Instructables
I’ve seen many creative Instructables on DIY steampunk keyboards, mice and other USB peripherals, but many of these don’t include “steampunking” an important part of these devices – the USB cable.

This Instructable will show you how to make a quick, easy and inexpensive steampunk USB cable for your retrofitted, retro-historical steampunk or dieselpunk devices.

Note: This Instructable was inspired in part by the beautiful Steampunk Mouse, posted by Miss Betsy. But this Steampunk USB cable doesn't require as many tools, or as much skill as is required to recreate Miss Betsy's steampunk cable. I also borrowed a few ideas from an Instructable on Cloth Covered Banana Cables.

Materials:
• Bootlace
• USB Cable
• “F” type quick connect video adaptor
• Altoids tin
• Glue (Crazy or Gorilla)
• Heat shrinkable wire wrap (or brass eyelets)
• Gold or bronze metallic paint
• Female-to-female "F" type connector (optional)

Tools:
• Soldering iron & solder
• Exacto blade (or razor blade)
• Dremel (or similar rotary tool)
• Pliers
• Wire cutter
• Paint brush
• Lighter
• Clamp or vice
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Prepare the USB Cable

If you are starting with a USB cable with plugs at both ends, cut off the end you don’t need. If you are starting with a mouse or keyboard, de-solder the cable from the device. (To do this properly, you should use a de-soldering iron, but I don’t have one!) You may want to take a photograph or careful notes, so you know how to re-solder when you’re done.

With your Exacto or razor blade, make an incision around the cable, at the base of the plug, to remove the plastic tubing, being ever so careful to not cut through to the wires. Then carefully slice the tubing length-wise, (kind of like you were skinning a snake;-) Be carefully not to damage the wire shielding, as this will make it very difficult to pass through the lace.
nerd74739 months ago
well neat
Another more time-intensive idea (but one that doesn't involve surgery to your USB cord or USB device) would involve braiding embroidery floss around the cord. A tight braid secured at the ends with heat-shrink tubing or a thin bead of silicone adhesive/sealant would do the job nicely.
Winged Fist (author)  SteampunkToreador2 years ago
Steampunk Toreador – I have thought about ways to try and decorate a cable without surgery, and the idea of braiding or embroidery has occurred to me, but this would require some skills I just don't have. After a bit of practice, re-attaching a usb plug to it's cable is not that bad;-)
consider though, that usb-micro plugs are almost small enough to shove-flare braided hollow over without modification.
I'd like to see an 'ible of this, Toreador, or a slide show. BTW, a lot of old cord had a metallic thread running through the cloth, like this [not my pic]:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/asbestos_pix/3627863244/

Was that metal functional or decorative? Perhaps coding?
Winged Fist (author)  ToniRose2 years ago
I think that what you are seeing in this picture is an outer layer of black and gold thread, and an inner core of copper, insulated with asbestos fiber, but the gold thread looks like copper at the end when it gets unravelled... Just my guess...
Id like to do this with my Ipod sync cable... not sure how I would get the lace over the USB end though.
Winged Fist (author)  matthew matthew2 years ago
Mathew Mathew - You might want to take a look at "How to make an iPod Line Out Dock," although this certainly isn't a project for beginners!;-)
Winged Fist (author)  matthew matthew3 years ago
In order to use this design for a cable with plugs at both ends, (like your iPod sync cable), you would need to remove one end, and then splice it back on when you're done. Here's an Instructable that might be helpful: How to repair a moulded USB cable. But be forewarned: Working with the very thin wires inside a USB cable can be tricky... You might want to practice on a junk cable first.
Thanks!
ToniRose2 years ago
I like your take on steampunk in all your 'ibles, Winged Fist. You've got the look without overdoing the bric-a-brac, so it's functional without being awkward.
Winged Fist (author)  ToniRose2 years ago
Thanks ToniRose! I generally try not sacrifice functions for form, which is why I tend not add a lot of useless decorative elements;-)
yaly2 years ago
You can use the plastic tips as mini darts by poking a pin with a small flat head through the side that had the rest of the lace till it comes out the other side and spread the small piece of lace at the end to create the fins, give it a good throw at a sofa for example, enjoy
astilly3 years ago
Hrmm...whilst aesthetically quite enjoyable, it's unclear to this humble layperson what to do with this USB cable. I don't see what's going on with the cut end. Something about an "F" type video, but I don't see how the wire splice is happening or what the utility of this kind of cable is...can you clarify? Is this cable functional or merely decorative?
Winged Fist (author)  astilly2 years ago
Here's another project utilizing this steampunk USB cable: My Steampunk incandescent lamp.
Winged Fist (author)  astilly2 years ago
Astilly – I've posted an Instructable which demonstrates one possible use for this cable: Steampunk USB mini-Lantern.

