Broadband

How to create your own Cat 5 patch cables

For do-it-yourselfers, knowing how to create your own Cat 5 patch cables in the length that you want can be very handy and save you money. Jack Wallen shows you how to get it right.

Networking cables are a dime a dozen. You can get them just about anywhere...in standard sizes. But what happens when you need an odd size or you simply follow the beat of a DIY drum? In those cases you will want to know just how to make your very own Cat 5 Ethernet cables. And whether you need straight-through or crossover cables, TechRepublic has you covered.

In this article I am going to show you how to create both straight-through and cross over network cables.

What you will need

Preparing the cable

The very first thing you need to do is to cut the cable to length. Once you have the cable cut to length, you will want to remove enough of the outer casing on each end to expose the inner wires so you can work. You will want to remove about an inch of the casing at each end. To do this I like to use a knife and very lightly score the outer case and then bend the wire at the score so the casing breaks. The casing should then peel right off the wire.

After you peel the casing off, separate the individual wires. You might have to cut away any insulation that is surrounding or between the inner wires. Once you have the wires separated you will want to make sure those wires are as straight as possible to make alignment and insertion into the RJ 45 connector simple.

Aligning the wires

Now comes the part that usually trips new users up. You have to make sure the color-coded wires are in the right order. First I will show you the order for a straight-through cable. A straight-through cable is a standard Ethernet cable. If you take a look at Figure A you will see the order you should use for straight-through ends.

Figure A

Both ends should be color-coded exactly like you see here.
Now, let's say you want to create a crossover cable. To do this you will create one end exactly as you see in Figure A and then the other end will be color-coded according to what you see in Figure B.

Figure B

Make sure your color-coding is exactly as you see above on ONE end for a cross over cable.

Attaching the connectors

This is another point of confusion. Pin 1 on the RJ 45 connectors is on the left side of the connector when the clip is on the bottom side. If you are looking at the connector from the top and the clip is on the top side then Pin 1 is on the right side of the connector.

The first thing you need to do is very carefully line the wires up, side by side, in the correct order and then, using the cutting blade on your crimping tool, cut the very ends of the wires off so the edges all line up. After you have that done, carefully slide the wires into the connector, paying close attention that they remain in the correct order.

Once the wires are pushed all the way into the connector slide the connector into the crimping tool (there is only one place the RJ 45 will go into the crimper - see Figure C) and crimp the connector. Take the connected end off and give it a tug to make sure the crimp took.

Figure C

A solid crimp will keep you from having a poor connection later on, but don't crush the connector.

When one end is complete, repeat the process on the other end, paying attention to whether the cable is either a straight-through or crossover.

Testing the connection

Although you can always just plug the cable into its destination jacks to test, it is always better practice to use a cable tester to make sure the connections you just created work properly. This is always a must if you are creating a number of cables or you are creating cables that will then be deployed to a remote location. The directions for testing will be specific to the tester you own. Make sure, if you are testing a cross over, that you know exactly how to test for this cable before you assume everything to be good to go.

Final thoughts

Making your own Ethernet cables can, in the long run, save you money as well as allow you to make cables in non-standard sizes. And now, when you have the need, you can work your own personal magic on Cat 5 cable so you can have as many different patch cables as you need.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

167 comments
toretele
toretele

I really like this topic.This topic is really good and informative.I really like this.Thank you very much for this. cable management

jimmeq
jimmeq

Talk about the "old days", while you're saving pennies and getting frustrated making CAT5 cables, make a few BUS&TAG cables. LOL

circlestrafe999
circlestrafe999

whether or not it's cheaper to buy than make, or the remote chance you'll ever NEED to make a cable, it's simply a good idea to know how to make one. Yes, one can order a cable in just minutes, but does it ship in just minutes?

Tink!
Tink!

:D Save your used connectors and slingshot them at your co-workers!! They really fly! I nearly hit my co-worker in the head yesterday. It whizzed by her ear. She said it made her hair move. At least it scared her! hee hee

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

I work for a school district. We are totally undermanned. Running cables is a necessary evil at best, but necessary non-the-less. We use 99% or more of premade Cat 5. We DO have to create our own cables once in awhile for longer runs or custom installs.

