Introduction: Paracord Headphones

About: I like finding uses for things that otherwise have no use.
I'm not always careful about wrapping my headphones, which means they're usually a tangled mess when I take them out of my pocket. I thought that using paracord for headphones would be a good idea because paracord doesn't tangle easily. I also had a couple of hands-free single speaker earbuds with a 2.5mm jack for an old phone which were useless to me now that I have a phone that takes a 3.5mm jack.

You could do a variation of this project to include the microphone and one button remote button, but if you do that, make sure you have a jack with 4 collars to connect all the wires. Another, easier variation is to use wider paracord that fits over the insulation so you don't have to strip the wires at all. These instructions assume you're using the same kind of earbuds I did, so you may need to alter it to fit your supplies.


Step 1: Materials and Tools

a few feet of 2mm paracord (not the standard 3mm)
old headphones or two old single-speaker earbuds
a 3.5 mm jack (Be sure to use the jack size that fits your phone. Also, you can use the one from existing headphones if you're OK with soldering the wires back together)
shrink wrap tubing

wire cutters
wire stripper
a lighter or matches
fishing line
something sharp and pokey and/or flat and pokey

Step 2: Step 1: Strip the Insulation From the Old Headphones

This is probably the trickiest part of the project because the stranded wires used for headphones are delicate and it's hard to strip them without breaking a few strands. You might be able to avoid this if you use larger paracord, but my headphone wires didn't fit in the 2mm paracord with its insulation still on, so I had to strip the wires. I also thought the headphones would be more flexible without the insulation.

Cut the existing jacks off the earbuds
Pry the microphone case apart with a small flathead screwdriver and disentangle the microphone cord from the speaker cord
pull the cords out of the microphone case so all you're left with is the lone speaker cord
strip the speaker cord leaving an inch or two of insulation close to the speaker
test the speakers to make sure they still work

The most successful method I found for stripping the wire, and this is kind of embarrassing, was to bite off the insulation at one end, split the insulation lengthwise, then pull the insulation away from the wires. I also tried using the wire strippers with some success. If you do that, strip of only a few inches at a time, and try not to stretch the wires too much. If you want to know why, read The Strand by Stephen King.

The speaker wire strands are coated, so you'll have to get that coating off in order to test them. To do that, burn the ends of the wires for a couple of seconds so that you have 10 mm or so of naked wire. To test the speakers, plug the 3.5mm jack into a music source and connect each speaker individually. If you hear music, they're good.

Step 3: Step 2: Prep the Paracord

In order to use the paracord, you'll have to hollow it out. Measure and cut two portions of cord, one long enough for the entire length of the headphones and one long enough to connect one speaker to the main cord to form the second arm of the "Y". My cord was yellow with a red core. Grab the core and pull it out, then burn the ends of the hollowed-out paracord so they wont fray. In the longer length of cord, cut about a 5mm slit lengthwise in the middle where the two cords will meet. Save the core for later.

Step 4: Step 3: String the Wires Through the Paracord

Because it's a bit of a tight fit, you'll first string the speaker wires through the two top parts of the "Y" and then string all four wires through the bottom main part. If you want to use shrink tubing for the "Y", remember to string that on first.

Take a length of fishing line more than twice the length of the longest length of paracord and fold it in half, putting a sharp crease in it. Starting with the shorter length of paracord, push the folded fishing line through the paracord, crease first, until it comes out the other end. Feed a couple of inches of the jack-end of the wires from one speaker through the loop and then pull the fishing line back through the paracord so the wires are all the way through. Snug the paracord up to the speaker, and if you want to, put some shrink tubing over the connection to keep it together (I skipped that).

If you plan on using shrink tubing at the connection between the paracord and speaker, you'll have an easier time on the longer length if you thread the tubing first.

For the longer length, string the fishing line from the slit you cut in the middle of the cord up to the top where the speaker will be. Then pull the wires of the second speaker through so that the wires exit the slit. Snug the paracord up to the speaker.

For the lower part of the headphones, string the fishing line up from the bottom through the slit in the middle of the longer portion of cord. Loop all four speaker wires through the end of the fishing line and pull them through. Test them to make sure they still work.

Step 5: Step 4: Attach the Branches

You have to attach the two branches of paracord where they meet to form the "Y" of the headphones. You could use a dab of glue, shrink tubing, or use some more paracord to tie a fancy knot around them. I chose to use the core of the paracord by wrapping it around the connection and then melting it on. It forms a pretty strong bond, but isn't terribly pretty.

Step 6: Step 5: Attach the Jack

If you're using shrink tubing over the jack or a two-piece jack, thread the tubing or cover on the paracord first. Connect all the wires, test them, and solder them. Your jack will probably only have 3 connectors, one each for left and right and one for ground. Attach two like-colored wires to the ground and the others to the right and left respectively. Test out the phones and if they work, solder them and insulate with the tubing/cover and you're done!

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