Instructables

Coiling a USB power cord

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Picture of Coiling a USB power cord
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This is an easy way to tidy up cord that are too long or in the way. Great for the car or desk.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
USB cord for your device (Got mine at Dollar Tree)
Pencil
Blow-dryer
Tape

Step 2: Wrapping the cord

Picture of Wrapping the cord
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Starting at one end of the pencil, tape down one end, leaving about 5 inches of slack. Wrap the cord around the pencil, leave another 5 inches of slack and tape down. Your wrapped part should be tight and not too pulled. 

Step 3: Setting the cord

Picture of Setting the cord
Using the blow dryer on high, blow hot air on it until the plastic is warm. Do this all over the pencil. You can hold the pencil on one end and do this or roll it across a table and blow dry all parts of the coil. 

Step 4: Let cool and enjoy!

Picture of Let cool and enjoy!
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Let the cord cool until it is cold to the touch. Remove tape, you should be able to pull the pencil out and use your cord!
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SussoGobbino made it!3 months ago

Thanks for the Instructable, I wasn't aware of this trick, and I tried it on my printer's cable, which is always awkwardly hanging somewhere.

The result was nice, but, since it was a long and not very flexible cable, I had to do it twice to let it keep some shape. If I stretch it too much, it tends to go back to its original straightness, but it's still an improvement!

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Hey that is really nice!! I have a solution to prevent it from going back to its original shape.

1.) Redo this instructable on the same chord.

2.) Attach one end of the chord to a power drill (Yes, the one which you use to drill holes in the wall) and fix the other end.

3.) Now, turn on the drill and rotate the cable in the direction OPPOSITE to that of the coil. Keep rotating until the chord gets tightly coiled in the opposite direction.

That must do it! Tell me how it goes. Its the procedure that is used in the industry. Check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTmzg6WMnf0

It is done!
I chose to heat it with the hairdryer, as its heat output can be as much as 85°C.
After removing the rod, it was really tight, and I proceded to reverse the coil.
During the reversal, however, the spiral ended up being tighter, but the diameter increased. I'm trying to manually narrowen it by coiling around itself, but it's no use without a heat source. I will not heat it, or the rewound coiling would fail to keep it springy.
Still, from 2 metres to 25 centimetres is a big improvement for my printer :)

Oh, I hope it still works after being tortured like this!

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pizzidave (author)  SussoGobbino3 months ago

Nice work!!

Thanks!

However, when I used and stretched it, it wouldn't go back to its position. now it's about 60cms long, I might use the oven at 90°C if I ever do it again, the hairdryer might not be strong enough.

Rajath's right -- I saw an episode of the TV show How It's Made, which showed how coiled cables are manufactured. The process is Identical to this dandy Instructable, plus the one step you mentioned: Once cables are coiled, the coil direction is reversed, and the shape holds. Good addition!

I recoiled it, this time using a threaded rod with bolts and washers to keep the cable perfectly in place. I'm going to heat it now I have yet to decide wether to use the over or the hairdryer!

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Ahaha thank you, I had just finished viewing the same video you linked!
I'll try this later and post an update :)

scroft13 months ago

Nice one, it's an old idea, but no doubt many of the youngsters may not of heard of it. A very useful technique in and around the workshop, where stuff gets tangled.
Steve (ex Plastics Engineer)

Thank You, I see the possibility's are endless, "Jumper Cables" maybe.?

Do you mean the kind you use to start one car with another? Because that wouldn't be a good idea...

It would be ok as long as you made sure they were stretched out before you used them but with the crazy amount of current they can carry you could quite easily melt the cables if they were used whilst still coiled. I wouldn't take the risk in case somebody used them wrong.

HAL 9000 JoelSP3 months ago
wait, what? Why would they behave any differently when they're coiled? my jumper cables haven't even gotten noticeably warm to the touch with use
JoelSP HAL 90003 months ago

It depends what you're using them for and how thick your cables are as they aren't all made equal...

Basic laws of electricity give the equation of P=IxIxR, Power = Current squared times the Resistance. A car's starter motor for a large vehicle can draw up to 600Amps so even with a low resistance ie. thick cables, you can end up with a fair amount of heat.

If two or more parts of the cable are touching each other then the amount of heat adds together.

It would probably be fine if you stretch them out before you use them or if you've got decent cables and a small car and it starts quickly but the worst case scenario could be pretty bad hence my advice against it. It's up to you if you do it, but I'd say better safe than sorry.

kenahoo JoelSP3 months ago

I liked the P=I^2*R part, but you lost me at "fair amount of heat". The resistance in any standard jumper cables (6-gauge or lower) is so low you shouldn't ever feel them get hot.