But of course the possibilities are limitless;-)
Winged Fist (author)  astilly3 years ago
You are correct that "as is" this is purely decorative. This is part of a larger project I am working on – my "Decopunk Keyboard." I decided to post this as a stand-alone project, as this method can be used for adding a steampunk or dieselpunk motife to any number of USB peripherals, including a mouse, keyboard, webcam, headphones, etc.
Hey Wing... Have you tried using copper to wrap the USB connector? I'm bust 1 out I think you will you Dig it!
Winged Fist (author)  Grasshopper12212 years ago
Grasshopper – I've seen some fantastic steampunk plugs (and usb drives) on Instructables that were done with copper, but since I lack the proper tools (including a vice, a blow torch or a pipe cutter), I've opted for the much simpler tin method. I also worry that a copper plug my be a bit too heavy for some of the more delicate usb wires I've created.
I enjoyed your instructable describing this process that I hope you don't mind that I've created a link from my instructable to yours: http://www.instructables.com/id/iPhonograph/
Monsterguy3 years ago
I made a few probs for a friends Steampunk LARP. I covered cables in much the same way, but used paracord instead. There are a few advantages & disadvantages to doing so -

1, You can have any length you like, I went upto 4m (12feetish).
2, It's availlable in a very wide range of colours.

3, It's only availlable in a few widths so the thickness of cable needs to be appropriate.

You just need to pull the (usually) white strands out of the middle and slide your cable in.

I've used the ParaCord like you discribe fro making Audio Patch Cords the the home and truck. Very nice and easy to finish off. Long Live ParaCord! ;)
Winged Fist (author)  Monsterguy3 years ago
I'd like to see photos of your steampunk'ed paracord cables. Or better yet an Instructable!;-)
Robot Lover3 years ago
I'm surprised that you were able to solder the tin together with a soldering iron. Usually soldered large pieces of metal requires a torch. Good job.
Winged Fist (author)  Robot Lover3 years ago
I think the trick here is that I bent the tin sheath to firmly conform to the contours of the plug, so the solder is really just covering the seam, and not really holding it together per se. I'm new to the world of soldering, and while I'm sure this piece could be welded, I wanted to make an Instructable that could be done with a soldering iron, for those DIY'ers, like myself, without welding tools or skills. Thanks for the comment!
Beergnome3 years ago
It's absolutely lovely..
but..

why did you unsheathe the original cable? seems to me that it was completely unnecessary and compromises the integrity of the shielded pair cable.
It looks like you are trying to emulate corded asbestos insulation, and you do a good job of that. But unsheathing the cable runs risk of damaging the actual conducting wires and the shielding around them. and once everything is hidden in the boot lace sleeve? well.. whats the difference? in fact.. with the outer cable sheathing intact, it should actually be able to insert it through the boot lace.
Winged Fist (author)  Beergnome3 years ago
I actually tried feeding the cable as-is through a number of laces, unsuccessfully, which is why I decided to remove the shielding. I could have kept looking for a lace that would fit properly, but I didn't think that removing the plastic shielding would damage the integrity of the cable. I was pretty careful not to damage the conducting wires, or the mesh shielding, but I guess I'll find out when I re-attach the cable to the keyboard whether or not I damaged it in the process...
Im sure its going to be fine :) I was just expressing my concern. and in no way did I mean to poopoo on you project if it came off as such.
my concerns are born from my former life as a industrial automations technician. low voltage data wires, like say a USB cord. you have your data wires, power wires, and a elctromagnetic shield tied to a grounded drain wire.. as in the shiled would be connected to the ground on one end and open on the other.. a connected circle could cause a hum after all.

as long as your +5 and 0v are good, and your D+ and D- are good, there should be no problems, and considering the length of the cable in question there should not be a problem as long as the foil shielding is at least connected, a crack in it is allowable. But the outer shield in a data wire is to protect the low voltage wires from external Electromagnetic interference like say 50mgz hum from120,240, or 480v AC voltage. so best practice is to keep the shielding and casing intact to closest allowable termination point for the wire and ground drain the terminated end.

On such a short run of wire, and a digital source of data? this is not going to be an issue what so ever, my concern is based on personal training on best work processes.

I make beer for a living now though, so go on with yer bad self
this is superb i love it well done , doffs hat
Winged Fist (author)  andrewcaseley3 years ago
Thanks Andrew! And thanks for having the first comment on my new creation!
ehudwill3 years ago
Love this idea!
Winged Fist (author)  ehudwill3 years ago
Thanks ehudwill!