Need to make pool cover crank handle to suit a drill

Hi all,

Early this year I stuffed my knee, which has meant that I can't roll in our in-ground enclosed pool cover without causing grief. You essentially stand up and wind a handle, which puts sideways pressure on the knees when winding.

I've contacted the pool cover/enclosure company and they don't appear to be willing to help. They will not create an adapter for me to use a drill with it, mentioning the drill bit might slip out and cause injury. I can't see how that can happen, but fair enough if they want to avoid any legal responsibility.

I then asked them whether they would be willing to sell me another handle, or even just the end bit of the handle so I can create my own. No response. I think they are reluctant to because they now sell rollers that are automated, but for me to go down that path would be super expensive. Kind of disappointing considering I've spent thousands with them in the past.

That leads me to try to get one made up.

This is what the gear mechanism looks like looking down on it, plus the handle with the end facing you that fits into the gear:

Here's the end of the handle:

I don't really want to destroy my existing handle, but I need to get something like that end bit and weld it onto something like this socket extension:

I have three questions:
1. Where could I go to get that end bit fabricated?
2. Do you think I might be able to find a piece of stainless tube and cut a groove in it just use that instead of #1 above?
3. Where could I go to get it welded onto the socket extension bar?

Any other suggested solutions would be welcome.


  • +2

    Sorry to hear about that. Unfortunately I think you'll need to step down the drill chuck with gears to slow it way down (and increase torque) since a drill will spin much too fast for that plastic mechanism.

    You could mount some gears on a block of wood/aluminium but no idea where you can get reasonably priced/sized gears. Is there a "Mens Shed" type place anywhere nearby with powertools? You might have to get creative with your source of gears (blender phehaps?) since getting anything machined will be a fortune

    I have seen some powerful mechanisms made with Lego in fact!

    EDIT: Do you have a box of Lego Technic pieces around? Haha

    • I hadn't considered the drill speed too much but after reading your post I worked out that my drill on slow speed is probably 550rpm which will be too fast. When my knee was good I would probably wind it manually at ~120rpm max, so I may need a reducer. I'll do some research for something like that.

      I also have an outdoor power plug about 2.5 meters from where the gear is so a motor rather than drill is also possibly an option. I could make a bracket out of wood without much difficulty. Will still need to work out how to attach some kind of rod down to the roller gear.

      I'm reasonably good with my hands and have quite a few tools, but there is a mens shed in the next suburb if needed, I've never been to one. Could be handy for some brainstorming too.

  • +1

    Hey Mate,
    sorry to hear about your injury and dilemma.
    I don't know if this will help, but you could try a person from say gumtree that does welding services or machining and they might be able to attach something for you. I would think a tube of metal that would fit a drill and a couple of groves grinded out might do the job…
    Another idea I had was could you some how attach something like a "boat wheel" or get to bit of pipe welded to the existing extension bar, to create like a t-handle and then roll back the cover with that? I'm not sure if that would still cause you pain, but you could then use 2 hands and it might allow you to stand in a less painful position.

    • Thanks for the thoughts. I think a T-handle will be a bit too slow. My knee can handle forward/back movement but side to side kills it, so would probably only get 1/4 of a turn before having to adjust.

      I don't know if it's just me, but I'm always wary about anything from Gumtree. Is that just me?

  • +2

    As above, you are not going to have the torque to do that from a drill. You need a low speed/high torque motor.

    • Yeah, maybe with some reduction gearing it might work.

  • +1

    I have three questions:

    • 1: Any machine shop should be able to do it for you.
    • 2: You could, but it wont be cheap and stainless is not that easy to just "cut a goove" in
    • 3: The same machine shop from question 1. Any metal fabrication business should be able to weld a socket.

    What you could do is use an impact driver adapter to get a drill to drive the extension bar, then find a socket that fits and get some grooves cut in the socket.

    But, as Zeek said above, a drill might be too fast and end up damaging something. You will need something high torque, but low speed. Some battery drills have gear boxes for high and low and a speed control trigger, so you "might" be able to get away with that.

