Cool Tools: Fish Sticks And Fishing Tools

By Jeff Griffin | Feb 15, 2017




The routing of wiring for voice/data/video, security, alarm and control systems is done differently from electrical cable and, in most cases, is completed with different tools.

Today’s expanding line of fishing tools includes products especially suited for installing a building’s structured wiring.

Telescoping poles and threaded rods are useful above suspended ceilings, below subfloors, in crawl spaces and spaces where insulation already has been installed, and other places where a tape may be difficult to navigate. They also are useful when fishing for short distances or when trying to route a wire in a small area where a worker cannot go.

It usually is dark in overhead plenums and suspended ceilings, so installers can use high-visibility glow rods and rods with an LED light attachment on the tip to illuminate the work area. These features can make feeding fishing cable easier and more efficient by helping to avoid obstacles in the cable’s path.

In some situations, magnetic pulling systems are an effective option that can significantly speed up fishing operations. A magnetic coupling allows pulling through drywall, insulated walls and wood studs. Magnetic pulling systems are promoted as being especially useful for installing wires for building controls, alarm and surveillance systems, data communications cable and electrical cable.

Handling requirements for delicate fiber optics also are a factor in the choice of fishing tools for a building’s structured wiring.

“VDV, alarm and control cables are usually not routed in conduit, which can be one of the first and most obvious differences when fishing these cables compared to electrical wiring,” said Sean O’Flaherty, director of product management at Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill. “Also, VDV cables often may be pulled across ceilings or crawl spaces without as much attaching the cable to joists, studs, etc., as would be required with electrical wire.”

Tools such as fish rods of varying flex characteristics are widely used for routing these types of cables in crawl spaces, between joists, in walls or over ceilings. Telescoping rods in lengths up to 20 feet are also commonly used.

Poles made of fiberglass also are popular and commonly used. However, as fiberglass rods age and wear on their surfaces, they become prone to splintering, O’Flaherty said.

“When an operator is pulling or otherwise maneuvering and forcefully stressing the rods, they may induce splintering from the surface of a worn rod, thereby receiving painful fiberglass splinters in the hands,” he said. “While mitigated with the use of work gloves, sometimes the dexterity required to fish rods through walls or other tight spaces requires the operator to have the touch and feel of ungloved hands in order to master the task at hand.”

Solutions have been developed to eliminate the splintering problem.

“This typically is achieved by coating or otherwise encapsulating the fiberglass rod within a protective outer layer,” O’Flaherty said. “These types of rods protect users from receiving fiberglass splinters in their hands, regardless of how much force or stress they deliver to the rods. Market-leading products can even be stressed to the breaking point without releasing any potentially harmful splinters. Splinter-­guarded rods bring tremendous value to customers in the VDV cabling segment.”

Regarding pulling or placing fiber cable, attention must be given to the reinforcing and strengthening component of the cable to avoid damaging the fiber optics. A strengthening member is typically present in the cable to make mechanical pulling possible. Care must be taken to ensure this component takes the mechanical forces of the pulling operation.

In situations where structured wiring is pulled through conduit, O’Flaherty said conventional fish tapes are very useful.

“Examples could be speaker wires, category cable or coax cable,” he said.

Klein Tools makes steel and nonconductive fish tapes, fish rods and telescoping fish rods that extend to lengths of 18 feet. Its magnetic wire-pulling system won a Showstopper Award at the 2016 NECA Show in Boston. Its swivel leader eyelet securely connects to most wires and mesh wire pulling grips, enabling quick routing of cables in enclosed spaces and through walls as well as floor and ceiling voids. Its leader-pull design can navigate many obstructions. It has nonmarring nylon leader-pull with 20 feet of heavy-duty nylon rope.

Tayler Brinson, product manager, Southwire Tools, Carrollton, Ga., said fishing VDV cable is a much more delicate process than fishing standard electrical cable.

“The pulling tension required is much lower because pulling at a high tension rate can damage sensitive data cables,” he said. “Pre-planning is extremely important before running any type of wire because, with extended data cable runs, kinks in wire and other unfavorable conditions in cable installations can cause a direct issue with data speed and performance.”

Improvements to fishing tools increase the ease of pull of wire both inside and outside of conduit, Brinson said.

“Fishing products have been developed with various features to make installation of alarm/control system wire easier,” he said. “Whether it is a new polymer or glow-in-the-dark leaders, many changes in the market are centered around increasing contractor efficiency and product durability.”

To prevent damage to cable, fiber optic cable’s minimum bend radius and maximum pull tension must be closely adhered. Generally, fiber optic cable is pulled using pull tape.

Fish tapes can be used when cable is pulled through conduit.

“Usually, this would be for longer runs, and the cable is taped to the end of the fish tape and pulled through conduit,” Brinson said. “The conduit must be free of any sharp edges, and its bend radius needs to be large enough to pull the cable through without damage.”

Southwire Tools manufactures steel, fiberglass and polymer fish tapes, glow-in-the-dark flexible fish sticks, pull tape and poly line.

Sumeet Pujari, product manager, Greenlee, Rockford, Ill., said updates have been intended to make the user safer and more productive.

“Nylon and fiberglass fish tools are used to route cable around energized sources,” he said. “There have been ergonomic improvements, and different materials are being used. New metallic fish tapes have markings, which allow the user to know the lengths of fish runs.”

Greenlee offers fishing reach poles and telescoping fish poles in lengths up to 24 feet to push and pull wires, and a selection of steel, stainless steel and nonmetallic fish tapes.

About The Author

GRIFFIN, a construction journalist from Oklahoma City, can be reached at [email protected].





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