A hand powered hoist with a ratchet wheel is known as a
"ratchet lever hoist" or, colloquially, a "Come-A-Long". The original hoist of
this type was developed by Abraham Maasdam of Deep Creek, Colorado about 1919,
and later commercialized by his son, Felber Maasdam, about 1946. It has been
copied by many manufacturers in recent decades. A similar heavy duty unit with a
combination chain and cable became available in 1935 that was used by railroads,
but lacked the success of the cable only type units.
Ratchet lever hoists have the advantage that they can usually
be operated in any orientation, for pulling, lifting or binding. Chain block
type hoists are usually suitable only for vertical lifting.
For a given rated load wire rope is lighter in weight per unit length but
overall length is limited by the drum diameter that the cable must be wound
onto. The lift chain of a chain hoist is far larger than the liftwheel over
which chain may function. Therefore, a high-performance chain hoist may be of
significantly smaller physical size than a wire rope hoist rated at the same
Both systems fail over time through fatigue fractures if operated repeatedly at
loads more than a small percentage of their tensile breaking strength. Hoists
are often designed with internal clutches to limit operating loads below this
threshold. Within such limits wire rope rusts from the inside outward while
chain links are markedly reduced in cross section through wear on the inner
Regular lubrication of both tensile systems is recommended to
reduce frequency of replacement. High speed lifting, greater than about 60 feet
per minute (18.3 m/min), requires wire rope wound on a drum, because chain over
a pocket wheel generates fatigue-inducing resonance for long lifts.
The unloaded wire rope of small hand powered hoists often exhibits a snarled
"set", making the use of a chain hoist in this application less frustrating, but
heavier. In addition, if the wire in a wire hoist fails, it can whip and cause
injury, while a chain will simply break.
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