Introduction: Cloth Covered Banana Cables

I wanted some cool banana patch cables, and found it may be cheaper to make my own.

I decided to cloth cover my cables to make them more comfortable and to match the vintage styled noise sound effect synthesizer I plan to build.

Stackable banana cables are better, but I saved lots of money using non-stacking plugs that I can afford to build some multiples into my synth.


You may be able to adapt this technique to other types of cables.

Step 1: Materials

Materials

Shoelace(s)   Find a shoelace style you like. I prefer a tighter weave.  The laces must be hollow, or have a removable core.  Select a lace that will be large enough to hold your wire or cable, but not so big that they are loose I got these at a dollar store.  If you select longer laces, you can make more cable(s) for the same price.

Wire I'm using stranded 16ga wire.  Banana cables only use one conductor.  If you are adapting this instructable, choose a suitable cable for your needs.

Banana Plugs  These are part number 108-1702-101  from the E. F. Johnson Company.  I got them on sale.  Select whatever connectors are suitable for your cables.

Heat Shrink Tubing  Two smaller pieces to close the ends of the shoelace onto the wire. I used a 1/2in. length of 1/4in. diameter tubing.  Two larger pieces to cover the connector for strain relief (optional). I used 1.5in. lengths of 3/8in. tubing.   If you are using thickness of wire and/or connectors, you can select sizes that are appropriate.

Tools

• Scissors to cut shoelaces and heat shrink tubing

Screwdriver if your connectors use set screws

Heat source such as lighter to shrink the heatshrink tubing

Wire strippers  / cutters

Soldering Iron and solder to tin wire ends

Step 2: Cut and Core the Shoelace

Cut the aglets (plastic ends) off of the shoelace. 

Measure and cut the shoelace to the length of cable you want to make.  If you measure after removing the core, your cable will be shorter than your measurement.

Remove the core of the shoelace.  We want the cover.    You may save the core for another project.

Step 3: Cover the Cable

Slip the shoelace cover over the wire or cable.

Holding the cable, gently push the cover where the end of the wire is.  Use three fingers and refrain from squeezing to prevent the cover from collapsing. 

Feed the cover all the way onto the wire, allowing enough extra at each end to allow you to strip the wire and attach the connector.  This may change depending on the connector you use.

Step 4: Heat Shrink Cover Onto Wire

Slip a small piece of heat shrink tubing onto the wire and end of the cover.  Half of the tubing should be over bare wire. This will keep the end of the cloth cover from moving.

Next, stretch the cloth cover longer until it is tight and grips the wire.   Then cut the wire, leaving a little extra to do the same on the other end of the cable.  Leave at least enough length to fit the connector you are using.

You now have a cloth covered wire!  onto the next step for connectors...

Step 5: Strip and Tin

Strip the ends of the wire according to the connectors you are using.  My banana connectors need about 1/4in. bare wire.

Tin the ends of the wire by heating with a soldering iron and adding just enough solder to fill the voids in between the strands of wire. 
   For these connectors, it will give the set screw something to bite into. For solder type connectors it will make soldering easier.

Step 6: Prepare and Assemble Connectors

Prepare the Connectors

I put heat shrink tubing over my connectors to change them black, to add a rubber grip and to give a little strain relief to the cord.  I used about 1.5in. long tubing over the 1in. long connector. You may need a different size if you are using different connectors.
      These connectors use set screws, so I poked a hole in the tubing to allow the screw to go through. I used an awl, but you may use whatever thin sharp object you like if you need a hole.
  For connectors without set screws, or if you prefer the set screw to be hidden, especially if you plan to use your patch cables for high voltage, you should not poke holes, but put the heat shrink on at the last step instead.

Assemble the connectors. 

Insert the wire into the banana, slide the sleeve over, and insert the set screw.  Of course other connectors may be assembled differently.
     For many connectors you will need to remember to slide the sleeve over the wire first before screwing down or soldering the connection.

Step 7: Strain Relief

Optionally, apply heat to shrink the outer heat shrink tubing for strain relief.
    For connectors without set screws, you can add this at any time.

Step 8: Finished


Congratulations you have made a cloth covered cable.

Comments

author
JourPT made it!(author)2013-11-26

Did this to my Philips SHE3590 in-ears. Thanks for the idea.

Headphones.jpg
author
aks made it!(author)2010-09-09

Where did you get the heat shrink from? I have tons of different heat shrink, but most of them only have a 2:1 shrink ratio. I've done this in the past with14 gauge wire, but the heat shrink didn't even come close to being snug on it.

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

I got my shrink tubing from Allied Electronics.
You can filter by shrink ratio, length, color, MFR, material, etc.

For my 3/8in. tubing, I used Allied #689-0392, with 3:1 shrink ratio (sizes are expanded diameter, not recovered diameter.)

But you may want something larger with 4:1 ratio instead. Then you can use it for a wider range size of connectors.

author
aks made it!(author)2010-11-04

Finally saw this email after sifting through my inbox. Thanks for the link. It's hard trying to find thin wall 3:1 heat shrink.

Funny thing is I live 3 or 4 miles from the facility. Sadly I can't buy directly from them and avoid shipping and handling.

