Introduction: DIY Network Mapping Tool
DISCLAIMER - Because, apparently, some users here (and elsewhere that I've linked this tutorial) think you don't have any common sense and it is necessary that I mother you: Label everything appropriately. Do not connect to a "live" network. This does not take the place of testing your cable runs.
This is a tutorial for creating a network mapping tool much like the one made and sold by CableSupply.com (Shown Here), however it is super easy to make, costs a lot less, and improves on their design in three ways:
1.) The LED’s I used have a flat form factor which allows them to be encased in the indicator clips. Their design uses standard round LED’s which protrude making them susceptible to damage.
2.) This design incorporates an extra indicator LED in the power pack that lights up when a valid connection has been made at the patch panel, immediately alerting the operator at the jack of any potential failures. This can be useful if you are mapping a network by yourself and you will know that you will need to tone probe the connection. Usually this is due to improper wiring at the patch panel or the RJ45 jack.
3.) Their design does not have an RJ45 jack in the power pack, just a cable with a Cat5 connector on the end. Having the RJ45 jack as I have done allows you to quickly test your LED indicator clips by plugging them directly into the power pack. This is usefull when making the indicator clips and can also be useful when troubleshooting.
This tutorial assumes that the networks you wish to use this on are wired using the T568-B standard, but can be adapted for T568-A if necessary. It also assumes you possess basic knowledge of using the tools mentioned.
This tutorial does not cover construction of the project box/enclosure. I used some spare PVC parts and a network outlet faceplate that I had laying around. You could easily just use a single-gang outlet box/faceplate as the enclosure, but I wanted something with a little more spit and polish.
Make as many indicators as you need, and don’t forget to make extras/backups.
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Step 1: Parts You Will Need
- (100+)* flat red LED’s
- (100+)* Cat5/Cat5e/Cat6 crimp connectors
- (1) RJ45 Keystone Jack
- (1) 3mm Red LED
- (1) 9V Battery
- (1) 9V Battery clip w/leads
- (1) 220Ω resistor (¼ W)
- Heatshrink tubing
- Extra wires (I used some extra Cat5e wire strands)
- Some sort of project box/enclosure.
*Obviously you can make as many (or as few) indicator clips as you'd like, I made 100 to start with.
Step 2: Tools You Will Need
- 110 Punch-down tool
- Crimp Tool
- Soldering Iron
Step 3: Make the Power Pack (Step 1)
Shown is the schematic of the system we are making. The portion inside the blue dashed lines is the power pack.
Make the power pack first. This way, when you make the indicator clips, you can immediately test them by inserting them directly into the power pack.
Wire the RJ45 jack as shown.
- Use a single wire to connect the orange/white, orange, green/white, blue terminals together. This will be the positive lead.
- Use another wire to connect the blue/white, green, brown/white, brown terminals together. This will be the negative lead.
- Depending on the type/brand of your RJ45 jack, your wiring may look different.
Essentially, what we are doing here is shorting the connections on each half of the 8-pin jack together, one side for positive, one side for negative. When making the LED indicator clips, it’s not always easy to get the LED leads positioned exactly where you want them in the connector, so doing this means your placement doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as each lead lands in one of the 4 slots on either side of the connector, you should be good.
Step 4: Make the Power Pack (Step 2)
- Wire the negative lead of the RJ45 jack to the negative lead of the battery clip (black).
- Wire the positive lead of the RJ45 jack to the negative (cathode) lead of the 3mm LED.
- Wire one lead of the 220Ω resistor to the positive (anode) lead of the 3mm LED.
- Wire the other lead of the 220Ω resistor to the positive lead of the battery clip (red).
- Install this configuration in your project box however you see fit.
The 3mm LED needs to be mounted in the enclosure so it is visible to the operator. I used a 13/64 drill bit and some glue to mount mine directly next to the RJ45 jack.
There is no need for any sort of power switch. Simply unplug the power pack from the wall jack and the circuit is deactivated. Leaving it plugged in (or leaving an indicator clip plugged into it) can drain the battery.
Be sure to use heat-shrink tubing on all your connections to prevent shorts.
Also pictured are the pieces I used for my project box: A 1½" PVC coupler, A 1½" PVC plug, and a single-port faceplate. As I mentioned earlier, a simple solution would be to use a plastic single-gang outlet box with a faceplate, but I think this looks cooler.
Note: In the photo, you may notice that I wired the resistor to the negative lead of the RJ45 jack instead of the positive lead of the LED... it still works perfectly fine this way, I accidentally forgot to wire the resistor to the LED and didn't want to re-do the connections. I also don't want to re-write the steps, or re-draw the schematic, so do as I say, not as I do... or whatever.
Step 5: Make the Indicator Clips (Step 1)
The short lead of the LED’s are the negative (cathode) leads.
The negative leads also have a larger “flag” inside the LED body as shown.
Prep the leads of the LED’s as shown. The distance between the leads should be approximately 5/16”, and the overall length of the trimmed part should be about ¾".
Step 6: Make the Indicator Clips (Step2)
Insert the LED’s into the RJ45 ends as shown.
The negative (cathode) lead should go where the brown cat5 wire would normally go (far right).
The positive (anode) lead should go in the orange/white position (far left).
Again, since we shorted each half of the RJ45 jack of the power pack together, the left four slots will be positive and the right four slots will be negative, so positioning of the leads is not critical.
Crimp the connector with a crimping tool to secure the LED’s.
Make extras! They’re tiny and easy to lose, and if any of them stop working, you’ll be glad to have some backups on hand.
I’m going to experiment with adding some glue, epoxy, clear silicone, or RTV into the indicator LED’s for a little extra security… you should do the same, but remember that some glues will melt plastic, so don’t go all-in without testing a few first.
I tried using super glue, and it didn't work very well (took forever to dry and turned the clear plastic cloudy).
Step 7: Test the Clips!
Test each one by inserting it into the power pack’s RJ45 jack. Both LED’s should light up! If they don't, there's a problem.
It may be a good idea to periodically test all your indicator clips... It's easier to find the duds before a big job than during it.
Step 8: Using the Tool
When mapping a network installation, simply insert as many indicator clips as you need into the patch panel(s).
Using a short patch cable, attach the power pack to any RJ45 wall jack.
The corresponding indicator clip at the patch panel will light up and you will instantly know which panel/port number that wall jack is wired to.
Label and test everything accordingly!
Step 9: Troubleshooting
If the LED’s don’t light up, there is likely a wiring error made at the wall jack or at the patch panel.
If the indicator LED on the power pack doesn’t light up (but the indicator clip at the patch panel DOES), then there is likely a short in your power pack somewhere.
If the indicator LED on the power pack lights up (but the indicator clip at the patch panel DOES NOT), then there is likely a short in the cable run, the indicator clip at the patch panel, or the power pack.
When in doubt, you can always test an LED indicator clip by inserting it directly into the power pack.