The Importance of Reel Size and Material

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 by Paige DiAntonio

Ever receive a reel of wire or cable and the cable is bulging out past the reel circumference?  That happens due to the improper sizing of the reel during the spool-down process.

The proper size and type of reel depends on the weight, length and overall diameter of the material wrapped around the reel.  If a reel is not matched correctly to the weight and diameter of the cable, the material is at higher risk of being damaged during transport. Wire and cable reels also have a minimum bending radius which means that if a cable is forced to bend sharper than the minimum radius, damage to the product is much more likely to occur.

Reel material is also an important component to ensure your cable is protected during transport and handling. Here is a list of the most common reel materials for wire and cable:

  • Wooden Drums- I’m sure some of you have seen these massive drums sitting out at constructions sites or other building/ industrial areas. Wooden drums come in three different varieties: steel-tyred for various environments, export drums for shipping abroad, and one-way drums for single trip use. Wooden drums can carry heavy loads and are great for large industrial cable. These reels can also make great converted furniture like a coffee table!
  • Plywood Reels- Used for transporting lighter loads, this type is considered a less expensive alternative than the wooden drums.  These are used extensively by commercial electricians and are often made from strong and light-weight woods like birch or poplar. Plywood reels are only used once before being discarded.
  • Plastic Reels- These reels are great for small and lightweight wire and cable. Most plastic reels are also recyclable – meaning these can be an environmentally friendly option as well!
  • Steel Drums- Currently, steel drums are replacing wooden drums in the wire and cable industry. These drums are more durable than traditional wooden drums due to the less physical warping over time, and the life span of steel far exceeds that of wood - making the long term value of these types of drums more advantageous than wooden ones.

So remember, if you are selecting a reel to spool wire and cable on or if you received damaged cable from improper reel selection, take a look at the tips above and you can determine the right reel for your product.

Reel diameter


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