I don’t know how familiar you are with grommets, so I thought I’d take some time today to highlight what is actually a very cool and useful (although oddly-named) category of products.
At some point or another, you’ve probably (at the very least) encountered grommets at work, whether they were built into a desktop or conference table, or installed in a countertop near a POS system. Most often, you’ll see them as black plastic rings that are fitted into the cutouts that allow cables to run through work surfaces – the whole idea being that the grommets will buffer the cutouts’ sharp edges so that cables aren’t accidentally scratched up or cut.
But lest you get the wrong idea, let me be quick to add that grommets aren’t limited to the standard-issue black plastic designs, or even to workplaces. You can find them in schools, theaters, entertainment complexes (think all those arcade games), and more than ever, in homes. And speaking of homes, the grommets just keep getting better to keep up with all of those HGTV-worthy upgrades we’re always after, like granite countertops, home theater setups, and modern furniture. There are grommets available in many different designer metal finishes, wood, and even a rainbow of plastics, so no matter what type of surface you need to run cables through, you can rest assured that even utilitarian grommets won’t drag down your decor.
In addition to different styles, materials and finishes, some grommets also multitask – that is to say, they do even more than just organize and protect cables. Some have built-in USB hubs, some have power outlets and data ports – I’ve even seen grommets that double as desk organizers and have compartments to hold pens and other small items. You never know what you might find.
Filed under: Cable and Wire Storage, Cable Ties, Clips and Grommets
Congratulations all – we’ve made it through another week, and it’s time to celebrate our soon-to-start 3 day Memorial Day weekend with some cinematic fun. Personally, I’m eyeing Men in Black 3, but before heading to the megaplex to escape the 90+ degree heat, there are a few other pre-summer blockbusters to talk about: a couple of our newest product demo videos on YouTube. Roll ‘em!
Brush Grommets: Video Production Dude Fernando is back in front of the camera this week, talking about a few of our stylish and practical brush grommets. Here’s why you should watch: lots of us have grommets in our desktops to control cables and give them a safe pass-through point, but brush grommets take things to the next level. If you’ve ever had a disconnected cable slip back through a grommet and land under or behind your desk, you know how annoying it can be to retrieve it. Brush grommets solve that problem because their cable openings are lined with flexible bristles that conform to cables and don’t give connectors empty space to fall through. That, and these particular grommets look really nice, too.
How to Store Cables with the Reel-A-Pail®: Check out Tiffani’s video demonstration of how to store extension cords and other cables with the Reel-A-Pail® Quickwinder™ – it may look like just a bucket, but it’s so much more. The Quickwinder stashes a cord reel neatly inside a covered heavy duty bucket, so that you can coil up cables on the job and keep them neat and protected while you’re not using them. You’ll even find out how to fasten it to truck beds and other structures for really tough use.
Filed under: Cable Ties, Clips and Grommets, Heat Shrink Tubing
Happy Friday! It’s time again for our Weekly Video Rewind. I know that a lot of you are probably itching to bust out of the office and head to the movies to catch The Dictator or Battleship, but before you do that, here are a couple of our more recent video demos that show you how to do useful stuff with cool products. So stop fidgeting through your Friday afternoon and check these out, okay? You never know – you may learn something that could make your life (and job) easier come Monday. Roll ‘em!
PRT Wraparound Heat Shrink Tubing: Tiffani, our New Product Expert Extraordinaire, is back in this video, this time to show us a very interesting concept in heat shrink: wraparound tubing. If you’ve never used standard heat shrink tubing before, the whole idea is that you slide the tube-shaped sleeve over the end of a cable, and basically slip the tubing along the length of the cable until it reaches the exact location where it’s needed. This means weaseling heat shrink over the initial obstacle of a plug or connector, and that can be tricky and sometimes completely impractical, especially if there’s such a large size discrepancy between cable and connector that by time you find something that will fit over the plug, it’s too big (even when shrunk) to fully conform to the cable. Sigh. Enter Zippertubing and their PRT wraparound shrink tubing, which is slit all the way along its length so it can be wrapped around cables from the side. Add peel-and stick adhesive edging to the already genius design, and you have a product that turns out a very respectable finished product with nowhere near the hassle of regular heat shrink.
