Stock Your Toolbox: Cable Ties and End Nip Pliers

by Randy Murray on January 31, 2011

I’m no craftsman, but I do understand and use tools. That not only allows me to retain my status as homo sapiens, but it’s damn useful around the house. Today I’m starting a new series that I hope will help you build a literal set of tools that will help you handle most household needs and give you the basic information that will let you understand how to use them.

Today, we’ll start with something very inexpensive, basic, and useful in many situations: nylon cable ties, and something to trim them with.


Nylon cable ties are those little strips of, you guessed it, nylon, that have a small rectangular box at one end and a ratcheted surface along one flat side. You see police use long versions of these as handcuffs. They use them for a good reason: they’re cheap, lightweight and damned difficult to get off once tightened into place.

While you might not need handcuffs (I’m not here to judge), cable ties are the next best thing to duct tape as having virtually infinite uses. Yes, you can use cable ties to neaten up that mess of cables behind your TV or computer, but you can also use them to hang holiday decorations, fasten down things that need fastening, and join things of different sizes and dimensions together. They can be linked together like a chain, or you  can insert the end of one tie into the “mouth” of another, creating a “super tie”.

If you’re clever with a safety pin, they can be removed and reused, but they are very inexpensive and are intended for a single use. I recommend using a pair of end nip (or “nipper”) pliers to trim them or to cut them to remove the tie when your task is complete.

Here’s how to use them in their most basic function, tying together cables:

  1. Gather your cables together and remove any tangles. Do not group power cords with audio cables!
  2. Wrap a cable tie around the cables and insert the end through the cable tie mouth.
  3. Snug the tie closed around the cables, but do not over tighten! Tighten the tie only enough to hold cables together, so the cable tie will not slide up or down the cables.
  4. Use your end nip pliers to snip off the excess from the cable tie.
  5. Add additional cable ties down the length of the cables, every few feet, as necessary to keep the cables together.
  6. To remove a cable tie, carefully insert the end nip pliers and gently snip the tie.

This is also an opportunity to visit your local hardware store, which is always an adventure. Cable ties are usually available in many colors, lengths, and sizes and are inexpensive in bulk. Go ahead and buy bulk, no fewer than dozens – you’ll find many uses for them. Pick up your pair of end nip pliers and you’re all set to start connecting, securing, and tieing down, well, everything!

If you prefer to shop online you can order cable ties from one of my favorite sites: Monoprice. End Nipper (or Nip) Pliers can also be bought at Amazon.

The Stock Your Toolbox: Cable Ties and End Nip Pliers by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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