Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

AIEL Shop Tips

(Image Left: Coil of Cable)

Storage and Dispensing
Shop Cable

If you make up your own cables, you will have purchased
bulk spools. Having proper dispensing facilities recovers
floor space and provides for much easier measuring.
Here are suggestions toward these goals.



Cable Rack Types

Measuring Methods

Cable and Cordage Storage




Making up your own cables saves money and allows for exact
lengths and usage of favoured connectors. Storing spools on
the floor or bench top takes up space, promotes clutter, and
makes measuring difficult and inexact. Mounting spools on
a rack suitable for each type eliminates all of that.



  Below are suggestions regarding
   storage for wire and cable spools:

    Stud/Leg Rack: If you have a wall with no covering or a bench with legs close enough to easily span with piping, simply drill holes into the studs or legs, load one or more pipes with a few spools and guide each pipe into a pair of holes. Make the holes tight enough so that no pipe will inadvertently slide out. If there is a chance of this, secure each with removable stops or even carpenter's `C' clamps.

    Sheet Metal: Small racks or those with low-weight spools of say, hookup wire, might be made of sheet metal and small diameter piping. These typically are stand-alone models that often sit right on a bench or cabinet top. These are available commercially, often including a selection of electrical hookup wire.

(Image Left: Stand-Alone, Wooden Peg Rack)

    Peg Rack: A simple model for light weight spools might be a wooden one with nearly vertical pegs. These are most suitable for bench top position when there are a wide variety of wire colours such as might be used for electronic circuitry. Most often made from wood, these can be found in fabric shops as spool holders for thread. Simply remove every second peg to accommodate larger spools of wire.

    This rack might also be used to keep close to hand spools of solder, bare wire or heat shrink. In addition, small rolls of electrical or colour coding tape, and other items such as hose clamps might be considered for this particular storage system.

(Image Right: Cable Rack)

    Pipe and Fittings: To support heavy spools, consider making a rack out of pipe and set-screw clamps, or from threaded pipe fittings, or from steel perforated, square stock. Secure the uprights to something solid such as the floor and ceiling, or the floor and rear wall. If this is not possible, be sure to have the uprights stable enough to stand on their own. Be aware that a stand-alone rack will take up more floor space due to the required wide stance of its supports. There will be a lot of weight on this rack when loaded spools are mounted, so make the supports in a triangular, `A' frame style to be sure it won't be top heavy. Load the most weighty spools on the lowest cross pipe.

    Wooden Rack? Wood frame construction might be suitable for some purposes. Finish by pushing pipe through holes drilled in the uprights. Due to the weight of the spools and the possible wear factor should the pipe turn inside the holes during unspooling, this is not recommended, except for smaller racks. If wood must be used, use thick stock able to handle the weight, and place steel sleeves within the wood through which the spool support pipes will be inserted.

    Pipe Mounting Regardless of construction materials used, have the pipe that will be supporting the spools be able to be pulled out from one side. This is so that new spools can be installed as the old run out. Be sure these pipes are not part of the rack support. Otherwise removing one to replace a spool might weaken the rack. This could be detrimental if there were to be a large number of heavy spools occupying the rest of the rack.

    Some rack designs arrange restocking to be done by lifting the pipe up out of U-shaped saddles, but this is not recommended because one must support the full weight of all the spools at some point. Side access allows the spools to be removed one at a time, and then returned by the same method.

  Here are some specific suggestions
   regarding various cable types:

(Image Right: Cable Rack)

    Electronics Wire: For hook-up wire, it is suggested to install a small holder below the bench where it will be used. This is so that bench-top objects will not interfere with wire spooling. Try to place the holder at one end so it is perpendicular to the bench. Hang a pair of diagonal cutters next to this for efficient unspooling and cutting. Another suggestion is to place an eyescrew at the base of the rack. Thread the hook-up wire through the eye and it becomes a third hand to hold the wire while you cut it.

    If you have the room and prefer a bench-top holder, consider a commercial Peg or Sheet Metal rack. Place it at one end of the bench where objects on the work surface will not interfere with the dispensing of wire. If this is a problem, consider mounting the holder up off the bench so that there will be room underneath, but not so high as to make it difficult to reach the spools from your working position.

    Medium Gauge Cable and Cordage: For medium cable and cordage sizes such as cabtire, multi-cable, and sash cord, the rack can be made from wood supports with spools supported on pipe. As already discussed, a better method for larger racks is to construct it entirely from pipe and fittings so as to accommodate the added weight. It is suggested for a medium-size cable holder, that it be situated at the end of a corridor or the end of the long dimension of the shop. This will be for measuring purposes as discussed farther on.

