Confessions of a Crimpoholic | hackaday

Crimp scaled

Hi, my name is Dan and I am a crimpoholic.

Honestly, I didn’t realize I was a serial crimper tool until this weekend. I have been working on a small solar power system and on Saturday I found myself struggling to install the BMS on the battery. I bought a Bluetooth dongle to connect the BMS to a smartphone app to monitor the individual cells of the battery. I assumed it would just plug directly into the UART port on the BMS, but alas – different connectors. So I went to my bank, looking for a sensible way to make the connection.

My first thought was to simply log the connector off the dongle and solder the wires to the traces on the PCB directly below the UART port. But then I saw that the pins in the port looked like a pitch of 0.1″, so I rummaged through my stash to see what I could find. To my surprise, not only did I have a set of 0.1″ female heat shrink tubing and housings, but I also had the crimping tool for it! I couldn’t remember making the purchase, but I thanked my lucky stars for doing so and got on with the job.

I think I have a problem

The story would end there, were it not for the nagging feeling that my happiness meant something more. While I was working on my project, I made a mental catalog of the special crimping tools I have. After that, I wandered through my shop and my garage, collecting every crimping tool I could find. I collected them all and put them down, and I had the inevitable thought, Man, you’ve got a problem!

The full collection is shown here – I think; something tells me there are more tools lying around that i forgot. But even then, what I’ve been able to find is quite an impressive collection. I even threw in some “crimp-adjacent” tools, like the red-handle trio in the bottom left, including the OG crimper-stripper-cutter-bolt cutter, an all-rounder that’s equally bad at each of those jobs. But it’s where I started, and the tool has been with me for decades, so it has earned a place of honor.

What is this anyway? I think it’s for larger Anderson PowerPole contacts, but I’m not sure.

For the most part, though, I’ve switched to ratchet-action crimping tools. I find these superior to simple crimping tools in every way, mainly because they don’t crimp a connector easily. The blue-handled tools in the black housing are my favorite crimper these days, even if the crimp connectors in the kit are a bit on the crappy side. Right below them is a ferrule crimp kit, which I bought immediately after writing an article praising the virtues of ferrules.

The yellow case is interesting. When I first started ham radio, I thought I would invest in the tools needed for Anderson PowerPole connectors, the de facto DC connector in the amateur radio world. The vertical tool will take care of those creases, but the other tool is – a good question. Like most ratchet crimping tools, it has interchangeable dies, and there are spare kits in the kit that are for PL259 connectors – useful for amateur radio too – but I don’t think the die set in it is what it came with. I think it could be for crimping the really big Anderson connectors, which I needed when wiring an inverter in my car. But that’s just a guess, so if you recognize the dice roll it up in the comments below.

If the tool is not right…

My most recent purchases are the two sets on the far left, both of which are specific to my solar endeavors. The bottom one is for crimping terminals on battery cables from 8AWG to 2AWG, which is difficult to do with anything other than a specialized tool. Just above that is a nice kit for making solar cables with MC4 connectors. I actually haven’t even had a chance to use it yet – but it’s nice to know I have it in case I ever need it.

And I think that’s the main lesson behind this somewhat extravagant collection of specialized tools. I really hate to stick with it, especially when it comes to critical connections. And when you’re talking about sockets that can carry more than 100 amps, don’t be fooled. I can’t count the number of ‘how-to’ videos I’ve seen on YouTube trying to convince you not to waste money on specialized crimping tools – just hit it with a hammer, squeeze it in a vise or even just drool it full of solder.

None of these seem like great ideas to me, especially after reading Maya’s recent article on the dangers of undersized pleats. And so when it comes time to incorporate a different type of connector into my projects, there’s a good chance I’ll be buying the right tooling to match. After all, while most of these tools aren’t exactly cheap, they won’t break the bank, especially when you consider the price of failure.

So maybe a crimpoholic is ultimately more of a trait than a bug.

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