Using Fishing Wire To Hold In Pin Headers Is A Nifty Trick

Working on a breadboard, one can get used to the benefits of being able to readily plug and unplug jumper wires to reconfigure a project. One could only dream of doing so with PCBs, right? Wrong! [Stewart Russell] recently shared a tip on Twitter on how to do just that, with the help of a little fishing wire.

The wire can be neatly threaded through the board to enable quick hookups.

The trick is simple: on any old development board that uses 0.1″ pitch headers, simply weave some fishing line through the plated through-holes in the PCB. Then, regular jumper wires can be inserted just like on a breadboard. The fishing wire has just enough give to allow the jumper wires to be jammed in, holding them steady and in good contact, while still allowing them to be easily removed.

[Hackspace Magazine] has raved about the trick, noting great success using 0.38 mm fishing line. Alternative methods involve using toothpicks, though we suspect solution is likely messier and less reliable.

If you’ve got your own tricks for prototyping quickly using development and breakout boards, be sure to share them below in the comments. Alternatively, send your best stuff to us on the tipsline!

55 thoughts on “Using Fishing Wire To Hold In Pin Headers Is A Nifty Trick

      1. Dictionaries don’t dictate what the meanings of words are, they just report how they are used by people. When people take a well-defined existing word, and misuse it enough, that misuse becomes enshrined in dictionaries and thus legitimized. This doesn’t make it right.

        The fact that this was the THIRD definition in the particular dictionary you chose means that it is a less popular use than definitions 1 and 2. Probably for a good reason.

        Particularly in environments where “wire” is something used to make electrical connections, such as articles written for people who make and use electric things, it is probably best to avoid using ‘wire’ when you are referring to an insulator.

        And by the way, if you google “insulating wire”, you get nothing but metallic wire with insulation. You don’t see any examples of wire that is itself insulating. This is a fair indicator of the CURRENT use of the word.

        In light of all of this, it would be pedantic to insist that since it is in The Dictionary, it is a proper use of the word.

        1. Language changes, and a dictionary shows those changes. Unlike some languages, there is no guiding body to dictate which words are used.

          Also “insulating wire” would of course only refence wire that is metal, because non-metal wire doesn’t need to be insulated.

        2. It’s more pedantic for you to insist that you are the arbiter of who can use what words in what contexts. I didn’t get confused in the slightest upon reading “fishing wire”. I knew exactly what was being talked about. Just because you were apparently confused enough to rant for five paragraphs doesn’t mean everyone else was.

          1. I was confused. I’m used to “fishing line” being the clear plastic stuff and “piano wire” etc being metal, so assumed this was a metal wire used for fishing. I’m not a fisherman so that sounds like a reasonable thing to exist.

          2. “I didn’t get confused in the slightest” – Excellent reasoning, if only the world had only skelly clones. You don’t really think that, do you? I mean, why else mention that?

        3. Really? Languages change over time, that is part of why language works in the first place. It adapts as does society to modern problems. Refusing to accept change is just needlessly frusterating for everyone. Especially in cases where the point is clear and a reader picks it appart anyways.

          1. Unnecessary changes to language make understanding more difficult. Frivolous changes are pernicious.

            Almost nobody today understands the actual meaning of the phrase “a well regulated militia”, and this has lead to dangerous misinterpretations of the United States constitution.

        4. All you need to do is read the article, and look at the photos to understand what this is about. Obviously, the person who did this knows NOT to use anything conductive to short the pins, and that after doing this hack, the board still works fine. So you can go about getting confused what the definition of the material should be, while others can just be diligent to actually understand and not complain about the small things.

          1. If I understand you, you are saying that words don’t matter as long as you use enough of them that the misused words get outvoted by the ones that are clear, and if you can’t get THAT right, there are always pictures to fall back on.

      2. Well, I’ve never heard the term “fishing wire”. Admittedly, that does not mean much, though I do know of steel wire leaders for fish that would bite through braided or mono lines.
        However, the source(s) also uses the term “line”. The article alternates between wire and line. Pick a word and stick to it.

        1. One of the most popular brands of fishing line is “Firewire” although I myself don’t use “fishing-wire” when I talk about fishing. Even when speaking of the steel type of fishing line most would say “steel-leader”.

        2. Gotta love the English language.

          When I hear “fishing wire” I think of the hardened steel wire or tape used to “fish” conductors through conduit.

          As a person who grew up among the Great Lakes, “fishing line” to me always means monofilament plastic line, unless qualified otherwise.

          Linguistics aside,this is a GREAT idea.

    1. You’ve got to pull your camera back a bit. It’s all blurry because the minimum focal distance is a little further out. That’s why the room is in focus and the connectors are not.

