Introduction: Multi-Use Bendy Phone Charging Cable
Phone cables are one of the more important parts of our lives, we don't realize it but without them, we wouldn't be able to charge our phones, and without our phones... well let's not go there. Anyway, you get the idea, phone chargers are a pivotal part of our lives... (and to all of you people out there with phones that support wireless charging and are saying "Charging cables are soooo last year," well, most of us are still stuck in last year and don't have that kind of technology... yet... so stop hating). Charging cables are such a huge part of our lives, yet, they have been virtually unchanged over the years. The adapters have changed, whether it be 30 pin, mini USB, micro USB, lightning, or even USB type C, yet the wire remains, for the most part, unchanged. It is around 3.3 feet (1 meter) long, black or white, flexible, made of a plasticy rubber, and overall boring. I think it's time for a change. As more and more cables disappear, it's time to give the charging cable one last har-rah, It needs to be more fun, more useful, nicer looking, and awesome. That is why I made this, a bendable, felt, awesome, not boring charging cable. It has so many uses and advantages over the old charging cable, that it's almost incomprehendable. You can bend it into a phone stand, wrap it up and pack it nicely (as it will remain tangle free), or make a hanging phone dock, the possibilities are limitless! And it's so simple to make! In under an hour, you can have a ridiculously amazing tool/accessory under your belt (or in your pocket), and never worry about tangles or buying docks again.
Step 1: The Idea
I came up with the idea a while ago, I'm sure that I'm not the first to think of something like this, but I haven't seen anything like it on instructables, so I thought I'd post it here. Anyway, I wanted to make it as premium and awesome as possible, and what better way than to encase it in paracord?
I was inspired by Spaceman Spiff's "Paracord charging cable" and decided to make a cable similar to his, because: 1) It makes it look awesome, 2) It makes it feel awesome, 3) It can be any color you like, and 4) It encases all of the ugly wires of this project perfectly. So I went for it!
I was also inspired by a project that I can't find, but it put wire in paracord and used it for some pretty cool things, I'm not sure what happened to it, but it was a great instructable and I believe that it won a prize in a past paracord contest. In turn that instructable inspired my own "Paracord phone stand" which was one of the leading factors in the idea to come up with this.
Lastly, I was inspired by the "twig" which I origionally saw on kickstarter a while back and thought, "what a brilliant idea," I then also saw it on sugru.com and decided that I needed my own, so I made one, which you can find here. It is a brilliant project and super useful, but, what if you prefer a longer cable?
Anyway, I decided to put together a bunch of projects and remix them all into this super awesome phone cable thingy. So let's get to making it!
Step 2: Materials
You aren't going to need too much for this project.
I had all of the things on hand and so it was completely free for me to make. But if you had to buy all of the materials (not including tools) you could easily do this for under $10, and even that's an overshot.
Anyway, here's a list of materials you'll need:
- Wire: This is to create the bendiness in the cable, I used 14 gauge insulated wire, and it also shouldn't be a bunch of strands, it should be a solid core wire. I would also recommend that you use an insulated wire, because it will reduce the chances of shorting
- A charging cable: You need a charging cable that will fit in your phone, I used a micro USB cable that I just found in a dumpster, and it worked fine. I would also recommend that you use a 3.3 foot long one, going longer (for example using a 6 foot long cable) will make your life quite a bit more difficult later in the adding of the wire.
- Paracord: Choose whatever color paracord that you want, it's up to you :D I used just a plain black with a little white stitching, kind of bland, but it's what I had on hand, but still, I must say, it is still heaps better than a regular charging cables rubber insulation.
- Solder: For soldering
- Heat shrink tubing: This stuff is pretty cheap and super useful, if you don't have it, get it. It will be used to clean up the endpoints on the cable, and make it look more professional.
- Electrical tape: This will be used to insulate the wires to keep them from shorting
- Soldering Iron: You'll need this to solder a couple of wires together, if you don't have too much soldering experience, or you suck at soldering (like me), don't worry, it is super easy soldering this time around
- Wire cutters: To cut and strip wires
Step 3: Measuring and Cutting
First thing first, you need some measurements. So, grab your charging cable and measure how long the wire is. NOT THE WHOLE CABLE, just the wire, leave out the connectors.
Mine turned out to be about 3 feet, 2 inches (always round up).
I then took that measurement, and cut a length of paracord, and a length of wire, both of them 3 feet 2 inches long.
