Late Night DIY: Building a Cable Snake Part 2

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Last time, we figured out our fabric needs, bought the fabric, washed it, trimmed it and cut it into the strips we need to assemble the snake.

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Below are some pics of how we (well, more how my wife) got to the strip stage to refresh your memory.

Pic 2 shows the fold (kinda!) on one of my 7″ strips.

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Pic 3 shows my better half cutting the fabric into the strips. She’s using a fabric cutting wheel and a straightedge but scissors will work just fine. Use a straightedge to keep the fabric nice and square or your snake will not be nice and true looking when you get finished.

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Pic 4 shows me checking the circumference of the cloth tube. The seam will be right on the inside of my left thumb (1/2″ in on each side – 1/2″ seam allowance for you experienced seamstresses).

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I’m trying some Monster Cables I had taking up space around my “studio” for my guitar cables. They actually have a great sound.

Since this was originally written, I have removed the power requirement from my board by moving the supply to the amp end of the snake and running a low voltage cable out to the board. My snake no longer has AC power in it. I had already cut the pieces so we decided to leave it alone.

For some really good info on pedals and snakes, go to www.pedalsnake.com.

Making the Ends

Now, we’re going to sew the strips together… but first, let’s talk about the ends. I had originally thought I would just throw a Zip Tie around the ends and call it good but that turned out to be pretty tacky so I came up with the idea shown in pic 5.

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You need to hem the end of the tube anyway, so make it large enough to allow a Zip Tie to fit through the little tube the hem makes. The tie goes in one buttonhole, around the tube inside the hem an out the other buttonhole.

Buttonholes? What is this a guitar project or a Home Economics test? (!) Yeah, I hear ya.

Read on for more about the hems.

Here’s a shortcut if you are allergic to the magic of modern sewing machines. Make the hem and cut a couple of slits in the outside for the tie. Seal the fabric with some thin Super Glue so the fabric won’t unravel – don’t glue the slit shut! Use the minimum amount of glue you need to do the job. Be careful not to glue the inside and outside of the hem together. (It might be easier to make the slits and seal them first, then make the hem.)

Sewing The Pieces Together:

You make the ends after this next step if you want, that way you won’t screw up and sew the end pieces into the middle somewhere.

Now, you really can’t sew this by hand. You need to use a “2-point zigzag stitch” to prevent the fabric from fraying and coming apart, which it will do if you don’t prevent it. We want this snake to last without worrying about it under the harsh conditions that musicians (and roadies) will subject it to. (There are some other stitches you can use but none of them can be sewn by hand. Just look in your sewing machine’s manual for a stitch it will do to prevent fraying.)

Okay, you are going to sew the ends of your strips together to make a long flat piece. See pic 6.

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Check your fabric for an inside and an outside. Some fabrics are made with a definite “in” and “out.” You want to make your seam allowance (the flap left when you stitch the two pieces together) on the “back” or “in” side of the fabric so you get the “out” side out when you turn the finished tube right side out. Wow. Still with me?

Just stitch the ends together like the lower drawing in pic 6. Add all the pieces to make your length.

Pic 7 shows how to stitch the pieces together. Do them all.

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Pic 8 shows the stitch we’re using for the seams.

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Pic 9 is the result of all that stitching.

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Pic 10 shows how nice the seam looks from the outside.

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Kay (my wife), being the expert seamstress and quilter that she is, ironed the seams down flat, pic 11, to prevent lumps in the tube and a catch point for the cables when feeding them through the tube. Be sure to iron them all in the same direction.

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In pic 12, she’s sewing the seams flat to keep them there.

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Check out pic 13 for how this fabric frays.

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Just start pulling those threads and you’ll see how you can unravel the whole thing!

Now we come to the buttonhole (or slit and glue) event.

The Buttonholes

You’ll want to use the smallest hole you can. Mine are about 3/8″ long so I can increase the size of the ZipTie if I need to later. Same thing if you are using the slit & glue method.

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Pic 15 shows the buttonhole location we used. The pics farther on will explain why we did what we did.

