Steel Mesh Pulling Grips for Utility and Industrial Applications

A popular and effective means of pulling power cables, fiber optics cables, and ropes overhead or underground is using steel mesh pulling grips.

Feb 1st, 2008
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A popular and effective means of pulling power cables, fiber optics cables, and ropes overhead or underground is using steel mesh pulling grips. These grips, along with swivels, have been in use for many years. The low profile of the grips - their working diameter is not much larger than the cable diameter being pulled - and their smooth surface provide an excellent tool for pulling cables in and around tight spaces. At first look, the working of the grips seems simple. The grip’s mesh design increases holding force as more pulling force is applied. However, safe handling and maintenance of the grips and their associated swivels require great care in order to prolong their life span and to avoid injury to the user.

Lewis Manufacturing fabricates many different types of grips. Some are designed for general use and some are custom designed for industry-specific applications. These patented grips range in working diameter size from 0.25 inch to 9.5 inches, with a pulling work load of 10,100 lbs. and a mesh length of 77 inches. The mesh of the grips is made of aircraft steel cable with either a single or multiple weave design based on the size of the grip and its calculated work load. Steel cables for some of the grips have a special plastic coating that provides easier handling and a smoother pulling experience.

As a means of providing an application guide for industry professionals, we have included here frequently asked questions about Steel Mesh Pulling Grips from Lewis Manufacturing.

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Q: When should I replace my grip?

A: Grips should be replaced when they show signs of wear such as, but not limited to, frayed strands, broken strands, missing copper end tabs, and rust. In the grand scheme of things grips are very inexpensive tools, and should be replaced when showing early signs of wear. Never use a grip that is broken and/or frayed. Always check your grip for any defects before and after each use.

Q: Should I band or tape the end of my grip?

A: Both! You should band your grips with two bands: one approximately ½ - 1 inch from the end of the grip and the other approximately 4-6 inches above the first. The bands should be installed snugly with no looseness or sliding. To ensure a smooth profile, place several wraps of electrician’s tape over the steel bands. We strongly recommend using the Band-It banding system from Lewis Manufacturing. It provides a high quality secure band.

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Q: What is the difference between overhead and underground grips?

A: In general, overhead grips have higher working loads to accommodate the higher tensions primary overhead cable pulls require. Many grips are interchangeable and can be used for both purposes, however most customers prefer to keep their overhead and underground grips separate. The underground grips may become caked with mud and other contaminants which are unfavorable to overhead operations as well as inside conduit pulls.

Q: Do you recommend suspension grips for cable hanging in conduit on the pole?

A: Yes, we believe cable should always be suspended in the conduit by some form of suspension grip. The primary purpose of a suspension grip is to relieve pressure on the pot-head connection. This can be accomplished by using either our standard U-Bail type grip or the more popular Conduit Riser grip. The U-bail series is attached to the pole by using a J-Hook which screws into the pole. The conduit riser grip allows the cable to be suspended by placing the weight on the pole-mounted conduit system. The ring sits atop the edge of the conduit, and is fitted to specific sizes of conduit. The mesh size is then figured to ensure a proper fit. These “ring” grips also provide a barrier to varmints and prevent them from becoming trapped within the conduit system, possibly causing a fault, fire, or electrocution.

Q: Can more than one cable be pulled or suspended with a grip?

A: Yes, we will need the outside diameter in inches of each cable in the bundle to figure the outside diameter of the complete bundle, and thus select the proper grip.

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Q: Can you provide some guidelines for Ball Bearing Swivel usage?

A: Yes: Inspect swivel carefully before and after each use. Swivels are relatively inexpensive...accidents are not! SAFETY FIRST!!!

  1. Check for cracks around the throat on both ends of the swivel, and on the body of the swivel. If cracks in the body of the swivel are apparent, or if the pins are bent, discard swivel immediately.
  2. Make sure the swivel rotates freely and smoothly without any binding. The swivel stem should not be loose, with no up and down or lateral movement. Swivel should be smooth turning and snugly fitted together with no sloppiness in the operation. Do not use a damaged swivel.
  3. Before making a pull, make sure swivel pins are tightened and mate up properly. If pins have stripped threads, replace immediately. Pins are available with standard slot grooves or with Allen wrench fittings.
  4. Do not exceed the work load stenciled on every Lewis swivel. If you anticipate being within 10 percent of the work load during any pull, a larger swivel should be considered, especially if any shock loading might occur during the pull. If the work load is in question, please consult with the factory.
  5. Do not pull any swivel around a bull wheel that has a smaller diameter than the length of the swivel. Doing so exposes the swivel to a side load, and can permanently damage your swivel. If you know a Ball Bearing swivel has been exposed to an unqualified side load, the swivel should be removed from service and replaced.
  6. Lubricate all greasable swivels before and after each use. Make sure there is no debris in the swivel gap, that is, the area where rotation occurs between the swivel body and eye. The only substance that should be in the swivel gap is the grease that has been used to purge the swivel of contaminants. The specified grease for our swivels is Mystic JT-6 Multi Purpose Water Resistant Grease, but any high grade waterproof grease will suffice.

Q: What is the difference between coated and uncoated grips?

A: We use aircraft grade steel cable to manufacture all of our grips. Using a special process, we apply a UV- resistant plastic coating to the steel cable while manufacturing the majority of our grips. The coating allows much easier handling, installation, and removal of the grips. The working strength difference between the coated and uncoated steel cable is minimal and with the large safety factor (3-1) that we incorporate in our grip designs, it becomes negligible.

Q: What should I consider when pulling ropes?

A: Any grip can be used for pulling cable or rope (natural or synthetic) as long as the working load limit is not exceeded, and the grip is properly banded and taped. Rope compresses (decreases diameter) as it is pulled, so be aware that if the rope compresses to a diameter smaller than the grip minimum diameter range, the rope will slip.

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Q: Is it OK to use a grip when it is slightly worn?

A: No! If a grip has broken or frayed strands, it should be removed from service and replaced immediately. This is an important safety concern.

Q: What is a bundling grip?

A: A bundling grip is a grip used to keep several cables or umbilicals organized in one neat bundle. One of the major hazards at most worksites are the cables and hoses used during construction. The use of our bundling grips not only reduces this hazard greatly, but also provides a protective outer layer of steel mesh for the cables and/or hoses to be installed. These grips can be ordered in several different lengths and sizes to fill your requirements precisely.

About the Author: Rowdy Lewis is the product manager for Lewis Manufacturing Company.

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