In the daily scheme of things, wire is not an item many people think about. However, just about everything we come in contact with has wire in it, on it or around it. Having been in the wire business for over 40 years, I have seen wire made into everything from delicate parts for the space program to designer clothing, to fishing leader line.
The product we make is usually called Lashing Wire. I have also heard it called spinning wire or spin wire. No matter what you call it, it comes in various sizes and alloys, and is used to tie coaxial or fiber optic cable to messenger strand. It has various other uses but these are the major ones.
When I first got into the business of producing lashing wire I found that there was a specification written many years ago by the now defunct Western Electric Engineering group and it still is the only one I know of in existence. They called out a product and named it C Steel when in actuality it is a 430 stainless steel. I have often asked myself what made them use this alloy, and the only reason I could fathom from discussions I’ve had with engineers is that price was the major factor. It is cheaper; but AHHHH, does it work as it should. Let you be the judge.
C Steel (430 stainless) is made up of various elements, with the idea the chromium content being the inhibitor of rust. However, in the highly toxic environment in which we live today, it would suggest this is not a wire that is appropriate to use. Since these engineers were looking for a 17% Chromium content, why dictate a product that has 16% minimum chromium? Why not chose a 302, 303 or 305 which all have a 17% minimum? Better yet, these 300 series alloys have an added nickel element which is a corrosion inhibitor. And if you really want to get serious about corrosion inhibitors, use a 316 alloy which has the addition of molybdenum for further protection. Sure, these may cost a little more than a 430 stainless, but in the long run they can save money due to the life span.
Some companies have agonized over their decision to use 430 (C Steel), after the fact, when their build-outs came tumbling down because of disintegrating lashing wire. These companies should remember that those of us who manufacture the wire have no controls over where the wire is being used.
One of the most important things to hang onto is the heat number of the lashing wire that is being used. Should a problem occur, this is the only way the manufacturer has to be able to track back to the processing and melting of the alloy. This heat number should be kept no matter what alloy is being used as a future reference. These numbers are usually written on the side of each box and can be added to the work order that’s being processed by the contractor. If they are not on the boxes, the buyer of the wire should demand that it be put there.
Lashing wire may not be considered a “priority item” when the buyers are out there doing their purchasing, but when it doesn’t work properly and cable falls off the pole, everyone “runs for the hills” to try to get the build out, overbuild or upgrade fixed. It would be much better for us to work together to determine which lashing wire would serve the user best. In the long run, money would be saved on both sides.
The three major alloys used today are 430, 302 and 316; however, there are many other alloys available if there are special uses. Today’s environment requires us all to take another look at what we are putting on these poles.