A guide to cable machines

Drain cleaning cable tools and machines use rotational power that is transferred along a flexible, spiral-shaped cable to the cutting tool at the head.  

Cable tools and machines are available in a wide range of configurations, including simple hand-operated tools, drill-driven power tools, and larger units with independent electric motors. Powered machines have the advantage of variable speed, which offers greater control and less risk of pipe damage. In recent times, high-speed flexible shaft machines have grown in popularity due to their enhanced cleaning capabilities and are becoming a must-have tool for drainage contractors and plumbers.

Wire-wound cables are sized to suit the pipe diameter and have the flexibility to pass through bends while offering the strength and stability to tackle obstructions and residue build-ups in the pipe. Cables can be used with a multitude of cutting heads, from simple tools such as the straight or funnel augers, through cutting and blade heads to carbide-tipped milling cutters and drill heads. 

Contents 

  1. FLEXIBLE SHAFT MACHINES
  2. DRUM + SECTIONAL MACHINES
  3. CABLE MACHINES AT A GLANCE 
  4. CLEANING AUGURS + CUTTERS 

 

1. HIGH-SPEED FLEXIBLE-SHAFT MACHINES

High-speed flexible shaft technology is relatively new to the sector but has seen rapid growth in use.

The torsional strength of the flexible shaft when rotated at speeds up to 3,000 rpm makes these types of cable machines a powerful option for wall-to-wall pipe cleaning. Powered either by a small electric motor or hand drill, flexible shaft cutters are ideal for the rapid removal of rust, cement, lime and small tree roots in domestic drains and sewers.

The sharp cleaning head at the leading end of the cable is sized to the diameter of the pipe being treated, making it useful for applications such as CIPP preparation and scale removal. With the correct cutting heads, flexible shaft cleaners can be used in different pipe materials such as concrete, cast iron and PVC. This is further enhanced by the ability to control the speed and torque of the cutter, reducing the risk of pipe damage and improving the effectiveness of the clean.

 High-speed Flexible-shaft Machines

1. WALL-TO-WALL CLEANING

The flexibility and strength of the shaft allows easy access to tight, twisting pipe runs. A wide range of chain heads or knockers can be used in different drain types and diameters, with carbide tip heads suitable for cast iron and concrete pipes and smooth chain heads for PVC pipes. There are also drill heads available for the toughest jobs.

2. EASE OF USE + TRANSPORT

Typically compact and lightweight, these units often include wheels for ease of transportation. In some cases, the electric engine pack and the reel can be separated and used independently. The spring is protected with a flexible cover that aids navigation through the tightest of bends and is easy to clean.

3. RADIO REMOTE CONTROL

Typically compact and lightweight, these units often include wheels for ease of transportation. In some cases, the electric engine pack and the reel can be separated and used independently. The spring is protected with a flexible cover that aids navigation through the tightest of bends and is easy to clean.

4. MACHINES CAN BE USED WITH CCTV

As flexible shafts cleaners are water-free they can be used in conjunction with a drain camera system. The outer covering on the shaft protects the camera from damage and allows the operator to view the pipe as it is being cleaned. The camera is fed into the drain just behind the spinning end of the cable.

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2. DRUM + SECTIONAL MACHINES

Cable machines operate using variable speed to spin, scour and cut as the cables are fed into a drain.

Drain cable machines are also commonly known as ‘spring machines’ or ‘drain snakes’ and range in size and features based on the type of cleaning task. The two main types of cable machines are drum and sectional, or suitcase, designs. Both utilise flexible cable lengths with a range of cleaning and cutting heads. In simple terms, a drum machine contains the entire length of cable in its housing (the drum), whereas sectional machines use coupled sections of cable that are transported separately. Both types have advantages. Enclosed drum machines are cleaner for internal work and easily transportable. Sectional machines are lightweight and capable of longer runs, with operators only needing to transport the length of cable that is required for a specific task.

As drain cleaning technology has advanced machines have become lighter, more powerful and safer to use. The variety of scouring cables and cutting blades has also evolved to allow the machines to tackle a wide range of drain cleaning applications.

manual handtools
Powered Handtools
Drum Machines
Sectional Machines

MANUAL HANDTOOLS

Manual hand tools are designed for use in shorter runs of small pipes for tasks such as unblocking and clearing domestic drains, urinals and toilets. Small manual hand tools include closet augers and hand-operated drum machines for a range of applications in pipes up to 150 mm.

