Treadlight Forestry, based in Ruthin, North Wales, specialises in the supply of portable capstan winches. Here, owner and manager Sion Jinkinson talks Forestry Journal through his range and shares some tips for potential buyers.


A. My background is in engineering but after spending too much time in the office I relocated to North Wales to spend more time outdoors working with trees and woodlands. The business started off contracting for small-scale forestry work but has now moved into being a specialist dealer of portable capstan winches.


A. As a small forestry contractor I was always being asked to work on sites with difficult access, steep terrain, wetlands, etc. or sites with specific wildlife designation. This often made it impossible to bring in large machinery to help with felling and extraction. The trusty Tirfor winch was always in the van to get me out of trouble if I got a tree hung up, but this type of hand winch has limitations. They are tiring after prolonged use, they are heavy with a metal body and thick steel cable, and they are painfully slow. So, I started looking around for alternatives.

It didn’t take me long to come across portable capstan winches and I instantly realised their potential. The portable capstan winch differs from other types of winch as they have an engine and the rope is not stored on a drum attached to the winch. When the winch is to be used the rope is wrapped a number of times around the capstan drum. To operate the winch, the rope is pulled by hand and as the rope bunches together it creates friction between itself and the capstan drum. This in turn means the pulling force of the engine is applied to the rope, allowing objects to be winched in with ease. Portable capstan winches are light enough to carry, powerful enough to deal with large trees and fast enough to make timber extraction possible. This makes them perfect for use on sites where you cannot bring a tractor, such as wildlife reserves, wetlands, steep-sided hills or back gardens.

The first winch I used was from the Portable Winch Company; a Canadian firm that has been making capstan winches for a number of years. Its PCW5000 winch is powered by a 50 cc Honda four-stroke petrol engine and can produce a 1,000 kg straight-line pull.

I can honestly say that other than a chainsaw, the portable capstan winch is the best tool I have ever owned, and I don’t know how I worked without one!


A. Having successfully sold the Portable Winch Company range of winches, I started hearing about other brands that were available in Europe. These other winches came from: EDER – a German engineering company that produces a range of portable capstan winches as well as a mechanical felling wedge and various chainsaw attachments; and DOCMA – an Italian company that manufactures portable winches as well as firewood machinery. I went out to visit the EDER and DOCMA factories and was impressed with their manufacturing skill and products, so decided to start selling them to the UK market. I felt it was important for customers that they had the maximum choice of machine so they could choose one that suited their requirements exactly.

Forestry Journal: The Portable Winch Company PCW5000 is powered by a 50 cc Honda four-stroke engine, and can produce a 1,000 kg straight-line pull.The Portable Winch Company PCW5000 is powered by a 50 cc Honda four-stroke engine, and can produce a 1,000 kg straight-line pull.


A. We sell winches from three manufacturers: The Portable Winch Company, EDER and DOCMA. We sell 12 different models of portable capstan winch and two models of portable drum winch. We have three engine choices: two-stroke petrol, four-stroke petrol or battery electric. Portable capstan winches are available with a pulling force of between 400 kg and 1,800 kg, so they are very powerful machines for their size, and weigh between 9 kg and 16 kg so can be easily carried onto site. All our winches use rope, rather than steel cable, as it is safer, lighter, and easier to work with. The rope used on a capstan winch can be of any length so if you need to move something 200 m you can use a 200 m rope.

Portable capstan winches are significantly faster than other types of winch, with a ground speed of 12–42 m/min depending on the model chosen. This means that they can extract large quantities of timber and can be used in commercial environments where productivity is a major factor.

We also sell portable drum winches that are different to portable capstan winches as they have the rope contained within the winch on a drum. The rope is free spooled from the drum and attached to the log or other object and then winched back in. This makes portable drum winches similar to the winches commonly found on the front of 4×4 vehicles. They are heavier than capstan winches at around 25 kg.

Forestry Journal: Weighing just 10.5 kg, the DOCMA VF105 Red Iron has a max rated capacity of 1,050 kg and a 54 cc two-stroke engine.Weighing just 10.5 kg, the DOCMA VF105 Red Iron has a max rated capacity of 1,050 kg and a 54 cc two-stroke engine.


A. We sell large numbers of portable capstan winches to professional foresters, woodland owners and tree surgeons. They use the winches for assisted felling, safely dealing with hung-up and windblown trees and extracting timber.

We also sell many winches to organisations such as the Environment Agency, Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust. Then there are the niche users such as hunters, boaters and sailing clubs, the telecoms industry which uses the winches for installing cables through pipes and ducting, and, again, the telecoms and rigging industry for lifting machinery and parts up towers and pylons.

As well as being used on their own, portable capstan winches are well suited to working with larger winches used on tractors and other forestry machinery. For example, when using a tractor-based forestry winch on a steep slope, the portable capstan winch can be used to pull the steel cable off the tractor winch and up the slope. This saves a lot of the effort required in pulling the much heavier steel cable up the slope.


A. I often get asked which model of winch is the best and honestly there is no one answer – each model we sell is different and offers pros and cons, but here are some of the highlights which make some models unique.

One of the key differences is the type of engine or motor powering the capstan winch. For example, you have the PCW5000 or PCW3000 or DOCMA VF900 that have a four-stroke Honda engine. These run on neat petrol and have oil in the sump. Honda four-stroke engines are known to be reliable, quiet, fuel-efficient and easy to start.

