Winding Cords
October 25, 2005 9:20 AM   Subscribe

How do electricians (or anybody) wind up long extension cables? Is there an efficient method that unwinds without tangling? I currently wrap from thumb to elbow on my arm.
posted by gcumming to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The trick is in the twist. Hold one end in your hand and make a hanging loop, but before you take the next loop of the cable into your hand, twist in by 180 degrees. Continue looping and twisting until done. You'll know if you've not got the twist wrong because the cables will create a figure-8 in the middle of the coil...
posted by benzo8 at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2005

"...not got the twist right..."

posted by benzo8 at 9:24 AM on October 25, 2005

Also, if you're doing the twist right, the cord will have a tendency to form the next loop of the coil on its own.
posted by chrominance at 9:27 AM on October 25, 2005

That's right; benzo8 has it. Don't wrap it around your elbow, (although you can do this with rope). You don't need to think "180 degrees"--just twist clockwise between your thumb and forefinger, and the loops will fall nicely into place. The twist actually varies, because there are usually trapped twists in the cord one way or the other. But always start from the fixed end if the cable is on a machine, like a vacuum cleaner, and let the free end untangle on its own.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:30 AM on October 25, 2005

if you wrap cable using benzo8's method it will unwrap so cleanly that you can throw 100' of cable and have it go quite straight with no tangles. The trick is to alternate the twist and the no-twist loops -- easy to do, less easy to describe: loop / twist-loop / loop / twist-loop /...
posted by anadem at 9:39 AM on October 25, 2005

Combine benzo's method with looping it over your thumb and elbow. Then cable tie it.

The trick to unwinding without tangles is to regrip the coil between your thumb and elbow and then uncoil each loop individually while it's being pulled or as you walking along its intended path.

] been handling 100 ft + cables and extension cords since the age of 8 [
posted by mischief at 9:45 AM on October 25, 2005

Don't wrap it around your elbow, (although you can do this with rope).

Most ropes also require a twist.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 AM on October 25, 2005

I use the weave. It is kind of tough to describe, but you start by folding the cord exactly in half, tying a knot at exactly the halfway point, leaving a small loop. I then begin the weave at that loop and end when both ends are joined together at the other end of the weave. Is anyone else familiar with this technique?

I never have a tangle. My fu failed the googlization of this great idea. I need a picutre and diagram. I got all the neighbors to do it cause they saw me doing it.
posted by cincidog at 10:00 AM on October 25, 2005

What you want is called: Over Under.

Video link

Basically: First loop goes in the bottom of your palm. Second loop goes above the first. Next goes below. then Above. Over then under.

Done right, you toss the cable and no kinks. Used in stage/roadies/film everywhere.
posted by filmgeek at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2005

The best way I've seen is doubled up and then, it's hard to describe but it's like a crochet running stitch. You make a loop and reach through it and pull through another loop, reach through that loop... repeat until it's all tied up. Then you can throw the cord into your truck or whatever and it won't come loose and tangled. When you need to use it just pull on the end and it comes apart easily. You don't even need to undo the whole thing just the length you need.
posted by Mr T at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2005

Mr T and me and talking about the same exact thing. Am I rihgt, Senior T?
posted by cincidog at 10:06 AM on October 25, 2005

The weave/crotchet method sounds like it will put a lot of uneccessary bends in the cable. Cable should never be knotted, kinked or tied. The ideal of coiling cable is that it reduces the cable to a manageable size while curving it the minimum possible... Remember, while cable is flexible, it's just metal inside and excessive curvature will damage it in the long-term.
posted by benzo8 at 10:19 AM on October 25, 2005

The over-under method almost always works well. We us it on 500' cables all the time. If the cable is already badly twisted and kinked, you will have to rotate to roll end or the loose end to get kinks out. If the cable not want to fall right on the roll, you may also have to twist it.

