The mighty flip flop winch

There is an amazing array of skills in bushcraft, some we use constantly in everyday life in the woods, and some that rarely get to be used in practice. Recently, on our axe and tree identification weekend, we had the chance to try out something I’ve wanted to experiment with for a while to see how well it works in reality. A tree that was being felled got caught up in some small branches, and despite our efforts to safely free it, in line with the Lantra chainsaw felling techniques up to 200mm, it wasn’t budging. So, thinking of another winch method led to the idea of using a flip flop winch with everyone at a safe distance, in order to move the base of the hung-up tree out, so it could fall safely.

The mighty flip flop winch

The flip flop winch was the brainchild of the late, great, Mors Kochanski and is an ingenious and simple way of using two poles and a length of rope to winch a heavy object. It uses the principle of levers to wind the rope around a drum pole, slowly adding tension to the rope and pulling the heavy object towards the winch.

You will need two strong long poles and a rope that has a good breaking strain. The length of the poles is important, in that the longer they are, the easier it is to lever them, up to a point. If they are too long, it is difficult to manage them! So, I would guess that about 9-10 foot is about optimum.

1) To start, tie the rope to a secure anchor point, a tree is perfect.

Rope secured to an anchor point

2) Run the rope over the top of the first pole and carry on to the object that you wish to move. At this point, I would not tie the rope to the object, it is easier to set up the winch first and then secure it to the load.

Rope run over the top of the first pole

3) Create a bight in the rope under the first pole – we’ll call this the ‘drum’ pole and lie it on top of the drum pole.

Bight in the rope under the first pole

4) Insert the second pole – we’ll call this the lever pole – through the bight at right angles to the drum pole, lying towards the load object.

Insert the second pole , known as the lever pole

5) Now securely tie the rope to the load.

Securely tie the rope to the load

6) To winch the load towards the anchor point, simply flip the lever pole over the drum pole so that the rope starts to wind around the drum pole. Then flop the drum pole over the lever pole – making sure that they stay at right angles to each other. Then alternatively flip flop the two poles so that the rope winds itself around the drum pole, and as the tension builds up to, the load object should move towards the anchor point.

lever pole flipped over the drum pole
Drum pole flipped over the lever pole
Alternatively flip flop the two poles so that the rope winds itself around the drum pole
Load object moved towards the anchor point

In our case, we were so engaged in trying to move the tree that we didn’t take many pictures of the flip flop winch in action. But here is the one picture that exists!

The actual winch used on the tree

The tension created using the winch was amazing, we could see it really worked well, and convinced that if we had been trying to move something a bit lighter, or on wheels, such as a truck that had been bogged down, it would have been perfect.

Mors was well known for his saying, ‘the more you know, the less you carry’. All we needed to carry was a rope to apply this really useful practical knowledge – perfect bushcraft.

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