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



Has anyone told the protein folding crew about this yet? o.O


A guy I worked with championed this technique and would follow people around the office imploring them not to twist the cables. He also got upset at us for standing on co-ax.


Works damn nicely for ROV cables… and garden hoses.

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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.


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)

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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!

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.


yesss this shit helps so much. much more complicated is the tightwire act of being a nice guy and not getting your shit stolen. i put hot pink duct tape on both ends of all my cables, but shit still disappears. the pink tape works pretty well with cases, amps, cabs and drum hardware though.

on the plus side, if you ever see people break their monster cables and toss them, you can just grab them and go to any old guitar center and redeem that lifetime warranty. they kinda suck but a free cable is a free cable.

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I learned this technique in 1972, while attending a Commercial Oilfield diving school in Florida. It has been the standard method for commercial divers to coil their hoses since forever. No tangles, easy to deal with the hose as the diver surfaces. And these hoses are heavy and stiff!

Ah yes, s-wrapping. Anyone in serious need of knot-free cable or line or rope that can cleanly uncoil itself “zzzZzzzzzzzz” at speed, this practice is for you. Ideal. Boat ropes, microphone cables, long cables that used to trail behind cameras (remember those big heavy old broadcast cameras guys would haul around on their shoulders at pro football sidelines in the 1980s?) … tangle-free, thought-free, but only if you got that coiling correct ahead of time.

Still a bit controversial re: whether or not to s-wrap cables containing twisted pair wires:

Then again, electricians often prefer this method, not s-wrapping:

UGH. What that fellow is doing in that video is setting up dozens of kinks in the cable! nonononononononono

Pro photogs, audio or video people will all but kill you if you don’t do this. The ease with which it uncoils is important for things like cheap extension cables, but what’s really important is for things like the higher end audio and video cables as it extends their life… and they can be wickedly expensive.

Real XLR cables, for audio, can be painfully expensive and they are fragile. The cheaper ones are even more fragile and the shielding, just under the rubber jacket, will develop gaps from mis-handling and this will introduce hiss and static and everyone will hate your guts.

Ah well . . .

Cheers for the link - was quite a surprise to see myself on BoingBoing this morning!

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Learned this while working stage crew at a working theater in college (the house crew would be responsible for running cables for the college’s shows but also help load in / load out visiting shows like symphonies, regional ballet, touring musicals, etc.) Expensive audio cable and power cable would sometimes have to be run all over the damned place, and shows requiring extra tech, i.e. more specialty lights or sound reinforcement than was “built in” for that particular house, would need even more. Just astounding lengths of cable sometimes.

It was referred to as “backcoiling”.

If we didn’t backcoil the cable, it’d take godawful forever to set up the next time (bad) and would reduce the working life of the expensive cable (worse). You learned not to mess it up real quick, especially when interacting with the IATSE union techs on some traveling shows, who had very little patience for stupid college kids touching their cables if you didn’t immediately show that you knew what you were doing.

I still do this with any long cable, rope, hose, etc. a couple of decades later, and it’s oddly soothing and satisfying. We learned to do this very fast BTW; the video shows a gent demonstrating the technique very slowly with short cable/small loops, but you can do it wicked quick with large loops in a long cable. Part of the draw is that you can coil/uncoil very quickly indeed.

I’m still occasionally surprised when I meet someone who works with long lengths of anything who doesn’t know this technique – climbers, for example. Not that this technique obviates the need to flake your rope before using it, as thaumatechnica points out – but clemoh is dead right; with actual A/V cabling you can just drop the coil next to an outlet and walk away with the top end to wherever you need to plug it, or plug one end and carry the coil loosely to another destination with loops dropping off your hand naturally as you walk. It’s, like, magical :slight_smile:

That video needed more shaking! More!

I guess it’s fast but you’re still looping it back on itself and introducing extra torque and weak points in the technique that might introduce errors, even in the practised hand, over many iterations.

If you feed the required amount whilst you twist your wrist at the same time you can wrap it, as you would around a cylinder.

This is a continuous loop, distributing any tension evenly and in the same angle and direction.

I’m not sure what the end result of the featured technique on cables is but I’ve handled 10 year old XLRs that seemingly can no longer be tangled! The damn things know what to do before you do it.


I am literally slapping myself upside the head right now.