Ideas That Work: Knockout Trick, Glowing Tools and Flex Snagger

By May 15, 2015
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Every month, we pick the top Ideas That Work submitted by you, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR readers. These ideas can't be found in any code or guidebook and are only learned or devised through years of experience and thinking, "There's got to be a better way to do this!" Please remember, the ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety standards have been fully adhered to.

For a note on "game-changing ideas" from the Ideas That Work editor, Anton Mikec, click here.

Now, without further ado, here are this issue's Ideas That Work!

Old box knockout removal
I often get a call to add a new receptacle in a commercial office and have to tie into an existing wall outlet. The older junction boxes have knockouts that only remove forward. To make this easier, I use my cordless drill driver to screw a self-tapping screw into the knockout I wish to remove. Once it is secure into the knockout, I can easily pull it forward for removal.

Jeff Weissman
Park City, Utah

Finding tools in the dark
Everybody hates losing a tool. I especially hate it when I know where the tool is, but I can’t see it in the dark. It might be in a crawlspace, the attic or above a drop ceiling. One tip I’ve used for years is to wrap glow-in-the-dark tape around my tools so I can see them in a dark area. This way, I don’t need a flashlight to look for the tool, and I can spot it very quickly.

Timothy McDonald
Cary, N.C.

Flex your muscles
I frequently need to install a steel box into a wall to provide for a new receptacle or switch location. This is considered “old work,” since you have to cut through existing drywall. In this type of location, you use aluminum or steel flex, and it is impossible to install the flex-to-locknut adapter and fit it into the steel box and just install it into the wall. Either the box is stopped by the connected flex, or the flex goes partially into the wall and the box gets stuck. You have to install the flex after the box is in and secured by the mounting tabs, so how do you reach the flex to get it into the selected knockout hole easily?

I use a 2-ft. piece of solid THHN wire, strip about 2 in., form it into a U shape, and bend the end of the bare wire tip about 45 degrees to create a “hook” that will grab the inside ridges of the flex when pushed in. I install the box into the wall with the flex hanging inside with the presnagged wire. After the box is secure, gently pull the wire, and the connected flex will automatically enter the hole. Keeping the wire pulled, insert the locknut and tighten it. When finished, pull hard and the wire will release. The wire’s small diameter lets you install the box and slide past the wire clearance.

Samuel Biedny
Riverside, Calif.

IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA that has saved you time or money on the job, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR ­readers would like to hear about it. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea—hand sketches are often hard to interpret. Note that some similar ideas are submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. Send your letter and photo to Jack Pullizzi, Ideas Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372, e-mail [email protected], or use the online submission tool at

CASH AND TOOL PRIZES FOR WINNING IDEAS Each published author in Ideas That Work receives a $50 American Express gift card from ELECTRICAL ­CONTRACTOR. In addition, Southwire ( will send the following set of electrician’s tools to each month’s first-place winner:

• Cable cutter
• Fish tape
• Long nose pliers
• Side cutting pliers
• Diagonal cutting pliers
• Pump pliers
• Screwdriver
• Wire stripper
• Crimpers
• Multimeter

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety issues have been fully adhered to. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR disclaims any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. ­ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reserves the right to reprint the words herein at its discretion.


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