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Shop Talk

April 2018 Issue

Plane and Simple

A second life for Cleco pliers.

Cleco pliers holding the cable, thimble, and sleeve in position. This frees up both of your hands to operate the swaging tool.

Many of us work on our aircraft projects by ourselves. Generally, most building tasks require only one set of hands. There are, however, a few operations that certainly do require temporary assistance. An example is bucking rivets in locations that no human can reach solo. There are a variety of other building procedures that also need a minimum of three hands. You can see a builder get really creative when a multi-handed task is at hand and no helper person is available. Clamps, duct tape, and even glue come to mind as means that allow us to improvise for creating that extra hand to finish a critical step that cannot wait!

A task that fits this scenario is swaging the ends of control cables. This critical operation usually requires one person to operate the large swaging tool and another set of hands to carefully position the cable, thimble, and sleeve before the squeezing can proceed. And, if your helper is not familiar with this procedure, it can take a bit of time to explain, train, and practice with him or her before starting.

One handle of the Cleco pliers is clamped in the vise, while the other handle is restrained with a rubber band, providing tension on the cable and thimble.

Some builders are already familiar with the challenge of swaging cables with only two hands. One trick is to use a vise to hold one handle of the swaging tool while your hands operate the other handle and hold the thimble and related components.

Recently, a builder shared another technique for creating a helping hand for swaging operations. It involves common Cleco pliers, along with a table vise and rubber band. An understanding of how this combination operates requires a picture or two in order to eliminate a thousand words of explanation!

Note that only one handle of the Cleco pliers is locked into the vise jaws, while the other handle is restrained with a rubber band to allow adjustment of tension as desired. The rubber band provides a clamping force to the cable and thimble, so you can easily place the cable, thimble, and sleeve into their desired positions. As soon as you are ready, your two hands are free to operate the swaging tool. No second person is involved who may tire or disturb the components while you take your time to make a perfect, swaged connection.

Of course, there is only one person to blame now if the results are not up to your standards! It won’t take long for you to decide whether this new function for your Cleco pliers makes sense the next time you need a helping hand for swaging the ends of cables.

As the founder of, Jon Croke has produced instructional videos for Experimental aircraft builders for over 10 years. He has built (and helped others build) over a dozen kit aircraft of all makes and models. Jon is a private pilot and currently owns and flies a Zenith Cruzer.

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