Introduction: Roll Your Own Patch Cables
Buying effects pedal cables is a pain. They're overpriced and generally cheaply made, unless you spring for even more expensive units (yes, I'm complaining about spending like ten bucks). The make-your-own kits are a little better, but those solderless connections never work for me. So I made a few for myself, with quality Mogami cable and Switchcraft hardware. These came out to about $5 each, they're bulletproof, and were a piece of cake to build! If you can solder you can make them too, and save a few bucks for guitar strings and things!
Step 1: Materials
The first thing you'll need is a cable - buying bulk cable or by the foot is an option here, or you could cut up a guitar cable (you'll pay additional markup for a premade guitar cable though). For this project I bought a 20' Mogami guitar cable because I got a killer deal on it, and had plenty left over for future projects. I'm also a fan of the guitar cables from Dimarzio, they're priced well and are sturdy, solid cables, plus you can find them with Switchcraft ends and cool braided jacketing! really though just use whatever you like. I generally advise against buying Monster cable at retail, or at all really. It's marginally better than other cables but costs an arm and a leg because of their outrageous marketing/hype, but if you find a great deal on craigslist or something then go for it! It's not bad stuff, just overpriced.
You'll also need some right angle plugs for the end. Don't bother with stereo, you just need mono. I recommend Switchcraft 226's for quality, American made nickel-plated-brass plugs that are easy for you to solder. I bought a pack of 8 on ebay and they came out to around $3 or $4 apiece, but you can do better if you buy more!
You'll also need the regular soldering stuff - iron, damp sponge, solder, helping hands, etc. There are some great instructables on soldering if you don't think you're up to par.
Step 2: Prep Your Cables!
Figure out what length you need for your pedals and cut your cables to length, leaving an extra couple of inches for stripping/soldering. Strip back the insulation, leaving the inner 'hot' wire insulated a little longer so that there is just enough core wire to solder, this will ensure you have no chance of shorting the core with the shielding. Pull the shielding to one side and twist, the side you pull it to will determine which way the plug faces. Trim everything up to align with the proper terminals of whatever ends you're using.
This is also a good time to consider whether you want your plugs to face the same direction or be 180 degrees to each other, as you can pull the shielding wire to one side or another to make positioning easier.
Step 3: Solder
Now the fun part - Soldering! Get your coffee, put on some good music, and get settled in.
Be sure the tip of your iron is tinned and clean! Get your cables all lined up and crimp the "cable-grabbers" on the sleeve terminal. Solder the inner conductor to the 'tip terminal' and the outer shielding/ground to the 'sleeve terminal,' and that's about all there is to it! I told you this was easy!
Be sure that you slide the screw-on pieces over the cable before you solder the ends on. Trust me, you'll feel like an idiot every time you have to unsolder an end to put these on! Before you close everything up take a careful look at your work for any shorts or loose wires that may become shorts. If you like, put a bit of Locktite on the threads before you screw it all together. It's probably not necessary, but can't hurt, right? As my favorite engineering professor loves to say, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!"
Step 4: You're All Done!
Now if you have a multimeter you can check continuity in all your cables. You can also just plug them into all your pedals and deal with any problems as they arise, as I did. If you did everything right you shouldn't have any shorts or bad connections, but there's no shame in doing something over to get it right!
Thanks for reading, if you have any tips or suggestions for improvement please let me know in the comments!
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