Build a Homemade Winch for $35

Need to do some heavy lifting? Don't lay out big bucks for a winch. Our homemade winch will more than hold its own against commercials rigs.

| November/December 1978

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    Left: The finished unit. Right: The homemade winch in action.
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    Follow this assembly diagram to help you build our winch.

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Sooner or later every homeowner needs a good winch. Not necessarily a heavy-duty industrial model, but a reliable unit that can lift a ton without raising a sweat. Something that won't cost an arm and a leg but that'll handle those occasional engine-hoisting, stump-pulling, and other load-lifting chores which pop up from time to time around every house, apartment, garage, and basement in North America.

Well sir (and ma'am), MOTHER EARTH NEWS' inventive researchers have put together just such a winch that almost anyone can use and afford because [1] it's hand operated, [2] it costs less than $35 to build, and [3] it's every bit as good as commercial models with the same load capacity—but which sell for $100 or more!

Start your homemade winch project by scrounging up a discarded "manual shift" car or truck transmission (available from your friendly local scrap-iron dealer for as little as $5.00, or at an auto wrecking yard for a bit more). Just about any make or model of manual gearbox will do, but you'll find that the "top loader" we’ve used works best. This is because the gear-changing mechanism is built right into the transmission's cover plate, hence there's no shift linkage outside the box to mess with. (Tip: Most cars constructed prior to the Second World War and many pickups presently on the road, especially those equipped with 4-speed drive, use "top loader" transmissions of this type.)

You'll also need an assortment of channel, angle, and flat iron to make the base and various supports for your winch. Again, your neighborhood scrap-iron dealer is the man to see. Or the local steel supply house, if you don't mind paying a little more for the same thing. The remainder of the components are also available as scrap, including the automotive parts, the pipe, and the pulley and belt (both of which can be salvaged from an old washing machine).

Remove the tail-shaft housing (that "extra" piece which holds the speedometer cable and is bolted to the rear of the gearbox) from your recycled transmission and cut out a scrap of rubber inner tube the same size and shape as the box's rear plate. This piece of rubber will serve as a gasket between the transmission and the cut-down U-channel which supports that end of the gearbox. (When you cut out the gasket, remember to spot and make holes in the rubber for the mounting bolts and the transmission's main shaft, which will all pass through the gasket.)

All four of the 3/16" x 3" x 10" x 7" main support brackets are cut from one 28"-long piece of 3/16" x 3" x 10" x 3" U-shaped channel. (If you don't own a gas torch, you should be able to persuade a local welder to do all of this project's metal cutting—there's really not a great deal—for a nominal fee.)

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