Keeping Stock: Cable Management

Published On
Nov 1, 2017

From shipping and arrival of wire supplies through installation, efficiently managing electric wire on the job can be the difference between a profit or loss.

Much of the wire on job sites is on reels, and a wide variety of wire transporting and handling equipment is available to support wire for payout and pull-in, including reel carts, racks, stands and portable work stations that also can carry reels of wire.

Installation tools and equipment include conduit benders, wire pullers, pulling tension meters, and fish tapes and tools.

Reel carts and stands

Simple stands to hold one small reel are available from home-improvement centers and general supply houses, but electrical contractors engaged in commercial and industrial work require sturdier, specialized equipment.

“Carts typically include casters for easy mobility and are designed with the ability to fit through doorways,” said Wayne King, product manager, Greenlee, Rockford, Ill. “When in use, spools of wire are placed on the spindles and pulled directly off of the cart or stand. Reel stands are predominantly used during cable pulls and typically are adjustable to accommodate the reel size. When selecting the appropriate material-handling product, it is important to confirm that the product can support the weight requirements of the materials in the application.”

Greenlee material-handling products are designed to store and mobilize electrical components such as conduit, pipe, cable and wire. The company’s offerings include a hand truck caddy that holds as many as 12 wire spools of 12 AWG wire for dispensing directly from the cart.

Southwire Tools, Carrollton, Ga., offers a variety of reel stands in various sizes and configurations, said Tom Caldwell, director of equipment. The SIMpull BARREL cable drum holds four to seven paralleled NoLUBE SIMpull THHN circuit-sized wires in a container that is easily transported and moved around job sites, replacing wire carts and multiple reels.

“The SIMpull flange allows one person to turn wooden reels of diameters to 34 inches and weighing 2,000 pounds, a time- and labor-saving capability,” Caldwell said.

The Southwire Wire Wagon 550 is a print table and mobile workbench with portable storage for conduit and other materials in a compact package that can be rolled around the job site as needed. The table surface is a workbench for fabricating parts, assembling fixtures, and other tasks. Position the table surface at an angle, and it becomes a print table. Underneath are storage shelves for materials and supplies and a rack to hold conduit.

Werner Co., Greenville, Pa., offers the 6-foot fiberglass Electrician’s JobStation stepladder, which includes wire spool holders for large and small cable reels.

Conduit benders

Before wire can be placed in conduit, conduit has to be installed, which often requires bending. Hand benders have been around for years, but mechanized equipment is necessary for the large volume of conduit bends made on commercial projects.

Available in various sizes and models, electric benders are a great solution for high-production bending. Convenience features include adjustable operating positions, programmable capabilities for making accurate repeat bends, remote pendant controls, and the ability to calculate layout measurements for bends before work begins. Some models can bend intermediate metal conduit (IMC), rigid and rigid aluminum without the need to change shoes.

Mobile bending tables or carts are the next step in productivity and convenience. Mobile bending tables hold all components in one cart, reducing the risk of lost parts. Compared to hydraulic benders, bending carts reduce the footprint needed for bending equipment.

[SB]Southwire Tools’ BENDstation Pro work station is mounted on four casters to move easily around work sites. Its dual bending shoe accommodates 3/4- and 1-inch electrical metallic tubing (EMT) conduit. The work table height is 36 inches, and it can hold 900 feet of conduit. An extra shelf can store tools and material.

Greenlee’s mobile bending cart is designed specifically for bending 21/2- to 4-inch steel conduits. Its design bends the conduit vertically from the ground, so electricians can measure the conduit bend angle by using the protractor. AutoBend 3D automated bender offers the capability to bend ½- to 4-inch conduit without making manual calculations or marking on conduit.

Pulling cable

Cable pulling is one of the most critical and potentially dangerous tasks for electricians, said Jae Lee, product manager, Greenlee.

“Pulling cable requires teamwork from the feeding and pulling sides to make sure that the cables are installed in the conduit without damage,” Lee said.

He said good pullers should have the following features:

Easy setup—Pullers need to be transferred from place to place in the construction environment. A “no-lose-piece” design can help eliminate time spent searching for lost parts and contributes to cable pull safety by eliminating tool modifications made because parts are missing.

Pulling speed—Good pullers help contractors complete jobs faster and allow for the selection of the correct speed that can satisfy electricians on the pulling and feeding ends of cable pulls. It is important to have the correct pull rating for each pull, which will maximize the pulling speed while not exceeding the cable manufacturer’s tension rating.

Safety features—A simple on/off switch gives users control of the puller. A foot switch provides an easy and safe way to start and stop the machine and change the speed of the puller. The force indicator ensures the force does not exceed the capability of the puller or the cable. Also, the puller should be able to safely shut itself down when it is being overused, protecting both the user and the puller itself. A high current draw caused by high tension can burn up the motor, causing the puller itself to become a hazard.

Southwire Tools has a full line of cable pullers and pulling accessories that can make pulling wire faster and more efficient, Caldwell said. The company’s flagship cable-pulling line is the Maxis XD10 with a high-capacity gear box, peak pulling force of 10,000 pounds and 7,000 pounds continuous pulling power.

Calculators and tension meters

Lee said pulling calculators and tension meters benefit electricians in two ways.

“These tools can maximize the productivity of the pulling task,” he said. “Pulling calculators help electricians to select the most appropriate puller for the job based on the maximum force required. Tension meters allow electricians to monitor live pull information on mobile devices, and when the cable pull is complete, they can download the pull data.”

This information can be reported to engineers or building owners to show them the quality of work and ensure the reliability of the cable. Pulling calculators are widely available as free mobile apps.

Greenlee’s line of pulling equipment and accessories includes the G3 Tugger (2,000 pounds of force), G6 Turbo (6,000 pounds of force), and Ultra Tugger (10,000 pounds of force). The G-Series Smart Pull is a digital tension meter that measures force, distance and speed of a pull, and it alerts the user when pulling force is nearing the maximum cable tension.

Southwire’s SIMpull cable pull calculator is an all-in-one estimating tool that also helps manage wire installation.

Fish tapes, poles and accessories

Fish tapes are the most widely used fishing tool in the industry.

“Important variations to consider include the flex on fish poles, proper length and material of fish tape, and the correct accessories to aid in pulling the wire,” said Aaron Holcomb, product manager, Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill. “Many of these products are used in low-light areas, so wire-pulling tools that glow in the dark or have lighted ends can improve sight lines. Most important for professional users is finding a high-quality product that can be used day after day without compromising the structure.”

Greenlee’s nylon, fiberglass, steel and stainless-steel fish tapes pull wire through conduit. Power fishing blower units blow pistons through conduit and Fish Stix, Glo Stix and fishing poles both push and pull wire.

Southwire Tools markets a full line of fish tapes, fish poles and accessories, including fiberglass fish sticks, steel and SIMpull fish tapes, wire pulling grips and accessories.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at

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