How to pull wire when working alone

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
For all of you running your own one man shop how do you pull wire? I see this as the single biggest challenge to not having an employee.

thanks
 

ppsh

Member
Location
CA
Occupation
Electrician
The madison roller cover posted above combined with the Rack A Tiers Pull Buddies.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
The same way we turn the breaker off when we're working on the 3rd floor and the panel is in the basement, lots of stair/ladder climbing!
Occasionally, I can grab the home owner to help, and sometimes grab a worker/helper from another trade that is there and buy him lunch! Those devices listed above will help, but sometimes you need someone to straighten the wire coming off the spool or give the wire a little push as it goes into the pull.
But, sadly, most of the time, its just a matter of overcoming!

One trick I use sometimes is to pull a rag or paper towel through the conduit with lube one it. Then when the wire starts in it's already lubed up. Also try to spool off as much wire as I can without it tangling. This will save trips back to free up a stuck spool.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
There is wire and then there is WIRE. There are runs and then there are RUNS.

If it's doable by one man I agree with Little Bill. I would add- lots of walking from one end to the other to make sure there are no tangles and the wire didn't jump off the side of the spool.

-Hal
 

oldsparky52

Senior Member
Sounds like you didn’t pay well enough!
Truth is she would have made a great electrician. She had physical issues that would not let her work construction day after day. She really was the best wire feeder. An old man/owner at a gas station had to apologize to her for his rude comments after he watched her feeding wire ("What do you do, hold the sign?").
 

paulengr

Senior Member
1. Tie mule tape on the right size fish headz pulling sock with a piece of mule tape.
2. Place cable reels on a stand.
3. Fish it through.
4. Inset pull buddies or rollers at the first box/conduit.
5. Pull through.

Steps 2 and 4 are NOT optional when pulling alone. If you do it right you can completely eliminate someone to feed cable in. Also things like pull buddies can often be used to skip a separate pull with boxes you are just feeding through.

Alternatively if you have say a rope rigged up or a remote control for a puller of some kind you can play the part of feeder and run the pull remotely. On short pulls often I can do both.

I don’t use anything larger than a Pullzall which has a 1,000 pound limit except on vertical pulls up. I try to do those down. You will damage if not break most cables at 1200 pounds or less. If you can’t pull it with a Pullzall you are in serious danger of damaging the cable anyway and since you can buy one for the price of an average power tool instead of the price of a used car, it’s affordable and does the same thing a multi thousand dollar tugger does plus it can be used as a hoist for all kinds of things. If the Pullzall stops then it signals you to stop the pull and start looking for what went wrong.

The big trick with ANY pull is preparing ahead of time. I’m guilty myself of just going straight to fishing the conduit and then using a second man to feed the wire. But there are lots of issues:
1. When you just flip the cable off the end of the spool instead of properly unrolling it you put a twist in the cable. This has a tendency to twist at every bend and causes cables to jump over each other and jam up. Even a piece of half inch conduit through the rungs of a step ladder is better. There are very cheap reels out there. You don’t need those huge expensive cable racks. Mine is just two stands that accept 1/2” or 3/4” conduit and a couple compression fittings to keep the conduits from falling off. Everything is under $100.
2. The cable WILL find every sharp edge or corner to catch on. Rollers or nylon guides prevent this even with the most diligent feed man, I bought these on a whim and now the biggest trouble is having enough.
3. Cable lube is necessary on long runs or big cable. But if you just squeeze a huge glob down the conduit it will mostly do the job. It’s not strictly necessary to slime up every last foot.
4. If the conduit is too small jams will happen especially when trying to add more cables to an existing run. But also if it is too larger the cables can lay flat and twist around each other causing jams. Also generally speaking length of a pull is not nearly as critical as every bend or corner. It takes very little force to pull cable hundreds of feet horizontally especially with enough lube and rollers in tray or on poles. But have you ever exceeded 360 degrees of bends? If in doubt Greenlee has a free pulling app that is well worth it especially with the price.
5. A field bend in a conduit pulls far easier than a factory fabricated elbow even if it’s a long radius type. Every LB you can eliminate (360 degree limit!!) saves time, money, and pulls easier.
6. Pulling socks or clips of some kind are not absolutely necessary but wish I bought them sooner. They pretty much eliminate tying knots and taping. The big advantages are your pulling “head” will be smaller and smoother so it has much less chance of jamming and there is no sticky mess to clean off the fish or wasted tape and cable ends cut off or to take apart. It is much faster to hitch and unhitch everything.
7. Do NOT pull all the slack out of a pull box in a multiple box pull. I’ve tried taping and other methods but the best I’ve found is pull as much slack as you can manage without snarls at the first box, then use a roller or pull buddy and pull to the next box. Keep repeating until you get the whole pull. I have not yet found an easier way. If you have just 3 boxes though you can set up in the middle, do one pull to one end, then unspool cable and pull to the other end.
8. I’ll mention this but I try to avoid wasting time doing it. Some guys unreel all the cables first and manually bundle everything first before pulling. It’s a lot of taping and work, it can avoid snags in some situations such as oversize conduit and multi box pulls but the tape snags at the first pull and sometimes on threaded fittings. It always seems to be a mixed bag for me.
9. Along the same lines is pulling jet line or Mike tape first. The only reason to do this is if you might damage the fish. If you are running a tugger bigger than a Pullzall then pull s rope first. But I’ve had zero problems with fiberglass fish. Old steel fish are another matter.

