Instructables
Picture of 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.
 
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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
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JourPT1 year ago
Did this to my Philips SHE3590 in-ears. Thanks for the idea.
Headphones.jpg
aks4 years ago
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.
Aud1073cH (author)  aks4 years ago
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.
aks Aud1073cH4 years ago
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.
Aud1073cH (author)  aks4 years ago
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.

kicker1094 years ago
Cloth Covered Audio/Sterio cables. you're a genius!! this will make DJing 100x easier
This is great!
5Volt4 years ago
Very cool! I'll try and do it for some alligator clips. Need some coloured shoelaces, though...
Best
Alex
Aud1073cH (author)  5Volt4 years ago
Cloth covered alligator clip leads - That's a great idea. I'll have to make a couple of those. Thanks 5Volt !
koubis4 years ago
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.
helifino koubis4 years ago
You can still buy them at automotive restoration suppliers...
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
You could cover the screw with a layer of sugru!
Aud1073cH (author)  zulfiqaradil4 years ago
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.
marksstudio4 years ago
Those really look custom. Great idea and execution! Heading to the dollar store right now.

Cheers,

m
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.
dfc8494 years ago
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.
Jislizard4 years ago
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
gafisher4 years ago
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.
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
Aud1073cH (author)  reinlar4 years ago
gafisher may have been indicating the parachute cord or the nylon accessory cord at http://rwrope.com/knot_tyers/twine_cord.htm
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.
trgz4 years ago
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?
Looks good. I'm thinking ParaCord may work?
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 !
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. <<< http://www.instructables.com/id/Paracord-Rifle-Sling/ >>>
Aud1073cH (author)  biker_trash_13404 years ago
Some paracord may work. Other paracord has the core attached to the cover, so you can't pull it apart.
True paracord can have the core removed.
harley5734 years ago
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!
lej6194 years ago
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??
Aud1073cH (author)  lej6194 years ago
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
Aud1073cH (author)  lej6194 years ago
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.
milokp lej6194 years ago
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.
24907 lej6194 years ago
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.
lej619 249074 years ago
Thanks! that gives me another idea to try. wrapping strips of fabric around them
thankey4 years ago
Could you attach the core to the wire before removing it then pull the wire through as you remove the core in one step?
Aud1073cH (author)  thankey4 years ago
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 :)
spllbnd24 years ago
@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.
DaveB134 years ago
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.
tzed4 years ago
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!
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