All the same, I wouldn't coil them up like this because they'd take up more room in the car.

A nice jumper cable banter is here: http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1738262

jongscx JoelSP3 months ago

I'm still not convinced that IS the reason why you shouldn't do it. Resistance is based on material property*material cross-section*material length. You're not changing any of these things, it's still copper, the wire is still just as thick as before (or that's one hell'a powerful hair dryer), and it's still just as long, albiet coiled up now.

So, P=I^2*R is still gonna come up with the same thing.

HAL 9000 jongscx3 months ago

I think he was mostly concerned with the cables having a reduced capacity to dissipate heat if some of the coils are touching. Still, it shouldn't have any *real* effect, unless you throw a blanket over the top of it or something

etcmn JoelSP3 months ago

Yea I was just wondering it this idea would work with an extension cord for my power tools. That's a lot more than a USB cable but a very small fraction of what the jumper cable need to carry (up to 1,000 amps). Power tools 15amp max.

Thank You. = Voted. : - }

thats a great idea aha but youd need one hell of a pencil

Har!

Bill WW scroft13 months ago

When I was a "youngster" plastic had not been invented. Had not heard of this trick either.

Emma B Bill WW3 months ago

Hey Bill, how old are you... 150? ;-) And don't you even remember the coiled cords on the wall telephone which enabled one to wander about the room while chatting to friends?

Bill WW Emma B3 months ago

Wow, you are good, Emma!

"The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862".

I'm definitely old enough to remember coiled phone cords, but did not know how to make a coiled cord with a hair dryer!

I'm only 72.

never heard of this trick but I think its a handy trick aha

I'm in my 50's and never thought, nor heard, of this.

nkedz2011 scroft13 months ago
indeed, this youngster has not heard of this before :-P
dan3008 nkedz20113 months ago

Nor had I

Nice ible

NOVA14982 months ago

gud idea dude

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JakeSteel made it!3 months ago

It worked well, considering this cable was already very old and worn, as well as the fact that this was my second attempt.

I wonder if it would be possible to automatically heat these in a toaster oven with a rotisserie setting? Maybe 15 minutes at 200F would make the cable more likely to retain its shape.

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I have several over long cords upon which I will try this method. Thanks for a great Instructable.

SuperPollo made it!3 months ago

I also made it, really nice Instructable, and not very hard, I used a hairdryer at full heat and speed, I don't know how much it was, but it worked. I read in the comments the tecnique that's shown in How It's Made, and I also tried to do it, but as you can see in the image, it didn't work for me. On my first try I didn't have one end fixed, and I had to repeat the instructable. On the second try, I fixed one end, and attached the cable to the power drill (clockwise), but it didn't tight, it didn't do anything but make the diameter of the coil smaller, so I tried the other way (maybe I failed on the direction) but it didn't get tighter. The direction of the power drill, in my case, has to be clockwise, because the coil is counterclockwise, right? If anyone can help me, I will really appreciate it. Thanks for the Instructable.

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snoopindaweb3 months ago
Then again if a person uses fine strand arc welding leads to make jumper cables they don't smoke like the big box store ones do.?

I wonder if this could be used to repair Coiled wire that has become kinked. You know, that loop in the middle that you can't seem to untangle. What if you use heat to straighten the kinked coil, then reheat it back into a new coil, minus the kink.

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that cable is twisted in both directions! yes, the place in the middle is where the direction changes - and that's also why it appears smaller on one side. Think of it like a normal screw and a left-hand-thread screw. If you want to fix it, you need to change one part of the cable over to the other direction.

to fix this kink, you need a longer rod. insert the rod before the kink and spin it onto the rod the way it naturally wants to twist. when you reach the kink, simply turn the loop around on the rod so that it matches the direction of the desired coil and work your way all the way to the end. naturally this is easier to do once you disconnect it from the phone first.

I used to fix that when I was about 6 yrs old. Just by playing with it ! (i'm 45 now).

pizzidave (author)  JustinRounds3 months ago

Thanks for replying!

Roshy103 months ago

If you hold one end an put the other in a drill chuck, you can spin it backwards to get a much tighter coil.

AceCing3 months ago

It's simple but importantly useful. Good one!

whizzzkid3 months ago

looks cool, but it wont have the elasticity of the actual coiled cords. Because the actual ones are reversed after being coiled. We might be able to adapt somethings from here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRzF87c38m0

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