Cloth Covered Wire

cloth covered rows

Cloth-Covered Wire

When people ask us what we do, we are often asked the same three questions: “What is it? What’s it for? Who uses it?”

Cloth-covered wire is electrical wire braided with fabric, either cotton or rayon yarn or thread. Originally we made the wire for lighting restorations of antiques and vintage lighting using styles, colors, and patterns we matched to cords we found on antiques and installed in Edison’s lab in West Orange, New Jersey.

But we soon realized that the reason for using cloth-covered wire is not just for an old-fashioned look, but to make any pendant lighting, table lamp, floor lamp, or fan more beautiful. The cord in pendants and hanging lights is particularly visible and so really benefits from a beautiful fabric wire. Cloth-covered wire, it's not just for antiques any more!

Now, everyone uses it, interior decorators, film set decorators, antiques restorers, DIY enthusiasts, lighting designers and manufacturers, and people who just want their lighting to look the best it can. We do the braiding at our own plant and buy the wire and fabric from American companies making US-made product. That is why we say our wire is American-made from the copper to the braid.

Cloth-Covered Wire Styles and Their History

We make braided wire in five styles, all based on styles we found on antiques or in old buildings, but all very well suited for modern applications. They come in many colors, custom-dyed cotton and a variety of rayon shades, patterns and gauges.

Pulley Cord is a round cord with the cotton or rayon braid applied to SVT-2 (2-conductor) or SVT-3 (3-conductor) wire. It is UL-listed. We saw quite a bit of Pulley Cord at Edison's lab in New Jersey, with drops from the ceiling providing power to the workbenches below. This style of wire seems to have been used since the earliest days of electricity.

Twisted Pair wire is another wire used extensively in the past. It consists of two legs (pieces) of wire, each braided separately and then twisted together. This style of wire also seems to have been used since the earliest days of electrical wiring.

Parallel Cord is a flat cord, consisting of cloth-covered SPT-1, also called zip-cord. We think, based on the antiques on which we have found original wire, that this style of wire was introduced in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It is suitable for table and floor lamps, but less pleasing on pendant or hanging lights due to the fact that it is flat. This wire is UL-listed.

Single-conductor wire is identical to one leg of twisted pair wire, it's just never twisted into a pair.

Knob & Tube wire is the sixth style we make. It is a special kind of single-conductor wire, but different enough to warrant its own style. This wire is a 12-gauge solid core (the copper is one piece), not stranded like all the rest of our wires. And it is lacquered. We have made this wire exactly like it was originally made except that we insulate the copper when in the old days the copper was wrapped in paper before being braided and lacquered. This wire is intended for theatrical and museum use only as it i is not suitable for its original application of house wiring.

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