If you're in a quandary over how to fetch water from a well on your new property—or if you're in the planning stages of having a well drilled on old property—you might be interested in learning how to construct a replica of our lessthan-five-dollar bucket. Here are a few suggestions:
Most of the components I used—as you can see from the accompanying chart—were salvaged at no cost. Depending on the amount of time you want to spend scrounging, it's possible to scavenge all of the materials you'll need (thus reducing the out-of-pocket cost of the project to nothing, or thereabouts). At any rate, you shouldn't have to look far to find the items called out in the chart . . . certainly no farther than the local hardware store or junkyard.
When you've gathered together your materials, start construction by drilling a hole in the piece of 2 X 6 to accommodate the rubber ball that will sit in the bottom of the well bucket. (The hole should be large enough to seat the ball, but not so big that the ball can be pressed through the opening.) Around this orifice, cut a disc out of the wood . . . a disc which will just fit the inside diameter of the four-foot length of drainpipe (Fig. 1).
Next, bevel one side (the top) of the hole with a rasp in order to ensure that the ball has a stable, positive fit under the weight of three gallons of water (Fig. 2).
Fashion a loop in a piece of coat hanger as shown in Photo 1 and—using a pair of 3/4" wood screws—attach this piece of wire (centered on the valve opening) to the underside of the wooden disc or plug (Fig. 3).
Now puncture your rubber ball with a nail (as nearly in the sphere's center as possible). Push the nail all the way through the ball and withdraw it. Next, place a washer on a five-inch-long 1/4" bolt and work the bolt all the way through the nail hole so that the washer is firmly sandwiched between the ball and the bolt head. Then slip a lock washer over the threaded end of the bolt and tighten the washer down against the rubber sphere with a nut. When you're done, the ball should look like the one shown in Fig. 2.
At this point, take the ball/bolt assembly and drop the threaded end of the bolt into the hole in the wooden plug. (Make sure the ball rests evenly enough against the beveled side of the opening to make a watertight seal. Also, see that the bolt is guided through the coat hanger loop on the underside of the block.) Then lock a pair of nuts together on the protruding lower end of the bolt, so that some "working" room is left between the nuts and the coat hanger "guide". The ball/bolt assembly now cannot become separated from the wooden disc, although it can slide freely back and forth through the plug.
If you like, you can affix a small piece of strap metal-bent into a U shape, with a hole drilled in its center-to the lowermost end of the valve bolt, as shown in Fig. 2. This is simply to make it easier for you to apply pressure to the end of the 1 /4" bolt and thereby open the ballvalve when you want to empty the filled bucket.
That's it: You've just completed the valve assembly which is the working "heart" of your soon-to-be well bucket.
Once the valve assembly is finished, it must be mounted in the end of the four-foot section of pipe. To do this, tap the unit snugly into place, and make sure it stays there by putting eight equally spaced 3/4" wood screws through the pipe's wall and into the wooden plug (see Fig. 4). No special seal of any kind is needed, as the wooden end plug will swell during use and thus prevent leakage around the long, skinny container's bottom.
To complete the well bucket, drill two diametrically opposite 1/2" holes in the wall of the drainpipe, about an inch below the container's top. Thread a 1/2" bolt through one of the holes, through six washers, a window weight, six more washers, and then through the other hole so that the window weight hangs from the bolt's center. (The purpose of the weight is to make the bucket heavier and thereby cause it to fill faster. Consider the sinker optional . . . but if you decide not to use one, be sure to add more washers to both sides of the crossbolt in order to center the rope that'll later be tied to it.)
There are probably more ways to connect a rope to a well bucket than there are ways to swill a hog . . . so you needn't follow my procedure when it comes to readying your bucket for "the big plunge". Nonetheless, what I did was:  wrap about two feet of the line around each side of the window weight between the washers and the weight itself,  tie a double knot dead center over the five-pound weight,  wire the loose end of the rope to the long end, up to a point located an inch or so above the top of the well bucket,  loop the loose end around a rope thimble (so as to have a point from which to hang the bucket when it's not in use),  apply a rope clamp above the thimble, and  wire down the remaining loose end.
Once you've connected a line to your bucket, you can either hand draw the container—a procedure that's guaranteed to build strong biceps twelve ways—or rig some sort of winch and pulley arrangement (as I did) to do most of the work of raising the filled container for you.