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-11-08

When I got 4ft lengths from Allied, they shipped it in a 4ft long box. (may have added to shipping costs?)

You may try to find some form for your order to add "special instructions"
(1) to fold, wrap, or otherwise stuff the tubing into a smaller box to try to save on shipping.
(2) you may also specify that heat shrink tubing does not require bubble wrap.

author
kicker109 made it!(author)2010-10-16

Cloth Covered Audio/Sterio cables. you're a genius!! this will make DJing 100x easier

author
NostalgicStone made it!(author)2010-09-20

This is great!

author
5Volt made it!(author)2010-09-15

Very cool! I'll try and do it for some alligator clips. Need some coloured shoelaces, though...
Best
Alex

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-15

Cloth covered alligator clip leads - That's a great idea. I'll have to make a couple of those. Thanks 5Volt !

author
koubis made it!(author)2010-09-05

This is cool. I plan to make some steampunk headphones and this is what I could not figure out as old fabric wires are not sold anymore.. Will post pics later.

author
helifino made it!(author)2010-09-14

You can still buy them at automotive restoration suppliers...

author
zulfiqaradil made it!(author)2010-09-09

this idea was good but little bit of mistake its not isolated at the point of screw in your discribe procedure in step 6 you first screwd the cable in banana pin then put the heat-Shrink sleave on it

author
jeff-o made it!(author)2010-09-14

You could cover the screw with a layer of sugru!

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

You are right.

I plan to use my patch cables for low-voltage connections with a patchable synthesizer.  I also wanted to make it easy for me to get to the set screw if I need to.  Eventually, I may circuit-bend something and want the screw exposed for touch contact as well.

If you plan to use your cables for higher voltage or higher current applications, you will want to just add the heat shrink tubing at the last step, and don't poke any holes in it.

@zulfiqaradil - Thanks for pointing this out. It could be a safety issue.

author
marksstudio made it!(author)2010-09-09

Those really look custom. Great idea and execution! Heading to the dollar store right now.

Cheers,

m

author
thirtyfivefox made it!(author)2010-09-11

Looks fantastic... i would think that if you use a small leather strap and screwed it in place around the connector it would add a neat feel to the cable that the heat shrink is sort of missing... fine looking cables though, really.

author
dfc849 made it!(author)2010-09-09

Audio Tech,

Wonderfully constructed Instructable! Steps are clear and pictures are beautiful. I once made a set of USB cables using this type of material I found laying around, but my results were nowhere near the quality of these connectors. Next time I make some, I'll definitely use methods suggested in this Instructable (starting from scratch and using heat shrink tubing) to make my cables.

author
Jislizard made it!(author)2010-09-09

Great idea.

I have a Victorian magneto-electric "electric shock' machine, although the original wires are braided copper with a white insulating cloth stiched over the top they are in pretty bad condition.

The box is wooden and the insides are brass and felt, I didn't fancy throwing the original wires away and replacing them with rubber insulated ones.

Now I can cover the original wires with gutted paracord and preserve them until you write an instructable on stiching cloth covers.

Thanks

author
gafisher made it!(author)2010-09-09

Very nice idea, and good Instructable!
 
For large projects, shoelace material is available in bulk from places like RW Rope (rwrope.com). It's also available in larger sizes -- I've seen up to 1/2 inch diameter -- which would make it great for antiqued / classic / steampunked power cords and USB cables, and can be ordered in a variety of colors to make it easier to organize cables.
 
Note that this stuff can be "compressed" like a toy "oriental finger trap" to adjust the diameter for thicker and thinner cables, or -- if you're lucky -- to work it over a connector on cables that can't be easily disassembled. Just serve the ends with a little hot glue or clear acrylic to hold them in place if you can't get shrink tubing in place.

author
reinlar made it!(author)2010-09-09

I went to rwrope.com website, but can't find the shoelace material??? They don't seem to have a search function, do you have a link to the page with the shoelace material??? Thanks- reinlar

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

gafisher may have been indicating the parachute cord or the nylon accessory cord at http://rwrope.com/knot_tyers/twine_cord.htm

author
gafisher made it!(author)2010-09-09

You're absolutely right -- I searched for "shoelace material" and wound up at that site, but going back I see what's on the page was tubular parachute cord -- for a photo see http://www.rwrope.com/images/products/BB0017_big.gif -- nice stuff with a lot of potential. Really, though, rwrope was just one of many sites that turned up in my search; there are many other suppliers offering the same material, such as
http://www.atkinsandpearce.com/Products_%26_Technology/Cord/ and
http://www.conrad-jarvis.com/bulk.html to name just a few. You might even find something suitable at a local fabric store.

author
trgz made it!(author)2010-09-09

Very simple and yet extremely effective. I used to work with braided cords a lot (I still have a few knocking about somewhere I think ) and these pix are totally convincing.
I remember using a pair of three pronged plier type things to stretch rubber sleeves onto cords/cables, rather than using heat-shrink stuff, but I can't find them easily on the net.
This could possibly be used to do many other things - even brake & gear cables on a cycle perhaps if you had fat enough laces?

