Gone Outdoors

How to Make a Rope Winch

by Edwin Thomas

A winch is a mechanical device for winding up or down the tension of a rope. Through numerous power systems, it stands at the heart of tow trucks, fishing rods, capstans and elevators. However, in its simplest form a winch is just a spool and a hand crank, making it a manually-powered machine that is simple to build, even from spare parts.

1. Consider your parts carefully. A winch is as simple as a spool and hand crank. But, what you make those parts from and how you attach may prove insufficient if you intend to bear heavy loads on your winch. Do not expect to be able to reel in 1,000 pounds on a hand crank attached by screws that can only bear 200 pounds.

2. Pick out your cylinder and covers. Keep in mind that you will be winding your rope up around the cylinder, and therefore the surface area of your cylinder and the width of the end covers has a direct bearing on how much rope you can spool up. There are no hard and fast rules for this, but a short, skinny cylinder will need large covers on the ends to handle a lot of rope, for example.

3. Attach your covers to the cylinder. This can be done with heavy-duty glue, bolts, or screws, depending on how sturdy you need the winch to be. This is now your spool.

4. Assemble and attach your hand crank. Take a rod as a lever. Attach a rotating handle to one end, and a fixed disk to the other. Attach the crank to one end of the spool. Whether you use bolts, screws, or glue is once again a matter for how heavy a load you intend to put on the winch.

5. Attach the remaining, unused end of the spool to your mounting point for the entire winch. This is the base for the winch. The moving parts in a correctly assembled winch are in the handle and the base. Whether you use bolts, screws, or glue is once again a matter for how heavy a load you intend to put on the winch.

Items you will need
  • Cylinder
  • Wider covers for the ends
  • Rod and handle
  • Bolts/screws/glue
  • Drill
  • Rope
  • Pivot joint
  • Rotating handle

Photo Credits

  • Wikimedia Commons