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Making Your Own Multicables

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Dustincoc, Feb 12, 2007.

  1. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    Is it feasable to make your own multicable by running 6 circuits of 10 ga. wiring through a length of rubber hose(such as 1 1/2" radiator hose). I've about had it with the multicables we're using now because they were salvaged after another local theatre threw them away and it's a common occurance to see bare wires and the occassional spark come from them. I also got a minor shock from one of them yesterday while I was climbing up the the catwalks to focus by myself.

    Making the multicables would probably save some money and it would also allow us to make them the exact length we need.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I'll let ship point out all the code violations about running cable through a garden hose.
     
  3. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    That's why I'm asking, I'm not sure of any safety issues dealing with this specific topic. Also, a radiator hose is different than a garden hose.
     
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Replace the cable you are currently using ! Replace them with real multi-cable. Unless you are prepared to spend millions on R&D and manufacturing facilities, don't even begin to think about making you own multi-cables. Period. End of story. No ifs, Ands, or Buts.

    The only thing you might do in the mean time is to make bundles, by running several lengths of 10/3 or 12/3 cables along side each other then friction tapping them every2 feet.
     
  5. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    Where is a good source of multicables? I'm looking for ones with stagepin connectors on the multicable, not socapex connectors which is about all I can find.
     
  6. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I'm not sure, and I could be mistaken, but I don't think your'e going to find
    a multi cable that comes out in anything but Socapex. the only thing I've ever found that didn't have Soca connectors on the ends was some "home made" multis that had been made from soca cable where they had stripped back a bunch of the outer shell to expose the individual wires inside, then put stagepin connectors on those. Very bad idea. the inner wires just are made for that kind of abuse. Thats why Socapex was invented and why it's the standard.
     
  7. farmerjo1111

    farmerjo1111 Member

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    TMB and Lex products are the two company's that come to mind when ever any one asks me about multi cable. Yes they do make Multi cable that goes from Soco to Stage pin or what ever you need. Do not try to make these your self. Check with you local Theatrical Dealer for pricing.

    Dustin Strobush
     
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Farmerjo.

    No they do not make cables that go directly from; soca to stage pin, from edison to edison, or stage pin to stage pin. Here is a link from one of the sources you just sighted, TMB, and below it a quote from thier FAQ.


    http://tmb.com/faqcable.htm


    Can I terminate my multicable directly to stage pin connectors or do I have to always use a breakout?
    No: The conductors of Multicables used in stage lighting load distribution are not designed to be "splayed out" `to multiple connectors, doing this could be dangerous. A breakput assembly or some kind of transition device should always be used.
     
  9. sound_nerd

    sound_nerd Active Member

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    As Van said, the only proper way to do what you want it to buy soca cable (with soca connectors!) in whatever length you need, and then get the appropriate splays for each end.
     
  10. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Now US codes don't apply down here, so ignore that for a sec. I've made cables whereby the end of a 12 conductor cable had say 300mm of the outer insulation stripped back. Then twist together 3 wires. Heatshrink over them and place a piece of heatshrink say 150mm over where the heatshrink and jacket meet. Now these were for a paying client and my boss had no problem with them. So why shouldn't this be done? Enlighten me...
     
  11. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Yes it’s feasible... don’t bother after that. For starters a Soca style pin won’t accept larger than a 12ga wire no matter if crimp or solder type. After that, yep there is certain code violations amongst them use of listed gear.

    I hear you about, about having had it with the multi-cable you are using - got two six foot high stacks of bad Socapex cable in front of my work table myself. Can’t see over them... My assistants had at best get busy with them, given they get freed up from other projects. Sparking/shocking cable is always a bad thing, and here for me the worst of them would tend to be ones that are bad in keyway strain relief or failed insert that has spun.

    Sound like it’s about time to go to school in learning how to fix the multi-cable you have so as to make it safe and function as designed. Most theater supply and or lighting companies should as a theory be able to teach you/your TD or ME how to fix such stuff perhaps for a hourly price - I know I have done so for some of our customers. Parts are not cheap - like a buck or two per pin, proper crimp tools... let’s just say rental would be possibly worth it. This granted that going to school for multi-cable would tend to be anywhere from hack at best in instruction to going to school with the “Ship” as it were who has been doing it actively for about eight years and has seen anything from some years past Sting’s NY City park rained out concert where water got into the plugs and they arched to say the least, to about to go stainless steel on the insert part due to keyway wear problems.

    Socapex is a specific brand - kind of like Leko. In general it means a say Litton/Veam VSC series (often the most popular that other brands are based upon), Socapex (two types), L&K/Link, Lex, Kupo, Creative Stage Lighting and TMB also with two types as other suppliers amongst others for such plugs that are often also standardized parts between them. After that, it’s a question of crimp verses solder.

