What Is a Fish Tape?

What Does the Term Fish Tape Mean?

OK, you’ve heard the term fish tape, but what in the world is that? Actually, it’s a great tool that electricians use to pull wire through electrical conduit. A fish tape is a thin piece of steel wire in a flat style that is coiled in predetermined lengths and is referred to as tape. That explains part of the name, but what about the fish part? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, to be able to pull the wire through a pipe, you must first fish the tape through the pipe. At the other end, usually at a box, you attach the wires to the fish tape in order to pull them through the pipe.

Fish Tape Anatomy

Some fish tapes come in 50′ and 100′ lengths. The wire is coiled in a plastic housing with the assistance of a handle mounted on the housing. By gripping the inner center of the housing hole with one hand and turning the handle, you can wind up the fish tape. To release the fish tape from the housing, simply hold the handle and pull on the metal tape. On the handle of the fish tape is a button to press while pulling the fish tape out of the pipe. This holds the tape tight as you pull the fish tape from the pipe.

When a job calls for larger wire in conduit, use the fish tape to pull in rope to make a wire pull. Although the steel wire is both stout and flexible, it is ill advised to pull an excessively heavy load with this tool.

Attaching the wires

In order to attach many wires to a fish tape, strip the outer insulation from the wires and wrap the bare wires through the eye on the end of the fish tape. Twist a strand around all of the wires attached and cover the whole head of the wire connection with electrical tape. Adding electrical pulling lubricant will make the pull much easier.

How to Pull Wires With a Fish Tape

With one person standing at the box to feed the wire, pull evenly on all of the wires to be fed. Try to keep the wires untangled as you feed them. Feed the wires by lubricating the wires with one hand and feeding them into the pipe, while pulling the wires off of the wire reels with the other.

As for the person actually doing the pulling on the other end, pull the wires in two to three foot intervals. Count to four and then pull again. Check with the person feeding to see if this is a good pace for them. Pulling too fast can nick the wires and catch your helper’s fingers into the box. Leave enough time between pulls so that the person feeding has time to lubricate the wire and pull enough off of the wire reels to feed into the conduit. A simple signal to alert each other that you are ready for the next pull is to tap on the pipe with something like a tool.

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