Introduction

a lighting fixture that uses a barn pulley and a clothesline pulley
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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Pulleys have been doing the heavy lifting for centuries. Simple machines comprising a grooved wheel, called a sheave, inside a wood or cast-iron frame, pulleys can be found in various designs and sizes based on the task they were originally created for.

Among the most common and collectible today are barn pulleys with wood sheaves and cast-iron housings. In the late 1800s, most were used to move hay from horse-drawn carts to lofts. To the American farmer, this mechanized system was the antidote to the back-breaking work of slinging hay with a pitchfork.

By the 1950s, the hay elevator had pretty much replaced the barn pulley system. The upside is that recyclers can now find pulleys at flea markets, salvage yards, and auctions, and put them back to work as hangers for potted plants on the porch, wood-block bookends in the den, or as the basis for an adjustable bedside sconce like the one I created at here. To make your own light, follow along for the easy how-to.
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    Tools List

    • cleaning rag
      Rag
    • wire strippers
      Wire stripper
    • Phillips screwdriver
      Screwdriver
    • tongue-and-groove pliers
      Pliers

    Shopping List

    Large pulley

    Small screw-base pulley

    Cast-iron bracket

    Beeswax polish

    WD-40Cloth-covered lamp cord

    Brass light socket

    Lamp plug

    Jute twine

    Edison-style bulb

    Metal bulb cage(optional)