Workspace of the Week: Cable cleanup

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Kraemer’s media center cord control:

Okay, so this week’s selection isn’t necessarily an office, but it is a beautiful example of cable management. By using hardboard pegboard and plastic cable ties (which are insanely reasonably priced at less than $4.00 for 100), Kraemer turned a possible rat’s nest of cables into a work of art. Something like this would work beautifully under a desk, behind a media center like Kraemer’s, or in a garage or basement workshop. Thank you, Kraemer, for submitting your image to our Flickr pool.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

18 Comments for “Workspace of the Week: Cable cleanup”

  1. posted by Karen on

    What a coincidence, I finally got around to doing this myself earlier this week. My desk has no room underneath, so my pegboard is hung behind the desk. I spray painted it black to match my desk, because, well I like to spray paint, but also so it wouldn’t stand out. Pictures of black wires and black cable ties against a black background aren’t very helpful, so I’m glad Kraemer was able to take such a nice picture.

    I used hanger bolts (wood screws on one side, machine screws on the other) and wingnuts to attach the pegboard to my desk. Easy to take off and make changes that way. I spent about $10 on materials (already had spray paint and some cable ties).

    I got my inspiration from http://www.decluttered.com/ Make sure to scroll down to see all the submissions.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    Nicely done, although I bet he doesn’t need to rearrange his cables very often.

  3. posted by Squash on

    I have heard and read that having cables coiled while they are plugged in with current running is bad since the coil of wire works as an electromagnet that creates a magnetic field and may cause the cables to heat up.

    If true, I could imagine it is more significant for mains power leads than data cables.

    Can antone comment on this?

  4. posted by Anita on

    Very cool, makes me want to do the same! Though then I’d HAVE to get a second AC adapter for my laptop, since the desk one wouldn’t be going anywhere…

    @Squash — I hadn’t heard anything about wires overheating when coiled, but I have been told never to coil data cables too tight (whether they are in use or not) to prevent damaging them. This was especially stressed for network cables and such. I’m no expert, however, so I’m hoping someone who knows more about this can enlighten both of us :)

  5. posted by Double|B on

    Coiling cables causes induction and results in heating. It can result in fire if care is not taken. The cables that you need to be careful with are the high voltage power cables. Coiling or looping threse cables is not recommended.

    Use cables of the right length to avoid this issue.

  6. posted by Rue on

    I’ve always used cable ties of some sort but tying them through pegboard is genious!

    @Double B: It’s difficult to use cables of the “correct” length when many of the electrical adapters and whatnot that come with our gadgets come with a certain length cable that may be too long or short (and is almost never the right size). If you’re talking about USB cables or network cables that you can buy in the necessary lengths, I totally get it. But it’s not that easy to just get a short laptop charger :(

  7. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Double B — Since these cables are well vented (a hole-ridden pegboard) and not coiled tightly, I don’t see how they could pose any sort of a risk greater than a nest of cables jammed together on the floor.

    In fact, I would think stepping on cables under a desk would be more of a fire risk than what Kraemer has created. Also more prone to collecting dust, pet fur, etc.

    Yes, proper length cables are awesome, but most DVRs, gaming systems, etc. come with proprietary cables that don’t have variable lengths.

  8. posted by Tim Carlson on

    I’m not a total expert, but I think a 120V power cord coiled a few times would likely not set up a very large magnetic field. Then you would have to put something metal inside the field to be heated. It might heat up slightly, but I’d say the transformers are more of a risk than the cable coils.

    Rock on!

  9. posted by Karen on

    If the coils were really small you might introduce some extra dispersion (ie radio wave interference), but it is likely to be insignificant over a few meters. So I guess if you tried really, really hard, you might be able to produce some static on the radio, but not with the length and radius of curvature of the cables shown here. Also, heating with the size and length of the cables we are talking about here is not going to be a problem.

  10. posted by Rae on

    That is an excellent use of pegboard! I would have used velcro ties instead of cable ties, though, to make the cables accessible without having to cut anything.

    What about cable management solutions for ‘loose’ cables that you can’t tie up–I’m staring at my keyboard, mouse, camera dock, iPod, and USB hub cables, all snaking around the desk.

    (going wireless for the keyboard and mouse is not an option!)

  11. posted by Natasha on

    I also got a little bit worried when I saw the wiring coiled up like that.
    When studying sound recording we were told to NEVER coil up cables like that because of the induction issue.
    The back of the sound desk in the studio was a huge mess of wires that would make most of you lovely organized people have a heart attack.

  12. posted by Erik on

    Most of the cables (including the 220V) consists of 2 cables with opposite current direction, thus the magnetic field cancels out and shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t know how it will work in real life but theoretically it should cancel.

    Ethernet cables are are actually designed to not interfere, or get interfered by, nearby cables. The positive and negative wire-pairs are twisted around themselves to cancel the magnetic field. Thus the name Twisted Pair(TP) cable.

  13. posted by Helen on

    From my E E husband – who agrees with Erik – and whom I wish had such organized cables.

    Coiling data cables (Ethernet, cable TV, telephone) is fine. Induction and magnetic fields don’t cause heating — resistance does. Resistance is a function of the wire size. Power cords for most electronic devices (e.g, computers, converters, and “power bricks”) don’t carry enough current to produce resistive heating.

    Anyway, coiled cords (power or data) don’t generate magnetic fields because the close, multiple conductors are always carrying equal currents in opposite directions — the magnetic fields around each wire cancel out.

    Folding or tightly coiling a coaxial TV cable can damage the cable, but that will only affect the quality of the TV signal.

  14. posted by jazz2600 on

    The only issue of interference might be the stability of his network and possibly peripheral connections (USB or audio).

    I work in a large network environment in a 50+ year old building. We constantly have issues where a network connection will be squirrely for no good reason. We trace the network cable and find out it’s run over a florescent light (usually nearest the ballast). High powered electronics emit interference that typical cat5 and cheap cat6 cables sometimes react to. Expensive cat6 less so by design.

    I’ve also seen the same occur with USB and audio cables (that hum in your speakers when your cellphone rings).

    Avoid running/bundling power cables with other types of cables is the best option. If they simply have to cross, 90 degree angles are the best option. Also avoid close contact between power bricks and network or other peripheral cables.

    Episode 3 of Systm (http://revision3.com/systm/avcabling) explains this whole notion in terms of Audio cables and power. (At 38 minutes into the episode, the rest is about making your own cables.)

  15. Avatar of

    posted by klutzgrrl on

    What a brilliant and simple idea. I’m sure it would be easy adapt the arrangement to minimize any issues with interference. We have such a rat’s nest of cables behind our media center, it’s very difficult to keep clean.

    I also like to use a label on the ends of cables so I know where they go. Being ex military and moving a lot, this made it so much easier to rewire the amplifier and stereo particularly.

  16. posted by Double|B on

    It is actually perfectly coiled high voltage cables that can cause induction resulting in heat and potentially fire. Messy cables are less likely to build up the necessary induction. The cables act like a transformer: an induction coil with an air core.

    Keep an eye on the cables to make sure that they are not heating up.

    It may be less of a problem with 110V power.

  17. Avatar of

    posted by suzjazz on

    This project bears all the hallmarks of a severe case of OCD.

    On the other hand, I am fascinated by it as a work of art.
    I think I’d be scared to see it in someone’s house, but riveted by it if it was hanging on the wall of an art gallery.

  18. posted by Kalle on

    It’s not really that uncommon for tech oriented people to organize their stuff with pegboards and zip ties. If you have a lot of peripherals this can be highly practical. Hardly OCD in my opinion.

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