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I'mthinking about adding a retractable power cord over the work bench (sits in the center of the shop) and would apreciate feedback from those who have tried this as to 1) how functional is the approach and 2) reels to consider. I looked at the one from Rockler but the reviews were not favorable. Lee Valley has what appear to be some good heavy duty ones.

Thanks in advance.
 

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I use one from Northern Tool. 30' of 16/3. Very good quality. About $30 ten yrs ago.
Mines on the wall. It's some times a hassle but ceiling is way too high.
 

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I just hung an extension cord from the ceiling that hangs about 3' above the bench. It was a 50' extension cord that I cut in half and I wired a regular wall mount steel box on the end with a regular duplex plug in it for 2 plugs. If I need more I plug a power bar into it. I think Harry did the same thing in his shop.
 
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Lots of these at Amazon. low to high prices. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_...ix=Power+cord+reel,aps,819&crid=36H8JN8XCY3BI.

Not sure about buying 15 amp rated cord, at least not for modest prices. Check to see if you can buy one without cord, or replace the cord with something heavy enough to carry anticipated loads. Length of cord is not necessarily important so long as it can get back to the wall outlet.

I have a small shop (12x24), and for me the best solution was a heavy duty extension cord attached to the side of the workbench. Very handy, out of the way. But then I have a low ceiling in the shed over the workbench, so not that much room for a hanging cord.
 

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I'mthinking about adding a retractable power cord over the work bench (sits in the center of the shop) and would apreciate feedback from those who have tried this as to 1) how functional is the approach and 2) reels to consider. I looked at the one from Rockler but the reviews were not favorable. Lee Valley has what appear to be some good heavy duty ones.

Thanks in advance.
I bought a 30 ft retractable cord from the orange box store about 20 years ago. Hung it right over my workbench and used it for everything I did on the bench. It was way better than having cords strung across the floor, and I used it for many years. The cord reel has a built in 10 amp breaker, but it has never tripped. But the cord coming down to the workbench seemed to get in the way a lot, especially when sanding because you move around so much. Finally, I permanently installed receptacle boxes on 3 of the 4 bench legs. My shop has a wood floor with crawl space underneath so I was able to run the wire under the floor and up a leg of the bench. These receptacles are the best option I've found.
 

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If I had a wooden floor I would have run power under it and up to my bench like you Andy. But I inherited the concrete floor that is in my shop so the only option to avoid tripping over a power cord was overhead. I can't see the need for a retractable setup as it would never need to extend more than 2 or 3 feet.
 

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There is a potential fire risk with extension cables.
If the machine being used has a powerful motor, like a big saw or disc cutter, the current going through the tightly wound coils causes a very large heat build up. You are basically making an electric heating element, but one where the wires haves plastic coatings which will at the least start to smoulder and decompose.

There are many documented cases of fires starting from wound up extension leads and the ONLY way to be sure this doesnt happen is to pull the cable fully off the drum before using the machine, which is completely self defeating if you want a clear workbench.

Just add some more power outlets around the shop to reduce trailing leads. I know people will then gasp and say thats too many outlets on one mcb, but in your own workshop you are extremely unlikely to have more than two machines operating at the same time, and even if you did get lazy, the MCB will do its job and trip.
 

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There is a potential fire risk with extension cables.
If the machine being used has a powerful motor, like a big saw or disc cutter, the current going through the tightly wound coils causes a very large heat build up. You are basically making an electric heating element, but one where the wires haves plastic coatings which will at the least start to smoulder and decompose.

There are many documented cases of fires starting from wound up extension leads and the ONLY way to be sure this doesnt happen is to pull the cable fully off the drum before using the machine, which is completely self defeating if you want a clear workbench.

Just add some more power outlets around the shop to reduce trailing leads. I know people will then gasp and say thats too many outlets on one mcb, but in your own workshop you are extremely unlikely to have more than two machines operating at the same time, and even if you did get lazy, the MCB will do its job and trip.
Sunnybob has some good points. You can't run heavy loads for long periods off a cord reel. But the built-in circuit breaker that's on every reel I've seen should save you from disaster. And the tools you're likely to be using for long periods don't pull many amps. But don't plug a heater into it.

