Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

AIEL MARKET

CORDAGE GUIDE
for the
PERFORMANCE
STAGE


(Image Left: Large Coil of Rope)

Technical crews are always needing to secure things.
Adhesive tape is one method, but tying items with
cordage is another way, and it is also much less
wasteful. On this page there is a discussion of the
typical types used by us. Not all available cordage
will be covered, nor will all possible uses be addressed.

Afterward, storage suggestions
and tips will be given.



THE FOLLOWING MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©


Topics

Types     Storage

Cordage Tips



 

CORDAGE TYPES

Bungee    Leather    Rope

Sash    Laces    String    Twine

 

  BUNGEE

(Image Left: Coiled Bungee Cord)      These are common cords made of a synthetic material that has great elasticity. A hook or snap hook at each end makes for easy attachment to itself or to objects that fit within the crooks. Their great flexibility means they can be wound around items, then pulled tightly and hooked to prevent unwrapping.

    Included in this type of cordage are Rubber Straps. These also have hooks but are not as flexible or as stretchy as Bungee Cord; however, they are much stronger and less prone to breaking.

    For stage purposes, they are used to wrap items that may increase or decrease in quantity, such as wooden dowels or small piping. The springiness of bungee cords might be used to hold back curtains yet allow give as persons brush by. Both these and rubber straps are useful to secure rolled mats or to keep tarps closed, hold air-lift towers in upright positions for storage or transport, keep van doors open in windy conditions, and as emergency case-lid securers.


 

  LEATHER

(Image Left: A Coil of Leather Tie)      These are strips of rawhide with a rectangular cross section having a diameter of 3 mm. The ones we use have been cut into half-metre to one-metre lengths. Each of our single-circuit electrical cables five metres or longer has one of these attached. So have all multi-circuit cables with diameters of under 30mm, which means all four- and most six-circuit cables. The leather strip is attached near the female connector so that when the cable is in use, it can be tied off to a handy pipe or post as necessary. When the cable is coiled for storage, the tie is wrapped through and around the coil once, then secured with a shoelace knot & bow. Because the tie is captive to the cable, it does not become lost.

    We use these because they are strong, yet very flexible, and they are easily manipulated while wearing work gloves. Cost is a bit high (about $3.00/metre), but service life is one of decades as long as they are not allowed to dry out.

See Also:
Tips Grabbag -- Cable Securing
 

  ROPE

(Image Left: Small Coil of Rope)      There are a great many materials used for rope. We use nylon and polypropylene. Both are strong and lightweight, come in a variety of colours, plus are inexpensive. Most are used for tying loads or trunk lids for customers at our shop, but are sometimes used at gigs to cordon restricted areas, or to designate something important such as pathways to and from a stage. Heavy ropes with nooses are used by us to haul lights up to dead-hang positions.

    If you buy a twisted rope, it will not have a closed weave, so when it is cut it will unravel. We recommended a braided or double-braided weave. However, If you must use twisted rope, cut it in your shop to usable lengths, then if the material is artificial such as nylon, cauterise the ends by heating with a propane torch. When the end is flaming, quickly place it between two large blocks of wood and roll one block over the rope end. Be cautious because the flaming ends will drip hot material that can cause burns and fires. If the material is not a type that melts, knot the cut ends to prevent unravelling. For very large ropes where knots would make usage be too unwieldy, use strong Twine to secure fraying ends.

    When knot stability or stretching are issues, use a natural-fibre rope such as Manilla or Sisal. These fibres are very strong, provide great friction where fibres touch, and have a low elastic modulus. Thus they grip knot loops tightly without stretching. As an aside, both happen to be biodegradable, but this characteristic is not likely to be needed within the performance industry.

    A final word on this topic for those that may wonder why `fly'(*) rope or cable is not discussed here. Because this page is dedicated to the cordage used regularly by crews, installation cordage is outside the scope of this narrative, as is wire rope (cable).

(*) `Fly' is the term used to hang backdrops, flats and set
pieces that are to be winched in and out of an audience's
view during a show. (See the AIEL Glossary) for more details.


 

  SASH CORD

(Image Left: Cut Length of Black Sash Cord)      A staple for stage, motion picture and touring crews, it is liked because of its flat finish, flexibility, strength and its closed-weave design. The latter means that when it is cut it won't unravel. It is easily manipulated while wearing work gloves, plus it readily knots and unknots.

