HOWTO over-under cable-coiling for less tangles and longer-lived wires

Over-under cable coiling is a technique for winding up your cables and wires in a way that extends their longevity and reduces tangling, by working with the natural coil of the wire. It's easier to show than to explain, and this video from the London School of Sound does a great job of demonstrating the technique. Learn it, use it and detangle your life!

The "over/under" name refers to the practice of twisting the cable in one direction to make the first coil, and un-twisting it to make the next, and repeating this until all the cable is neatly coiled. Care needs to be taken to keep each end on its proper side of the roll when uncoiling otherwise a knot will appear with every other loop. Connecting the ends on the outside of the loops, or tying them in that position, insures that the ends don't pass through the loops in storage so there are no knots when the cable is laid out.

(via Wired Gadget Lab)

(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from uxud's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. Works damn nicely for ROV cables.. and garden hoses.

  2. If you're 'coiling' rope that is meant to be used for throwing (y'know, with the other end tied to a grappling hook), the standard way if to feed the rope onto a pile on the floor/ground - no, you can't just drop a pile of rope, you have to feed it. Make sure you don't disturb the pile. When the thrown end of the rope is thrown, the pile will play out the rope without knots.

    If you're feeding the rope into a throw bag (Hi there, kayakers!), just stuff it in the bag by stuffing it in the bag, leaving the (anchor) loop sticking out.

  3. clemoh says:

    I worked in Film for many years and this method is practically enforced because of the many electrical and sound cables that are lying around and need to be managed. It's amazing how much longer your cables will last, and how much easier they are to work with. If you coil extension cords this way, rather than the more common method you see people using of wrapping it between your elbow and hand, you can essentially plug in the cord, drop the rest, and walk away with the female end to wherever you need to use it without any tangles or kinks.

    Another method that is ideal for shorter cables and cords is to simply double up the cable a few times until it is a manageable length then slip a rubber band around one end or even better, one of these. This is better than common coiling in that the wires inside the cables are never twisted to the point of pulling out of the leads, which is the most common cause of cable and cord failure(after cats ;D)

  4. OK< and who knows that the worst thing to do when you have a tangled cord or rope is to start passing the end through the tangle to "untie" the mess. STOP. The tangle did not tie itself up it just got some loops intertwined and needs to be shaken out. NOT UNTIED!

  5. At the end of my senior year at Brown in the '70s, I spent a spring and summer working for a mobile recording company that had two 24-track tape decks in the back of a semi-truck. This coiling technique was seriously A Big Deal, and believe me, we would have been totally paralyzed if anyone had failed to follow through on proper cable coiling.

    If you're not up to speed on this, for goodness' sake, practice along with the video. Like tying one's shoes, it's a genuine life skill.

    It got us through a serious collection of amazing gigs... Art Garfunkle at Carnegie Hall, the Stones on July 4th in Detroit (the hottest I've ever been in my life, and that includes Burning Man - I was hanging audience mics in the ceiling of the Masonic Temple Auditorium) - but the mother of them all was recording six shows by my hero, Todd Rundgren, at the Bottom Line in New York. What a graduation present that was.

    Andy Warhol (he looked like death warmed over) brushed past me backstage with two bodyguards, and impresario Don Kirshner bought me a beer. A real mensch, looking out for the lowly crew. You never forget a simple gesture like that.

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