In 2008, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association published a new set of standards describing ideal steel reel sizes, along with other specifications for cable and wire reels of all materials. That was NEMA Standards Publication No. WC 26-2008, the Binational Wire and Cable Packaging Standard, and it remains the authority on sizing cable reels in North America today. This publication provides minimum and maximum dimensions for drum diameters, reel width, and more.
Reel manufacturers and some electrical wholesalers will benefit from the full detail of this standard, which is available for purchase here — but, unfortunately, we can’t reprint this copyrighted information. That said, here’s some of the theory behind reel design, along with the size specifications we use for our standard BHS steel cable reels.
Choosing the Right Reel for Wire and Cable Applications
When you choose a shipping reel, you must ensure it is sufficiently constructed to safely transport loads of cable or wire, each of which has its own requirements for weight capacity, maximum bending radius, and more. To understand reel sizing NEMA recommends, the key consideration is that reels must protect their contents; their ideal specifications follow directly from the characteristics of the conductor they contain. The correct reel for a cable or wire order will depend on:
- The outside diameter of the cable
- The total length of the cable order
- The minimum safe bending radius of the conductor
- The total weight of the order
The international marketplace, with many standards beyond NEMA’s, also makes it difficult to authoritatively list “standard” steel reel sizes for the electrical industry. But the standardization of conductors does create a typical range of sizes. At BHS, Inc., for instance, we offer models of steel reels ranging from 5.5 inches to 35.25 inches wide, all with a flange diameter of 44.75 inches and hubs sized to support the minimum safe bending radius of 750 MC building wire and smaller.
Should you be shipping wire and cable on wooden or steel reels? Find out how the two stack up against each other here.
There’s one more factor to consider, too: Steel reels may contain additional, internal flanges, creating multiple compartments within a single reel. This allows dealers to load a single, multi-compartment reel with all the conductors a client needs for a job, keeping them organized and separate for multiple pulls or a single parallel pull — a complete delivered solution. Parallel Reel Payouts from BHS are available with any combination of single and multi-compartment reels and feature integrated fork pockets and optional casters for flexible on-site material handling. We also build custom reels to match user specifications; contact our sales team at 1.800.BHS.9500 for steel reels designed specifically for your application.
Standard Steel Reel Sizes from BHS, Inc.
Steel cable reels from BHS ship with pre-drilled arbor holes for wire gauges ranging from .75 inches to 1.12 inches. The hub plates are also pre-drilled for locking compartments together, for even more storage and payout flexibility. Our standard steel reel models are available in the following sizes:
Here’s how those sizes translate into cable orders, by linear foot:
All-steel, powder-coated BHS Reels comply with NEMA guidelines for construction and handling, and are available per-piece or as part of comprehensive solutions like the Parallel Reel Payout.