Ideas That Work: Bending Trick, Separating Conductors and More

Every month, we pick the top four 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!

Hot box trick
Next time you are doing PVC underground conduit work and are using a hot box heater to soften the conduit for making offsets and bends, save your back and knees by using a 10-ft. piece of jet line string wrapped around the end of the conduit three times. Now you can stand up and rotate the conduit by pulling on either end of the string, thus rotating the conduit and preventing scorching. The string also helps support the conduit as it warms and softens.

John Collins
Ypsilanti, Mich.

Unwind MC/conductors
When tightening home runs into the panel—especially hospital-grade and BX cables—all the grounds, neutrals and hot conductors must be separated. Usually, this is a time-consuming task. After the armor is removed from the cable and the cable is tightened into the panel, a cordless drill can be used to separate the ground, neutral and hot. This is done by inserting the end of the cable into the cordless drill and using the reverse function on the drill to unwind the conductors. No special drill tip is required since the chuck itself can be used to grab onto the cable.

Marcin Chudzik
Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

Trenching time-saver
Whenever I am trenching wires and have to cross an existing trench, it is difficult to keep from filling the first one with dirt as I cut across it. One of the best ways to keep both trenches clean is to insert a 2-in.-by-6-in. board in the first trench before cutting across it. Once the stinger is past, remove the board. You will be amazed at how much labor this saves.

Rick Harrahill
Palmer, Neb.

Cutting conduit with cable in it
We had to cut off a rigid conduit with cables in it. Not wanting to chance damage to cables, we put the next smaller size pipe inside. We were still careful to not cut too deep, but the cables were protected. A nut on the insert pipe kept it from dropping out of sight.

Bud Holley
Fort Atkinson, Wis.

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, 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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