*I would actually recommend making it an inch or two longer then the cable, as when you are sliding it on, it seems to "contract" and lose length...
You should now have a piece of wire, a piece of paracord, and a charging cable, all the same (or similar) length.
Step 4: Prepping the Paracord
Now to prep the paracord, basically, what you do is
you grab the inside 'filling' of the paracord (usually white) and pull it out, all the way. You should now have a white string, and a hollow 'felt tube', the 'felt tube' part is what we are going to be using, so do what you want with the other part.
Note: It can be quite useful and make the job much less tedious and annoying if you give the end of your paracord a little melt over a flame, do it just for a split second, and it will prevent your paracord from fraying later on, but if you do it for too long, the opening will get smaller and will make it harder to get the wire through the paracord.
Step 5: Prepping the Charging Cable
From what I've figured out, Most charging cable wires fit into a hollow piece of paracord, but snugly, which prevents us from adding out wire in as well. This is mostly because of the insulation in the wire being extremely thick. The solution? Remove the insulation, as simple as that.
Take a knife or some kind of sharp blade and score the insulation all the way down the wire. It shouldn't take much effort to go all the way through the wire, so be careful, and have a steady hand. Don't be afraid to go slowly.
After you've scored it the whole length of the wire, then separate the insulation from the wire (as pictured) and then cut it at the ends of wire. You can toss the insulation, as we will not be using it later.
You will now most likely have this weird metal stuff surrounding all of the wires. Mine actually looked quite cool exposed and would be pretty awesome looking if it had a clear coating around the whole thing. But, that's not the point of this instructable.
Now, remove the metal stuff by cutting and pulling it off. Be careful not to break any of the 4 internal wires though. When I was beginning to pull it off, I thought... This is going to be harder than I originally though, but then I was able to loosen it and unravel the whole thing fairly quickly. The key is to start at one of the ends, and snip all of the wires on that end, then slide the whole thing down towards the other end, then just start cutting it off. Then, after trying to cut it off, I again realized that this is going to take a while. A little note: the wire stuff is a huge pain, it pokes you and doesn't cut well. And it's not fun to try and get off. In the end I got it off by cutting down the center with scissors. Then get the second layer of metal off (luckily this one's a lot easier, you just have to unwrap it) and at long last, you now only have four glorious wires. Now cut them... (I'd read the next step before you cut the wires... it'll make it quite a bit easier.
Step 6: Cutting the Phone Cable
Now to cut the phone cable in order to get the paracord on. I started cutting the first wire about one third (see note below) in, and then cut the second one about 2 inches from the first cut, then the third cut would be 2 inches from the second cut, and the fourth would be 2 inches from the third cut. We do this because when we re-solder the cable, 1) There is a much less chance of shorting the wire, 2) It makes it a lot easier to solder, and 3) It makes it so there's not a thick spot where all the solder joints are.
*What I learned though, is that you should make your cuts closer to the end of the wires, as it makes putting on the paracord a whole lot easier. Don't start about 1/3 in start maybe 2 or 3 inches from one of the connectors
Step 7: Putting on the Paracord
Next is to slide on the paracord. Take the longer half of the charging cable and start sliding it through the paracord. It helps to tape the ends of the wire, so it doesn't get caught on the paracord as your sliding it through. Slide the paracord until the wire comes out the other end. Then tape the paracord (as in the picture), so it doesn't slide back down.
Also, Slide on 2 pieces of inch long heat shrink tubing for later.
Step 8: Soldering
First strip all of the wires, then solder the same colored wires together, and put electrical tape around them to insulate them, and prevent shorts. Add only a little bit of solder to each wire so there isn't too much room taken up. Also put as little electrical tape as you can.
Once you have all of your wires soldered, pull up the paracord so it goeas from one end of the charging cable to the other.
Step 9: Adding the Bendy Wire
Now take your wire, and slide it down the paracord, this proves difficult, but with a little patience and keeping at it, you can get it through. Get it to span from one end of the charging cord to the other. The end is near! If you've made it this far you can smell victory! If you have got the wire all the way through, then you can grab your lighter, and shrink one piece of heat shrink tubing to each end, to make the final result look clean. Now you're finished!
Step 10: Uses
This thing has an innumerable amount of uses. It can charge your phone, be a phone stand, stay organized, or even become a gear tie or something similar. Only your imagination limits its uses.