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Vintage Wire Collection

Railroads

Registered
Hi everyone, I wanted to show off some of my vintage wire collection. Sorry for the poor quality of the images. It's too darn hot outside right now to use the outside table.

Some of the wire seen includes Knob & Tube type wire of about 12AWG 1920's vintage, Aluminum wire of 10AWG ( Thank you Keith), 1950's cloth covered Romex of 14AWG and several samples of 1970's era black casing Romex locally manufactured in NC of 14 and 12 AWG.

I need to cut 1 foot sections of this stuff that you can clearly make out Awg and manufacturer and affix them to some kind of display board in the near future with one end stripped to make the conductors visible.

[




Not seen is my 1950's service entrance cable of the cloth covered type.

When it cools off around here and I manage to get my hand held thermometer back from the neighbor :rant: I want to connect up some of the Aluminum wire and load it to 20 amps and see how hot it gets under 2500 watts loading.

Robert
 

slip knot

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
12/27/2019
I could crawl up in my attic and take some pics of most of that stuff still in service.:D
 

pegasuspinto

Registered
Aluminum is an excellent conductor. You likely won't be able to notice any significant difference in temperature between it and copper, on the 'runs'

Aluminum makes poor connections. Over time, aluminum connections tend to oxidize, loosen, and heat, a lot faster then copper will do it. That's why aluminum should be terminated into aluminum rated 'terminals' and dunked in the aluminum anti-corrosive goo.
 

Thaumaturge

In Memory Of
Age
68
Last Subscription Date
07/12/2019
No matter how it is treated aluminum wire will evetually develope high resistance connections. It is impossible to totally keep oxygen away from aluminum connections. Any exposure to oxygen and aluminum will develope an aluminum oxide coating. You can, at best, slow this process down, but you can't practically stop it. Just a fact of physics. This is why aluminum is a bad choice for house wiring.

Might be different if aluminum house wiring was copper plated, like the Chinese now use in many of their products, but I've never seen such available for house wiring.

It would still have the characteristic of generally higher resistance than pure copper, as well as quicker brittlization and fatigue making it unsuitable for typical stranded wire applications, but my own primary opposition to use in house wiring is the high resistance connection problem.
Doc
 

Railroads

Registered
Doc, They did have copper clad aluminum wire of solid core type used in Romex cable. I don't have a piece right now but have seen pics on the web.

I had an interesting conversation with a rep from SW who said they could bring back the aluminum wire using the new 88000 materials and the same manufacturing process as the aluminum service cable with the stranded conductors but it would never sell because the reputation of aluminum wire is too far damaged from the problems of the 1960's and 1970's.

I've seen the Chinese using a lot of aluminum wire in both motors and as hook up leads. Russia also used the solid aluminum wire in the 1960's and over time have had the same issues.

Robert
 

Vanman

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
In commercial, industrial, and utility applications, aluminum is used widely. It seems to be the smaller sizes that are most problematic. But, as you say, the alloys are probably better as well.
 

Birken Vogt

Email NOT Working
Apparently copper coated stranded aluminum is hitting the auto parts stores as a way for Joe Six Pack to rewire his 1983 Chevy cheaper.

I have not seen it but I do not go looking for it either because I always use UL1015/MTW type wire for what I do.
 

DustyBar

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
01/14/2020
I had an electrician tell me oxidized copper is nearly as conductive as clean copper. I bet aluminum oxide has high resistance and increases the heating in connections.
 

Railroads

Registered
Doc, I think you are correct about the cable and heating. Freshly stripped ends of the 10/2 show over the length of the wire only 0.05 ohms resistance. With a 575 watt motor load the wire never got above the temperature of the ambient air at 85 degress F this morning in 1 hour of operation.

Two electric heaters would be close to 2500 watts or 25 amps but I don't have a 120V circuit that could do it. I could use a 1500 watt load at 12 amps but at 95F around here by 12pm I doubt I want to run any electric heaters.

It's just so cool to hold a piece of history in my hands though. I can't thank Keith enough for sending me this stuff to play around with and hold in my hands.

I can't help but to wonder if outlets were available rated for Alum Romex that have the wires inserted into the back and then the screw tightened down forming a clamp of metal around the wire like some Hubbell and Leviton outlets do if the issues with the screw connections would be a non issue? Same idea would have to be used for light switches as well. Wire nutting would still be interesting though. Probably would have to get terminal blocks rated for Alum wire.