author
biker_trash_1340 made it!(author)2010-09-05

Looks good. I'm thinking ParaCord may work?

author
reinlar made it!(author)2010-09-09

Great idea! I tried it, and it's perfect! OD green nylon protection for wires and small tubing!!! Brilliant addition to this great instructable! Gonna try using it to cover spark-plug cables on my Hawg. Owe you a beer, biker_trash_1340 !

author
biker_trash_1340 made it!(author)2010-09-09

Didn't even think about the plug wires. May have to try it on my bike this winter. I have some left over from my slings. <<< https://www.instructables.com/id/Paracord-Rifle-Sling/ >>>

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-05

Some paracord may work. Other paracord has the core attached to the cover, so you can't pull it apart.

author
jeffconnelly made it!(author)2010-09-05

True paracord can have the core removed.

author
harley573 made it!(author)2010-09-09

If you had longer cables, like stereo speaker wires, for instance, you would need something longer than shoelaces. In this case, paracord, which is available online and at any military surplus store would work just as well, I think. Excellent Instructable!

author
lej619 made it!(author)2010-09-09

I am not much of an electrical person. So I was wondering can you only do this for the banana cables?? how about the cables for your computer. I just re-read the first part of the tutorial and if i read it correct I can do this with the wires for my computer. Yes??

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

There are also expanding flex sleeving kits out there for computer modding. They may look more like nylon than cloth, but they are very cool.

I've used Xoxide.com before: http://www.xoxide.com/sleevingkits.html

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

You can get a better fit on cables you build yourself. Although the nylon cloth covering I used expanded a little bit (to about 3/16in. , you may need a much thicker shoelace or rope material to fit over larger cables or connectors.

some connectors (like 1/4in. guitar cables) can be removed and re-soldered.

Other cables (VGA, HDMI, SATA, etc.) are usually best made by the factory, so you may need a covering large enough to fit over the connector.
Then you can use large heat shrink tubing to go over the connector, to finish the ends of the cloth covering.

author
milokp made it!(author)2010-09-09

If it's not dire to your aesthetics that it be fabric, check out spllbnd2's reply above. The nylon is woven strands that will stretch out to fit a much wider cable, this instructable uses shoe laces, I doubt most laces would fit an sata cable. The nylon will also stretch over the cable ends.

author
24907 made it!(author)2010-09-09

Unfortunately I doubt you would be able to do that, note how he puts the shoe lace over the wire before he puts ends on. On computer equipment the ends are already on (and there are usually many wires inside [as opposed to the single wire as shown here], which means it'd be very hard to do)

You may be able to use a cord that can expand (something like "climbing rope" or "Para cord", then take out nylon core) to fit over the connection ends on computer equipment, then pull it tight. I don't know how far that'll get you though.

author
lej619 made it!(author)2010-09-09

Thanks! that gives me another idea to try. wrapping strips of fabric around them

author
thankey made it!(author)2010-09-09

Could you attach the core to the wire before removing it then pull the wire through as you remove the core in one step?

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-09

It is possible. I found using two steps was just as easy.

If you tape the wire onto the core, there is a possibility that the tape may be too thick to go through, or the tape may become un-stuck from the wire/core and become stuck inside the cloth covering.

Try it- tell us how it works :)

author
spllbnd2 made it!(author)2010-09-09

@lej619 Checkout FrozenCPU.com for computer cable sleeving. They have a wide varity an is easy to work with and comes in a variety of colors both UV and Non UV reactive.

The black here, http://www.frozencpu.com/products/3702/slv-01/FLEXO_PET_14_Nylon_Cable_Sleeve_-_Black_.html?tl=g35c175s360
is sold for .079¢ a foot. So 60" or 5' would cost arounmd 3.95.

author
DaveB13 made it!(author)2010-09-09

Yippie - I've seen old motors with cloth outsides on spark plug wires. I had no idea how to replicate that, tis easy now. Thanks.

author
tzed made it!(author)2010-09-09

Those are sweet.
You could make a really nice-looking pair of speaker cables this way.
My uncle was a cabinet-maker and he used to say if you have a problem you can't hide, make it a feature.
If you can't run your speaker wires in the wall or hide them, make them gorgeous!

author
twitsl made it!(author)2010-09-08

Great idea. Using the idea to cover up the wires on a pair of headphones that i thought was really ugly.

author
Robot+Lover made it!(author)2010-09-05

My dad has tons of these around but I do not know exactly what they do. Care to explain?

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-05

Here's a definition on Wikipedia for banana connectors. It is a better definition than I can give.

Besides speakers and test equipment, some manufacturers and DIY'ers of synthesizers use them for patching sounds, including Buchla, Music From Outer Space, Cynthia, Modcan, Serge, and Synton.

author
dark+sponge made it!(author)2010-09-05

I love how professional they look!

author
Andsetinn made it!(author)2010-09-05

This is nice instructable. Now I have to stock up on laces. :-)

author
Aud1073cH made it!(author)2010-09-04

I understand that many people prefer their banana cables to be stackable.

                                     So do I.

However, I got these non-stackable connectors at a good price, so even if I need to add a few multiples to my synth I'll still be saving money.

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