Filed under: Cable Ties, Clips and Grommets, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Every time I use a tiny picture hanger to mount 30 pounds of frame, matting and glass on the wall, I can’t seem to believe that a nail/bracket combo that’s barely the size of a quarter can possibly keep heavy wall art suspended for any length of time. Every time I’m in the framing section of the craft store to pick up more picture hanging supplies (which is surprisingly often), I find myself looking at the weight ratings on the packs of hangers, and thinking “Yeah, right.” But somehow, without fail, I always end up putting my trust in these miniscule pieces of metal, and you know what? I haven’t been let down yet.
Now that you know about my admiration for miniature metal fasteners that are greater than the sum of their parts, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’m newly enamored of (what else?) a little steel connector with a lot of holding power, also known as the Wire Grabber™ by Arlington Industries.
Although the Wire Grabber is designed to grasp hanging wires and support impressive amounts of weight, it has nothing to do with mounting wall art – it’s actually used to suspend cable trays and other fixtures from beams and purlins. As a matter of fact, the Wire Grabber’s name really says it all. Its main function is to create strong hanging loops in the steel wire that suspends cables trays from the ceiling. Here’s how it works.
The Wire Grabber is made up of 3 components: a base, a clip, and a screw. You start out by running the loose end of a suspending wire through the Wire Grabber’s base. After that, you insert the wire end through the hanging ring or hook on your cable tray or light fixture, and then thread it back through the Wire Grabber’s base in the opposite direction. Once that’s done, you just fit the top clip into the base and tighten the set screw. That’s it – the Wire Grabber will hold the newly-formed hanging loop in place, even under a weight load of up to 100 pounds.
What’s really nice about the Wire Grabber is that even though it makes contact with the hanging wire in 6 places, it never actually bites into the wire or causes damage, so if you need to adjust hanging height or switch out a fixture, you can use the exact same piece of wire over again. The Wire Grabber’s holding power is also unaffected by oils and grease, so you can use it even in less-than-pristine environments without any worry.
Quarter Round Decorative Raceway: The High-Style Cable Concealer That Won’t Put a Dent in Your Decor
After 6 months of gradual progress, I just put the finishing touches on my living room. Ever since we moved in, I’ve been hanging wall art, rearranging furniture, experimenting with the placement of everything, and I think we’ve finally hit on something that works. The only things still bugging me are the few places around our entertainment center where I can glimpse the cable wire coming up through the floor, and the power strip’s cord as it makes its way from under the TV stand to the wall outlet a few feet away.
I’ve got things partially concealed with a floor vase full of decorative bamboo, but unfortunately, the camouflaging benefits of green stalks and pottery only go so far. Barring standard surface raceway (its shape isn’t quite subtle enough for this particular situation), I’ve been looking for some sort of cord concealer that my eyes won’t be drawn to when I’m trying to focus on the TV. Something that can lay right along the floor and blend in with my smooth baseboard molding all at once. And as of last Friday, I found it: quarter round decorative raceway.
“Quarter round” sounds a little weird, but it’s a perfect description of this raceway. It’s built on a 90-degree angle and has a gently arcing surface, so that you can fit it into any corner, and see only the lightly rounded top. Quarter round raceway is perfect for fitting into corners, be they the junctions between two walls, or the places where your baseboard meets the floor.
In my case, it’s a “where the baseboard meets the floor” kind of a thing. My baseboard molding is totally flat, with no decorative shaping or anything, so I think that the quarter round might even add a little extra something to that wall. What’s really nice is that it can be painted to match the existing trim, so it will all blend seamlessly (if you have natural wood molding, the raceway is even available in an unfinished, stainable “woodgrain” material, so you can still get an exact match).
Installation is super easy: just peel the backing off the pre-applied adhesive strip, and stick it right to your wall, floor, or molding. It’s almost too easy. And best of all, it lets you shift your attention away from the exposed cables, and back to where it needs to be: on the TV, of course.
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.
Filed under: Home Theater, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Up to about yesterday, whenever I heard the term “surface raceway,” my mind would conjure up the image of long, rectangular sticks of wire channel. Boxy. Angular. Lacking in subtlety. Raceway is great for routing and concealing cables, and does help to camouflage things quite a bit, but as for shape, there isn’t much flow to the standard garden varieties. Straight line, corner. Straight line, corner. All the way around. Great if you’re into a Cubist aesthetic, but if you prefer something a little sleeker, it’s less than ideal.
So imagine my surprise and delight when D-Line Half Round Raceway came waltzing through the door. Unlike its boxy counterparts, this decidedly shapelier version has curves in all the right places, but not in the way that will make anyone look twice. In fact, the semi-circular shape actually helps D-Line Half Round avoid notice, since it blends and transitions and more smoothly with walls than rectangular raceway does.
