Free and Dirty Conductive Thread-




About: I work in a D.i.Y style superstore. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it certainly perpetuates my interest in such areas. I enjoy high powered devices of any kind. I do not give in, ev...

Strip insulated wires to harvest the valuable copper "thread" for E-textile projects.
In this I'ble I will show you my method, of stripping insulated waste cable for E-textile projects.

Why pay for expensive conductive thread when there is a cheap and available source at our finger tips.

Todays electronics often leave us with, useless lengths of insulated wire.
The equipment long since dead.

Now re-cycle this cable into a new purpose.

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Step 1: Slice Insulation

Take you insulated wire and cut a small slice up the length of the end.

Expose the cluster of threads.

Firmly grasp the wire then peel the insulation back down the length.
If done correctly the insulation should, all come of like a banana skin in one piece.

Step 2: Separating the Strands

You may find the strands are twisted through the length.
Un-twist the length.

Carefully remove individual strands and spool them for future use.

Step 3: Free Conductive Thread!!

This thread can be used for a variety of applications.
It is easy to solder and very flexible. Try not to kink the strand though as it may create a weak spot and break.

Try experimenting with a variety of different rated cables. You will find many sizes of strand depending on you project needs.

For an example of its use see my E-textile RoBot

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    16 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    From junk that's partly lost or dead,
    You still can get conductive thread,
    It's not the stuff you buy online,
    But still conducts, I'm sure it's fine.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great example of repurposing. I personally find magnet wire (especially the ultra thin stuff) perfect for a conductive thread substitute, plus it has an insulating coat, so strands can cross one another without risk of short circuits.

    This is a very bad Instructable because it does not describe on how to make actual conductive thread. It just shows you how to strip a cable for wires, thats it. Sorry for not being positive but somebody should find it constructive for showing some one on how to strip a wire.

    2 replies

    mate! right first off draw a think OUTSIDE the box!
    why cant this be classed as a thread? hmm...? its flexible enough to be poked through a needle and then stitched or 'Threaded' in a fabric, also being conductive Equals conductive thread =D

    Lftndbt great idea! i think i might experiment with running it through glue and hanging to dry to solve Gorfams's problem of spillage or getting
    caught in the rain!

    Cheers again!

    What exactly do you think "conductive thread" is?
    Just FYI have a look at my avatar, that circuit is produced using this method.
    Also did you not read the title? I never stated that this Instructable shows you "how to make actual conductive thread". It shows you how to obtain a satifactory alternative. The inner strands of cable are conductive and are suitable for sewing with.

    The Instructable was to point out that there are free and easy to obtain alternatives, to actually going out and spending money on thread. Obviously that has gone over some people heads.

    Don't take my comment as aggressive, yet I am a tad perplexed as to your issue. Check this out please


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've done this exact thing before while trying to make dots-like gloves. I found that you can add a core by threading the normal thread through the center hole in a salt shaker (anything with a few holes that you can thread would work... i had a salt shaker) then the metal wire through the outer holes on the salt shaker (obviously empty the salt out first). then use a drill to spin the wire on side you threaded to. It should pull the wire and thread through the hole and wrap a decent conductive thread. that probably didn't make much sense but its really not that complicated.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Two cents worth of my humble opinion...

    It seems like the good points are:
    - it's cheap or free (genuine conductive thread costs out the wazoo).
    - it reuses old cabling that is difficult to recycle.
    - it probably has low resistance in comparison to most geniune conductive thread.

    Drawbacks might be:
    - May break easily. Genuine conductive thread uses extremely fine metal wire wound around a nylon core, which gives the thread the flexiblity & strength to stand up to being sewn & (presumably) worn.
    - May short out. What happens if you spill a glass of water on the textile in your avatar? (And, if your glass was holding Pepsi instead, how do you launder the piece?)
    - May poke at you. Once the copper threads start breaking, they'll turn into eensy beensy little bristles.

    My guess would be that this would work well for an art piece that's going to go up on the wall, and might work in a soft toy/stuffed toy (although not one intended for small children). You could maybe get it to work in a hat, I think, if you placed the threads within a stiff brim or crown - and never, ever, wore it in the rain.

    Like the title says, it's cheap and dirty.
    (Hmm... it might also be good for prototyping/test runs, so you don't risk blowing the super-expensive thread on a set-up that winds up letting all the smoke out anyway.)

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    WoW!! Well said. That is exactly its prime uses. If you wanted something that will last for a long time then by all means, buy the proper thread. If you wish to prototype or construct rigid pieces, I have found this relatively effective. Just a question, I would imagine if you spilt liquid on a live conductive thread circuit ,it would still short, would it not? Thanks for your comments.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, Lftndbt :) :) :) As to your question, I don't know. I've never actually worked with conductive thread or fabric, and don't know that much specifically about it. I do know a fair amount about how metals respond to flex and wear (did my Master's Thesis on stuff just like that); some about electrical & electronic circuits (the School of Engineering makes you take a couple of EE courses before they'll let you loose on the Master's Degree thing); and a non-negligible amount about sewing, embroidery, and working with gold and sliver embroidery thread (I used to do a lot of historical costuming - and if you wanna get all dressed up like a Russian Princess, you gotta learn how to embroider with gold thread :). I can tell you that on the embroidery thread, the fine metal wire that's wrapped around the textile (nylon, polyester, silk, what-have-you) core is itself coated with an ultra-thin coat of shellac to help keep the metal from tarnishing. Whether that shellac has any decent insulating properties, or how long it would last under a live (micro)current load, I don't know. (I can, however, recommend against placing metallic thread on the back of a garment anywhere between the waist & the knees, unless you truly believe that you will never want to sit down while you're wearing it. That's also not such a good place for pearls or any other knobby little sorts of things. :) I've submitted your question to "Answers" - it'll be interesting to see what we get.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    A little late, but i plan to use this in a one time use costume. Im bringing back the "be a Christmas tree" for Halloween that i did a few years back, with blinking lights.

    Lftndbt, FYI all I SEE IS Wire sewed into a peice of cloth, that is not what conductive thread is, and to answer your question, yes, i did read the title, which was misleading. Does'nt Free and Dirty Conductive Thread sound like conductive thread to you. p.s. . conductive thread would at least have a cotton core to prevent kinks

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Todays electronics often leave us with, useless lengths of insulated wire. The equipment long since dead. or do you mean real conductive thread?