Roll Your Own Patch Cables





Introduction: Roll Your Own Patch Cables

About: I'm working towards a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering. This year I'll be transferring to a university to finish the last two years of my degree. I've been accepted to the engineering program at Ca...

Buying effects pedal cables is a pain. They're overpriced and generally cheaply made, unless you spring for even more expensive units (yes, I'm complaining about spending like ten bucks). The make-your-own kits are a little better, but those solderless connections never work for me. So I made a few for myself, with quality Mogami cable and Switchcraft hardware. These came out to about $5 each, they're bulletproof, and were a piece of cake to build! If you can solder you can make them too, and save a few bucks for guitar strings and things!

Step 1: Materials

The first thing you'll need is a cable - buying bulk cable or by the foot is an option here, or you could cut up a guitar cable (you'll pay additional markup for a premade guitar cable though). For this project I bought a 20' Mogami guitar cable because I got a killer deal on it, and had plenty left over for future projects. I'm also a fan of the guitar cables from Dimarzio, they're priced well and are sturdy, solid cables, plus you can find them with Switchcraft ends and cool braided jacketing! really though just use whatever you like. I generally advise against buying Monster cable at retail, or at all really. It's marginally better than other cables but costs an arm and a leg because of their outrageous marketing/hype, but if you find a great deal on craigslist or something then go for it! It's not bad stuff, just overpriced.

You'll also need some right angle plugs for the end. Don't bother with stereo, you just need mono. I recommend Switchcraft 226's for quality, American made nickel-plated-brass plugs that are easy for you to solder. I bought a pack of 8 on ebay and they came out to around $3 or $4 apiece, but you can do better if you buy more!

You'll also need the regular soldering stuff - iron, damp sponge, solder, helping hands, etc. There are some great instructables on soldering if you don't think you're up to par.

Step 2: Prep Your Cables!

Figure out what length you need for your pedals and cut your cables to length, leaving an extra couple of inches for stripping/soldering. Strip back the insulation, leaving the inner 'hot' wire insulated a little longer so that there is just enough core wire to solder, this will ensure you have no chance of shorting the core with the shielding. Pull the shielding to one side and twist, the side you pull it to will determine which way the plug faces. Trim everything up to align with the proper terminals of whatever ends you're using.

This is also a good time to consider whether you want your plugs to face the same direction or be 180 degrees to each other, as you can pull the shielding wire to one side or another to make positioning easier. 

Step 3: Solder

Now the fun part - Soldering! Get your coffee, put on some good music, and get settled in.
Be sure the tip of your iron is tinned and clean! Get your cables all lined up and crimp the "cable-grabbers" on the sleeve terminal. Solder the inner conductor to the 'tip terminal' and the outer shielding/ground to the 'sleeve terminal,' and that's about all there is to it! I told you this was easy!

Be sure that you slide the screw-on pieces over the cable before you solder the ends on. Trust me, you'll feel like an idiot every time you have to unsolder an end to put these on! Before you close everything up take a careful look at your work for any shorts or loose wires that may become shorts. If you like, put a bit of Locktite on the threads before you screw it all together. It's probably not necessary, but can't hurt, right? As my favorite engineering professor loves to say, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!"

Step 4: You're All Done!

Now if you have a multimeter you can check continuity in all your cables. You can also just plug them into all your pedals and deal with any problems as they arise, as I did. If you did everything right you shouldn't have any shorts or bad connections, but there's no shame in doing something over to get it right!

Thanks for reading, if you have any tips or suggestions for improvement please let me know in the comments!



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    19 Discussions

    Great article! I love making my own patch cables for my pedalboard as I get to customize the size and make my board look neat and tidy.

    Good instructable. Like everyone else with any experience, I've got a couple of notes of my own...

    Someone mentioned a professional quality soldering station below. I totally agree: the little cheapy soldering iron does work, and I used one for ages, but if you find yourself soldering more than once in a blue moon, a good temp controlled station is really worth the money. You'll find yourself doing better work because of it.

    Quality connectors... A while back I tried out a bag of knockoff connectors that looked exactly like a Switchcraft 226. Out of the bag of ten, 6 had a dead short from the start, one of the remainder failed when I soldered it and the one cable I put together failed after a month... they have all been relocated to the trash.

    Your instructable was great

    i love the picture that shows the Coffee, A must in Electronics.

    Cheers Mate.

    1 reply

    Finally after nearly 2 decades of soldering my own headphone jacks and plugs I learned that you MUST fill the cavity of the plug to keep wires from moving around under flex. Just a tiny bit of movement will eventually cause the weak point of the wires (the gap of exposed wire between the insulation and the connection point) will wear out and break. If the wires move (headphones, guitars, Mics, etc.) No amount of crimping or lose wires will prevent this.

    For fill material I use hot glue although there may be something better. Test your cable first and move it around a bit to make sure nothing is shorting out or disconnecting. Heat up your glue gun, squirt some on and smear it around the wires so it ties everything together. Get the sleeves on when it's still hot. If need be you can take a heat gun to it to re-flow your hot glue if you're struggling to get the sleeve on.

    1 reply

    The hot glue is a good trick, I've used it in other projects but skipped it here. I just didn't think about it, if I did this again I would certainly use the glue!

    I agree on the neutrik connectors - I generally like them better than switchcraft but it's just my preference. Another good cable option is Digiflex - Digiflex and Canare are my favorites.

    Not sure if you did this or not but a good soldering tip for anyone doing this is to tin the cable and the connector first and then just put them together and re-heat.

    Another good source for decent right-angle plugs are the short pedal-connector cables they have at Guitar "Evil Empire" Center, usually in a fishbowl by the cash register. These cables are $ 3 or $ 4 each, and have two perfectly good right-angle connectors. Might not be Switchcraft, but if you solder the cable solidly to them and don't abuse them (i.e., pull the PLUG, not the cable--real rocket science), I'm pretty sure they'll last just as long. (Heck, I'm still recycling Radio Shack straight plugs I first bought in the '70s--solder them securely and DON'T PULL THE CABLE!) Also, look for closeouts on guitar cables that can be cut up. I once bought 8 20' Mogami instrument cables for $ 3 each (Evil Empire again--God have mercy on me) and made a nifty 16-channel fan snake so we could mix monitors on on our own board and use the channel sends to connect to the built-in FOH system.

    I think this should be required reading for all musicians! One trick I do is use the dual center conductor cable used for balanced microphones. I put some slack and used both center leads for a double reliability. I have a cable that's 30" years old still kickin. Great Instructable!!!

    Hi and thanks for posting this instructable--perhaps it will encourage other people to try "rolling their own" cables.

    The only suggestion I would offer is to use Neutrik connectors instead of the Switchcrafts. There are a couple reasons: 1) the Neutrik strain relief system is superior (it doesn't rely on that crazy two-tab metal thing), and 2) I think the overall quality of the connector is better--for instance the solderconnections are machined into the metal tube that makes up the inner and outer connector parts of the connector, not just a flimsy tab and, therefore, cannot move around no matter how much tension is applied. The pricing is about the same..I use these commercially in system integration for radio and recording studios and have for more than twenty years. I just think they're a better connector whether it's a 1/4" Tip/Ring or an "XL" style connectors.

    Neutrik connectors are available everywhere (some sources are: Digi-key, Mouser Electronics (these are major suppliers and the pricing is lowest), e-Bay and even many of the larger local vendors. I usually get mine from Digi-Key.

    One other thing to think about is the "flexibility" of the cable, itself. For use as musical instrument cables (I play guitar, for example) and microphones, it's really nice to have a really flexible cable. Mogami, Canare, and even Belden makes suitable stuff, though I am fond of the first two.

    Anyway, great job!!! This should be helpful to lots of folks. As you said it's important to be really competent at soldering, so if you've not done it much, watch some instructables on it. It's easy to mess up connections and cable and practice makes perfect, but it's NOT difficult at all, just be certain you heat the most massive pieces first (they take longer to heat up) and properly "tin" your cable tips and connectors--if you follow those rules, the soldering process will be fast and result in nice, shiny connections rather than "cold solder joints" which is where the solder may hold the wire captive, but it really doesn't make a good electrical connection with the connector.

    I've not looked, but I'm sure there are lots of good Instructables just on that. Take advantage of those!!

    Thanks Again!!


    Portland, OR

    1 reply

    Check out for soldering tutorials. It is an electronic heavy site (arduino, chips, etc. ), but the beginning soldering videos go over topics such as tinning the soldering iron, which is absolutely crucial for good heat transfer, even more so when dealing with heavy connectors that suck heat. In this particular case you may want to only tin the cables and not the connectors. Third and fourth hand tools can then be used to keep the tinned cable directly in contact with the clean connector. Then apply the tinned iron to the underside of the connector (don't apply the Iron to the cable and connector to make the joint, unless geometry and space requires it). You only need a bit of solder on the Iron, enough so that you can see that the molten solder creates a good bridge between the Iron and connector. Now begin to apply solder to the connector/cable junction. Do this quickly after the Iron is applied so the solder will not melt immediately, using this technique allows you to apply the least amount of heat because you know exactly when the connector is hot enough. Feed the solder until you get a pool that surrounds the wire, keep the Iron applied until you see the solder on the wire become molten. When this occurs everything has the required temp to make a good connection. Remove the Iron and let everything cool down. Because that plug is a giant piece of metal compared to the connector it will suck heat away from the joint and can become extremely hot. The flux/solder combo is drawn to heat, so when ever possible you want to apply the tinned iron to one side, and the solder too the opposite. If this is possible you are ensured that a good connection has been made. In these cases a powerful iron is your best friend. I use a 70 or 80 watt soldering station, hakko brand I believe, from Fry's that was had for about 50 bucks. You set temp, and because it has more power, when the tip touches the metal and the temp instantly drops it has no problem getting back to temp. A typical pencil iron is only around 15-20 watts and labours to keep its temp which greatly increases the heat going into the part before things are hot enough for a good joint. If you have plans to solder frequently a soldering station is a great investment. Think this turned into another super comment, lol, sorry about that. check out for info and video examples.


    Good description, but I think you glossed over the cable crimp, which is the key to reliability. That's why I like Neutrik jacks. They have a clever compression fitting that doesn't require crushing the cable with a pliers. Cost is about the same as Switchcraft, but once you build with Neutrik, you'll never go back.

    2 replies

    And I've never built anything with neutrik connectors but I've got a few cables that have them. I really like the solid metal feel of switchcraft, they just look and feel bulletproof!!

    Ah, thanks for letting me know, I'll add some detail about that part! it's an important step...

    Good job. One thing, there are actually two insulators separating the shield braid from the center conductor, a clear insulator covering the center conductor, and a black sheath between the braid from the clear insulator. The black sheath is slightly conductive, it if shorts to the center conductor, it will roll off the high end, making the cable sound dull. I found this out the hard way. Your photo does show the black sheath cut back from the center conductor, kudos.

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    its good !

    As a matter of fact, U are right... most of the comercial ones sold are not quality ones... so, I did mine too...

    Great instructable, well done, great pictures, with good focus for the short distance.