Determine Drum Winding Direction: A Quick and Easy Guide

Smooth drums are a common means of handing and transportation for wire rope and cable. However, special care must be taken to ensure the cable is properly wound around the spool in order to prevent unintended damage from reverse bends. Determining your drum winding direction is simple and easy with these steps, and will allow you to confidently choose your winding direction every time.

First determine whether your rope is right lay or left lay by looking down the length of the cable at the individual strands. If they appear to lay to the right, in clockwise direction, then the cable is right lay. If the strands appear to lay to the left, in a counterclockwise direction, then the cable is left lay.

Next, stand behind the drum with the rope coming towards you. For right lay cable, hold up your right hand with only your index finger extended, and for left lay, hold up your left hand with your index finger extended. In this model, your extended index finger represents the starting location of the cable on the spool, and your other fingers represent the empty space on the spool.

reel directions-05reel directions-03reel directions-07

Next, determine whether you will overwind or underwind the cable. If you are underwinding (starting the cable on the backside of the spool) then flip your hand so your knuckles face away from you. If you are overwinding (starting the cable on the frontside of the spool) then flip your hand so your knuckles face you.

reel directions-04Now you are ready to start winding based on the model you created with your hand. Begin winding the cable from the side indicated by your index finger. Ensure the cable remains taught, but not stressed, during the winding process to prevent gaps in the wrap. Loose and uneven winding causes excess stress on the cable, reducing its cycle life and often creating issues such as birdcaging and kinking.

reel directions-07

Using this guide will ensure you wind your cable correctly every time. The same technique applies for wire rope and aircraft cable of virtually any size and construction. For more information about our aircraft cable, visit or contact us.

Subscribe Here!