As we’ve already established, cabling management is important. Sleeving cables is quite popular amongst those in the computer world and although it is usually done to make them look better, it can also improve air flow and even decrease system temperatures in poorly cooled systems.
We’ve put together this guide to help you sleeve your own computing cables, with the emphasis on spliced cables consisting of two wires.
What you’ll need
- The cables you’d like to sleeve
- A wire stripping/cutting tool
- A heat gun or lighter
- Needle-nose pliers
- Cable sleeving
- Heat-shrink tubing
Deciding what you want to achieve
The first step in sleeving cables is to choose the tactic that you wish to follow. For example, would you like to place the sleeve over existing connectors, remove pins from connectors or sleeve a cable through splicing?
1. Measuring and cutting your sleeving
Sizing your sleeving is important. You will need to consider:
- The size of the wire/cable as this will determine how the sleeve appears
- The size of your connector. If your connector and sleeve sizes are mismatched, you may like to remove the connector.
You also need to take into consideration that the sleeving will shorten in length as it expands around the cables. Therefore, when cutting the sleeving, make sure that you measure the length of the sleeving when it’s actually on the cable before cutting.
Try to leave about ¼ inch to an inch of cable uncovered at each end as this will provide the dual functions of making it easier for the heat-shrink tubing to hold both the cable and the sleeving and providing sufficient slack for reinserting pins into their connectors.
2. Singeing the sleeving ends
Using a heat source such as a lighter or heat gun to singe both ends of the sleeving can prevent fraying. When using your heat source, be careful not to apply too much heat to the sleeving as this could discolour it or cause it to melt too much and bubble. Although heat shrink may hide discoloration, it won’t be able to disguise imperfections or bubbles on the surface.
Although manufacturers such as F6 or DuraWrap may already singe sleeving on both ends, when you make a cut you need to singe both ends of the sleeving again, just to be extra cautious.
One of the most effective ways to achieve fray-resistant sleeving ends is by using either a soldering gun with a blade attachment or a hot-knife cutter. Be careful though not to overdo it, as prolonged heat could melt the ends together.
3. Installing the sleeving
Once you’ve cut your sleeving to size, it’s time to put it on the cable.
To this, you should:
- Use one hand to grip one side of the sleeving and hold it in place
- Use your other hand to push the sleeving together
- Release your grip
- Repeat until the sleeving has been installed
4. Adding heat-shrink tubing
Now it’s time to cut your heat-shrink tubing. You’ll need two pieces of tubing in order to cover both sleeve ends and they should have a big enough diameter to clear the sleeving. Slide both of them over the cable and sleeving and make sure that they are pushed all the way to the end of the cable without pins or the end that will be completed last.
You may need to pull back sleeving if it is long and one side of your cable is attached to something so that you have enough room to manoeuvre. Using wire ties can be useful for holding back the sleeving.
5. Attaching wires for spliced-cable sleeving
Before rejoining the wires, the cable ends must be prepared. To do this:
- Strip the wire insulation from each end
- Twist stranded wires together to avoid separation
- Add heat shrink tubing for each wire
- Connect the wires by twisting the stripped part each wire’s end together. If you have solid wires, a pair of needle-nose pliers may come in handy for twisting them together. If using your fingers, make sure you dry them first to remove oil from your skin.
6. Securing connections
Once this has been done, you now need to secure and insulate the connections. To do this, use two pieces of heat shrink tubing to cover the exposed wire that has been twisted together. Use your heat source to shrink the tubing so that it fits cosily over the connections.
7. Extend the sleeving
If you have used wire ties, you can remove them now. Gripping one end of the sleeving, pull on the other end to extend the sleeving as much as you can. If it has been sized correctly, it should fit snugly around the cable.
8. Shrink the tubing
With the two pieces of heat shrink tubing in place, Position the two heat-shrink tubing pieces, trigger them with your heat source and ensure that the sleeving remains tight around the cable whilst doing so.
9. Repeat for each cable as desired.
And there you have it. If you need to manage your airflow or want to give your cables a cosmetic makeover, then sleeving could be a viable option. When done correctly and by applying common sense, it can be a relatively straightforward process. And remember, be careful not to overdo it with your heat source! Now, why not try it for yourself?