Introduction: 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.

Step 1: 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.


• 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

Step 2: Cut and Core the Shoelace

Cut the aglets (plastic ends) off of the shoelace. 

Measure and cut the shoelace to the length of cable you want to make.  If you measure after removing the core, your cable will be shorter than your measurement.

Remove the core of the shoelace.  We want the cover.    You may save the core for another project.

Step 3: Cover the Cable

Slip the shoelace cover over the wire or cable.

Holding the cable, gently push the cover where the end of the wire is.  Use three fingers and refrain from squeezing to prevent the cover from collapsing. 

Feed the cover all the way onto the wire, allowing enough extra at each end to allow you to strip the wire and attach the connector.  This may change depending on the connector you use.

Step 4: Heat Shrink Cover Onto Wire

Slip a small piece of heat shrink tubing onto the wire and end of the cover.  Half of the tubing should be over bare wire. This will keep the end of the cloth cover from moving.

Next, stretch the cloth cover longer until it is tight and grips the wire.   Then cut the wire, leaving a little extra to do the same on the other end of the cable.  Leave at least enough length to fit the connector you are using.

You now have a cloth covered wire!  onto the next step for connectors...

Step 5: Strip and Tin

Strip the ends of the wire according to the connectors you are using.  My banana connectors need about 1/4in. bare wire.

Tin the ends of the wire by heating with a soldering iron and adding just enough solder to fill the voids in between the strands of wire. 
   For these connectors, it will give the set screw something to bite into. For solder type connectors it will make soldering easier.

Step 6: Prepare and Assemble Connectors

Prepare the Connectors

I put heat shrink tubing over my connectors to change them black, to add a rubber grip and to give a little strain relief to the cord.  I used about 1.5in. long tubing over the 1in. long connector. You may need a different size if you are using different connectors.
      These connectors use set screws, so I poked a hole in the tubing to allow the screw to go through. I used an awl, but you may use whatever thin sharp object you like if you need a hole.
For connectors without set screws, or if you prefer the set screw to be hidden, especially if you plan to use your patch cables for high voltage, you should not poke holes, but put the heat shrink on at the last step instead.

Assemble the connectors. 

Insert the wire into the banana, slide the sleeve over, and insert the set screw.  Of course other connectors may be assembled differently.
     For many connectors you will need to remember to slide the sleeve over the wire first before screwing down or soldering the connection.

Step 7: Strain Relief

Optionally, apply heat to shrink the outer heat shrink tubing for strain relief.
    For connectors without set screws, you can add this at any time.

Step 8: Finished

Congratulations you have made a cloth covered cable.