In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
A Third Hand When You Need It
Jun 20, 2014
Cable winches and motorcycle tie-down straps are probably more correctly accessories, but they're indispensible tools for me.
I have several cable winches, commonly called "come-alongs" in our neighborhood, that I use almost weekly for a variety of tasks. The one I use most often has only a 2000 pound lift capacity, but it's light enough and small enough to get into tight places where I can use it to lift a gear case into place, hoist a countershaft assembly, or pull a subframe into alignment. It took awhile for me to wrap my head around what I can do with a cable winch, but now I immediately think "come-along" whenever something heavy or awkward needs lifted or pulled.
I'm even more fond of the half-dozen motorcycle tie-downs left over from my motorcycling days. They're one-inch wide nylon straps, maybe 6 feet long, with a sturdy hook on each end and an adjusting mechanism that locks in place with a gnurled cam. Their length is infinitely adjustable, making them handy when I need to precisely suspend a shaft or hold some component in place. Motorcycle tie-downs aren't a "simple machine" like we learned about in physics, so if I want to suspend a 50-pound gearcase with a tie-down, I have to physically lift the 50 pounds while taking the slack out of the tie-down.
There are times when it's nice to have the mechanical advantage of the cable winch to lift really heavy objects. But there are times when it's more convenient to have the flexibility of the nylon straps and smaller size/weight of the tie-downs.
Most farmers have a dusty, often rusty cable winch hanging on a wall somewhere. Many farmers have tie-downs to secure their ATV or 4-wheeler during transport in a pickup or on a trailer. If they use the cable winch only once a year, and the tie-downs only as tie-dpwns, they're missing the advantages of a having a third hand when lifting or positioning heavy or clumsy components during repairs.