Tips for cables

June 22, 2022
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Tips for getting started with cables.

Cables are incredibly useful and versatile components for your projects. They can be used to connect a motor to a PIR sensor, or power an LED or servo. But people who are new to electrical construction find them confusing, intimidating and frustrating. If you're looking for another way of connecting things and want something quick, easy and reliable here are 10 tips that will help you get started with cables.

1. Get a bag of cables.

Cables are not expensive, but they can be daunting to think about buying. They come in different lengths, colours and diameters. If you are like most hobbyists you will have a single project going at any one time – for example a motor that you need to connect to a PIR sensor or an LED that needs powering with a servo.

The first thing to do is to get some of the more common cables for each project. You can use a cable with a different diameter for one project and a different colour for another, or find materials that are cheap in bulk. For example, you could buy an assortment of red, orange and yellow cables (or all green ones) – the perfect combination should leave you with a few choices when it comes to choosing the right cable to connect things together.

2. Follow the instructions.

Each cable type has its own characteristics. Some are compatible with lights, switches or motors – for example you can't use a servo cable to power an LED. Some can charge parts from 2.4V (transistors and chips) while others require 12V, and some work with 5V but not 3.3V. If you follow the instructions for what each type of cable is intended for it will make projects easier to build and less frustrating, as you will be able to choose the right cables for your needs.

3. Don't cut a cable unless you have to.

You don't need to do this – especially if it is going to be hard to get the right cable length again. It's common sense, but you only need to buy a few metres of each type of cable in the beginning and then build up your stock as you need more.

4. Take the cable to a TV station.

A lot of hobbyists have a house with a TV and a cable connection – there are some great videos on YouTube explaining how to solder wires and build circuits without having to use much more than a screwdriver. The challenge is that many people are uncomfortable using cables, so if you don't feel confident then take your new-found cables to a friend or one of the local electronics stores and ask for help. If you buy from Hobby King you will be able to return any faulty items for free.

5. Don't get hung up on the length.

There are lots of different cable length options available. Most of the time you really don't need to buy them all – you will probably only use a few metres of each type. If you need to buy more than a few metres then pick up some more while they are cheap as they will be expensive soon enough in your local electronics stores.

6. Don't be afraid of blobs.

You won't sell your car and take them with you on holiday, but that doesn't mean that you can't use the best kind of cable to fit the task at hand. If you accidentally solder a wire onto a plastic blob instead of a good cable then the project is not ruined – it will just look a bit strange.

In conclusion, this is by no means an exhaustive list of tips and tricks for learning about cables. But hopefully the above will help you get started in the right way and help you to build many more cool projects.