We built a pulley to lift our groceries!

Houses here on the island are built higher than wide. They are on pilings so that they’ll be up away from the tide when storms pass through. My house is three stories on top of pilings. Every time I go to the grocery store, I have to walk up four flights of stairs for each load of groceries. Although I appreciate the work out, I’m getting tired of having to do that. It makes going to the grocery store a big chore.

Our finished product

A lot of people around here have these very fancy electric lifts with a platform that you can load up and send up to the top floor, like an elevator, but not enclosed. They cost thousands of dollars though, so I decided I would build a pulley for a fraction of the cost and still have a way to haul my groceries up to the top floor.

I recruited my 10-year-old son to help me, because he is into that sort of thing. For homeschool I had him research simple machines and how pulleys work. Together we figured out what materials we would need and how we could set up the pulley on our top deck.

The rope needed to reach from the top floor of my house, where the kitchen is, all the way down to the driveway. It needed to be strong enough to hold heavy items like canned goods and gallons of milk. It also needed to be easy to operate so my kids can pull from the top after I loaded groceries at the bottom.

We went to the local hardware store, bought our supplies, and set up our pulley. The materials were a bit expensive ($60), but nothing compared to the thousands of dollars that an electrical lift would cost.

All the hardware.

All you really need is rope, the actual pulley, a hook to hold the pulley and a hook to attach the groceries.

I decided to install cleats on my deck post to wind the rope around when not in use. That way I don’t have a big pile of rope on my deck for people to trip over.

Untangling 50 ft of rope

I had intended to put the pulley in one spot, but when I climbed up on the chair to start drilling, I realized that I was way too afraid of heights to put it in that spot. I moved it over so that I could stand on a chair and simultaneously grab onto the post because I’m a big chicken about heights.

30 feet in the air. No thanks.
Screwing this sucker in was the hardest part.
Installing one of the cleats. I pre-drilled holes but made them too big, so I had to move the whole thing over and drill new holes.

Our first test was a success. My son put some toys in a reusable grocery bag for the test run. It worked like a charm!

Our first try with real groceries went well with one exception, which I will get to. The pulley works great; my kids can easily pull the weight and wrangle the grocery bags over the deck onto the table.

Eating a snack and helping at the same time. The pliers act as a lever, another simple machine.
The pulley!
The hook where we attach the grocery bags.
The groceries on their way up.

The only problem we had is that we broke some eggs! The bag hit the house a couple times on the way up and it broke a few eggs in the carton. So I’ll be carrying eggs up, but that’s better than carrying everything up!

Resting position- the rope is wrapped around the cleats and the hook is attached so it doesn’t blow around in the wind.

As far as homeschool projects go, this one gets a 10 out of 10. We researched, drew a diagram, shopped for supplies, installed it and tested it. We learned about two simple machines (pulley and lever), learned which knot would work to tie the hook on, and learned about force by figuring out where to stand to get the most leverage and make pulling easier.

It’s also good for kids to learn to do things themselves, to see a problem and design a solution. This is why I like homeschool, because it gives kids the time to dive into a project and learn by doing!

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