How to Make Your Own Multi-Pin Connectors
What we're building
If you’re looking for a way to make your own connectors, this short guide will show you a simple method. You will learn how to make a multi-pin connector from basic materials.
The tools required should be present in any tinkerer desk, and most likely you have most of them. You can substitute some materials or processes with your own variants.
Most likely you won't have the exact materials I’m using in this guide, and that's fine. If you follow along, you should be able to make your own multi-pin connectors.
bent nose pliers
3rd hand (helping hand)
male pin header strip
female pin header strip
2.5 mm shrink-wrap
120 grit sandpaper
As a bonus, we’ll also be building a pin riser from simple pin headers. Why would you need a pin riser?
Well in some cases you need that extra bit of height from the circuit board for proper cable management.
In case the circuit needs cooling, handling cable management can improve air flow.
Using a simple pin strip and some wire, you can make a simple connector for your electronics projects. This should also work for various devices that you might have laying around.
You’ll first start by cutting the female header pin to an n-pin connector. In my case, I’m cutting the pin header row at the 5th pin, so all the housing remains intact around the other 4 pins. This way I’ll have an extra pin lead which I can set aside in case I need it.
Extract the pins
After you cut the “connector”, you should use the pliers to extract all the pin leads inside. They should come out with little effort. Don’t worry, we’ll insert them back in. There's a reason we’re doing things this way. It’s a lot easier to solder the leads if they are not inside their plastic casing. The thing is, if you try to solder them while they’re in their casing, you risk melting the casing.
To remove them, grab the leads tips with the pliers and pull them out.
Aligning the pin and the wire
Now, prepare the first wire. Remove the insulation at one end using a precision knife or cutter.
Place the wire in the alligator clamp of your helping hand (a.k.a. 3rd hand) soldering kit. Then place a pin with the single lead sticking out in the other alligator clamp. Align the two pins and apply a bit of solder to secure the connection.
Post-processing and repeating
When you’re done, cut a bit of shrink-wrap, and prepare the wire for reapplying an insulator. Slide the shrink-wrap to cover the solder connection you created. Then apply a bit of heat from either a lighter or the soldering iron and let the shrink-wrap do its thing.
Rinse and repeat for the other wires. Remove insulation, align the pins with the 3rd hand tool, solder, apply shrink-wrap.
In case you’re soldering to copper wires, make sure you remove the insulation. Some of these wires carry an extra thin protective insulator. Use the sharp blade of the precision knife to scrape away the surface of the wire before soldering. When the wire displays a metallic shine, you’ll be able to apply the solder a lot easier.
When you’re done with the wires, use the pliers to grab them by the point of connection. Then reinsert them one by one in the empty housing.
Don’t grab them by the wire, since you’ll risk ruining the connection when you insert the pin back into the housing. Apply a bit of force on the pins when reinserting them into their housing until they click into position.
If you have some larger diameter shrink-wrap, you can use that to provide extra insulation. It will also help with relieving wire tension.
In my case I slid a bit of fiberglass insulator on the wires, to relieve wire tension.
Bonus – Pin Risers
Like mentioned earlier, a pin riser serves a simple purpose. It raises the point of connection. In my case, I need a couple of pin risers for the dual-z setup I will attempt for a 3d printer I am building.
The connection point is tricky for the Z axis if you use the Ramps board. Actually, it gets trickier when you try two connect two stepper motors. Their headers are too close to each other and the driver positioning doesn't help either.
To create a pin riser, you’ll need two pieces of pin strips. One male and one female. We’ll use the female header as a connector. We use the male header as the translated point of the connection on the board.
Begin by doing the exact same thing we did for the wire connection.
So cut the female pin header strip. Then remove the leads with the pliers. Then get the male pin header and cut the same number of pins from the strip. Again, using the pliers remove the pins from their housing. They should come off with little effort. Set both the male and the female housing aside.
Align and solder
Start placing the pins in the alligator clamps and align them for soldering.
If your cut of the female pin header wasn’t clean, you can use a 100-200 grit sandpaper to smooth out the connector.
Now move on to aligning the female lead with the male lead and apply solder.
Do this for all your pins.
Afterwards, if you want, you can cut about 2-3mm of shrink-wrap and apply it as a bit of insulation at the solder point. Do this for all pins.
In the end, place the housing on the male end of the pins to align them with the female housing. Then insert the whole assembly into the female housing. Use the pliers for extra dexterity.
Now let’s test the riser. As you can see I managed to raise the connection point of my z-axis connection point. This makes the connection a lot easier.
Examples of use cases
Here are a few pictures showing a few use cases for this method. As you can see, you can create extenders for your wire connections.
You can also create connectors for motors or other peripherals that use a pin connection.
In my case the steppers had only wires coming out of them, so I needed a way to create a connector for the driver board.
While this process is a lot easier with crimping tools, there are benefits to this method. With a crimping tool, you need to buy the pins and the housing. Oh, and you need to buy the crimping tool as well, which is not cheap. This setup uses materials that are dirt cheap. It also levels up both your patience and soldering skills.