my big dumb snake

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Exsultavit, Apr 9, 2005.

  1. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member

    ....until now, I have avoided using one. Instead, I have several pairs of 130' mic cables (on reels I bought at Home Depot) and unroll them onsite as needed. Pretty easy, up to about 6 pairs- but 12 mics is about the most I usually use on a classical gig.

    I have a new job & client (jazz & pop), though, that needs a 24 X 8, 100' snake to do the job. I just got one (used, and not too expensive) that I have coiled and worked to get into a road case. Ugh! Reminds me of how hard it was to coil up those 130 footers before I put them on reels.

    Is there any way to use this thing onsite with any reasonable ease without paying up another $300 or so for one of those big pro cable reels from Canare or Rapco (see below?) Reel.htm

    Anyone have experience with garden-hose type, hardware store reels? I expect them to be too light-duty, but thought I'd ask.

    Are there any secrets of coiling big cables to avoid the 'twisties"?

    Any other thoughts?


  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    All the time I worked for a sound company we kept all of our snakes in low flat wooden boxes with casters on them. There were two holes cut in the lid one for each end of the snake. We would leave the unused portion of the snake in the box. This seemed to work out well.

    There are heavy duty hose reels out there you just have to look for them. I have seen them at Sam's Club, Costco, Home Depot and Loews to name a few. These are designed to hold heavy hoses up to 120 feet long and a couple of them have pneumatic wheels on them for mobility.

    Here is an example from Sam's Club
  3. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member


    Thanks for your idea IE the Wooden Box.

    There may be a mystery to how to coil and store a cable like this without giving it the 'twisties' while coiling it back into the box. I'm sure you are aware of how one must give a any cable a little 'turn' or half twist to get it to coil flat upon itself. This, for me, is no biggie with anything up to about 50 feet. With even a typical XLR cable of 100' or more, the cable can get all twisted up upon itself. And with a 100', 2cm thick snake I am completely outdone!

    Another engineer friend of mine suggests laying it on the floor in a "fig 8" shape, but I have yet to try this.

    How did you coil it into your wooden box?


  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    I find that longer cables do not get into spaghetti, if your little half twist when coiling is in the opposite direction every other twist. Sort of overhand then underhand coiling, the net twist is zero and you can unroll it easily. I get annoyed at one of my collegues who grabs one XLR and shakes it to unroll, this always causes a mess.
  5. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member

    David- Thanks for your thoughts. This sounds like the famous, mysterious (to-me) Over/ Under Technique. I was once shown it and failed to understand, probably because I did not use it regularly and practice it. Can you explain it to me in more detail? I'd love to 'get it' for good now!

    BTW- I'll be away till Monday night (California time) and will check in then. I would love to learn this technique!


  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Not sure I can describe it in words. Its quite difficult to imagine but easy to do once someone shows you.

    If you hold the first loop in your left hand, then if you think about how you twist while coiling and positioning the second loop, then just reverse that for the third loop and so on.

    I would have to video it and post somewhere, not easy. :(
  7. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    We just coiled it without the "twist" It laid flat and we had no problems. I have a 75 foot snake that I use and it is stored in a suitcase and I put the breakout box in the middle and slowly coil the snake in the box and have had no problems with it kinking.

    I think a lot has to do with the wire itself and whether the shielding is foil shielded or twist wrapped or braded. The best coiling cable I know is Carnare as each pair is individually sheathed in its own plastic sheath and color coded and it coils extremely well. The worst was some surplus cable we bought because it was cheap and it turned out to be a bad purchase. It was hard to terminate and was so rigid it was hard to coil. I just got some Belden cable for some short snakes and it too was easy to teminate and coils well.

    Hope this helps
  9. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I tried home-brew solutions for years until finally buying some REAL reels. Wish I had done it years sooner, because purpose-designed reels do not wear out or break with normal use. The best of the bunch (IMHO) are the reels made by Hannay. Download a catalog PDF at

    I have the model C 16-10-11 and it takes my 180ft Mogami 8ch AES snake and is around $100. I also have a Canare reel that does not have the clutch mechanism that I would sell for $65 that also takes 180ft of 8ch (barely).

  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There are also a lot of Hannay or similar reels available used or surplus. I got a really nice one from HGR it was designed to hold welding cable/hose but it works great for mic cord. It was new in a box and I paid less than $50.00 for it.

    Here is their website:
  11. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member


    Thanks, everyone, for all the helpful posts! I will check out the 'surplus reels' site asap.

    Rich- my cable is 2cm thick and 100'. Will it fit on your reel? If so, let's talk.

    The 'over-under' explanations are cool and probably a good exersize for my mind. If I can get it, it may make my day-to-day life a lot simpler, and make the new snake possible to deal with too...

    But I must run for now. Will try these solutions and report back soon!

    thanks again!

  12. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member


    Cannot tell you how thrilled I am with this technique!

    I started with a 25' mic cable, then graduated to a 75'. It took a little trial and error and wondering, but when I tossed the 75 footer out and it pretty much just laid out easy across my whole backyard, I knew the way I was doing it was probably the proper technique.

    The snake is too heavy to hold in one hand, of course. For this, I did the 'Figure 8' thing, with one half of the '8' in my road case, the other half outside the case on the ground. After each '8', I flipped the half outside of the case on top of the other half, forming a large coil in the case. Somehow, this amounts to the same coiling technique as the hand-held 'Over-under" I did with the smaller cables, but I don't know that really for sure. Regardless, the snake comes out of the case easy and with no kinks, so there you go.

    I myself could never have described the technique at all-- thanks to all of you who could. Just the skill I needed! So I guess you CAN teach an old dog a new trick!



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