HellermannTyton EVO 7 Cable Tie Gun: When you watch this video, you’ll see that Tiffani’s back again, this time demonstrating a tool that’s a lifesaver for cables and fingers alike: the EVO 7 Cable Tie Gun from HellermannTyton. If you’ve ever installed more than 10 or 20 cable ties in one sitting, you probably know that they have a habit of leaving the fingers a little raw – and then there’s that pesky universal cable tie probelm of overtightening, which can impede signals and damage insulation by essentially strangling your cables. Tiffani shows how to use a cable tie gun to quicky and correctly tension and trim cable ties, all while keeping your hands comfortable.
Rare Earth Solutions Magnetic Cable Clips: High-Grip Clips Without the Damaging Adhesives or Hardware
I’m the kind of person prefers not to assault visible surfaces with hole-making hardware or sticky adhesives no matter what I’m trying to accomplish, be that hanging a picture or wall-mounting things like bag dispensers. Keep your screws, nails and tacks, and hand me the 3M™ Command™ strips – I’ll use a dozen if I have to. Just don’t make me fill in a nail hole or patch peeled paint where a stick-on product ripped it off.
That’s why I was so intrigued when I came across these magnetic cable clips by Rare Earth Solutions™. Instead of sticking onto or bolting into a surface, neodymium magnets let the clips get a death grip on racks, enclosures, beams and other metal structures, so that you can route cables just about anywhere without having to make any permanent modifications. Aside from the fact that they require a metallic surface to stick to, these magnetic cable clips give you pretty much limitless options: they can be used in both temporary and permanent applications, positioned right-side-up, sideways, upside-down or anywhere in between.
Rare Earth Solutions™ cable clips come in either round or rectangular shapes in a range of sizes, each of which hold up to two cable bundles ranging between ¼” and ¾” in diameter. They’re perfect for garages, home theaters, automotive and aerospace work, stages, and pretty much anything else you can dream up – as long as there’s metal to anchor them to, they’ll work.
Many mornings find me piling concealer (aka “cosmetic spackle”) under my eyes to cover up the dark circles and make them blend in with the rest of my deathly pale complexion, because otherwise the contrast would just look stupid. But this doesn’t apply only to girls and their makeup… no self-respecting dude would, say, get dressed head to toe in paintball camo and then put on a hot pink belt – waaaaaaay to obvious. Likewise, you probably wouldn’t want to mar the surface of a custom wood desk with a black plastic grommet – right?
Not that there’s anything wrong with a grommet that doesn’t match your desk exactly – it’s just that there are some situations in which you wouldn’t want any visual distractions from your wooden furniture, not even if the distracting elements happened to be providing some much-needed cable management. Luckily, for cases like these, there are slotted wood desk grommets.
Designed buffer the edges of cable cutouts without visibly standing out from the rest of your desk, wood countertop or table, these grommets are available in either oak or maple, and come unfinished so that you can use them in their natural state, or custom-stain them for a perfect match. And we’re not talking laminated particleboard or faux-wood plastic… these are natural hardwood, in your choice of grains.
Wood furniture grommets pop into cable cutouts just like any other type of grommet, and provide up to ⅞” of cable pass-through space. They’re perfect for desks, entertainment centers, cabinets, and even butcher-block countertops. Just think of them as stealth grommets for your finer furniture.
I’ve seen a lot of cable clips over the past few years, and even regularly use a few kinds myself, but it seems like they’re all either somewhat light-duty (they accommodate just one cord) and are mounted via adhesive backing, or they’re built to handle heavier cable bundles and require surface-damaging hardware (like screws or anchors) for installation. Not to mention that they’re almost entirely intended to mount flush onto flat surfaces like walls and furniture. What happens if you want to run a bundle of cables along the edge of a sheet metal fixture?
