Use a Barrel Knot When You're Out of Zip Ties




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It happens to everyone. You thought you had a stash of zip ties (cable ties, tie wraps, whatever) in your tool bag and you just found out your all out. Sometimes you have to secure cables in a plenum environment but you don't have the plenum rated zip ties. The barrel knot will fill in nicely and you can use wire or string to tie it.

The barrel knot is the old school zip tie. This was taught to me by a Marine who had learned it by reading a WWII era field manual on cabling.

Step 1: Choose the Material for the Knot

You want to use something strong with a relatively small diameter. The wire inside a cat5e or cat6 cable will work great. You'll want to straighten it out as much as possible.

Here I am using 24 gauge cross connect wire. You can buy a roll of it here

Step 2: Prep the Wire

Straighten out the wire as much as possible. Then make a "u" with the wire. The length of the "u" will determine the length of the knot.

Step 3: Begin Wrapping the Cables

Lay the "U" parallel with your cables and begin wrapping the extra wire as neatly as possible around the cables. You will want to keep this as tight (for strength) and as neat (so you can take pride in your work) as possible. 

Step 4: Insert the Wire Through the Loop

Now insert the wire through the loop.

Step 5: Pull the Loop Through

Now pull the loop under the wraps. At this point your knot is as good as done. But if you want to go pro. Follow the next step.

Step 6: Bonus Points: Tie Off the Wire

For bonus strength points, tie off the wire with a good twist. That cable is not going anywhere.

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    8 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 2

    Okay. Great... I see a length of wire. What's it's total length? Is it a cut section to be incorporated into the wrap or, just the first section >>> the lead of the wrap wire around the bundling?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yup, cable lacing is almost a lost art, but is actually seeing a resurgence amongst many companies. I learned how from an senior telephone tech and use it whenever the opportunity presents itself...


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Would either of you be interested in making an 'ible on it? I'm fascinated by ropework/knots, as are many other makers. A quick google search only turned up this page :-/


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice, this seems like it can be used with regular twine as well.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is very similar to the way wire bundles in aircraft used to be fastened together. While restoring a WWII aircraft my boss at the time did all the wiring like this; for gearheads it truly was close to artwork.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This, to me, looks related to the art of whipping- tying a thin thread around the end of a thick rope to stop it fraying or unbundling.  You can find more techniques of this type by Googling for "whipping rope".  Certainly useful to know that this one works with wire, though.