Regulus
Regulus

Thanks. This stuff should be very basic IT knowledge. Ok, so you haven't done one in a few years. What did you say that wiring sequence was?? Wasn't there an Acronym for that? Lesson: Copy this to a Word Doc and put it on your Gen Info USB stick. You got one of those, Right?

robo_dev
robo_dev

You could power your clothes dryer over your network connection...

deviantshoe
deviantshoe

I think the guys at techrepublic are struggling for content

brainbug123
brainbug123

This is the most boring text about "How to make a UTP cable" ever. When people say "Picture means a 1000 words", in this case they are right. Dude,place some pictures if you want to show someone how to do it. P.S. Your texts about Linux theme kick hiny! :)

john3347
john3347

In a work environment, time is money. It costs the employer the tech's salary plus the materials to repair a patch cable. If the situation is such that it costs more to make (or satisfactorily repair) one than to replace one with all factors considered, the decision is thus made. Off the job, things may be a little different. There is a certain personal satisfaction a person gets from DIY. Go for it! As to $200 for tools to make cables yourself, this can be considerably cheaper. If you are in a position that you are replacing or repairing patch cables, you already own a VOM (continuity tester) of some description. I have two surface mount RG45 receptacles mounted on a small piece of plywood as a cable tester. Leave the covers off and utilize the buzz function on your continuity tester to check each wire for continuity. One cannot scrimp too deeply, however, on the crimper. $30 to $35 for the crimper and just a few dollars for stripper, wall receptacles, etc., and one can assemble a cable making tool kit for closer to $50 than $200. (Of course, you must have access to both ends of the cable at the same time for this cable tester to work. We are discussing patch cables anyway, right?)

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

If you have the proper crimping tool you won't need a Leatherman. The crimper should have the stripper and cutter with it. EMD

taylorstan
taylorstan

As I read through the comments, the debate about if the tools are needed or not reminded me of when i was learning to draft by hand. Did I use every tool in my drawing bag, no. But it was good to have that tool when you needed it. Any department responsible for the PHYSICAL network should have access to cabling tools and supplies.

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

Home brew network cables and connections have been responsible for more hard-to-diagnose intermittent networking problems than I'd like to remember. Problems like dropped network connections, failed large file transfers (backups) and inability to log in have been traced to home-made cables. Consider these directions a way to visually identify a straight-through or crossover cable, or how to make an emergency temporary cable for a non-critical connection, _not_ a way to make a custom length cable for a production environment you are paid to maintain. There's more to meeting CAT5 specs than simply using "RG45 connectors" getting the pairs and color code right. The connectors have to match the cable conductor type(stranded or solid, twists per length has to be maintained and consistent, and the cable length can be critical. Finally, even if the cable can pass a CAT5 test on the bench, a patch cable cable can be mis-installed in a manner where it can fail an end-to-end CAT5 sweep test. Working at 100MB/sec,a CAT5 cable acts like an antenna or waveguide. Any discontinuity can cause internal reflection that can screw up reception at the other end. A true CAT5 cable tester does a lot more more than a DC continuity test, and its cost isn't trivial. If your job is riding on the quality of operation of a network, my advice is to either maintain a stock of various length certified CAT5E patch cables, and/or find a local jobshop or contractor who has the training and tools needed to make custom network cables. If you are a regular customer, in many cases you can get one day turnaround.

TIMWIRELESS
TIMWIRELESS

this cleared my confusion on the wire colours, thanks to this

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Your post just shows how to crimp RJ45 connectors onto a CAT5 cable. I was expecting, foundry and extrusion techniques to make CAT5 cables, or at least some 1" thick cables made up of multiple 18/4 or something.

larry.h.smith
larry.h.smith

Good information. We do this infrequently, and we always need a good reference.

kmccorma
kmccorma

I had a job once where I was hired to assist the SysAdmin for a very large construction company. The bosses were so cheap that they refused to spend the money on new patch cables for their NCR 9000 minicomputer. I would spend hours making them with parts from mail order. This was back in 1988. What a waste!!

electricpower
electricpower

I for one, appreciate Jack's efforts. When you are 2-3 days away for most mail order and 30 miles from the nearest supplier, this is very helpful. Besides, you can never have enough knowledge or tools.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

are both in plentiful supply in the tech business, aren't they?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

You mean that those 50 Meter CAT6 leads that i always carry around with me are too long to run as a 6 inch Patch Lead? Surely tell me that isn't so? :( OK so I use them as Fly Leads from the Server Cabinet to the workstation in the smaller business that i do work for to test things. It's amazing just how often you are not believed when you tell them that their Net Connection isn't working because it was yesterday. If you can run a fly lead from the Modem to the workstation of the boss they suddenly believe you. :D Col

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

He would pre-connect the raw end of his cable box with the RJ, so when he needed to make one up of any length, he starts out halfway done!

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

They say all our future appliances will be "smart" and talking over the Internet.

Jye75
Jye75

I said around $200 for everything including the box of CAT5 cable, which usually goes at right around $100-$110 for 1000'. You are right, the tools can be had for cheaper, just depends on your needs and what quality you desire.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

"How to patch your handmade patch cables".

