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I thought I was seeing things the first time I seen this pump in action. It is the coolest thing ever, a simple rope pump. It delivers a continual stream of water just by spinning a wheel and would be pretty cheap to make. I just love this thing and plan on building one myself this summer. It consists of a rope, some pipe, a wheel, and some washers. Let’s take a look at this bad daddy.

This illustrations taken from shows a basic rope pump and how it works.

Rope Pump in Action
Rope Pump Detail
As you can see, when the wheel is turned it makes the rope go down into the well and when it reaches the bottom, the washers that are tied onto the rope pull the water up the pipe and into your awaiting bucket. I have found a few plans and a couple of videos that I will share. The all seem to be a little different on how they handle the wheel and the bottom guide box, but the basic operation is the same. Some use a wheel frame from a bike, some a car rim, there even those who make their own type of wheel. To spin the wheel they mostly use a crank and I also have seen them hooked up to bikes or elaborate pulley systems. Is is best to use a nylon type rope and either rubber, leather, or a heavy duty plastic for the washers. They also press pistons to use in place of the washers using a extruder or hand press. You can see in the picture below what a washer/piston would look like in the pipe as it brings up the water.

piston-washer in pipe for rope pump
Here are a few videos I found on YouTube that might help you:

Not in English, but very helpful.

I found the comments on this video very helpful

Things needed to construct and a couple of things to remember:

1. Wheel frame with a crank of some sort to make the rope rotate throughout the system. (Ex. bike, tire, homemade wooden wheel, etc.)
2. PVC the length of your well, or about a yard below your water level. Remember not to put glue in the connector when connecting your PVC pieces. Only put glue on the piece to be inserted so you don’t get a glue rim inside your pipe that might hinder the washers.
3. Nylon or strong rope twice the length of your whole rope pump system, from the wheel to the bottom and back up.
4. Washers about .5mm to 1mm smaller then the inside of your pvc pipe and are spaced out about every yard or so on the rope.
5. Construct a bottom guide box, The most important thing to remember is it needs to be a smooth turning motion so that the rope doesn’t get hooked up on it.
6. Any pipe that is cut and will have the rope enter it should be flared.
7. The reservoir at the top needs to be double the size of the riser pipe so that water can collect and pour out the side.

Here are some of the plans I found to construct a rope pump, some are kind of general and others are very detailed. I have listed what I liked about each and the size on each one.

Online – Rope pump construction manual This is from and is available all online. Just so you know, this site is in Dutch and English.

*** If you only look at one plan, look at this one. PDF – Rope pump Another plan from I have to say this is my favorite plan because it gives easy to understand illustrations.

PDF – large photo manual for a rope pump This plan is from and is a photo manual on building a rope pump. It has pictures for every step in the constructing process. It is large, but has lots of valuable information.

PDF – Simple overview of rope pump It is from and shows how to make some pistons and guide box.

There are a couple of other PDF manuals found at but they are very large so I have just linked to the page not the PDF itself.

If you do a Google “rope pump” you will come up with some other manuals and especially helpful, more images to give you lots of other ideas.

There are disadvantages to using a system like this. The most notable problem is that it is open to the elements, but I think you could come up with something to keep the system covered on the lines of the photo below.

covered rope pump
I think this system is worth learning about and could be a quick fix in a desperate need of water. Well, that’s my though anyway.

Have fun,
Lady Apprentice :)

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