CATx Stripping and Terminating 

Chapter 1

In this section I'll describe the process of stripping and terminating CAT5 cabling. This process will be the same if you chose to use CAT5e cabling. I haven't researched CAT6 cabling on detail enough to describe that process yet so for the time being I'll ignore CAT6.

 

The Cable

First a brief description of the CATx cable itself. CATx is a term I use to describe CAT5 and CAT5e and CAT6.  CATx cables have 8 conductors grouped as four twisted pairs. It's the twisted pairs that are key to the ability of these cables to carry such high speeds digital signals (100 Mbps and 1000Mbps) over such a long distance of 100 meters. Some things common to CAT5, CAT5e and CAT6 cable are - they all have four twisted pairs and they all use the same color wires. See the CAT5 and CAT5e cables in the photo below. Notice how the pairs consist of a solid colored insulated wire paired with a white colored insulated wire that has a stripe of the same color as the solid wire. Note here too how CAT5 and CAT5e look so similar. CAT6 photos aren't shown here. In fact I'm not going to cover CAT6 cable or it's connectors and terminating procedures. I will likely be adding info on CAT6 soon.



For a more detailed discussion on how Ethernet and  twisted pair wiring works and why see my Links page

For all practical purposes you can work with these three CATx types in the same manner. When there is a difference I'll point that out. The two important 'rules' to remember are:

These rules are intended to limit how much you can untwist the twisted pairs. So lets move on.

 

The Connectors

Second here is a brief description of the RJ45 connector. The RJ45 connector is called a 'modular connector'. In the context of these connectors I don't know what the significance of the term modular is. But, whatever, the RJ45 connector looks a lot like the standard telephone connector which is called an RJ11. The RJ45 is larger than the RJ11 because the RJ45 has room for 8 conductors where the RJ11 has room for only 6 conductors.  See the photos of the two plugs below. The RJ11 is on the left and the RJ45 on the right.

The two jacks that the plugs mate with have the same conductor count and size differences.  
See the photos of the two jacks below. The RJ11 is on the left and the RJ45 on the right.

      

 

The Standards

Stripping CATx cables and terminating CATx connectors is really easy but it does take some finesse, practice, time and patience. But before we get into the How To part of it lets first decide on which wiring standard to use. 

You'll likely be somewhat confused by the wiring standards. The standard called EIA/TIA-568-A describes a 'Commercial Building Wiring Standard'. Within this EIA/TIA-568-A standard are two defined wiring 'patterns' for CATx cabling: T568A and T568B. The EIA/TIA-568-A is less of a concern to someone who is wiring their home with network wiring. What is of concern to the home network are the two wiring patterns T568A and T568B. You can learn more about the EIA/TIA-568-A  standards (if your so inclined) by reading an excellent publication  then do an internet search for 'Leviton Strategies'.

The meat of all this for the home network are the two wiring patterns. T
hese wiring patterns are illustrated below as they apply to RJ45 plugs.

 

 

Here is an area that confused me for quite some time. 
Fortunately, there is a simple answer.

The EIA/TIA-568-A 'Commercial Building Wiring Standard' specifies TWO DIFFERENT wiring color pattern for 8-pin RJ45 connectors. One color pattern is T568A and the other is T568B as shown above. You will read that one is preferred for commercial applications and the other is preferred for residential applications. Whatever they say - the meat of the matter is that these two different looking wiring standards are ELECTRICALLY BOTH THE SAME IF you use the SAME color pattern on BOTH ends of a given cable! Irregardless of which of the two color pattern you choose pin 1 on one end is connected to pin 1 on the other end. Pin 2 on one end is connected to pin 2 on the other end and so forth. The difference is just in the COLOR of the wires. The important thing here is to decide on JUST ONE color pattern and DO ALL your wiring with that pattern you chose.

It really doesn't matter which you chose. Here's how I decided on which pattern to use. I went to my local Comp USA and bought a pre-made CAT5 cable. It was wired to the T568B standard so that is what I chose to use for ALL of my wiring. That's the simple solution - just pick one pattern and stay with it. Now that I have decided to use the T568B standard for all my wiring - if I were to go to say Radio Shack and buy a pre-made CAT5 that has been made to the T568A standard I CAN still use it just fine. I'll repeat - It doesn't matter which standard you use as long as both ends of a given cable use the same standard. The only thing to avoid here is using T568A on one end of a cable and T568B on the other end. This WILL NOT work.

CATx jacks, well at least the Leviton ones that I used, have printed on the side of them the color codes for both standards. See the photo below. The A and B on the side correspond to T568A and T568B.

 

So , just make your choice. I chose T568B. 
Let's get on to the How To.

The How To

Before we get too far into this process let me show you how you can dress up the looks of your CATx cables and at the same time make them more robust. A vinyl boot can be put over the cable BEFORE the RJ45 connector is crimped on. See the photo below:

These boots are really nice. They are cheap - about 20 each, come in many colors and are easy to use. And you can use them to color code your cables if you wish. Just REMEMBER to put them over the cable BEFORE you crimp on the RJ45 connector. Of course the use of these boots is entirely up to your personal preference. You don't NEED these boots.

Now lets see how to terminate an RJ45 plug on the end of a CATx cable. You NEED a CATx cable stripper - they only cost around $20. The Cable Stripper is used to remove overall CATx cable jacket that surrounds and protects the paired wire conductors inside.  The stripper will help ensure that you don't nick the paired wires inside as you remove the jacket. Shown below is a photo of a typical cable stripper.


You DON'T have to strip the insulation off of the individual paired wires. Just remove about  1 1/2 inch of the jacket as shown below. The way the stripper tool shown above works is the cable is inserted into the stripper and then the stripper is rotated a couple of times allowing the tools cutting blade to score the cables jacket.

