Getting wire and cable from the warehouse to the job site and installed to a project’s specifications requires logistical planning, execution and a variety of equipment and tools.
Wire can be transported by several methods and managed on-site with specialized equipment including rolling reel carts, racks and stands. Some portable work stations also can store small wire reels.
Equipment for managing wire during installation includes fishing tapes and rods, manual and electrical wire pullers and accessories including sheaves, rollers and tension meters. Fish tape and rods are not covered in this report and will be featured in next month’s Cool Tools column, as well.
When wire arrives on the job site, the first decision is how to get wire to the pull location, said John Henry, general manager of Current Tools, Wellford, S.C.
“There is a multitude of wire carts that may be used to transport and dispense small reels of wire,” he said. “Typically, larger cable reels are placed on cable reel stands and can also be placed on reel rollers. Cable feeders may be used to assist in dispensing the cable from multiple reels. This allows one person to feed cable from more than one reel simultaneously, reducing the need for additional labor to control each reel.”
Henry believes one of the most significant developments in cable pullers over the last decade is the variety available for different applications.
“Just a few years ago the only puller offered was a 4,000-lb. model. The wide selection and range of capacities available today allows the contractor to match the cable puller to a specific application. There also has been an effort by manufacturers to provide more self-contained and mobile pullers. The mobile carriages of pullers are designed with safety in mind by reducing the strain of lifting heavy components. Labor savings are significant due to reduced set-up time,” Henry said.
Sheaves and rollers are used to guide the cable as it is installed, and many types are available to fit most applications. To ensure a smooth and safe cable pull, the correct rollers and sheaves must be selected.
“Safety is the most important factor when selecting a pulling rope,” Henry said. “We offer two types of pulling rope: double braid composite and lightweight, low-friction pulling rope. Double-braided composite rope gives superior strength with low stretch. The low-friction rope significantly reduces friction compared to standard pulling rope, and pound-for-pound it is stronger than steel. Other accessories connect the wire to the pulling rope.”
Current Tools offers a complete line of pulling harnesses, pulling grips and swivels, he said.
Current Tools’ product line includes four cable pullers, ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 lbs. of pulling force; pulling rope; pulling sheaves and rollers; a new cable tray roller; and other accessories.
Multispool wire carts are a simple way to keep wire consolidated and organized for smaller runs, and portable jack stands can be moved to wherever the big reels of cable are, said Adele Hendrix, product development and marketing strategist at Greenlee/Emerson in Rockford, Ill. Cable reels in various sizes are able to easily move cable supplies around a job site.
“Smaller pulls like circuit branches, data cable and lighting often are pulled by hand because there may not be a way to use a cable puller, or a puller may be too big for the job space,” she said. “Around 80% of cable pulls are small and often done by hand.”
Hendrix said pulling cable with power equipment is one of the more dangerous jobs an electrician has to do, and using a puller tested to UL standards helps minimize common pulling risks.
“Pulling calculators and tension meters determine the approximate pull force needed to install electrical cable inside conduit,” Hendrix said. “The force needed for each leg is found when users enter information about the pull into our PullCalc app, such as conduit size, cable type, length of run and number of bends. It is available free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.”
A tension meter enables the user to monitor the speed, distance and force in real time throughout the pull. The operator can then be alerted if the pull exceeds certain set thresholds. These alerts can help avoid the need to rework.
Fish tape is a tool most commonly used to run line or small cables through conduit, but it can also be used to install cable under flooring or in other narrow spaces, Hendrix said. Fish tape is available in a variety of materials from steel to fiberglass and nylon.
Power fishing equipment works by attaching a piston to a lightweight fish line and inserting the piston into the conduit. Then the nozzle of the power fishing system is attached to the conduit opening and will blow the piston and line through the conduit. It also can be used at the opposite end to suck the line through conduit.
“While power fishing is the quickest way to fish, it only will work if the conduit run is relatively airtight. It is a popular method for use with rigid conduit and underground runs,” Hendrix said.
The Greenlee product line includes wire-reel-transporting equipment stands; wire dispensers; fishing tapes, poles and accessories; a handheld power cable puller; electric cable pullers with pulling force rated from 1,000 to 10,000 lbs.; tension meters; air-powered fish tools; and a free pulling calculator app.
Most fish tape is nonconductive and omnidirectional, which makes it easier to navigate through tight conduit bends, said Jason Schaper, product manager at Ideal Industries, Sycamore, Ill.
“High-quality steel fish tapes are rust-resistant and less likely to kink under pressure,” Schaper said. “Fish tape cases made from durable, impact-resistant polypropylene withstand the abuse common to many job sites providing a longer lasting product.”
Ideal offers a wide selection of fish tapes in a variety of lengths.
With approximately 75% of labor being spent on material handling, contractors are more focused than ever on the efficiency of moving materials, and that includes wire and cable, said David Jordan, president, iToolco, Clinton, Tenn.
“Utilizing the proper equipment, such as pipe carts, jack stands, rope tenders or material carts is mission-critical for managing construction budgets for fast-paced, complex jobs,” Jordan said. “There’s little tolerance for time wasted chasing down wire, cable or pipe, and there’s absolutely no time for dealing with equipment that can’t withstand daily use and abuse,” Jordan said. “Last year, iToolco developed three new heavy-duty carts to help contractors cut labor costs and keep materials accessible. Each has a unique design for a variety of applications to maximize storage capacity and versatility.”
Jordan said there is a high demand for cordless wire-pulling equipment.
“With modern advancements in battery technology, the difficulties of working in remote areas where power is not available are becoming easier to overcome. Cellular towers, solar fields, agricultural sites and other isolated locations are now more accessible with cordless pullers like the 3,000-lb. model we introduced last year,” he said. “The high-capacity rechargeable battery is long-lasting, delivers maximum power and has enough battery life for multiple pulls.
“Contractors also expect more adaptability from wire pullers. More and more frequently, we are being asked to design pullers for a specific industry role.”
Jordan said iToolco has designed a puller specifically for the utility industry.
“The utility puller attaches to a work truck, has an articulating receiver adapter that can be positioned 180 degrees vertically or horizontally, and transfers heavy pulling loads to the ground within inches of the conduit,” he said.
Fish tapes and fish rods are some of the most common tools in the electrical trade, being used to run wire and cable through out-of-reach areas, said Dan Pearson, product manager at Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill.
“Fish tapes typically come in reel form within a round plastic housing and are most often made from steel, coated fiberglass or wound plastic,” he said. “The most common use for fish rods is pulling wires or cables across ceilings, attics or through wall cavities. They are almost exclusively made of fiberglass, and formed in straight, short sections that can be strung together as opposed to continuous reels.“
Klein Tools’ product line includes steel fish tapes in lengths from 25 to 240 feet, fiberglass tapes from 50 to 200 feet, and fish sticks and rods.
Reel stands in a variety of sizes and configurations are available from Southwire Tools, said Tim Bardin, director of equipment products, Carrollton, Ga. The SIMpull Barrel cable drum holds four to seven paralleled no-lube circuit-sized wires in a container that is easily moved around job sites. It replaces wire carts and multiple reels. A shaftless design flange is available that allows one person to turn a wooden reel up to 34 inches and 2,000 lbs.
“With innovations over the last 12 years, pulling accessories have become as important as having the right puller. A good cable-pull calculator is one of the first accessories. It not only helps you calculate continuous pulling loads and sidewall tensions but also recommends which capacity cable puller to use for the pull,” Bardin said.
Bardin believes one of the best, often overlooked accessories is the cable feeder that can help manage conductors by pulling the wire from the spool or spools through conduit or cable trays.