Coil Pump




How to make a very simple hand-operated water pump using components easily found around most properties.

This instructable is a guide to constructing a simple coil pump... and it is also a challenge.
We will show you a method of construction and operation - the challenge is... using a similar pump, can you get better results than we did?

You will need:

Build Time
2 hours including testing.

a gas blowtorch or similar heat source
scissors or a sharp knife
a stepladder (optional)
wire clippers / pliers

X meters of hosepipe
a plastic waste-paper basket
a large bucket - ideally twice the diameter of the waste-basket or bigger
a long bamboo stick or similar
electrical or duct tape
wire to make securing ties - or zip ties
a large bowl
a water supply

We collected all of these things around our house and didn't spend a dime on anything new. This is also a part of the challenge - make your pump with things you can find around your property. With the exception of hosepipe, if you buy anything to construct this project, please list the items and costs - less bought new is better.

So... our results
We lifted the water through a vertical distance of 3.1 meters and at a rate of just over 2 liters in 3 minutes.
There is plenty of room for improvement ! 

*edit Saturday 03 September 2011 - Coil Pump V2.0 completed and tested - 21.7 liters pumped through 3.1 meters vertical distance in 3 minutes

If you try this out, please leave a comment detailing your results... a link to pictures or your own instructable would be brilliant!

Good luck from everyone at Aziza's Place, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Looking forward to hearing from you........

Teacher Notes

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Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1:

Beginning at the top of the waste-basket, coil the hosepipe around the basket in a spiral. Secure the pipe on both sides of the basket every 2 or 3 turns using a twist of wire. We used magnet wire as it's what we had and it's very soft and easy to use.
As you can see, we joined small sections of hose together... it's what we had available at the time.

Step 2:

When it gets to the bottom of the basket, the hosepipe will need an exit. The best route we found was back up through the centre of the basket from the bottom.
Heat up a metal tube and melt a hole in the centre of the base of the basket. A standard car spark-plug wrench made just the right sized hole for our hosepipe.

Step 3:

Connect the hose coming through the base of the basket to a longer hose leading to the collection bowl. Support the hose leading to the collection bowl using a long stick. Fasten the hose to the stick using electrical tape or duct tape.

Step 4:

Fill the large bucket with water and tilt it towards the collection bowl.
Place the waste-basket into the bucket of water.

Step 5:

This is the pumping stage.

Turn the waste-basket slowly (20 or so rpm) within the bucket. The aim is to capture 50% water and 50% air within the hosepipe with every complete turn of the waste-basket, so angle the waste-basket accordingly in the water.

Keep turning the waste-basket at a steady speed until the water climbs the pipe and exits at the collection bowl. Don't forget to turn the long stick at the same time and at the same speed as the wastebasket. The whole pump and delivery pipe should rotate together.

If the pump "backfires" and the water rushes out back into the large bucket, then you will need to add more coils to the pump.
More coils = more pumping height.

If water still does not exit the hosepipe at the collection bowl, check the hosepipe for kinks or twists along its full length, including in the coils around the waste basket.

The point where the hosepipe goes through the base of the basket was a problem area for us as the hosepipe we used was soft with age and kept kinking closed. We replaced this section with the newest hose that we had and solved the problem.

Step 6:

Waiting for the water, which is pulsed delivery - ideally half water and half air.

Step 7: Final Results

We pumped water for a timed 3 minutes, which gave us just over 2 liters of water delivered to the collection bowl at a height above ground of 3.1 meters. We measured the results using 500ml drinking water bottles.

Can you beat this??

Step 8: Ideas for Improvements...

There are various ways that this design could be improved.

Here are some ideas.

Use a single length of hosepipe for the entire device.
Increase the diameter of the hosepipe.
Increase the number of coils around your "waste-basket".
Use something larger than our wastebasket to make your pump.
Experiment with differing rotation speeds.
Experiment with differing angles of delivery of water.
Design a rotating seal to fit into the system between the waste-basket and the pipe to the collection bowl.
Design a rotating mount for the pump to more easily control and experiment with rotation speeds.

