Cable lacing is the practice of using a length of thin cord or ribbon to keep cords, cables, and wires neatly and tightly bundled together. This is done by a series of knots tied in the cord at intervals along the length of the bundled cables. This technique has been taught for many years by experienced electricians, linemen, and technicians to apprentices and journeymen, especially in industries where masses of wires are commonplace, such as telecommunications, electronics, and aviation. Cable lacing is generally taught on the job rather than in school, but certain basics may be taught at some trade or vocational learning institutions.
Wiring harnesses for various electronics systems can consist of hundreds of wires. Cable lacing provides a means for organizing and grouping these wires neatly and efficiently. A technician skilled in cable lacing techniques can bundle the various wires and cables of a very complex wiring harness in such a way that all components of the particular piece of equipment can be accessed for repair and maintenance, if necessary.
The knots and tying techniques of cable lacing are performed in such a way as to bundle the various wires and cords together securely but without damaging them. For this reason, certain materials are favored for this task. In the past, a thin linen cord treated with wax was often used. In 2011, however, thin ribbons of man-made materials, such as nylon or Nomex®, are more common. Modern lacing cord, or ribbon, may be coated with materials that improve the knot holding characteristics, as many of these materials tend to slip when knots are tied in them.
Each section of an array of wires secured by cable lacing is usually secured with one long length of lacing cord, or ribbon. The cord is wrapped around the entire bundle several times near one end of the section and secured with a simple knot called a lock stitch, which resembles an overhand knot. The lacing cord is then run along the bundled wires a short distance, wrapped around them, and secured in place with a locking loop, much like the technique used when tying string or ribbon around a package. The technician proceeds this way, using similar loops at regular intervals, to tightly and neatly bundle the wires. This technique also allows for wires to split off from the bundle or to be added in as necessary.
Many of those versed in cable lacing techniques regard it as a skill that must be learned, that even approaches being an art. Many different knots are used depending on the way wires are arranged and fastened, and knowing what knots are appropriate for every situation is a large part of performing cable lacing skillfully. In the 21st century, cable lacing may be less common than it once was, but it is certain to be a useful skill for as long as people work with wires.