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Just his assertion that it saves money. It's a good skill to have. But unless you're in a situation like Jye75 and having to do it all the time, buying pre-made is much cheaper.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...and was *never* able to do an "N"-type connector *fast*. BNC's, easy. PL259's, so-so. "N"-types, especially on the double-shielded cable, no way. That's when I genuinely wished we could by prefabbed cables.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Mind you I have only had to replace one T Piece in the past 5 or so years. Granted they don't take up much room or weight in the Tool Bag but the Crimping Tool is Heavy. ;) I actually still have a Token Ring System going in a CAM Place with all relatively new equipment all under 5 years old and even if they where to replace it with new stuff today they would still be using Token Ring. :0 Personally I can not see them shutting down the place for half a year just to replace new equipment though. It's all very big and complicated not to mention Very Expensive. Though when they do pull the machines that 40 foot BED CNC Lathe looks nice. :D Col

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

was aimed at those who might make a patch cable every 6 months or so. Buying top grade tools for that might not be economical, where middle-grade stuff will serve you well. As was mentioned before, you'll want to avoid the cheapies, they'll fail when you need them most. Double an triple check your connections by flexing them repeatedly (don't overdo, you'll defeat your purpose) while in a monitored signal condition.

john3347
john3347

But, even in a business environment, one would not purchase a 1000' roll of cable to fabricate an occasional 3 or 10 ft. patch cable. 25 pack of plugs and 50' roll of cable would supply most PATCH cable needs.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I'll have a small selection of pre-made cables in my work vehicle. 2 to 4 each of 3 ft, 6ft, and 10 foot. Exact number at any moment varies, depends on how many I've had to use recently, and whether or not I've remembered to check my vehicle stock and replenish it. I'm not so sure about the pre-made being cheaper. I rarely buy them myself, usually just stop by the shop and pick up a new supply (when I remember it). I do know our supply guy doesn't buy the cheap stuff. We do contract work for customers, all of whom are larger businesses and organizations who're paying somewhat more than bottom dollar, and have suitable expectations of getting a bit better quality as a result. And as all our work is warrantied, and we rely upon a reputation for solid, quality work done. We avoid the cheap stuff of questionable quality. Not that we buy absolute top of the line. But we steer away from the "economy" stuff. Anyway, I could likely make my own at the same, or maybe even cheaper price. Granted that we buy the "better" grade stuff. And granted I always have the stuff in my work vehicle that's needed to make up cables. And, yes, I ALWAYS know exactly where everything is. I'm kind of a fussy neat freak about things like that. My work vehicle is my office. And everything has its place and is kept there. And granted that I've made up more cables in the past than I care to count. (And not just Cat 5 for LAN service.) So its pretty much a nothing event for me to do it. As far as testing goes, whether I make em or use pre-made, they're getting tested. But the fact is, I'm just not inclined to be spending my time on a project making up cables unless there is a necessary reason to do so. In my type of job I'm on a customer site to do more than just replace a patch cord. Or put in a new one. I'm either putting in some new equipment, modifying old, or I'm troubleshooting some issue. I prefer to keep my mind on those other chores and not occupy my mind and time with the piddling stuff. Nor am I an installer by trade. Know how to do it, have done it MANY a time. Even maintain certification for it. But any significant amount of pulling, moving, etc and I'm calling for one of our installers who does that sort of thing as a full time living. He'll do it even faster and better than I would. However, from time to time, I do end up needing to make up my own cables. For various reasons. i.e. Just a couple weeks ago I was involved in a project where we needed to replace some older and failing devices with some new ones. I won't go into details as this was very specialized equipment virtually no one here would be familiar with. But the thing was that we had to get the new items installed while leaving the old in place and running. And then do a switchover FAST. The new stuff was in different cabinets, in a different location and configuration from the original stuff. Our installer got everything in place and pre-wired as much as possible, powered up, etc. We had the new items pre-programmed and configured. Were down to the point where all we needed to do was wait for the right time (end of business day), slap in the patch cords and connect devices, server, a local PC and a 16 port switch. Move a couple existing LAN cables to new arrangement, and we were in business. Just needed to test and check out operation. Our installer was done with what we actually needed him to do. He'd not put in patch cords yet. But that was a minor thing, and he had another pressing project to move on to so he was sent on his way. We had a box of pre-made patch cords sent out by the engineer who'd designed this new installation. And his assurance that the numbers and lengths were adequate. Yeah, right. LOL ... While waiting those last couple hours, I decided to pre-run the patch cords and have them ready as much as possible to just be plugged in. Guess what, that engineer was wrong. We were in the middle of a downtown large metro area, it was rush hour, people going home. And were surrounded by customer employees and managers waiting with breath held for the EVENT to happen, with great hopes all would be on schedule and happen smoothly. Our salesman for that project was also there. Muttering in my ear that he just couldn't believe we might botch up the schedule and look bad (and foolish) over something like having the wrong number and lengths of cord on hand, ready to slap in. He was particularly worried as we had another major contract with these folks pending. They'd essentially fired their old vendor/contractor for inadequate performance. Oh, it was great, he was on the phone to our shop warehouse people. They'd closed for the day. But could get someone back there if necessary and have him run the stuff out to us. But would take longer than we had given the schedule. He called various supply houses, same answers. I finally told him to forget it and put away the phone. No problem. Took measurements, went down to my work vehicle, grabbed a cup of coffee on the way. An hour later I'd not only gotten the cables made and tested, they were run and just needed plugged in. Everything went smoothly. Customers were impressed. Yes we got that other contract. Stuff happens. Its not often I need to make cables, but many a time being able to and having the stuff on hand has made a lot of difference. But I do avoid HAVING to make up cables as much as practical. Fact is I have better uses of my time. Now ideas about this sort of thing vary. I know some in-house fellows in the IT department of a very large big-money data center. Its BIG. And within it, somewhere, someplace, there is always some sort of renovation, update, rearrangement, equipment addition or replacement, or whatever going on. These guys have a basic philosophy. If the cable is old or shows ANY signs of wear and tear ... they replace it. When in doubt, they replace it. So if in some area things are getting moved around, replaced, or whatever is the case and they're called in, they just wheel in a service cart they keep on hand and ready. Has all the stuff they need. Like myself they have pre-made 3, 6, and 10 footers. Anything else they make on the spot. And trust me, they're FAST. And make it look like any toddler could do it with 15 minutes training. But, as one told me, he's made up countless thousands over the years. So he should be good at it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

