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Lighting 101: Build a Pro PC Cord, Pt. 2

Repeating the important note from part one: There are those who believe that using household-style sync cords poses an inherent risk in that they could be mistakenly plugged into an AC outlet. That said, building a sync cord based on HH plugs is inexpensive, reliable and convenient. Which is why many pro's use them as primary (or backup) synching systems.

The cord I have designed uses two very short, male-PC-to-male-household, store-bought cords and a main cord composed of a FEMALE HOUSEHOLD TO FEMALE HOUSEHOLD main body. As such, the extension cord itself is quite impossible to plug into the wall.

In twenty-plus years as a pro, I have never met a photographer who was involved in the kind of an accident as described above. But if this is the kind of thing that just keeps you awake at night, simply gaffer tape up the plugs where they join. If you are worried that someone is going to dive for your PC cord, untape it, rip it apart and plug the little 6" part into the wall, I can't help you. Buy some Pocket Wizards.

Alternatively, you may wish to substitute a 1/4 mono plug or 1/8 mono-mini plug in place of the respective HH plugs. But you'll peobably have to do some soldering.

This is also an alternative if US-style HH plugs are not available in your country.


First of all, here are the sources for the parts.

(2) Short, PC Male-to-Household cord (where to get it): Varies - as little as $10 for a short one
(2) Female plug adapters from Home Depot: $2.98 each, or $5.96
(2) Ball-bungees (Home Depot, WalMart, etc:) Less that $1.00
16 gauge zip cord at $0.24 a foot at Home Depot: $4.80 for 20 feet

The process for each end is the same, so you will do this twice. You'll need a knife, scissors, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers (or your teeth.) Very easy stuff, even for the not-so-handy types.

Using scissors, cut about one inch down the notch between the two parts of the wire, as shown.

Make sure you stay inside the notch on your cut.

Using a sharp knife at about 1/2 inch from the end, cut through the rubber insulation to the metal wire. Do not cut the wire. If in doubt about where you are, stop, bend the wire and check. Flip the wire over and do the same thing.

Next, grasp the insulation on the tips of each of the two wires, twist it and pull it off. You may wish to grasp it with pliers. I used my teeth. Please do not tell my wife. Now, twist the wires (individually) to make the easier to bend and connect later. Your wire ends will now look like this, with two stripped wires.

Bend the little stripped ends into a "U," as shown. Repeat the same process for the other end of the wire. (This is the extent of the cutting/stripping/pliers grasping part.)

Get your female plug end and open it up with a screwdriver. This plug shown is the one from Home Depot. (If yours is different, figure it out. Should be really easy.)

Your wire should have labeling of some kind that runs along one of the two sides. Almost all wire does now. If not, grasp one end of the wire and make a mark on one half of it. Now pull it through your hands and get to the other end so you can make a similar mark on the same half of the wire.

(You wire will almost certainly have markings already on it, if you look closely.)

Next, take your little bent wires and connect them as shown. The plug ends will be "polarized," which means one slot will be a little longer than the other. This is why we are keeping track of which wire is which. You'll want to connect the same wire half to the long slot at each end of the wire, and vice versa. It is easy, and it will help to protect your camera.

Now, prepare to close the plug. Make sure the wire will not be pierced by the screw, as shown. Close it up. The plug should clamp the wire firmly. If not, open it back up and wrap a little black electrical tape around it. But most plugs clamp automatically.

Repeat the process at the other end, and your work is pretty much done. I hope this was as easy for you as it seemed to me. If you just follow the steps carefully, you should be fine. I tested it on my five-year-old, and he assembled a half just fine. :) (And yes, I tested it it well. The point is, you can do this even if you do not normally do handi-man stuff.)

Now, just plug the PC cords into each end and attach whatever you are using for strain relief.

There you are.

Here is an example of how I hang it on my flash when I am using it. I usually stick the other ball bungee around my lens at the other end of the cord. The important thing is not to have that PC connection carrying the weight and/or wiggling around.

Next: Soft Light: Umbrellas


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