Pneumatic Lift
A Physics/ Mechanics Experiment


Pneumatic is the science and technology of using air* pressure to transmit force and mechanical energy. Pneumatic tools can be found in most mechanic shops and factories. Many automated machinery use pneumatics to control the moving parts.

In this project you will make a mechanical lift using two syringes. One used as a pump to create pressurized air and the other used to create a mechanical movement and lifting a load.

*Other gases may also be used in pneumatic systems.


This kit contains small and sharp pieces that can cause a choking hazard and death if swallowed. Keep out of reach of small children at all times.

For students ages 8 and above. Adult supervision and support is required.

List of Materials

Materials you need for the construction of a pneumatic lift are listed below. The same materials come in a kit from If you have purchased a kit, please verify the kit content to make sure that you have all the materials before you start. Wood glue is needed but not included in the kit. You will also need a small Philips screw driver and a ruler or measuring tape. Additional optional materials may be used to enhance this model.

Quantity Description
6 7 long wood (4 with hole)
6 3.5 long wood
4 1.5 long wood
2 Wood dowels
1 Flat Wood (base for clamp)
2 Syringe (1 with hole)
1 Clamp (to hold syringe)
1 12 Tube (to connect syringes)
10 O rings
1 Hinge or Hinges with screws
0 Wood Glue


This is an engineering and technology project. The purpose of this project is to build a working model of a basic pneumatic lift. Students will learn about the concept and practice of pneumatics, transfer of energy, changing the direction of force, measurements, reading and following technical instructions, use of tools, craft skills for construction of a wooden model. Students will be evaluated by the precision, function and appearance of their model as well as their understanding about pneumatics. Additional creativity, problem solving skills and input in design will be a plus and may qualify for extra credit.


1. Make the Top Frame (Moving Frame or Lift)

Locate two of the 7 long wood blocks with holes and two of the 3.5 wood blocks. Place the pieces next to each other as shown in this diagram. Make sure that the holes on the 7 wood blocks are lined up and the width of the frame is 3.5". Also make sure that the pieces are connected in a right (90) angle. Glue the pieces together to make your first frame. Give it enough time for glue to dry (usually more than one hour).

2. Make the Main Frame

The main frame consists of two separate frames connected to each other using 4 of the 1.5" wood blocks. Start by making one frame exactly the same as the top frame. Then make another frame similar to the top frame but without holes. Finally use the 1.5" long wood blocks to connect these two frames to each other. The completed main frame must look like the image on the right.

3. Prepare the mounting base for the clamp and lower cylinder.

Insert a wood dowel in the holes of the main frame and center it. Place the flat wood block under the wood dowel and center it as shown. Apply glue to both sides of the wood dowel touching the flat wood block. Allow the glue to dry before moving the main frame.

Once the wood dowel and the flat wood block are glued together, you can lift the base and turn the wood around and mount the clamp on it. Note that the clamp has a self-adhesive bottom. Remove the protective film of the adhesive pad and place the clamp on the wood block. Apply some pressure to secure it. The glue at the bottom of the clamp is not very strong. It is a good idea to wrap the clamp base and flat wood block with cable tie or steel wire for additional strength.

4. Connect Syringes to each other

In one of the syringes (with hole on the shaft) push the piston all the way in to empty all the air. In the other syringe (with no hole on the shaft) pull the piston outward until it stops. Use the clear plastic tube to connect the two syringes to each other. Push the plastic tube and syringe firmly into each other to form a strong sealed connection.

5. Mount the hinge or hinges

You may use one large hinge or two smaller hinges to connect the lift (top frame) to the base (main frame). Start by placing the lift frame on the main frame and align all the sides. Place the hinge so that the axle of the hinge is right over the seam between the two frames. Mark the holes for the screws. Then use a pin to punch pilot holes for the screws and then mount the hinge. Installation of the hinge requires attention and precision. If you have one hinge, place it in the center. If you have two hinges, mount them near the sides.

Note that the holes on the lift (top frame) must be close to the hinge while the holes of the base are toward the ground and away from the hinge.

In this image you can see the completed wood frame without the plastic clamp and syringes.

6. Mount the lifting cylinder

The syringe with a hole on the shaft is used as a lifting cylinder and must be installed inside the main frame. Pass the lifting cylinder through the front small opening until the hole of the shaft is aligned with the hole on the lift. Pass a wood dowel from the holes to connect the shaft to the lift.

Now secure the lower part of the syringe with the plastic clamp on the mounting base. If you have not already attached the clamp to the mounting base, you can do it now. You may need to practice with the clamp and see how it can hold the syringe snugly before mounting it.
At this time you may also use other methods to tighten the contact of the clamp with its base. The image on the right shows how cable ties may be used for this purpose. Some may use strong glues or steel wires for this purpose. The pressure on the clamp is high and it is a good idea to use additional materials to strengthen its connection to the base. This may not be needed if you are not testing your pneumatic lift with heavy loads.

7. Do the final touch

The wood dowels and the shaft of the lifting cylinder may slide to the left and right. To keep them in place insert a few O-rings over the wood dowels where you deem needed. You will usually need two o-rings for the sides of the lifting cylinder shaft. You will also need one o-ring where the shaft exits the frame.  


8. Test your pneumatic lift

The syringe outside of the main frame is used as a pump to control the air pressure (gas pressure). Move the shaft of the outside syringe in and out to see how your lift works.

If you don't have this kit, you can order it now! It is available both as a single pack and class pack. Kit content may be different from the images shown in this page.

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