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line of steel turnbuckles with jaw end fittings used to hold up a steel beam of an architecture

How to Use a Turnbuckle

Turnbuckles are popularly used in the lifting and rigging industry where tensioning lines are imperative. These items work to increase the strength of your lines by applying them in a straightforward process. However, choosing the right turnbuckle for the job will ensure it functions properly and safely for years to come.

Learn more about what turnbuckles are, the different types of these devices, and how to use them in specific applications and jobs.

What is a Turnbuckle?

steel turnbuckle with double eye bolt end fittings from us cargo control

A turnbuckle is a device commonly used to take up slack and adjust the tension or length of various ropes, cables, wires, and other lines. Turnbuckles are versatile and can be used for a wide range of applications, from securing loads to tightening fence wire, and are commonly found in architectural, rigging, and marine applications.

Each turnbuckle consists of two end fittings connected to a metal frame and a central threaded rod that rotates to increase or decrease the tension between the end fittings. These hook onto an anchor point on one end and the line assembly on the other end and pull together to tighten the slack of the rope assembly without twisting the line.

Types of Turnbuckles

Turnbuckles come in various materials, styles, end fittings, and sizes to accommodate your needs. These devices come in galvanized or stainless steel, and can sometimes consist of a pipe casing to cover and protect the internal threads.  

U.S. Cargo Control offers different combinations of end fittings for turnbuckles that you can choose from:

You can also find different branded turnbuckles such as our Crosby® and European-made Van Beest devices that are high quality and tested for enhanced performance.

line of steel turnbuckles with jaw end fittings used to hold up a steel beam of an architecture

How to Use a Turnbuckle

  1. Unscrew Both End Fittings
    Before installing your turnbuckle, you'll want to unscrew each end fitting until they're completely extended. Do this by unscrewing both threads using your hands. You should see both of them equally extended from both sides of the device's body. If your turnbuckle has a pipe casing and you can't tell if the threaded rod is fully extended, then refer to your instructions or contact a product expert for more information.
  2. Attach to the Anchor Point
    Once you extended the end fittings, take one end and attach it to the anchor point of your choosing. This includes a jaw or hook attaching to an eye bolt, or even an eye bolt end fitting catching onto a hook anchor point. Overall, the anchor point should be safely secured so as not to pull, break, or crumble from tensioning pressures.
  3. Attach to the Cable Line
    Furthermore, extend the other end to the cable line of your choice and secure it. You may need additional hardware to properly secure the turnbuckle to the cable line without fear of breaking or snapping the cable. This includes shackles, wire rope thimbles, stainless steel nuts, and more. Choose the right securement option appropriate for the tensioning job at hand.
  4. Tighten the Turnbuckle
    Finally, after securing both ends of the turnbuckle, tighten the body using your hand, screwdriver, wrench, or other device to increase tension of your cable. Adjust the tension slowly and evenly, making sure both ends of the turnbuckle tighten at the same rate. This prevents the cable or wire from twisting or warping, weakening its overall strength.

5 Common Turnbuckle Applications

Whether you realize it or not, turnbuckles are used all around you. With so many different applications to use them for, it can be hard to spot them. We narrowed down a list of 5 common applications for turnbuckles:

wooden tensile structure using wire rope and turnbuckles

1. Construction

Turnbuckles keep tension for tensile structures like large buildings and stand-alone towers. Steel cell phone towers, for example, utilize turnbuckles that keep wire cable taught and pulled in various directions in order to keep the tower standing. Tensioning tall structures is a common practice when they don't have enough base support to keep them standing.

2. Boating & Maritime Transportation

If you ever went sail boating before, then you may recall seeing the rigging system utilize turnbuckles. This is a common method that makes it easy to tighten the ropes or release the slack to adjust the direction of the sails. Another common item, snatch blocks, also work to keep tensions tight in a sail boat rigging assembly, and commonly work with turnbuckles to keep the ropes tight.

pipe turnbuckles used on wire rope fence line

3. Fence Lines

Pipe-casing turnbuckles are used for fence lines. Keeping these lines tight and upright is imperative, especially for farmers wanting animals fenced in pastures or other open fields. Turnbuckles make it easy to keep wire rope taught and able to withstand heavy forces.

4. Suspension Bridges

Heavy-duty turnbuckles also help support suspension bridges! Since these structures rely on tensioning, utilizing tools like turnbuckles make it easier to adjust the cable to the certain tightness that they need to be at.

turnbuckles holding cable ropes of a wrestling ring together

5. Sports Entertainment Industry

Lastly, turnbuckles are very prevalent throughout the sports entertainment industry! These devices tighten ropes for boxing and wrestling rings, with the corners covered up by protective padding. Production workers use turnbuckles to tension the ropes to their appropriate tightness to keep competitors safe during their matches.

Safe Use of Turnbuckles

When using turnbuckles, you work against some pretty serious tensioning forces. Make sure you use these devices within their rated capacities and secure the end fittings to prevent any snapback. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when operating turnbuckles: 

  • Always use turnbuckles in straight pull, in-line applications. Never use turnbuckles in side load applications.
  • Always know what the working load limits (WLL) are for each component used in the rigging assembly.
  • If using nuts or bolts, then make sure they are in good working condition and fit the thread size of the end fitting.
  • Ensure the anchor point(s) are solid and won't break under tight tensioning forces.
  • Never use different-sized threads for your turnbuckle if you need to replace any components.

If you need you questions answered on how to safely set up your configuration, please contact our product experts today before you attempt your setup.

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Contact our product experts at (866) 444-9990 or email us today for any questions you may have on our rigging hardware.

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