How an original Dumbwaiter worked

If you placed the very first dumbwaiter alongside a modern dumbwaiter, the differences, and the similarities in the design would be quite staggering. Technological advances in dumbwaiters have come a long way; most modern designs come with a huge range of additional extras, but the system still performs the same function as the very first – moving items between floors quickly, and easily.

Today we are going to take a look at a simple dumbwaiter construction that any budding DIY enthusiast could put together, to show the simplicity of the dumbwaiter construction up close.

  1. Starting with a raised deck, affix a post and pulley arm made from an I-beam, assembled from three 2 x 4s. Join the post to the arm at a 45-degree angle for a sturdy joint.
  2. Attach a pulley to the arm that you can feed a rope through. Your rope should be strong whilst being able to fit the pulley and still have some room to spare. The thinner you can get your rope without compromising on strength the better.
  3. The dumbwaiter cabin, or tray, should be far enough away from the deck to leave you room to construct a shaft and track for the tray to travel through. A simple way to measure your dimensions is to use half the width of the car/tray, plus a couple of inches for clearance. With the pulley arm high enough above you, you should be able to comfortably pull the tray toward you without having to lean out.
  4. Attach the tray to the rope, then construct a frame for the base of the dumbwaiters tracks and shaft.
  5. The shaft dimensions should fit the tray and the height of your deck. Attach the framing rigidly to the deck to prevent the tray from swaying.
  6. Finish your dumbwaiter with a lick of paint or you can stain the wood to keep a grainy finish.

This is the most basic design for dumbwaiters, most modern designs are stainless steel and fully automatic and come with a collection off additional extras and colourful finishes.