Rack-A-Tiers Thomas Wheeler Coil Spinner: The Way to Pull Cable Off a Large Spool Without Putting Your Back Into It
It’s pretty much a universal law: a heavy spool of cable never spins as fast as you want it to, even if it’s on a dispenser. That’s twice as true when you’re up on a ladder, trying to yank cable off the reel and feed it into a wall or over a ceiling at the same time. Sounds like there’s about to be some serious cable – and back – strain going on.
Things would be a lot different if you could make that cable spool magically levitate above the ground in a horizontal position. Just imagine – you’d be able to twirl it around with the lightest touch, instead of struggling against all of the friction and sluggishness that come from a too-heavy spool grinding against the dispenser bar that it should, ideally, be rotating effortlessly around.
Well, not to sound like some sort of cabling Fairy Godmother, but you can! And you don’t need pumpkins, mice, or wands to make the magic happen – just a Thomas Wheeler Coil Spinner from Rack-A-Tiers.
Designed to hang from 2×4 beams or ladder tee bars, the Thomas Wheeler looks a lot like an industrial version of those kitchen counter paper towel dispensers that have a disc-like base with a vertical bar extending upward from its center. The basic idea is that you slip a spool of cable onto the center bracket, and let it come to rest on the disc-shaped base. Then, just hoist the Thomas Wheeler momentarily off the ground, attach it to your ladder or a 2×4, and behold the glorious sight of an otherwise cumbersome spool of cable floating in midair.
With the spool being in such a friction-free situation, it’s free to spin at the slightest tug from you, so cable glides off the reel as fast as you need it, without any stubborn resistance. Cleanup is just as easy – if you’ve pulled too much slack and need to put it back on the spool, just give the Thomas Wheeler a twirl in the opposite direction, and the cable will practically wind itself back up.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
I’ve never thought of simple, innocent conduit as being gross. It keeps cables safe, takes them from one place to the next… and that’s it, right? Not if you also factor in the possibility that something other than cables and air could weasel its way into a stretch of conduit. Dirt and general debris (annoying, but not too terrible). Sticky cable lubricant residue (gross). And then of course, the really fun stuff like dead insects and (gulp) animal droppings (a “@*&$#*%^!!!!” would not be out of line here). “Nasty” would be the understatement of the decade.
Now that you know the truth about what could be lurking inside your conduit, the big question is how to get it out. It’s not like you can stick a pressure washing wand down that stuff – but that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Luckily, Ideal Industries got creative and came up with a very cool little thing called a foam carrier, a plug-like cleaning tool that’s attached to a pull line or cable, and maneuvered through a length of conduit – in one end, and out the other. As it’s pulled through, the foam carrier gently scrapes out any nasty bits that are clinging to the conduit’s interior, leaving you with a clean, unobstructed run of duct to send new cables down.
Being made of foam, the carriers are mildly flexible, so they can navigate smoothly through bends and around corners. You can pull them by hand, or even better, use a mechanical blower or vacuum system to send them down the line. Want to cut time in half and clean your conduit while you’re running new cables? Each foam carrier features a metal center rod, which is equipped with hooks at each end, perfect for attaching to, say, cabling. Once the cables and carrier are attached, just pull the whole assembly at once, and you’ll have freshly-pulled wires in crud-free conduit. That’s what I’m talking about.
Early this morning, I e-mailed my grandfather to say “hi,” but not sooner had I started typing than I realized I really didn’t have much news to report from the homefront. The culprit of my life’s suffocating mundanity? Winter. It’s like everyone is so busy trying not to freeze their rear ends off that they can’t be bothered to wiggle out from under their Snuggies, much less leave the house. That would involve preheating one’s car, and that’s just too much trouble when it’s in the single digits even before you figure in wind chill. Ugh.
After clicking “send” on the world’s shortest catch-up e-mail, I took a quick jaunt to the local news website, only to see that despite the weather, construction crews are currently under the gun to finish a pretty ambitious addition that’s being built onto one of the hospitals in town. So I guess that life and work do go on, even below freezing.
All of this reminded me of a very interesting new product that we recently added to the roster: a cable pulling lubricant that’s designed to stay fluid and flexible even in temps that are low enough to stiffen your fingers and toes. Ideal Aqua-Gel CW (that stands for “cold weather”) cable lube stays comfortably unfazed in temperatures as low as -25°F, so that cables don’t freeze into the conduit mid-pull, and work can go on as usual.
Aqua-Gel CW has a polymer-based formula that not only doesn’t freeze, but also stays semi-fluid when “dry”, so that the cables you apply it to can be easily repulled or removed at a later date, without a second application. It’s formulated to cling strongly to cables for the duration of long pulls, but is easily cleaned up with soap and water when you’re done. The only way this stuff could help you work better in the cold would be if it made you coffee and cocoa.
For all of you outdoor cabling contractors who will stop at nothing to be productive, you’ve just met your new best friend. To the rest of you, sorry. It looks like snow days are a thing of the past. Now that I think of it, I should probably drop by the hospital construction zone and see if the guys could use a case of this… as soon as I can put down my Snuggie.