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POWERED HANDTOOLS

Commonly used by contractors and plumbers, powered hand tools are typically drill operated, which speeds the unblocking process on smaller drains. The use of variable-speed makes it possible to control the forward and reverse rotation of the cable for more effective blockage clearing.

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DRUM MACHINES

Drum machines are ideally suited to the professional clearing of domestic and commercial drain blockages. The compact nature of these machines means they are easy to transport and store with the performance to handle most types of blockages encountered by drainage contractors and plumbers.

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SECTIONAL MACHINES

Utilising powerful electric motors, Sectional or ‘Suitcase’ machines are suited to cleaning over longer distances. Lightweight, simple to transport and easy to use, they are particularly useful when cleaning longer runs, such as downpipes, in commercial premises and apartment buildings.

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3. CABLE MACHINES AT-A-GLANCE

Sourcing the right machine for the job can be a time-consuming process. We hope this at-a-glance guide may make the task a little easier…

MANUAL HAND TOOLS
Manual Hand Tools Applications:
Sinks Bathtubs, Overflows, Small Pipes

Suited to:
Clearing light blockages in domestic drains.

Cleaning Heads:
Bulbous Heads

Pipe Size
 32mm - 50mm
Cable Length  Up to 7.5m
Cable Dia.  6/7mm
Our Applications Type D Drain Cleaning Hand Tool
Closet Auger Drain Cleaning Hand Tool
Syphon Pump Drain Cleaning Hand Tool

 

POWERED HAND TOOLS
Powered Hand Tools  

Applications:
Sinks Bathtubs, Overflows, Small Pipes

Suited to:
Clearing light blockages and
cleaning domestic drains.

Cleaning Heads:
Bulbous Heads Cutting Knives, Chain Heads, 
Drill Heads, Tulip Cutters

Pipe Size
 32mm - 75mm
Cable Length  Up to 10m
Cable Dia.  6/8/10mm
Our Application  HandMatic

 

FLEXIBLE SHAFT MACHINES (SMALL)
Flexible Shaft Machines Small  

Applications:
Small Pipes Soil Pipes, Main Lines, 
Difficult Obstructions

Suited to:
Wall-to-wall cleaning and the removal of
hard deposits.

Cleaning Heads:
Chain Knockers, Drill Heads

Pipe Size
 38mm - 75mm
Cable Length  Up to 10m
Cable Dia.  8mm
Our Applications  RioFlex Mini PVC
 RioFlex Mini Concrete/Metal

 

FLEXIBLE SHAFT MACHINES
Flexible Shaft Machines  

Applications:
Small Pipes Soil Pipes, Main Lines, 
Difficult Obstructions

Suited to:
Wall-to-wall cleaning and the removal
of hard deposits.

Cleaning Heads:
Chain Knockers, Drill Heads

Pipe Size
 38mm - 75mm
Cable Length  Up to 10m
Cable Dia.  8mm
Our Applications  RioFlex 8mm
 RioFlex 10mm

 

SMALL DRUM MACHINES
Small Drum Machines  

Applications:
Sinks Bathtubs, Small Drains with Longer Runs

Suited to:
Efficient cleaning of domestic and
light commercial drains.

Cleaning Heads:
Bulbous Heads, Cutting Knives, 
Chain Heads, Drill Heads, Tulip Cutters

Pipe Size
 32mm - 75mm
Cable Length  Up to 15m
Cable Dia.  6/8/10/15mm
Our Application  FlexMatic+

 

LARGE DRUM MACHINES
Large Drum Machines  

Applications:
Small Drains, Main Lines, Difficult Obstructions

Suited to:
Robust cleaning of domestic and
commercial drains and sewers.

Cleaning Heads:
Bulbous Heads, Funnel Heads, 
Cutting Knives Chain Heads,  
Drill Heads, Tulip Cutters, 
Root Cutters, Retrieving Hooks

Pipe Size
 40mm - 250mm
Cable Length  Up to 20m
Cable Dia.  10/13/16/20mm
Our Applications  Master Drum Spring Machine
 Allround+

 

SUITCASE MACHINES
Suitcase Machines  

Applications:
Small Drains Main Lines with Longer
Runs Downpipes Difficult Obstructions

Suited to:
Long distance cleaning of
domestic and light commercial drains.

