How to Overcome Your Fears While Managing Your Wires

I just completed the stage that I dreaded most: wiring.

I should mention that Kato makes wiring really easy by offering a number of ‘plug-and-play’ components which technically require no soldering. The problem is that all of their wires are too long for a little shunting puzzle. Of course, I could have simply plugged them in and stuffed the mess of wires up against the bottom of the layout (or found some way to wrap them up) but there are several reasons why I didn’t want to do that.

First, we have cats in our house, and one of those cats has a serious addiction to chewing on thin wires. I cannot leave out headphones or chargers because of this, and I certainly don’t want a stray feeder wire falling down just far enough for her to sink her teeth into.

Second, I like nice things. I spend a lot of time creating and curating in an effort to make things ‘just so.’ Really, you should see my bookshelves. Flush spines, organized by publisher then author. I am nothing if not organized. In my old layout I built a drawer to hold the power pack and the tangled miles of wire, which was a convenient solution at the time. This layout will be modular, though, and I want to be able to remove and transport each segment without worrying about the underside (as anyone whose ever tried moving a layout knows, there is plenty to worry about on the topside).

So, I decided to cut excess length from the wires and join them back together with solder. I have never soldered before so I was pretty intimidated at first. I had what I needed: a 30W soldering iron and some ten-year-old flux solder. I did run out to the hardware store to pick up some shrink-tubing, and I found some pretty neat zip-tie mounts that ended up working really well to secure the Kato 3-way extension cords. I also found some feet for the underside of the layout, so it won’t be sitting on its frame anymore.

I spent a couple of hours watching YouTube videos on soldering, and then I took a my snippers and strippers and set to work. After I snipped the first wire my fears melted away. I won’t say it was easy, but it was certainly easier than I had anticipated.

wiring-1

Before. It doesn’t look too bad in this picture, but there are also two three-way extension cords that power the feeders, adding about six more feet of wire.

wiring-2

Giving the wires some direction using 3/16″ black insulated staples.

wiring-3

Running the feeder before soldering. Note the feet nailed into the 1×3 ribs.

wiring-6

These zip-tie mounts were perfect for securing the three-way extension cords to the bottom of the layout. Just peel, stick, screw, then slip the zip tie through.

wiring-4

This was my first stripped wire, before joining and soldering. In the background, you can see a zip-tie mount doing exactly what it was born to do.

wiring-5

Three feeders trimmed, soldered, and insulated with shrink tubing (I shrunk the tubing by passing a grill lighter under it a few times).

wiring-7

After. Overkill? Definitely, but I will rest easier knowing that my cat won’t use the wires for dental floss. I left some slack in the wires that pass through the hole in the frame (these will connect the power pack and switches) but even when they are drawn up completely they don’t hang down below the frame.

Once all of the wires were tacked down, I flipped the module over. Then I gently pried up whatever lengths of track I could (being careful not to pull up on the wires beneath) and applied Loctite silicone adhesive to the surface beneath before laying the track back down over it.

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