Networking

Save money by making your own Ethernet cables

Cables see a huge markup when sold at retail. With only a small investment for tools and a spool of bulk cable, you can make your own Ethernet cables for just pennies.

Cables see a huge markup when sold at retail. With only a small investment for tools and a spool of bulk cable, you can make your own Ethernet cables for just pennies.

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The dire state of the economy has everyone looking at their finances with an eye toward cutting costs. Little savings can actually add up, though, especially when the alternative is overpaying for a product that carries an inflated price. Make a New Year's resolution and start cutting your own Ethernet cables, and you can spend the money you'll save on other things.

I started making my own Ethernet cables after learning from a friend how retailers inflate their cable prices. He worked at a major electronics chain and informed me that the prices for the cables that they sold in-store were usually many times higher than the wholesale price. Even an online cable wholesaler like MonoPrice —which charges much more reasonable figures than the big box electronics retailers — can't beat the price-per-foot that a practiced cable clipper can achieve with some tools and a spool of bulk cable. I also discovered that making my own Ethernet cables meant I could make them in custom sizes, which generally improved the neatness of my installations.

The tools required for cutting and crimping cables in-house are not prohibitively expensive, and they are relatively uncomplicated. A quality setup should last for many years. You might already have an Ethernet cable continuity tester around. If that is the case, your cabling toolkit needs only a crimper to attach RJ45 plugs to the cable and a means of stripping the cable's external jacket without damaging the internal wires. Some crimping tools will have a wire stripper built in. Look here for explicit instructions on cable crimping and at Wikipedia for an in-depth discussion of the Ethernet specification.

While some might see making cable as a make-work task, the savings versus packaged cables are discernible. I don't have to sink a lot of time into this, either. I have gotten so that I can make cables while I am on the phone or doing anything else that leaves my hands free. The cables I produce are exactly the length I need, and my network switch racks have never been neater.

If you are doing a thousand PC site install or relocation project, then go ahead and budget in the cost for prefabricated cables...your time is too valuable when you need major quantities. Once the site is up and running though, have a go at clipping your own Ethernet cables when the individual need arises. Who knows what the money you save might end up buying?

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