I may be missing something, but how useful is a cord reel such as the one pictured with a 100-ft long extension cord?


I'd like to think that a 100-ft extension cable with a pretty good gauge (12) would act as a substitute for a 50-ft and even for a 25-ft cable. But after winding on such a cord reel, one end will be inaccessible, and so even to use it as just a 25-ft extension, I'd have to unwind the whole thing out. Is that right?

I saw suggestions online to buy a specialized reel that picks up the extension cable from its centerpoint. That would solve the problem, but it would also introduce a stress point through excessive bending. Yet another suggestion online is to avoid a reel altogether and use a piece of wood, though I'd really rather not spend half a day fabricating something like this myself.

  • 2
    The cord reels that I have used had a provision to let the inner end of the extension cord (inner in terms of the end wound up first on the reel) stick out the side at the center hole. That way the business end was always accessible no matter how much you chose to unwind. The reel pictured in your posting may not support that feature.
    – Michael Karas
    Dec 31, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    If you need a 100' cord, by all means buy it. Having said that, you'd probably pay about the same for 2-50' cords and have way better manageability. Harbor Fright sells cheap and cheery cord reels that probably hold a 100' for about 10 bucks that will allow one end of the cord to stick out of the bottom of the roll. Dec 31, 2015 at 20:51
  • I have a reel with built in female sockets on the reel, and a male plug that reels out. It had a warning label saying the cord must be fully extended before using to avoid overheating. I imagine your cord-on-reel would have the same issue. You're not supposed to be able to use the cord when it's partially reeled.
    – JPhi1618
    Dec 31, 2015 at 21:02
  • I have one of those reels designed to grip the cord at the center, and it is molded to not bend the cord sharply anywhere. The only downside is that I have to place the reel halfway between the outlet and the load. Dec 31, 2015 at 21:49
  • I have been told by an EE that one shouldn't use a rolled extension cord, but I'm not sure he made the jump from theory to real world. In a practical sense, unrolling the whole thing will show you if there's any damage to the cord. Dec 31, 2015 at 22:41

3 Answers 3


Those cord reels are very useful. You'll need a BIG one to hold a 100' 12 gauge though. If you leave 6" or so hanging out one of the big holes on the side, you can wrap it with the end accessible.

I wrap these with the female end on the spool, so you plug it in first and walk to where you're working. I guess it works OK either way.

They make cord reels with receptacles on the spool ...

enter image description here

and those work great except when you're working on a ladder. Sometimes the cord on the tool isn't long enough to reach this thing on the ground.

When you're working on a ladder it's nice to be able to pull some slack off either end. This is a pretty good way to go:

bucket cord storage

That's from a tip sent into Fine Homebuilding.

The Cordwiz Pro

Cordwiz Pro

does the same thing as the bucket trick, if you'd rather not do it homemade.

One other thing to get if you're shopping, a portable GFCI

portable gfci

  • Great summary. Thanks. Could you suggest a keyword for "This thing" that "does the same thing as the bucket trick, if [I]'d rather not do it homemade." so I can search for it?
    – Calaf
    Jan 1, 2016 at 22:30
  • @Calaf, I'll edit the answer - It's called the Cordwiz or Cordwiz Pro. Jan 1, 2016 at 23:06

In point of fact you are not supposed to use an extension cord without unreeling the whole thing, due to potential heat buildup. The not-a-liability-lawer approach actually pays attention to the load on the end when making that decision in practice - if running a heavy load or a continuous moderate load, don't leave it rolled up.

There are a variety of approaches to make the inner end reachable, such as clipping it to the side of the reel. If it takes you half a day to make a wood version, you are overthinking it or working remarkably slowly.

  • Well, after adding the time needed to select an appropriate router (which is necessary for this project, and I don't own one yet) and to learn to use it, it's probably going to be even more than half a day :-)
    – Calaf
    Jan 2, 2016 at 3:41

Personally, I would recommend learning how to "flip-coil". It's kinder to the cable than most of these alternatives (especially important with more expensive and more fragile wiring like sound reinforcement), it pays out without tangling, and once you learn it you'll find it useful for everything frome rope to hoses. Easier ti demonstrate than describe, but if you can't find someone to teach you it's not hard to find vids and/or diagrams on the web.

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