    Another alternative is to increase your leverage arm on your winder so it requires less effort to turn. Also, lubrication. Make sure the whole thing is hit with some lube, like CRC or WD40 before you go turning it. Steel + alumunium + dirt/grit + water = friction.

    • An impact driver was precisely what I initially had in mind but will be too fast. I have some good battery drills but they still won't go slow enough. Impact driver on slow is still about 1100 rpm and drill driver is about 500rpm on slow.

      The leverage on the winder probably won't help. When the winder is closest to my chest or furtherest away as I rotate it is the issue, when I'm effectively pulling the handle sideways and putting sideways pressure on the knee. I guess I could use a long horizontal pole and walk in a wide circle.. lol. Actually no, I'd fall in the pool.

      • No, wasn’t suggesting to use an impact driver, just the adapter bits in the photo. They will fit into standard drill chuck and give better drive and won’t slip like a round shank shaft.

        What I was suggesting with the lever is you could make a handle longer and connect it to the current setup and turn it into a linear action, rather than a rotational motion. You would only be pushing and pulling a handle, rather than having to twist or side load your knees. (I don’t think this would work, as it would need to be braced up near the top.)

        Another idea may be a universal joint so the handle could be lowered to the side and turned more like a steering wheel in front of you.

        I still think you need to look for a powered option though.

        • Yeah I'll aim for a powered option I think.

  • My guess is a bit of gal water pipe will be around the right diameter. Bunnings sell short lengths. Take your winder with you and buy some pipe of similar size. Cut a slot in it with a hacksaw or grinder to match the existing part. you only need the pipe similar diameter and strength so if it is a thin wall alloy handle you could use that sort of pipe.

    To adapt that to a driver without welding is a bit tricky. File it hexagonal and use a socket? Find ‘something’ that fits the drill chuck and you can drill through easily then drill your water pipe and ‘something’ and put a pin/bolt through.

    Low speed on a drill might work, you get a bit extra torque and control but depends on ho much load there is on the wonder when you crank. If it’s hard to wind, a drill might not do. If it isn’t too hard to wind by hand my ‘via internet picture gut feeling’ is that a drill will be fine.

    Edit: what about a broom handle? Easy to shape and file down to fit a drill chuck.

    • Yeah, galv pipe might work.

      Actually, that along with maybe an electric motor. If I can find one with a shaft that points downward I could maybe use a split pin through the pipe and shaft. That might end up being a simple solution, if I can find one.

      It's not super easy to crank the pool cover in. It's a thermal cover and has to drag across probably 1m of pavers before it heads into the enclosure.

      • Putting down something slippery over the pavers might help reduce friction. Some sort of plastic sheeting?

        How often do you need to roll it back?

        • I have considered that in the past but it would be a bit of a pain to do all the time and probably wouldn't work well without being dragged up by the cover. would need some sort of hard molded plastic that can curve under the coping. Could maybe try some heated perspex, a bit tricky to store,

          I probably pull the cover off a couple of times during the colder months just to clean the stuff off the floor. During summer I would take the cover off quite a bit because we put it back on after using to keep the heat in and stop the water evaporating.

  • Get rid of it, pool covers are ugly, waste of time and a pain in the arse, from my experience.

    • I would prefer not to have it on most of the time too, however:

      1. It saves me from seeing gum leaves at the bottom of the pool and getting an eye twitch to clean it all the time during winter.
      2. Being in Melbourne, it helps with keeping the heat in overnight and during bad weather days over summer (saves a 2 deg drop overnight, which is substantial when a full day of sun heats the pool up 4 deg).
  • Hey chief, could we get some measurements on the diameter of the original crank handle tube, and the size of the slot/gap in the end? :-)

    • I'll grab these tomorrow.

      • I grabbed a photo of the end:

        The end is 18mm in diameter.

        The cutout goes 20mm into the metal and is 6mm wide.

  • +2

    What about finding an old bbq rotisserie motor pretty sure you can get it to work
    If your in Sydney I know an old bloke.who can weld things at home

    • I'll have a look into different motors tomorrow, see what I can find.

      Unfortunately I'm in Melbourne, but thanks all the same regarding the welding.

