Update to Portable Aerial Rig Pulley System

If you are up to date with the rest of my Aerial Equipment blogs – Great! This is an update to the pulley system I use with my Ludwig Portable Aerial Rig. If you are just starting out please go back and read my other posts then come back here when you’re ready for more info about pulley systems.

**I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas on safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to a professional if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group is a great resource to find the professionals.**

I was contacted by Peter Boulanger, the Artistic & Tech Director of The Underground Circus. I think you can see his comments in the comments section of my blog. I’m going to post his concerns and say that going forward please consider using tandem pulleys opposed to the double pulley in your system. Please read his attached documents and then read our comments from The Underground Circus Facebook post (I’m Amy, if you’re curious.) If you already use the double pulley beware of the rope abraiding while lifting heavy loads. Also keep an eye on the outside safety plates of the pulley for any deformation that may be tell tale signs to take the pulley out of service.

I have not seen this large of a twist in my setup  (I’m not lifting people with my pulleys just the equipment so I don’t see the abrasion of the rope at all) but I do understand that the twist is there and it is putting extreme pressure on the sides of that double pulley that it is not designed for. It would be awful to have something unexpected happen to that pulley in a drop…

Luckily I’ve been playing with different ways to set up pulleys and I have additional pulleys in my arsenal so I can swap out my double pulley without much pain. Ooh, speaking of pain…I did learn a valuable lesson the other day. I DO NOT recommend ever trying to take down the Ludwig rig (from full height) ALL BY YOURSELF. Although, I did get it down to a manageable height so I could swap out the pulleys it was not fun, pretty, or easy. There was a ton of swearing, straining, and a few “OMG what just happened!” moments as the rig started to topple to the side almost crushing into my house. (And that is a major conversation I never want to have with my insurance company bc as you know these rigs are about as coverageable as a trampoline in Florida…use at your own risk). Get someone to help you take that rig down. Learn from my mistake…plus you’re going to need someone’s help to put it back up again anyway.



Additionally, I said above that I’ve been playing with different pulley ideas. This is because I want to be able to use my new Aerial Animals Trapeze as a static trapeze but with the current system it only has one rigging point. Discussing it with my Fiancé he decided to make me a spreader bar with 3 rigging points and we’d use a complicated pulley system to make it work. Well … complicated is rarely the best way to do things and it did not work.

I don’t have many pics of it because I really wasn’t going to write about it…but here it is. The steel spreader bar being painted and getting ready for eyebolts. (The spreader bar is perfect but just not used with the pulley set up that I had in mind.)


I used one rope and 4 single pulleys. I could raise and lower it just using one side of the rope. It looked great.

It seemed to work ok at first if I pulled it up to the top. But it wasn’t real stable and wobbled back and forth and the pulleys would bump each other. Then the final “oh crap, this definitely isn’t going to work” moment was when I put the trapeze up. Even if I used span sets and pulled it to the top the trapeze rocked back and forth (side to side) as I shifted weight from one side to the other. It wasn’t fun…oh it could be worked with as a unique apparatus but it wasn’t at all what I wanted.

Finally, I’ve gone back to the original pulley system (until I change the double out for a tandem set up…). Plus a seperate system for the trapeze: a single pulley for each side. I cut a 100ft rope in half and knotted a loop to attach the trapeze. Then I level each side equally and tie it off on the cleats. So now I have 2 pulley systems on one rig…this only works if you have 5 eyebolts on the top and I have 4 tie off cleats (one on each leg). I choose to tie off the trapeze pulley to the opposite legs of the single-point pulley.

Any questions or comments?

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2 thoughts on “Update to Portable Aerial Rig Pulley System

  1. LOL. You know I’ll come over and help you not crush your house anytime. This is all interesting to me and although you might feel bad being like: “Hey, want to drive across town and sweat all day so I satay safe?” I love it because we get to bounce ideas off each other and try stuff out. — Call/text/FB me and we’ll do it!

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    • Thank you & I appreciate it. It was super early in the morning 6:30-7am (the sun was barely up, I thought it was kinda cool & I honestly thought I might be able to just lower it enough by myself)…stupid independent thinking…lesson learned. I will call/text you next time. Thx!!

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