I realized I haven’t posted a DIY/MIY post in a long long time. Recently, @anyonesguess on Twitter, let me know he recently posted a video on creating patch cables for your board, and I thought it would be a great video to repost. On my board I have mix of solderless cables and soldered cables. That’s because I usually test various products for myself and when they get on (and don’t suck) they stay on, but I’ve always been a fan of soldered cables. They’re just way more reliable in my opinion.
This video also caught my eye, since it talks about using pancake plugs, which again, I’m a big fan of. They’re very low profile and can save some space on the board. For those of you interested in the pancake plugs, here is set of plugs and cable for sale.
I thought the video was very good, but I did want to point out a tip on the soldering of the ground and tip connections. I personally always tin my cable first. Tinning is where you heat up the copper and let the solder flow onto the wire before connecting it. This locks down the loose threads and gives you a very solid connection. I also use solder flux (this is the solder flux and dispenser I personally use) that helps with the tinning process.
In the video, he had the solder joint separate from the plug wall and the ground/shield wire. There are a couple of things you can do for this. I would personally score, or rough up the spot I was going to solder the wire to. That helps by giving the solder something to hold on to. But, I think the most important piece, is that soldering is about heating the components, not melting the solder. I would apply the soldering iron to that plug for a few second to heat it up with the cable before applying the solder. Once you apply the solder, you should see it almost pull away and lock on to the plug wall. There is a ‘look’ I like to see with the solder, and it’s hard to describe. Very chrome like, so I want to see the solder go from one look to another, and then when it dries it dulls out. This is definitely the most difficult part of this project, but if your ground joint breaks, you have a broken connection, so it’s good to do it right. These pancake plugs are great, but there are no cable clamps, etc to protect your connections under strain. Normally, that is a non-issue since it’s on a pedal board, but pedals do get swapped out, and those are the times that strain could be applied to those patch cables.
I also have to say, that is a great tip with the plyers and rubber band!!! If you’re going to be doing some soldering on a regular basis, avoid the 3rd arm deals.. maddening. I went with a panavise and these things are pure heaven to work with!!
Be sure to check out @anyonesguess’ band here to hear these patch cables in action!