Monday, October 19, 2009


Another old skill, a good one: cable lacing. Before there were Velcro strips, before there was split-loom tubing or even zip-ties, 'way, 'way back -- and on fiber-optic bundles, even now -- there was cable lacing, the art of turning a jumble of wire into a neat bundle* using flat, waxed string or similar, in the proper knots.

There's an art to it and a learning curve; you can still learn it, thanks to a tip from a clever lurker, who pointed out Make: Lost Knowledge: Cable Lacing! And now I've linked it for you. Enjoy!

Older ARRL Handbooks also cover this skill.

If you can't find lacing twine, look for waxed saddler's (or leatherworking) thread, a heavy thread (almost string) which will work as well. Might as well pick up a cake of beeswax at the same time, it's handy stuff.
* It kinda has to be neat to start with. This holds true for any other cable-bundling method, too. If you start with a rat's nest and mash it together with whatever, it'll just be a worse mess. Neatness counts when you're trying to figure it out later!


  1. There was a time when I could do this. I still have a few spools of various grades of the lacing cord around here somewhere.
    That stuff will cut the daylights out of you if you're not careful!

  2. Very true! A sharp, older radio Chief Engineer I worked for was in the habit of applying what preemptive bandaids to the base of the little finger of both hands, where you grip the twine to pull it tight. This works well. I wear "fingerless" leather gloves for that job and for hand-sewing leather. They actually cover the base of your finger, protecting against cuts, while leaving fingertips free for fine manipulation.

  3. Back in the day when I was a Novice, I helped an older Ham build a linear. He was an engineer for AT&T---from the Old School. he taught me how to lace the wiring harness for the linear and make a cable to connect his transmitter, a Collins 32V-2 as I remember, to the linear. In fact, he made me undo and re-lace several times until he was finished. It came into good use a few years later when I rebuilt a Heath SB-101.

  4. I heard a story years ago that Art Collins would occasionally pull a radio off the assembly line, grab it by the wire harness, and shake it to see if the lacing was done right.
    Must have been the S-Line, as I don't think he would have been string enough to pick up an A-Line!

  5. Used to do that quite a bit when I was a journeyman motor winder; we laced not only the connections and cables, but also the windings themselves in "mush windings". I've used everything from dental floss (a good waxed string for small stuff) up to epoxy impregnated fiberglass tape for tying in windings and connections.

  6. Not something I'd heard of before, but now something I'll definitely learn and use!

    Also, you've found a good site for me to waste my time looking at! "Lost" knowledge is sometimes still the best knowledge!

  7. Good cable lacing is a joy to behold.

  8. "If you start with a rat's nest and mash it together with whatever, it'll just be a worse mess. Neatness counts when you're trying to figure it out later!"

    Well, yeah.

    At my last job, I led a full network upgrade. Two of the ladies had been assigned to re-patch all 250+ workstations, printers, etc. into a chassis that had 288 densely packed ports.

    Whadda (undocumented) mess. Joke was on the women, though. They were responsible for all moves, adds, and changes. Eye batting, lip trembling, and whining didn't work with me. I told them they were on their own.

    Worked on my boss, though. Hence, I am no longer there. So, in the end maybe the joke was on me.

  9. We used flat waxed lacing twine for wiring on aircraft. In many places it was easier then zip ties. It certainly could be done faster. We did have to make separate ties using a clove hitch finished off with an overhand knot. We could not use half hitches to extend the lacing.

  10. Cable Lacing?

    Hmmm, this should have been taught in Boy Scouts. I learn something everytime I'm here.

    Shootin' Buddy

  11. I once worked with a geologist who preferred lacing to wire loom or spiral wrap. (Yeah, them rock scientists end up dealing with electronics when the task is underground hydrologic measurements.) His point was mainly that when you have lots of wires entering and exiting the bundle along a long run, lacing was much easier to deal with. I suspect that's the case with wire harnesses in aviation (certainly is true under the dash in the decrepit Volvo). Actually, I've seen portions of the wire harness for the F-14, so I can vouch for that.

    Neat to be reminded of that.