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Date: 2 December 2015. Waterproof 8 Gauge Butt Connectors (make your own)

This is the way I make 8-gauge butt connectors. Should you follow in my wake realize it is your choice. I am not responsible for any errors, omissions, overt or unintentional mistakes, etc. If you want to be 100% safe get a house. Or buy the "real deal" waterproof butt connectors sold in retail stores. Thank you.

Do you remember when you got knocked down and broke a rib it was an accident and nobody sued anybody? I grew up in those years and resent mightily the implication that every occurrence that is not 100% positive is someone else's fault. ARGH!

End mini-rant.

During a recent project I was using 8-gauge wire. I did not have a long enough piece so needed to join two shorter pieces of wire together. Aboard Seaweed there were no *butt connectors of that size. Rather than buy the expensive heat-shrink variety sold online I opted to make my own. These are inexpensive, easy to make and work well. Here's how I do it on my boat.

*Butt connectors join two pieces of wire together. They "butt up against" each other and a covering connects and seals them together. For a boat, buy the more expensive waterproof ones or make them waterproof yourself by the addition of heat shrink tubing.

I can make 8-gauge butt connectors for lots less than retail!

 Red 8 Gauge Heat Shrink Butt Connectors 10 pieces.

←Affiliate link.

On Amazon I can buy a package of ten 8 gauge heat shrink butt connectors for $20.
Instead I opted to save money and make my own.

First I went to a local hardware store and purchased some 1/4" copper pipe. I bought a foot (12 inches) for a dollar. Also needed was a small pipe cutter. I had heat shrink tubing large enough to go around the copper pipe so all components were at hand.



Ridgid mini-pipe cutter works for copper and PVC pipes


 Ridgid 32975 1/8-Inch to 5/8-Inch
Close Quarters Tubing Cutter

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This or one similar that will cut 1/4" copper pipe is needed for the do-it-yourself 8-gauge butt connectors. Mine's an off brand however my usage will be such that a "Best Quality" product is unneeded. Good Enough is actually quite good enough.

Mine was $10 at a small-town hardware store. Just make sure whatever one you chose will cut 1/4" copper pipe.


Side Note: Some of the expensive pipe cutters will cut stainless pipes. This one will not do that. Then again, I'm not cutting any stainless rails so that caveat is not important to me.


These little pipe cutters are important to have if you use 8-gauge wire aboard your boat. It's a handy-to-have item though I would not rush out and get any in advance of need. When you buy your 1/4" copper pipe, then purchase the gizmo.

Here's how to use the pipe cutter: Look on the side for the cutting blade. Line up the pipe at the blade where you need it cut. In the following picture the blade is on the bottom. The rolling wheels are on the top of the copper pipe holding it in place.

Turn the knob at the top until the pipe is secure in the slot. You're tightening the black knob about the way you'd close a jar of pickles. This is not a test of strength. The tool will do the work for you.

You can see I've started the cut in this picture

Next, rotate the mini-pipe cutter around the pipe two times. Then retighten the knob on top. Repeat until your tool has completely cut through the pipe.

Once you have a bunch of little pieces cut you're ready for the next step. Mine are
approximately 1" long, give or take. I didn't measure as precision was not required.


Slide a piece of heat shrink tubing on your 8 gauge wire. Strip off the plastic cover at the end about 1/2".

If your wire looks like this, replace it!

Your stranded wire should be coppery and shiny, not dull and icky like the one above.

Yes, I replaced the full run of that dark green wire. But first I took a picture while the camera was in the bilge:


The heat shrink is ready to slide up and cover the copper pipe aka butt connector. Then a quick back and forth with a lighter and I'm done. The wires are protected from moisture.

Sometimes I wish I owned a ratcheting wire crimper however a pair of vise grips does suffice. A couple of squeezes and the copper pipe/butt connector is firmly attached. Vise grips are a wonderful tool. I use mine for a lot of things.

Slide the heat shrink up over where you've joined the wires. Using your lighter move the flame back and forth. You will see the heat shrink squeeze and enclose the copper pipe and wires like a second skin. Voila: you're done.

Except me. I had to buy more green wire and replace that awful dark green stuff on the right. That's done and now another job is out of the way. Whew.


Vise Grips are galley gear too!


If you're fortunate enough to live near pecan trees you will absolutely LOVE having vise grips in the galley. They make the perfect nut cracker. Adjust them to the proper point and you'll be cracking perfect pecans with precision.

Stuff to know about pecans: They start falling from the trees in Pensacola where my Kidlet lives in October. Pensacola is roughly at the Florida and Georgia line. The dark or oily pecan shells are bad. Light weight ones encase papery pecans that are not edible either. The rest are absolutely wonderful.

Most pecans are perfect. I'd say less than one percent of ours were not edible. A half dozen bad ones in a grocery bag full of yummy nuts is the ratio we were seeing.

Using your vise grips to open pecan shells does have an unintended consequence: I always ate the broken ones and so few break when using vise grips I was forced to eat the perfect ones. It's a tough life, I tell you...


May your bilges be clean and your wires all in perfect condition.

Have you any pecan trees? Our old house did and I still miss those trees.
Did yours have pecans this year?  Ours only had nuts every other year.


Categories: Boat Talk, Galley, Gear, In the Bilges, Locations, Money, Recommendations, Vignettes

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