Then you have machines like the DOCMA VF105, EDER 1200 and EDER 1800 which have two-stroke engines that run on a 50:1 petrol/two-stroke oil mixture, the same as a chainsaw. Two-stroke engines offer the highest power-to-weight ratio and they allow you to share the fuel can between your chainsaw and winch.

The EDER 1800 is the most powerful winch we sell at 1,800 kg single-line pull. By using a pulley block you can double this force to 3,600 kg! It is also the only winch we sell that has two gears, so the pulling force can be halved and the speed doubled when required.

Anything with a Honda engine is going to be reliable but the Portable Winch Company PCW5000 is truly amazing. It is direct-drive, so no clutch to wear out, and has very simple controls. This makes it the stand-out winner in terms of reliability.

The DOCMA VF105 is the winner in terms of power to weight. It has 1,050 kg of pulling power but only weighs 10.5 kg. This makes it truly portable but also very practical.

If you want to lift as well as pull, then you need either the Portable Winch Company PCH1000 or PCH2000. These are rated to lift loads so can be used on industrial sites.

The PCW3000-Li is the world’s first and only lithium battery-powered portable capstan winch and it is a truly revolutionary machine. It is zero-emission and quiet but still produces 1,000 kg of pulling power. It is attractive to forestry workers, woodland owners and tree surgeons who are ready to make the switch to battery machines and we also sell them to people who need to work indoors or in confined spaces.

Forestry Journal: The EDER Powerwinch 1800 is the most powerful winch supplied by Treadlight Forestry, with a 1,800 kg single-line pull.The EDER Powerwinch 1800 is the most powerful winch supplied by Treadlight Forestry, with a 1,800 kg single-line pull.


A. Portable capstan winches are very low impact as they can be used on sensitive, wet or steep sites while doing very little damage and without the need to create tracks or other access routes. The winches allow sufficient volumes of timber to be extracted which can make a non-commercial woodland into one which is financially viable. A significant number of our customers are wildlife and conservation organisations who manage their woodland in a sensitive way but still need to be safe and productive.

What I found when using a portable winch is it allowed me to be much more selective when felling. By using the winch on every tree, I was able to pull the tree where I wanted it to go rather than where it wanted to fall. This allowed me to fell one tree while protecting the trees around it. This makes the portable capstan winches very well suited to selective felling and continuous-cover forestry where it is important not to damage the retained trees.

Forestry Journal: Sion Jinkinson.Sion Jinkinson.


A. I think it is really important that people think about the tasks they want to perform with the winch. Will they be carrying it over a long distance? Then they should go for light weight and not worry so much about power. Are they dealing with very large trees? Then power is probably the most important feature. Do they prefer two-stroke or four-stroke engines? This one mostly comes down to personal preference but will also depend on what other machines are being used on site. Are they concerned about their environmental impact? Again, mostly personal preference but more and more companies are switching to battery electric machines and now they have a battery electric capstan winch option.


A. As well as winches we sell a huge range of accessories from ropes to choker chains, pulley blocks to skidding cones, rope bags to backpacks and transport boxes.

The most important accessory for the portable capstan winch is the rope. You cannot just use any rope and indeed the wrong rope can be dangerous. We always offer the correct rope to match each winch we sell so customers can be confident their winch will perform to its maximum potential safely.

Some key characteristics of capstan rope are: high strength, so that there is sufficient safety factor; low stretch – you don’t want the rope acting like a rubber band; and high heat resistance – the friction on the drum can make the rope hot and will melt unsuitable rope. There is some flexibility with the diameter of the rope but again it is different for each model of winch.

Pulley blocks add to the flexibility of the winch and can also enhance its pulling power. There are two common uses. This first is to act as a redirect so that the winch can be positioned and then a pulley block used to alter the direction of pull. This is useful for coming up and over slopes or working around obstacles. The second is to use the pulley block to double the pulling power of the winch. If the pulley block is attached to the load that is to be moved and then rope is run from the winch via the pulley block back to a second anchor, the force of the winch is doubled. So, a 1000 kg winch will produce 2,000 kg of force on the load. When using pulley blocks it is really important that you understand the physics involved and select pulley blocks and anchors that have a sufficient safety factor.

Skidding cones are another accessory we think is important. It is basically a large plastic nose cone that is placed on the end of the log before winching, which reduces friction and stops the log getting jammed in roots, rabbit holes, etc. This helps the log to travel much more smoothly and efficiently and cuts the damage done to the forest floor.

Forestry Journal: The skidding cone is placed on the end of the log before winching, and reduces friction as well as damage to the forest floor.The skidding cone is placed on the end of the log before winching, and reduces friction as well as damage to the forest floor.


A. My personal view is that rope-based winches are the way forward and will eventually replace steel cable winches in all instances. It is lighter, stronger, and safer than steel cable and for these reasons I think it will become the industry standard.

An interesting new model is the DOCMA VF900 – this is similar to the DOCMA VF105 but replaces the two-stroke engine with the latest 50 cc Honda four-stroke engine. The new generation of Honda four-stroke engines can run at any angle, which makes it well suited for winching. It is early days yet but judging from the number of units we have sold already it would appear the DOCMA VF900 ticks a lot of boxes for the customer.

Also, the Portable Winch Company PCW3000-Li has really started to mix things up. With 1,000 kg pull it is very practical to use and people are really starting to see the benefit of zero emissions.

My personal view is we will see more and more battery-powered winches in the future, and they will eventually replace the petrol engine.

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