The Best Wire for Breadboarding
Some wires are great for breadboarding, but others are not. Here's what to use and what not to use in your next project.
We've all seen it: breadboards covered in a rat's net of wires. There are tons of tips and tricks to breadboard wiring, but let's start simple: what's the best wire to breadboard with?
Solid Core Wire
Probably the most common breadboarding wire is simple solid core wire. This is typically sold in spools of varying lengths and many different colors. The commonly recommended size for wire associated with bread boarding is 22awg or 0.64 mm.
- Cheap- Typically found for only a few dollars for a spool of 25 feet.
- Colorful- Since it's available in a variety of colors, there isn't an excuse to not at least color code your power wires. Color coding your signal wires can also help keep everything straight.
- Length- Solid core wire needs to be cut to length, so the correct sized wire can always be obtained.
- Cutting and stripping- Since this type of wire comes on a spool, cutting and stripping to length is required. These two steps can add to the amount of time it takes to complete a project.
- Breaking- Solid core wire can break off inside of the holes on a breadboard; these broken wires are often very difficult or impossible to remove.
Many bread boards often come with assortments of pre-cut and bent wires, often with tinned leads. These wires come in a few different colors and sizes. Typically, the color of the wire also denotes the length of it. These assortments come from many different vendors, but often are all very similar.
- Various lengths- There are typically 8 or 9 different pre-cut lengths in these assortments.
- Tinning- The tinning on the ends of the jumper wires make them more durable than non-tinned wires.
- Case- This type of wire typically comes in a handy clear organization case.
- Cutable- Since these are still 22/23awg wire at their core, they are able to be cut to a desired length.
- Color Coding- Since the color of the wires represent their length, a long red wire would be be an option.
- Cost- These pre-formed wires often can be more expensive than stripping your own.
- Fragile- While not a fragile as normal wires these can also break off in the holes of a breadboard if they are stressed to much.
Male to Male Jumpers
Another flavor of breadboard wire that is gaining traction are wires with header pins attached on both ends. These wires benefit from being substantially more durable than other types.
- Durable- These cables are far less likely to snap off in the holes of a breadboard than solid code wires.
- Flexible- The cable part of these is often stranded core wires, which offer more flexibility and durability from a cable standpoint.
- Colors- These often come in many different colors so that color coding your wires is possible.
- Lengths- These often are sold in only 1 or 2 different lengths, leading to large loops on breadboards.
- Cost- As the most expensive option on this list, you don't get as many jumpers for your money.
- Stranded Wire. Stranded wires makes wiring breadboards very difficult due to stray strands and issues with the spring contacts inside of the breadboard not gripping.
- Enamel Coated Wire. Often called magnet wire, this type of wire is often hard to strip.
- Thin Wire. Stick to solid core wire with a gauge of around 22awg for best results. Thin wire can be difficult to strip and brittle.
With decisions such as color, cost, durability, and length to consider for your breadboard wires, they aren't a one-size-fits-all option. For a student whose project may be moved around, more durable wires, such as male to male jumpers, may be needed, while for professional use, solid core wire delivers a more professional look.
Well, the best is probably to use pre-cut wires for whort distances, and male-to-male wires for longer distances. It’s good to have at least these two types. Well, the price actually is not a problem, as they can be used almost forever…
Another alternative in a pinch is to use the individual conductors from the twisted pairs in cat5 cable. Just cut a foot or so off the cable and then pull the four 22ga twisted pair conductors out. On a per foot basis, this is also the most cost effective (about $0.01 per foot per individual cat5 conductor vs. about $0.14 per foot for the wire shown in the article).
I use solid core cat5 as well. It is cheap and works very well. Just make sure to buy the solid core version, not the stranded version.