Cheap Cable/Cord Control

To make this cable control system you will need the following materials:

1. Binder clips

2. Magnets (fridge magnets will do)

Not only is my hack pretty much free, as well as capable of being assembled from stuff lying around your office or home, but it also works about a hundred times better than the tricked-out, fancy-pants Kickstarter-funded designer-esque iteration I wasted $39.99 on last month.

You can slide your clip/magnet towers along the length of the cables to wherever suits you; the combination of the size of binder clip I chose (3/4″ wide; 3/8″ capacity) and four Apple cables inside the closed clip gives me a snugly-fitting yet easily movable unit. They stay wherever you put them.

Some people might use just one; others might go wild and use them every six inches along the length of their wires.

Bonus: you can put notes and whatnot between the upraised clip handles to decorate your cable run.

cable-control-cat

-- Joseph Stirt  



Lacing Cord

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Back before wire ties, cables were bundled with lacing cord — a flat or round waxed nylon string (flat vs. round require different knots). To this day, lacing cord is used in certain situations where a more flexible bundle is needed, when wire ties are too bulky, or when you need to pull another cable alongside and the lumps of the wire tie would cause problems. Depending on the job, lacing cord comes in a variety of different coatings, materials, strengths and lengths.

Other advantages of lacing cord are that it’s cheap; there isn’t a specific size (cut to any length needed); and it’s good strong cordage that can be used for other things. The main disadvantage is that it takes a bit of skill with knots. You have to be able to tie a clove hitch for the flat cord, or make a slip knot for the round ’12 cord’ and then finish with a half-hitch knot.

I’ve been using lacing cord for over 20 years. As for brands, one brand is pretty much the same as another.

-- Charles Gallo  

Waxed Polyester Lacing Twine
$14 (165-yard spool)

Available from Specialized Products



Lincoln Stick Welder

I recommend the Lincoln for arc welding for one simple reason: It always works. I’ve used this welder for farm equipment repair and fabrication for more than 35 years with absolutely no problems. It’s ideal for any light-duty work and just right for a weekend welder.

Its range is 40 to 225 amps, and for 85% of my work, I use it at 90 amps; there’s plenty of range available. It’s not cheap, but you’ll likely end up disappointed in anything less. Wire feeds in this price range are almost useless. It does require 220 volt power, but welders that will operate on 110 power are generally a disappointment. You won’t regret buying this one and your grandchildren won’t wear it out.

-- Keith Carpenter  

Lincoln AC 225 stick welder K1170
$400
(includes insulated electrode holder/cable, heavy-duty work clamp/cable)

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Lincoln Electric



GB Wire Stripper and Crimper

A tool I love is the GB SE-94 Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper. The Kronus Wire Stripper, previously reviewed on Cool Tools, used to be the bane of my electrical-work existence. It would only properly set and strip the wire in one quick motion half of the time, and the other half I’d have to spend a few minutes fumbling around getting the clamp to hold on tight or the blade to cut deeply enough to strip the wire. Averaging out the two amounts of time, it really wasn’t any more effective than the classic manual strippers. When I got my hands on the SE-94, it was as though someone gave me a hammer after years of driving nails in with rocks. It can grab and strip a wire with just a simple clench of the fist. It’s also been extremely handy in those cramped-in-a-sink-cabinet-wiring-up-a-garbage-disposal situations, when I don’t have the time to comfortably mess around with an inconsistent tool to get it to do what it was designed to do.

-- Cavan Gahagan  

GB SE-94 Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper
$12

Manufacturd by Gardner Bender

Available from Amazon

If unavailable at Amazon, the tool is $21 from ACE Hardware.



Gardner Bender Romex Cable Ripper

The previously-reviewed Cable Slitter reminded me of this little thngamawhoogy. My father, who made his living as an electrician, always had one on him for stripping cable. You slip it over the wire however far you want to cut it. The electrical cable passes through a hole in the wide end of the CR-100 (note: the holes running along the side are only for checking the gauge of the wire). Then, gripping the tool firmly, you just slide it toward the end of the wire, pulling the wire through and causing the cutting blade on the open end to slit the length of the sheathing, without damaging the wires inside. You can then pull the inner wires out and cut off the sheathing with a knife. Or in my father’s case, the cutters on his pliers. This Cable Ripper and a pair of pliers was all he ever used (he could also strip wires with pliers, but that’s really an acquired skill).

It’s virtually impossible to accidentally cut yourself with this tool, which makes it safer than trying to slit a cable with only a utility knife. I also find it’s better than the strippers on a set of pliers, because it’s specifically made to slit romex (NM or non-metallic) cable, not strip insulation off the wires themselves. Two drawbacks: it’s intended for romex cable and really isn’t too useful for anything else. Two, you need another tool to cut the sheathing off. Still, it’s inexpensive, works great and you can get them at Lowe’s, Home Depot or any electrical supply place and probably your local hardware store.

-- Keith Perkins  

Gardner Bender Romex Cable Ripper
$4
Manufactured by Gardner Bender

Available from Amazon



Paladin Universal Cable Slitter

If you’ve ever tried to slit electrical cable very far without ruining the inner wires, you know how hard it can be. This amazing little tool does in two seconds what can take a frustrating five minutes with a knife or wire cutters. You adjust the blade to the outer jacket thickness, clamp the thing on the cable, revolve it around the cable for the periphery cut (it rotates 90 degrees), flick the lever with your thumb, slit the cable lengthwise as far you want it, and the outer stripped jacket just falls off. Otherwise, especially on a long strip length, you either have to yank the jacket off the wire by hand or try to slit it with a knife, which is when you start damaging wires. This works great on heavy rubber SJO cord, coax, multiconductor, you name it. No nicks or cuts on the inner wires. You can even remove the jacket from the middle of a length of wire by making two periphery cuts and slitting away what’s in between.

