Working with Wire
Wire is rated by its thickness – lower numbers mean thicker wire. A quick search of the web reveals that for BYOAC, people seem to prefer 18 gauge wire for the Ground Wire and 22 gauge wire for all others. You should buy your wire in at least 2 colors – black for the Ground Wire and red for everything else. This will just help you keep everything clear in your head as you are wiring things together. Of course, you could use other colors as well – e.g., black and red for Microswitches, black and yellow for analog joysticks, black and green for your trackball, etc. Please note, this type of wire is good when using an Encoder that relies on “Screw” inputs (e.g., the Ultimarc PAC line or GGG’s KeyWiz MAX). Although the basic concepts will remain the same other Encoders may use pin headers or some other type of input and will require a slightly different wiring approach.
The wire comes in rolls or bunches anywhere from 10 feet to 50 feet long or longer, so you are going to have to cut it into several pieces. The length of the pieces will depend on the layout of your control panel. It is coated in insulation and you are going to have to “strip” off some of that insulation at both ends in order to use the wire.
This brings us to our first tip for working with wire: You really, really, really, should purchase a proper pair of Wire Strippers/Crimpers at the local hardware store. These pliers will help you cut wire, strip off the insulation, and crimping quick disconnects and you are going to be doing a whole lot of cutting, stripping, and crimping. This will make life a whole lot easier than using a knife, a razor blade, your teeth, etc.
The second tip for working with wire is that the average first timer who is reading this Wiki should avoid soldering. Of course, if you are an experienced BYOACer and have a steady hand, by all means feel free to solder away. However, soldering cleanly is a skill and its results are somewhat permanent; those of you building a Control Panel for the first time already have enough to worry about.
If you are not going to solder your wires and you are going to work with Microswitches you should also get some .187 Quick Female Disconnects. These little gems are sold in bags of 100 and allow you easily attach and detach wire from your Microswitches should something go wrong. Essentially, you stick the stripped end of a wire into a Disconnect and crimp it using your handy-dandy wire pliers (you did buy a pair, didn’t you?). By the way, crimp is just a fancy word for crush. You stick the wire in and crush the casing around it, thereby securing it to the Disconnect. Then you can just slip the Disconnect on and off of the Microswitch whenever you want.
Finally, if you are using an Encoder with Screw inputs, you will want a set of electronics screwdrivers. They are just little screwdrivers made for use on little screws (also good for working on glasses). The screws you will be working on probably will be too small for the everyday screwdrivers you have in your toolbox.