Wacom tablet surgery
April 16, 2005 6:48 PM   Subscribe

My beloved Wacom Intuos 4x5 is starting to flake out a bit, owing to my cat mistaking the tablets's USB cable for a chew toy a few years ago. It's only a matter of time now, and the Wacom Intuos 3 beacons. However, I'd love to be able to pass it on to my son so he can fool around with Painter Classic. Since the damage is all on the cable itself, can I splice together a new cable like I could with a table lamp's electrical cord?
posted by Scoo to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Splicing should be just as easy as doing a lamp cord, only you're dealing with more wires inside. USB has four wires, I believe, so you could use some 4-conductor telephone line if you need to extend the cable. I find it's easiest in the case of mid-cable damage to install a new female plug on one side of the damage, then install a male plug on the other side of the damage, then hook the two cables together.

This makes it a lot cleaner than a big hunk of electrical tape around some bare wire ends you've soldered together, in my opinion.
posted by odinsdream at 7:39 PM on April 16, 2005

Another way to make clean splices is to use heat-shrink tubing.

1. Get a long length of narrow-diameter tubing, and a shorter length of wide-diameter tubing.
2. Cut the USB cables before and after the break, so that you are only working with good wires.
3. on the shorter of the two cables, strip just enough of the outer cable casing to expose enough inner wire to successfully solder
3b. strip enough of the insulator off of each inner wire for a good solder joint
4. on the longer of the wto cables, strip a length equal to the length you stripped on the shorter cable PLUS a little bit more than the expected length of the finished wire junction
4b. strip enough of the insulator off each of the inner wires for a good solder joint
5. cut the narrow tubing into enough pieces to cover the inner wires. each length should be a bit longer than the expected length of the finished wire junction
6. slip each of the narrow tubes down a different wire on the longer of the two cables
7. cut a length of large diameter tubing that is much longer than the expected total junction length
8. slip the large diameter tubing down the longer cable as far as it will go
9. match up the wires and solder them together
9b. test the tablet to make sure you didn't make any mistakes. slip some paper between each of the solder joints if you need to keep them from touching.
10. for each wire, slide the tubing over the bare metal (note that the tubing should COMPLETELY cover the bare metal as well as some of the insulator on each end), and heat by holding your iron near (but not touching) the tubing. Use a heat gun if you have one. Keep heating until the tubing is nice and tight
11. slide the large diameter tubing over the splice and heat it up until it shrinks down
12. you should now have a working tablet with a very clean junction.

In my experience, electrical tape is only useful for marking rigging settings on sailboats. It may be useful for electrician type electrical work (main power line cables, etc.). But the glue is too weak and the plastic is too inflexible for electronics work. Electrical tape used on computers usually results in a hard to remove residue and a rapidly unraveling length of tape.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:59 AM on April 17, 2005

Thanks, b1tr0t. I have a co-worker with m4d s0ld3ring sk1llz who can be bribed with food I can hand this off to.
posted by Scoo at 7:13 AM on April 17, 2005

What electrical tape is for -- not splicing, but marking. If you need to change what a conductor is carrying, you wrap the insulation with the correct color tape, so the next person working on the circuit knows that (forex), this box has two hot leads, because it is running a switch, or that a given ground (normally bare or green) is actually isolated from the normal ground (and thus, needs to be orange.)

Note, b1tr0t, that using it to mark rigging is much closer to intended use than splicing.

As to heat shrink tubing: "Heat shrink is God's proof that he loves us and wants us to hack." -- Benjamin Franklin (mostly)
posted by eriko at 1:16 PM on April 17, 2005

If you're shrinking small amounts of heat-shrink tubing, you can get really good results with a cigarette lighter. Don't use the flame itself, just the stream of hot gas rising above the flame. Start with the tubing-covered joint about two lighter-heights above the tip of the flame, slowly move it downward toward the flame until you see the tubing start to shrink, then keep it at that height and wave the lighter gently back and forth so you get hot gas over everything you're trying to shrink.

Shrink the inner tubes (the ones around the individual wires), then let the joint cool again before slipping on and shrinking the outer tube (over the joint as a whole).
posted by flabdablet at 10:09 PM on April 17, 2005

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