Truth is, I very seldom had a need to extend mine more than a foot or two. If I had it to do over again, I'd forget the cord reel and do like Chuck suggested. Get a good heavy cord and hang it from the ceiling low enough to reach but high enough so you don't bump your head on it.
 
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I'm not a fan of retractables...for all the reasons already stated.

If you're using it for any of your motor-powered tools you would need 12ga on the reel...tough to retract. So there's 50ft...plus the run from your breaker box...there's another bunch of feet. If you look at your equipment manual you will find few that recommend more than 50ft at 12ga...

With access to under the floor, I think you would be better served running outlets to your bench...will keep the underfoot away and give you plenty of power for multiple tools without unplugging after use.

Good luck...
 

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Andy, the extension reel can catch fire before the trip blows. Trips are made to detect sudden or excessive loads. That cable will heat slowly and catch fire well before the trip operates.

I worked for many years on bulk LPG storage tanks and compounds, under very strict safety supervision (5000 gallons of liquid gas at 100 lbs square inch pressure tends to focus the mind).
When contractors came in to do any metal work inside the compound, they were made to completely unwind their extension leads before even operating a small disc cutter or hammer drill.
 

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I saw an idea recently where an outdoor receptacle for decorations with a stake on it used at the bench. The stake goes in a dog hole to keep the outlet box anchored. I haven't tried it but the idea has some promise.
 

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There is a potential fire risk with extension cables.
If the machine being used has a powerful motor, like a big saw or disc cutter, the current going through the tightly wound coils causes a very large heat build up. You are basically making an electric heating element, but one where the wires haves plastic coatings which will at the least start to smoulder and decompose.

There are many documented cases of fires starting from wound up extension leads and the ONLY way to be sure this doesnt happen is to pull the cable fully off the drum before using the machine, which is completely self defeating if you want a clear workbench.

Just add some more power outlets around the shop to reduce trailing leads. I know people will then gasp and say thats too many outlets on one mcb, but in your own workshop you are extremely unlikely to have more than two machines operating at the same time, and even if you did get lazy, the MCB will do its job and trip.
I installed a wall plug every 3 feet in my shop and have some thing plugged in most of them, But as you said, I rarely or never have more then 2 machines running at the same time, and usually just one. I have a retractable air hose over my work bench and ran a line to a plug strip on top of my bench. I never have to use extension cords in my shop. I once had a drop light that had the cord all rolled up tight. When I plugged it in, it flamed on and melted then burned the wire off of the roll before I got back to unroll it.
 

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I have a 20 amp dedicated outlet that I mounted in the ceiling that I suspended a 20' 10-4 cord with 3 outlets. It allows me to move where needed. 10-4 is over kill, but that's what I had.
 

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I have a four way tucked up under the right side of my work bench. It is handy if I want to use a corded drill or something like that. I had quit using a corded drill because of the trouble getting an extension cord out just to use the drill. I rediscovered my corded tools after having a handy place to plug in at my workbench.
 

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I have a four outlet box mounted to my workbench, and run the extension cord from the wall outlet across the floor inside one of those tapered rubber strips that protect the cord. https://www.amazon.com/D-2-Rubber-Duct-Cord-Cover/dp/B0013LOU10/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1481812956&sr=1-1&keywords=rubber+cord+protector+strip

I had thought about a drop cord from the ceiling - not a reel though - https://www.amazon.com/Leviton-2310-Grounding-Receptacle-Industrial/dp/B00002NASW - make the cord long enough to reach the work area and hook it up out of the way. This works well for a work area in the middle of a large space.
 

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The one thing that I have found in most retractable reel scenarios (extension cords, drop lights, et. al.) is, that, after a while the cord doesn't fully retract. The cords cross on the drum and jam or the springs become weak. This leaves the item dangling and in the way.

