The Western Union Splice

I'm sure at some point you've had to splice some wires together.  If you're like most people, the results aren't too pretty.

Here's a splice I learned many years ago from Bill the TV repair man when I was in the Cub Scouts winding a coil for a crystal radio and the magnet wire pieces I had were too short.  It's called the Western Union splice from those days long ago when telegraph wires were beginning to span America.

This splice has a couple advantages over other methods:

  1. Because of the large contact area and mechanical strength, soldering is not required for a reliable connection.  The large overlap area makes it easy to solder if you wish.
  2. The splice doesn't add much bulk to the wire diameter.  Covered with a piece of heat shrink tubing, it's almost unnoticeable.  When soldering a cable with several conductors, the splices can be staggered to minimize the bulk of the splice.
  3. The splice works well even for conductors of different sizes.

It's easier to show you how to make a Western Union Splice than to tell you, and it takes just a few seconds to make one.

Please don't take these photos showing a red wire connected to a black wire as a recommended practice :)









Please don't look too closely at my less-than-perfect stripping job that left a few broken strands! :)

Oh, did I mention putting the heatshrink on the cable before making the splice?  Sorry about that.

At this point the connection may be soldered if desired, the heatshrink tubing slid into position and shrunk with a hot air gun.


This is almost exactly like the radio I made:

Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by MrDEB #7005
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Boy that crystal radio brings back memories.
Now days instead of a cat whisker tuner (crystal and a safety pin)they use a transistor or a diode.Not as much fun.
So that's what that splice is called.
Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #7006
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The crystal radio I built actually used a germanium diode, more like the "updated" version from the link I gave.

Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by MrDEB #7008
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Germanium diode, You must be younger than I thought!
I figured about 55-60 y.o. The cub scout book I had only showed a crystal and safety pin. Don't recall a cap? but not to say there wasn't one.
I had more fun with that radio.
I recall souping it up, going from a toilet paper roll to a round oatmeal box.
I wish the parts weren't so expensive, I would have my scout pack build them. We ended up building a 7 key "organ" using a 555, 3 different caps and 5 resistors in series.
Works quite well. Built for under $5 per unit. DIY the PCboards.
Doing same for boy scout merit badge.
got all the parts from electronics goldmine
Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by be80be #7009
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Here you go Mrdeb

Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #7010
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The crystal radio was an interesting aside introducing the Western Union Splice. This topic isn't about Cub Scout projects or crystal radios - let's not get too far off the topic. Maybe it's time for a new forum thread.
[Comment from Jon acting as Moderator]
Posted: 8 years 5 months ago by MrDEB #7011
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I agree about getting too far off subject but thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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