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Pin Splitters & Lamp Checkers

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Charc, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    I thought I'd roll both my questions into one new thread. (With the new wiki, I wont' need to post.) First question, if I have two connectors that never stay connected, is the problem that I need to spread my pins, so they will apply outward pressure and hold the connection better? If not, how can I resolve my issue, and what is he point of a pin splitter? As a follow up to question one, couldn't you just bend the pins back manually? Or is that too inaccurate?

    Second question continuity (lamp) checkers. Are they any good? Are they worth the investment? Are they right 100% of the time? Explain this to me real quick, this is an led and some batteries, if the continuity is good, the power will flow through the lamp (not get used by the lamp) and back to the checker, to complete the circuit, and illuminate the 3 or so volt LED? How long do the batteries last?

    Thanks guys,
     
  2. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    It's likely that's your problem. By spreading the pins just a bit you should get them to stay. You don't need a pin splitter to do this--you can just use a small pocket knife blade. Just remember: Don't over do it. And, when the blade is between the two halfs of the pin, DON'T rock it side-to-side. You'll end up with "V" shaped pins. Instead turn it clockwise/counterclockwise just a bit.
    By the way, a tab of gaff tape (NOT WRAPPED) across the connection will help you a lot too. It's standard practice in many venues to put a tab of tape across all connections (with a corner folded back to make removal easier).


    As an investment I'd say start with a small multi-meter. They're MUCH more useful. And yes, the way a continuity tester works is a good lamp will complete the circuit and light the led or make the buzzer buzz. The lamp doesn't light because of it's size. 3 volts at very low amperage won't make a line voltage lamp light. A multi-meter can be set to test continuity. The batteries in either a meter or one of the purpose-built lamp testers will last quite a while (depending on use, of course).

    Save your money right now. Get the meter and learn how to use it. It will be of MUCH greater use to you.

    --Sean
     
  3. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the help Sean.
    About the tabs of gaff on connections, we do that if we think there is a good chance it's gonna get pulled. Maybe 10% of the time. We also have a couple of locking SPC. When you say clockwise, I am going to assume you are looking at the pins, parallel to the split?

    I really can't see much use for a multi meter right now. What else would I meter? And isn't it a hassle to use those chopstick like things when you could take under a second to plug in an SPC continuity checker? Just curious what other uses in theatre there are for multimeters.
     
  4. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    To add a bit on the pin splitting...as Sean said do NOT overdo it.. This is a careful practice..and if you use a knife (which you will damage in doing this) be VERY careful while you are tryin to get it between the pins or the knife can get away from you--seen it cut up many a tech who slipped..knives are dangerous so I just want to point out the safety factor here. Wearing a good heavy leather glove in the other hand holding the plug is a saving grace you will be glad that you did should you slip. Other items you can use is a small (almost jewlers small) old throw-away flat head screw driver (but it will most likely snap if you overdo it)....I've also seen folks use old spade putty knives/spatulas as well..and others have made their own splitter by taking an old flat head screw driver to a grinder wheel. The larger gap is at the bottom of the pin--if you can wedge your splitter at the bottom of the pin, and slide it upwards to the top in the groove, you usually do just enough to make a firm contact and a decent split sometimes. It would be best if you can determine which one of the pins is loose--sometimes one side is very loose and the other side is just right--and if so you don't want to split the side that is already a good connection or you will have a dificult time on that side when connecting/disconnecting.... Either way you want to make sure that ALL the pins are making good solid contact and not just one--so make sure you do or check them all and ensure a solid connection--stage pin connectors are friction connectors--you want to ensure you have good contact on ALL of the pins or you can build up heat or get arcing or pitting if you only do one pin the rest or the others are loose.. Again just be careful and do not go crazy on splitting like you have to put a visable divide between pins--not so. Some folks get all 'mountain-man' strong on gapping pins--and its NOT neccesary...as too much separation torque can sheer off one side of a pin and you then need to replace the whole pin or the plug, and if you spread them too much you may practically need a pry bar to get the plug apart afterwards. A good connection can dangle freely and not disconect and requires two hands to pull apart. If you tug or yank on the connector hanging freely, you don't want it to pull apart so easily or gap half way. We're talking microns of separation here..a little manipulation of the pins can go a long way to establishing a good solid connection. And a small tab of tape with a dogear or courtesy tab which simply spans between the two connectors is always a good practice as well..but it is not a solution to not pin-split....remember you want to ensure there is solid contact of the pins to prevent arcing, heating or pitting of the connector...

    The GAMCHECK is a decent toy if you are looking for testers. But I also strongly second the multi-meter as a better choice to have for the reason that it is possible to have a lamp test positive for continuity and still not function--the path of the voltage in a continuity test doesn't mean it went thru the filament completely or even at all--just means that it completed its path but does not tell you where...if you have a multi-meter you can test for continuity--but you can also test for resistance/Ohms as well, and also meter your power to ensure the proper voltage.. Plus you can test a wide range of any cables or other connectors other than just a lamp or pin connector tester. A meter is a much more handy and versitile tool to get to know how to use overall in every aspect for many applications across the board--not like a gamcheck which is great for lamps and pin cable only....and a handy pocket meter from radio shack costs less than $30 while a gamcheck can run signifacntly more expensive...

