Soldering a Guitar Cable

Soldering a Guitar Cable


hey how you doing I’m Mike today we’re going to talk about soldering if you like to make music with anything that has a cable attached to it like a guitar or a mic or an audio interface basically anything that’s got a hole to stick a cable in you’re going to want to know about soldering well why do you want to know about soldering for starters it’s a lot cheaper to make your own cables and to fix your own cables than it is to go out to the store and buy them but more importantly it gives you more concrete understanding of the different types of connections that you’re working with and the different types of signals that you’re working with so why don’t we take a look at some of the tools that you’re going to need if you want to solder here we’ve got our vise and this is useful for holding your connectors and your cables while you’re soldering and it’s very good if you want to keep from burning yourself some of you might be into that but I’m not so I’m going to use the vise then you have your blades which you use for stripping back jacketing on your cables here we’ve got strippers these guys are sometimes known as tea strippers or just strippers this is called a mini strip X this is what I prefer to use because it’s quicker and it’s easier to get the job done but they both perform the same task so whichever one you have will work just fine here we have our soldering iron and our base station it’s important that you have a good soldering iron for a couple of reasons first a good soldering iron has a good tip on it which is what you’re using when you work also a good soldering iron will work at the proper temperature and maintain that temperature the entire time you’re working so you’ll have an easier time while you’re soldering and you’ll have stronger connections last but not least rosin core solder today we’re going to talk about guitar cables because those are some of the most common cables that you work with and also there’s some of the simplest when it comes to soldering so first I’m going to show you an example of a bad soldering job then I’m going to show you an example of a good soldering job and explain to you how to do it so here’s an example of a poor soldering job I can see at least five things that went wrong in this scenario for starters let’s note that on a quarter-inch guitar cable you’ve got two factors the hot conductor up on top here and the shield conductor down on the bottom the first thing I notice is that the hot conductor is supposed to have a non conductive jacketing that protects it in this case somebody has stripped the conductor so far back that the entire length of the wire in the connector is exposed this can lead to shorting and corrosion down the road so this cable won’t last you very long the second thing I notice here is that the shield conductor is not making proper contact with the sleeve of the connector that’s pretty self-explanatory it’s also very well exposed in the same way that the hot conductor is and they’re getting dangerously close to touching each other so another thing I notice over here is that there’s a giant mound of solder where somebody tried to attach the shield this is a common mistake that people make when they’re first learning how to solder because they think that the more solder they put on the better that’s not necessarily true and in this case it’s actually detrimental because you’ll see the mound is so big that is actually coming close to touching our other conductor up here another problem I see here is that the hot conductor has what we call a cold solder joint you can see that the solder here is not as smooth or as shiny as a solder that we have down here what that tells me is that while this solder was drying the conductor was either moving or shaking and that leaves you with a weak solder point so somewhere down the line that conductor is going to come off the pin and you’re going to lose your signal the other major problem I see here is that our strain relief isn’t properly clamped down that leaves nothing to stop the force of an angry guitar player yanking on the cable and possibly breaking off your solder points and by the way whoever soldered this reversed the hot and the shield so you could see here the hot is actually soldered to the sleeve and the shield is actually soldered to the tip where it’s supposed to be the other way around you could tell because you could see the jacket sticking out on the hot conductor now that I showed you why this sucks I’m going to chop it and show you how to do it right here’s a tip for you anybody who’s ever soldered anything could probably tell you they’ve made this mistake more times that they could even count before you even think about prepping your cable take your backshell and put it on otherwise you’re going to hate yourself after you solder it and realize it’s too late so the first thing we need to do is strip back the jacketing on our cable if I look at my connector here I’ve got a strain relief and I’ve got my two solder points I need to find a strip back that can clamp this strain relief down on the jacketing but can also leave enough room for my cables to have some place so I can get them where they need to go on the connector the blade is a very convenient measuring tool in this case if I look at the blade next to the connector I see that this line here is almost the perfect measurement for how far back I want to strip my cable so now to strip back my jacket I’m going to hold my cable up to the line that I measured and I’m going to use my razor to cut through the jacket I don’t want to press too hard so that I cut through the strands but I want to press hard enough that I can get through the jacketing so this is what we should get after we strip back our jacket notice that none of the shield wires have been cut so the next step here is to twist the shield wires into one conductor so we take them all here bring them all together and twist them so now I’ve got to strip back a little bit of my hot conductor so that I can solder it to the connector but remember I don’t want to strip it back any farther than I need to because that leaves the wire exposed and susceptible to things like shorting to do so I’m going to use my strip X so this leaves me with a little bit of the hot wire exposed to solder to my connector now I’m going to tin my wires tinning is when you put a little bit of solder on them to get them prepared first make sure that you got a nice clean tip on your soldering iron it’ll make your job a hell of a lot easier so now you want to remember that you only need a little bit of solder on your conductors okay so now that we’ve tended our wires we also need to turn our connector this connectors already got some solder on it because it was previously used so what I’m going to do is just reheat the solder a little bit and put some new solder on it to freshen it up so now we’re going to take the wires inside of them on we put everything in place so that all we have to do is hit it briefly with the soldering iron and everything will be good and there we have it so now all we have to do is clamp down the strain relief I’m going to use my tea strips here to do it make sure we have a nice tight grasp now can’t be pulled out alright that’s a clean solder everything is making a full connection where it’s supposed to be we don’t have too much solder on everything the strain relief is clamped down holding everything in place and there is no exposed wire where there shouldn’t be this is going to last you a while now the last thing we have to do is put the back shell on we just got to screw it on and there you have it so now you should be able to understand some of the basics of soldering you should be able to distinguish a good solder from a bad solder and you should be well on your way to making all your own cables Oh

