Firstly sorry if this is the wrong place.

I've just finished assembling a climbing frame for my son (with great difficulty!) which had a sand pit underneath it. What I'd like to do is add in a very simple bucket pulley system - that will allow him to fill a bucket with sand, and pull it up to the second level, and hoist it back down.

For an example, see below picture at a local playground

Bucket pulley

I've been looking at pulleys online but they seem like they would fall back to the floor once you let go - I want it so that the bucket stays on the 2nd level til you pull it back down, if that makes sense?

I'm not the best at DIY so I do apologise if I'm being stupid!


What you are looking for is called a "manual chain hoist" and if you search for that you can find some light weight low cost versions from several sources. But you have to understand that these are not toys and little fingers can get injured. To keep from dropping the load if you let go of the chain, they will have some sort of braking mechanism; either a pawl and ratchet, or a friction clutch. The ratchet and pawl type come with a risk of pinch points and someone releasing the ratchet with too much of a load, letting it free-fall. The one in your photo example looks like it is probably a friction clutch version. The problem with those is that they wear and need periodic adjustment, so neglecting that can result in the load falling and hurting someone. That playground likely has an assigned caretaker who's job it is to measure the holding force and adjust the tension on a regular basis.

How about just tying a rope to something at the top and your kid can pull it up? it would inherently limit the weight and thereby the danger of it falling.


From the standpoint of a DIY job, consider the lowly trailer winch. It is a geared down drum, usually equipped with a stout cable or webbing. For your purposes, you'd want a bare drum and a length of flexible steel cable (which will rust over time).

The cable should be long enough to reach from the ground to the winch drum, wrap two or three times around and hang off the opposite side with a payload container, aka bucket. The cable end at the ground should also have a bucket and some heft should be imparted to the bucket, to keep the cable taut to prevent tangling.

As the crank on the winch is turned, the toggle lock lever will prevent direction in the opposite direction until moved to the other position. This would allow the constructing party to lift the bucket to height and have it remain.

If sufficient width is available on the drum, secure the cable midpoint to the midpoint of the drum, while both sides of the cable are hanging halfway from ground to deposit point. Ensure sufficient drum wrap to allow one bucket to drop while the other reaches the top.

As with all things mechanical, there are risks. One risk is to have a finger in the exposed gear which engages the drum. There may be sharp edges and over time, frayed or rusty cables. A suitable protectant such as Boeshield T9 will keep rust away for many of your time periods.

If you prefer to not use such a mechanism, a similar construction could be accomplished with lumber and rope.

The following image is from etrailer.com web site and does not represent endorsement of this product or business.

trailer winch

  • Rope can be used on these no need for cable, my boat has that same style winch with a strap like shown in the photo it has lasted over 25 years, but this would be slow and probably not used as much as a simple pulley with a drag brake. – Ed Beal May 1 '19 at 15:04

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