How to Choose Between Swage, Swageless or Hex-Lock Cable Railing Hardware

When it comes to choosing cable railing hardware, a question we receive almost daily is, “how do I choose between swage, swageless and the Hex-Lock hardware?” Let’s go over a few key points together to help you make an informed decision.



Swage is a verb which means to crimp or to pinch the metal fitting onto the cable. A specialized tool is required to perform this function. Not all tools are the same. Most hardware store swage tools are made for copper, aluminum or led fittings. The metal the tools are made of is not sufficiently hard enough to make impressions in swage stainless steel cable railing fittings. If they do make an impression most will fail to do so after the first few swages. Getting a tool that has been made for stainless fittings is key. Once Swaged the cable cannot be removed and will need to be cut off if changes need to be made.


Swageless fittings attach to cable with a form a compression system. Once the cable has been inserted into the swageless head you simply tighten the head forcing the cable jaw to compress against the cable as it is pushed into the tapered head. Cable can be removed from swageless fittings should changes need to be made.


The Hex-Lock is a simple design. Insert cable and lock it into place by tightening the 3 included hex screws securely holding the cable in place. Hex-Lock fittings are the easiest fittings to work with. They require the least amount of tools and corrections are easily made by simply loosening the hex screws and removing the cable for a trim.


Swage hardware is very thin and has the smallest profile overall. Swageless hardware is much bulkier but some may prefer a more nautical design. If you want your rail inlay to disappear and that is the key deciding factor with cable railing hardware, go 1/8″ cable with swage hardware. If the stainless cable will be a large part of the design of your space, go with 3/16″ cable or swageless as it presents a larger profile and will reflect much more light.

Hex-Lock hardware is just as sleek as swage hardware, however it is much larger in diameter. It has a very hi polish or shine to it. They look excellent in all indoor applications as well as exterior.

Higher Cost = Ease of installation and ability to make corrections

The cost of your hardware is directly correlated to ease of installation and the ability to make corrections. If this is a one and done project, Swageless or Hex-Lock may be the best fit for you. Swage hardware is the least expensive though it requires the initial purchase of a swage tool. It also is the least forgiving as once the fittings have been swaged they will need to be cut should you run out of tensioning for example. The size of the project is also a key factor. The savings on swage over a swageless or a Hex-Lock design on a large project would far outweigh the cost of a swage tool so in the case swage hardware could make all the sense in the world. In general the more you spend on a tool the better the swage and in most cases the nicer the appearance of the impression will be. For smaller projects the cost savings is less noticeable and swageless or Hex-Lock systems are a great choice. As always, feel free to contact us anytime. We are here to help you build what you have in mind.