You’ve gotta love the way that garden hoses get stuck as soon as you try to move them at a weird angle. Like when you’re trying to wash your car in the driveway, and one turn too many around the vehicle stops you in your hose-toting tracks. Or when you try to drag a hose from the side yard to the backyard – get too close to the corner of the house, and snag – you’re done. Strangely enough, the same thing happens when you try to pull heavier bundled cables through cable trays.
Logistically, the whole task seems pretty straightforward, right? Just pull the darn cables from Point A to Point B. But when factors like weight, distance and the dreaded friction start playing into things, you’re bound to hit some snags – literally. What you need is something to buoy the cables up and keep them from dragging against the bottom of the cable tray. Something that will keep things rolling along smoothly without making you sweat any more than you have to. Something, hmmmmmmm…. like cable tray sheaves.
Now, why they call these things “sheaves,” I’ll never know – personally, that’s a term I’ve always associated with bundles of wheat or paper. But at this point, who cares? They just make things easier. Design-wise, cable tray sheaves are basically contoured rollers that can be temporarily mounted throughout a cable tray run to support cable bundles and keep them moving right along over long distances, as well as through bends or elevation changes. This is because they eliminate, or at least greatly cut down on, the cables’ contact with the actual tray. And in cases like this, less friction equals less exertion from you, and less potential damage to the cables. Know what else? You’ll also get the job done a lot faster.
One of the really nice things about Greenlee cable tray sheaves is that they’re reusable – as soon as you’re finished with one pull, you just pack them up and use them for the next. Installation and removal are easy – you just fasten (or unfasten) two carriage bolts and wing nuts, and you’re ready to go.
Filed under: Cable and Wire Storage, Cable Pulling, Tools and Cases
How is it that so many times, the simplest things can be the most useful? Sure, you can get plenty of cool gadgets that have GPS, lasers, Internet connectability and every other high-tech feature out there, but sometimes what you really need is just some bent metal tubing and a couple of wheels. After all, electronics are great, but they’re not going to get you too far when you’re trying to schlep cable reels from one place to another.
If you’re still scratching your head over the “bent metal tubing” comment and wondering what on Earth that has to do with transporting spools of wire, let me explain. I recently came across the ReelCraft® Side Mount Cart Handle, and I have to say that despite it’s simplicity, it’s really pretty smart. Fully-loaded cable reels can be pretty unweildy to just hoist up and carry around, so it just makes sense to have what is essentially a wheel-equipped handle that attaches to the spool and lets you just push or pull it around.
The Side Mount Cart Handle is 42 inches tall, so when you use it, there’s no bending involved. You just grab on to any point that’s comfortable for you, and and enjoy the lack of back strain. Add to that a couple of smooth-rolling semi-pneumatic tires, and your job just got a whole lot easier. As for how it works, simple: you just attach it to the side of a reel, and you’re ready to rock.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit, Tools and Cases
When you think of pulling cables through conduit, what do you imagine one of the biggest problems to be? Working the wiring through tight bends? Or how about friction damage? Both of these are undeniably conduit-related pains in the, ahem… tokus, but there’s another possible pulling snafu that’s even more obnoxious: twisted cables.
Now, when I say “twisted,” I’m not talking about a little benign spiraling. I’m referring to the hard core wrapping and tangling that sends conduit friction levels through the roof, and can even cause your cables to start attenuating. The kind of mess that demands a do-over every time.
Spare yourself a lot of frustration, not to mention that overwhleming sense of deja-vu with every re-pull, by enlisting the assistance of a Rack-A-Tiers® Wire Puller Strap. This simple but ingenious cable-pulling implement actually staggers the wires you’re pulling, so while they’re technically together, they stay distinctly separate (read: knot-free and running parallel to one another). The cables enter the conduit untangled, and emerge at the other end the same way. Quite the winning concept, isn’t it?
Here’s how it works. The Wire Pulling strap is approximately 4 inches long, and has triangular wire holes cut out along its length. You just attach a cable to each of these holes, rig the pulling strap to your fish tape or wire puller, and haul away. Having the cables staggered just that little bit with the pulling strip makes a huge difference – as a matter of fact, it can actually cut labor time in half.
Rack-A-Tiers® cable pulling straps are made of powder-coated steel, and come in sets of 3 (one each of red, blue, and green). Having the multiples lets you attach 2 or more together if you have a large number of cables to pull, and the mix in colors helps you to keep different groups of cable visually separated while they’re being simultaneously pulled into the same pass-through or junction box.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
It’s pretty well known among cable installers that when you’re pulling cables through long runs of conduit, friction is your biggest enemy. When cables are dragged through conduit, they not only rub together and against the conduit, they can also get caught in spots where the conduit bends. To keep things running as smoothly as possible – and to protect cables against the damaging effects of friction – cables are often sheathed in an innerduct material, like corrugated tubing. Corrugated tubing works great protection-wise, but since it’s rigid and essentially makes cables take up several times as much space as they would on their own, it can really waste conduit space. Wasted conduit space just means you need to use more conduit to get the job done, and more conduit translates into (you guessed it) more money.