When you're ready to give it a go, simply lower the bucket into the well until you hear it hit the water . . . then give it a little more slack and listen for a gurgle. Seconds later, the container will be full and can be retrieved. When the bucket is up out of the well, place it over whatever you wish to fill with water and set it down gently to push the valve open. And that's all there is to it.
If you plan to use the bucket for years to come, consider running a small-gauge wire—such as you'd use to hang pictures with—between the 1/2" bolt at the top of the bucket and the 1/4" bolt that goes through the rubber ball. (Make sure there's ample slack in the wire.) Then, when the bucket is full, you can merely reach in and pull the wire to release the valve.
I'll grant that this isn't the most sophisticated water retrieval system in the world—nor the easiest to operate—but it sure gets the job done.
And the price—to say the least—is right.
Well buckets available pre-made:
Another way to do it, I'm not sure this would work in a deep well though.
How to get water from a drilled well when the power is off
Most homesteaders get their water from private, drilled wells. Most private wells use electric pumps. Ordinary buckets won't fit in a (commonly) 6" well casing. Therefore, without electricity, most homesteaders won't have water.
We thought the solution to this would be a "well bucket" that fits drilled wells as small as 5". Apparently, many others had the same thought. The item was backordered and it took almost a month to get delivery.
By then I had put together a homemade one, from parts available at the local hardware store.
Then we discovered that neither one would work in our well. Although both easily fit into the casing, they did not fit past the plumbing.
At the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair last summer, an anonymous visitor dropped a sheet of plans for an interesting-looking simple hand pump on the table at the COUNTRYSIDE booth. We built one.
It consisted of an off-the-shelf foot valve and some PVC pipe and fittings. The only tool needed was a saw, to cut one section of pipe to length. (The water level in the well was at 20 feet. We made the total length of the pipe, including foot valve and fittings, about three feet longer, so the foot valve would be under water and there would still be a foot or so of pipe above the top of the well casing.)
We uncapped the well and inserted the pipe and foot valve. It went past the electric pump with room to spare.
To pump water, we grasped the top of the pipe, and plunged it up and down.
On the downstroke, water entered the pipe via the foot valve. On the upstroke, the foot valve held the water in the pipe. On the next downstroke, the water level inside the pipe rose. Eventually, it rose high enough to spill out the top, where it ran into a hose and down into our waiting container.
Once the flow started, it took about a minute-and-a-half to pump a gallon. (It pumps on the downstroke only.) It was work, but it was the solution we were looking for.
By attaching a hook near the top, this pump can be stored in the well without interfering with the electric pump and regular plumbing. If the power goes out, all we have to do is remove the well cap and start pumping.
If the power is off for a long period, or if larger quantities of water are needed for livestock or other uses, it would be helpful to have this pump rigged to some kind of wind or pedal power. But even hand-operated, it's an amazingly simple solution to a perplexing problem.
Ed. note: We have learned that this pump was designed by Keith Hendricks, who lives in "northwestern Ohio." He has distributed thousands of copies of the plans at survival expos (and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair). This is exactly the kind of ingenuity - and community spirit - we've been saying will be an essential part of homesteading in the future!
How to make a hand pump
<table><tbody><tr><td> </td> <td>This hand pump is as simple as a paper clip - and just as ingenius. Just buy the parts, put them together, and start pumping! It took us about 20 minutes to put one together - and it cost less than $20.
The exploded view at left shows the (from top) hose adaptor; pipe adaptor; pipe (the short section here is for demonstration: it must be long enough to reach the water level in your well); another adaptor; and the foot valve.
Not shown is the guide sleeve (which increases efficiency, and keeps the pump away from the regular plumbing and wiring in the well), and the hooks and cord that enable you to leave this pump in the well, ready to use in an emergency.
B. 3/4 NPT to garden hose adapter
C. Open eye hook, washers, nuts
D. Well cap
E. 1/8" nylon hanging cord
F. 3/4" PVC schedule 40 to 3/4 NPT adapter
G. 1/2" carriage bolts, washers, nuts
H. 1-1/2" ID PVC schedule 40 collar
I. Ground level
J. Electric power pump wiring
K. 3/4" ID PVC sched. 40 pipe collar
L. 3/4" ID PVC sched. 40 pipe section
M. Electric power pump feed line
N. Water table
O. 1-1/2" ID PVC sched. 40 pipe
P. 1/2" holes in 1-1/2" PVC pipe sleeve
Q. 1/8" diam. weep hole
R. 3/4" foot valve
S. 1-1/2" PVC shed. 40 pipe cap
T. Metal well casing