    The crimp tools are very expensive - like over $250.00 for the four pin indent crimp tool itself and almost as much for it’s turret head pin spacer. Value of this and heat shrink around the exposed parts of the pins is that once crimped, there is no way for it to fail. Not possible unless the crimp tool is set wrong for that crimp to fail. On solder type terminals, there is irons that don’t get hot enough or have sufficient power behind them to maintain that temperature, and in general solder terminals that have “cold solders” in pulling free from a terminal. Once it gets loose you now have “liquid electricity” by way of melted solder floating about inside your plug. Very dangerous such solder plugs unless done properly. If done properly, they are of course efficient enough but they must be done properly and what’s your typical Radio Shack gun won’t do so properly.

    Anyway, that’s a start into the world of Soco cable as it’s called as if Leko but not specific to brand.

    Bare wires and sparks are a bad thing. Building your own multi-cables might be cost effective but only if you have the tools to do so and dealer account for discounted plugs and cable. If not, it’s more cost effective to buy new or fix.

    As for other brands... the Socapex 19pin plug has now always been the “industry standard.” A Veam or Pyle National multi-pin plug was in earlier years just as often found. Very rugged often, just not as easy to use. This much less even more of a pain in the rear to deal with or fix.

    On multi-cables, you either fan-in/fan-out from them by way of special plugs that have six individual cables that terminate in plugs, or use Soco mounted boxes with panel mounted plugs to terminate the Socapex cable - this if your gear doesn’t already terminate in Socapex such as Socapex outlets to the dimmers. Such fan-outs and or boxes are available from most dealers that sell the Soco (Soco meaning an in general brand of 19 pin VSC or Socapex standard plug.) Also just about anyone selling stage equipment can special make such gear. The best of all fan-in and or Fan-out plug type is the Veam KK-Clamp type plug. As opposed to all other forms of strain relief, most manufacturers of two screw or all in one form of weather tight strain relief admit that the Veam KK clamp for a fan-out is the best design and are just waiting for it’s patient to go public. Very rare that such a strain relief that goes from Soco to stage pin goes bad or fails - we are talking really really rare.

    As Van says, nope... you cannot distribute a mult-cable into stage pin. The multi-cable must terminate into a proper either plug or box that’s designed for doing so - inner conductors are not sufficiently protected or designed for exposure or fanning out. Gotta terminate in a box or single plug. It’s possible to with proper strain relief terminate multi-cable into a stage drop box that either panel mounts or fan’s in or fan’s out and that’s code compliant. Also that would be how 10ga wire in a multi-cable is normally done, but it’s cumbersome and not very portable. If it’s something that does not get moved much, sure and only to a professionally made termination drop box or assembly. If moved or portable, it’s multi-pin plug so you at very least can remove the box.

    Way back when I used to deal with some 10ga cloth/rubber drop boxes that dated back to 1926. They were still in good condition believe it or not, just didn’t have a ground - who will have thunk it way back when. Instead they just isolated the linesets so the ground fault/short was not traveling up the wire rope hanging the pipe. Touch the pipe while on an aluminum ladder etc and you now just became a ground path. These cables I did ground by way of loosing a few circuits.

    That was way back when however. Note the condition of the old cable that was thrown out... If you cannot read off it’s jacket a brand, wire gauge/conductor number on the cable, it’s not code compliant to be using even if still in good shape. Time to replace not fix it. Ever so many details.

    If nothing else, it should not be that expensive to have such cables in doubt sent in for professional repair. This in addition to I believe it’s “Tools for Stagecraft”, TMB amongst others that sell “Soco cable testers.” Very useful items, good to test your cable before it’s use - every time it’s used.
     
  12. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    Have they ever made 6 circuit multicable that goes directly into stage pin? We have 15-20 that are set up that way. However, the theatre we got them from is a state run operation and the cable brerakouts are basicly 3 wires wrapped in electrical tape for each circuit. Does anyone have a price range on 75-100 foot multicables including the breakouts?
     
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I bet our resident sales guy BillESC will be along in a minute with a price quote for you...

    As for the good deals question. Socapex is pricey stuff. I was recently quoted about $750 for a 25 foot cable and 6 circuit breakout box. You can make a lot of singles for that. What about the idea mentioned above of just taping a few singles together into bundles? Check prices with your local electrical contractor supply stores (better yet try to get a wholesaler to deal with you directly... definitely don't go to Home Depot) for a good deal on a full spool of cable. You might find it cheaper to run several bundles of single cables that are just taped together.
     
