When I first applied to be a writer here at MakeUseOf, one of the things I suggested, and wanted to see more of, was hardware based articles. I didn’t necessarily mean that we should cover the newest type of hard drives or the best MP3 players out there, like the blog Gizmodo does, but just that we should give tips on all aspects of computers whether it is web based, software based, or hardware based.
I wanted to present to you, our lovely readers, with accessible and useful tips on hacking your hardware, to hopefully extend your expertise or rouse your interest in something other than what MakeUseOf usually covers. Thus, for my first hardware article, it is only proper for me to pick a topic that many people would be familiar with, based on technology that most people, if not every one of our readers, would have in their homes: Ethernet cables.
Now you might be wondering why you would ever need to know how to make your own Ethernet cables. Well, let me ask you this: when you look at your Ethernet cable, is it spooled in coils, because it is much too long? Has the little tab on top ever fallen off, and rendered your cable useless? Does your cable look completely fine, but for some strange reason, just does not work? Well, then this article might be useful to you.
As for myself, I work at a technology center that deals with networking cables on a daily basis, and we also sell these cables to our customers. Many of these cables we sell are ones we make and test ourselves, so knowing how to make an Ethernet cable is a necessary skill. Now, I will pass this skill on to you.
1. A pair of scissors
2. An Ethernet crimping tool – not very expensive. I looked it up online, and you can find some for under ten dollars, although most are around the 15-20 dollar range.
3. Ethernet Connector – These aren’t very expensive either. A bag of fifty goes for about nine bucks on Amazon.
Optional: Wirecutters. I just use scissors.
First, if you’re simply shortening your cable, you should cut your cable to however long you need it to be, plus two or three inches extra, in case you mess up. If you are making an entirely new cable from a spool, then cut your cable with a margin of about four to six inches. If you’re just replacing the connector, then just cut the connector off.
Now that you have a clean, cut wire, you need to make an incision about one inch down. You can use a wire cutter that is especially made to cut Ethernet wires, but I prefer to just use a pair of scissors. Be very careful not to nick any of the wires inside, though, or you will need to cut the entire thing off and start again. Make a few shallow incisions all the way around, and then pull the rubber casing apart; this is the safest way to cut the casing off without damaging the inside wires.
As you can see, the casing contains four sets of two twisted wires, one solid color and one striped color. After you pull the casing entirely off, untwist the wires from each other, and straighten them out as best you can with just your fingers. Using a tool at this point would be too risky, because you wouldn’t want to risk damaging the inside wires.
In the picture above, you can see the order that the wires need to be arranged in. If you can’t tell distinctly from the picture, the order should be from left to right, white/orange, orange, white/green, blue, white/blue, green, white/brown, brown. Fan the wires out and make sure they are as straight as possible, and then line them up so that the wires lie flat next to each other, maintaining the order you arranged them in. Place your thumb firmly over the lined up wires, effectively pinning them in order, in place.
At this point, if the tips of the wires are not even with each other, snip them so that the tips form a straight line, but be careful not to cut too much. You’ll need a bit of excess wire to push into the connector, as you will see later.
Now, pick up your connector, and make sure that the flat side is facing upwards. If you look at the connector, you can see that there is a distinct slot for each wire at the very tip of the connector. Keeping your thumb very firmly over the wires, push the wires into the connector, being very careful not to let the wires slip out of order, or become misaligned.
Keep pushing the wires in until the tips are touching the top edge of the connector. Look through the tip of the connector, and if you can see the copper innards of every wire, then you’ve pushed the wires in far enough. Otherwise, you can try to adjust the misaligned wire using a pair of tweezers or pliers, or take the entire bunch out and try again.
Once you’ve made sure that all the wires are properly fitted into the connector, plug the connector to the matching hole in the Ethernet crimper. Squeeze down as hard as possible, and you should hear a bit of plastic cracking. Most Ethernet crimpers have a spring that, when triggered by squeezing, does not release until enough pressure is applied. Otherwise, just squeeze as hard as you can for about 10-20 seconds, and then consider your Ethernet crimped.
Now, you are pretty much finished constructing your Ethernet cord. The last step is to test it. If you have a Net Tool, then you can test whether the Ethernet is wired correctly using the Net Tool. In the picture, all of the lines are parallel and unbroken, except for the last one, and this denotes a correctly wired and working Ethernet. If one or more of the wires are crossed with other wires, then you probably arranged the colored wires in the wrong order before pushing them into the connector, or the wires rearranged themselves while you were attaching the connector. If one or more of the lines are broken, then of of your colored wires is either damaged, or not pushed far enough into the connector.
If you don’t happen to have a Net Tool, the easiest way for you to test your new Ethernet cable is to plug it in where you would normally plug in the Ethernet cable to get a wired internet connection. Check whether your internet connects, and if it doesn’t, then you’ll need to snip the head off and try again. Otherwise, browse a bit, and celebrate, because you’ve just made your first Ethernet Cable! (by the way, if you’re making an entire new cable from scratch, you’ll need to put a connector on the other end using these same instructions, before you’re allowed to celebrate)
Perhaps you found this article enlightening, and thought that it might be an interesting weekend project to try. Perhaps you think this is just useless knowledge that will never be put into use. Either way, we would love to know what you think of these hardware articles, and what you’d like to see from us in the future. Leave us your comments, and tell us where to go from here!
Image Credit : The_Jorr