The Looming Cable Issue

Cables are a fact of life for guitarists, and quite often a pain in the ass.  Depending on the size and complexity of your rig, it can sometimes feel like you’re playing in a snake pit.  One of my more ambitious setups consisted of a large pedal board that had a group of effects for a clean amp, another group of effects that had a send and return to a dirty amp’s effects loop, an acoustic direct box, three microphones, and a guitar synth that ran a stereo signal to the PA’s snake.  Cable organization was paramount, not just for making setup faster and keeping the stage safe and neat, but in the event of a technical problem it sure makes troubleshooting easier.

Over the years, I have used various methods of cable organization such as wire ties, Velcro wire wraps, and tape.  While they served their purpose, I eventually came across a product called nylon mesh wire loom, also called  braided wire shield, and it has become my preferred method of cable management.  Not only does it do a great job of keeping cables under control,  it gives my stage rig a pro touch.

Three guitar cables in a nylon mesh wire loom.

Three guitar cables in a nylon mesh wire loom.

While nylon mesh wire loom is  nothing new and is often found in automobiles and manufacturing equipment, it never dawned on me to use it for guitar cables until I saw how well it organized the wires behind my entertainment center.  I figured that if it could keep that rat’s nest at bay, it would be more than capable of tidying up my guitar cables.

Nylon mesh wire loom is usually sold in spools ranging in length from 25ft. to 1000ft.  and is available in an assortment of diameters and colors.  Simply cut off the length you require and thread your cables through.   When it’s compressed, it expands allowing the cable ends to fit through.   When you pull on it, the diameter shrinks around the cables.  If you’ve ever had your fingers stuck in  Chinese finger cuffs you get the idea.

Nylon Mesh Wire Loom Compressed

Nylon Mesh Wire Loom Compressed

Nylon Mesh Wire Loom Uncompressed

Nylon Mesh Wire Loom Uncompressed

The nylon material itself is very flexible which allows the cables to lie flat on the floor and makes coiling them up a breeze.  It’s also abrasion and Wild Turkey 101 resistant making it suitable for the most intense gigging situation.  Another nice feature is that it’s reusable; if your setup changes and you need to add another cable, simply add to it (provided the diameter of the nylon wire mesh loom you have is big enough).

If you decide to go the nylon wire mesh loom route, here are a few tips:

  • It’s a good idea to label both ends of your cables as you will no longer be able to trace them individually.

    Label Both Ends

    Label Both Ends

  • Melt the ends of the loom with a lighter once installed to keep them from fraying.  It only take two seconds for the ends to weld together and about three and a half seconds for them to catch on fire.  So be quick and keep the lighter moving.
  • Adding a wire tie or tape to the ends will keep it in place.
Loom with Wire Tie

Loom with Wire Tie

  • Include a spare cable in the loom in case a cable goes bad.
  • When deciding on the loom’s diameter, make sure to include the connector’s diameter.  As the loom fills up with cables, fitting the connector through for each subsequent cable will get more difficult.
  • Take advantage of the different colors it comes.  In the setup I mentioned earlier, all the cables going from my pedal board to the amps were in a black loom, the direct box and  stereo synth cables were in a blue loom going back to the snake head, and the three microphone cables were in a green loom also going back to the snake head.  This made it easy to communicate what group of cables went where when working with stage hands as well as added another level of organization for my own personal reference.
  • And most importantly, be extra mindful when packing your gear.  If you forget one cable, you will be forgetting a whole bunch.

While cable management isn’t a  groundbreaking concept, it can make gigs more enjoyable.  Personally, if my surroundings are in chaos I tend to have a hard time focusing on what I am doing.  Although standard wire ties and Velcro straps will also help organize cables, I thought I would throw this idea out there as another option.  Nylon mesh wire loom is functional, flexible, durable, and looks cool too.

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