Ideas That Work: Tips, Twists and Tidy Tricks

By Sep 15, 2016
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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.

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

Safety first

Sometimes smart people do dumb stuff. To prevent this as much as possible, I keep a binder in the truck with a list of common safety mistakes, from ladders to cutting and grinding to electrical issues. They take about 5 minutes each to read—they are more reminders than instruction manuals. For example, if I see someone on the top step of ladder or sticking uninsulated dykes in a tightly packed panel, I don’t yell at them and embarrass them. Instead, I have them read the appropriate page. On a break or at the end of the day, I may call the whole crew’s attention to that topic for a mini safety meeting, all without pointing the finger at the person who brought it to my attention. The first line of each page reads: “These are mistakes we can’t afford to make, and continued warnings of these dangerous actions may result in your dismissal from this project.”

Gene Casstevens
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Do the (un)twist

Jobs these days are using more MC cable. When you start to lace in a panel, the twisted solid copper conductors are a pain to straighten out. Take a cordless drill, and chuck up on an eyebolt or hook. Then run the end of the cable through the eye and twist it together. Holding some tension on the wire, run the drill, and it will untwist. Now it’s straight and easy to work with.

Greg Cummins
Fairmont, W.V.

Leave no mark

While putting up fixtures in a finished basement, I inadvertently left an 18-inch black mark on the wall from one of my 6-foot ladder’s feet. I went to the nearest drug store and purchased a package of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. In 5 minutes, I had the smudge cleaned off, saving me from an expensive repaint job. These things work great, and now I always keep them in my tool bag.

Edward Maggitti
Wilmington, Del.

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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