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Pulling power of the Ruck-Zuck Hoist

Bernhard Feistel

Bernhard Feistel

December 3, 2012

Today I would like to introduce an interesting tool which will, perhaps, not necessarily occur first to the ‘ordinary’ gardener. It is rather a tool for mechanics, engineers, technicians or builders. And since on the one hand the latter (together with certain types of husbands) can sometimes be the worst enemies of gardens and on the other since in these specialized non-Renaissance times professions might not know the others’ instruments that well, it might be worth an introduction.

Gardener’s tools?

Here it is, my horizontal hoist, called affectionately “Ruck-Zuck” in German, which might translate as ‘in a jiffy’. The birth-year, 1966, of this faithful and strong mate makes him(?) unsuitable for a modern advertising campaign, but there are certainly current equivalents of this vintage tool whose working¬† principles were definitely not unknown to the old Greeks.

For me the “Ruck-Zuck” has been hugely important for otherwise back-breaking jobs like digging out overgrown or old shrubs from crowded borders, removing tree stumps, uprooting dead trees (if I don’t want to use them as monuments), or re-erecting trees that have been blown over by gales or other unfortunate circumstances.

It is hugely advantageous in areas where access for tractors or heavy machinery could be complicated or is likely to cause a little bit of a mess, particularly in wet weather. I also believe this hoist can be stronger than some tractors (it states that it can pull 1.5 tons) since it is able to continuously build up its pressure in an almost gentle way by  pulling out one root after the other (whereas a tractor has to build up all its strength at once and repeat this procedure till successful).

Hence, by using this tool, I was even able to re-plant many mature trees elsewhere which I had to remove from a crowded situation or after I had to break up long-established hedges. All you need (apart from the hoist which comes together with a steel rope) is a stronger (than the one to be removed) not too far away object (e.g. a larger tree), around which you wind another rope or chain and attach it to the steel rope. The other end of the steel rope you fix (ideally again together with a piece of strong rope) to the bush or tree you want to get out. It is important to use ropes with loops and to secure the connection with a carabiner or clipper since you would rarely be able to loosen a self-made knot after you have built up the pressure.

In an ‘ideal’ case, i.e. when you need to remove two or several candidates from the same area, you can apply the machinery between them, if there is enough space, and take bets which shrub or tree comes out first, while in the process you presumably weaken the root system of the remaining one a little to make the job easier to get it out in the next step.

The hoist in working order with the two levers for forward and backward movements

There are two levers on the hoist, one to build up the pressure and another to release it. With an extension it is possible to handle the levers better (I believe I must have lost the original one but any metal pipe which fits over them would do).

A safety pin inside the apparatus will break first in case one has built up more than the allowable pressure and nothing has been moving yet. That is, if your ropes and carabiners are being able to more than hold the recommended pressure stated on the hoist. So please make sure this is the case, otherwise…

Here follows an example where I had to deal with a large hazel which was once planted far too closely into a yew hedge corner. We often tend to plant too densely and think of shrubs and plants as corner-pieces, don’t we? Even yearly and rigorous pruning wouldn’t do: it could never reach a decent shape and grew into the breadth, whilst clipping the yew there became a miserable job, too. Using a tractor to pull it out would have done huge mischief to the lawn, using a spade mischief to my back, but fortunately there was a large tree opposite…

The first steps to build up the pressure (with an old scaffolding pipe)

The pressure is building up (the blue rope might have been the weakest link – I don’t always follow my own advice – but I made sure there was no-one in the firing line)

Almost done

Out it came, in less than 20 minutes (including assembling and removing the hoist and ropes). But knowing this, I could have chosen a stronger rope instead of gambling. Discuss!

Sometimes it might also be necessary (and worthwhile) to bring a blown-over tree back into its original position. Our hoist is a treasure in those cases, too. You will presumably need less pressure than during an uprooting process but certainly more than strong humans would love or be able to apply. And you can always have a tea break or answer a phone before inserting (or fastening to) the supporting pole, whilst the hoist holds its position. Imagine you are doing this whilst your husband is shoving against the sloping tree!

This tree had been blown over during a night’s gale and will soon be fixed to a supporting pole after its resurrection (and after the tea break)

A larger tree opposite lends its support (I took the picture afterwards- during the process I applied a blanket in order not to destroy the bark.)

In this case it is doubtful whether re-positioning (the tree) would be the best option.

Of course, the hoist can be used for various other tasks where our strength or helping hands would not be sufficient enough, or the access of machinery impossible or not advisable, for instance if you need to move large stones up a slope for walling or other purposes.

Although the lot of us Sisyphus-gardeners cannot always be eased by machinery…

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10 years ago

Hey Bernhard what a great thing you have there, wish i saw this “before” i started my garden.
So what is it called and what was its main use when designed.

Cheers Graeme.

bernhard feistel
bernhard feistel
10 years ago
Reply to  Graeme

Hello Graeme,
You might call it grip hoist, jack hoist (or even pulley) and this one was designed not only to lift but also to pull heavy weights, if necessary, over long distances depending on the length of your rope(s). Its use in the garden is/was probably not the main purpose, hence I found it worthwhile to recommend it.

Here is a link to a German supplier of modern versions, but I think it should be possible to borrow the thing, in case of one-off -jobs, from tool/machine hire shops internationally.

It explains something about its history and working principle, too.

Alison S
Alison S
10 years ago

I want one! It looks perfect for getting rid of some more of my pestilential Rhododendron ponticum without the awful mess caused by tractors and diggers in our very wet garden. It’s also the only solution I have seen that can still work in difficult-to-reach areas such as steep slopes, as it doesn’t have any part that needs to sit stably on the ground. (And I particularly like the idea of using it to make two unwanted shrubs get rid of each other – a bit like pistols at dawn!) Presumably it takes a bit of experience to work out the best places to attach the chains on the shrub to be removed. Trees should be more straightforward, with just one trunk, but I suppose with a shrub you need to attach the chains as close to the base as possible? Or maybe even, if there’s nowhere to get a grip in the top growth, do a bit of digging (helpful husband required) to expose part of the root ball and get one of the chains underneath it?

bernhard feistel
bernhard feistel
10 years ago
Reply to  Alison S

Dear Alison,

Since you have described the nearby sculpture garden so temptingly, we might as well, when envisaging a visit to this place, put the hoist in the car, and, in passing by, pull some of your mischievous Burnham Wood of R. Ponticum towards Dunsinane… (hoists and pulleys are essential theatre equipment, too)


James Beattie
James Beattie
10 years ago

What a marvellous tool, Bernhard. I have a tree in my backyard we’ve wanted to shift since moving in. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to move it without bringing in machinery, mainly to save money, but also to spare the soil from compaction blues. After reading your blog I might have just found the answer! A brilliant bit of kit.

10 years ago

A similar tool is often used as a 4WD recovery winch here in Australia. Originally from Europe the brand is Tirfor .