In honor of the USB contest, and my own passion for making my own wherever I can, I have created what I believe is a totally unique (gasp) Instructable. I could be wrong, of course, but a quick Google search turned up nothing for this, so I'm claiming glory lol. All told, with picture taking, this project cost me around 30 min, and $0 because I had everything lying around that I needed. Let's begin, and remember to vote!!!
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Step 1: Items You Will Need
Straight forward, these are the items you will need to make a custom length USB cable:
A piece of Cat-5 cable, length you desire
Extra USB connectors that come with a 6-in-1 type cable (if you ever had to purchase one like me, you probably have at least a couple you have absolutely no use for)
Razor knife (careful!)
Soldering iron and solder
Wire Strippers (optional)
Basic electrical meter (not pictured)
I decided to make my own cable to 2 reasons: 1, I always make my own cables when I can (the one I bought that came with the connectors was about $15, yikes!), and 2: Cables never seem to come in the length I need. I always want a longer or shorter than you can buy (most USB cables are 6ft long, this one I made is 10ft long).
Step 2: Harvesting the Male and Female Ends
I picked 2 of the connectors that I had absolutely no use for, couldn't even tell you what they might fit. I carefully (to preserve the usb end) used the razor knife to remove the plastic around the connector part I didn't need. I then use the knife tip and small pliers to peel away the metal housing for the unused connector, exposing 4 wires. I cleaned these up as best I could, and proceeded to step 3.
Step 3: Preparing the Cat-5 Cable
Cat-5 ethernet cable is generally fairly cheap, and I like it because it comes with 8 conductors (wires) and since it's solid wires (instead of stranded), solders beautifully for whatever I need, and small enough for all my mini-electronic experiments. We will only need 4 of the 8 wires, so to make it simple, I kept only the solid wires (blue, orange, green, brown) and removed the stripped wires, on both ends of my cable. I then stripped about a cm of the ends, just enough to solder to. I took a large piece of heat shrink tubing and slipped it over the body of the wire, and took a smaller heat shrink tube and quartered it, placing a 1/4 on each of my 4 colored wires, as pictured.
Step 4: Solder Time!
For the first connector, it doesn't really matter what color wire you attach to what pin of the USB cable. We will ensure before attaching the other end that it's all right. In retrospect, I would have used my shorter-wired usb plug on this step as it doesn't matter, but you know what they say about hindsight... Regardless, if you are a neat solder-er, you can make all your connections, then turn the plug upside down so the smaller heat shrink covers the welds. Heat gun/blow dry to shrink, ensuring all connections are fully insulated from each other. You want NO chance that these wires might cross later, or your cable will be worthless. Use electrical tape if necessary to ensure good insulation, then slide the large heat shrink over the whole mess, and heat it up to tidy everything neatly.
Step 5: Finish the Other End
Before you can finish out the other side, you have to make sure you are connecting the right wires in sequence. To do this, I used the electrical trick called "ohming out the line". Using a meter, set it to the Ohm (greek Omega character) setting, ideally the setting that sounds on connection. You can test this by touching the 2 leads of your meter together. They will either make a noise, or if that feature is not on your meter, make the needle jump or numbers go crazy, indicating a closed circuit. I plugged the female end of my usb cable into my already completed male end, and while holding 1 meter lead on an exposed wire from my female connector, touched each of my colored Cat-5 wires in turn until it made a noise. I then knew these 2 should be soldered together. So as to eliminate confusion, I went ahead and soldered each pair as I matched them so I wouldn't forget. Once finished, I took turns touching my terminals to every possible combination of wire connections to ensure I did NOT hear the noise (each should be fully isolated, and not 'ohm out', or that would indicate a crossed wire or short somewhere, not a good thing). Once satisfied, I completed my heat shrink tubing as I did on the original end.
Step 6: Test It Out!
To test, I plugged the male end into my computer's USB port, and a cheap flash drive into the other. I was hoping to catch a picture of the bubble in the system tray, but the best I grabbed was the open window showing my empty drive contents. I was slightly worried that the longer wire may cause a voltage drop (and I'm sure in very long ones it can/will), so I changed my meter from OHMs to Voltage-DC setting. The outside pins on a USB connector supply the power (pins 1 and 4), so I touched my meter contacts to these 2 and read 5 volts. Success!
I hope this inspires you to get creative with making things that suit your needs. My next project will probably be to use some spare Cat-5 and a spare USB 2.0 PCI card I have to de-solder the USB ports and make my own USB Hub. Thanks to the entire Instructables community and individuals like KipKay that inspired me to get started tinkering with things like this! VOTE FOR
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