Misadventures in Crimping

by Megan M. on August 20, 2006 (Blog) |

Nope – not as naughty as you’re expecting! (And if you already knew what that meant, you might be able to help me with this problem I’m having…)

I’ve been trying, very diligently, to get a Vonage installation in our room. I need it for various business pursuits and it’s important that it be close to my desk, a landline, instead of a wireless. And I didn’t expect this to be so complicated… until the fellow from Cox came and told me he couldn’t run a damn ethernet line – just coaxial. He was very nice about it, but it screwed up my carefully laid plans.

So I made a few phone calls, and Marty and I hopped off to Fry’s to buy a spool. Of Cat 5E, that is.

The salesman was very helpful, or so I thought. He wouldn’t crimp on the RJ45 heads for me – he said he wouldn’t be allowed – but he said it was easy, I’d find instructions on the wub and have no problem. At this point… I didn’t even know why they called it crimping. What a goofy word.

So we brought home our spool – a thousand feet of new territory – and a little baggie full of RJ45s, and a tool of strange and frightening capabilities. (Read: crimping, stripping, things like that. Things that sound dirty.) And I sat down at my desk, and found myself a cabalistic wub tutorial, and proceeded to strip and crimp like a madwoman.

Stripping, of course, refers not to delicious bodies and easily removed clothing, but plastic casing over more plastic casing over copper wire. The outside, apparently, is what you strip – if you nick the inner casings, you have to start over. (I think that’s how it works.) What I learned to do, ultimately, was to strip an inch of outer casing from the cable, unwind the color-coded cords inside, snip them all to the same length, and snug them into an RJ45. The RJ45 has tiny copper teeth that sit up high, but when you crimp the head, the teeth are pushed down into the little wires, all connecting up. At least, that’s the theory. And it looked like I’d done all right. I practiced and practiced and even redid the job eight or nine times. I was so pleased with myself. I felt like a territory-forging fiend!

That is, until the resulting thousand-foot ethernet cable didn’t work. At all.

There was a split second when I was sure the modem light flipped on, but it was off again almost as fast, and I couldn’t get it back no matter what I tried. The only thing I can assume is that I crimped wrong, or stripped wrong, or did something wrong. A friend tells me that folks with dozens of certifications have to retry a few times before getting it right – but why the hell didn’t the Fry’s salesman give me that kind of warning? Didn’t I make it clear enough that I had no idea what I was doing?

I do realize that a thousand feet is awfully long. And I can even speculate that it’s too long for the connection to work properly – I know that at a certain point, a cable is just too long for reasonable functioning. But if I assume that’s the problem, it doesn’t help me – the best change I can make is to make shorter cables and use connectors, which results in a crazy-long cable anyway.

Or, I can hire someone to run the thing around the outside of the house. Which is what might end up happening.

At this point, I figure I have a couple of options. I was thinking of taking the cable back to Fry’s and asking their service department to please strip and crimp and test the damn thing before they give it back to me, if it’s so easy. But if the problem turns out to be the length, or if they don’t quite know what they’re doing, I’m still back in deep water. I left voicemail for a company recommended by the Cox guy, and maybe I’ll get a return call tomorrow. Until then, I think it’s best to relax and try not to be too frustrated. It won’t solve anything to be grumpy over it. I just want it figured out and done.

But I’ll get it eventually. Even if I have to get someone else to get it for me.

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