No one is really sure when the first high lift jack came into use, but it was certainly at least 100 years ago. What is commonly termed 'high lift' jack has also been known as the rail-road jack, implement jack, or farm jack. And for good reason, as every farm and smallholding has a use at some stage for one of these highly versatile tools.
The jacks are generally available in 4' or 5' versions and are manufactured in the United States by Bloomfield Manufacturing, who make the original High-Lift, or in Canada by the New—Form Manufacturing Co, who produce the distinctive orange Jackall version. There are also far eastern copies available in the UK but these are generally a poor quality alternative when compared to the other two mainstream producers.
It was way back in 1905 when Bloomfield first produced a primitive version of the jack we know today. The principle of the ladder-rack design and ratchet mechanism has changed only marginally in all that time. Since then, millions have been sold across the world. Like many simple devices the effectiveness and versatility of the jack has secured through common use, its generic name of 'High-Lift', in a similar way to other universally recognised brands such as Hoover or Biro.
But jacking is only one of the tasks that this invaluable tool performs. Used in slightly different ways or with simple accessories, it doubles as a winch, a cramp, a spreader, a hoist or even a log splitter. It is particularly useful for straining fencing wire. With around 8,000lbs (3.5tonnes) of lifting capacity it is capable of impressive feats of strength, and the simple no-nonsense operating mechanism ensures that with minimal maintenance it will provide years of reliable service.
The jack is ideal for jacking a vehicle when off the road, as the ability to jack to greater heights than the standard bottle jack cart be a useful asset if the ground is soft or unstable, but do make sure that you only jack vehicles that have a suitable point to jack from. One of the most impressive tasks that we use the jack for is to lift fence posts out of the ground. Anyone who has tried to manually lift a post even after spending time trying to loosen it will have found that they are always reluctant to come out. This job can be dramatically eased by placing a chain or strap round the post, and after a couple of strokes with the jack handle they are easily lifted straight out without the usual lengthy straining process.
The mechanical principle of the jack is very simple. There are two basic controls, a main operating handle and a direction lever, which enables the jack to go up or down depending on the position of the lever. As the handle is cranked up and down a pair of dowel pins within the main mechanism engage and disengage from the holes in the perforated column or rack. This has the effect of walking the 'toe' of the jack up or down the rack. One or other of the dowel pins is holding the load securely at all times. When the direction lever is moved to the down position this sequence is reversed, and the 'toe' is walked back down the rack - simple! There is one important safety point which must be remembcmd when using any of these jacks, and that is to remember that the direction lever must be in the 'up' position when the 'toe' is bearing any load. This is due to a consequence of the design that can result in a violently flailing operating handle as the weight of the load can induce the handle to fly back up if it is allowed to drop down whilst the direction lever is in the down position. This results in a rapid repetition of this sequence as the load provides the momentum to repeat this sequence utntil the toe reaches the ground. If this does happen, the only sensible course of action is to resist the temptation to grab the handle and stand well buck until it stops.
But used sensibly these really are invaluable tools for any farm workshop. Many people carry them around in the back of the farm truck as you never know when it will be needed to provide the solution for an unforeseen problem. The no-nonsense heavyweight construction means that with just a little light oiling from time to time they will provide many years of faithful service.
Always remember that using any jack is potentially dangerous, so always read and follow the manufacturers instructions, and make sure that you use the jack within its deign limits.
Here at First Four we sell a range of High-Lift jacks and accessories. Click here to view our range or get in touch today on 01404 891121.