The ratchets worked, but not quite enough to get the collar off. I think the knots were pulling into the take-up winch. I could compress the spring enough before reaching the next click, so I asked a buddy -- Mike, working on his Miyata -- to help out. He pulled and I grabbed the collar with pliers. My advise: do not grab the collar with your fingers.
The ratchet worked well enough compressing the spring. When it comes to uncompressing this technique leaves something to be desired. All you can do is fully rotate the ratchet and pull on the release. Bamb, it lets go all at once. Good thing I had the end tightly clamped in the vise.
The result: my front springs are 10" long. I plan to get shorter, stiffer springs to get the nose down where it belongs.
I got the upper links off last week, so after the spring was done I pressed out the bushings. I was going to press in the new ones but the paint needs touching up. I also wanted to get a second coat on the anti-roll bar, and a first coat on the steering arms. I did the bar and the arms, but ran out of time to finish the upper links. Next time.