(This is part 1. For part 2, see here! Making Fancy Cables Part 2: Soft Headphone and Composite Cables  )

 

Introduction

This very short blog post describes the steps I took to make network patch cables that I think are slightly nicer-looking than normal. Such a thing is subjective of course.

Why would anyone want to do this? Well, sometimes I need to do presentations or demonstrations, and the ugly messy wires at the back can become a lot more attractive this way! Also, I happened to need a specific length cable which I didn't have, and so I needed to assemble it anyway. Also, for home use, it is more acceptable when wiring looks nice!

 

Parts Needed

The key bits required are the network cable itself (you can buy these in reels of 50m or 100m100m - it isn't expensive -  or purchase it by the metremetre, but far cheaper to buy a reel, or cut up an existing old cable : ) the color and condition of it won't be visible after it's been covered by braid. It comes in solid or stranded forms, you'll want stranded wire. If you're buying a reel, then you'll likely want to go for Category 5e cables unless you've got a very specific use-case in mind.

Also, some cable braid is required. It only comes in black usually, unless you explore eBay/Amazon/Aliexpress. This is the braid I used, in 4mm diameter.

 

Soft plastic strain relief attachments are also mandatory - they will be used to hide the ends of the braid. There is a huge variety of them on the Farnell website and US Newark website.

Finally, some very thin tape is needed too; Kapton tapeKapton tape is convenient.

In terms of tools, a wire cutter, and a crimp tool are needed. Tweezers can help in straightening the eight wires inside the cable.

 

Assembly

Put a length of braid over the wire, and stretch it fully so that it is tight over the cable. Use the tape to secure the braid ends. Since the braid ends will inevitably be frayed at this stage, don't put the tape right at the end, but place it about 3cm down. Then, using the wire-cutters, trim the braid close to the tape. Small flush wire cutters are helpful for this - My Kingdom for a good pair of flush cutters.  Now you should have a cable with 3cm of plastic showing at each end, and the plastic strain relief can be slipped over it.

 

Now strip off the outer cable insulation until about 1cm of the outer insulation is visible at each end. Straighten the inner wires into the correct formation. Trim them to the correct size and insert into the plug.

 

Carefully push the strain relief against the plug too. At this stage, check under a light that all eight wires are correctly inserted as far as they will go, and in the correct order. You'll want to look at the connector from both sides to verify the colors are in the correct order, and the length.

 

 

Once you're happy, insert the plug and strain relief into the crimp tool, hold tight and crimp! The other side is done in the same way. You may wish to buzz out the cable with a network cable testernetwork cable tester, or a multimeter, before use.

 

Summary

With a bit of effort, nice cables were possible, and I'm happy with the procedure, it should be repeatable.

I'd like to use a more cloth-like braid, but unfortunately I could only find plastic braid. Still, it looks better than typical network cables I think.

If you have any ideas/suggestions, it would be great to hear them!