You get HellermannTyton’s Edge Clips, that’s what. Available in two styles, they basically combine the features of basic cord clips or cable tie anchors with built-in clamps that grip onto the edges of sheet metal or plastic sheeting without the need for adhesives or hardware. They can be installed wherever you need them, and relied upon to keep a death grip on whatever that object may be until you decide that you want to remove them.
Here’s how they work. Edge Clips are made up of an integral metal clamp, which has a considerable amount of bite to keep the clips firmly in place, combined with your choice of either a cable clip or cable tie anchor. The cord clip flips open and snaps shut to fully encircle wires, and the cable tie anchors give you tie-down points for cable tie-fastened cord bundles. But whichever style you choose, you can be sure that it has staying power. Once pushed onto an edge, the clamps aggressively resist backward pull, so you don’t need to worry about them slipping off.
As a matter of fact, you know that a clamp really works when the manufacturer includes a note that it may leave very slight scratches behind post-removal. That may sound like a negative to some, but it actually makes me all the more confident in the product. If these things have such strong grip that they leave a little evidence of themselves behind, then that says that they really work. And besides, what are a few tiny scratches on a utilitarian sheet metal fixture when you know you can reliably mount cables wherever you need them? Pish posh.
I can’t imagine life without the convenience of plain old hairbrushes, but there’s just one thing about them that’s driven me kind of crazy: all the hair that gets trapped in the bristles. I guess it’s kind of good that all of the shed hair gets stuck (otherwise it would be all over your clothes and floor), but it’s pretty annoying when you have to pull it all free to clean out your brush.
Now here’s a brush scenario that’s a lot like the one I just mentioned, but a lot less obnoxious. It’s helpful, actually. Did you know that brush bristles can actually help you organize cables? Crazy but true. Add them to a grommet, and not only will the grommet help protect cables as they pass through cutouts in desk tops, conference tables, counters and computer cabinets, but it will also hold cables in place, even if they’re disconnected, so they won’t slip away. Genius.
As far as brush grommets go, this isn’t my first rodeo. But I have to say that the most recent ones I’ve seen also happen to be the most versatile and attractive. In the past, the majority of the brush grommets I’ve dealt with have been super boring looking, and were most commonly used in data center floors and enclosures. That’s why I really like these new metal brush grommets so much: they have some really beautiful designer metal finishes that give them a stylish edge, and they’re not just for super-techy applications – there are actually versions of them that are perfect for popping right into your desktop.
Just think about it: a sleek, modern grommet that keeps your cables organized, and then hangs onto them when they’re unplugged. No more crawling around under your desk for the missing end of that USB – it just stays where it’s supposed to, ready and waiting when you need it. How refreshing.
Holy swiveling cable ties.
When you’ve seen and used as many kinds of cable ties as I have, you can start to feel a little smug in your knowledge of zip tie-dom. Pathetic, but true. Whenever a purportedly “new” cable tie model rolls along, it somehow still seems all too familiar, in a “been there, done that” kind of way. Releasable? Check. Polymer-coated stainless? Yawn. UV-resistant? Are you actually showing me this?
Okay, maybe that least reaction was a little bit of an exaggeration, but you get where I’m going with this: there’s rarely anything truly “new” under the Sun. Well, “rarely” just happened.
HellermannTyton has come out with some extremely cool Swivel Clip cable ties. Up to now, we’ve had ties that can be nailed or screwed into drywall, ties with mounting brackets attached, and even ones with built-in flags that you can use to label cables. But never cable ties with swiveling clips. The other ones are good, but these are awesome.
If you’re wondering why on Earth someone would need clipping, swiveling cable ties, consider the fact that sometimes you just need to attach more cable to an existing wire harness, or maybe you want to run a hose or some wiring along a moving component. Swivel Clip cable ties make that easy because once you have your add-on cables bundled up within the tie, you just snap the clip onto another cable bundle, a support rod or narrow hose, and you’re in business.
