Introduction: Functional & Decorative Wooden Block and Tackle

About: Just an average guy. husband, father of four, grandpa, civil engineer turned cabinetmaker, jack of all trades master of a few. Enjoys, golf, curling, woodworking, creativity & making things.

Now and then living on the West Coast of Canada, I've come across old wooden marine pulley blocks. More often than not they would have a wood body and a steel pulley a few of the older ones have wood pulleys, they are often used in home decor.

So just for fun I thought I would try and make some and use them for a decorative plant hanger, and being they require rope, perfect for the Rope and String challenge.


Small assorted pieces of hardwood

76 mm ( 3'' ) of 1/4 '' all-tread or ready rod, one 1/4'' connecting bolt , two 1/4 '' nuts , on piece of 1//8'' pipe cut to two pieces 13 mm ( 1/2 '' ) long, 6 mm (1/4 '' ) steel rod.

10 mm ( 3/8 '' ) rope

1/4 '' router, 1/2 '' drill , Drill press, Table saw, Hole saws, 1/2 '' ball-nose router bit, 1/8 '' round over router bit, glue and clamps

Step 1: Gluing Up the Pulleys

Machine and glue up strips of your chosen wood to a finished piece 80 mm ( 3 1/4 '' ) by the length required to make how ever many pulleys you require. Allow 86 mm ( 3 1/2'' ) in length for each pulley.

Plane the piece down to 14 mm ( 9/16 '' ) and sand both faces. Using a 76 mm ( 3 '' ) hole saw on your drill press cut your pulleys out.

*Tip when drilling large diameter holes on the drill press clamp your stock down and blow compressed air down at your hole saw as you drill, this will prevent clogging and burning. Drill 3/4 of the way thru the piece of wood, then flip the piece and finish the cut from the other side.

Step 2: Pulley Drill Clamp

Cut two 13 mm ( 1/2 '' ) sections of ( what's called ) 1/8 '' steel pipe, which has a 1/4 '' inside diameter. The 1/4 '' bolt seen in the picture was just to check the inside diameter of the 1/8 '' pipe.

Cut a 76 mm ( 3'' ) piece of 1/4 '' all thread, put the 1/4 '' connector nut on and lock it in place with a standard 1/4 '' nut. Place one piece of the 1/8 " pipe on the all tread, then one of your pulleys, the other piece of pipe and then use a 1/4 '' nut ( snugged up ) to lock it in place.

Step 3: Routering the Groove in the Pulley

To create the groove in the pulley use a 13 mm ( 1/2 " ) ball nose router bit. Take the factory base plate off your router and using this as a template ( for the hole location ) make a plate out of 13 mm ( 1/2 '') mdf and fasten it to your router. Run the bit out through the mdf, thus leaving a exact bit hole location.

Glue four more pieces of mdf ( as in the pictures ) to your base. The width inside is the same thickness as your pulleys and the cross groove in the middle is the same width as the outside diameter of your pipes ( on drill pulley set up ).

Raise your router bit up 4 mm ( 3/16 '' ) through the mdf base. With your pulley in your drill slowly rotate your drill while you lower the pulley down slowly onto the router bit. Rotating the drill at a slow speed allows the router bit to do its job.

Once the pulley has bottomed out remove and proceed to sand the pulley while spinning it in the drill, once you are happy with the sanding apply the finish with a rag ( Orange and Honey wipe on finish ). Repeat for how many pulleys are required.

The making of the pulleys could also be accomplished on a lathe if you so choose.

Step 4: Round Block Spacers

Using a hole saw again drill a series of 28 mm ( 1 1/8 '' ) circles down the entire length of a piece of wood 19 mm ( 3/4 '' ) thick and a bit wider than your holes.. Stop just short of drilling all the way through. You need 4 spacers for a double block and 2 for a single, but it does not hurt to make a few extras.

Set your fence at just slightly wider than the thickness of your finished pulley, ( this will give the pulleys a bit of clearance ), apply masking tape to the face on the side with the holes. Raise your blade high enough to cut the circles but not all the way through the piece. Using a sharp blade run the piece thru the saw ( tape side toward the fence ) this will release all the circles, but the tape holds them in place.