    Sash comes in black or white colour, and in several thicknesses. Materials are cotton and cotton/synthetic blends. In some cases, Sash Cord has a cotton jacket over a synthetic core. This provides softness to the touch, but extra strength overall. A similar product, sometimes referred to as "Stage Cord", is entirely synthetic, but its outer covering has been made soft to the touch. This type is exceptionally strong. Black-coloured Sash is particularly favoured where unobtrusiveness and no reflections are desired, plus it does not show dirt as does a white cord.

    We use 5mm and 8mm thicknesses depending on what is being secured. Most times the thicker cord is used on feeder cables, but it also is useful to tie up looms (bundles) of cables in a run or to a truss or girder. The best Sash Cord is strong enough to support heavy backdrops and set pieces.


 

  LACES

(Image Left: Black Shoe Lace)      These may seem an oddity, but Shoe Laces can be useful for stage purposes if one buys robust, quality Laces. They can be employed as ties for small cables such as XLR or Data Cables, and since Laces come in a wide variety of colours, they can designate cables or groups/types of cables. Thus, blue Laces might be used as ties for CAT 5 cables, while black ones might serve for XLR cables.

    Look for a soft, flexible Lace that has a flat, non-waxed surface. It should be a braided material for extra strength, and the aiglets must be metal, not plastic. The latter type of crimp can shatter too easily during stage use/abuse.


 

  STRING

(Image Left: Spool of String)      Ordinary Shipper's String can sometimes be used in certain situations as a low-budget solution to other cordage discussed on this page. Cotton is the preferred material as it is soft, easily cut, and inexpensive. Shipper's String will not unravel when cut.

    Use String to secure fraying ends of other cordage after the latter has been cut. Wrapped diagonally around other cordage and tied at each end, it can serve as a marker. One might also bundle rolls of adhesive tape together with string.


 

  TWINE

(Image Left: Roll of Dacron Twine)      The twine to which is referred here is a synthetic, braided material, not the fuzzy type sold in post offices and grocery stores. We use a brown-coloured, fisherman's Dacron Polyester Twine because it is incredibly strong for its 3mm diameter. It is useful in situations where an unobtrusive cordage is preferred over more noticeable types, or where a small-diameter cord is needed to thread through small openings or slots. It cuts easily and does not unravel.

    This is not as flexible as most other cordage discussed here, and its small diameter makes it hard to tie with gloves on, but its strength and slimness make it very useful. We use it to tie up items in permanent or semi-permanent situations. Its very low cost helps when a lot of strong cordage might be needed.

    Typical uses by us are to hang banners, grommeted backdrops, small groupings of cables, or to tie a cable to a conduit where its small diameter is needed to fit between the conduit and the surface to which it is attached.




 

STORAGE

Storage Methods
for Shop and Road

(Image Left: Metal Cable Reel)      For our shop purposes, all cordage is kept on the reels supplied by the manufacturers. These are typically mounted onto a cable rack. On the road, it's stored in a Cordage Kit, most as pre-cut lengths.

(Image Right: Metal Cookie Tin)     Short lengths can be stored in round, metal tins meant for cookies or chocolates. For organisational purposes, keep each cordage type in a different tin. Coil the cut lengths around the inside perimeter, then working toward the center. These tins easily stack on shop shelves or in a case for touring. Thicker cordage or larger quantities can go inside plastic totes. These in turn, can be packed into road cases for protection, since typical totes don't travel well -- especially the ones with non-captive lids.

(Image Right: Binder Clip)     To have cordage ready at a moment's notice in the shop, make hangers out of wide towel racks. Cut lengths could be draped over these, but they're likely to fall or get knocked off. To retain each cord, use a stationery binder clip that has been attached with a cable tie to the bar of the rack. This method assures that each cord is displayed for fast selection and inventory. A towel rack is the perfect solution to storing and exhibiting broken lengths -- see Cordage Tips next.




 

CORDAGE TIPS

Simple Directives to Make
Your Cordage Usage Easier
and to be Less Wasteful



We Supply
Leather Ties and Sash Cord
in the Halifax - Dartmouth Area
and Beyond
Purchase AIEL Cordage




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