Capstan Winch – What is it and How does it Work?

There are many types of winches. In general, there are electrical winches, hydraulic winches, thermal winches, and manual winches. In a more specific approach, there are portable winches, ATV/UTV winches, chainsaw winches,  drill winches. And there is a type of winch that is helpful for sailing and other applications: the capstan winch.

Advantages of Capstan Winches Over Standard Winches

No Rope Length

A capstan winch virtually has no rope length limit. The drum is not encased, so there is no limit to the number of line layers you can spool around it because you don’t spool ropes on it. The only limit to its rope length is the availability of long ropes or your creativity in rigging.

Can Go on Running for an Indefinite Amount of Time

Unlike electrical winches which can overheat, a capstan winch does not. It does not need a cool down period after running for a certain amount of time.

This also means that it can deliver the same amount of pulling power consistently.

Winch Range of Applications

A capstan winch can be used in the following fields:

  • Mining
  • Forestry
  • Demolition/Construction
  • Industrial
  • Sailing

How a Capstan Winch Works

A Capstan winch has a rotating cylinder – kind of like the winch drum. The wraps of rope around the cylinder produces friction that allows for pulling. Th rope does not accumulate on the cylinder. It does not spool. This means that your pull length is limited only by the length of the rope of your use.

A capstan winch can be set up horizontally so it can pull on the vertical axis. This set up is highly applicable in sailing – in pulling sails or maintaining pressure on cables and ropes on the deck of the boat.

It can also have a vertical drum that can be used for horizontal pulling. Sine there is virtually no limit to the pull length, a capstan winch can be used to haul or hoist from any distance. You can even be creative with the rigging and incorporate pulleys.

Either steel wire cable or synthetic ropes can be used on a capstan winch. To help you decide which one is better, see our in-depth comparison between the two rope types.

Capstan winches are very versatile. You can easily change the winch drum to a different size. Different sizes affect both speed and torque. Aside from the capacity to adjust torque and speed, capstan winches are also very lightweight. They often have a lightweight design. You can easily transport them. They are easy to install and maintain.

Types of Capstan Winches

Electric Capstan Winch

An electric capstan winch runs through an electrical system. There is really no danger of shorting circuits here in watery scenarios. You can place the winch safely away from water as there is no pull length. You just have to be very creative.

Hydraulic Capstan Winch

A hydraulic capstan winch is driven by a ship’s capstan machine or a PTO marine capstan machine.

As with all hydraulic winches, this one has no risks of overheating. It can run and provide consistent amount of power indefinitely.

Manual Capstan Winch

Weaker but lighter, a manual capstan winch is for light duty jobs. It only requires someone to vertically or horizontally crank it.

Now You Know…

Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about capstan winches here. They are very versatile tools with many various applications. You need only be creative with their use and you can accomplish many tasks.

If you have questions or thoughts you want to share put them in the comments section below. It would be great to hear from you!