If you have trouble with the over-under, you can figure-eight the cable on the ground. I do not like this method because it is harder to turn the coiled end, but it works well. Lay the cable out in an 8 pattern, then tape the far of the 8 and the middle, and fold the 2 loops when you are done.

I have also seen the crochet method Mr. T mentions above, although I do not how to do it. It is nice for shorter cables (<100').
posted by Yorrick at 10:19 AM on October 25, 2005

I use a butterfly coil to manage my climbing rope. Here is some advice on how to do that, which should work for cable as well. Another method used for climbing rope is to stack it neatly on a small tarp and then wrap it up. No coiling necessary and it's easy to flake out when you need it later.
posted by jacobsee at 10:23 AM on October 25, 2005

The Over/Under looks pretty sweet...I wonder if that will work for my hopeless long-ass garden hose?
posted by jacobsee at 10:28 AM on October 25, 2005

I have used the second technique described in filmgeek's video link for 20 years on long cables. It works like a charm. I can coil a 100' cord that will uncoil tangle-free on it's own with a toss.
posted by wsg at 10:29 AM on October 25, 2005

coiling and uncoiling christmas lights

I cut some small pieces of cardboard about 1 foot by 2 foot, slot one end into a small notch, and wrap each strand on a seperate piece of cardboard, finishing it off by slotting the other end into a notch. Stack each wrapped strand into a box or plastic bin. They still catch a little when unwrapping but no major tangles.
posted by jacobsee at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think Mr T and cincidog are talking about the "Daisy Chain" weave. Here's a guide in photos, but it is kind of hard to follow (click on "Knots" at the left). Though for cable I'd tend to agree with benzo that you don't want to put too many kinks in it etc. The daisy chain though is very quick and easy for ropes.
posted by clgregor at 10:34 AM on October 25, 2005

Don't wrap it around your elbow, (although you can do this with rope)

It's not a good way to coil rope either, though. Rope and cable both have memory. The memory of the rope may not match your elbow-to-arm length, and you'll be forcing it into an unnatural lay. The best way to coil rope is either hanging in your hand or flat down on the ground or deck, imparting a half twist with each loop.

The 'crochet' stitch method being referred to is often known as 'daisy chain[PDF]' aboard ship. It is excellent for preventing fouling. I've never tried it on cable.
posted by Miko at 10:36 AM on October 25, 2005

coiling and uncoiling christmas lights

I haven't had any trouble with lights since I was shown to wrap them in a small, round, tight ball. Just as you would a ball of yarn. They store well and unroll without tangling.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on October 25, 2005

For instrument cables (and this would probably work for power chords) I always halve it, then halve it again, and when it get's short enough, tie the two ends into a soft knot.

Supposedly this keeps the ends from being bent to much and prolongs the life of the cable.
posted by dial-tone at 10:37 AM on October 25, 2005

Miko wins, I like her Christmas lights in a ball idea better than mine...will have to try it out this year.
posted by jacobsee at 10:46 AM on October 25, 2005

The single crochet method works very well to take up slack in phone cord, and the skinny power cords for many electronics. Not for network cable or anything thick. To keep the piles of pc power cords in the office unsnarled, I double the cable once, then tie in a figure eight. (similar to dial-tone, but the figure eight knot is easier on cables, and very easy to un-knot.)

Strands of lights get folded back and forth, so that each end is a group of bulbs. Easy to test the lights this way, hard to describe.

For long and/or heavyduty power cords, learn to loop it properly as described above.
posted by theora55 at 10:52 AM on October 25, 2005

Although you're asking specifically about extention cords, I've just gotta say this: if you're winding up a long cord that's fixed to an appliance, start at the appliance end! No matter the method, or how careful you are, you will put some twist in it. Doing it this way, at least the plug end can flap around and untwist.

(Seeing people start at the plug end and twist the cord up, as well as hearing their ridiculous justifications for doing so, drives me batty...)
posted by Pinback at 7:15 PM on October 25, 2005

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