Wheel to Reel: How to Build a DIY Hose or Cable Reel

Corral power cords and shop hoses on reels you make yourself from wheel rims.

By Oscar H. Will III | Photos By Len Churchill

DOWNLOAD: Equipment and materials list, plan drawings and steps for the reel and for optional rotating reel (1 MB PDF file)

Few things can tangle up your day’s work as much as unruly power cords and pneumatic or liquid-transfer hoses. While you can purchase reels designed to help settle the snarls, they can be expensive.

So, rather than spending your hard-earned cash on a new reel, take a walk to your junk pile and grab an old 15″ steel wheel rim from a truck or implement and some scrap steel. Or you can source the rim at a local salvage yard and purchase a new or used steel plate for a fraction of what a new reel might cost. (Note: You could use aluminum for this project, but such material would require specialized equipment and training.)

Our plan below is for a simple fixed reel mounted to a wooden post or column, with an extended cross to help keep the cord or hose on the reel. Once you get the hang of creating these reels, you can locate them wherever you have hose or cord congestion. Plus, you can modify the design to bolt it onto a compressor cart and even convert to a rotating reel if you wish.

Steps To Make A Fixed Reel

  1. Cut 4-inch-wide steel bar into six pieces, two that are 23 inches long and four that are 9.5 inches long. Or cut the pieces individually out of larger pieces of plate.
  2. Make 45-degree cuts on all four corners of the 23-inch-long pieces. To do so, measure in 1 inch from each edge and make a mark; these are the legs of the right triangle formed by the corner. Connect those marks with a diagonal line, and cut on that line.
  3. Again, measuring 1 inch from the edge, make 45-degree cuts on the two corners, but at just one end of each of the 9.5-inch-long pieces.
  4. Round all sharp edges with the bench grinder. To use a handheld angle grinder, either grip the stock in the vise or clamp it to the table.
  5. Measure and mark the transverse centerline on the 23-inch pieces (12.5 inches from the end).
  6. On one of the 23-inch pieces, bore 9/16-inch mounting holes 1 inch from both ends, centered.
  7. Measure and mark the longitudinal centerline on the 9.5-inch-long pieces on the ends without the cut corners (in 2 inches from each long edge).
  8. Align the centerlines of two of the short pieces with the transverse centerline of one of the 23-inch pieces to abut the welding surfaces to create a 23-inch by 23-inch cross. (The ends of the 9.5-inch pieces abut to the outer edges of the 23-inch piece.) The clipped corners should all face outward from the center.
  9. Clamp the pieces in place and butt-weld on both sides. Clean up the welds with the slag-chipping hammer and angle grinder with wire wheel.
  10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the other three pieces of steel.
  11. Lay the wheel rim on one of the crosses so it is centered on the cross, and mark on the rim where it touches the edges of the cross’s arms. Flip the rim onto the other cross and repeat. You needn’t align the arms of both crosses, but if you want them to be aligned, now is the time to do it.
  12. Grind, sand or otherwise remove as much paint, dirt and rust as you can from the rim surfaces where it will touch the cross (between the marks).
  13. Place the rim on one of the crosses, taking care to center it up again. Clamp if needed, and weld the rim edge to all four arms of the cross. Flip and repeat to weld the other cross to the other side of the rim.
  14. Prepare the reel for finishing by, at minimum, removing all loose paint, loose rust and welding slag from all surfaces by sanding, grinding and wire brushing. Then clean the reel with solvent, compressed air or a cloth.
  15. Coat the reel with rust converter, and let it cure. (This is optional, but worth it!)
  16. Coat the reel with sufficient layers of primer to get complete coverage. Apply and cure primer per directions on can.
  17. Apply topcoat of rusty metal finish coat to the reel; let cure.
  18. For this fixed stationary reel, place your completed reel against the wooden post with the mounting holes centered on the post, then mark the centers of the holes on the post. (See online plan for rotating option.)
  19. Bore a 5/16-inch-diameter hole about 2¾ inches deep, centered at each mark on the post.
  20. Hang the reel by inserting the lag screws through the 9/16-inch diameter holes in the cross and turning them snugly into the post using an appropriate wrench.