Difference Wiki

Capstan vs. Windlass: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on November 6, 2023
A capstan is a vertical-axled rotating machine used on ships to apply force to ropes, cables, and hawsers, whereas a windlass is a horizontal-axled machine primarily used to hoist anchors.

Key Differences

Capstans and windlasses are both mechanical devices used on ships, but they differ in orientation and use. A capstan is a vertical spool used mainly to move heavy weights manually, and is often used to coil rope. Windlasses, in contrast, are horizontal and are commonly employed to lift anchors or to pull boats towards a pier.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
The capstan, being vertical, allows for 360-degree access for the crew to push the bars and apply force, making it ideal for tasks like hauling ropes or nets. The windlass, with its horizontal drum, usually includes gears and may be operated by a motor, making it suitable for heavier tasks like raising an anchor.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
Both capstans and windlasses make use of a drum around which a rope or chain is wound to increase mechanical advantage. However, the capstan's vertical drum is suited for pulling lines in any direction, while the windlass' horizontal drum is designed to pull primarily in a linear direction, which is ideal for the heavy, straight-line lifting of an anchor.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
Historically, capstans were operated by human power, with several sailors pushing the capstan bars. Modern windlasses, on the other hand, are typically powered by hydraulics or electricity, reflecting the heavier work they are designed to perform.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023
In terms of installation, capstans are often found at multiple locations on a vessel, used for various tasks, whereas a windlass is typically mounted at the bow of a ship, dedicated to anchor handling operations. Both are critical for the functionality of a ship, each serving its specific purpose.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Comparison Chart

Orientation

Vertical axle
Horizontal axle
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Primary Use

Mooring, warping, and hauling tasks
Hoisting anchors and heavy lifting
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Operation

Manual or motorized
Often motorized, especially on larger vessels
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Positioning on Vessel

Can be located at various points
Usually located at the bow
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Access for Operation

Allows 360-degree working space
Typically accessed from one side
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Capstan and Windlass Definitions

Capstan

A vertical rotating device used on ships for moving heavy weights.
The crew worked the capstan to hoist the sails.
Huma Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Windlass

Essential for heavy lifting, found at the ship's bow.
The windlass must be robust to withstand the weight of the anchor.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Capstan

Utilized for tasks like mooring and controlling ropes.
We secured the ship to the dock using the capstan.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

Windlass

Often motorized for efficient anchor management.
The captain activated the windlass, and the anchor began to ascend.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Capstan

Integral to marine operations, aiding in maneuvering ropes and cables.
The capstan made quick work of the heavy mooring lines.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Windlass

A key tool in the anchor handling system of most boats and ships.
Check the windlass regularly to ensure it's ready for use.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Capstan

Often manually operated by pushing bars around its base.
Sailors lined up to turn the capstan as they docked.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Windlass

A horizontal drum on ships, used mainly for raising anchors.
We engaged the windlass to lift the anchor off the seabed.
Huma Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Capstan

Can be found on old sailing ships and modern vessels alike.
Even on modern ships, a capstan is indispensable for certain operations.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Windlass

Has a chain or rope wound around it for mechanical advantage.
By winding the rope around the windlass, we gained the leverage needed.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Capstan

(Nautical) An apparatus used for hoisting, consisting of a vertical, manually or mechanically rotated cylinder around which the cable to be pulled runs.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 16, 2023

Windlass

Any of numerous hauling or lifting machines consisting essentially of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank or a motor so that a line attached to the load is wound around the cylinder.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 16, 2023

Capstan

A small cylindrical shaft used to drive magnetic tape at a constant speed in a tape recorder.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 16, 2023

Windlass

To raise with a windlass.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 16, 2023

FAQs

What is a windlass on a ship?

A windlass is a horizontal-axled device used primarily for hoisting anchors.
Huma Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Can a capstan be used to lift anchors?

While possible, capstans are not typically designed for heavy anchor lifting like windlasses.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What is a capstan on a ship?

A capstan is a vertical-axled rotating device used for moving heavy weights like ropes and nets.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

How does a capstan work?

A capstan works by rotating a drum around which ropes are wound, either manually or motorized.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Is a windlass used for mooring?

Windlasses are mainly used for anchor handling, not mooring.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Are windlasses manual or motorized?

Most modern windlasses are motorized for efficiency.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Do modern ships still use capstans?

Yes, modern ships use capstans for various tasks like mooring and warping.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

What's the main advantage of a capstan?

The capstan's main advantage is its ability to apply force from any direction around its 360-degree access.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

What's the main advantage of a windlass?

The windlass's main advantage is its mechanical design optimized for straight-line heavy lifting.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Are windlasses found on all types of ships?

Windlasses are common on ships that require anchor handling, not necessarily on all types.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

How does a windlass work?

A windlass works by winding a rope or chain around a horizontal drum to lift heavy weights, typically powered by a motor.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Are capstans safe to operate?

Yes, when used correctly, capstans are safe, but they require proper training to operate.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What kind of maintenance does a windlass need?

Windlasses need regular maintenance checks, lubrication, and monitoring for electrical or hydraulic issues.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

Can windlasses operate in any direction like capstans?

No, windlasses are designed for linear pulling, mainly in a forward or backward direction.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

In what situations would you use a capstan over a windlass?

A capstan is used when you need to move or manage ropes and cables, especially in mooring operations.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

What determines the size of a windlass on a ship?

The windlass size is based on the weight of the anchor and the size of the chain or rope used.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Are there any common issues with capstans?

Common issues include jamming, wear on the drum, and operational strain.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Are there any common issues with windlasses?

Windlasses may face issues like motor failure, chain jamming, and gear problems.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

What kind of maintenance does a capstan need?

Capstans require regular lubrication and inspection for wear and tear.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What determines the size of a capstan on a ship?

The size of the capstan is determined by the vessel size and the weight of loads it will handle.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons