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Heat Fusing Cable Ends?

Old 03-06-13, 05:45 PM
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nolken
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Heat Fusing Cable Ends?

I went to the bike shop today to get some crimp-on cable ends as I've done many times before for $0.10 each (My old bike shop before I moved would just give them to me, but now I have no choice of lbs. Only one to choose from now). They informed me, "Oh, We actually have them for sale now!" My first though was, "Oh great, this can't be good." I was right. They brought be over to their little parts wall and showed me these cable ends with some rubber sealing, of which are supposed to be reusable. That is all fine and everything I suppose, but these things cost $5.00 for 4 of them. I told them that I will pass and that $5 is pretty steep for cable ends. The ended up telling me that they don't even use crimp-on ends any more. They said that they heat the cable ends with a torch then quickly twist the ends fusing them together. Since I was quick to get out of there, a little mad, I didn't go look at the bikes they had built up to see if he's actually telling me the truth.

I see several problems with this method though.
  1. The cables usually have a coating on them. You would have to burn the coating off leaving a charred surface. That looks like crap.
  2. They said they did not solder it, just fused it. If that was the case you would have to heat it to at least half it's melting point WHILE applying pressure over a clean surface for a decent amount of time. How would they do that? They specifically said they twisted it, not squeezed it. Even leather gloves wouldn't be up to that task.
  3. That much heat that close to a bike frame with a nice painted finish? That's a little scary. I guess they could cut the cable to length, pull it back out then fuse it, but that doesn't sound very cost effective.

I would love for someone to come out and tell me how this could be done, but at the moment I'm pretty skeptical of this. The *Idea* is great, would be cool to take the cable out cleanly every time without chopping the end off.
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Old 03-06-13, 05:48 PM
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why not use a small piece of heat shrink tubing? works like a champ, and its cheap. If and when you need to remove your cables, the end simply slides off, and you can put another on after your repair.
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Old 03-06-13, 05:50 PM
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That's probably what I'm going to do for now. I have a ton of it around.
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Old 03-06-13, 05:54 PM
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I solder the cable before final cutting , use a soldering iron, not open flame.
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Old 03-06-13, 05:57 PM
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If a cable ferrule comes off, I just whip out my soldering iron and solder and solder the cable ends together. They've lasted for this long and haven't worn off or fallen off and if they did, soldering the cable ends together again is a quick job. Did the BSG explain why soldering isn't recommended?

Josh
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Old 03-06-13, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jowilson View Post
If a cable ferrule comes off, I just whip out my soldering iron and solder and solder the cable ends together. They've lasted for this long and haven't worn off or fallen off and if they did, soldering the cable ends together again is a quick job. Did the BSG explain why soldering isn't recommended?

Josh
I haven't tried it but have heard that special flux and/or solder is required to get it to stick to stainless steel wire. Also heard (but not tried) that dipping the cable end in superglue will seal the end and prevent unraveling without increasing the diameter of the cable.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by jowilson View Post
If a cable ferrule comes off, I just whip out my soldering iron and solder and solder the cable ends together. They've lasted for this long and haven't worn off or fallen off and if they did, soldering the cable ends together again is a quick job. Did the BSG explain why soldering isn't recommended?

Josh
No he just said he didn't do it.

I can't seem to get the solder to join to the cable. Do you burn the coating off before soldering? What kind of flux are you using?
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Old 03-06-13, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bconneraz View Post
why not use a small piece of heat shrink tubing? works like a champ, and its cheap. If and when you need to remove your cables, the end simply slides off, and you can put another on after your repair.
Blimey! (Pounds head) That's what I'll be doing. I have a touring rear wheel with a drum brake and want to reuse the cable when I switch to that wheel. I've tried soldering and super glue and neither worked.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:10 PM
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Guess I have a few problems with that story.

(1) I personally wouldn't want any torch anywhere within a foot of any decent bike - forget about six inches or less.
(2) It takes too long and ain't cost effective - crimps are cheap and fast.

(3) If what they want to sell you is so great - why aren't they using them themselves?
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Old 03-06-13, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Blimey! (Pounds head) That's what I'll be doing. I have a touring rear wheel with a drum brake and want to reuse the cable when I switch to that wheel. I've tried soldering and super glue and neither worked.
I have tried the super glue and haven't noticed any frayed ends. but I haven't tried to twist them apart.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
Guess I have a few problems with that story.

(1) I personally wouldn't want any torch anywhere within a foot of any decent bike - forget about six inches or less.
(2) It takes too long and ain't cost effective - crimps are cheap and fast.

(3) If what they want to sell you is so great - why aren't they using them themselves?

Exactly! Your points 1 and 2 were actually my point 3 from above.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:53 PM
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I actually got the solder to work. I guess I just wasn't patient enough. I just heated up my iron to 850 degrees and waited patiently until the soldered flowed through.

either way tough, that still keeps the original story unsolved. Is it possible to fuse them without solder? I'm not personally wanting to do it, i'm happy with the solder.
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Old 03-06-13, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by bconneraz View Post
why not use a small piece of heat shrink tubing? works like a champ, and its cheap. If and when you need to remove your cables, the end simply slides off, and you can put another on after your repair.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Blimey! (Pounds head) That's what I'll be doing... I've tried soldering and super glue and neither worked.
+1. Soldering never worked for me, and I've got a bunch of heat shrink tubing. Recabling my bikes is going to get a lot nicer.
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Old 03-06-13, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by nolken View Post
No he just said he didn't do it.

