (often) lacking the proper tools for a desired project; I need to find ways to innovate.
Kudos to you.
"Necessity is the mother of invention."

Yesterday I saw a tutorial on how to build a drill press with
-materials most people have laying around the house (namely wood)
-a dremel

Then today I see a way of using that drill press as a lathe...

I may not have an immediate need for a pulley but, for me this tutorial was...
less about the final product and more about the process.

Again, very very very good post.

Reclaimer, set up a free account on Craigslist. Then you can do a search for tools and have it email you when someone posts something you are looking for, such as a free workbench, or a table saw for less than $25. I've outfitted an entire woodshop and all my tools were $25 or less. Some had missing handles, or lots of rust, but once you clean them and oil them up, they are good as new. I don't mind putting in a bit of elbow grease on stuff that is almost free.

Auh thanks Man ! My latest project can be made with using hand circular saw if you mark the cuts out and a nail and hammer with few screws and glue !

If you want any help on how to make things with limited tools and what you want to achieve I would more than happy to help ?

GrfxGawd (author)2015-05-02

Awesome idea. You know that 3/8 bolt (it looks 3/8-ish in the video)? I need to turn one to remove the threads so it can be safely placed into a chuck, but still leave some thread to fit into a tool. What's stopped me is lack of a lathe. I see lack of a lathe is a poor excuse. I just need to think harder and use what tools I already have available. You provided the instruction, thank you!

Tom Howbridge (author)GrfxGawd2015-05-03

You could always roll a pop can up to protect the threads but really the jaws will be harder than the bolt, but it's a good idea for aesthetics.
Maybe use a file or spin it in a handheld drill then run it along a bench grinder or somthing ! Thanks for the comment ;)

stayputnik (author)2015-02-20

Didn't see anyone else bring it up, but this is a really good way to wear out your drill's bearings. The bearings are designed to take a lot of vertical stress, but what you're doing is imposing lateral stress that will chew them up if you do this too much. It's fine if you only need do a quick pulley once in a while, but too much of this will definitely hurt your machine. This is a very resourceful way to get the most use out of your tools, so thanks for sharing. Just thought you should be aware of the risks.

GrfxGawd (author)stayputnik2015-05-02

Sometimes, some moderate "abuse" of the tools you have, can enable you to construct those tools you need to do the job. As an example, using a mill, or pushed for lack of, a drill press and some sand casting of alloys you can fabricate the bed needed for a basic lathe. Once the rudimentary lathe frame is built you can use it to boot-strap/fabricate the additional parts to flesh out a fully featured lathe. But it's quite true that very much lateral force on a drill press is bad news waiting to happen. I suggest intelligent application of a relatively inexpensive router, they are built to take lateral stress. Think of ways you might be able to safely affix a router laterally in the drill press table - a lot of simpler work requiring a lathe could be safely accomplished. Routers can also be applied in some situations where a mill is the expected tool for the job. I've seen a home fabricated lathe a guy built with an inexpensive welder, some scrap metal, drill press, a few taps and dies and mounted a lathe chuck into a moderately priced 2hp router mounted horizontally. Made a very functional and safe to use lathe worth about $1500 from about $300 in parts.

Tom Howbridge (author)GrfxGawd2015-05-02

Yes, If was doing it again I would have it closer to the chuck also as it was MDF it is really easy to machine especially at the ends, that may not be the case for pine or other solid wood and a second support maybe needed at the bottom.

lukemarq (author)2015-03-19

could also use a bench grinder, remove the wheel, replace with wood. the bonus's are it already has something to rest your chisel on and no chance of harming the bearings (IF thats really an issue). Hilarious pic of canadian btw :)

firefightermeyer (author)2015-03-16

Very nice!

firewolf25 (author)2015-01-29

You can also do the three piece wood method, using a few rasps to work on the inner side of the outer parts of the pulley, then put it all together to create a filed down pulley without the need of a drill press. It will just take more work.

Tom Howbridge (author)firewolf252015-01-29

Might not be uniform though

discostu956 (author)2014-11-27

I recently did something very similar, but using a hand held drill (lack of a drill press). mounted a hacksaw in the vice and used that for the bulk of it. I now have drill press. I think the mdf is a lot better than what I used. Great minds think alike! Cheers for posting

Crazy stuff !, haha did it work ? We both have great minds !

Worked well actually. It was for pulleys for hanging deer, but alas no use for it so far. You have given me other ideas for pulleys for running various things......that I will get around to making one day!

U got any pics would love to see them ?

plantprof (author)2014-11-27

This brings back memories of watching my dad do this on his drill press decades ago. I've used this method too--and then got my first lathe which expanded the possibilities. I just figured, as a kid, that this was one of the possible functions of a drill press, but it is interesting that a drill press is not often envisioned as a lathe for light weight work, simply because of its vertical orientation. [The Shop Smith Mark V multipurpose tool helps in thinking "outside the box".] I've also seen it used with a dead-center base that clamps to the drill press table to permit light-duty turning of small spindles. Nice presentation and explanations.

