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Cables --> Coils

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Charc, Jun 27, 2007.

  1. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    This was mentioned in another thread, so I thought I'd add this question for the masses to answer. What is your technique for coiling cable, what do you consider correct, what are the important characteristics of a coiled cable?
     
  2. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Good thread starter. I'd like to add a question on to it as well.
    What's the proper way to coil spare feeder cable when it's powered up? and Why.

    I never "force" my cable to a "style" of coiling, I let the cable determine coil size and direction.
     
  3. Jamie

    Jamie Member

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    i've always over-undered cable to avoid kinks and allow easy throwouts
     
  4. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Ah, this is a GREAT thread. Ok, I'll start, but I'm sure there will be many to follow. ALL cables, well all the ones I am aware of, have a right hand turn built into them. That means the cables inside, as well as the insullation, tend to turn and lie twisted clockwise or to the right.
    If you coil a cable against this right hand turn, it becomes knotted, kinked, and can potentally ruin the cable by improper coiling it, or putting a left hand turn into it. Ever see someone coiling an extension cord over their shoulder, you know, how everyone in America, besides people in the entertainment industry do it? They are ruining their cables. Ever seen a cable to badly kinked and notted and gunked up you know it doesn't look right? Well that's what can happen to a cable.
    SO! If your a righty, grasp end of said cable in your hand so that the plug facing towards you and the actual cable droops down away from body. Now, making a loop about 1.5' in diamater with your right hand, bring both hands together while using your fingers of your right hand to role the cable to the right about 1/4 turn. This is putting a right hand spin on the cable. You'll notice that the cable will WANT to spin in the direction and will also generally "tell" you how large of a coil it wants to be in. If you come across kinks, splay them out all the way and even spin them down to the end of the cable if you have to before starting to coil again. One kink and you'll ruin the whole thing.
    That's different to visualize, but maybe someone on here has a link to a video of how to correctly coil a cable?
    As for coiling feeder, it should ALWAYS be done in a figure 8 on the floor, near your distro, disconnect, trussing, etc. By coiling the cable in a figure out, you end up canceling the phases and not allowing the cable to create an electromagnet. Too much feeder coiled up running at too high an amperage has to possibility to not only create this electromagnet, but also over heat very quickly, and possibly melt. This is especially important when working with 3-Phase feeder
     
  5. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Very good! I've heard guys joke about being able to levitate a crescent wrench in the middle of a circular feeder coil, I don't know if that could really happen, but by figure-eighting feeder cable you do cancel out the possibility of building yourself an inductance coil that could cause over heating. We followed a rule in the movie biz as well, that anytime you needed to cross a couple of peices of 2-0 or 4-0 cable, you always do it at right angles.
     
  6. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    I see no problem with any of the above advice. Lets hope we have no sailors on here. I had a running battle over about three years with an ME who was a sailor and coiled left.
     
  7. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    If you are south of the equator, do you coil the opposite way? Isn't it like the water in the toilet thing?
     
  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Right on the figure 8! The other way to handle surplus feeder is to spread it out in the electrical room if there is room. Avoid coiling or stacking any cable.

    Now, as for coil technique, I usually go with a two foot loop. Let the cable tell you how it wants to be rolled! If you are holding the loop and the next loop wants to go in the other direction, rotate the loop and let it. Not all cable spins to the right! I used to use SDN37 for truss feeders. There were three layers of wires inside the cable, each layer rotated in the opposite direction. Some of the old multi-core Belden used multiple layers that all rotated in the same direction. Only the cable knows, but it will tell you as you try to wind it up. The only cable I have problems with is that wide-temperature cable that seams to have no mind of its own! ;)
     
  9. NABster07

    NABster07 Member

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  10. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Good time for an old "war story" about feeder cable! Somewhere around 1979, I did a show for AC/DC in Northhampton PA. I had a young crew that day, so we went early and got a head start on the set up. After focusing the show I headed out for a bite, only to be interrupted at the burger joint by a freaked out roadie screaming that the sound company was getting a horrible buzzing in their system from the lights. (Like dinner ever worked!) I returned to the venue and started inspecting cable locations. There was no slack on the feeders at the dimmer end or the switch end. Odd, because there should have been a lot. The stage was on a 24 inch riser, I followed the cable under the riser only to find that one of my young crew had neatly coiled the slack under the riser, directly under the monitor mix board!
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Power cable... Coiled about 1 1/2 feet and in a continuous right handed loop. I think it's a bad idea to toss a power cable with the huge connector and all that weight so no over-under here.