Robert
 
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Thaumaturge

In Memory Of
Age
68
Last Subscription Date
07/12/2019
Problem is aluminum oxide is chemically identical with (e.g. exactly the same) as sapphire, which has extremely high resistance. This film developes even between tight twisted connections, or even screw compression fittings. Wiring grease only slows this process down, but won't stop it.

The copper plated aluminum is different because of the 100% shield. But even that will have an open end (where cut) that will permit oxidation to slowly creep between the copper aluminum bond. I'm only speculating such process might take decades, but still confident it would eventually cause problems pure copper wouldn't.

Vanman is correct about larger / commercial usage. I had a piece of power transmission line (from a downed power line) that looked to be pure stranded aluminum.

I can see the logic in industry changing over to at least copper plated aluminum. Aluminum (or at least bauxite) is a far more abundant element than copper, and WAY cheaper (even after initial high cost of production). But once converted from bauxite aluminum can be recycled again and again without duplicating the initial high energy cost.
Doc
 

Vanman

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
For testing purposes you could use a good sized step down transformer with it's primary supplied from a Variac.

The secondary would be connected across any wire and connections to test, all in series, with an ammeter as well.

The power dissipation would be very low, limited to only the losses in the equipment under test and the transformers. No need to power unneeded loads.:brows:
 

Railroads

Registered
Hmm, That setup is similar to how John Ward in his Youtube videos destroys dubious cords and plugs.

Purposeful testing to destruction was not really what I had in mind. I wanted to see what happens under normal loading at reasonable amperage draws. Aluminum seems to perform just as good as copper for that purpose but suffers from connection issues over a long period of time which is very hard to simulate in a short time frame.

I wonder how the alloy could be changed to prevent or slow the formation of the oxide layer? Why does the Aluminum feed cables coming to homes not cause more issues? I see they are now allowing Aluminum service cable for dryers, stoves, water heaters, central AC units, electric furnaces. Must be fun trying to find a 240 outlet that is rated for Aluminum. The last one I bought said copper only.

I do find it interesting that Aluminum wire is not offered for sale to electricians doing repairs on existing circuits for making up pigtails. Seems Alu to Alu has less issues than going Alu to Copper.

Alum wire was used for a short time in car electrical systems, Cessna type air planes and on the GE U50 series locomotives built for Union Pacific. The U50's all suffered fires do to the aluminum wire failing that supplied the traction motors with 600 volts DC and hundreds of amps.

Robert
 
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Power

Registered
I despise aluminum wire.
That said, in this area, virtually all residential services installed from 1960's on have aluminum service entrance cable. I have been into panels with aluminum service entrance wire that are 50 years old, and have not seen any signs of failure. When I serviced older structures, I would put my hand on meter pan looking for overheating.

When I upgraded my own service about 15 years ago, I wanted copper service entrance cable. None of the supply houses in the area stocked it! If I wanted copper, they would have to special order me a full coil!

The utilities in this area use aluminum wire and service drops, and dry crimp- no antiox.

In 1994-1996, I was part of a crew that wired several all electric apartment buildings. All wire over 12 GA was aluminum. Services, HVAC units, ranges, clothes dryers, hot water heaters were all aluminum. We used liberal amounts of the special antiox grease and torque wrenches. Job foreman was required to inspect all aluminum connections.

The apartments are close to my house. Over 20 years, and no issues. So- although I do not like it, time has shown that properly installed- with correct antiox, aluminum rated cable terminations properly tightened, aluminum wire is serviceable.
 

Vanman

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
07/10/2019
Robert, the arrangement with the transformers need not be used to destroy anything, just dial in the current that you want using the Variac. If you want to test the wire and cable under the same conditions as say a 1500 watt load, just dial in 12-1/2 amps.
 

Railroads

Registered
Keith, It is just easier to use the resistance elements. Transformers of any size are non existent in my collection. Some time I want to find a 7.5KVA 480/240 to 120/240 type but that is a little later on.

Power, Copper service cable is very rare down here. Everything is connected with either 4/0 or 2/0, 1/0 cable all of which is aluminum.

Robert
 

Power

Registered
Power, Copper service cable is very rare down here. Everything is connected with either 4/0 or 2/0, 1/0 cable all of which is aluminum.

Robert
I believe it is nationwide, but I said in this area because I only did electrical work in this area, and have no first hand knowledge of what is used in other parts of USA. There is a big cost difference between copper and alternatives, be it aluminum wire or plastic pipe instead of copper.

To be a successful bidder, contractor's estimators must use lowest cost materials specifications allow.

Occasionally, we would see an owner go ballistic about something, usually plastic pipe. Plumbing contractor would tell them it meets your engineer's specifications and quote an extra for copper. I never saw a job change to copper.
 
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