Ideas That Work: Rolling MC Spools, Mapping Screw Holes 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!

Easy roller
When using 1,000-ft. spools of [metal-clad cable], I always get a piece of 1-in. rigid conduit and bend a 90-degree angle right in the middle. I then use the rigid as an arbor in between the MC wheels and have the bend up in the air, so it doubles as a handle that you can use to wheel the spool around the site instead of bending over and pushing it around. It’s a back-saver and a time-saver.

Colin Boone
IBEW Local No. 7
Granby, Mass.

Map out those screw holes
When hanging equipment that has keyhole hanging slots, such as a multiple outlet strips, I take a piece of scrap paper and make a rubbing of the slots with the exact screw hole locations. I can then place the paper over the area where the part will be installed and transfer the marks with an awl.

John O’Malley
Holliston, Mass.

Identifying boxes
We have been remodeling a floor in the hospital that has had many upgrades. There is an extensive amount of EMT and workboxes in the overhead for not only electrical and lighting, but also CCTV, nurse call stations, etc. This is above a drop ceiling with plumbing and HVAC systems, as well. To identify the electrical systems, I’ve tied lengths of brightly colored surveyor’s tape to the boxes. I use a different color for each system. A good amount of the work I’m doing is on a ladder, so knowing where the box is and if it is for power, lighting or low-voltage saves time and trips up and down the ladder.

William Marino
West Haven, Conn.

Making holes
When using toggle bolts to secure fluorescent fixtures, vanity lights or anything else to drywall, there is an alternative to using a drill and a bit to make the holes. Make a pilot hole with the spin of your screwdriver, and then spin the tip of your needle nose pliers inside the pilot hole until you reach the desired diameter. This will save your drill and bits, and, more important, you won’t risk damaging wires or pipes that may be hiding on the other side.

Chris Sellors
Christiansburg, Va.

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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