What I really like is that the clip in question rotates a full 360 degress, so even after it’s snapped into place, you can keep turning/adjusting things until they’re aligned in the exact direction you need them to go in. No unsnapping the clip and trying again – just grab the whole bundle and turn. It’s almost too easy – but when is that ever a bad thing?
Cord clips: they’re practical, effective, even downright utilitarian. Being all function and no form, they aren’t there to stand around and look pretty – they’re there to get the job done, and they always do, which is why I’m a fan. As far as I can remember, I’ve never met a cord clip that I didn’t like, but at the same time, I’ve never exactly been drawn to them for their looks… until now.
Just yesterday, I laid eyes on BlueLounge® CableDrops™ cord clips for the very first time, and the weirdest thing happened. I had this instant, goofy, kid-in-a-candy-story reaction, the kind that I never thought would be inspired by a cable management product. You may have heard me go on about BlueLounge’s amazing design savvy before, when I’ve blogged about their many incredible charging stations and gadget docks. But these little cord clips absolutely took the cake, and I can’t quite figure out why.
Maybe it’s because CableDrops lean toward sophisticated and even sculptural on the design end, but somehow still remind you of cute, colorful little candies (hence the aforementioned “kid-in-a-candy-store” knee-jerk reaction). I’m not someone who’s into the general acquisition of stuff, but these are the kind of things that make you say, “ooooh, I need those” before you really even have time to process what they actually do. They’re impossibly cute.
Anyway, you get the idea. On to how they work. CableDrops™ hang onto one cord at a time, and are specifically designed to hold cable connectors and prevent them from slipping to the floor when they’re disconnected. So that USB cord that you’re always crawling on the floor behind your desk to retrieve stays conveniently at arm’s length, instead – which is where it should be. And then there’s the easy “installation” part – they’re conveniently backed with adhesive, so all you do is figure out where you want them, peel the backing off, and stick them to any flat surface.
One of my favorite things is that they come in beautiful complementary color assortments, and are sold in 6-packs, so you have the freedom to use just one, or group them together for even more impact and cable management power. Because of their looks, you can get pretty artistic with the arrangements, so these are perfect for creative and design-oriented people… like me.
I’m wracking my brain, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t think of a single context in which sagging is a good thing. Think about it: sagging skin… sagging roofs… sagging exhaust systems… sagging pants – you get the idea. When stuff starts to drag, it’s, well… a drag. Especially when it comes to cables. Whoever thought that a little bit of gravity-weighted cable slack would be enough to knock out, or at least slow down and mess up, an entire data signal?
It’s true: when cables are left without enough support, they start to sag under the influence of gravity, and this downward pull (called cable strain) is often enough to distort the conductor (the inner wire that carries signals) to the point that it just doesn’t work right. And when a cable doesn’t work right, that means that your Internet connection or cable TV signal is a lot weaker/far more sporadic than it should be, or not there at all. Cable strain also usually means that you have to shell out for a new cable that’s fit for the job. In a nutshell, no good can come of it.
That’s why I’m such a fan of these strain relief clamps from Richco. Designed to shore up cable in situations where it would otherwise be slumping, strain relief clamps are used every so often along a cable run to secure wires to a sturdy surface, and prevent evil gravity from taking its toll.
Design and installation-wise, they’re very simple. The strain relief clamps are basically an elongated oval shape, with a wire channel running crosswise along the underside (that’s the part that holds the cable), and a small hole at each end, through which you can drive screws to hold the clamp in place on a wall or another flat surface. This particular mounting method makes them sturdier than less-permanent adhesive-backed cord clips, and also means that they can do double duty, not only supporting cables as they travel from Point A to Point B, but also helping to route and guide them, as well.
And we can all use a little extra guidance…