      • +2

        Also try a for a windscreen wiper motor from a car. They are usually pretty low speed and quite a bit of torque. They run off a 12v battery, so it won’t be hard to power it from something like a LiPo or LiIo battery pack.

        I work in a machine/metal fabrication shop, but unfortunately live too far away, otherwise, I would help you out.

        • I had a look for some motors that I could use. I came across a company that has a lot of different types of motors, in the links below:

          This looks like a windscreen wiper motor which might have been ideal. I'm a bit worried about whether that's enough torque (I just don't know), but also if I go down this path rather than 240v then I also have to factor in the cost of a battery and charger:

          Then I saw this, which is 240v plus a bracket and I can choose the gearbox gearing of 60rpm. (obviously it's a bit more expensive, but no battery or charger required which would be convenient):

          Or something a bit stronger, but doesn't have a bracket, argh:

          But even if I went this route, how would I actually connect the extension bar to it? It's hard to see a picture of the gearbox but they either look like a plain shaft or one with some kind of pin slot, or the windscreen winder one looks like it has a thread.

      • Maybe a garage door opener?

        • Maybe, not sure how much torque they have. I'm a bit worried because when I manually wind the cover in, at the start it's pretty hard to wind but gets easier as it goes or as it's coming in. 9m thermal blanket being dragged a bit up and over pavers.

  • Go to metal place and buy round metal bar that just fits in ,cut slot with angle grinder
    I use windscreen wiper motor or electric screw driver to turn

    • Using an angle grinder is a good idea. I just need to do some digging for places that have 18mm metal bar.

  • If you are just covering the pool for seasonal change (ie open/close once per year), maybe get someone else to do it for you. Someone from the pool shop, lawn mower guy, friend, neighbour or relative? Saves stuffing around trying to automate this and possibly end up damaging the mechanism.

    • Also, I’ve seen crank handles like yours on old external window awnings. From long ago, and I’ve no idea if they still use that style.

      • Just checked those awning ones, most of them have hooks or weird attachments on the ends. Good thought though.

    • +1

      Nah I do it a reasonable amount over summer time, put it back on to keep the heat in the pool overnight and to stop evaporation. I'm a wus, so I have it up around 32 deg.

    1. Anyone with an angle grinder, and some patience, could fabricate.

    2. & 3. Solid bar would be better than tube. Tube is weaker, and will eventually wear the outside of the pin in the "custom winder" receptacle.

    A good cordless drill (i.e. Lithium Ion, with a 2 speed mechanical gearbox slider on the top) should be able to crank it, but…

    I would use a socket extension bar, and ratchet driver. Maybe from a $2 shop.
    Then find a neighbour with a grinder, grind the square end into a round, and angle grind a deep slit into it (probably down to where the ball bearing is in the bar).

    • I'm happy to give fabricating it a crack, I have quite a few tools and reasonably good with my hands.

      Happy to use solid bar if I can find it, but looking at some of the gearbox mechanisms that come with electric motors I'm not sure how to connect a rod to it. The motor gearboxes have various external rods. One had a hole, another a thread, another some sort of pin that slotted up it etc.

      Just measured the socket extension bar from my socket set, diameter of round part is 16.5mm so after cutting the slot in the middle of one it might not leave much meat on the sides.

      • 16.5mm is close, but over time it might move around and damage the receptacle.

        Instead of a solid bar, find an M18 bolt? Grind slot in end, and then rotate with an adjustable wrench, or 27mm socket if your set goes that large.

        The gearbox thing will be hard. As well as connecting the output shaft to a tube or round bar, there is the issue of fixing the motor & gearbox onto something to stop it rotating! That's why I reckon trying manually cranking, with a socket or spanner, first.

  • +1

    Can you sit in a chair while you do the winding so the weight is off your knee?

    • Nah, I think it would require too much force for that.

  • Have you considered changing the handle arrangement to something like a ships wheel. If it were braced you would then have a fixed point to hold on to and multiple points to exert pressure. (This is why ships had wheels like that ) This would make it much easier on your knee.

    • Yeah a wheel would take the pressure off the knee for sure, but I think it will be too slow.

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