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Home Made Cat5 Cables

I was told by someone that I should not be using homemade cat 5 cable as they will eventually cause errors in the network.  I should buy my cables that are made by machines because they are terminated more precisely.  Any truth to this?
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3 Solutions
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
It all depends on your skill level and whether or not you have the right tools.

A properly made "homemade" cable is every bit as good as a purchased one.    If you're using a good cutting tool and a professional crimpling tool, your cables can be as good or better than a typical machine-made one.     But if you're manually trimming the wires one-a-a-time and crimpling with a makeshift tool (e.g. needle-nose pliers), then your cables could very well not have good conductivity.
Besides the right tools as mentioned by garycase, if you're making your own patch cables, you should be using stranded cat5e wire, and cat5e plugs designed for stranded wire. Solid wire is intended to be installed and then hold still, preferrably terminated to a jack (into which you plug a patch cable) with a punchdown tool.

I'll make my own if I need an odd size that fits just right, but I can buy standard 1', 2', 3', 5', 10' and 15' lengths in lots of 25 or 50  with molded strain reliefs (rather than the slip on type I use) cheaper than I can buy the stranded cable, strain reliefs that guard the hold-in-clip and stranded cat5e plugs (let alone my time), so I don't remember the last time I made one.
Garry GlendownConsulting and Network/Security SpecialistCommented:
Apart from special installs where you can't fit the cable with the plug through some installation hole, or weird distances you can't get ready-made cables for, there's usually no reason to make your own cable ... unless you're buying cable wholesale and in large quantities, and adding to that the cost of doing all the work on it, your self-made cables are definitely more expensive than the bought ones ... plus, the bought ones will already have been tested (usually anyway).
Also, for 5e and above, making them yourself will be quite a bit more difficult, so I would not trust it to carry any 1G signal ...

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Make sure to use the 586-b de facto standard for cabling as well:

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
With the proper terminators and good tools, there's no difference in the quality of the cables.   The question was about Cat-5, but the same is true for Cat-5e or Cat-6, as long as the correct terminators and a quality crimping tool are used.

However ... with the VERY affordable pricing of quality cables at suppliers like Monoprice, there's really no reason to make your own except for two cases:   (1)  You're "pulling cable" around the house and need both custom lengths and the ability to pull cable without the connectors attached;  or  (2)  You need non-standard lengths.
/Usually/,  for home use,   buying  pre-made  patch cables is a better idea  than making your own is a more economical choice. Unless you are very skilled at terminating patch cables, and evaluating the termination, terminating connectors is a tedious labor-intensive process, and, you are likely to make mistakes.

(As long as you have the proper tools, and enough spare connectors, you can always cut the connector off and re-terminate the cable though)

It's /not/ that machine made cables are better;  it's that machines are more consistent.
That is, when you buy a pre-made patch cable made by a reputable manufacturer  you can be fairly confident the cable is right -----     that is not always the case, and I have on occasion found a pre-made cable to have faulty termination.    If the pre-purchased patch cables are being deployed in a business critical application,  the patch cable should still be tested carefully before its used,  just as with a manually terminated cable.

At the very least, if you do choose to make your own cables,  you need to use appropriate right tools for a reliable termination designed for that application (Appropriate cable type, terminators, Cat5 Cutter/Stripper and RJ45 crimpers, and (where necessary) boots/strain reliefs/spreaders ),  you should be  carefully inspecting the termination visually  (You need to know what to look for, that all the conductors and insulator are in the right place, and that the crimp is good with nothing unusual, no shorts, all wires in complete contact with the conductors and end); and  using a T568A or T568B  qualifier/certifier run on your cables to verify them via electronic testers, or at bare minimum a simple wire sequence test.

Because the termination may have failed without easily observable break.

Unless you are building  a fairly large number of custom-length patch cables, or can benefit personally from gaining the skill  (E.g. they would be required of someone who wants to be a telco worker, contracter or installer  with certain jobs),  it is not cost-effective or time-efficient to buy the equipment required for proper termination and testing in the first place.

If you need to install a long run of cable, such as a network drop, beyond patch cable lengths,  then those should not be patch cables in the first place -- use solid copper Cat5 cable and  punch-downs at each end, E.g.  Keystone jack and Patch panel, a suitable punch-down tool,    and short regular-length stranded cable patch cables to plug devices in at each end.

A little skill and a  ~$30 punch down tool are still req'd;  but as long as you are careful with the punchdowns, and get the sequence right,  those are much less error-prone.
I would say not only for Home use. many Data center with custom made Cat5 cables are handmade by due to the custom length and neat cabling requirement.

just use the network cabling kit tester make sure it is properly clamp ..
>  using a T568A or T568B  qualifier/certifier

I recommend a kit like the Fluke CIQ-KIT... for $1050 all you get is the meter... no case, no software, no cables/accessories.

There's a slightly-lower cost kit with that same meter, without the tone tracer and remote ID dongles, the Fluke CIQ-KRQ.

A tester that checks only continuity from pin number to pin number doesn't check cross-talk or maximum bandwidth, but if you spend $200 or less, that's really all you get. So if you're not going to spend at least $200, a $35 tester will probably work just as well for checking cables.

Those are about the cheapest Fluke kits you'll find that do cable validating/qualifying/certifying... you can easily drop $20,000 to $30,000 on a kit that certifies copper and fiber both. e.g. search for the DTX-1800-MO or DTX-1800-MSO kits.
I use solid wire able, not stranded. The strands can break off and short out the connector.

