It turns out this is harder than it looks, but someone watching the event told me an easy way to do it using a soda straw which I thought was clever enough to pass along [sorry to whoever told me this the show, I failed to write down your name!]. It also reminded me of several other time saver techniques that use a tube.

The Problem

It’s fairly common to need to feed a ball-chain down a wall cavity from a hole in a wall stud (rather than down from a hole in the top plate). If you have ever tried to do this through a ½” or smaller hole, you’ll notice two things. 1) it is darn hard to feed the chain through the hole! You gotta poke it through using something handy off the floor or a screwdriver and “tease” it in till it falls from it’s own weight [I saw guys at the show take 5 min. to do this!], and 2) once the chain is through and down, it will be up against the stud, usually not where you want it.

The Solution

Both problems can be solved by using a small tube to quickly feed the chain through the hole and get it where you want it. The tube can be as simple as a soda straw or a thin- walled aluminum or brass tube from the hobby or hardware store. I’ll show you both. The first set of photos below shows how to get the chain started in the straw, how to insert it in the hole, and how to position it when you want it. The obvious issue here is the length of a typical soda straw may be too short, but I’ve seen some big ones at the pizza place.

If straws seem too “amateurish”, you can get thin-walled aluminum or brass tubes in various diameters (I prefer the ¼” diameter – fits the smallest hole and is wide enough for ball chain or fish tapes), from Ace Hardware or hobby shops. They’re used for model airplane work. A 3′ length should be fine for most jobs. This length allows the tube to be slid horizontally or vertically (or any angle really) through several wood members where you have drilled a “straight shot”.

Top-left: thread the chain through the tube. Length of chain protruding should be LESS than the length of the tube!

Top-right: feed tube and chain through previously drilled hole.

Left: Once chain is free of hole, rapidly wiggle tube up and down to start the chain falling into the cavity. Works better if you can lift the chain you’re feeding to take the tension off chain “flowing” into the tube. Position it where you need it.

The next set of photos shows how a longer metal tube can be used to get a ball chain through several wall cavities. Of course you can cut the tube shorter if you need to.

Remember, when you pre-feed the chain into the tube, you only want a few inches out the end. If you feed in more before pushing it through the holes, the chain will be stuck in the wrong wall cavity. It has to fall loose in the cavity you want it.

Photo shows a tube fed through two stud bays with ball-chain down into the far cavity (I doctored the photo so you can see the chain). The tube just follows the holes made by ½” drill on a shaft. Having a downward slant helps feed the chain!
This photo shows a more typical use of the tube. I fed a thin steel fish “tape” (wound on the round metal tube) through the tube. You can just make it out curving down the far wall cavity.

Several sizes of small diameter metal fish tape are available from Labor Saving Devices from 3′ on up, in either small aluminum or plastic tubes. I have a 3′ and 10′ length. They have small hooks on each end (just visible in the photo) for attaching cable. These tapes are great for fishing up into an attic from the top of a window or door.

The photo below (sorry for the poor quality) shows how you would typically use the tube with the fish tape. If you need to fish a security sensor wire to a window or door location from one or more stud bays away, the tube trick works great. It works even better when you’re drilling up into an attic space. After drilling the hole through the top header, up through the top plate, remove the drill. Now just feed the tube back up the holes you made.

Assuming the holes line up (you kept the drill shaft straight), you’ll be able to fish the tube up easily. Now feed the fish tape up the tube and into the attic where someone can retrieve it with a fiberglass pole with a Z tip on the end. Done.

If you have any questions about anything in this TIP or VoIP story to relate, drop me an
e-mail at I will actually answer it!

For other Training Reels TIPS, visit