Wooden Pulley Without a Lathe

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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

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

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 table.you could also clamp a piece of wood down.

Step 3: 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

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.

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    52 Comments

    Nice work Tom They look great. A job well done

    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.

    2 replies

    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 ?

    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!

    1 reply

    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 ;)

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

    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 :)

    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.

    1 reply

    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

    3 replies

    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 ?

    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.

    1 reply

    very informative comment ! Thanks much appreciated !