Q What’s the best way to coil lavalier cables?

Published in SOS October 2012
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I wonder if you can help me with a relatively minor problem that seems to cause a lot of undue irritation! In my work, I tend to use a lot of lavalier mics. As I use them professionally and they are all high quality, I'm obviously keen to keep them in top-notch order. I've tried various ways of packing and storing them, but just can't seem to find a way to coil up their skinny little cables that doesn't result in a huge tangle when I go to unpack them again. Has anyone figured out a way to do this?

Steve Morley, via email

SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: This is a perennial problem with lavalier mics, and many other products that come with relatively thin cables, such as wall-wart power supplies. Within moments of trying to coil the lead to pack it away, the cable tangles itself into an impenetrably knotted rat's nest. However, there is a simple solution, which I've been using reliably for many years after being shown it by a wise old TV location-sound recordist. This works well with almost anything that has small-diameter but long fixed cables.

Step 1: Gather the two ends of the cable together — the mic and the plug in the case of a lavalier mic — and place the two wires next to each other across the open palm of your left hand (assuming you're right handed) with the ends lying an inch or so below the edge of the hand. This will leave a long loop of cable extending from the top of your hand.Step 1.Step 1.

Step 2: Taking that loop, wind it around the base of the four fingers to create a coil of wire, until you are left with about four inches of remaining loop extending from the top of your hand.Step 2.Step 2.

Step 3: Ease the coil of wire off your hand, squashing it slightly to make a vertical oval shape, and then taking remaining loop, wrap several turns around the middle of the coil to bunch it together into a figure-of-eight shape.Step 3.Step 3.

Step 4: Finally, thread the last 1.5 to 2 inches of loop through the centre of the upper coil, above the 'waist' so that it holds the whole thing together.Step 4.Step 4.

Step 5: When you want to unwrap the cable, simply hold the two ends together in one hand, thread the loop back through the upper coil with the other hand (always keeping hold of the end of the loop), unwind the waist turns and ease the coil out so that you are left with a folded length of cable, with the centre in one hand and the two ends in the other, completely tangle-free and ready to use!Step 5.Step 5.  

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