    XLR Cable... coiled a little less than 1 foot and in an Over-Under

    Long 1/4 inch phone lines for speakers... coiled in about a 2 foot coil over-under.

    That's a great link NABster... that DUDE... has some serious hair and the video is really good to. I'm going to save it for teaching students in the future.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2007
  12. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    What is the point of over-under? I saw the video explaining how to complete an over under, but I'm not quite sure how it differs. When I coil cable I do the same thing, just without the "under" part. On another note, should I attach tie-line to all my long runs of cable? (10-50 feet?) And what is the proper way to secure excess cable on catwalks? Our catwalks are a mess, with cable criss-crossing everywhere. I know to look out for the cables under foot, but new guys or last minute replacements walking in don't, resulting in trips, which are obviously a step away (no pun) from falls.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2007
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    With the over-under, you can hold onto one end of the cable and toss it across the stage. It will perfectly uncoil every time.
     
  14. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    As for cable in catwalks, run it along the edges as much as possible. If you need to cross tie it up out of the way if you can, if not just keep it neat. Neat and clean= safe.
     
  15. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Depending on where your instruments are hung, whether they be on a bottom rail near the bottom of the cat, mid level near the railing, or high level, up ahead, I would suggest running your cables typically around waist level on the middle rail, crossing overhead and not on the ground. That way, jumping down to a lower rail or up to a higher rail is not an issue, and it places all your tieing points at a good level for ease of access. I've always thought cables crossing the cat itself were very dangerous and rather unsightly. It's usually pretty dark up there, especially if your in the middle of tech, and we all hate to hear about a tech tripping and smaking his head on some iron gratting, or worse. If you have to run cables on the ground, snug them up to the sides as much as possible, maybe a piece of gaph or two if its really starting to become a mess. As always, clove hitches around the pipe if you've go it. If you don't have raceways or are using multis, secure whatever your standard circuiting congfiguration is rather well. Any additional stingers or circuits being dropped in can be tied on top of the existing cabeling for ease on the out. Don't tie it into the existing lines to save on cordage, it will just be a major pain later on. As much as I am an environmentalist, I'm also a realist. You can always grab more tie line--but keep a bucket or box with the used-cut piece!
     
  16. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Very nice summary Jezza. The only thing I would add is that sometimes you can tie or clamp something up overhead to make it easier to hang those cross over cables. Ideally you would have a permanent track over head... but instead of that a pipe that is "cheesburgered" up there to tie onto. Maybe some sort of velcro strap... Home Depot has these heavy velcro straps with a a biner on them that would be great for overhead crossovers. Hang one on each side and your overhead cable bundle gets quickly velcroed into place.
     
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  17. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Way way way way back when (read as 1960's), when I was doing some theater work, I ran into the same problem with catwalks and cables. I had some time to kill and came up with a solution to cable slack. On the side of our railing there were vertical pipes welded every eight feet or so. I got some 4x4 blank J-box plates and mounted them to C clamps. I then mounted the C clamps to the rails above each cove opening and used them as hang points for cable slack. It worked pretty well and you could add or delete them as needed.
     