None of this should be a surprise. The major difference is that everything I’m suggesting makes a 2 man pull more efficient and less likely to jam or damage something. The best pull is the man on the fish (or running a tugger) pulls with almost no effort and the feed man does nothing other than squirt some lube. So when pulling Aline there is nobody feeding so that job has to go away completely or you will be running your tail off.
 

jmellc

Senior Member
Location
Durham, NC
Occupation
Facility Maintenance Tech. Licensed Electrician
Where possible, pipe into the top of overhead boxes. Place wire spools under and you get a straight pull in or only a slight angle.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
The real answer is probably to have a helper. He or she will keep you from getting lonely along with helping you with the pull. :)

I have seen a fair number of electricians who do field installs of equipment try and do everything themselves. Probably to keep as much of the money they charge for themselves, and that is understandable. However, as often as not, it seems to me like they probably are taking longer then if they broke down and got some help. Even if it is just someone to run errands. having to go get parts or tools out of a truck that is a 20 minute round trip walk, wastes time. Having to go to home depot to get an extra outlet box takes time. A guy that is worth $100/hour or more should not be doing this kind of thing regardless of whether he is working for himself or someone else.

I once saw an electrician installing EMT under an overhead conveyor using a ladder. I asked him why he didn't get a lift. he said they cost money and I already have the ladder. The thing is that he probably spent far more time on that part of the job then he had to, and likely would have been ahead by renting a lift. Probably needed a helper too. he was using some kind of 2X4 arrangement he had cobbled up to get the EMT sticks in place under the bottom of the conveyor so he could climb up the ladder and secure them in place.
 

oldsparky52

Senior Member
The real answer is probably to have a helper. He or she will keep you from getting lonely along with helping you with the pull. :)

I have seen a fair number of electricians who do field installs of equipment try and do everything themselves. Probably to keep as much of the money they charge for themselves, and that is understandable. However, as often as not, it seems to me like they probably are taking longer then if they broke down and got some help. Even if it is just someone to run errands. having to go get parts or tools out of a truck that is a 20 minute round trip walk, wastes time. Having to go to home depot to get an extra outlet box takes time. A guy that is worth $100/hour or more should not be doing this kind of thing regardless of whether he is working for himself or someone else.