So that begs the question: how do protect your cables from friction while saving valuable inner-conduit real estate? Easy. Give up rigid innerducts, and go with a soft and compact option like MaxCell Fabric Innerduct instead. These woven polyester sleeves surround cables to help them glide through twists and turns in conduit, but also conform much more closely to the cable’s shape and size, so you can fit many more cables into one conduit that you would ordinarily be able to with rigid innerduct.
MaxCell Fabric Innerduct is a soft, semi-sheer material, but it still has the ability to protect cables from moisture, petroleum products, chemicals, and UV light, and can be used in both manual/mechanical and air-blown cable pulling applications. It’s available in several versions to fit almost any environment: Standard protects against chemicals in conventional installations, Plenum and Riser Innerducts are low-smoke zero-halogen for safe use in indoor air handling spaces, and the Detectable version contains an 18 gauge copper core tracer that helps the conduit and cables be located easily in underground/buried installations.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Cabling technicians can have quite a sticky situation on their hands when removing old cables fom conduit. Aside from obvious challenges like friction, which can make it hard to pull cable around curves or bends in the conduit, there’s the trickier problem of conduit gunk, which can build up and solidify over the years, virtually cementing cables in place. The presence of sticky substances like wax, rust, soap, bitumen and dirt inside of conduit, combined with zero maintenance, almost always guarantees that cuts will need to made in the conduit in order to free cables. But cuts in conduit usually equal steep repair and replacement costs, which do nothing but kill your budget and make the task even more frustrating.
In the interest of saving installers the hassle of conduit cutting and replacement during cable removals, American Polywater® has developed CableFree®, a liquid removal aid that dissolves conduit buildup and frees cables so that they can be easily removed. A product like this can greatly lengthen the life of conduit, because it allows you to keep the conduit completely intact instead of cutting it open. Once cables have been removed, conduit can simply be cleaned and reused, saving you repair and installation costs.
Measuring the length of a conduit run with ordinary fish tape can be a real pain in the neck. First, you have to work the fish tape down into the conduit. Next, you have to haul it all back out again – but make sure you marked the depth first! And finally, you have to break out a tape measure to measure the fish tape against. That sounds like too many steps, doesn’t it? There are better ways to use your time on the job, and nobody knows that better than Klein Tools, the company that developed Depthfinder™ fish tape.
Klein Tools realized that the hassle of measuring fish tape could be reduced to one simple step, provided that the fish tape is marked with incremental measurements, just like a measuring tape. So they got down to business, and turned that inspired idea into reality. And that’s how we got Depthfinder™ fish tape. To get an accurate measurement, you only need to thread the tape down a length of conduit, and then take a look at the markings on your end once the fish tape has reached the end of the line. How’s that for saving time?
Depthfinder™ flat steel fish tape comes in an ⅛″ width, but you can choose from lengths of 60, 125, or 240 feet, so it has you covered for just about any job. It’s high-impact plastic winder reel is bright orange for easy visibility, and has an extra tough internal reel that helps prevent the tape from kinking and jamming.
We’re into May and things are starting to heat up, but one thing never changes: Friday morning product training sessions. Just a little while ago, I had the pleasure of trying out some of Jameson’s most popular products, the first of which was the Wee Buddy® fiberglass conduit rodding system.
This fiberglass fish tape and reel combo is far more lightweight than steel, so it’s a lot less trouble to schlep around a jobsite than steel tape would be. Secondly, it’s completely non-conductive, so you don’t need to worry about electric shock or injury in the event that the conduit rodder accidentally comes into contact with a power source.
In the case of the Wee Buddy®, the fiberglass rod is covered in a bright orange polymer jacket, which not only makes the tape easily visible, but also keeps it smooth to the touch no matter how long you have it for – a huge advantage over bare fiberglass, which can start out smooth but eventually “bloom” after extended use and continuous exposure to UV rays.
If you’re not familiar with fiber blooming, it’s what happens when the glass fibers begin to disintegrate and separate from the rest of the rod, and let me tell you, it can lead to some serious skin irritation and discomfort for whoever happens to be handling the bloomed fiberglass. So as you can imagine, it’s a huge benefit to use jacketed fiberglass, because it not only strongly resists blooming, but is also far more comfortable for operators to use throughout the product’s entire lifespan.
A Wee Buddy® feature that I found extremely interesting is the fact that it can be repaired on the job should a break ever occur. Apparently all fish tape and rod snaps at some point, regardless of what it’s made of or who manufactured it. It just naturally weakens under the stress it’s exposed to job after job. If you’re using a steel tape, you’re pretty much out of luck if it breaks – the only option is to toss it and get a new one. But Jameson’s fiberglass rodding design, combined with a very well-thought-out repair kit, allows you to repair an injured Wee Buddy® tape on the spot in just a few minutes, so you can get right back to work without missing a beat. I may not be a contractor, but I can definitely see how preferable that would be to halting operations and waiting for new conduit rodder to arrive.