Cool Tools: Cable Reels And Handling Equipment

For years, wire supplies have been rolled around in drums for storage, shipping and transporting to job sites. The traditional spool material is solid wood, but, today, cable reels also are made of plywood, steel and plastic, offering improved durability or lighter weight.

To simplify moving reels around, and to make payoff easier and more efficient, there are a multitude of reel carts, racks, stands and portable workstations that also can carry reels of wire.

Some wire manufacturers have introduced packaging innovations that have done away with conventional reels. The Southwire SIMPull CoilPAK is a no-lube wire contained in a sturdy, lightweight, molded package with an easy-to-carry handle. For pulling wire, it can be laid flat, stacked or used with carts.

“The SIMpull CoilPAK payoff changes the way electrical contractors install branch-circuit wiring by eliminating the need for heavy, cumbersome spools,” said Tim Bardin, general manager, contractor equipment, Southwire. “The CoilPAK payoff uses an inertia-free pulling design, making the wire much easier to push and pull. CoilPAKs can be used with Southwire’s SIMpull circuit management system.”

In early 2015, Encore Wire introduced a spool-less wire package labeled PullPro.

“PullPro is designed to be a stand-alone package that does not need a cart system, though they can be stacked for easy transportation from one location to the next,” said W. T. Bigbee, vice president of product research, Encore Wire. “It is easy to pull wire from a handheld plastic pack containing a tangle-free coil of wire, rather than using traditional large and cumbersome reels. PullPro is designed to simplify transporting wire and help make wire pulls fast and easy.”

Encore’s Reel Payoff self-spinning reel has a newly designed, four-way pallet that allows reel payoff from all sides; the reel can be positioned exactly where it is needed. No jack stand is required. Encore cites time savings of 70 percent for setup, 65 percent for pulling time, and 81 percent for cleanup time.

Reel Payoff is available for both copper and aluminum conductors in sizes 8 AWG to 1,000 kcmil.

“The name of the game is labor savings,” Bigbee said. “While the packaging must always be safe and portable for any situation on a job, the real value is in getting electricians on and off jobs in the least amount of time. Contractors who are pushing the envelope in cost labor reduction benefit from investing in new packaging technologies to help them boost job-site productivity.”

The General Cable ( MasterPak packaging program has been used for several years and eliminates the need for wooden reels during shipping and handling. PowrServ insulated, aluminum low-voltage cable is shipped in a tightly secured corrugated protector with sturdy plastic banding and is covered by stretch wrap.

MasterPak provides 360-degree, smooth payoff of the cable from reusable plastic breakdown reels or domes. Both methods allow for simple, efficient dispensing of the cable for installation in the field. At approximately 150 pounds less than traditional product packaged on wooden reels, MasterPak coils are also easy to handle. General Cable said that, since 2003, MasterPak packaging has saved more than 12,183 trees and 36,647 cubic yards of unused landfill space, saving utilities more than $1.4 million.

The reel deal 

While recognizing the benefits of advances in wire packaging, much of today’s wire continues to be rolled on reels. Therefore, a wide range of reel-handling equipment helps transport wire to work sites and supports cable for payout and pull in.

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

Current Tools products are designed exclusively for professional electricians. 

Heavy-duty Dolly Carts have spring clips on each end for easy loading and unloading of reels, 8-inch wheels for easy mobility, and wire guides for horizontal dispensing. Model 501 fits through a 28-inch-wide door and will hold six 2,500-foot spools up to 16 inches in diameter or 15 500-foot spools. 

The standard 510 Reel Truck model has ⅝-inch spindles to store and dispense from as many as 15 spools of No. 14 THHN wire. An integral wire guide helps organize wire while dispensing. The truck is less than 24 inches wide and can serve as convenient storage spindles when not in use. An optional expansion kit expands capacity by 60 percent.

Model 503 Wire Tree has a permanently front-mounted wire guide that swivels 360 degrees. Dispenser spindles are designed to reduce backlash. A T-bar and 8-inch wheels provide easy mobility. The front wheels swivel and brake, and the tree will accommodate up to 10 2,500-foot spools of wire of diameters up to 18 inches.

Rugged, all-steel screw-type reel stands are available in two models, both with a wide base for stability, adjustment pins wired to stands and roller heads with self-lubricating bearings. The 27-pound Model 660 will hold reels up to 2,500 pounds in diameters from 28–56 inches. The height is adjustable from 13–27 inches. Model 670 adjusts from heights of 21–54 inches and accommodates 2,500-pound reels with diameters from 46–96 inches. It weighs 46 pounds.

Reel Rollers are easy to set up and are used for ground-level reel payout. Features include an integral ramp for cable loading, a roller lock for reel removal, five-position roller adjustment for different reel diameters and permanently lubricated ball-bearing rollers. Model 610 has a capacity of 2,000 pounds per paired rollers with maximum reel width of 42 inches. The 613 model will accommodate a 2,500-pound reel of up to 30 inches wide. The heavy-duty model can handle up to 15-ton cable reels with one roller adjusting to reel size. It is powered by a 10-ampere motor with foot control for remote operation. The roller has fork pockets on the sides.

Reel-O-Matic ( designs and manufactures machinery for reeling, coiling and measuring wire, cable, fiber optics and other flexible materials. Products for the electrical market include mobile reel rack carts and heavy-duty reel stands. 

Manufactured of 3-inch structural steel, cart components include upright frames, crossbeams, front-frame hanging brackets, solid-steel reel axles, two fixed wheels, two rotating casters with brakes, push handles (for steering) and a galvanized-steel lower shelf pan for storage. The standard mobile reel rack cart is 4 feet high, 2 feet deep and 4 feet long with a total of six axles and 12 front-frame hanging brackets. It will hold up to 2,000-pound reels to diameters of 24 inches.

Reel-O-Matic offers a complete line of standard, custom and powered cable reel stands with forklift bases to facilitate moving and positioning. Options include wheels, reel shafts, reel bushings, tensioning brakes and power drives. Capacities vary by model.

Southwire, a leading manufacturer of wire and cable used for the transmission and distribution of electricity, has a comprehensive line of equipment used to transport, install, maintain and repair electrical systems. Cable-related equipment includes Maxis reel stands, several wire wagon models to hold and transport multiple reels of wire, a wire wagon that combines material handling with a portable work station, SIMPull CoilPAK cart, SIMPull barrel hand truck for use with wire barrels, and a line of cable-pulling equipment and accessories.

“Carts have had to change in the last 24 months to keep up with the new innovations in circuit-wire packaging, such as Southwire’s SIMpull CoilPAK,” Barden said. “The CoilPAK, barrel, drum and other equipment comprise a complete system that simplifies the wire-pulling process, starting with the logistics of transporting wire, preparations for pulling and completing the pull. Jobs are finished quickly, safely and efficiently, helping to meet or come in under branch-circuit-wiring budgets.

“CoilPAK payoffs can be stacked on the floor or on a SIMpull hand truck or dolly and SIMPull barrel, or the patent-pending CoilPAK Stack, a process that can make multiple pulls from a single reel.

“Depending on cable size and pull length, one reel accommodates as many as five phases to five pulls by cutting lengths of colored parallels, separating with shrink wrap and placed on the reel in the order the pulls will be made. Each segment is pulled in sequence without the need to set up additional reels. For multiple locations, reels can be labeled to identify each pull. The process saves time and money,” Barden said.

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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