    JMO...
    -w
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2007
  5. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    You can also use a small flathead screw driver. Just stick it in between the pins and allow the flathead to pry the pins apart. Don't twist or do anything, because you'll more then likely break a pin and need to rewire the end.

    A pin splitter is a good thing to have, because you can split the pins easier (with the way the handle is, much easier then a knife or a flathead screwdriver), plus you have something to clean the pins with. Often if the pins are not seated in the female plug correctly the power will end up arcing slightly to the pins, which will get them dirty with carbon build-up. Standard pin splitter has a wire mesh filled hole to clean the pins with. $30 on tools for stagecraft. IMO worth the investment, nice thing to have on your hip during a loadin.


    For a lamp checker, I think it is nice. You could wire one up yourself if you really wanted to, just get a female stagepin connector, and go to Radio Shack and get a small battery, small LED, and perhaps a small buzzer. Wire them up, easy as pie.
    IMO its a nice thing to have, because it saves you a bit of time while troubleshooting.
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Charc, the Lamp checker is a cool tool. The point simply is that a multimeter can do that and a lot of other things too. So if you are starting out, it's a lot better to develop your skills with the multimeter first. Gam lampcheck and Gamcheck Jr. cost what about $35 each? You can get a good multimeter for $35 and it will do the job of both plus a whole lot more. Plus it will help teach you other electrical skills.

    So both Gamcheck Jr. and Gam Lampcheck are great things to have around... there are just better ways to spend your money as a young technician. Now if you've got $100 to burn, buy all three and learn to use them all.

    As for the loose stage pins connectors... one theater I work for occasionally is nuts about black electrical tape. They use it exclusively for everything from attaching cable to a batten (instead of tie line) to making sure connectors don't come undone. Personally, I'm a fan of just throwing a 3 inch strip of gafftape on there.
     
  7. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    If you're looking down at the end of the pin, you want to just wiggle a THIN knife blade side-to-side (rotation), not rock it side to side. You're trying to widen the whole gap between the two pin halfs for the whole length of the pin, not splay them apart into a big "V".

    If you're only testing to make sure the lights work, you could just use a hot circuit.
    You'd use a meter when you're troubleshooting just about anything electrical. You need a meter when ever you have to tie-in dimmers, etc. You need a meter when you need to figure out what phase of power something is on.
    A little stage-pin continuity tester is nice and all... We have one at work that is almost never used. If you want to build on, I'd say it's a great project. But if you're going to spend your money on a tool at this point, buy a meter and learn about all it's functions. When you do end up having to do more advanced trouble shooting you'll be on step ahead.

    --Sean
     
  8. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Personally, I don't like carrying around my multimeter while up climbing truss or at the top of an a frame. One more thing on my belt, one more thing to drop, not to mention the spikey leads. What I DO keep on my belt at all times is a REAL continuity tester. This is really a unique tool. Using two AAA batteries, it has what appears to just be a flat head screw driver on the end. However, on the side of the handle is a small metal square about .5 cm on all sides.

    By touching one of your fingers to the metal square, you begin to become part of the continuty tester. You then touch the flathead part to on part of the lamp/plug/cable and a finger from your OTHER hand to the other lead on the lamp/pluh/cable. It tests continuity across your body and signifies with this with a red LED. This is very adventageous for me as I'm not fumbling around with leads and needles up in the air, just a simple tool. Good lucking finding them though, it took me quite a while to track one down.
     
  9. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    A simple continuity tester like that also only costs about $10.
     
  10. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    I might have one, though I thought it was for checking if something is live... glad I never shoved it in a receptacle then! I'll try and find it, and snap a pic.
     
  11. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Jeremy, I have something similar, but I use it to check a circuit instead of a lamp. Basically its a male stagepin with a hot and neutral wire coming out the back. If I want to know if something is hot, I just plug it in, and stick the leads onto my tongue.*

    120 makes me smile.



    In all seriousness, thats a really smart tool. I usually have my gam check on me, but it does get to be rather bulky if I'm on a ladder or in the grid and holding on with one hand and trying to plug things in above my head with the other hand. I'm going to have to look around for one of those. Do you have a model name/company that makes yours?


    *
    Please Note

    You should not attempt to lick or eat electricity. Doing so is at your own risk.
     
  12. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Do you have something like this:
    http://www.mygreenlee.com/Products/main.shtml?greenlee_category_id=6&product_category=162&adodb_next_page=1&portalProcess_2=showGreenleeProductTemplate&upc_number=09022
    If so, that is for checking for voltage.

    --Sean
     
  13. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Sean, since you just posted a link to a voltage sniffer, I'd like to add my $0.02 about them. Simply put, I don't trust them. I've seen several MEs on a few shows use a few different kinds, and never been impressed. Mainly because when they were attempting to show me how cool it was, they couldn't find voltage in a cable that was powering a light.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled thread.
     
  14. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    I totally agree. I've only really found them useful on a couple VERY MINOR occasions (finding a cable under a showdeck, etc). There's often far too many cables from different departments run all over (electrics, sound, automation, etc) that finding ONE live cable is the proverbial needle/haystack problem.

