For the tool used to raise paddle gear on canal locks, see Windlass ("lock key")
Turnbridge Windlass Lift road bridge over Huddersfield Broad Canal
Differential windlass

The windlass is an apparatus for moving heavy weights. Typically, a windlass consists of a horizontal cylinder (barrel), which is rotated by the turn of a crank or belt. A winch is affixed to one or both ends, and a cable or rope is wound around the winch, pulling a weight attached to the opposite end.

Windlasses are sometimes used on boats to raise the anchor as an alternative to a vertical capstan (see anchor windlass).

The rod or stick used to tighten a tourniquet is called a windlass.

The handle used to open locks on the UK's inland waterways is called a windlass.

Windlasses can also be used to raise water from a well. The oldest description of a well windlass, a rotating wooden rod installed across the mouth of a well, is found in Isidore of Seville's (c. 560–636) Origenes (XX, 15, 1-3).[1] In the Late Middle Ages European crossbows employed a windlass as a cocking mechanism. In the Dark Ages the windlass was also used to raise stones during the construction of cathedrals.

Differential windlass

In a differential windlass, also called a Chinese windlass,[2][3][4] there are two coaxial drums of different radii r and r'. The rope is wound onto one drum while it unwinds from the other, with a movable pulley hanging in the bight between the drums. Since each turn of the crank raises the pulley and attached weight by only π(rr'), very large mechanical advantages can be obtained.

External links


  1. ^ Oleson, John Peter (1984), Greek and Roman Mechanical Water-lifting Devices. The History of a Technology, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 56f., ISBN 90-277-1693-5 
  2. ^ "Chinese". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  3. ^ Morris, Christopher, ed. (1992), Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology, Gulf Professional Publishing, p. 416, ISBN 9780122004001 
  4. ^ Knight, Edward H. (1884), The Practical Dictionary of Mechanics, Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co  "Chinese-windlass, a differential windlass in which the cord winds off one part of the barrel and on to the other."

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Windlass — Wind lass, n. [OE. windelas, windas, Icel. vindil[=a]ss, vind[=a]s, fr. vinda to wind + [=a]ss a pole; cf. Goth. ans a beam. See {Wind} to turn.] [1913 Webster] 1. A machine for raising weights, consisting of a horizontal cylinder or roller… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Windlass — Wind lass, v. t. & i. To raise with, or as with, a windlass; to use a windlass. The Century. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • windlass — [wind′ləs] n. [ME wyndlas, altered (infl. by wyndel, a winding device < winden, WIND1) < windas, windlass < ON vindass < vinda, to WIND1 + ass, a beam] a winch, esp. a simple one for lifting an anchor, a bucket in a well, etc. vt., vi …   English World dictionary

  • windlass — ► NOUN ▪ a winch, especially one on a ship or in a harbour. ► VERB ▪ haul or lift with a windlass. ORIGIN probably from an Old Norse word meaning winding pole …   English terms dictionary

  • Windlass — Wind lass, n.[Perhaps from wind to turn + lace.] A winding and circuitous way; a roundabout course; a shift. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Windlass — Wind lass, v. i. To take a roundabout course; to work warily or by indirect means. [Obs.] Hammond. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • windlass — device for raising weights by winding a rope round a cylinder, c.1400, alteration of wyndase (late 13c.), from Anglo Fr. windas, and directly from a Scandinavian source such as O.N. vindass, from vinda to wind (see WIND (Cf. wind) (v.1)) + ass… …   Etymology dictionary

  • windlass — Synonyms and related words: Chinese windlass, Spanish windlass, capstan, crab, crane, derrick, erector, forklift, gantry crane, hoist, hydraulic tailgate, jack, jackscrew, lever, lift, lifter, reel, tackle, winch …   Moby Thesaurus

  • windlass — UK [ˈwɪndləs] / US noun [countable] Word forms windlass : singular windlass plural windlasses a piece of equipment used for lifting heavy things. It uses a motor to wind a rope or chain around a large round cylinder …   English dictionary

  • windlass — I. noun Etymology: Middle English wyneles, wyndlas, alteration of wyndase, from Old French guindas, windas, from Old Norse vindāss, from vinda to wind (akin to Old High German wintan to wind) + āss pole; akin to Gothic ans beam Date: 13th century …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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