DIY Patch / Audio Cable Making – by Cliff White

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Fun DYI – Making cables

by Cliff White

You can never have enough VCAs. And, you can never have enough patch cables.
Making your own cables is a good intro to DYI, can save you a little money, and provide some fun! In this post, I’ll show you some cables I’ve made and talk a little about the materials you need.

Tools.
I spent years of my life waiting for cheap soldering irons to heat up. Buy a decent soldering station. Mine came from SparkFun, they sell some decent cheap ones.

You will want something to test your patch cables with. A voltmeter with a continuity tester, sometimes called a diode tester is very handy.

Voltmeter

Voltmeter

I’ve had this old Fluke for years. Notice the little diode symbol. The meter beeps where there is continuity. You can also buy dedicated cable testers. This unit travels in my gig bag. The modern version is available for $29 and well worth it.

Cable Tester

Cable Tester

Jacks

Jacks

 

Parts.

Connectors are easy to find, but if you want them cheap, get them online. I use REAN/Neutrik parts, purchased from Mouser. Here’s the URL:

http://www.mouser.com/Search/ProductDetail.aspx?R=NYS226virtualkey56810000virtualkey568- NYS226

Notice the price comes down when you buy in quantity. Get all your friends together and make a bulk purchase, you might as well have lot’s!

Finding cable can be a headache. Your local Radio Shack probably has only speaker cable, and that’s just too big. When I started making cables, I started by scrounging around the old basement. If you have for example an old computer, there’s quite a bit of wire in there. Here’s a few things I’ve re- purposed into patch cables.

– Old computer switch wires. Many computer will have bundles of nice twisted pair wires for the power switches, case LED’s, etc. I started using these with Arduino projects, because they already had female pin connectors attached to them.

LEGO COMPUTER DUDE

LEGO COMPUTER DUDE

Old RCA Cables from old stereo gear. Older ones have nice flexible wire, split them in half, chop the ends off and away your go.
RCA Before

RCA Before

RCA After

RCA After

Having multiple patch cables tied together can be handy for some modules. Old VGA Cables for example have 8 wires and make a nice 4-pair cable.

VGA DIY Patch Cables

VGA DIY Patch Cables

VGA DIY PATCH CABLES

VGA DIY PATCH CABLES

Another style of cable I’ve experimented with is flat ribbon cable, which is normally used for disk drives. The grey flat cable is a bit flimsy for external use, but works great for wiring inside boxes. I found some heavier-gauge stuff online, reminded me of the cables I used with huge SMD drives.

DIY Ribbon Patch Cable

DIY Ribbon Patch Cable

Finally, you can just buy some wire. I use 50 ohm coax, which is nice and thin. This came from Jameco:
Coaxial Cable

Coaxial Cable

And I use it to make these nice neat patch cables.

Fancy DIY PATCH CABLE

Fancy DIY PATCH CABLE

I put a bit of colored heat-shrink on the ends. Helps me identify things.
So, dive in! Make your rig a bit more personal, and perhaps a bit more colorful.