I once saw an electrician installing EMT under an overhead conveyor using a ladder. I asked him why he didn't get a lift. he said they cost money and I already have the ladder. The thing is that he probably spent far more time on that part of the job then he had to, and likely would have been ahead by renting a lift. Probably needed a helper too. he was using some kind of 2X4 arrangement he had cobbled up to get the EMT sticks in place under the bottom of the conveyor so he could climb up the ladder and secure them in place.
While I can't argue against your statements, some people just don't play well with others. :) and prefer to work alone.
 

jmellc

Senior Member
Location
Durham, NC
Occupation
Facility Maintenance Tech. Licensed Electrician
While I can't argue against your statements, some people just don't play well with others. :) and prefer to work alone.
I mostly worked alone when I had my company but I hired as I was able for whole house rewires.
I ran a van later for a small company. I often had to fight for help. Was often told no one was available or no one had applied for work. Another guy covered for me a day I was out sick. He called for help & said he didn’t see how I’d been doing everything alone. Boss had to hear it from someone else.
 

retirede

Senior Member
Location
Illinois
The real answer is probably to have a helper. He or she will keep you from getting lonely along with helping you with the pull. :)

I have seen a fair number of electricians who do field installs of equipment try and do everything themselves. Probably to keep as much of the money they charge for themselves, and that is understandable. However, as often as not, it seems to me like they probably are taking longer then if they broke down and got some help. Even if it is just someone to run errands. having to go get parts or tools out of a truck that is a 20 minute round trip walk, wastes time. Having to go to home depot to get an extra outlet box takes time. A guy that is worth $100/hour or more should not be doing this kind of thing regardless of whether he is working for himself or someone else.

I once saw an electrician installing EMT under an overhead conveyor using a ladder. I asked him why he didn't get a lift. he said they cost money and I already have the ladder. The thing is that he probably spent far more time on that part of the job then he had to, and likely would have been ahead by renting a lift. Probably needed a helper too. he was using some kind of 2X4 arrangement he had cobbled up to get the EMT sticks in place under the bottom of the conveyor so he could climb up the ladder and secure them in place.

I’ve known several contractors over the years in various trades would never hire help. It wasn’t so much about the money as much as it was the hassle of payroll, taxes, unemployment & workers comp insurance and other various amounts of red tape. That and not knowing if they were going to even show up for work.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I’ve known several contractors over the years in various trades would never hire help. It wasn’t so much about the money as much as it was the hassle of payroll, taxes, unemployment & workers comp insurance and other various amounts of red tape. That and not knowing if they were going to even show up for work.
Most of the red tape is readily farmed out. The problem is small businessmen often are totally clueless about how much it actually costs them to do some things themselves. They tend to think of their own time as free.
 

retirede

Senior Member
Location
Illinois
Most of the red tape is readily farmed out. The problem is small businessmen often are totally clueless about how much it actually costs them to do some things themselves. They tend to think of their own time as free.

Absolutely correct. I knew a bricklayer who wouldn’t hire a laborer. He carried his own bricks up the scaffolding and mixed his own mortar. He could have been three times as productive if he stuck to doing his skilled trade and hired a grunt to do the menial backbreaking stuff.
 

HuntNJ

Member
Location
NJ
Occupation
Electrician
i work alone and do conduit pulls...its a pain but im starting out...normally, I make sure the wire stand can go straight into the pipe. One side of the run i leave open and dont finish to the final jbox so it makes the pull easier. and i sleeve the last part in pipe after i did the pull.
 

sii

Senior Member
Location
Nebraska
Totally irrelevant but reminds me of one of the first things I remember about these forums.

Someone posted a question asking for everyone’s ideas and tools that they use to dig a very long trench. Several replies in someone posted a picture of a smiling man with a shovel and simply said, “I use Al.”
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Years ago I had a gas leak in the gas line going out to my garage so I called the local plumbing people to come and replace it. They said they would be hiring a temp to do the trenching because otherwise I would have to pay for a plumber to do it.
 

ActionDave

Chief Moderator
Staff member
Location
Durango, CO, 10 h 20 min without traffic from wing
Occupation
Licensed Electrician
Totally irrelevant but reminds me of one of the first things I remember about these forums.

Someone posted a question asking for everyone’s ideas and tools that they use to dig a very long trench. Several replies in someone posted a picture of a smiling man with a shovel and simply said, “I use Al.”
That was Chris Kennedy. Al was a hero on this forum.
 
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