  18. BrentSmith

    BrentSmith Member

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    I always coil cable clockwise bacause the vast majority of stage cable has the right hand turn in the copper. When you do this a certain number of right hand twists are added to your the coil (I guess about a half twist per loop.) In this direction, the twists in the copper tighten slightly. If you turn it in the other direction, the twists loosen and pucker. You can see an example of this by tying a three strand rope to something stationary and twisting it in both directions. I also try to enforce this method in my crews for the sake of consistency. Clockwise coiling a 100' stage pin cable that has previously been coiled backwards involves undoing all of the wrong turns, then inserting the correct ones, and generally encountering a big mess.

    You're ME was incorrect. I am no sailor, but I really dig rope work. "The Ashley Book of Knots", the compendium of rope and rigging, (seriously, a great book to check out) clearly instructs a right-hand, clockwise coil.

    Every "under" loop undoes the half twist that the previous "over" loop inserted, leaving a net of zero twists. The danger of this is that, when uncoiling, if the end of the cable gets pulled out from the wrong direction or from under other loops, you will get anywhere from one to 20 overhand knots in your cable. It's hard to explain but is immediately recognizable and a real pain.

    Brent smith
     
  19. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    I actually had an actor at our last strike look at me like I was infering she was stupid when I asked if she knew how to coil cable, Until I explained it to her that its common practice to ask that if you don't know what the persons ability level is. Most Tech's I think would rather coil it themselves than have it coiled incorrectly and then have to do it over again anyway.
     
  20. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Absolutely! Depending on the length of cable, start with a 24"-36" piece of tieline. For stagepin cable, using the center of the tieline, tie a clovehitch followed by two half-hitches around the cable 3-6" from the female end. Put an overhand knot at the end of each tail to keep them from fraying, unless you're using synthetic tieline in which case you can singe the ends. The male 2P&G will most likely be plugged into something permanent, the female end will be on a pipe somewhere, so that's where the tieline goes. For mic Cable, you don't want the tieline hanging from the mic, so it goes on the Male end. DMX cable can go at either end, but i generally prefer it on the female end, but the tie should be about 12" from the connector, so as to allow one to tie the cable and still have enough to plug into the moving light. Edison cable tielines can go at either end, but I usually use the female. Any AC cable 50' or longer should have ties at both ends, to better restrain the coil. The TV/film industry uses 3/8" sash cord and covers the knot with friction tape, to make it more difficult to remove and keep it in place.

    Coil the excess cable into a 1' loop and tie the loop to something structural, preferably not on the same pipe as fixtures.

    Maybe the ME was not incorrect. Does your book mention anything about "right-lay" vs. "left-lay"?

    Wouldn't side-arms have worked just as well? You already had the C-clamps, so all you would have needed was some 12" pieces of 1/2" ID pipe. I love using sidearms for cable management purposes.

    Floor=Bad. Overhead=Good.

    Unless it's a one-off and the cable is all going back to the shop. During a Load-Out, site labor costs way more than shop labor, and most major shops will want to recoil it on their machines anyway, so just coil into the Cadillac, using all the space available. And don't tie anything (unless the rental cable came with permanent ties); shops hate that. Even though they love to send out 10' DMX cables with e-tape (sometimes friction tape) on them in four different places, or multi-cable tied in four different places with jute.

    As to coiling/over-undering: I'll restate--do whatever the cable wants. It will tell you, not with its words, but with its actions. Become Zen with your cable. And NEVER take new cable or rope off a spool from the end. Stick a broom handle or something through the center and keep the spool horizontal. If you don't believe me, take a roll of bathroom tissue and pull the end in line with the core.


    Another question to all: Some MEs I work with force us to run excess cable "down and back" on a truss, as opposed to neatly coiling it on top, or in the case of black truss, putting the coil on the inside. I can maybe see the argument if the truss is going to be walked upon. Electrically, I can't see that it matters. One cannot create an electro-magnet with AC cable using hot and neutral. Even L6-20 cable has the phases offset by 120°. I wouldn't build a stack of 120v or 208v Multi-cable 2' high, due to heat dissipation, but generally we're talking only about 20' extra feet or so. So the question is, A) coil or B) stretch out [and back]?
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2008

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