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Some people go to great lengths to keep their work space clean and free of clutter. This may not characterize your habits, but I think we all can agree that a mess of cables on your desk not only looks bad, but can constantly get in your way.  Lee Valley added two promising cable management boxes earlier this year that warrant a look.

The first is a 6-1/8″ by 4-1/4″ surface mount box that protrudes 1-1/2″ above the surface of the desk. Made from powder-coated steel, it can be mounted on the side, back, or top of the desk. It has two 7/16″ and three 1/4″ cable ports lined with plastic grommets to protect the cables. A hinged metal lid covers the cables ends when they’re not in use and is held in place by a rare earth magnet.

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While replacing the headphone jack in my iPod Touch, I was temporarily stymied on how to cut a flex circuit so I could remove the jack, desolder the tail, and resolder the new jack. Then I remembered my wife’s cuticle scissors. In hindsight I could have just desoldered the connector without cutting the flex circuit, but cutting it sure made the whole operation a lot easier.

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Pull the over-sized trigger on Thomas & Betts’ pneumatic cable tie tool to tension, accidentally snap, and trim a cable tie in record time. Using any compressor that can generate 85-100psi of dry, oil-less air, the tool works with their own proprietary Ty-Rap brand cable ties, but it will probably accommodate a range of other ties as long as they are .094 to .184 wide.

Made with an impact-resistant polymer housing and soft over-molded grips, it’s designed to be lightweight and balanced to reduce user fatigue. The tool holds the cut-offs until you eject them so you don’t have to go back and clean up after yourself. It also has two built-in hangers to keep it within reach when you need both hands.

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Ideal’s benchtop laser wire stripper will, without blades or heating, perfectly strip insulation from most wires and cables in less than a second. Its 10W CO2 laser can strip wires as small as .005″ to as large as .150″ in diameter.

The Wiremaster’s laser head rotates around the wire to give you a 360° cut. The laser light vaporizes the insulation while it bounces harmlessly off the wire. The Wiremaster I can strip up to 1″ of insulation, while the Wiremaster II can strip up to 6″ of insulation and even slit the insulation along its length or spiral cut it for easier removal.

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Striping fiber optic cable isn’t a job for a pair of wire strippers. You need special strippers that allow you to precisely remove the correct cable layers for the job. Paladin tools manufactures one such stripper — the FiverOptic 5-in-1 stripper.

In order to understand what this tool does, a description of the structure of a fiber optic cable might be helpful — I’m not an expert, so if I get something wrong here please let me know. Generally, a cable with a single fiber consists of the core made from silica, quartz, or plastic covered with a cladding that is also part of the optical path made from acrylate or another material. A buffer surrounds the cladding and separates the fibers in cables with multiple fibers. Finally, an outer jacket wraps around the cable to protect it.

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A multimeter is a useful tool in many circumstances, but just what are you supposed to do with the test leads when you’re done using it? If you’re lucky your meter has a compartment for storing leads — otherwise you could bundle them nicely with a Velcro tie or just wrap them around the meter a few times. Maybe a better option would be to pick up a set of Kastar’s 15′ retractable leads.

The test leads can be used with any meter that accepts standard banana plugs. You can pull the retractable leads out to any length up to 15′ and then retract them back into the disk for storage. They can be used up to 30VDC and 10A when unwound and up to 6A when retracted.

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Ever use a pair of dykes to cut the leads from the bottom of a circuit board? If so you’d have noticed the waste can go flying away at a pretty good clip. With a little practice you can aim them in a ballistic trajectory over a cube wall and hit your buddy in the next cube. Of course, this is somewhat juvenile behavior, but when you work in a cube you take any chance you get to counter its dehumanizing effects.

What does this have to do with the pictured tool? Well, if you’ve ever had to clip all the leads on the bottom of a circuit board, not only can it get pretty tedious clipping the leads one at a time; if you aren’t careful the result isn’t as neat as a production quality board because all the cut leads stick out at different lengths. Made in the USA from carbon steel, Excelta’s multi-lead shear cutter can cut an entire row of leads, whether it be a DIP package or just a row of components in one squeeze, and it cuts them all to the standard length of .040″.

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There’s conductive thread and fabric, but have you heard about conductive hook and loop fasteners?  I’m not exactly sure what you’d use it for other than Electrostatic and RF shielding. Maybe you could use it as a switch for some project, or to detect if the last guy through the dust barrier actually sealed it behind him.

The one inch-wide strips will conduct electricity both along the length and from the hook side to the loop side. When closed the resistance across the fastener is 0.8 Ohms. Expected to last 5000 opening/closing cycles, the silver-coated fasteners can be either sewn in or glued.

The stuff is not cheap — it runs about $17 a linear foot. That foot will cost $7 to ship and every additional foot adds around another $1.

Conductive Hook and Loop [HookandLoop.com]
Conductive Hook And Loop [EMF Safety Superstore]

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Soldering isn’t your only option for an electrically conductive connection. MG Chemicals sells one alternative — the two-part silver conductive epoxy pictured above.

When the silver epoxy cures you’re left with a bond that’s not only high strength, but also highly conductive to electricity. You can use it to connect heat sensitive components, connect broken traces, or even bond heat sinks. The epoxy bonds well to metals, but it also bonds to glass, wood, paper, fiber and rubber.

One drawback to using this epoxy is that you can’t solder to it and you need to be careful soldering around it because it might melt. Another is that you have to wait 4 to 5 hours for it to cure.

Prices for MG Chemical’s two-part silver epoxy start at $25 for two 3mL syringes.

Silver Conductive Epoxy [MG Chemicals]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Silver Conductive Epoxy [CableOrganizer.com]

Most people just hand-tighten their coax cables, let alone actually use a torque wrench to get the perfect torque. If you want to “do it right,” Jonard makes a series of torque wrenches designed specifically to prevent over-tightening 7/16-inch “F” connectors on Coax Cable.

When you’ve reached the specified torque with this 6-1/2″ wrench, you’ll hear an audible click. Jonard mentions that these wrenches only work in tightening mode, which isn’t that uncommon — do you use your torque wrench to loosen your lug nuts?

Jonard sells four models: a full head and a speed head in 20 inch-pound and 30 inch-pound versions.  Any of ’em will run you $27 before shipping.

Torque Wrench [Jonard]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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