Shaefer's New Winch Handles
A new player with plenty of credibility enters the fray in winch handles.
This publication once wrote of winch handles, "if it's aluminum, it's Harken or Antal." In that article (PS April 15, '04), we judged all the other aluminum winch handles we tested to be inferior to those from the two makers listed above. But we didn't test any products from Schaefer because this well-known manufacturerer of sailing hardware didn't make winch handles at the time. With the introduction of Schaefer's new Forged Winch Handles not long ago, that's now changed.
Schaefer's new handles are made from a forged 661 aluminum alloy, a process that company president Fred Cook emphasized is stronger than cast or machined products. Schaefer, said Cook, has taken an international approach to sourcing, which has enabled the company to find quality suppliers and products at very economical rates.
The handles are fashioned from injection-moulded nylon reinforced with fiberglass strands, and they spin on two races loaded with stainless-steel ball bearings. Both the standard grip and the ball grip come standard with a locking mechanism. The stainless-steel locking pin is isolated from the forged aluminum by way of a hard plastic sleeve to avoid galvanic corrosion.
The really good news about this product is its price. The standard grip retails for $62.95, but PS found it available online for $42. Schaefer also makes these handles for West Marine under that label ($58). Compared to the price of Harken's ($80) or Antal's ($86) 10" aluminum handles, that's a true bargain. But how does it stack up in terms of quality? We suspect it compares reasonably well, but a definitive answer will have to wait until our next comprehensive evaluation of winch handles.
Contact - Schaefer Marine, 508/995-9511, www.schaefermarine.com.