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