Published: December 2007
Job sites frequently are not the most convenient places to work. On industrial and commercial projects, electricians often find that where they must work is a long way from the supply trailer and where they have to park their trucks. Once in the work area, there is no good place to organize reels of wire, conduit or other materials and supplies. A piece of scrap sheet rock or the floor may serve as a print “table,” or a makeshift workbench may be improvised from scrap lumber, then left behind when the project is finished.
Home-improvement centers and hardware stores offer lightweight folding work platforms designed for do-it-yourselfers, but they are not durable enough for the demands of construction professionals and are not suited to individual trade requirements. Industrial supply houses stock many types of rolling tables and cabinets and large workstations. While some workbenches and stations may be described as “portable,” most are relatively large and are not mounted on wheels, making relocating a difficult and time-consuming chore.
Such products may be fine for workers in industrial plants and commercial buildings, but they are not suited for construction and maintenance trades who have relatively few options to consider when they are looking for portable workbenches, said Eric Fernandes, group product manager for Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., which introduced its Trade Titan tool cart last year.
“Based on the feedback that we have received from professional tradesmen in the field, we expect that the market for trade-specific carts will continue to grow,” Fernandes said.
Greenlee has marketed a heavy-duty work cart for about 10 years, and demand has been very strong, said Todd Ellerton, senior product manager. Although the product can be used for many applications, Ellerton said Greenlee, which has a strong pres-ence in the electrical market, conducted research to identify the wants and needs of potential users. The product was then designed with electricians in mind.
Other similar products exist. For instance, Elder Designs introduced its portable Wire Wagon model in 1998 and the multipur-pose Work-n-Wagon in 2003. Both the original Wire Wagon and Work-n-Wagon have been NECA Showstoppers, awarded by this magazine. Company president Doyle Elder said that all his products were designed for electrical applications based on his 25 years’ experience as an IBEW electrician. However, Elder added that the benefits of his products also apply to other trades.
Work carts available to electricians can make work considerably more efficient, although the selection may be limited.
MILWAUKEE ELECTRIC TOOL CORP., Eric Fernandes: “Durability, mobility and organized storage are the key things that the trades are looking for in a portable workbench or cart. A typical electrician or data communications installer uses a wide range of tools, materials and supplies on an average day. As they work, the scope and location of their work changes through-out the day, and they need a cart that can withstand job-site abuse and easily move over debris and extension cords while keeping the tools of their trade organized and easily accessible.
“The Milwaukee Trade Titan industrial work cart is available in two configurations, which provide storage for the tools, supplies and materials that the trades use on a daily basis, and they also have a large work surface and cutting groove for quickly and securely cutting materials like EMT and unistrut down to size. Additionally, they are versatile and can be custom-ized for particular tasks like pulling wire or sweating pipe.
“Trade Titans are secure, mobile work stations that not only carry tools and materials, but they also provide a large, sturdy work surface to quickly and easily get the jobs done.
“They feature durable, heavy-duty structural foam construction with a steel reinforced base deck; industrial-grade 6-by- 2-inch nonmarking, rubber round-tread casters with total locking brakes; dedicated storage areas for frequently used tools, such as cordless drills and pipe benders; a drawer for secure storage; and a large open storage area with a 4½-inch side wall to keep fasteners, fittings and small part boxes secure and organized. The work carts can also be customized for specific work applications with several trade accessories that mount to the front of the cart and can be used by electricians, plumbers and mechanical/maintenance trades.
“Milwaukee visited a multitude of trades on the job and in factories to understand how they used the carts on the job,” Fernandes said. “One of the first things that every trade complained about was casters that either failed or could not perform on the job. We also saw how the trades used standard building material to modify their carts to assist them with their jobs. We spent time watching them as they performed repetitive tasks at various stages on a job like pulling wire and installing sprin-klers or cable trays to the finish stages. We took these work-arounds and modifications along with an understanding of how they did their job and developed several prototypes. These units were then field tested on the job to prove their value.”
GREENLEE TEXTRON, Todd Ellerton, senior product manager: “Portable workbenches allow electricians to quickly and easily move from location to location on job sites. Tools and supplies can be moved along with the mobile workbench, producing significant time savings. Tools and supplies, such as copper wire, can be locked inside the mobile workbench to keep them secure, greatly reducing theft of these items.
“Greenlee’s Model 3548 is a heavy-duty, mobile workbench designed for the rigors of the commercial construction job sites. Its features have a broad range of applicability, but it was designed with the electrician in mind. The tough composition board work surface provides plenty of benchtop area for carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other trades. The included pipe vise aids electricians and plumbers while working with conduit and pipe. The two doors have built-in storage shelves, and the unit comes with locking 6-inch casters. There are also two self-storing shelves inside to accommodate storing of larger items or tools. The patented, ergonomically designed handles allow the box to be easily moved around the work site. The 3548 is coated with an industrial powder paint finish for superior corrosion resistance,” Ellerton said.
ELDER DESIGNS INC., Doyle Elder, president: “As an electrician, I spent years installing conduit and pulling wire, and I know first hand the frustrations of keeping reels of wire, conduit, and tools and supplies accessible and ready to use. I saw the value of a portable workbench that would have multiple functions, which would make it more valuable to the user. Time is money, and at Wire Wagon, our goal is to develop products that help electricians solve everyday problems associated with handling wire and materials.
“Our first product was the Wire Wagon Model 101. It can hold as many as 16 2,500-foot spools or a combination of 2,500- and 500-foot spools. Center axles swing out for easy loading. On the job, load a Model 101 with the high-voltage and low-voltage wire colors needed for the day, plus several hundred feet of conduit, along with tools and supplies; no back and forth trips for more wire or conduit. The 20-by-64-inch metal top shelf is the perfect workbench to prefab parts, assemble fixtures or other everyday jobs.
“The Work-n-Wagon is the most recent addition to the line. It is a print table and mobile workbench with portable storage for conduit and other materials all in one compact package that can be rolled around the job site to wherever it is needed. The table surface is a workbench for fabricating parts, assembling fixtures, and many other tasks. Position the table surface at an angle, and you’ve got a print table. Underneath are storage shelves for materials and supplies and a rack that holds con-duit.
“The Wire Wagon 102 carries big supplies of cable and several hundred feet of conduit and rolls around the job site on 5-inch casters with lock brakes to prevent the cart from moving until time to move to the next work location. The metal top shelf makes a perfect workbench.
“For large MC projects, the Wire Wagon 103 will accommodate four 1,000-foot spools and comes with two sets of axles for easy change out for wider-than-normal spools and eliminates the need to set up and take down spool jacks for each move to a new location. In addition, the 103 can carry up to 2,000 pounds of conduit and strut.
“The Wire Wagon 105 holds up to 20 500-foot wire spools or six 2,500-foot spools. Or load it with as many as nine boxes of data cable or six 1,000-foot spools, and there’s also space for material and tools. Adding or changing spools is quick and easy—simply slide on spools. No axles to remove or pins to lose. Brakes hold the unit in place, and a wire guide permits wire to be pulled at angles, so there is no need to keep repositioning the cart.” EC
GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at 405.748.5256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.