If you look at the picture, you’ll see what I mean. Isn’t it great the way it blends right in with the baseboard molding that it’s installed right above? What’s really nice it that you can even paint it to match. That gentle curve actually mirrors the detailing in the molding, and unless someone were to get down on their hands and knees and do some close-range squinting at it, they’d be none the wiser of its presence.
In addition to being paintable, D-Line half round raceway is also easy to cut with scissors or a PVC cutter (depending on its size) and is available with the inner and outer corner fittings that make it possible to “bend” the raceway into, out of, and around corners. As for installation, it’s a piece of cake: after you’ve cut the raceway to length, just peel off the backing, and press the pre-applied adhesive against the wall. Then step back and admire your work. But be warned: you may need to take a really close look – this stuff can be easy to miss.
Poor Wire Duct. Nobody ever looks at it twice. It always shows up and does its job, but the people who depend on it most are always drawn to the “prettier,” more interesting things in the room, like the shiny server enclosures, or all of the electronics with their displays and flashy LED lights. Let’s face it: if the typical networking environment were a school dance, wire loom would be the one who stood unnoticed in the corner all night.
But believe it or not, I just did a double-take… and at a piece of wire duct, no less. Not because it was shiny or unbelievably good looking, but because if its very unique talent: bending. Bendable wire duct? Yes, you heard me right , and I no, am not pulling your leg. Wire duct, always known for being on the uptight and rigid side (structurally speaking) has now loosened up, become a lot more flexible, and started going by the name “Richflex.”
If you haven’t already figured out why Richco® Richflex is so great, I’ll tell you: cable runs, on occasion, have to bend. Into corners, out of corners, around corners… you get the idea. But put them in a stick-straight piece of wire duct, and the bending part gets tricky. It usually involves cutting the wire duct where the bend needs to occur, and then splicing the pieces back together with preformed plastic elbows. It’s a drag.
That’s why the thought of flexible wire duct is enough to bring a thrill of joy to the cable installer’s heart – no cutting, no custom splicing; just a quick flick of the wrist, and Richflex goes in the direction you need it to. All of this bendability even applies to Richflex’s “fingers” – whenever you need to break a cable away from the rest of the run, just bend a rung aside to make the transition easier.
Filed under: Adhesives, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
They say that a conduit run is only as strong as its adhesive. Okay, well, maybe they don’t say that, but it’s true! Pretty much anything out there is only as strong as it’s weakest point, and when it comes to conduit, that would be the joint (or joints) where separate pieces of conduit are spliced together.
I may be getting a little too basic here, but the main point of conduit, its raison d’etre, is to protect cables and wiring. That’s it. Sure, it helps get them from one place to the next, but the real deal is the way it serves as armor against water, chemicals, and sharp things. If the bad stuff finds even one weak spot in the conduit where it can weasel its way in, the whole game’s up. Conduit itself, when not severely abused, is more than up to the task of sealing out water and corrosive agents, but the adhesive and fittings that join conduit runs have to be pretty good to keep up. Here’s one adhesive that can really hold its own.
Meet the cleverly-named BonDuit® Conduit Adhesive by American Polywater. It’s an accomplished multitasker that plays very nicely with PE, PVC, metal and composite conduits, and, when properly applied, creates a completely airtight, watertight joint to keep cables safe. The cured product also has a very high tensile strength, so it can stand up to quite a bit of bad weather and abuse without budging.
I know what you’re thinking: adhesives with those types of super powers usually come in several parts, and are a pain to mix and apply. Yes, BonDuit is made up of two separate components, but they aren’t frustrating or messy to mix, thanks to the special mixing nozzle applicator that automatically does the job for you. You just pull the applicator trigger, and the nozzle will do all the rest for you, mixing the two components in perfect proportion before laying down a bead of the final product. Not bad at all. To almost quote my favorite kid in the world, it’s “easy peasy… ummmm… adhesive squeezy.”
Among people who work with wire duct or just have a general knowledge of what it is, you’ll most likely hear the opinion that it’s good stuff, and that plenty of cabling situations out there would be total nightmares without it. It’s low profile, gets cables from Point A to Point B in an orderly fashion, and lets you break out wires whenever and wherever you need to along the way. It’s like Super Serious raceway. Except that regular raceway looks better.
