Integration Expert Explains the Art of Cable Fishing

Integration expert Bob Dolph shares some safety, installation and product tips for when its time for fishing cable.

Since it is in the midst of summer as I write this, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss fishing. Now what does this have to do with security technology?

Well, first off we are not talking about fishing as on a lake or in the ocean, though I wish I was there today. We’re also not “phishing” for email suckers.

The fishing I’m referring to is the old-time technician’s art of cable fishing in the walls of commercial or residential structures. Wireless devices may be making inroads into systems installations, but good ol’ hardwired cable connectivity is still the most secure and reliable form of device connectivity.

So if we are going to run cabling in existing structures, let’s learn the tools and techniques to do the best job possible.

Every professional technician should learn how to quickly and safely make wiring magically disappear. Remember, this skill will take some dedication and persistence to master, so let me guide you down this exciting road of discovery with some safety, installation and product tips.

Tool Tip

One of the handiest tools I have relied upon is the Wet Noodle, which Labor Saving Devices says has been updated to include a 24-inch flexible insulated retriever with magnets; 10 feet of lightweight ball chain and stop ring; and an 18-inch telescoping pocket retriever.

This system is especially helpful for those tight spots around door and window openings when installing alarm contacts. Learn to use this and save your knuckles.

Remember Safety Comes First Inside Those Walls

When fishing cable through walls that also contain high-voltage wiring we must be aware of the danger of electrocution. One should learn the typical locations electricians use when wiring devices like wall outlets, lighting, switches and appliances.

Part of planning a cable fishing route is to employ surface stud/electrical circuit testers to identify live circuit locations in the walls. Temporarily turning off potential high-voltage circuits in the vicinity of cable fishing activity is always advisable when possible.

Also remember fishing, drilling and pulling rods come in metallic and nonconductive fiber versions for additional safety. When routing your cabling down from an attic or up from a basement you must become comfortable using long, flexible-shaft drilling bits such as the D’Versibit system from Greenlee.

Learn to cleanly drill inside walls, around corners, and through studs, fire blocks and headers. Then simply attach the cable to the drill bit and pull back to the desired location with the long shaft of these special drills.

Sounds simple, right? For new technicians, I recommend companies set up an in-house test platform that represents a common wall, ceiling, attic and basement configuration. It is better to experiment on a test fixture than a customer’s wall — I’m sure we can all agree with this concept, so this should be a no-brainer.

Assortment of Products to Make Your Job Easier

To assist with the cable fishing task, some favorite tools of mine are:

  • Creep-Zit Rod Kits from Labor Saving Devices (LSD; lsdinc.com). LSD is the king of installation tools and I have used them for more than 30 years. Make sure to spend some time reviewing the company’s products, including more below.
  • The 72-inch heavy-duty spring steel rods from LSD are among my all-time go-to fishing rods. You can’t find these in the catalog anymore, but I have been assured they can still be ordered; the part number is 84-092.
  • The Grabbit 10- to 18-foot telescoping poles from LSD are great for hard-to-reach attic areas. Along with the Z-tip wire grabber they can work wonders.
  • Learn how to find your way with the LSD Reference Point Bit. This is a very handy, extremely small-diameter wire bit tool used for accurate invisible cable fishing referencing.
  • Sometimes you need to bring out the big guns when fishing walls with insulation. Look for the Magnepull (magnepull.com) for assistance in these instances. The heavy-duty magnetic roller can save a lot of hair-pulling.

Now that you’re familiar with some tools, here’s an installation tip. Find one of those old spring steel retractable measuring tapes. Cut or grind the end off to make a pointed tip, and drill a small hole in the tip as well.

This little hack works well, especially with insulation. It can be driven straight down the wall’s interior and the measurement lines will let you know how much cable is needed. It’s perfect if you are in a pinch so keep one in your toolkit.

While you explore these tools and practice fishing also be sure to search for and check out some demo videos highlighting such products on YouTube. Happy fishing, and don’t let the big one get away!

About the Author

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Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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