Now the more expensive air hose reels are a different story...but who wants to pay several hundred dollars for that type of convenience? I would follow the above advice points and try and avoid the reels.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thank you one and all for the very cogent comments. I'll go for the table mounted option with the feeder cord covered by a tapered sheath. The best part, I can spend the difference on another new toy for the shop. :grin:
 

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Thank you one and all for the very cogent comments. I'll go for the table mounted option with the feeder cord covered by a tapered sheath. The best part, I can spend the difference on another new toy for the shop. :grin:
That's the ticket, Jon...

The fundamental principle of spending money on a solution is:

1. How many times can the same money be spent on different tools before getting caught...?
2. How can you maneuver the various forms of the solution until it is justified that it will self-fund principle #1...?
 
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Since this has turned into a discussion of wiring the shop, here's my take. Like the idea of covering the cord to the table with protective sheath to avoid abrasion and accidental damage.

I have three, 20 amp circuits in my shop, each is color coded. Outlets are set every 24 inches. The Blue circuit is for lights, AC or heat with just two outlets. The orange and green circuits alternate and are color coded so I can plug in without overloading.

All circuits run back to 10 gauge flex cables that go through the outside wall encased in flexible PVC conduit that are thoroughly waterproofed, and they are color coded as well. These go into a 60 amp sub panel using heavy duty plugs placed in gfci outlets, and those are wired to 20 amp circuit breakers. That is encased in a heavy plastic sheet in case of rain. I use 25 and 40 foot, 12 gauge extensions in the shop and run them out of traffic areas.

Most of my heavy power tools are on the wall with the most outlets, so I can leave them plugged in. I generally run the DC on one circuit and another fixed tool on the other. Routing the cables out of the way to me is a good idea to avoid stumbles. I like to hang the cord's outlet and the tool's plug under the front of the tool so it's easy to unplug for blade changes and such. Color coding circuits is really helpful in avoiding overloads.
 

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We moved into this house in 2004. It was brand new - so the basement walls (which are load-bearing for the walls above) were just studs on the interior.
The house was began as a "spec" house, but we bought it while under construction. I had the electrician replace the breaker box with one with a considerably higher capacity. First thing after we got our items moved here was to have electricians wire the basement. I built stud walls along the exterior cast-in-place walls - to be able to add additional insulation and the wiring and outlets. Yes, I used pressure-treated wood and the basement stays dry. After wiring was complete, T-111 siding was added to most of the walls - with the exception of my reptile room and my office, which were covered in mold & damp resistant green drywall (all attached with screws). My basement has considerably more outlets than the upstairs, and it's very rare for me to need extension cords. My outlets are on multiple circuits and are either 15AMP with white outlets & cover plates or 20AMP with grey outlets & cover plates. Planning ahead benefitted me greatly, because I made a couple of strategically located framed holes (very neat) in the interior walls for the passage of air hoses to avoid trip hazards.

Nothing to do with electrical, but I also built the majority of my shelving units with plywood vertical members and 1" thick SYP stair treads between. My plywood vertical members are attached to the floor joists which are overhead. This creates a "hanging shelf" that doesn't overturn or collect clutter underneath. I used these same types of shelving units in our house that we were in for 23 years prior to this one. I also love power tools that are on wheels - that can be locked-into non-rolling locations wherever necessary and the older I get the more I appreciate wheels.

Few people have the luxury that I had, but often an electrician can add circuits where one may not initially expect a new circuit could be added. Bare wires and exposed wiring should always be avoided, but with metal boxes and conduit - many things can be done to serve your needs. One of my businesses is called Tendril Consulting Group and our specialty is reviewing the daily operations of manufacturing businesses in my local (Georgia) area. Sometimes I am literally amazed at some of the things I see done in some shops! Safety and efficiency usually go hand-in-hand! Think about where electricity and pressurized air are needed in the shop, think about ventilation and egress, think about fire safety! My Dad had the sloppiest shop anyone could ever imagine and extension cords were on the floor, on the benches and through the steel bars joists. It was dangerous to work in his shop and very counter-productive!

Increasing efficiency makes shop work more fun and developing solid habits of organization will prevent a lot of frustration!

Otis Guillebeau from Auburn, Georgia
 
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