Cleaning Heads:
Bulbous Heads, Cutting Knives
Chain Heads, Drill Heads
Root Cutters, Retrieving Hooks

Pipe Size
 32mm - 160mm
Cable Length  Up to 40m
Our Application  Victor Drain Cleaning Spring Machine

 

 4. CABLE MACHINE AUGERS & CUTTERS

Here we aim to describe the wide range of augers, cutters and chain heads available for cable machines.

Quality, durability and application is key in choosing from the wide variety of spring widths, lengths, couplings and heads to suit the type of cable machines. As a note of caution, it can be a false economy to buy springs and cleaning heads based solely on price. Opting for a manufacturer’s high-quality spring or head ensures the right fit for the machine and is likely to last much longer and provide better performance than some of the low-cost alternatives.

 

CABLE CUTTERS & CHAIN HEADS
Tulip Cutters

 

TULIP CUTTERS

Ideal for removing hardened deposits and rust without damaging pipes or getting stuck.

Sizes: 10 - 75mm cutters for 10 - 22mm cables

Root Cutters  

 

ROOT CUTTERS

For clearing drains blocked by roots, rags and other debris causing stoppages.

Sizes: 65 - 90mm cutters for 16 - 22mm cables

Blade Drills

 

BLADE DRILLS

Clears blockages and build-ups caused by hardened materials like chemical deposits. 

Sizes: 10 - 90mm cutters for 22mm cables

Cutting Knifes

 

CUTTING KNIFES

For milling drains by cutting and scraping material attached to the pipe wall.

Sizes: 35 - 125mm cutters for 10 - 22mm cables

Diamond Heads

 

DIAMOND HEADS

Suited to clearing detergent build-ups and  pipes tarnished with chalk or urine stones.  

Sizes: For 16 - 22mm cables

Chain Heads

 

CHAIN HEADS

Expand to removing scale and hard deposits from the walls of steel and iron pipes.

Various configurations for 10 - 22mm cables

 

CABLE AUGERS
Straight Heads  

 

STRAIGHT HEADS

Often used as an exploratory tool for determining the head for the task.

Sizes: For 10 - 22mm cables

Funnel Head  

 

FUNNEL HEAD

The funnel is often used after a straight auger to break up any remains of the blockage.

Sizes: For 10 - 22mm cables

Bulbous Heads

 

BULBOUS HEADS

Suited to light cleaning in curved pipes and removing loose objects and broken cables.

Sizes: For 10 - 22mm cables

Retrieving Hook

 

RETRIEVING HOOK

Principally used to remove obstacles from pipes such as cloths, wet wipes and other objects.

Sizes: For 10 - 22mm cables

 

CUTTERS, CHAIN HEADS & AUGERS FOR RIONED APPLICATIONS

 

FLEX-SHAFT KNOCKERS & DRILL HEADS
Smooth Chain Knockers  

 

SMOOTH CHAIN KNOCKERS

Commonly used to descale following cleaning, they also cope well with FOG and similar soft deposits.

Sizes: 40 - 100mm cutters for 8 - 10mm flex-shaft cables

Carbide-tipped Chain Knockers

 

CARBIDE-TIPPED CHAIN KNOCKERS

For removing hard debris from hard-walled pipes and cutting through FOG, scale, and roots.

Sizes: 40 - 100mm cutters for 8 - 10mm flex-shaft cables

Driller Heads

 

DRILLER HEADS

Drilling is sometimes the best method of breaking through tough obstacle such as roots, debris and scale.

Sizes: 40mm cutters for 8 - 10mm flex-shaft cables

 

KNOCKERS, DRILL HEADS & OTHER ACCESSORIES FOR THE RIOFLEX

 

cable care

CABLE CARE

Modern cables have a steel inner core with plastic outer for more cleaning power and extra durability. Springs or cables are available in diameters from 6mm to 22mm to suit the type of machine. To extend the life of springs it is recommended to regularly use a specialist cable oil that acts as a rust inhibitor to cut through moisture and provide a rust-resistant coating.

 

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