Handy Billy


The Handy Billy is a pair of pulley blocks reeved together with a short rope tail attached to each eye or hook. It is used to tension a main rope which is then made fast and the Handy Billy removed. Its advantages are that you only need one pair of blocks to tension all the main ropes of a project and, once it has been removed, there is nothing to trap inquisitive fingers.


  • 1 single pulley block
  • 1 double pulley block
  • 2 x 2m lashing lengths
  • 1 rope at least 15m long
  • sisal and waxed twine


Attach one of the lashing lengths to each pulley block. The knot used will depend on the space available in the ring or mouth of the hook but try using a round turn and two half hitches.

Lay the blocks on a clean surface with the tails pointing away from each other.

Take the long rope and pass it through the lower pulley of the double block in a

clockwise direction. Then take it through the single block, again in a clockwise direction. Next pass it through the top pulley of the double block and then back to the fixed loop on the single block. Make it fast with a round turn and two half hitches.

If you are using hooked blocks, the mouth of the hook must be moused with waxed twine to stop the tail rope from slipping or jumping off.


First tension the main rope by hand.

Fix the tail of the single block to the anchor point and, with the tackle extended,attach the other tail to the rope to be tensioned. This is best achieved by placing a half hitch round the hawser and then wrapping the tail away from the block along one of the grooves in the hawser. Finish with a second half hitch.

The Handy Billy can now be used to tension the hawser which is made fast to the anchor point with a round turn and two half hitches.

Do not attempt to put too much tension on the rope. The Handy Billy will give you an advantage of three – so four Scouts will pull like twelve and they could easily snap the tail rope where it is attached to the main hawser.

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Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls