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TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#1
It's time for another TwoString tutorial...gather 'round and listen up.

One of the most overlooked parts of our signal chains are the patch cables that are linked beteen our pedals. Several questions are often mentioned about these cables (what do I buy, how much do I spend, etc). Here is a cheap way to get great cables that are also the exact length you need.

You will need...

1. An old guitar lead - everyone usually has an old one laying around. We're finally going to put it to use.

2. 1/4" plugs - I purchased Switchcraft 1/4" right angle plugs on Ebay for about a dollar each. You can usually buy them in lots and haggle with the seller for cheaper prices.

3. Tools - a soldering iron, rosin core solder, wire cutters, a razor blade/utility knife, and pliers.



The process.

1. Cut your cable into the lengths you need. You can choose to re-use the 1/4" plugs on the ends of the cable if you want. If not, just cut them off and throw them away.



2. Strip the ends of the cable. Take note that there are two conductors in a coax cable. The outer conductor is the shield. The inner conductor is the lead. You will need to strip each one independently. You only need to strip about 1/4" off of the outer jacket and 1/8" off of the inner jacket. I usually do this with a razor blade or utility knife as the wires inside of the cable are usually very thin and break easily when a wire stripper is used.





Once you have the outer jacket removed, carefully gather and twist the shield wires together.



You can now strip and expose the inner conductor.



You can also tin the wires if you choose to. My iron is rather low power and cannot keep up with the heat being drawn down the length of shielding.



4. Test fit the cable into the plug.



Let's look at the components of the plug in detail...

There are usually three parts to a plug. The plug body, the sheath, and the cap. The plug body is self explanitory. The sheath is a nylon tube that fits over the connections after soldering so the two conductors can remain separated. The cap is the part of the plug that screws on the bottom to protect the wire/plug joint.



The plug itself also has a few parts to take note of. The sleeve conductor will connect to the shield wire in the cable. The sleeve conductor is the long arm at the bottom of the plug in the picture below. The sleeve conductor also includes a clamp to hold the cable in place. This prevents the cable from being ripped out of the plug. The tip conductor will connect to the lead wire in the cable. This conductor is the small solder tab that extends off of the plastic mounting tab closer to the plug body.

TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#2
5. Connect the plug to the cable. First you will thread the lead conductor through the tab on the plug body. This connection will be soldered in place. Second, wrap the ground conductor under the jacket of the cable. Lay this in the clamp on the plug body. Using the pliers, clamp the cable in place. You do not need to solder the ground conductor in place as the clamp will hold it tightly enough to keep the connection solid. You can solder if you like, but I don't for ease of removing the cable should I need to make a longer/shorter cable.







6. Cover the cable connections with the nylon sheath.



7. Screw the cap onto the bottom of the plug body.



You've completed the first side of the cable. Keep in mind that before you clamp and solder the other plug in place, you will need to thread the plug cap and sheath (in that order) onto the cable from the other side. If not, you will not be able to put the sheath and cap on without removing the plug body from the cable again. You may want to place both caps and sleeves on the cable before clamping and soldering.

So that's all there is to it. You now have a custom patch cable that should stand up to years of abuse. In my book, this certainly beats paying $5+ for each patch cable on your board. My cables cost me $2 each, considering I didn't have to pay anything to cut up a cable I wasn't using.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Quote by suhr - added 10/9/2008 by twostring - VERY IMPORTANT SIDE-NOTE!!
I was looking for a picture example to illustrate a problem a customer is having and see it repeated here so I thought I would warn you all. There is a step being missed here, that secondary inner black jacket has to be stripped back so it doesnt touch the tip connection in any way, obviously touching here. The black jacket is conductive, not enough to shut things down but enough to have 20K or so of resistance to ground robbing you of precious tone. You need to double strip cable that has that black inner jacket, you can just peal it away if the cable is already made. This is a very common problem since cable has been "improved" even from manufacturers making guitar cables, they rarely double strip this and it must be done ! I urge you all to check your cables even when store bought. This is a real issue and can be intermittent but it is easy to fix. This drove me crazy one long day in the mid 80's. Finally the manufacturers are warning people
Last edited by TwoString at Oct 10, 2008,
NOtrab
UG's Pearl Jam freak
Join date: Aug 2006
180 IQ
#3
sweet
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kurtlives91
Let The Pretend Take Over
Join date: Jun 2007
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#4
Nice tutorial.

So I got to ask. I see a lot of tone freaks and such go on about cables. How do cables differ? How can some be so expensive?
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#5
Quote by kurtlives91
Nice tutorial.

So I got to ask. I see a lot of tone freaks and such go on about cables. How do cables differ? How can some be so expensive?


Mojo. The last set of cables I made were made from leftover coax from Time Warner when my cable TV was installed. As long as the cable has low resistance, low capacitance and doesn't suffer from microphonics or other noise, you're in good shape.
christianbassis
UG Senior Member
Join date: Jul 2006
601 IQ
#6
so an old coaxial cable is useable?
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Used666
Registered User
Join date: Sep 2006
2,445 IQ
#8
Nice tutorial, ive been making my cables for quite a while now and i wouldnt have it any other way, Mogami + Neutrik for me

christianbassis
UG Senior Member
Join date: Jul 2006
601 IQ
#10
kool, thnx.
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Thewolf_and_man
Gain Addict
Join date: Aug 2006
1,075 IQ
#12
Nice tutorial
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+1
Miggy01
UG's Journey Fan
Join date: Jul 2006
845 IQ
#13
what happens if the cable is kind of ****ty?
Will that transfer to the patch cable?
This is probably a stupid question.
Quote by Chikitty_China
Good lord. You are amazing.



Quote by Jestersage
It's stereo amp, and I don't think it's tube. However, for a stereo amp, it is very good. Don't plug guitar into it; just use it as hi-fi if it works.
the_random_hero
UG's Fabricator
Join date: Apr 2006
2,483 IQ
#14
Quote by Miggy01
what happens if the cable is kind of ****ty?
Will that transfer to the patch cable?
This is probably a stupid question.



There's never and stupid questions, just stupid answers One of the huge things that's overlooked with cables are it's flexibility. Some cables will be able to be bent 180 degrees with no problems, some will start snapping conductors. If you've got stiff cables, then I'd suggest you use straight plugs so they will be bent less.
The good thing about patch cables is that they are only short, hence the effects of impedance are a lot less noticeable. Even the cheapest cables I've seen had had adequate shielding, so this shouldn't become too much of an issue.
Over my side of the pond, it's almost cheaper to buy patch cables for $5 instead of buying plugs + cable (unless you're making rather large quantities of them). I hate how much everything costs here
"Everybody, one day will die and be forgotten. Act and behave in a way that will make life interesting and fun. Find a passion, form relationships, don't be afraid to get out there and fuck what everyone else thinks."
Miggy01
UG's Journey Fan
Join date: Jul 2006
845 IQ
#15
I meant more like I have an old cable that I don't use anymore because it crackles and stops working randomly. Will that transfer to the patch cable?
I'm guessing yes.
Quote by Chikitty_China
Good lord. You are amazing.



Quote by Jestersage
It's stereo amp, and I don't think it's tube. However, for a stereo amp, it is very good. Don't plug guitar into it; just use it as hi-fi if it works.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#16
Quote by Miggy01
I meant more like I have an old cable that I don't use anymore because it crackles and stops working randomly. Will that transfer to the patch cable?
I'm guessing yes.


You shouldn't have any problems with the cable...what you were experiencing was most likely the result of loose connections at the plug ends of the cable. The rest of the cable should be fine. Try it and see...what do you have to loose?
kurtlives91
Let The Pretend Take Over
Join date: Jun 2007
2,732 IQ
#17
TwoString those jacks are damn expensive. I was ordering some stuff from Smallbear the other night and thought about this thread. Jacks can go from $3 - $5. Buying a cable from my local shop costs $5.

Where are you getting your jacks? It also appears you are buying in bulk....
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#18
Quote by kurtlives91
TwoString those jacks are damn expensive. I was ordering some stuff from Smallbear the other night and thought about this thread. Jacks can go from $3 - $5. Buying a cable from my local shop costs $5.

Where are you getting your jacks? It also appears you are buying in bulk....


Yes, I am buying in bulk (20, sometimes 30 at a time), but I buy from Ebay. Smallbear is way overpriced.

15 plugs for $22

Best deal I can find right now.
CorduroyEW
UG's pickup winder
Join date: Nov 2004
3,338 IQ
#20
Two string, Your tutorial threads are great. Your workspace always seems to neat and organized. Is it really that way or just for our benefit?
Still doing business but not taking any online orders.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#21
Quote by CorduroyEW
Two string, Your tutorial threads are great. Your workspace always seems to neat and organized. Is it really that way or just for our benefit?


The workspace is usually as clean as you see it...the floor around it however...

loonyguitarist
howdybums
Join date: Nov 2003
654 IQ
#22
What an idea. I may try this...

Thanks for the tutorial
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kool98769
The Muffin Man...
Join date: Aug 2006
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#23
What is the type of cable used for this called? coaxial cable?
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CodeMonk
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Join date: Apr 2004
1,580 IQ
#25
Also, be aware that that there are basically 2 types of coaxial cable (well, more than 2, but for this purpose...).
Some coaxial cable has a solid center conductor, some have stranded center conductor.
The type that your local cable company probably uses has a solid center conductor (here they do).
The downside with those is that they are less flexible. They make decent patch cables, as long as you don't flex them to much.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#26
Quote by CodeMonk
Also, be aware that that there are basically 2 types of coaxial cable (well, more than 2, but for this purpose...).
Some coaxial cable has a solid center conductor, some have stranded center conductor.
The type that your local cable company probably uses has a solid center conductor (here they do).
The downside with those is that they are less flexible. They make decent patch cables, as long as you don't flex them to much.