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Pic 17 shows the first end done. That’s what you should have. Go ahead and do the other end now.

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Pics 18 – 20 show how the seam works to hide the Zip Tie and the reason for the measurements we used.

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Remember, you still need the 1/2″ seam allowance for the tube seam and the hems as well.

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Does it all make sense? I designed the stupid thing and I was lost most of the time, too! Trust me, it works out great in the end.

For the Slit & Glue Method

Use the same measurements as the buttonholes use and make your slits in the fabric. Grab some waxed paper and put a couple of small pieces through the slits to keep the hole open. Lay the fabric down on more waxed paper (or plastic wrap) and drip or brush a tiny amount around the slit edges to seal them. Let this completely dry… I mean completely (30 minutes or so) before you mess with it. Test it before you go on. If you can still pull threads out, put on some more glue until the edges are secure. Try not to glue too much fabric around the hole. You’re done.

A Note About Hemming

Back in pic 17, I mentioned about hemming the ends. Kay and I screwed this up in that we totally spaced the fact that you can’t sew the seam inside a 2.5″ circle. (*!@%&@!) BUT! The good news is, we have a solution. Actually two solutions. First, just hem the end before you sew the tube together. (DUH!) Or, if you wound up in my situation, which would indicate that you aren’t following the directions (!), use some matching color iron-on seam tape. This will work fine and is easy to do.

So, hem the ends now, or wait and use the seam tape later. You could even use the seam tape now! Your choice.

Sewing The Tube Together:

Pic 20a shows the layout for stitching the tube together.

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Pic 21 shows Kay sewing the tube. Remember that 1/2″ seam allowance.

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Turning The Tube Right Side Out:

Pic 21a shows the part of the project that will probably draw the most expletives from you. This sounds straightforward but is a real pain with this heavy material. We had a real tug-of-war getting this done.

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You will also notice the result of our oops, the un-hemmed end. Luckily, the ends were the factory ends on the fabric so there won’t be any unraveling problem.

If you took my advice, and read the directions through before starting, you won’t have this problem.

Feeding the Cables In

Use string and a heavy nut, fishing line and a weight, whatever you can come up with to feed a string through the snake as in pic 22.

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Get your cables laid out and ready to pull. In pic 23, I’m ready except for the tape you’ll need to keep the cable ends from trying to u-turn inside the snake. See pic 27 for the tape application. Lay the string along your cables to the end and wrap your tape from the string knot to the end to hold everything inside. The string should come out the end.

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Once you have worked the cables into the snake, which is way easer with two people, secure the end left out so it won’t go up the snake, pic 24, 25 & 26.

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I wound up not hemming my snake at all. I just folded the ends in and used the Zip Tie to secure everything. It worked fine.

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Once that’s done, pic 26, work the rest of the snake down over the cables. Just bunch the snake up if you have to in order to get the cables out of the other end.

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Finally! It’s a pain by yourself. Now unwrap the tape, remove the string and adjust your cables for the right length.

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Pic 28 shows the fit at my pedal board. The top signal cable won’t be used most of the time as I plug my guitar cable in there. I’ll only use it this way when I use my send/receive jack on the amp. If I hadn’t had the hole from the AC voltage plug to cover up, I would’ve left a little more room so there was less interference. I still might rotate the plate 90 degrees to ease the strain on the small plugs. These are the kind of details that keep me up late at night!

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Pic 29 shows the snake done. Looks a little like a giant hair Scrunchy! I made mine too long for my needs now, but I might need more length in the future and I won’t have to modify the snake to get it. Just sayin’…

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I’m delighted with the end result. It coils up easily and a couple of clamps (Home Depot) hold it in perfect shape for the gig bag or the pedal board case, if you have one.

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Well, there you have it. Until next time…

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Doug Knight

Our “Man on the Street” reporter, with his “What’s New in Music Stores?” series, resides in Coos Bay, OR. You can find him on Friday nights at The Small Events Center at OrCoast Music in Coos Bay.

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