There are probably a lot more improvements that can be made - we've only just begun with our investigation of this pump.

Here's our idea for V2.0 in a short video clip (4.6Mb) .... we'll report the results when we have them.

Best of luck, and enjoy!

Aziza's Place

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    34 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I saw this video regarding Air lift pumps have you seen it? He has several videos that may be of interest. I have asked him how much (the minimum) air flow & pressure is required to raise the water to the top of his well ~ 68ft (about 21 meters)

    11 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the link, Phil.

    I've looked into this one a little more, and think that the airlift pump is not what we need.
    To work well, the pump needs a length of pipe extending below the surface of the water that at least matches the height above the surface that the water will be pumped to, and the air must be introduced in a specific way at that depth. To get 68 feet of lift, you would also need around 68 feet of pipe or more below the water's surface. This is called the submergence ratio of the pump. Google search link.
    Airlift pumps are also not capable of transporting water horizontally away from the well/pump head at angles of less than 60 degrees, which further moves this type of pump from our requirements.

    Appreciate your comment and time taken, but it's not for us I'm afraid.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You are already applying the principle of the air lift! The pump you have built here, as also the later V2.0 version, delivers alternate slugs of water and air. The air entrained in the dicharge acts as an airlift, making the wole assembly extremely efficient.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I've been looking into this a little further since Phil's comment, and am currently designing a specific application for a "traditional" airlift pump that's based on the V2.0 pump/swingset that we made.
    It'll be a while before I have a working pump built, but I'm pretty sure I've cracked the main design problems and will put an Instructable up here when I get a pump up and running...


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Rob, I just watched your video on the swing set & V2.0. I think you have just given new meaning to perpetual power - A little candy in; mass qty's of water out!!!

    A couple of thoughts.

    1. You could increase the production by adding a very simple transmission so that the coil rotates on both the forward and back movement.

    2. Also with the energy generated in the swing you could also make a piston pump using two pistons one for pumping on the forward swing and one one for the reverse swing - It can be made entirely out of bamboo

    3. You were concerned about submersion when we first spoke. Have you seen the comment from Shasho on gaiatechnician's challenge regarding the geyser pump? - also the link include there?

    I found this link which to me described the pump so I could understand it better and figure out how the geyser pump works - but I feel it would require a more powerful pump than the airlift while it requires less submergence it "seems like" it offsets the submergence by creating more air pressure.

    Don't know if you had seen this.. But anyway Great work keep it up!



    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Afternoon, Phil.

    Thanks for the links, hadn't seen that geyser pump video before.

    Yes, we got the drag problem minimised by lifting the main pump body out of the water and having a single, larger inlet coil that dipped into the water with each rotation for input... however, we were restricted by the size of the water jar that we had - a larger storage jar would have been better.

    Once the drag was substantially reduced, the pump didn't rob so much momentum from the swing. We didn't implement our design for powering the pump from both directions of swing, but I'm almost certain that the drag reduction would allow for powering on both forward and backward swings - with the proviso of weights added to the swingseat for lighter "operators". This is something that I'll be looking into again this year.

    Your point 2 is the area I'm focusing on right now. I'm almost through designing a swingset that can compress air - air that can be used to feed an airlift pump. Initially, I'm looking at a slow airflow rate of around 0.8 cfm for a single piston pump, but when I've got that one built I'll be adding as many more pumps as the swing will power, and will be trying both airstone and geyser type airlifts. The idea is to supply well water to above ground for the V2.0 pump to then move over a distance. 
    Will be doing this over the spring and summer and will post the results up on Instructables when I have them. 




    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Rob,

    Just checking to see if you have done any more on this air lift pump idea. I was going back over my prior connections and reread your posts. Hope all is well.

    - Phil


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Morning, Phil.
    I haven't done anything over the dry deason as I've been too busy, but it's just about time for the rainy season to begin, and I've lots of ideas to try out. 
    I'll be making a metal swingset this time, and have already found a better alternative for a swivel joint... will let you know when it's up and running - should be done before Xmas this year. 



