DIY Ribbon Cable – The Ghetto Solution for When You Need the Thinnest Connector Possible.

Shoe-horning more hardware (that was never meant to be there) into a mobile phone is damn well difficult. Unless you sacrifice something for space, like maybe a headphone jack 😛 Since there’s no space left in my phone I’ve resorted to making ghetto ribbon connectors to weave in and around the existing components. Here’s how I build the dangerous little cables.

Ribbon Connector

Unfortunately my sillier projects are on hold while I wait for crucial parts to come in, so I’ve been looking at something more useful regarding some upgrades to my phone.  There’s not much space in a mobile phone chassis and to connect my new components to the original motherboard I need the thinnest connector possible.  If only there was a way to make ribbon connectors as thin as the factories do but with none of the equipment of a big manufacturing plant.

Enter, “The Ghetto Ribbon Connector”!

Ghetto Ribbon Cable

As usual, let me preface the butchery I’m about to commit with the…


WARNING: Don’t go trying to use this kind of thing to jump start your Volkswagen.  Masking tape is flammable and single strands of copper wire weren’t meant to handle that much wattage/power/current/voltage/anything really.  I personally don’t run anything more than 5 volts at 500ma through mine but even then…you never know.  I fully accepted the risk of fire, personal injury, damage to my device, and many other dangers/probabilities when I built and used it.

I void warranties so often and with such reckless abandon that manufacturers have starting adding a new void clause following the usual “Force Majeure” that simply states “Marcel touched it”.  I’m ignoring a lot of best practices here and putting a lot of faith in the engineering of the existing equipment and even more in blind luck.  If you try to copy this and end up damaging your equipment or creating a time paradox, that’s all on you.  Let’s get into it…

Either watch the lame video (I decided it was taking to long to make anything good from the footage I had, so I just exported the mess below to get it uploaded) or read below.

Arts and Crafts Time Kiddies!

  1. Work out what shape you need your ribbon to be, how wide, how long, and how many pins.  Add about an inch to the length you’ve decided on and cut 4 pieces of masking tape and a length of wire to match.  Make the wire a little longer than the tape so you have something sticking out at the end you can solder to.
  2. I only need a short and straight connector, so I’ll show you how I make that.  Lay one piece of tape, sticky side up, on your workbench.  It’s going to move around and generally be a pain in the arse if you try to work with it just like that, so use 2 more bits of tape to hold that thing in place.  This is your base tape.  Check the video for how I do this.
    Ribbon Base Layer
  3. Grab your length of wire and remove the insulation from it to expose all the little strands that make up the wire.
    Wire Strands
     Pull out however many strands you need for your connector and lay them onto the base tape.  Pull them nice and tight to keep them straight and separate and press them down firmly to make sure they stay in place.  I use a little moustache/beard trimming comb to get closest grouping without letting those wires touch but did it freehand in the video.Putting Down the Last Layer
  4. Slap that last bit of tape over the top, nice and straight.  Use a Stanley/Exacto knife or whatever’s sharp (Oscar Wilde’s wit should do the trick) to cut the final product off your workbench with the smallest margin you can and you’re good to go.Cut Out the Ghetto Ribbon

Wrap it Up

From here I usually put bandaids on whatever’s bleeding and then tin up the ends of the wire so it’s ready to solder into wherever its final resting place will be.  Because the wires are so tiny, the solder isn’t keen on sticking to it.  The best advice I can offer is to get a blob of solder on the tip of the iron and paint it on in quick little strokes.  I don’t know why (I have my theories) but the painting action just seems to do the trick.

They're Ugly But Do the Trick
They’re Ugly But Do the Trick

I know it’s not quite as thin as a factory made connector but, if you need thinner than that, your only other option is to paint on some conductive ink.  If that’s the case, good luck soldering that.  Now get some potassium into you.  Don’t pretend like your “20 cups o’ coffee” fuelled hand tremor didn’t make this 5 minute job take an hour.  😛

If you need a different shape ribbon, I would hope you can work that out by yourself.

Peace out!

9 comments on “DIY Ribbon Cable – The Ghetto Solution for When You Need the Thinnest Connector Possible.Add yours →

  1. Sick!! And buh ahaha I read the comments… but have no clue as to what it means… I’m trying to learn how to hack shit but it’s hard without a laptop… my first project is… hacking fax machines… I wanna learn how to be able to forward business faces directly to… or still let them able to receive their faxes while a copy of it send to me as well

    1. Kind of a little secret, but no one reads my comments anyway so I’ll let you in on it. So far, I’ve managed to fit my MyKi (NFC bus pass), enabled OTG via normal cables, 128gb more storage, an IR Blaster, USB charger (though it is a bit shoddy), antenna extension ports (you know….for stuff….kali linux…ahem), dropping in a higher res camera rear facing, the old rear facing to become front facing, and a 40% bigger battery.

      But shhh…..let’s leave this buried in the comments.

    1. Copper tape would be a better idea indeed, but sadly not located in my current inventory. So Ghetto Ribbon it is! 😀 (I also remember it being a little expensive)

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