Wire-Scrounging Challenge

I brought my “Arduino on the go” along to New Mexico, but discovered I’d installed a pushbutton on the breadboard in a spot that was already wired to ground, making the button always “pressed.” In order to move it, I needed more jumper wires; and due to a combination of hurry and hubris, I had brought none along.

I needed some 24- to 26-gauge solid wire, in a cabin, on a mountain (excavaaaaaating for a mine). The nearest Radio Shack was twenty miles and about forty minutes away, and I couldn’t think of any store in Angel Fire likely to have wire for me.

So, where would you scrounge up wire in an emergency? I’m actually interested in suggestions — add them to the comments if you can come up with something other than my ideas. I didn’t have anything along that I could take apart for wire, I didn’t have a soldering iron to tin stranded wire, and I wasn’t willing to damage anything in the cabin, the car, or the area.


My first thought was to find a phone service pedestal. Buried cable has solid wires, not stranded; and pedestals often have short ends lying about that were chopped off by the punchdown tool. But the only pedestals I could find outside the cabin were for power service, so no luck there. And even if I had found a phone pedestal, I’m sure rooting around it for 2″ pieces of wire would have been pretty obvious terrorist activity, and I would have ended up somewhere that I wouldn’t be blogging about the experience.

While I was walking about looking for pedestals, I thought of twist-ties. I don’t know whether there were any in the cabin, and I think the wire in them is more like 28- or 30-gauge anyway. But they might have worked in a pinch.

Still, I had a better idea by the time I got back, and the telephone pedestal idea was on the right track.

Phone Cable — that No One Will Miss

Breadboard with telephone wire jumpers

I pulled the phone jack off the wall, figuring that if the cabin was old enough for the phone service to have been wired with two-pair cable, and since it only had a single-line phone, I could clip the unused ends off the black and yellow wires; and as new as it was, it likely had four-pair cable, so I could clip the unused green and brown pairs; and as an absolute worst case, I could cut off some of the two feet of excess cable that telephone installers seem to like to cram into the box and reterminate the jack myself with a little bit less cable.

Bingo! Four-pair cable, jack wired for two lines even though only one is used, green and brown pairs wrapped back around the jacket, snip! and about four 5″ pieces of wire for me. The ribbon cable to the pushbutton is moved to a safer place, and all is well with the world.

Oh, and I could have had about eight 2′ pieces of wire, and no one would have been the wiser.

8 Responses to “Wire-Scrounging Challenge”

  1. brenden says:

    Before I clicked I was ready to suggest phone cable, darnit! Other ideas: paperclips and an old light bulb.

  2. Bill says:

    I’ve used wire-ties before, but they’re not solder-friendly.

  3. Mr. INTJ says:

    I’ve actually been looking for solid wire for my breadboard. I used to have pounds of the old solid phone cable, but I wasn’t able to locate any easily (although cannibalizing the wiring in my house hadn’t occurred to me. Finding 24 AWG solid wire at various stores around town is tougher than it should be, and when you do find it, you have to buy a $14 roll. Feh, I bought a kit.

  4. Keith Neufeld says:

    Mr. INTJ, I used to have scads of 24-gauge telco wire that was perfect for breadboards, but I can’t find where it all went and I’m afraid it may have gone to the scrapyard, even before the current copper scrap craze.

    I do have more 26-gauge on hand than I’ll ever use, and it does work in breadboards (just not as nicely), and I’m happy to share with my friends. If you want some, I could ship a “stick” of cable your way.

  5. Zack Nelson says:

    I’ve found 22-gauge to work well with breadboards. This pack seems to be in most every radioshack. http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2049745&cp=2032058.2032227.2032239&parentPage=family

  6. TLHarrell says:

    When I was in gradeschool, out the back of the fields along the side road there was a large telco box that was frequently being serviced. At lunch/recess, I’d usually score hunks of the cable from the guy working in the box… and would do so at least once a week. If you have kids, tell them to watch for such activities and ask for bits of wire. They’ll supply you with enough to keep you breadboarding for a lifetime! For the kids, the very colorful wire also makes great crafty items.

  7. sonicj says:

    2 line telephone wire was the first thing that popped in my head!

  8. Joshua Hutson says:

    I have have used some HVAC cable behind my thermostat. Sometimes it can be stranded or larger (18AWG) gauge so you have to watch for that but mostly it is solid like teleco wire. Just like the telco installers they leave plenty in the wall Depending on if you have a gas unit or electric unit there usually are some paris not used as well if you did not have the spare length. Door bells usually have some to pare from the transformer to the button that is suitable.

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