*TIP When drilling wood plugs with a plug cutter or circles place a couple pieces of masking tape on the drilled side so when you run the saw blade ( band saw, or table saw ) down the strip to release the plugs, the tape helps prevent the pieces from getting fired out or tangled up in the blade.

Place three of your circles in the same pulley drill clamp without using the pipe sections, and sand smooth with a sanding block.

Step 5: Sides of Blocks

Glue up a 38 mm ( 1 1/2 '' ) by 19 mm ( 3/4 '' ) piece. The length is determined by the quantity required. dress and sand both sides. Run a 3 mm ( 1/8 '' ) round over down all four edges and sand. Cut to 152 mm ( 6 '' ) lengths , and then split in two on your table saw .

For double blocks you require a center piece so round over the other side and sand. ( as in the last picture )

Step 6: Assemble

Starting with the center sections glue a spacer circle to each end, flush with the end and centered on the piece. Apply glue to the entire face of the circle ( lightly to prevent glue squeeze out ) place it in position and let sit for a minute or two before applying clamp, this short period of time allows the glue to hold the piece in position and prevents side slipping when clamping.

Glue all the circles on one side, and on the other side of the center piece for the double blocks. Glue the outside pieces on and clamp.

After the glue is dry, set your chop saw at 22 1/2 degrees and cut the tops of all the ends as close to the circles as possible. Set up a stop on your saw.

Ignore the band-aid, it was from a cut from the day before.

Step 7: Drilling

Sand the ends of the blocks to match the round circles and then run a 3 mm ( 1/8 '' ) round over on the outside faces and then sand.

Set stops on your drill press and drill 11 mm ( 7/16'' ) thru both ends of the block.

In the center on both side drill a 9 mm ( 3/8 '' ) hole 3 mm ( 1/8 '' ) deep. Then drill a 6 mm ( 1/4 '') hole all the way thru the center.

Glue in a 9 mm ( 3/8 '' ) wood plug on only one side and sand flush.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Cut a piece of 6 mm ( 1/4 '' ) steel rod to the length required, so that there is still room to glue a plug in later on the open side of the block. Apply finish to the inside of the block before final assemble.

Re-drill the center of all your pulleys on the drill press with a 7 mm ( 9/32'' ) bit, this allows the pulley to spin freely on the steel rod.

Insert the rod thru the sides and thru the pulleys, glue in other plug to hold the steel rod in place and then sand flush. Apply finish to the rest of the block.

Step 9: Other Bits

The rope cleat is a piece of solid 150 mm ( 6 '' ) long by 16 mm ( 5/8 '' ) thick drilled and cut on a band saw ,then glued and fastened ( screwed from behind ) to a strip of the same material used for the sides of the blocks.

The cross tee is two pieces of 16 mm x 16 mm ( 5/8 '' x 5/8 '' ) with a half lap joint in the center and 11 mm ( 7/16 '' ) holes in the ends.

The upper bracket is a triangle wedge glued and screwed to a strip of the same material used for the sides of the blocks, and an 11 mm ( 7/16 '' ) hole drilled in the end for the rope.

I purchased this wooden bowl from a thrift store for $3 then sanded and re-stained it. Four holes were drilled in the lip to match the holes on the cross tee.

Step 10: Conclusion

Not surprisingly these blocks are fairly strong ! I ended up using a 10 mm ( 3/8'' ) three strand white cotton rope that really makes the wood tones stand out. This is a fun little weekend project, not requiring an abundance of specialty tools or materials.

How you decide to set up and use this block and tackle would be governed by your chosen application.There are many videos and books on knot and rope work available to help you with that.

I used the block and tackle to hold a bowl for a plant, but it could be used for many applications.

I never had a specific location picked out for this project ( made it while my wife was away ) so if she can't decide on a spot when she returns home, I am pretty sure one of my kids would be more than happy to find it a home ;- )


Rope & String Speed Challenge

Second Prize in the
Rope & String Speed Challenge