    I've also found the "false positives" of these devices to be really annoying.

    --Sean
     
  15. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

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    There is a good chance that is becasue the hot leg was canceled out by the neutral. If you look at the pictures on the web site the snifer is just checking one leg at a time. My guess is that it functions like an amp meter. If you clamp it around a piece of 12/3 you should get a reading close to zero but if you clamp it around a peice of feeder you will get a true reading. I have seen people that have an adapter that sperates the wires of a bundled cable to get accurete readings.
     
  16. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Knives in spreading the pins is bad practice. Those knives that are the proper gapping are too fragile to use, those that won’t break will make the gap too large and potentially break the pin while making it too wide. You also have no safety check on it being properly sized once spread.


    Oh’ for the days of the aluminum pinspreader - could kill the person that swiped my pinsplitter version I. Got the version II and it will do the job, just not as well. Also have to put a 1/4" rod into a drill and sort of grind down the Pinsplitter II wire pin cleaner so it will other than scratch up a perfectly good pin. New pinsplitters are by far too sharp as it were in scratching the heck out of your pins.

    The taped or cable tied connection is a way of doing it - courtousy tape is what you describe in ability to remove it quickly by way of a flap that is easy to grab and remove. Such is a required concept.

    On stuff like the “Gam Check”. Yep well worth it (at least when it was like $73.00 each for them.) IN the latest prices... I’m not very sure that GAM is in a state of reality over profit here for such a tool. Wanna make a million dollars? Make a new Gam tool that will act as both pinsplitter and tester. See the above in scratching the pins.

    On the testers, what you have to watch out for is the half lit lamp. Often what happens in detecting a high resistance short is an indicator lamp some lamp that just glows but is not very obvious. That’s a hard thing to detect unless really paying attention to what one normally sees verses what might just be the way you are holding the tool or could be a short. Dependant upon the resistance to fault, you might or might not see a problem short of a signal passed between pins that might detect such a thing and note it to you.

    In other words as with all testers, beware of the half lit or seemingly lit but not certain lamps. Often in testers if there is something that is of high resistance yet still connected it's going to show up as a fault-just not one that is as easy to see. Iintensity varies with resitance. A multi-meter if you know how to use it is never wrong.

    The Gam Check is a really useful tool overall. Worth it’s current pricing, don’t know I bought mine at a much cheaper price. Worth it in the end, possibly but I might wait a few years in being able to afford it as other than a primary tool. Won’t do anything more than a multi-meter will do, just do it more nicely. Perhaps by than someone will come out with a better tool that is worth it’s current price. Good multi-meter if not amp clamp type multi-meter first, than Gam Check in my book.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2007
  17. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Got one that doesn't require the battery, in fact got two of them (one is on my wall of shame in having touched an electrical box that was of easier resistance than I was.) Such tools as testers are also useful at times but not so much in analizing a problem other than under live current. Under live current is or could be dangerous in figuring out what the problem is. When I run into a problem I carry a Fluke 1AC voltage detector with me and a multi-meter for the follow up. First I want to know if I'm safe anywhere around these components, than I want to know what type of field I'm playing in be it live or not, an ability to detect what the heck is going on. This is beyond topic but not just a multi-meter, but one that has as opposed to just the standard probes, clip on probes or alligator clips of various types. Clip to sale the male pin and use a probe on the female etc.

    I use my Gam Check at times and certainly much less than the multi-meter (a quality amp clamp type). Tools of the trade. First the multi-meter and know how to use it before you find say a speedy way to find out what you need to know. Often for just checking a circuit out of a dimmer you will find an Edison checker with stage to Edison adaptor and the say hardware store bought edison tester will be all you need. One adaptor and one store bought tester. On the other hand, there is times when lamp test is useful.

    This also given I have been inside my own Gam Check at least three times over the last at least ten years due to broken wires.

    How long do they last? How much do you use it? Months or Years is an appropriate answer as to battery life.
     
  18. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Yeah the full Gamchek lists for $150. Gamchek Jr. and Lampchek both list for $35 each. From what I can buying the two cheap ones gets you everything but a cable tester... and if you plug both of the jr units in to the same cable, I would think you could figure out a combination that would give you a cable test.
     
  19. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Not really.
    The Female tester is checking for continuity between H&N.
    The Male tester is checking for correct wiring and voltage.
    Putting the two together does not equal the "Senior".

    However....

    If you have an outlet that you know works and is wired correctly: just plug in the cable you want to test, then plug the Male tester into the end of the cable.

    --Sean
     
  20. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Zac850-
    The tool is made by IDEAL product #61050. I have attached some pictures so you can get a better feel for what I am talking about and how it is used. Once again, this is only to be used as continuity tester, NOT a voltage tester. It should only be used on a dead circuit, cable, or lamp to test continutiy. As others have stated, the Gamcheks and multimeters will do all this and more (personally I just prefer my multimeter) however I find this tool much easier to deal with 40' up on the truss and a multi-meter or other continuity tester. Less things to drop, less sharp obejects, etc.
     

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