Cloth Covered Banana Cables

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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

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.

Tools

• 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.

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    46 Discussions

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    JourPT

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Did this to my Philips SHE3590 in-ears. Thanks for the idea.

    Headphones.jpg
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    aks

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Where did you get the heat shrink from? I have tons of different heat shrink, but most of them only have a 2:1 shrink ratio. I've done this in the past with14 gauge wire, but the heat shrink didn't even come close to being snug on it.

    3 replies
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    Aud1073cHaks

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I got my shrink tubing from Allied Electronics.
    You can filter by shrink ratio, length, color, MFR, material, etc.

    For my 3/8in. tubing, I used Allied #689-0392, with 3:1 shrink ratio (sizes are expanded diameter, not recovered diameter.)

    But you may want something larger with 4:1 ratio instead. Then you can use it for a wider range size of connectors.

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    aksAud1073cH

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Finally saw this email after sifting through my inbox. Thanks for the link. It's hard trying to find thin wall 3:1 heat shrink.

    Funny thing is I live 3 or 4 miles from the facility. Sadly I can't buy directly from them and avoid shipping and handling.

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    Aud1073cHaks

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    When I got 4ft lengths from Allied, they shipped it in a 4ft long box. (may have added to shipping costs?)

    You may try to find some form for your order to add "special instructions"
    (1) to fold, wrap, or otherwise stuff the tubing into a smaller box to try to save on shipping.
    (2) you may also specify that heat shrink tubing does not require bubble wrap.

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    kicker109

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Cloth Covered Audio/Sterio cables. you're a genius!! this will make DJing 100x easier

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    5Volt

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool! I'll try and do it for some alligator clips. Need some coloured shoelaces, though...
    Best
    Alex

    1 reply
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    Aud1073cH5Volt

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Cloth covered alligator clip leads - That's a great idea. I'll have to make a couple of those. Thanks 5Volt !

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    koubis

    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is cool. I plan to make some steampunk headphones and this is what I could not figure out as old fabric wires are not sold anymore.. Will post pics later.

    1 reply
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    zulfiqaradil

    8 years ago on Step 6

    this idea was good but little bit of mistake its not isolated at the point of screw in your discribe procedure in step 6 you first screwd the cable in banana pin then put the heat-Shrink sleave on it

    2 replies
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    Aud1073cHzulfiqaradil

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You are right.

    I plan to use my patch cables for low-voltage connections with a patchable synthesizer.  I also wanted to make it easy for me to get to the set screw if I need to.  Eventually, I may circuit-bend something and want the screw exposed for touch contact as well.

    If you plan to use your cables for higher voltage or higher current applications, you will want to just add the heat shrink tubing at the last step, and don't poke any holes in it.

    @zulfiqaradil - Thanks for pointing this out. It could be a safety issue.

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    marksstudio

    8 years ago on Step 8

    Those really look custom. Great idea and execution! Heading to the dollar store right now.

    Cheers,

    m

    1 reply
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    thirtyfivefoxmarksstudio

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    Looks fantastic... i would think that if you use a small leather strap and screwed it in place around the connector it would add a neat feel to the cable that the heat shrink is sort of missing... fine looking cables though, really.

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    dfc849

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Audio Tech,

    Wonderfully constructed Instructable! Steps are clear and pictures are beautiful. I once made a set of USB cables using this type of material I found laying around, but my results were nowhere near the quality of these connectors. Next time I make some, I'll definitely use methods suggested in this Instructable (starting from scratch and using heat shrink tubing) to make my cables.

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    Jislizard

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea.

    I have a Victorian magneto-electric "electric shock' machine, although the original wires are braided copper with a white insulating cloth stiched over the top they are in pretty bad condition.

    The box is wooden and the insides are brass and felt, I didn't fancy throwing the original wires away and replacing them with rubber insulated ones.

    Now I can cover the original wires with gutted paracord and preserve them until you write an instructable on stiching cloth covers.

    Thanks

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    gafisher

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice idea, and good Instructable!
     
    For large projects, shoelace material is available in bulk from places like RW Rope (rwrope.com). It's also available in larger sizes -- I've seen up to 1/2 inch diameter -- which would make it great for antiqued / classic / steampunked power cords and USB cables, and can be ordered in a variety of colors to make it easier to organize cables.
     
    Note that this stuff can be "compressed" like a toy "oriental finger trap" to adjust the diameter for thicker and thinner cables, or -- if you're lucky -- to work it over a connector on cables that can't be easily disassembled. Just serve the ends with a little hot glue or clear acrylic to hold them in place if you can't get shrink tubing in place.

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    reinlargafisher

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I went to rwrope.com website, but can't find the shoelace material??? They don't seem to have a search function, do you have a link to the page with the shoelace material??? Thanks- reinlar