Security cables and lockable stainless steel wires have practically unlimited uses across a very wide range of home, office and industrial environments. In this section, we’ll examine a few common applications before moving on to discuss some of the many types and grades of cable rope you might consider for specific tasks.
Security cables with locks
A great many brands, gauges and types of high security stainless steel cables include an integrated locking mechanism, either via a master lock affixed to the looped ends of a braided steel cable, or using some sort of security bar-type fitting.
Locks on security cables can often be opened with a physical key that’s kept separate from the wire chain itself, or just as commonly seen is the familiar combination-type lock that relies on a passcode being entered mechanically before the lock will release. A 3-digit lock of this latter type will have 1,000 possible combinations of three numbers, while the more common 4-digit varieties massively increase this to 10,000 different unique combinations.
Locking cables sometimes incorporate alarms, fixed bars and other additional security features too, and the highly diverse selection of products in this category on the market today means you’re always likely to find the precise type of security cable to suit your needs.
Braided steel security cables
Braided steel cable is prized for its flexibility and very sturdy resistance to both cutting and shearing forces. Braided wire security locks of this kind are very often designed to prevent leverage-style tempering as well. As braided metal cables would otherwise be quite abrasive to paintwork and surfaces if left uncovered, they tend to come coated in soft plastic, silicone or other rubberised materials to protect the items they’re securing and the user’s hands, as well as adding an extra layer of durability and weatherproofing.
Braided cable, commonly known as wire rope, is generally made up of many separate steel strands woven together (and each of these is often constructed from multiple individual wires interwoven, too). When wrapped around a central core, this construction method tends to make braided steel cable just as sturdy, as a collective unit, as higher gauge single steel wires - not to mention much more flexible and far lower in overall weight.
Braided cable is less prone to shearing and boasts very high tensile strength, although one potential disadvantage is that it can break more easily if enough of the individual strands are damaged or nicked. The flipside of this is that, unlike steel link chains which become immediately useless when a single link breaks, braided cables can still offer good physical strength and a deterrent to unauthorised tampering even if a few of its individual strands are compromised.
Coated steel security cables
Coated steel cable - whether it’s coated braided wire or a heavier and less flexible link chain - is very common in all types of applications where the security cable will be left out in the elements or exposed to changing environmental conditions on a regular basis. Security cables intended for marine or outdoor use are almost always coated in some way, with the possible exception of very heavy-gauge link chains.
Most coated braided steel cable is wrapped in some form of plastic or rubberised jacketing material - frequently this will be vinyl, PVC, nylon, HDPE or similar polymers, manufactured to provide both weatherproofing capabilities and protection to painted surfaces. Coatings also make security cables easier to handle and transport, and in some cases can offer an additional layer of tamper-proofing when made from sufficiently robust materials.
Thin steel security cables
Thin stainless steel cable - often braided - is most commonly found on laptop security wires and other locking mechanisms designed to secure and immobilise smaller items of value such as personal electronics and power tools. They’re usually designed to be lightweight and very flexible cables for easy transport and handling, while also offering fairly robust resistance to casual tampering, theft or movement.
Thin cables of this sort can often be designed to attach to the user, rather than to a permanent immobile fixture or fitting, and so they’ll often incorporate built-in loops or wrist straps to make them more comfortable and convenient in day-to-day use.
Flexible steel security cables
Flexibility is an important feature in most everyday steel security cables, which is why a great many of them incorporate a braided stainless steel wire design - this has the advantage of offering both flexibility and lightness while also providing impressive tensile and shear strength in a multitude of applications.
Although flexibility is prized in security wire locks of this kind, it’s also important for ease of use that the design and manufacture of steel locking cables prevents easy twisting and tangling. Many leading brands and manufacturers will note that their products are designed from high flexibility but with lower tendency to twist or tangle.
High carbon security cables
‘High carbon’ steel cable refers to an elevated percentage of carbon used in the alloy. Higher carbon ratios in steel alloys generally make for a harder material, while mild steel has relatively lower tensile strength.
Although the hardness of high-carbon steel can make it inherently more brittle and prone to fracture in some applications, braided high carbon steel cables and wires don’t suffer from this issue in the same way as sheet materials would. High carbon steel is still a very popular choice for extra-tough security cables and lockouts, being exceptionally strong with good all-round wear resistance in most cabling and lockable wire applications.