    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Afternoon Rob,

    You mentioned using an airstone. I've noticed a few implementations with them included. Although, I am not convinced that adds anything to the design other than maybe improving oxygenation for aquariums. Because the air must recombine and form a big bubble to push the water up the pipe. To me it seems like a bubbler would only add a restriction to the airflow. Also it appeared to me a bellows like is used for a blacksmiths forge might work really well in this application and it would be really easy to implement.

    Till Later,

    - Phil


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    We're looking forward to seeing your results, ragena - good luck!


    1. Add more coils to the pump to send water higher
    2. Use a larger diameter hosepipe to pump more water

    Let us know how you did?

    Aziza's Place

      Please do not believe all you read about airlift pumps!  (one of the websites that comes up in your search is someone who sells a competitor type pump) When the engineers did their tests 30, 40 or 50 years ago, they used the big  air pumps of the time and the pipes of the time.  Nobody bothered with smaller stuff because small diameter tubing was so much more expensive and this was all BIG engineering.  But  now that is all changed and low pressure airlift pumping (Or something similar) might be an option for you. The windowfarm project seems to have thrown out water pumps altogether and gone with aquarium airlift pumps for all their low height water pumping!

    I have a video about "airlift pump nano".  It is a "challenge" like your instructable.  This is not a typical airlift pump because it uses "plug flow" instead of simply using the lower specific gravity of bubbly water to do the pumping (which is how a normal  huge airlift pump works). Because of the different flow type, it does NOT need huge submergence to work!
    For instance, in my tiny demo model, I used an aquarium air bubble  pump to pump water to 13 ft high. AND submergence was only 2.5 ft and max pressure was only enough to pump air 3 ft under water. So far, reaction to this has been really muted. I imagine bundles of these tubes powered by a simple foot pump and pumping water out of wells maybe 30 or 40 ft deep. (Nobody knows how high it can pump!) I did 13 ft just to whet people's appetite and I didn't check efficiency because I used several tubes joined together.  I also did the pulser pump over 20 years ago, which is like a low pressure airlift pump. This also uses plug flow. BUT please note that it can also work (probably not as efficient) using "slug" flow. Slug flow pumps water up a slope quite well. I used it with the pulser pump to pump to just over 5 meters high and to about 8 meters high.  Your pump is great and hopefully you can get funding to try it and various other low tech pumps. I am sure we need several different types. Brian

    Thought I'd add a quick possibility, if you had the female end of the hose that's wrapped around the basket attached to another hose that goes uphill to where the water goes, it could swivel and there would be no need to turn the whole system, just the basket. Just a thought, hope it helps and/or inspires to advance this really ingenious idea. Awesome concept, keep em coming!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, jticar

    Our hosepipe was really lots of pieces of hose joined together, but most of it was 12mm across the hole in the middle, and around 16mm across all of the pipe.

    12mm inside diameter
    16mm outside diameter

    We used around 8 or 9 meters of hose in our first pump.

    I hope that helps...


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Have you considered a spiral pump?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, but for various reasons it wasn't for us. Our pump is a hybrid of a spiral pump and a coil pump. The idea was developed from the info on this webpage.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, ragena. That's a good question :D .

    A large number of people living in the countryside in Cambodia don't have household plumbing, or access to a mains water system; they have a large pond that acts as a water reservoir, and in the 8 month dry season they get all of their household water from there. This includes water for personal washing, washing clothes, washing dishes, etc - everything that one would expect to do with water.
    Basically, this coil pump would make it possible to have water storage at height, and/or transport water easily over a distance, and would greatly help with small-scale water management and distribution, either to the home or to a small crop garden and any stock kept... all without using any fuels or electricity and all with a very simply designed construction that most anyone could build.
    We're currently working on a way to power our pump V2.0 that doesn't use fuels or electricity either, that is built from readily available materials, and that can be operated with minimal maintenance by anyone.
    We'll be publishing our proof-of-concept for the motive power in the next 2 weeks.