Retractable 1/8" Stereo Patch Cable




About: I'm a self proclaimed renaissance man. My goal in life is to have a conversational/practical knowledge of every subject known to man. I do graphics design in my spare time, along with make-ing.

This cable's a lifesaver for recording to a laptop or connecting to a car stereo that has aux input. The only problem is that they normally retail at $20 and up. I decided to make my own cable from the most abundant and inexpensive retractable cables available, Dollar Store USB Cables. I found my source at "Dollar Tree" in Littleton, NH. They carry a cable by eCircuit Electronics.


eCircuit retractable USB Male-Male 30" cable - $1
2x 3.5mm male jack plugs - $3.99 @ RadioShack (ouch!)


soldering iron
wire strippers
helping hands

In total, the project cost me $4.99, but it could have been $2-$3 if it weren't for RS' inflated prices.

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Step 1: Cut Usb Cable

Extend the cable and snip on each side of the spool, about 1-2" from each end.

Make sure the cable can't retract while working.

Leave enough on the ends to be able to reuse the connectors.

Step 2: Strip Wires

remove the outer rubber from about 1/2" on each end, and carefully separate the enameled wire by color; but, don't bother trying to strip it.

then slip the screw on sleeves over the wires.

I cut the strain relief to make the cable more compact.

Step 3: Solder

Twist the inner two sets of wires together (i.e. twist blue and green together) and solder the sets to the plugs (red to tip, bare to ring, blue/green to sleeve/ground)

the enamel should burn off under heat, but triple check your connections with a multimeter to be sure.

then, reassemble.

voila... $5 retractable patch cable

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    14 Discussions

    bunnie benton

    12 years ago

    instead of making this which is always fun, you can go to the Dollar Tree and buy one ($1, duh). i got one the other day and they also sell retractable USB to printer cables

    3 replies
    gschoppebunnie benton

    Reply 12 years ago

    what dollar tree has stereo patch cables... i couldn't find any in the three I hit. are you talking USB to Parallel (IEEE 1294) cables, or just USB type-A male to USB type-B male? I can't see a USB type-A male to IEEE 1294 (centronics) connector hitting the $1 range.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    There is no such thing as a Usb to firewire cable as far as I'm concerned, totally different data transfer protocols, not to mention the 30V of the firewire.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    firewire is IEEE 1394, Parallel (old printer interface) is IEEE 1284 ... I made a typo and mixed the two...

    and, yes, for the record, there is only one type of firewire to usb adapter in existence... its called a computer... it can transfer a file from firewire, to memory, to usb, and vice versa... <insert LOL here>

    You wouldn't believe the number of times I get that question from camcorder owners (I work in an electronics store)... some people get quite angry that there's not a $1 cable adapter to give them firewire on their laptop... its like wanting to use an arc welder to power a 2xAA flashlight... two entirely different implementations of the same principles. </exaggeration>

    One guy screamed at me for 15 minutes, at the top of his lungs, before storming out, because I told him that he could not connect a USB hub backwards so as to share a printer... I showed him the print-servers, told him about printer sharing, and even showed him an auto-sensing USB switch, but he wanted us to have USB A male to USB A male cables for one end, and USB B male to USB mini B 5-pin Male for the other...

    some people cannot be satisfied...



    Reply 11 years ago on Step 3

    although it would work, I wouldn't recommend this for any situation involving recording or live performance (the most common domain of the 1/4" jack)... in any situation where signal integrity is important, you need MUCH better shielding on your cables than any retractable offers.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Some dollar stores sell retractibe earbuds, you could snip off the buds and replace with another jack.

    DIY Dave

    12 years ago on Introduction

    you also could get the male 1/8 plugs from dollar headphones


    12 years ago

    Awesome! I once did a similar thing for a headphone jack and a pair of headphones. In fact, I might have to post an Instructable on that.....


    12 years ago

    This is great timing, I needed to make a male-male jack, but I hadn't thought about making it retractible. If you wanted to save 2 buck, you could have also bought dollar store headphones and stripped off the jacks. Cool.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago

    i considered scavenging plugs, but I was worried about strain and overall retractability with a big piece of elecrical tape on each end


    12 years ago

    I couldn't find a male-male anywhere in local stores, except in a $25 ipod accessories pack. plus the labor is half the fun.


    12 years ago

    Nice work! My only concern would be the strain being put directly on the solder joints inside the plugs when retracting the cable.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago

    the plugs have a crimped strain relief on the end of the sleeve connector where you just squeeze it tight when you're finished... not perfect, but it works