Zip Ties

zip tiesZip Ties are an incredibly useful item that is used to secure objects together, or to bundle wires or cables together. Zip ties are often referred to as cable ties, and in fact cable ties is actually the correct name for zip ties (since that’s what’s on the patent). They’re increasingly commonly known as zip ties from the ziiiiip! sound they make when you close them up tight.

This page will collect some of the more useful posts that I’ve made here on Zip Tie Guy, as well as giving a summary of the all powerful zip tie.

Useful Zip Tie Posts

  • History of the Zip Tie: exactly what you think it is: the dirty, sordid history behind the creation of the zip tie, the different personalities that had to come together at the exact moment in history to bring this invention to fruition, and the impossible hurdles they had to overcome. In fairness I should probably reveal that the history of zip ties is actually simple and dull, but if movie commercials can use that kind of language, then so can I.
  • Beaded Cable Ties: description of a kind of zip tie (though in this case it should really be called a cable tie — it lacks the distinctive ziiiip! sound when tightened) that has a different design that makes it entirely releasable and reusable. However the downside of the beaded cable ties are that they are not nearly as strong as normal zip ties, and can be easily broken with simple human strength.

Zip Tie Design Basics

Modern zip ties make use of a one-piece design that is molded from nylon. The zip tie is a nylon strip with small teeth on one side of the strip, and the other side smooth. The tail end of the strip tapers to a rounded point, and the head end contains a ratcheting and locking mechanism. The locking head of the zip tie allows the teeth of the zip tie strip to move inward, but not to back out.

Thus to use a zip tie you just wrap it around the desired object, feed the tail through the ratcheting head, and pull it tight. It will now stay tight and will not release.

The standard zip tie design is one use only. Once the zip tie is pulled into the head it is locked forever and the zip tie itself must be cut to free it. It is possible, however, to release zip ties without cutting them — a small flat object can be inserted into the locking head, between the teeth and the ratcheting mechanism and used to hold the locking lever up while the zip tie is released. In practice zip ties are cheap, using this method damages the zip tie, and you’re better off just cutting the zip ties when you’re done with them.

Zip Tie Applications: Cable Ties Onward

The initial use of zip ties was in fact as cable ties. They were literally designed to bundle airplane cables together and are still used today throughout the world to bundle cables, wires, and cords. Just about any tech department large enough to have it’s own internal servers is going to have a supply of zip ties on hand to bundle the computer cables into a manageable form.

Telephone wires and any other kind of wire, cable, or cord is similarly just crying out for zip ties to wrap them in a warm, safe embrace. Zip ties have nearly limitless uses, however. Among them are:

  • Fences: zip ties are frequently used to hold signs and notices onto fences, chainlink fences in particular were practically designed with zip ties in mind.
  • Decorations: zip ties make the process of hanging lights and decorations onto your house easy and fast. In particular the cross braces of gutters are a common place to use zip ties to secure decorations.
  • Gardening: the most common use of zip ties in gardening is to secure a fence around the garden. You shove some posts into the ground and then wrap a mini chainlink-style fence around the garden area, using the zip ties to secure the fence to the posts. But of course the gardening applications of zip ties don’t end there. You can also use zip ties to secure bundles of plants together, or onto fences, to keep them away from other fences. This is something that is typically done only with larger, sturdier plants — more delicate plants like peas and cucumbers you’ll usually be better off just using twist ties.
  • Handcuffs: Zip ties are used as makeshift handcuffs. This is not just something they use on TV — many police departments actually issue zip ties to officers to have extra restraints available when needed. You need to use larger and stronger zip ties for this, and they are pretty uncomfortable (you have to pull them very tight to make sure you can’t squirm out) but they’re effective.

There are, of course, more applications of twist ties, and one of these days I’m going to get around to adding to this list. However for right now lunch is calling and I’ve got more zip tie topics to write about. But watch for this page to be regularly updated, particularly as I add to the list of cool and awesome zip tie posts that you will not want to miss. At least not if you know what’s good for you…

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