Next is to untwist the twisted paired wires. Then arrange them in the order.  Click here for a pdf version of the T568A and T568B color codes. You can print this pdf file and use as a guide to arranging the wire colors in the proper order. Getting the eight wires arranged in the proper order and pressing the eight wires FLAT between your thumb and index fingers is an important step to get the wires setup to slide into the RJ45 connector. Once the wires are FLAT and in the right order cut them so they are 1/2 inch long as shown in the photo below.

 

Insert the flattened wire into the the RJ45 connector as shown below:

Now put your RJ45 crimping tool to work. Read the directions for your tool. The drawing below shows what the crimp tool is doing. The crimp tool presses in the gold plated electrical contact down such that they pierce through insulation of all eight wire and make contact with the copper conductor. This is called insulation displacement and is why there is no need to strip the insulation off of the individual wires. The other thing the crimp tool does is press down on a hinged tab that grips onto the cables outer jacket to provide a strain relief action and helps to keep the cable and the connector intact.

Let's stop here for a brief moment and talk about being neat and following guidelines. Notice in the photo above how jacketed portion of the cable goes all the way up into the plug. This is right way to do this. DO NOT leave portions of the cable exposed without a jacket covering it. This jacket is key to keeping the all important twists in the CATx cable intact and to keep the pairs grouped together. 

Do NOT do this!  The long lengths of wire that do not have the pairs twisted WILL NOT carry data at 100Mbps.  Being neat is more than making it look nice. THIS WILL NOT WORK.

 

Two key rules that you NEED to follow are:

This step  which is shown above on this page is key to meeting these two rules.

 

There you have it. 

The next section will show how to terminate the CATx to a RJ45 or RJ11 jack and to a Punchdown block.

Here is a link to Dux Computer Digest where they have a very good tutorial on this subject as well:  http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/index.htm

The Dux Computer Digest also has some theory of twisted pair wiring if your interested:
http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/cable4.htm

 

 

 

Chapter 2

CATx Stripping and Terminating

This page will show how to terminate the CATx to a RJ45 or RJ11 jack and to a Punchdown block. For these applications you'll need a Punchdown Tool.

The Punchdown Tool

Several suppliers make punchdown tool ranging in price from $35 to $85. The tools in this price range are impact tools. They work by holding the tool in your hand and pressing the tool down on the CATx wire as it sits in the Insulation Displacement Contact (IDC) slots that these jacks employ.  As you press on the tool a spring in the tool is compressed. When the spring becomes compressed to some level the spring releases and 'hammers down' or impacts the CATx wire into the IDC slot. This 'hammering down' or impact action applies a controlled force every time to help ensure a consistent IDC connection. These tools typically have an adjustable impact force and come with interchangeable bits for type 66 and type 110 terminals that are made of high quality tool steel. Even with the tool steel quality bit these will wear out and the bits can be replaced if they wear out. Most of you doing this kind of thing in your own home will never wear out a bit.

A lot of suppliers sell low cost, non-impact punchdown tool for under $10. These tool are made completely out of plastic and will wear out after a few uses and don't have the impact action.  Use these all-plastic only if you have a few connectors to terminate.

The photo below shows the most commonly used tool, the D814 made by Harris. 
This tool can be purchased for about $80. There are 'clones' of this tool that sell for in the $40 range.

Shown in the photo below are the bits that come with the tool. The bit on the top is for type 110 terminals and the bit on the bottom is for the type 66 terminals and both have stamped on to them a number indicating the size it is intended for. Both these bits are double ended and the left side of the bits will terminate and cut the CATx wire while the side on the right will just terminate the wire and does not cut it.

 

Terminating CATx to RJ45 and RJ11 Jacks

The RJ45 or RJ11 jacks use the type 110 IDC terminals. You'll need to use the 110 bit for the punchdown tool that will cut and terminate the wire.

Start by removing about 1 1/2" of jacket from the CATx cable. Untwist the entire length of the twisted pairs that are exposed. Lay the CATx onto the jack and arrange the wires into the IDC slots on the jacks using the color code printed on the side of the jack as shown in the photo below. Note here that the color shown below are for the T568B wiring standard that I chose to use.

Let's stop here for a brief moment and talk about being neat and following guidelines. Notice in the photo above how jacketed portion of the cable goes all the way up into the connector. This is right way to do this. DO NOT leave portions of the cable exposed without a jacket covering it. This jacket is key to keeping the all important twists in the CATx cable intact and to keep the pairs grouped together.  Keep the unjacketed and untwisted part of the cable less than 1/2".

Do NOT do this!  The long lengths of wire that do not have the pairs twisted WILL NOT carry data at 100Mbps.  Being neat is more than making it look nice. THIS WILL NOT WORK.

With the type 110 bit in the punchdown tool that will cut and terminate the wire, press the tools bit down onto the terminal with the side of the bit that will cut the wire pointed to the outside of the jack. This is shown in the photo below.

Press down on the tool to compress the tools spring until the tool 'hammers down' or impacts the wire into the terminals slot. This action combined with the wire cutting edge of the bit will terminate and cut the wire.

The photo below shows the CATx cable terminated to the RJ45 jack after the wires have been cut by the punchdown tool's bit.

The last step in this process is to snap on a protective cover that is included in the RJ45 and RJ11 jack that will cover the area where the IDC contacts are. That's IT.

Terminating CATx to Punchdown Blocks

When using CATx for telephone wiring the 'rules' I've stated above can be bent somewhat because telephone signals are not high speed signals and the twists are not quite as critical.... 

 

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Reference Source:
By Bob Catanzarite ( swhowto.com )


 

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