Tom Howbridge (author)plantprof2015-01-17

very informative comment ! Thanks much appreciated !

the discoverer (author)2014-11-27

nice pulley

Thanks !

blrmohan (author)2014-11-27

This is too good man...loved it. I plan to make a pulley this weekend :)

Tom Howbridge (author)blrmohan2015-01-17

Great !

jeggyboy (author)2014-11-27

An neat way of making a pulley in a pinch. Just two suggestions if I may. Slow down the hole cutter so that it doesn't burn. (smaller size faster, bigger size slower). Keep the chisel support rod as close as possible to the workpiece. Good stuff though. Take it from an old tool and die maker.

Tom Howbridge (author)jeggyboy2015-01-17

When bi metal holesaws are used in mdf (here) the speed does not effect it because of the way mdf is made, but that advice certainly applies for solid wood and plywood.

afileman (author)2014-11-27

When you use a hole saw for cutting discs if you set up the
cut carefully so the outside of the cutting blade is on the edge of the material
then the sawdust is ejected. Obviously the inside edge must not overlap the
edge because you will get a flat spot. Doing this way the cutter will not overheat
and will cut faster.

And a piece of safety advice when using the abrasive paper
to smooth it off hold it the other side of the threaded rod to lower the risk
of getting your fingers trapped between the pulley and the rod, better still
remove the rod.

Tom Howbridge (author)afileman2015-01-17

yup certainly true...if only I had remembered...

stephenfitton (author)2014-11-28

Just a safety point! In regard to the morse taper. If you extend the bolt through the centre hole in your drilling table and fit two lock nuts as you have done, in the event the morse drops it should only spin and be held in a semi- safe position until bench drill turned off

JON-A-TRON (author)2014-11-27

Thanks for this.

redsunmtm (author)2014-11-27

or you can try that:


hahaha :)

johnip4 (author)2014-11-27

I have done something like this but....
If the chuck is mounted on a tapered arbor it can work loose and go flying off like a ninja Death Star. Tapered arbors don't work well with side loads. Also drill press bearings are not designed for side loads, although mine haven't been a problem.

Quesnelquack (author)johnip42014-11-27

Agreed. I have been down this road, found it wanting and went on to make my own "lathe" which I later replaced with a proper wood lathe. Even the cheapest lathe will do a better job than a drill press.

If one does use the drill press there is a gizmo available from, I believe, Lee Valley that you can set under the drill chuck and which functions as a tailstock. You can just see it in one of the pictures in the first set.

Tom Howbridge (author)johnip42014-11-27

I have seen have morse taper drill chucks come out using a knock from the top

also this meant for a light work

kingfish23 (author)2014-11-27

VERY Good! A drill press as a lathe! I need this for outdoor use so

I think I'll give the pullies a heavy coat of epoxy.

KellyCraig (author)2014-11-27

You can also use two hole-saw sizes to make pulleys. You just have to glue the pieces together.

I managed to break a pulley on my Router Crafter. At first, I panicked, because these were out of production and I figured parts would be hard to come by.

After looking at the two remaining pulleys, I figured it was worth a try to use three pieces of plexi glued together.

The center one was cut to the same diameter as the original. The two outer pieces were about a 1/2" larger diameter. Once installed, I was up and running again.

Wild-Bill (author)2014-11-27

I never thought of the Drill-press as a Lath. Thank you.

jca245 (author)2014-11-27

I used to make small wooden pulleys by sandwiching a small circle of wood between two larger ones at a time when I did not have access to a drill press. Your idea is great though if you have a drill press.

maurvz800 (author)2014-11-27

Very cool,My Mrs collects Antique Pulleys-I'll have to add a few new ones to the'll use em too,but gotta tease her right?

CopterRichie (author)2014-11-27

Simply awesome! Thanks

mountainfish (author)2014-11-27

This is great. I am more poor than I would like to be and have recently found myself in need of a couple of pulleys but can't afford to buy them (or maybe just don't want to). But I do have a drill press. :) I was thinking in a very unrefined way to maybe try something like this. Thank you for removing the guesswork.

dockazoo (author)2014-11-27

Thanks! I have a bunch of blank circles left over from other projects that I kept hoping someday to find a use for them. Looking forward to giving this a try.

TheFrankTurk (author)2014-11-24

That's a great repurposing of your drill press.

Thanks I really appreciate it :)

The Awesome Inventor (author)2014-11-24

Awesome!! Finally I can make a pulley for my homemade steam engine!

Thanks I really appreciate it :)

HPandLOTR (author)2014-11-24

great job! i have a lathe that runs on a pulley a lot like this so this is good to know! keep up the good work!

Tom Howbridge (author)HPandLOTR2014-11-25

Thanks I really appreciate it :)

rimar2000 (author)2014-11-24

Very good work.

Tom Howbridge (author)rimar20002014-11-25

Thanks I really appreciate it :)

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