    Heavy Gauge Cable: Electrical feeder cable is very heavy and will require a more robust rack. Use large diameter pipe and suitable fittings, and be sure the rack is well secured and not top heavy. Again, it will be best to locate the rack where long lengths of feeder can be paid out for measuring.



    Metre Stick: Mount a metre stick along the bench front. Place the electronics hookup-wire rack right to the left of the metre stick with an eyescrew at the start of the stick, and a pair of cutters close by -- both as discussed farther back. This setup means that measurements will run from left to right and be right-side up. It then becomes an easy matter to reel off `n' centimetres of hook-up wire and cut it. Be sure that the metre stick is illuminated well enough to be able to discern the smallest divisions.

    So now when cutting multiple wire sets, the lengths can be made to be very uniform. Even if this setup is not possible, at least mount a metre stick somewhere near the holder for measurement purpose. A secured stick is better than a stand-alone because it can't be moved or misplaced. It is easier to hold the hook-up wire against a stationary metre stick with one hand and to measurement and cut with the other, than trying to manipulate wire, metre stick and cutters.

(Image Left: Metric Tape Measure)

    Measuring Tape: For the larger rack with heavy spools, you could use the metre stick, but it's tedious to manipulate the unwinding of the spool and the stick, plus accuracy will not usually be exact. Instead, run the tape from the starting point below the rack out to the desired cable length and cut.

    Floor Markings: If you regularly measure cable as above, forego the metre stick or measuring tape and place accurate marks on the floor starting with `0' under the rack and extending as far as the floor allows, or at least as far as the longest length typically cut. Have the numbers markings be one metre apart with half and quarter indicators between, if required.

    Cable Counter: Those of you doing regular cutting of cable, especially for customers, may wish to invest in a cable counter. Models vary, but the simplest consists of two rollers and a mechanical counter. Take the cable end, place it between the rollers, zero the counter, and pull the required length. These units combine high accuracy with speed. Some models will also wind the cut cable into a coil.


  Storage for Made-Up Cables

  Once you have electrical and control cables ready
   for use, you'll need a place to store them.

    Cases: If the show is a single one, cables will most likely be stored in the cases used to transport them. This is fine, but makes for some awfully heavy cases. Even if they are on wheels, at some point they will have to be lifted. If the show is such that lights are transported in cases, it is suggested that each light case also carry the cables needed for just those lights. This will eliminate some or all cable cases; plus the accompanying gel and frames can be in there as well. Thus, each case will be a self-contained part of your show. As a bonus, such cases will also always be lighter in weight than the equivalent size case filled with cables. Be sure to place an inventory list on the inside cover of each so that pick-up crews will know what cables and accessories go in which case.

(Image Left: Wooden Wall Peg)

    Pegs and Brackets: For cables stored in the shop, use storage pegs or individual shelf brackets, if you have the wall space. It's much better than having them stacked somewhere, especially if the cable you need is on the bottom. Choose a blank wall near the loading or show assembly area so that you need not hump cables a long distance to the road cases in which they will reside while they are out of the shop.

(Image Right: Shelf Bracket)

    Inventory the number of cable types and arrange for the same number of pegs -- again if you have the wall space. Use heavier pegs for the most weighty cables and place these at the lowest usable point. In place of pegs, consider screw-on shelf brackets for all but the heaviest cables. Mount them with the long dimension pointing outward for maximum storage length. Remember to leave enough width and height spacing when you mount the pegs/brackets so as to accommodate the full diameter of the coiled cable bundle. No coil should touch the next nearest or next lowest coil on the wall, nor should any touch the floor.

    Labeling: In the center of each coil, place a sign stating the length at a minimum, but you may also like to display the type and gauge representing what is on the peg. Don't paint these signs permanently on the wall, as you'll find that your cable inventory will change over time. It's easier to replace a sign than repaint the designations.

Caution:   Watch out for any pegs or brackets situated below head level. When they are empty, they present a potential impalement problem. If you choose to go this route, you'll have to decide the pros & cons of placing pegs or brackets at lower levels and of having to be wary when working nearby.

Proper storage for cable and cordage
makes for an organised space, resulting in
a pleasurable work experience. Such a shop instills
confidence in you and your company when clients view it.

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