I hate to say it, but as great as wire duct is, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing cable management solution out there. It looks kind of, I don’t know… ladder-ish (if you get what I’m saying). Wire duct is full of slots for those cable breakouts that I mentioned before, and unfortunately, the very features that make it so functional are also the things that drag it down in the Beauty Department. I’ve always preferred raceway myself, because I like the fact that it’s so sleek and visually unobtrusive. But then again, I just need it for the cords around my house, not serious cable runs in a heavily wired and networked business. What do those people do when they need the homely virtues of wire duct, but long for a little more polish?
Well, I’m not sure what they used to do, but these days, you can reach for PVC wire duct covers and dividers, which have the power to considerably doll-up any wire duct run both inside and out. Let’s start with the inside: dividers install to keep different cable runs separate in spite of their close proximity (it helps in avoiding confusion during future maintenance), and retaining clips keep wires in place even when the duct cover is removed (you don’t want everything falling out on you and getting mixed up).
And then for the finishing touches: smooth, snap-on covers that transform the very techy, industrial look of wire duct into something a little more sophisticated. It’s a sort of modern-day “Ugly Duckling” story for the cable management world: wire duct has always had inner beauty, it’s just taken a while for it to manifest it on the outside, too.
Ah, the old “How to Get the Wire Duct to Stick to the Wall Long-Term” dilemma. There used to be two options: double-sided adhesive (a favorite of the quick-fixers out there) or drywall screws (for the “do things right now, and you won’t regret it later” crowd). Double-sided adhesive works great if you’ll be going light on the cables and don’t expect the wire duct to stay in one place forever, but if you have longevity and any amount of weight in mind, you’re better off going with the ultimate holding power of drywall screws.
Just one problem: installing wire duct with drywall screws entails a bit of a juggling act. You have to simultaneously hold the wire duct against the wall and keep it level, all while trying to pick up screws and sink them into the sheetrock using a screwdriver or power drill. While there may be someone in the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe it Or Not who actually possesses enough hands and arms for this, it’s pretty much a joke for one average person to install wire duct this way – and that’s why it’s usually done with two.
As it turns out, using 2 installers on a job means paying double in labor. And that, my friends, is never a good thing for one’s bottom line. I’m guessing that that’s what inspired the development of Wire Duct Rivets. These small plastic fasteners anchor wire duct into drywall in seconds, but take only one person to install (can I get a “cha-ching!”?). The process is simple: you just measure the rivet spacing you need, pre-drill holes into the wall, and then go back with you wire duct and pop in the rivets. They install via a lightweight rivet tool that uses a simple push action, which is great for sparing your wrist the repetitive turning of a screwdriver, or the weight of a power drill.
As a rule, I’m a fan of raceway. It’s low-profile, visually unobtrusive, and most types will even graciously accept a coat of latex paint, all the better to blend in with their surroundings. It’s equally at home in your living room or office, and thanks to some creative fittings, you can even bend it in and out of corners, or create custom intersections. It’s a solid product.
The only problem is keeping cables in place while you try to snap the raceway’s lid shut – it’s kind of a juggling routine. One hand has to keep the wires stuffed into the channel yet clear of the lid’s hinge, while the other tries to actually close the lid – a job that, in and of itself, would much rather be completed with two hands. What’s an overextended cable organizer to do?
In a nutshell, try 2-Piece Flex Tab Raceways. On the surface, they look like typical 1-piece latching raceway, but there’s a secret hidden inside: two flexible tabs that fold over the cables to keep them in place while you dedicate both hands to the task of popping on the cover. The tabs really come in handy for any installation, but you’re really going to appreciate them when you’re trying to defy gravity with overhead-ceiling raceway.
Ladies and Gents, they’ve done it again. I don’t know what it is about rolled raceway that’s always blown my mind, but the stuff is cool. I really dig the fact that someone took a functional and versatile product that had a few dimension-based shipping and storage issues, and found a way to smoosh it flat, roll it up, and put it in a box. But now it’s gotten even better.
I just became acquainted with a new rolled raceway by the name of Wire Trak™. Unlike the other raceway-on-a-roll type products out there, Wire Trak puts itself together – literally. Whereas with other brands you dispense a length of flattened raceway from the box, cut it off and fold it into its intended 3D shape, Wire Trak has it all under control – all you do is pull out what you need, cut, and stick it into place.
The actual assembly/shaping is all left up to the packaging, believe it or not. Where you’d normally find a dispensing slot on most cut-to-length raceway boxes, there’s a patented raceway former built into the Wire Trak™ box, which pops the flat Wire Trak into shape as it’s pulled from the package. Sounds pretty cool, does it not? It’s a major time saver, because it frees you from having to painstakingly fold feet or yards of raceway into a perfectly rectangular channel. Origami for the sake of origami is one thing, but who wants to master the art of folding just to hide a few cables?