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 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.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....