The 8 Best Chain Hoists

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Even when you've got a solid crew of able-bodied workers, the safest and most prudent way to get some serious heavy lifting done around your workshop is often with a chain hoist. Many professionals, including countless machinists and mechanics, depend on these devices daily. Our selections include both manual and motorized options, with lifting capacities of up to five tons. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. SpecStar Manual

2. Torin TR9000 Series

3. Black Bull CHOI1

Editor's Notes

May 20, 2021:

Eliminated an electric model from Strongway that's no longer available. Our new top recommendation is the SpecStar Manual, which comes with a capacity up to five tons and operates as smoothly as anything else on the market. We still like the Mophorn Electric as an electric option, although the button takes some extra attention as it many users find it sticks a lot. The Neiko 02182A and Black Bull CHOI1 are other great budget-friendly models, and if you're willing to make a larger investment, the XtremepowerUS Lever Block is built to last virtually forever.

February 12, 2020:

During this round of updates, we eliminated the Vevor 3-ton due to availability issues, and added two motorized options to our rankings. The Mophorn Electric benefits from its notably-low, 750-watt draw, which is modest enough for it to plug into most existing circuits without tripping a breaker, but the five-feet cord for its remote is a bit short. On the other hand, the Strongway 72642, by virtue of its 1400-watt draw, demands a designated 15-amp circuit, but the 20-feet cord for its remote is much less limiting than the Mophorn's.

A few things to pick up on in this category:

Weight Capacity: Pick one that exceeds your workshop’s needs. While most options in this category are rated to lift a ton, some offerings – like the Harrington LX, which is available in both 500- and 1,000-pound models, and the Columbus McKinnon 603 Mini, which can lift up to a half ton – do fall short of the benchmark. Other hoists – like the Torin TR9000 Series, which is available in weight capacities up to five tons – can lift considerably more.

Reach: This consideration is especially relevant to users outfitting shops with high ceilings, who would ideally like to mount the hoist to an I-beam. While the Black Bull CHOI1 and Neiko 02182A are both rated to lift a ton, the Black Bull has a limiting eight-feet lift capacity, and the Neiko can hoist items as high as 15 feet, making it conducive to machine shops that need to have high ceilings to accommodate their equipment and overhead doors. The XtremepowerUS Lever Block does even better than the Neiko in this respect, boasting a 20-feet lift capacity.

Safety: Needless to say, heavy lifting is dangerous business. Unsafe equipment and unsafe equipment usage in this pursuit can lead to strained lower backs, crushed fingers and, in extreme situations, even death. Look for selections like the Torin TR9000 Series and Neiko 02182A that feature built-in, mechanical load brakes to help keep you and your staff safe. The Mophorn Electric and Strongway 72642 are also outfitted with limit switches to prevent the over-traveling of their chains.

4. Neiko 02182A

5. Mophorn Electric

6. Columbus McKinnon 603 Mini

7. XtremepowerUS Lever Block

8. Harrington LX

History Of The Chain Hoist

In July of 1941, Castle was featured on the cover of Life Magazine and in his interview, he stressed how vital a properly tensioned cable was for a hire wire act.

The chain hoist was first developed around the time of the Great Depression. In the early 1930s, Fred W. Coffing was busy creating the chain hoist in his barn workshop and, while the rest of the country was slowly sinking into financial ruin, he established the Coffing Hoist Company, which somehow managed to thrive. In the beginning it was mostly used by utility companies and equipment manufacturers, but quickly expanded into other industries. In the late 1930s, John Deere gave the chain hoist their stamp of approval for farm work, and by the time the 1940s rolled around, one could be found on nearly every farm across America.

Circus acts were also very popular in America at this time, and one of the leading hire wire acts in the 1930s and 40s was Huburt Castle. He performed in some of the most well known circuses, including Ringling Brothers and Cole Brothers. In July of 1941, Castle was featured on the cover of Life Magazine and in his interview, he stressed how vital a properly tensioned cable was for a hire wire act. He also pointed out that Coffing chain hoists were the safest and most reliable piece of equipment for tensioning a wire, which only helped to further popularize the Coffing Hoist Company and their product.

Throughout his lifetime, Coffing created more than thirty other inventions, including an automatic centering electric hoist and a continuous power eccentric dual gear speed reducer. In 1955, he sold the Coffing Hoist Company, but Coffing hoists are still manufactured today by Colombus McKinnon and the name Coffing is associated with hoists worldwide.

Understanding The Chain Hoist

Chain hoists can be used to lift nearly any type of heavy load, but are commonly be found in mechanic shops, factories, and warehouses. They are available in manual and electrical varieties. Electric chain hoists often feature some kind of controller and lifting a heavy object with one is as simple as pushing a button. Manual chain hoists require the operator to lift heavy objects by pulling on the chain, using brute force and the aid of a pulley. Some manual chain hoists have a ratchet system which makes lifting loads incredibly easy.

Some manual chain hoists have a ratchet system which makes lifting loads incredibly easy.

A manual chain hoist is the simplest type of hoist and there is very little chance of one failing or malfunctioning. Every manual chain hoist is contains a lifting chain with a hook, a hand chain, and a lifting mechanism. The lifting mechanism is made up of sprockets, an axle, a cog, a driveshaft and some gears.

When lifting a load, the operator pulls the hand chain, which rotates the driveshaft and transfers the force to a small sprocket attached to an axle. The axle then rotates a larger sprocket, which has the lifting chain attached to it. Using a systems of gears and sprockets, a small force is multiplied into a much larger force.

Manual chain hoists are convenient to use in a variety of settings, especially in areas where access to electricity is limited on non-existent. They are also relatively cheap when compared to electric and hydraulic hoists. Chain hoists also allow one to lift massive loads, upwards of 4000 pounds or more.

Tips For Using A Chain Hoist

Following a few simple safety procedures when using a chain hoist is the best way to prevent injury or damage to items being lifted. Before attaching a load to a chain hoist, inspect the equipment to make sure everything is in good working order. Check that it is safely secured to a sturdy mounting point which is capable of supporting the full weight of the object you plan on lifting. Also inspect the chain of any overly rusted links which can become break points when under load.

You should lift the light load up, and then leave it suspended in the air for a moment to ensure the brake is working.

Start with a light load before lifting the heavier object. This will help you double check that all of the gears inside of the chain hoist are running smoothly and functioning as they should. You should lift the light load up, and then leave it suspended in the air for a moment to ensure the brake is working. Make sure you are using a chain hoist capable of lifting the weight of your object by checking the manufacturers specifications. If you are unsure of the weight of the object to be lifted, it is always best to err on the side of caution and use a chain hoist that easily exceeds the estimated weight of the object.

Some items may be lifted by simply slipping the hoist's hook through a centered hole somewhere on the frame. Other objects may require one to loop a few lengths of chain around it and then attaching the hoist's hook to the chain. However the object to be lifted is attached to the hoist, the hook should be placed directly over the load's center of gravity.

If the load will be moved horizontally after being lifted, check that the intended travel path is clear or any obstacles or obstructions before beginning to lift the object. When moving the item horizontally, one should also avoid any movement that causes undue swinging, which can make the load pull on the chain hoist from an unexpected angle and potentially cause failure.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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