I can't seem to get the solder to join to the cable. Do you burn the coating off before soldering? What kind of flux are you using?
I am using a tin solder. I think there was no coating because it might have worn off or something. But the rest of the cable has some weird coating on it that hasn't rubbed off because it is protected by the housing.

Josh
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Old 03-06-13, 07:55 PM
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Many cable companies cut and fuse cables in a single operation using electrical resistance heating.

The cable is clamped across a pair of copper connectors with a small gap. A current is passed through the cable heating it at the gap, and after a second or two it heats red hot and vaporizes leaving fuses ends. Campagnolo does it slightly differently, when the cable is melting the two electrodes are moved apart pulling the cut and fused ends into a point.

On my own bikes I use a small oxy-acetylene torch with a reducing flame which rapidly heats and flame cuts the wire, leaving perfectly fused ends.

I'm a fan of fused ends because it allows the cable to be pulled for service, and reused.

Others have reported good success with super glue or similar applied before cutting, but this only works with brand new wires that are oil free.
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Old 03-07-13, 02:36 AM
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I buy crimps by the box and treat them as a consumable. When I was a poor student I used to dip cable ends in silicone sealant.

Fused ends sounds pretty neat - but I've got about a hundred crimps to get through first.
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Old 03-07-13, 02:52 AM
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Interesting my lbs just lets me crimp them for free.
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Old 03-07-13, 04:35 AM
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Originally Posted by nolken View Post
I see several problems with this method though.
  1. The cables usually have a coating on them. You would have to burn the coating off leaving a charred surface. That looks like crap.
Depends on how thick the coating is, and on how concentrated you can get the heat. Thick coating, slow heat = a large section warmed up, with lots of damage. In this case, cable coatings are thin to the point of ridicule, not much there that can bubble up and get ugly. A nice and concentrated heat source, it's doable with very little collateral damage.

Originally Posted by nolken View Post
I see several problems with this method though.
  1. They said they did not solder it, just fused it. If that was the case you would have to heat it to at least half it's melting point WHILE applying pressure over a clean surface for a decent amount of time. How would they do that? They specifically said they twisted it, not squeezed it. Even leather gloves wouldn't be up to that task.
Again, they'd need to use a fairly potent heat source, and yeah, it'd have to get pretty darn hot. But the twisting is no big deal. A vise grip or so would get the job done. And the twist itself would force the separate strands together well enough, if you remember to twist with the lay of the cable.
But the thing is, something as thin as a brake cable doesn't hold heat very well, and any kind of plier is a great heat sink.
I don't think it'd be possible to heat something that thin to fusing temperature, pull the flame off, get a plier on and get some twisting in before the cable end has cooled beyond fusing temperature.
Heating while twisting/fusing - Sure, I can see that happening.

Originally Posted by nolken View Post
I see several problems with this method though.
  1. That much heat that close to a bike frame with a nice painted finish? That's a little scary. I guess they could cut the cable to length, pull it back out then fuse it, but that doesn't sound very cost effective.
No big deal. If you have a nice and concentrated heat source and pay some attention to where you aim it, you'd be able to get the job done before there's any important heat build up anywhere else.
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Old 03-07-13, 04:54 AM
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Still sounds like a lot of trouble and fuss over nothing. Clamping a cable usually results in considerable distortion of the clamped cable area, and in some cases broken strands - either of which is a bigger problem for re-feeding a cable through housing than whether the cable tip is fused or not. Maybe no-one else has to deal with those issues on brand new bikes - I don't know.
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Old 03-07-13, 08:47 AM
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I use a cheap Mapp gas-O2 torch to melt the cable ends. Looks good, works great. Never tried the heat shrink tubing, that might be a better solution in the long run.
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Old 03-07-13, 09:01 AM
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LBS has never charged me for crimps. Either of the two I go to. I've asked for as many as 6 at a time, no charge.

I like the shrink wrap tubing idea though! Might try that one out.
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Old 03-07-13, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by tjh1960 View Post
I haven't tried it but have heard that special flux and/or solder is required to get it to stick to stainless steel wire.
I did try to solder stainless once, and the solder just wouldn't stick.
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Old 03-07-13, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by storckm View Post
I did try to solder stainless once, and the solder just wouldn't stick.
Yes, stainless requires solders and fluxes made for the job.
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Old 03-07-13, 11:00 AM
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Try flux core solder and tinning the tip of the iron and melting a blob of solder on it. This will evaporate the flux in the solder, but then make contact with the bike cable end. this will increase the contact area with the bike cable therefor decreased the time it takes to heat it to the proper temperature. Then touch the other side of the cable with the flux core solder until it melts and the capillary action sucks the solder into wire. I set my iron to 850 degrees F.
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Old 03-07-13, 11:03 AM
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I wonder if the OP's shop has an electric spot welder that could easily fuse the ends of the cable without the heat affecting anything else.
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