I like your ingenuity. I think you could maybe use a tire iron. It would have the same shape and functionality as long as it fits into the rod properly. I do know that you can find solar cover reels for pretty cheap, around $40. Hope this helps, and if you do find a way to make the reel, please post a picture!
A forum community dedicated to Do it yourself-ers and home improvement enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about tools, projects, builds, styles, scales, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more! Helping You to Do It Yourself!