  14. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Electrical supply stores will sell you 12/3 for $0.50/foot, maybe less if you buy a few spools. I think that bundling singles is the way to go.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Exactly, odds are you will be buying from the same person your local theater supply store buys from. So cut out the middle man and save.
    That $750- 25 foot socapex I mentioned above can be replaced by six 25 foot cables at around $20 each including the connectors.
     
  16. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    No they haven't As Ship said you could install a box on each end then have panel mounted connectors for the break in and fan out, but legally, and safely that's the only way to do it.


    We have 15-20 that are set up that way. However, the theatre we got them from is a state run operation and the cable brerakouts are basicly 3 wires wrapped in electrical tape for each circuit.

    I used to have a whole warehouse full of similarly constructed multi cables. They were left over from the '60's when rock and rollers were too stoned to care about the lighting guys safety. Just cause you can do it doesn't mean you should. I'm the first guy to tell you I have "jerry-mandered" and pushed the limits on a lot of things but when it's dealing with electrical safety there is just no room for mistakes. Somebody a while ago said " Hey I bet I could save a bunch of money by wrapping these mulit-cable tails in e-tape " Great ! I can use a pair of pantyhose as a fan belt in my volkswagen too, but it's not safe and someting I would do only in an emergency. Then I would fix the situation asap.
     
  17. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

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    As far as using 6 single cables loomed together you might want to rethink that. Cables get hot, they need room for air to circualte around them and cool them down. When you tape them together you must lower the rating of the cable. I dont have the exact number handy but 10% or so sounds about right.

    as far as $750 25' cable, I'm guessing the shop just dint not want to bother with it, I was quoted $900 for 250' of 12/12 to replace some drop boxes, that comes to $3.60 a foot, granted you were probley looking at 12/19 or at the very least 12/14 throw in another $300 for the socoapex connectors and the cost comes in well under $750
     
  18. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Not saying dealer price but retail price as of a few years ago ranged in the $280.00 to $320.00 range for a 12/14 multi-cable at 75'. $320.00 to $380.00 range for a 100' length.

    Add to that a Fan-out in the range of $150.00 for each Fan-In/Fan-Out type.

    Granted that's pricing from a few years ago and it could be a little more these days.




    L15-20 to fan-out? Where is your neutral assuming a 120v system? A L15-20 has three phase and ground only in a 20A 3∅250V plug without a neutral.... Or someone was getting “creative.”

    According to the NEC, a plug is not to be an interconnection device. This means that you should not if the case of a three circuit be sharing the terminal of any pin of the plug to say do a shared neutral by way of the plug - three conductors into say the ground terminal which it’s assumed is being used as a neutral in a system without a ground. Yep, that’s hack. A plug also is not to be used for other than it’s purpose according to the NEC. In other words, you have three cables coming out of one plug that’s designed for a single cable - not designed to properly fit or strain relief that many cables or conductors thus it’s also against code. Than followed by stuff like use of listed equipment for other than intended purpose and “done in a professional way” that’s the cover all for all hack work not qualifying.

    Beyond that, there is sections of the code about splices that necessatate that the outer jacket of the area where the outer jacket of a cable once removed is just as thick if not thicker, water tight etc. which electrical taped wires wouldn’t comply with nor comply with a molded spliced fan out concept.

    The L15-20 plug is about useless for other than motors or feeding perhaps 208v power supplies with three phase power.

    Just because it’s a “state run operation” doesn’t mean it’s compliant with code or sense. Wouldn’t believe the amount of non-code compliant extension cords with quad boxes I collected up after festivals while working for the city of which city “Union” licenced electricians wired up. Such things are still showing up all over the place even if specifically against code to do. Lots of stuff that’s done in ignorance or ignorance of the code - heck at times I even do some stuff because it’s necessary - this as opposed to choice of doing so. Probably the big difference. None the less, if the threeway L15-20 is as you describe, remove it from service, it’s not just against code but it’s dangerous.
     
  19. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    You can get used Soca 6 circuit multi @ 100 ft. for about $600 US, including M and F/M breakouts.

    www.usedlighting.com

    Although I have to say that the THHN in a garden hose is a hell of an image. Still, I'd use the individual strands from inside 12/3 SOOW for flexibility, just not sure if a Sears, finest quality braided 3/4" garden hose will take 18 conductors...........

    SB
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  20. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    This would be called a loom of cable or cable bundle. Technically, it's a temporary type of thing and dependant upon the application of the NEC or the new ESTA rules about multi-conductor cable and or feeder cable that's loomed, you would have to de-rate it in amperage if say over 50'. Stage grade multi-cable is a engineered multi-cable that is rated for a full loading of amperage even if by NEC standards for similar multi-conductor cables they would be seriously de-rated for conductors.