Even among electricians who strip cables for a living, this tool is surprisingly lesser-known. I’ve shown this to guys who wire up large industrial machines for a living and had their jaw drop open. And then I never see my slitter much after that anymore since it’s always out on loan. It’s a hard tool to find at any store (Berlands house of tools used to carry it). I discovered his tool in 1993 or so. Usage seems to go in spurts, depending on projects and which phase of machine building we are in (I design custom automated machinery for a living). Sometimes these five-foot tall electrical cabinets will have 100 wires running out of it, each having to be stripped & terminated. The electricians I work with especially love this tool.

-- Jon Kroninger  

Paladin Universal Cable Slitter
$30
Available from Altex

Manufactured by Paladin



Keep-A-Cable

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For sheer bang-for-the-buck, these cord management cards are tough to beat. They’re cheap polyethylene sheets you either stick or screw to the edge of your desk and then snap the cables coming from your computer and peripherals into the recesses. I was tired of picking my iPod connector off the floor when it would fall off my desktop. With this, the ends of the cables are kept at the ready on your desk, which is especially great for stuff you are regularly plugging and unplugging. You can also use it to neatly route other cables coming from the back of a PC tower, like speaker and ethernet, which really helps cut down cable clutter. I’ve had one card stuck to the underside of my desk for about a year for two iPods (video and shuffle), a digital camera cable, and a charger for my Bluetooth headset (I find it is less visually obtrusive underneath my desk). The double stick tape they use is very sticky. I have a lacquered wood desk. It sticks great. I’ve never tried to pull it off, but I imagine it would be tough. I imagine if you had a smooth metal desk these would stick even better. Of course, if you were trying to stick them to a rough surface like a unfinished wood, you’d probably want to use screws. I didn’t consider trying to make my own. No reason to: I got a four-pack of the Keep-a-Cable 5-wire holders at Frys for about five bucks. I gave the extras to a few friends. They love them.

-- Cormac Eubanks  

Keep-A-Cable
$9 (pack of 3)

Available from Amazon



Cable Clamp

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The Cable Clamp is a cord/wire/hose organizer I’ve found helpful, especially in dealing with items that have both long electrical cords and long hoses that can get mixed up with each other. In addition to keeping the long hose and electric cord on my pressure washer coiled separately, I’m using one of these clamps to hang my small electric chainsaw from my belt when climbing a ladder, sort of an improvised tool belt. They come in four sizes, including a Mega-size available from the manufacturer.

They’re fun to use — they close like a handcuff, with ten click-stops. They’re more expensive and bulkier than zip ties (i.e. an average tool chest couldn’t carry dozens of these clamps), but they have advantages over tape, cable ties, and other hook & loop products. They’re reusable and, unlike tape, leave no gummy residue. They’re durable — won’t lose grip after many re-uses. They’re less likely to damage delicate electronics cables than a thin cable tie. And they can be opened one-handed (and closed one-handed if there is a backstop handy).

Note: I do find they can be hard to open because the trigger doesn’t go back far enough to clear the teeth completely unless it is held down hard. Also, they can get temporarily bent out of shape when under stress — i.e. the jaw won’t go into the catch unless it is guided in by hand. And they are plastic, so they could get broken if something heavy crushed them or fell on them. Nevertheless, for a relatively inexpensive piece of plastic, they do seem pretty sturdy; I’ve used mine for about five months and haven’t had to replace any.

-- Roger Knights  

Cable Clamps
$19 (7 clamps in three sizes, includes shipping)

Available from Amazon

$20 - $25 (sets of 4-17 clamps in various sizes)
Available from and manufactured by QA Worldwide



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Cordinator

This neat little box hides all those computer and phone cords and doubles as a power outlet. Inside are 10 outlets and the box comes with a clever method for keeping things very organized: metal ties that are affixed to the inside. You just coil each cord, wrap a tie around it (twisting the end like you would with a sandwich bag), and stack each cord on top of one another. Unplugging is a cinch: simply find the cord you want, undo the ties and pull out the plug. I own two — one at home and one at the office. You can keep it under your desk or on top (I have my monitor on it), and the front accessibility means you can plug/unplug items (i.e. cell phone) quickly and easily without having a mess of wires on your desk. With everything plugged in I’ve never had any trouble closing the lid. I once tried making something like this out of laminated wood (to match my desk). It cost about $200, didn’t look as nice and wasn’t nearly as convenient.

-- Vic Habersmith  

Cordinator
$55
Manufactured by Herrington



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Kronus Automatic Wire Stripper

I have seen many attempts to improve that humble tool, the wire stripper. This is the one that pleases me most. It clamps the wire, makes an incision into the insulation without cutting the copper underneath, and removes the insulation, all in a single action. The best part is that you don’t have to hold the wire, because the tool grips it for you. You can use it with only one hand.

It looks clunky and over-elaborate but is absolutely functional. I enjoy all aspects of its design, even including the snick-snick sound of its clever mechanical linkage.

Although the one I own bears Radio Shack’s “Kronus” brand name (available on their web site and in their stores) an identical version is available more cheaply from Grizzly Tools at the URL below.

-- KK  

[For a superior tool, please see the more recently-reviewed GB Wire Stripper and Crimper. -- SL]

Kronus Automatic Wire Stripper
$10

Available from Amazon