100 thoughts on “Soldering a Guitar Cable

  1. Good video, but I'm comparing the price of a good soldering iron, strippers, pliers and a vice – plus all the hassle –  versus £20 for a new guitar lead?

  2. I hope it is okay to add a couple fine points to your excellent video.
    It is important to keep the tip of the iron tinned at all times.
    This keeps the surface metal from oxidizing (which you can see yours is a bit by its muted grey color) while heated or exposed for long cool periods, and a tinned tip conducts heat better than a dry one, massively so.
    Swipe the tip clean before each connection as you did, then tin or "wet" the tip with a small coating of fresh solder.
    The old solder on that connector would have best been heated and flicked off.
    Not to sound snobbish but, "We do not use old solder" is a good mantra to live by as a solder jockey.
    The connector should be lightly tinned, and all conductors (wires) should have their strands twisted neatly and be tinned as well.
    When making the connections, hook the wire through the lug of the connector (if there is one) and lightly pinch it to hold.
    If there is no hole in the lug or turret to wrap a wire around, having both parts lightly tinned will allow you to heat the lug, melt the solder and set the tinned conductor into the molten solder.
    The lug and iron instantly melt the tinning on the conductor, remove the iron as soon as the solder flows together smoothly.
    This takes about a second, maybe another for a larger shield conductor.
    In respect to ventilation, a small fan placed right by the vise blowing away from you will pull the flux smoke away.
    The smoke does not contain lead, that is a fallacy!
    We are not heating to temperatures high enough to boil and thus vaporize the metal.
    Thank you for the vid!
    Barring the few I have checked out on Mil Spec solder work for aircraft industry (which are far beyond beginner or intermediate skills) this is the first one I have seen that covers the basics, is well spoken, and should be digestible for some one ready to come over to the dark side 🙂

  3. So I rarely post any comments on youtube, however, I just wanted to send you a quick thank you. I've never picked up a soldering iron before, nor had any reason to until my Rocksmith Cable started flaking out and finally departed for the great gig in the sky. So I ordered a new one which should be here next week. Then I began wondering if I could fix this thing myself. After looking around on youtube I found a couple of RS videos that got me pointed in the right direction but the only video that demonstrated how to attach the 1/4 cable jack got the wiring backwards. After completing the task and plugging it in I got massive feed back and decided to call it a night. Today, I decided to take another crack at it and found your video. Your instruction was concise and informative and walked me through step by step. After watching the video a few times I made another attempt and it works excellently. So thank you for the help. You might want to make a Rocksmith 2014 oriented cable repair video. I can't be the only one looking for help. and as the price for a new cable is around $40.00 It is much less expensive to do it ourselves if we know how to get it done. 

  4. Thanks Dude. I'm getting ready to solder for the first time and this helps a lot. I have an open on an input jack inside the guitar. Not exactly what you are working on here but close enough.

  5. This is a very clear, well-planned lesson.  You're a great teacher.  The video aspects were also all-pro.  Thank you very much.

  6. Sorry to brake it to you. But you made a huge mistake soldering. That black plastic on the outside of the hot middle wire is conductive and its used as a shield connected to the ground shielding. You have to take it of and you connected the black plastic/ground to the tip. You shorted it.
    Thank you 🙂

  7. I've seen a lot of YouTube tutorials and this one is the most lucid, concise, well presented, well taped and all around from top to bottom best tutorial I've seen.  You know your material, you presented it well, it was easy to understand an see.  No frills or wasted time and right to each and every point.  You hit the meat of ever aspect and moved on to the next.  Great start, covered the subject matter and rounded it up to a satisfying end.  "You The Man" 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thanks, I feel enlightened,
    Steph

  8. Thanks Mike. I have two new leads that are buzzing and crackling when connected. At close inspection they look like a four year old put them together. Not worth the AGG sending them back. I'll fix them myself.

  9. I am sooo disappointed..Dave..you didn't piss me off at all..I was really hoping for some residual distorted underlying anger to carry around so I could inadvertently unload it all on some innocent soul for no good reason.

  10. At last a video showing it done the right way. So many people think they have to thread the wire through the connector holes! Ton of videos on youtube showing how to do this very simple task incorrectly.