    As a temporary bundle in theory one would be using it for a single show, than de-looming it afterwards. That's a NEC technicality but not overall important given such a rule is based more for the construction or festival at most industries and not persay for stage applications. On the other hand, the ESTA concept of de-rating a multi-cable loom is important due to heat/proximity. In simple terms - a bunch of taped together cables don't cool as sufficiently as those which are individual due to the proximity of other potentially hot cables next to them. It's common practice to tape together a bunch of cables and not assumed that they will be under constant full load but there is a certain amount of safety factor involved in this concept which is the reason one should not do so perminantly as the stipulation for the rule.

    Still, by way of cost effectiveness, a few cables taped together will be safe enough as long as marked for their circuits, and not fully loaded or left on for long periods of time.

    $0.50 per foot on a stage grade "Extra Heavy Duty" 12/3 SOOW cable? Perhaps that or less dealer price a few years ago but such a price even in the 1,000' to 2,000' spool price would tend to be at least a few more cents per foot more. Way back when as a non-dealer shopper customer I inquired at an electrical supply house about the pricing of say a 500' spool of 12/3 SOOW and was given that price. This was at least ten years ago. Remember... we have a War on, copper pricing in addition to rubber pricing much less shipping costs have gone thru the roof. At one point during the last year or two one of my cable distributers was sending me almost daily updates as to the current price of copper in attempting to get me to buy more, and yep I should have.

    Such a price might be what you find for a more synthetic/plastic SEOOW cable or the more new to the market CE/UL cable which is both Euro and NEC complaint, but such cable is crap - see a recent post on this by me. While some CE/US complant cable is ok to work with dependant upon brand, others are really miserable and potentially un-safe. Just sent back a bunch of 6/3 SOW cable that was CE/US in another lack of sufficient twist to the cable causing the conductors to inappropriately get too close to the outside of the cable jacket. As opposed to like 1/8" of insulation on the outer jacket between conductor insulation and outer jacket, by way of possibly bad twist or some other reason, there was as little as 1/32" at times between conductor insulation and outside of the cable. Rub that cable wrong in removing say 3/32" of insulation and you now have conductors exposed. Huge and major problem with CE/US compliant SOOW cable these days - due to a different manufacturing technique, quality control is not there yet and you will at times find a cable that is not what you are paying for.

    SEOW cable at least is constructed in the same general way as the rubberized SOOW, even if with different more plastic than rubber materials. Just has the problem of if it touches a hot light, it's going to melt than short conductor to fixture.

    Stick with the SOOW cable. For that price one could also possibly be buying type S or type SO cable potentially. No worries if on stage the lesser oil resistance should be fine and lack of water resistance won't be as important but would have been useful in general - stuff like mopping the stage won't effect the cable but in general a certain level of water exposure level is a good thing in a cable that does not wear out as fast.

    Thinking that something around $0.60 per foot for a sizable spool would be about a decent price for the most part on a 12/3 SOOW cable. Add to this plugs that are commercial grade as required by the code for your application - sorry but the cheaper or economy plugs are against the NEC to use on stage also, but none the less you are still cheaper in using commercial grade plugs and SOOW than purchasing multi-cable that even at dealer price is not cheap. Once my department gets caught up with repairs, my goal is to stop buying multi-cable and building it ourselves but this given I don't like others building cable for me - they don't do it to my standards for construction.


    As for electrical supply stores buying from the same cable distributers as a theater supply place... potentially dependant upon their size. Used to have this one distributer for cable that was almost literally right across the street from my main electrical supply house. All about discount factors - if going to the source will get you a better discount factor than going to the electrical supplier or theater supplier given say in my case as resale both me and the electrical supplier were for certain cables often shopping at the same place.

    On the other hand, most larger national theater suppliers buy direct from the manufacturer the same as the distributer is doing. Volume is for the distributer in a number of cable types, for the large theater supplier volume is in a few specific types - same discount factors for what they buy overall. For the paltry say ten or more thousand feet I buy a year, I have both direct accounts with some manufacturers for more specialized cable but in general, my either theater suppliers or cable distributers get a better discount factor than I get in buying direct.

    In the end, it's often more about how many sources bid it out than who the sources are. Middle man markup prices even if 30% when their discount factor is say 60% could potentially mean a 30% savings over what no or even 10% discount one might get in buying direct. There is no set rules in being a buyer other than leg work and communication. This and buy in bulk where possible.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007

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