Good point to keep in mind. I've used both with about equal success.
LaneRat
Banned
Join date: Dec 2007
11 IQ
#27
wow great tutorial

just a short question: in a quality cable, is it the cable itself which is of high quality or the jacks that make it so or is it both (or is it irrelevant)??
MrCarrot
Sup.
Join date: Aug 2006
1,542 IQ
#28
^ High quality cable itself has a lower overall impedance (resistance which dampens your signal generally) and lower capacitance per metre, of which a high value sucks highs from your signal. You'd notice this very much with say a 50ft cable. The jacks are generally standard, gold plating makes a small difference but not much. A quality jack is generally just better constructed. Unless it's like one of those Neutrik 'Silent' jacks that never makes noise but costs a ton.

So yeah. Because patch leads are small, you don't notice signal loss so much, so lower quality cable is adequate. But most co-ax will do the same thing at the end of the day.
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mr_hankey
also available in 3D
Join date: Jan 2005
834 IQ
#29
Nice tutorial, but those plugs are crap. They might work for patch cables which aren't moved around much, but I would really not recommend using them for your guitar to pedalboard/amp. The good old Neutrik plug has never let me down (but that might be because I always make the cables myself).

Not soldering them also seems like a bad idea to me.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#30
Quote by mr_hankey
Nice tutorial, but those plugs are crap. They might work for patch cables which aren't moved around much, but I would really not recommend using them for your guitar to pedalboard/amp. The good old Neutrik plug has never let me down (but that might be because I always make the cables myself).

Not soldering them also seems like a bad idea to me.


I have yet to have one of these plugs fail me, soldered grounds or not, and I've been using them for years. I've used them to make amp and guitar leads as well without issue as well. The clamp on the cable is more than enough to hold the ground shield in place even with significant yanking to pull it out.
Guitar-God-Elf
Snake
Join date: Oct 2005
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#31
that was a great tutorial TwoString, all your tutorials are great.
Because, unlike many other people who write them, you actually explain all the electronics and explain everything thoroughly.
Thanks for your great tutorials, hope you make some more
mr_hankey
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Join date: Jan 2005
834 IQ
#32
Quote by TwoString
The clamp on the cable is more than enough to hold the ground shield in place even with significant yanking to pull it out.


Really? On similar plugs that I've used, that metal part is flimsy and eventually breaks off, or at least bends.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#33
Thanks. I will likely post a tutorial on my overdrive builds as soon as I get a design completed. I've been learning a lot from the community, and posting tutorials like this helps me work out the pieces I don't understand because I know if I post something crazy I'll be corrected. The pedals aren't really that big of a deal...like most things on this planet, they're modded tube screamer circuits. More than likely nothing unique.

The first pedal is called the Rhythm driver, and it features footswitchable channels (switches between two different volume and drive pots) and a toggle for mosfet clipping, LED clipping and a clipping bypass for a simple boost. The second pedal, named the Lead Driver, is the same idea, but it features a footswitchable boost circuit instead of the two channels and it has a toggle to change the mid range response. The clipping in the Lead Driver will be mosfet only. Both pedals will use a TL072 chip because I'm in love with the thing. There are other changes, but I'll outline those later in another thread.
TwoString
AKA Chad
Join date: Jul 2006
1,601 IQ
#34
Quote by mr_hankey
Really? On similar plugs that I've used, that metal part is flimsy and eventually breaks off, or at least bends.


On the plugs I have, they're solid. They've held up after bending them apart and clamping time and time again as I've needed to change cable lengths. I yank on my cables quite a bit, and if I can't break them, I'm certain no one else can.
CorduroyEW
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Join date: Nov 2004
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#35
Quote by mr_hankey
Really? On similar plugs that I've used, that metal part is flimsy and eventually breaks off, or at least bends.

that happens to me too, but I'm pretty hard on that kinda thing so I figured it was just me.
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Losenger
Surrounded by morons!
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54 IQ
#36
ALWAYS solder the shield to the ground connector. You're begging for a sh!tty signal if you don't.
mr_hankey
also available in 3D
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#39
Quote by TwoString
Multimeter says continuity is continuity.


Yeah, but will it still work properly in a few years?
eddiehimself
Call me EH, eh?
Join date: Jun 2006
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#40
Quote by TwoString

You've completed the first side of the cable. Keep in mind that before you clamp and solder the other plug in place, you will need to thread the plug cap and sheath (in that order) onto the cable from the other side. If not, you will not be able to put the sheath and cap on without removing the plug body from the cable again. You may want to place both caps and sleeves on the cable before clamping and soldering.


haha that happend to me once before, i was rite pissed off.
EH


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