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Can someone suggest a source and part number for insulated, stranded small-gauge wire (around 22AWG) that is flexible and doesn't hold its shape? Something along the lines of the wire found on multimeter probes. I want something to connect to my bench power supply that will lay flat on the workbench; standard stranded hookup wire is too stiff and retains the shape of the spool. When searching Mouser, there are multiple choices for stranding, jacket material, and wire type, but I don't know how to correlate those to my needs.

Thanks! Brian

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For those not acquainted with the (IMO retarded) AWG system: 22AWG = 0.65mm diameter. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Sep 11 '11 at 11:37
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I think this is what you want, http://www.bulkwire.com/product.asp?ProdID=21718&CtgID=6578 I was looking for teflon wire for a project, but noticed they seemed to have a decent selection of other types of wire. No idea if they are the best price, but seem reasonable (I welcome feedback on this). They only seem to have 18 gauge wire but it is the type of wire you are asking about. Hope this helps!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That looks like exactly what I'm looking for. Yay for additional vendors! :-) \$\endgroup\$ – blalor Dec 17 '09 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Based on this wire, it appears that the rubber insulation is what makes it flexible. Further Googling shows that the 65/36 stranding (many fine strands) is suitable for wire which is constantly flexing. \$\endgroup\$ – blalor Dec 17 '09 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ That stuff is awesome flexible :) \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Apr 18 '11 at 20:39
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For how little of it I use, I usually just run to Radio Shack and pick up whatever stranded wire they have in the electronic component section. If you're in the U.S., that should be sufficient. By the time you pay shipping, you're not saving any money getting it from Mouser, and if you're not using it in large quantities there's no bulk pricing advantage.

The other thing you can do is look for other types of wire. I've used speaker wire in a pinch for things like power. You can usually find pretty thin, stranded speaker wire at most general-goods retailers (Wal-Mart, for example) or electronics specialty retailers. As long as it's just for power, it should be quite sufficient. Again, it probably won't be any more expensive and will save you time to go pick this up at the store rather than order it from Mouser.

If you just want a few feet, I'd be tempted to hit up my local hardware store. They usually have stranded wire by the foot. You might have to settle for something of a slightly larger size, but my local Home Depot and Lowe's (again, U.S. stores) have 22-ga stranded wire available by the foot.

Direct from Mouser, well, there's a whole ton of options. The following link will show you all 22-ga hook-up wire options on 100' spools that Mouser sells. There are 205 results returned, they should in large part be sufficient for your needs, and start at $20. You'll excuse me if I don't go through each one individually: http://www.mouser.com/Wire-Cable/Wire-Single-Conductor/_/N-5ggs?P=1z0jnerZ1z0juksZ1z0wxmfZ1yzvwzvZ1z0xg0i

If there are smaller spools available, I missed them. Also, you could easily use other wire gauges as well (20, for example).

FWIW, I have taken solid-core wire and wound it "backwards" around a spool to remove the curves, and other objects can be used to give it other shapes (as well as simply pinching). I find that 22ga wire can be bent to pretty much any shape I want this way, if that helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, very complete. I hope someone writes a post for where to go outside of the US, perhaps in the UK. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Polfer Dec 15 '09 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, me too. Any localizations that can chime in would be really helpful. I tried to use general terms where possible, but I'm simply not familiar with retail establishments outside of my national borders so I couldn't really do it justice. It might also help if @blalor would let us know where to target, though to be fair the question was originally only about online purchasing. \$\endgroup\$ – Lou Dec 15 '09 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your link to Mouser didn't come up as a link; try this instead <mouser.com/Wire-Cable/Wire-Single-Conductor/_/…> \$\endgroup\$ – Craig Trader Dec 15 '09 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W.CraigTrader Thanks! I dashed it all out and didn't check the actual copy. It looked good in the preview window, but I didn't actually mark it up so it parsed all weird in the post. I just marked what I had up correctly and checked, it should show properly now. \$\endgroup\$ – Lou Dec 15 '09 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the thorough answer and alternative suggestions, @Lou. @morgellon nailed the answer that I was really looking for, tho: a specific wire that I can use to refine my search for others. I live near Boston, MA (USA), but am primarily looking for online retailers. The local place, You-Do-It Electronics, has hookup wire, but it stays thoroughly curled. \$\endgroup\$ – blalor Dec 17 '09 at 15:43
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So that you understand why test lead wire meets your needs where general purpose wires don't:

Wire flexibility is determined by two things:

  • The wire
  • The insulation

The insulation aspect is pretty easy to understand - the stiffer the insulation, the stiffer the wire. Test lead wire uses a tough, but very pliable rubber for insulation, so not only is it flexible, it's also heavy so it drapes on the workbench rather than standing up stiffly where it's stressed.

The wire is a little bit more interesting.

Notice that the test lead wire has the property:

Stranding
Gauge   Strands/Gauge
18      65/36

If you look at a comparable standard stranded hookup wire you'll find this parameter as:

Stranding
Gauge   Strands/Gauge
18      16/30

This means that the test lead wire is composed of 65 individual 36 awg wires, while the appliance wire (which is still pretty flexible, just not limp noodle flexible) only has 16 wires of 30 awg each.

With AWG gauges when you drop the gauge by 3 (ie, from 30 to 33 gauge) the area of a slice of the wire (thin disc) drops by a factor of 2 (which, among other things, means the current carrying capacity drops by 2). This area affects the stiffness similarly, so from 30 gauge to 36 gauge, the wire's flexibility increases by almost 4 times, while the current carrying capacity decreases by 4 times.

Of course, that also means you need over 4 times the number of wires (more than 4x since it's not solid copper) to attain the same 'awg' gauge.

But the flexibility increase is worth the extra cost for many applications.

So when you're looking for wire, keep in mind that this parameter (strands/awg per strand) is important.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I had a hunch those were related. Thanks, Adam! Furthermore, that's the first actual description of the X/Y stranding designator that I've seen; even Wikipedia doesn't seem to lay it out like that! \$\endgroup\$ – blalor Dec 19 '09 at 13:29
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I use this wire:

http://www.rapidonline.com/Cables-Connectors/Equipment-Wire/Test-Cable/Extra-flexible-cable/62327/kw/flexible+cable

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