How to Make Your Own Network Cables

Prepare the Cable

To make a straight-through network cable (which is what you probably need for home networking), first cut a piece of cable to your desired length; be sure to add a few extra inches, though, because you will be stripping and trimming the ends to fit into the connector. Once you’ve cut the cable, use the blade built into the crimping tool to strip about 1.5 to 2 inches of the cable’s sheath to expose the twisted pairs of wire within. Next, unravel the pairs and straighten them in your fingers. Unravel only the tiny bit of wire that’s exposed, however, as the twists are there to minimize interference.

To prepare your raw cable for a connector, strip an inch or so of its sheathing, and then untwist and straighten the loose wires as best you can.

After straightening the wires, you can arrange them using the desired scheme. We used T568B in the examples here, so we arranged the wires in this order:

  1. Orange/White
  2. Orange
  3. Green/White
  4. Blue
  5. Blue/White
  6. Green
  7. Brown/White
  8. Brown

Note that pin 1 in an RJ45 connector is at the far left, when the connector’s contacts are facing up and away from you.

Here's what an RJ45 connector looks like, for reference.

Make the Connections

When you have arranged the wires in the proper order, hold them tightly in your fingers and then feed the loose ends into your cutting/crimping tool. You’ll want to cut the ends perfectly straight, leaving about a half-inch exposed from the cable sheath.

Arrange the loose wires in the proper order and then hold them tightly as you cut them to length. You want to have only about a half-inch of wire exposed before sliding the wires into the connector.

Then, simply feed the wire into the RJ45 connector, with the connector’s contacts facing upward. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you can use the top, inner surface of the connector as a guide when you're feeding the wires in. Push each wire in firmly so that it reaches all the way to the top of the connector. About a quarter-inch of cable sheath should also make its way into the end of the connector, where you will crimp it to hold it firmly in place.

After you have pushed the cable all the way into the connector, perform a quick visual inspection to confirm that the wires remained in the correct order. Then insert the connector into your crimping tool, and give it a firm squeeze. Repeat the process on the other end of the cable, and you’ve just made your first straight-through network cable. Next, plug it into the tester, making sure that you have continuity and that the wires are in the correct arrangement. If the cable passes the test, it’s ready to use.

Once you've inserted the cable, closely inspect the wire arrangement and crimp the connector in place.

Congratulations, you've mastered the art of making your own network cables! While you have your tools and equipment out, I’d like to mention that installing network jacks requires a similar process. After stripping the network cable and straightening the twisted pairs, though, you simply need to insert the wires into a network jack and punch them down.

Typically you need to wire network jacks using the same T568A or T568B arrangements. Strip the network cable, untwist and straighten the wires inside, feed the loose wires into the appropriate colored slots, and use a punch-down tool to secure the wires in place.

The network jacks available at virtually every home improvement center will have decals that explain where to place the wires to follow a T568A or T568B wiring scheme. Position each wire in the matching colored slot, punch the wire down, trim the excess, and you’re done.

Make your own network jacks and network cables to save a little money and better understand how your PC works.

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