  11. Really good video mate, I'm about to try my hand at soldering for the first time and this video was just what i needed. Cheers! A++++

  12. Good video, I was just wondering why don't you suggest to use shrink tubes to make stronger and long lasting connection, reducing the way the cable will move and break the gum and make short circuit after a short time? Above all the movement made by the cable locked in the clamp, it wasn't better to cover it with a large shrink, and to cover all the gnd cable escept the soldering with it?

  13. Thanks Mike, this helped a lot. I had it all backwards and it was humming like crazy. Took me a few tries as I never do this stuff, but got it. Thanks.

  14. Wonderful video. I've done a little light work on PC boards and now I'm really looking forward to fixing some of the bad cables I've got laying around. This video is exactly what I needed. On the "bad" example you showed would you advise using wick to clean the piece up before reworking? Or should it just be thrown out?

  15. You left out one very important step. In addition to putting the barrel on the wire before you solder, you need to put the insulation sleeve provided also on the wire before you solder. This typically plastic sleeve is very important from keeping the tip (hot) terminal from accidently touching the barrel which is attached to the (ground) sleeve terminal. Also to make sure that that does not happen, the tip wire should be soldered from the inside out, through the provided hole and bent down and cut, not just laying on top of the tip terminal. Just a suggestion. I personally don't tin each wire first, because it makes it easier for the wires' insulations to melt, causing a short, before you even start soldering. I liked your neatness through it all. Good job otherwise.

  16. I will add a few things guys. 1st, clean the jack terminals with 400 grit sandpaper, then wipe with alcohol. You might also flow some solder into the grounded part of the jack itself so once you solder the ground wire to the jack you have a more solid connection. Make sure you have enough heat on the jack itself or your solder might just break, heat is the key… Also, don't forget to add some shrink wrap to your jack for a Pro job. Mogami cable is the best IMHO.

    Cheers from p2pAmps

  17. Why in god's name did he wait until 4 minutes to tell us the guy has inverted the hot and shield joints?! I was about to puke on my phone I was so scared that I had done ALL of my cables wrong. Most terrifying minutes of my life! Thanks Mike!

  18. Great job explaining how to get this job done ! Now I can fix all the broken cables I have .
    Thank you for this well presented video ?

  19. One of my grandkids just stepped on my guitar cable. Found your video, repaired the cable and back in business. Your video was exactly what I needed. Very well done.!!!

  20. Failed to cut back the electrostatic black shield from the center transparent insulator. This cable is massively compromised. Pause at 2:41 to see. The black part is definitely not the insulation and should have been cut back. Also there should be a plastic sleeve that goes inside the barrel to prevent the center hot from shorting with the barrel ground.

  21. Great video lesson! I am mechanically incompetent so my previous solder work has been hit or miss. I think this video will help me out.

    BTW maybe I missed it but you should mention how to test the cable with a meter after completing the connections.

    If you are repairing a cable, the break may not be where you think it is. Maybe after you expose the wire check with a meter before soldering a new tip on. Just a thought.

  22. Thanks a lot! Also, a tip for anyone trying to do this with a MONSTER cable, untwist as much copper as you can and bundle it up then straighten it out. It is ok to have some left at the bottom.

  23. Tongue in cheek, please note that the 3rd letter in the word soldering is "L" not "D" Don't say its American as there is no such language.

  24. I have made this comment so many times the third letter in Soldering is "L" not "D" don't say its american as there is no such thing as american language. There are no Sodders in the army, you haven't sodd your car, no Bodd headed men etc etc Otherwise O.K. This is not an attack, more tongue in cheek.

  25. outstanding tutorial, my shield wire is made up of just a couple of wires, maybe the same amount as the hot wire. does this mean cheap cable? I've got the cable for free when i bought a pedal 2nd hand so ive have no idea how much the cable is worth.

  26. Great job! Do you mind my asking you how much all of the tools, vice, etc. ran you? pm me if you prefer.
    This is a great vid. I imagine that after buying the equipment, you probably recoup your expenses on 5, or 6 new chords… plus, you'll have become even more popular with your colleagues. Thanks! 🙂

  27. I' ve just bought two Neutrik jacks and Sommer cable. I was really excited to solder my first hi-end guitar cable. I made every solder joint perfect, I put the shrink tubing and the electrical tape so it has even more protection and what? Shit. The cable has a massive signal loss and even the shitty, random cable does the better job, when I connect the "new" cable, the signal is at least 2 times quieter. I' ve resoldered it and the problem still occurs. I' ve measured it with my multimeter and it turns out that the hot wire and the shielding have a LITTLE BIT of short circuit (on my analog meter, the pointer barely moves, but still, there is SOME resistance (not infinite). What the fuck i did wrong? I even desoldered the jacks and the cable itself doesn' t make the short circuit, the jacks neither, and when I solder it together and isolate as well as I can, there is something fucking wrong.

  28. only way to remedy the "forgot the connector mistake" is to deal from the other end of the lead….hopefully. lol.

  29. Fantastic video, all the info I need to solder a guitar cable for the first time. Excellent production!

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