I use 5 gallon buckets for a lot of tasks-almost all heavy. I haul water, soils and potatoes, to name a few. While my buckets do come with a small diameter plastic handle on the bail, it is just too small to spread out the weight of a bucket of water (35-40#). To make carrying easier on my hands, I add a plastic sleeve around the outside of the existing handle. It is a cheap, easy job that is well worth it.
Bucket with a handle on the bail (the wire part)
1/2" ID plastic pipe or tubing (buy by the foot at many hardware or farm stores)
1/2" wide plastic electrical tape
Ruler or tape measure
Blade screw driver
Step 1: Making the Handle Sleeve
Measure the length of the existing handle. I usually make my sleeves 1/4" longer than the existing handle but check to see if that will work on your bucket. For an existing 3-1/2" handle I will install a sleeve 3-3/4".
Clamp the plastic pipe in a vice and cut the sleeve to length.
With the 3-3/4" sleeve clamped in the vise, use the hacksaw to cut one side lengthwise. Since there is pressure on the sleeve you will probably need to cut a little from both ends and finish off the cut using a knife.
Step 2: Install and Finish
Stand up the bucket bail for sleeve installation. Insert the screwdriver into the cut of the sleeve about 1/2" from one end. Twist the screwdriver 90 degrees to open the cut. Start to slip the open end of the sleeve over the bail and existing handle. Once the sleeve is partially over the handle remove the screwdriver and push the sleeve the rest of the way onto the handle.
Wrap the electrical tape around one end of the sleeve. Overlap the end about 1/8". Once you have a full warp at the end, continue wrapping, at an angle, to the other end. Overlap each wrap. At the second end of the sleeve, make an end wrap. Overlap the end by 1/8". Wrap a second layer if you want to end up at the end where you started.
You now have a bucket that will make hauling heavy loads much easier on your hands.
There are many sources of cheap buckets. Try delis, restaurants, and bakeries. They buy bulk ingredients in buckets. Try dry wall contractors. They get joint compound in large buckets.