March 4, 2018 Thomas Hedberg

Wire Cable Basics

Choosing the right wire rope for a job will be based on many factors: application, required strength, and environment, to name a few. Understanding the basic terminology and the abbreviations associated with wire rope can help you decide which will work best for you.

  1. Size

    Displayed as inch or fractional inch measurements, the size indicates the diameter of the rope. Industry standards measure the rope at its widest point. A wide range of sizes are available.

  2. Construction

    Wire rope is composed of individual wires that are twisted to form strands. The strands are then twisted to form a rope construction.

    The numbers used in describing wire rope indicate its construction. For example: a 6 x 19 construction wire rope, the first number is the number of strands (6); the second number is how many wires make up one strand (19).

    Numbers may also be followed by a letter combination such as FW or WS which indicates how the outside layer is constructed.
    FW: filler wire (same sizes throughout)
    WS: Warrington Seale (combination of large and small)

  3. Lay

    Refers to the direction the wires and strands are twisted during the construction of the wire rope.
    Regular lay: Also known as a right lay or ordinary lay, this indicates that the strands pass from left to right across the rope and the wires in the rope are laid in opposite direction to the lay of the strands. This type of construction is the most common and offers the widest range of applications for the rope.
    Lang lay: This indicates that the wires are twisted in the same direction as the strands. These ropes are generally more flexible and have increased wearing surface per wire than right lay ropes. Because the outside wires lie at an angle to the rope’s axis, internal stress is reduced making it more resistant to fatigue from bending. This type of rope is often used in construction, excavating, and mining applications.

  4. Core

    Refers to what makes up the center of the rope.
    FC: fiber core
    IWRC: independent wire rope core

    Fiber cores are made of vegetable (sisal, etc.) or synthetic (polypropylene, etc.) fiber and offer more elasticity. Independent wire rope cores offer more support to the outer strands, and has a higher resistance to crushing and heat. Independent wire rope core also has less stretch and more strength.

  5. Grade

    Refers to the grade of steel used. Classifications include:
    IPS: improved plowed steel.
    EIPS: extra improved plowed steel (approximately 10% stronger than IPS).
    EEIPS: extra extra improved plowed steel (approximately 10% stronger than the EIPS).
    GIPS: galvanized improved plowed steel; galvanized wires add corrosion resistance.
    DGEIP: drawn galvanized improved plow steel; galvanized for corrosion resistance. Drawn wires generally have a higher break load than GIPS.

  6. Finish

    Bright: Made with uncoated wires manufactured from high carbon steel.
    Galvanized: Provides extra corrosion resistance.
    Stainless Steel: Highly resistant to corrosion and is commonly used in marine applications.


Thomas Hedberg

Thomas A. Hedberg is the President of Penn-Tech International, Inc. of Frazer, Pennsylvania and can be reached at (484) 395-0145 or