It makes testing easy. But that could be why I still have those 50 Meter Cables 5 years latter. :D Col

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

That stuff doesn't like being twisted!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Just wait to roll it out until you're among machinists. We went through a lot of cables. We had a 27-antenna farm at the receiver site that was manually patched using 2-foot stubs. A couple of the guys would get lazy and only loosen the end they were going to move, then wonder why the other end twisted out of the connector and everybody else was calling them a dummy load. :D

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

That's a term we couldn't use openly where I'm from. But I'll guarantee, that if I had built something like that, somebody would say "What's this for?" and can it. We suffered from "no cooperation syndrome". But occasionally I would cheat-I'd put a PL259 on the RG8 and stick on an adaptor. Cost more, but it would get us on-air faster.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

to put an N-connector onto a cable. We put enough N-connectors onto RG-8 that we had a jig. That made it easier. There was still no fast way to do it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

This place makes Electricity Generating Equipment. Big Solid and not something I would not want dropped on me. :0 Col

santeewelding
santeewelding

Those are the lathes upon which they turn, like, the prop shafts for an aircraft carrier. I bumped my noggin on one of those shafts, once. The shaft didn't care. My head sure did.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That post being your only legacy, you will have served.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Chocolate macadamia nut. I understand your point perfectly. Almost every one of my posts in this thread could be prefaced with the phrase "In general". I keep a stock of patch cables in two standard lengths and several standard colors, but only one or two of each. If my van stocked one each of every color and length patch cable installed in any of my stores, it would fill an entire shelf, and I would still wind up building 2-3 cables a month. Because of the layout of the office areas, most of the patch cable problems I run into involve an end being yanked off. For the common patch cables, it's easier to just replace them. I can repair the rest.

Jye75
Jye75

Want a cookie now? What gets me, is everyone here is arguing about specifics, when the purposes for making cables, is completely NON-specific. Everyone says, "well, there's no reason for this, that, in this situation..." etc. Like I said before, different variables call for different solutions, one of which is having the knowledge to make your own cables in the event that you need to.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]There's really no excuse [b]in the SMB[/b] (outside penny-pinching) for a Cat 5 patch cable to be longer than 25 feet. [/i] (emphasis added) I strongly suspect your networks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq were not there to support SMBs. As for what I can imagine, I have two words for you: Ground TACS. I've seen thousand-foot runs of Cat 5 hanging from trees, with service loops and repeaters every 300 feet. I can imagine quite a bit more.

Jye75
Jye75

You've obviously never had to deploy a network in the deserts of Saudi Arabia or Iraq. There are many times when a cable longer than 25ft and termintated at both ends with an RJ45 connector is needed. Just because some people can't imagine the different variables of a network outside the norm, doesn't mean they aren't there.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

For anything over about 35-40 feet, I keep keystone jacks and biscuits on hand. There's really no excuse in the SMB (outside penny-pinching) for a Cat 5 patch cable to be longer than 25 feet.

Jye75
Jye75

as stated above by myself, the only difference between a PATCH cable and a long run, is the length. So, if you know how to properly put a connector on the end of a cable, it matters not whether it's a patch cable or a long run. If, in a business environment, you are ONLY concerned with patch cables, then sure, by all the premade ones you need. (someone else will deal with the long runs) Otherwise, it doesn't hurt to be prepared with the tools and supplies necessary to run a custom length cable for whatever the need is.

Editor's Picks