Get a cable tester, they're cheap


Your home-made cables can work as well as those you buy. I use hot-glue after the cable is verified to work, putting the hotglue at the point where the wire jacket goes into the RJ-45 connector, and back about 1/4 inch, let it harden up, and the wire won't be moving around in the connector.

Use the cable tester on ALL your cables, it will indicate continuity for each wire, and verify the proper ordering of pins 1 to 8 at both ends, and you can split the cable tester and put one end hundreds of feet away, and still test the cable.

Hope this helps.

"I use solid wire able, not stranded. The strands can break off and short out the connector."

Solid wire is for use in permanent cabling installations,  and not rated for repeated flexing or movement of the cable;  it is to be installed once, and then not moved, otherwise you risk damaging the cable.

Solid wire should be used with punch downs, but if you want to use that with modular plugs,  you need to get special plugs that are spec'ed for that type of cable;  just as you need Cat6 plugs for Cat6 cable.

"putting the hotglue at the point where the wire jacket goes into the RJ-45 connector, and back about 1/4 inch, let it harden up, and the wire won't be moving around in the connector."

That's an interesting workaround,   but if the cable is terminated properly, the cable should not move, and  there should be no glue  or other foreign substances in there needed.

"Get a cable tester, they're cheap"

Those  will help identify shorts and serious damage to a cable, and troubleshoot "link not coming up",  but not other electrical issues,  such as unstable performance.

A completed cable should be tested at least once in its lifetime with a real tester, which a simple continuity checker like the one linked is not even close.

For home use I still recommend buying factory stranded patch cables for patching in computers, switches, and other network devices, and do custom cabling for  network drops and other in-the-wall permanent cabling.
Most wiring errors can be found easily with an inexpensive continuity cable tester. Other errors would be more related to the wrong cable (twist configuration is critical and part of the standard).

Solid wire cable works fine. Connectors to work with solid wires are widely available and work fine.

The hot-glue is used as strain relief, or you could buy some hoods.

I didn't read in the question that the cable would be moved around a lot, plugged, unplugged, etc, but even then, some common sense applies -- ANY cable will get damaged by misuse.

While the solid wire is often punched down inside a panel with the proper tool, for RJ45 connectors, solid wire connectors are used for solid wire, RJ45 plugs designed for stranded cable are used for stranded wire, and some can deal with either solid or stranded.

As to reliability, frankly with cables for the majority of users, they are not usually moved a lot, but even if they are, a cheap cable tester will find broken wires.

The idea that stranded cables are immune to damage is simply nonsense, and the idea that solid wire is prone to damage is also equally unfounded.

But if you are sure about your wiring, don't get the under $10 cable tester and hope for the best, but it you want to check your wiring on home-made cables, investing in a $6 cable tester is a worthwhile way to invest $6 to find obvious problems.

Good luck with your project(s).

> and the idea that solid wire is prone to damage is also equally unfounded.
Check with local colleges for some metallurgy classes, because as an electrician I can tell you for certain that the friction generated just by bending solid copper wires ONCE can change their annealing, ergo flexibility, and lead to damage when bent again. Stranded wire mitigates that, though even stranded wire will break after it's flexed enough times.
The phrases "Lead to damage" and "mitigate" are all propensities toward some outcome, not a guarantee of some outcome.

But thanks for the advice about metallurgy classes, I can recall materials class that included metals, plastics, hardness measures etc., when I was a student in Engineering before earning a degree in Electrical Engineering. All very interesting stuff.

You're right though, that even stranded wire will break if stressed enough, and fortunately both solid and stranded 8-conductor twisted pairs will survive in most cases, unless someone pays no attention to the fact that wire of any kind shouldn't be bent more than necessary, stranded or solid.

" Most wiring errors can be found easily with an inexpensive continuity cable tester."

Wiring sequence errors, yes.    Problems with the electrical characteristics of the cable that don't break continuity, no.      In other words, despite testing good with such a tester, the cable might  in some cases still be bad,  and need to be chunked.

So I still recommend buying  the  $12   patch cables;  instead of the   $50 in bulk cabling, the $30  crimper,  the $10 in cable ends and boots, and  the $20 continuity tester.

" ANY cable will get damaged by misuse."
It is typical to take a patch cable, coil it up, and stuff it into a laptop bag. That is not misuse.
It is an example of one of the typical things that people often do with patch cables.

You do that more than a few times with a solid cable, and the cable is no longer within manufacturer specs,  it might be no longer compliant with the T568A/B spec,  and therefore, you might not get the proper operation.

This can happen without a "wire" being broken,  so you might not notice -- your experience using the cable may become less reliable.

Patch cables not installed in a wall  are often moved and repurposed many times.

"the idea that solid wire is prone to damage is also equally unfounded. "

It's founded by the manufacturer specs for the cabling.

Most solid wire has a longer bend radius, which means that it cannot be bent or flexxed as tightly without damage.    It is typically rated for  5 to 10 flex cycles within a bend radius,
before the cable may be out of spec,  and manufacturers are not known to underrate their cables.

Stranded cabling  is generally rated for thousands of flex cycles.
Solid is more prone to last longer than stranded where the cable is installed and will  not be moved or disturbed afterwards.

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