Cable Lacing: A Lost Art

Cable lacing is an age old practice of tying up wire harnesses and cable looms without risking damage to the cable and insulation. With the invention of nylon tie wraps, adhesive-back wraps, cable staple-guns  put into production, cable lacing was thought to be outdated and not as efficient in the work place1. Once replaced, this way of securing cables became nearly lost. In today’s modern times, the art of cable lacing is still in the works, though not as popular. Many know the materials used for this practice as “lacing tape.”

Lacing tape is an inexpensive method for wire dressing or tying up cables. It was once and still is very popular in marine and military environments, in aircrafts and aerospace. Many of our products by Techflex such as the Braided Nomex and Fiberglass Lacing Tape are popular for their performance in high temperature conditions; being able to wrap up cables without exposing them to flame or catching fire is always a nice plus.

In general, cable lacing is a thin cord of waxed linen or wax-impregnated cotton2. Lately they are made out of nylon, polyester, teflon, fiberglass, and nomex, and are coated to improve holding power. The concept is basically to use a flat, flexible cord to bundle together cables through a series of knots and stitches along one continuous twine. It sounds just as easy as using zip-ties and sleeves, so why choose cable lacing?

Why Lacing Tape?

Lacing tape has quite a few pros and qualities that make it a better choice for cable bundling vs today’s norm of zip ties. Aside from it being less expensive, cable lacing lasts longer than cable ties and is able to resist the harsher conditions that cable ties cannot3. There is nearly no limit on what lacing can bundle – from a couple of 22AWG cords to a handful of heavy-duty power cables. Its durability is just one of the many good characteristics found in waxed linen.

This nearly forgotten wire dressing not only keeps your cables organized neatly, but keeps them protected and operational. Cable ties tend to have sharp edges where the tail is cut, which can cause them to snag onto other material or get in the way of some applications. Lace knitting is flexible and doesn’t create sharp bends that will damage cable insulation. Additionally, cable ties can cause shortages and can even cut your hands when reaching into tightly packed wires3; lacing tape is harmless to you and your cables.

How does Cable Lacing work?

Cable lacing starts with the initial support structure of the cables, the hardware they will lay across. Think of it like a clothes rack, or even better a clothes line; the cables are held up by a support structure and then fastened by cable lacing to keep work neat and functional. Next is a pathway that you want the wax string to run along while bundling. Once you have a structure to run cables along, and know where the wire dressing will go, the art of lacing comes to play.

To start, you make a termination stitch to mark where the knitting begins. The most common and simple knot is known as a “square-knot with two lock stitches,”4and looks like this:

Square-Knot Lock Stitch

Once the knot is made, you work in the direction of the pathway and begin to relay cable lacing along the cable bundles—keep it tight, you don’t want too much slack. As you proceed, make a hitch in set intervals, tying lock stitches along the entire length of the bundle as you work towards the end. Again, keep it tight.

Lock stitches along running lacing tape (credit to Lacing Tape)

It’s a little tricky here, you don’t want things too rigid or what’s the point in defeating the problems caused by zip ties? You want to tighten the support and bundle, but not the cable jackets themselves. As you reach the end of the bundle, make another termination knot to secure the lacing. Another square knot will work here just fine or a termination like the one below. The finished product should look like this:

Square-knot lock stitch and termination knot

That’s really all there is to cable lacing. Get the right wire dressing for your applications, get a bundle of wires together, give them some support, and then start tying them up. Lacing tape is a very smart way to keep cables organized and operating at peak performance. You can click any of the pictures below to take a look at some of the cable lacing we provide.

Braided Fiberglass Lacing Tape

Braided TFE-Fluorocarbon Lacing Tape

Braided Nomex Lacing Tape

Techlace Braided Nylon Lacing Tape

Braided Polyester Lacing Tape

 

  1. http://www.tessco.com/yts/resourcecenter/pdfs/clablelacing-FAQ.pdf
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_lacing
  3. http://www.techflex.com/specsheets/LacingTape.pdf
  4. http://www.techflex.com/howtos/How-to-lace.pdf
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