Making Cat5 Cables

I’ve done posts on making your own XLRs, 1/4” cables and Speakons. I’ve even shown you how to make your own BNC cables. But it occurred to me the other day that I’ve never done a post on making Cat5 cables. Honestly, I don’t like making Cat5 ends up. They’re very finicky and I find myself re-making them more often than I’d like. Part of it is the design of the connector itself, and part is just finding good parts. But even that is challenging. I was talking with a friend the other day who swears by the Cat5 ends at Home Depot. I’ve had nothing but problems with them. I bought some from TecNec a while back, and they came with a cool loading bar. I thought this would make it easier to terminate. And it did. Except almost none of them worked. 

But, as more and more of our jobs become networking, we need to know how to make a Cat5 cable. And for the purposes of this article, when I say Cat5, I mean Cat5e, Cat6 and probably Cat7. The process is the same, the components are different. So let’s get started.

Cut the Jacket Carefully

Sorry for the bad focus; the iPhone had a tough time with these...

Sorry for the bad focus; the iPhone had a tough time with these...

The jacket on category cable protects the four twisted pairs inside. When you cut it, be careful not cut too deep. The solid copper wire is fragile and if you score it, the conductor can easily break while you’re manipulating it. I like to run my blade over the jacket, then bend it at a 90° angle. This usually breaks the jacket and you can pull it off cleanly. 

Organize the Wires

Once the jacket is cut, splay the pairs out in the right order. This will be helpful as you untwist them and get them lined up in the right sequence. Once the pairs are ordered, untwist them and begin the straightening process. I like to take each wire and pull it through my fingers a few times to get it straightened out. As I do this, I start lining them up in order. 

Know Your Standards

Most of the time, we want to wire Cat5 cables using the USOC 568B standard. That means the wires will go in this order when you view the connector from the bottom (where the actual contacts are):

  • White/Orange
  • Orange
  • White/Green
  • Blue
  • White/Blue
  • Green
  • White/Brown
  • Brown

568A is similar, except it swaps the Orange and Green pairs. Most equipment will work fine with either, but when I ask manufacturers for recommendations, they usually suggest 568B. So that’s what I do unless the documentation specifically states otherwise. When you have the wires lined up right, it should look like this.

Cut To Length

Again, focus. Ugh...

Again, focus. Ugh...

Over the years, I’ve learned to strip the jacket a bit long, straighten the wire out and get it lined up, then cut it shorter to fit in the plug. It’s easier and it makes sure the wires are all the same length. You may have to experiment a little get a feel for how short to make your final cut. There’s probably a standard somewhere, but I eyeball it and it’s usually about 1/2” or so.

Insert the Wire Into the Plug

This is the hardest part of the job. There are little groves in the plug that the wire is supposed to slide into, but if you haven’t done a good job straightening the wire out, one wire may jump into the wrong groove and get out of order. So make sure you take your time, get the wires relaxed and going in the right direction. If you can’t take your fingers off them and have them stay in the right order, you’re going to have problems getting them in the plug. 

Make sure you push them all the way to the front. There are only two little IDC (Insulation Displacement Contacts) teeth on each connection, and you don’t want to miss them. Many a cable fails to work because one wire didn’t get in all the way. 

Crimp It Down

cat5-7.JPG

Once you’re all set, put the plug in the crimping tool and give it a good squeeze. I like the ratcheted crimpers because I know I’ve made a full press. But I’ve also used non-ratcheted ones for years and they work fine. Take the connector out and you should be all set. When you’re all done, visually inspect the end to make sure the wires stayed in the right order. It should look just like this one. After you do the other end, it’s best to test the cable with a two-part tester (assuming the ends are far away). You can find the testers almost anywhere at varying price points. 

 In case you’re wondering, this is a shielded connector, and we use those for video over Cat5. 

So that’s it. They’re not hard to make, just a bit of a pain. Personally, I’d rather make BNC cables all day long than a handful of Cat5 connectors, but that’s just me. The world is going Cat5, so we better know how to use it. 

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

CTW InfoComm 2014 Coverage: Audinate Dante Via

Most of us are familiar with Dante, the flexible audio network and transport protocol. They have now introduced Via. Via removes the dedicated hardware limitation of Dante and lets any input, output or even software on your computer become a transmitter or receiver for Dante. Plenty of great applications for this; the only downside is it won't be out until year's end.

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA's range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA's miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

Procedure Documents

photo © 2008 E01 | more info    (via: Wylio)

photo © 2008 E01 | more info    (via: Wylio)

The other day, I was looking back over some old posts. I found my Hit By A Bus list article, and it got me thinking. As I prepared to leave Coast Hills a few months ago, I started documenting as many procedures as I could. As my former ATD had recently left, I knew my new ATD was going to be drinking from a fire hose the first few weeks. To make life easier for him and our volunteers, I started writing down how to do common tasks. 

A Clarify-ing Moment

Some time ago, I came across a program called Clarify. It’s a single-purpose tool designed to make step-by-step documentation. It uses a combination of screen grabs and text to create the document. While I could have created the documents in Pages, Word or almost anything else, Clarify has the advantage of being a step-based program. It forced me to think about the steps I went through for a given task. 

For example, here’s an example from our procedure for setting up the M-48s. You can download the PDF at the end of the article.

I tweaked the format a bit to match our logo. I like it because it really does walk you through the process step by step. 

Many Procedures, Many Documents

I built procedure documents for all kinds of things: The process for creating lower thirds for our video switcher, for example. We have procedures for setting up Reaper, editing and uploading the podcast, even editing the video in FCPX. All are broken out in simple, small steps that anyone with a moderate amount of technical skill can do. 

I complied all these documents in a 3-ring binder that lives in the tech booth. I told Matt when I left, “If you have a question about how to do anything, look in the procedure book first. If you can’t find it, call me.” So far, he hasn’t called. So I guess it worked. 

You Shouldn’t Take It With You

I think a lot of guys want to keep this kind of knowledge a secret, believing it gives them some job security. While that may be, it’s the wrong mindset. We’re here to build the Kingdom of God, not our own. We shouldn’t hide this knowledge under a bucket. We need to share it with our team, if for no other reason that you should take a weekend off once in a while.

Now, I know you’re going to ask, “Mike, can you post all your procedure documents?” The answer is, “Probably not.” That may seem in contrast to what I just said, but here’s why. Procedures are very specific. I’ve developed these process based on our systems, goals, and equipment. Some of it may be transferrable, but much is not. If you want to know how I’m doing these, look at the Patching M-48 document. All the rest of them follow the same format. Simply break a procedure down into steps and load it up with images. You can then sit back and watch the magic of other people doing your job.

Download Patching M-48s in PDF format.

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA's range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA's miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 192: 8K Is For Suckers

We're live from NAB! Our panel of experts brings us up to speed on some cool 4K video walls, the Blackmagic Studio Camera, Avid Everywhere, new switchers from Ross & Sony and much more. 

More...

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by Pivitec.Pivitec redefines the Personal Monitor Mixing System by offering components that are Flexible, Precise and Expandable. Ideal for any application from Touring and Live Production to fixed installation in theaters and Houses of Worship.