A number of users had expressed interest in a guide for making custom cables. My previous guide on where to find custom cable materials can be found here.
What do you need
In order to make a cable, you will need some parts obviously.
This is the most necessary part for obvious reasons. This is what actually transmits the electronic signal from point A to point B. This cable will not be seen so try and get the highest quality cable, without concern over looks. The best cable I have found is microphone cable which comes with three conductors standard. Whether you are creating single wire braids or using the cable on its own this is the best cable to use.
Before you start you should have an idea of what you would like to connect. In this tutorial I am making a standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable so I will need two male 3.5mm connectors. Make sure you get good connectors from reputable sources as this piece not only provides invaluable function to your cable but will also be seen. The connector must look good and perform well.
- Cable sleeve.
This is purely for looks and you can use whatever you would like to give your cables a custom look. I have used paracord and tech flex in the past. This piece is mostly used for looks but if your cable is not properly shielded cable wraps might introduce extra noise to your wire. Paracord is non-microphonic so it is good for smaller, non-shielded cables. Techflex is fairly microphonic and should be used with well shielded cables.
- Heat shrink.
This will be used to clean up connections and is pretty widely available.
d. Soldering Iron. I’m not a soldering expert (as you will see) so unfortunately I cannot give any good recommendations except for the one I use. (Amazon link)
e. Soldering helping hands (not necessary but they help!)
f. Heat gun or blow dryer
I used to make cables with limited light, and this is by far the most under appreciated tool at your disposal. More light makes everything WAY easier, especially when trying to put together small electronics. Get yourself a work lamp like this to help light your station.
Anatomy of a cable
The cable below is what we will try to replicate today, albeit much prettier.
To keep it simple the cable will consist of three parts. Connector A, cable, and Connector B. It is pretty simple to see how these parts flow in the picture above. Connector A connects to the cable which connects to Connector B. It is important to understand this as we head into the actual build.
Lets start with the cables. In order to create single wire braided cables we will need to start with single wires. If you are going to be using microphone wire as a whole you can skip to the sleeving section.
Today we are using paracord to wrap our cables. As seen above. First lets strip the microphone cable down to its individual parts. As you can see below the cable is made up of 5 parts. Two individually sleeved cables, shielding, the ground wire, and the outer sleeve. We are only going to be using the two individually shielded wires for now. Cut the cable to length first then cut open the cable and extract these two wires.
We will need three wires (Left right and ground) for the final build so we will need to do this once again, only taking one wire from the cable now.
Great, now we have 3 individual cables. Next we must sleeve these cables. Choose your paracord colors (For this build we will be using orange blue and black). The paracord has a thin rope in the middle which helps with rigidity, this will need to be removed first.
Once this is removed you can begin “inch worming” the individual cable through. Push the paracord that is in front of the cable to make it expand, then push the cable into the paracord and repeat until it is all the way through. This method takes a while but once you start you’ll get the hang of it. Make sure you remember which cable is going into which paracord. Sometimes it is helpful to match like hues to make it easier to remember which cable is L, R, and G. For this build orange is right, blue is left, and black is ground.
If you are using the full microphone cable, you will need a thicker sleeve but you can use the same technique as described here to sleeve the cable.
Connecting the connectors
Get your soldering iron warmed up because it is time to solder. Place the connector and wire into your helping hands. Line up the wires you have designated as LRG to the connectors LR and G pins. Pin outs of most connectors can be found online. The one we are using is below.
I will not be going into specifics on how to solder as I myself am not an expert, but make sure no connections are touching and you should be fine. Once you have completed the soldering on connector A we can start braiding
Place your connector under a brace to keep it steady and then braid the three wires all the way to the other end, then place a piece of tape on it to hold it together. Braiding tutorials for various numbers of wires can be found online. Once you have completed the braiding we can place the heat shield on.
Place the heat shielding onto the other end of the cable and feed it down to the soldered connector. Place the heat shielding as few millimeters from the screw point of the connector. Apply even heat for a few seconds to bond the heat shrink to your connector.
Feed the connector screw down the wire and screw it onto the connector to complete this side.
Now we just must complete the other side of the cable by attaching the connector, make sure to place the heat shielding and connector screw onto the wire before soldering or else you can never get them onto the wire. Feed them to the other side of the wire to keep them out of the way. Solder the connections to connector B, then apply the heat shielding the same way as done on connector A. Then screw the cap onto connector B.
Congratulations we are done! Your cable looks excellent and you can wow your friends with the cable that probably costed way more and took way more time than you expected! But in the end isn’t it worth it!