Is This the Best Way to Twist Electric Wires Together?

Article By : Max Maxfield

Most amateurs and hobbyists use a twist-and-fold technique, but the Western Union Splice is mechanically stronger and results in a lower profile.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I never fail to be amazed by the way in which one thing leads to another. For example, I just heard from a company called Witekio that they’ve launched a fully integrated open-source solution for the over-the-air (OTA) update for IoT developers. This solution is called FullMetalUpdate, which has a certain ring to it.

The thing is that, while I was on YouTube watching videos on the FullMetalUpdate channel (they really should have provided a voiceover in addition to the captions), my eyes were drawn to a video offering titled “Awesome Idea! How to Twist Electric Wires Together!”

This video starts by showing the simplest technique for twisting two wires together, which commences by baring the ends and overlaying them at 90° to each other, as shown below:

twisting wires

(Source: Screenshot from YouTube video)

The wires are then twisted together, after which they are folded back against the side of one of the pieces of wire, as shown below:

Twisting Wires 2

(Source: Screenshot from YouTube video)

To be honest, this is the way that I’ve always done it myself. However, I typically solder the wires after performing the twist and before folding the connection back against the side of one of the pieces of wire. Also, I would cover the resulting joint with a piece of heat-shrink tubing before deploying it in the field (which sounds better than “on my kitchen table”).

The guy in the video doesn’t apply solder. Instead, he simply pulls the wires apart to show how flimsy this twisting technique is (of course, adding solder negates this point somewhat).

The video also demonstrates a second procedure, which starts off looking good but turns out to be a bit of a red herring. The video ends with a third approach, as shown below. This approach has two advantages over its predecessors: (a) It’s mechanically strong and cannot easily be pulled apart, and (b) it offers a lower profile than the “folding the twist over a wire” method.

Twisting Wires 3

(Source: Screenshot from YouTube video)

Now, it has to be said that some of the comments accompanying the video were a tad strident (some may say harsh). One commenter said, “Wasted 6 minutes of my life.” Another opined, “In short, the standard cable junction that is learned in technical school.” A third noted, “It is like you’ve discovered HOT WATER. Go to school, kid.”

On the other hand, some people responded positively, with comments like “This was very easy to understand, thank you,” and “Thank you so much for this video. Zero talking and totally learned how to do this.”

So, here’s my take. I’ve been doing electronics since I was a young lad, but my university degree was in control engineering (math, electronics, mechanics, and hydraulics/fluidics), so I never did get any official “hands-on” training in the sort of nitty-gritty details that are taught to technicians.

The bottom line is that I’ve always used the first “twist and fold” technique. Only recently, in fact, I was wiring up my Countdown Timer, and I cannot tell you how many of these “twist and fold” connections I had to make.

Countdown Timer

Wiring the countdown timer (Source: Max Maxfield)

There isn’t a problem with regard to mechanical strength because my joints are soldered and they are never put under any significant mechanical strain. On the other hand, they do tend to be a little “lumpy” and look a tad misshapen under the heat-shrink tube.

From the comments on the video, I’ve discovered that the final solution shown is officially known as a Western Union Splice. I only wish that I’d seen this video a couple of weeks ago because I would have used the Western Union Splice for all of the connections in my Counter Timer. It’s not like the existing connections are bad, and it’s not like anyone will ever see them; it’s just a matter of personal pride in that I want everything to look as good as possible (on the other hand, I find that I don’t want this enough to rewire everything, LOL).

In conclusion, the video taught me something, which is good. I also think that the guy who created the video could have made a much neater job of the final connection, but maybe that’s just sour grapes because he’s got over 9 million views for this video, while I’m lucky to get more than 10 for mine (and nine of those are my dear old mom showing her friends).

I’ll leave you with two thoughts. The first is that I now have Sam Cooke’s song “Twistin’ the Night Away” bouncing around my poor old noggin (I told you this because misery loves company). The second is that I wonder how many other simple techniques there are like this of which I’m unaware. Which leads me to ask: Are there any tips, tricks, and techniques like this that you know of that you’d care to share with the rest of us? Remember that just because something seems obvious to you, it might not be so obvious to someone who hasn’t been professionally trained and/or learned what you know “on the job.”

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