      1. Actually, it’s the annoying habit of the Sony Z1 to refocus when you click the shutter, on something else!

        But yes, it needs better photos, it was a quick hack and I didn’t want to spend time on it, just get it out there, (just doubled it though by typing this reply!!)

  1. Reminds me of twisting little bits of stripped 30ga keynar through the contact through-holes of 72-pin SIMMs to get them working in my old laserjet (simms too new, printer didn’t know what to do with faster ram).

  2. This is a nice hack, and I’ll remember it. But I also like the toothpick idea. You just slip the wire into the hole, and use the toothpick (preferably the cheap, flat-sided type) as a peg to hold it in place. Easier to remove and quicker to use when you’re just making a temporary connection. Not sure how it’s “messier” or “less reliable”. In the tweet that shows a picture of this method, it uses a round toothpick that is too large for the hole and probably not going to work well. Also, since the toothpick is tapered, it can peg a variety of wire sizes. Two different techniques, each with its best uses.

    1. I’m pretty sure having 20 toothpicks poking out of your board is messier than just using a breadboard or some fishing line. They accidentally fall out with the wire, break off into the vias, etc.

  3. Fishing line will melt and some types may actually burn. I like the idea but one should be cautious under what conditions the PCB would be in when testing. If there are hot components nearby this trick might become messy.

    1. This is a hack designed for testing logic level i/o, I’m not sure in what world logic level i/o would get dangerously hot, or be near a component that would get dangerously hot. I think there’s practically nothing to worry about here.

  4. Since we all seem to be playing the splitting hairs game today, I thought I’d mention that the steel braided fishing line (wire?) is coated in nylon and would likely be just as good an insulator as nylon monofilament which most fisherman refer to the size as being lb/test (ex. Salmon you would use 20-40 lb/test monofilament vs halibut you would want closer to 60-80 lb test. Tho the larger the fish the more likely you would be using braided Teflon/nylon which is thinner than equally rated monofilament line.) The thicker the line the more likely the fish will notice something odd plus thick monofilament line causes more drag esp. deep water fishing and requires heavier weight to keep your bait/lure in place/depth.

  5. Also other ways have done this:

    Bend the pins
    Use tape
    Elastic bands
    Stretch the wires out and the PCB in opposite direction.
    Twist and ties
    Kynar wire… (have more of that than fishing line)
    Bluetak (or colour of choice)

    The one I’ve settled on and it works only because it’s a header of several joined pins, but without soldering, is to slightly bend the pins in different directions, it will be a snug fit but bend enough to fit. I mostly have this done for 4way headers used for TTL ports.

  6. “[Hackspace Magazine] has raved about the trick, noting great success using 0.38 mm fishing line.”

    This hack is anything but easily reproducible. Plated-through holes can be various diameters. Worse yet, fishing line is usually graded by breaking strength, not diameter and there are many types of monofilament fishing lines such as copolymer, polyethylene, fluorocarbon, etc., each with their own diameters for a given breaking strength. Heck, even for a given line material and diameter, breaking strength can vary significantly by manufacturer and/or brand.

    For example, here are two polyethylene monofilament fishing line products that actually specify a 0.38mm diameter but have significantly different breaking strengths (20lb vs. 25lb):

    * ULTIMA E5115 F1 Super Strong Beach Casting Sea Fishing Line – Neon Yellow, 0.38 mm – 20.0 lb

    * ULTIMA Unisex’s E0136 Power Steel Super Strong Mono Fishing Line, Crystal, 0.38 mm – 25.0 lb

    This table really shows how poorly correlated fishing line diameters and breaking strengths are:

    * Welcome to Mel’s 2019 Fishing Line Diameter page. The line diameter tables below offer a comparison of more than 115 popular monofilament, copolymer, fluorocarbon fishing lines and braided superlines in tests from 6-pounds to 600-pounds. The table is downloadable as a pdf.

  7. 1) great hack!

    2) my first instinct was to write a 1 word comment:


    Then I saw that the topic had been thoroughly wrung out and hung up to dry. Sigh.

    Anyway my experience is that line is usually monofilament (pictured) and wire sometimes refers to leader wire, which is high strength stainless steel wire used between a deep-sea lure, a swivel and one of those-little-connector-clips-whose-name-eludes-me, upon which is tied the line. But I knew what he meant…

    The fishing environment I grew up with defined language in very fluid and malleable terms, so knowing what one meant was a handy skill. Like NEW-kyu-ler energy, SIMON-taneously, Rice (NASCAR event), 1M (“Hey hand me 1M!”), and you’d hear things like “DAAANG! Jawl seedat?? Had a biggun on the line rite side the boat an 1M sharks cummup an bit im half-in-two!! Summonabich…”

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