Wiring Basics 2

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Wiring Basics 2

Guide for Making Proper Electrical Connections

To guarantee reliable, secure, long-lasting connections between two wires, or between wires and components that have pig tail wires coming from them, you should always solder them. (I just heard someone yell, "Solder! Me? Solder? Yes, you. This isn't welding, and trust me, you can do it.) There are many connection devices available on the market today, but I personally prefer the reliability of a soldered connection. An inexpensive soldering iron with a 25 to 40-watt heating element will serve you well. Always clean the ends of the wires with sandpaper and apply the solder to the wires, not to the soldering iron itself. You should wipe the tip of the soldering iron with a rag, but BE CAREFUL. The thing melts metal. I repeat. It MELTS metal. Soft fingertips are no match for it. Bottom line, keep everything clean and you will be fine.

You use the soldering iron to heat the wires. The heat within the wires, rather than that of the soldering iron is what melts the solder, and it should flow over the connection. Use rosin core solder for the connections. Acid core solder is used for plumbing and metal repair and is not suitable for electrical connections. Besides "acid core" just sounds mean. I think my son-in-law listens to acid core music or something, and it gives me a headache. Rock on!

After soldering, you can put an insulated crimp cap or wire nut connector on the wire ends.

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Making Wire Connections

Because I want you to be successful, I am going to suggest a few, self-initiated classes (yourself, not myself). Before you ever run a wire, I want you to feel confident you can make the necessary connections--soldering and all. We will begin with "tinning a lead." If you use this phrase around electricians, they will think you know your stuff, but in reality this just means flowing the solder over the ends of the wires.

Tinning LeadsTinning a lead

• Using a wire stripper, strip an inch of insulation from the end of the wire. If using stranded wire, twist the strands of wire together tightly.

• Hold the soldering iron to the wire for a few seconds to heat it thoroughly.

• Touch the solder to the heated wire, not to the iron, and let it flow evenly over the lead. The solder should begin to flow almost instantly; if it does not, remove the solder, heat the wire a little longer, and try again.

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Soldering TabsSoldering a wire to a tab

• Make a good mechanical connection.

• Pull the tinned end of the wire through the hole in the tab and with long nose pliers and wrap the wire in a loop around the tab.

• Do not heat the tab more than is necessary because too much heat will melt the plastic around the tab.

• Heat the tab on one side and flow on just enough solder on the other side to cover the joint smoothly.

• Do not move the wire until the solder is set. This will cause a cold solder joint.

• If you need to reheat the joint do so after the joint has had a chance to cool.

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wiring11Soldering wires together

• Expose about one half inch of each wire and wrap them around each other as shown to the left.

• Heat the wire joint with a soldering iron, then touch the solder to the wires until the joint is evenly covered with solder.

• Cover the joint COMPLETELY with electrician's wire crimp cap or wire nut.

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Wire CapsMaking Connections with Wire Caps

• As an alternative to soldering, you can splice cable with wire caps specially made for thin, low-voltage wires. Though not as strong as soldered joints, such splices will serve in tight spots where soldering is difficult.

• To use the caps, strip about one half inch of insulation from the end of each wire, twist the ends together, and then insert the exposed wire into the cap. With a pair of crimpers pinch the cap flat. As an alternate method you can use small wire nuts and screw them down on the wires just like nuts. Finally, wrap the entire connection with electrician’s tape.

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Here is a list of TOOLS you will need

  • Fish tapes
  • Chain
  • Fishing weight
  • Magnet
  • Wire clothes hangers
  • Wood chisel
  • Hammer
  • Cold chisel
  • Utility knife
  • Digital multimeter
  • Electric drill
  • Flexible drill bit
  • Assortment of spade bits
  • Wiring Staple gun
  • Soldering iron
  • Long-nose pliers


  • 18-22 gauge cable
  • Rosin-core solder
  • Electrician’s tape
  • Insulated Wire caps
  • Dome Staples

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Continued on Wiring Basics 3 page.