Phase I Completed

Well, it’s late, but about an hour ago I finished Phase I of the phone project.  All the old jacks are working just the same, though none of them need DSL filters now, and everything goes through the new termination blocks.  It’s complete overkill for the number of phone lines in the house (one) and the number of phones currently in the house (three), but this will allow for future expansion as well as keep everything neat, tidy and easy to manage.  Read on if you care, or just look at the pretty pictures.

Got the plywood mounted to the wall fairly early in the evening, and got the 110 blocks, 66 block and DSL filter mounted to it.  Then I started wiring things up – beginning with the bridge, which was going to require a lot of twisting and punching down.  Basically, the voice lines and all the telephones in the house will terminate on the back of the first 110 block, and the second will allow for connections from the line to each phone without the use of daisy-chaining connections.  If I wasn’t planning on putting one phone jack with every network drop, I could’ve just used half of one 110 block for a bridge, but since I would just about be at capacity by then I figured a second block won’t kill anyone.  This way too, should we end up setting up a machine running Asterisk (an open source PBX system), it’ll be simple to tie in with the existing phone network.

Now, a 110 block is designed to have the back end terminated only once, and the front end can be changed as needed.  So the line that feeds the 110 block from the NID would’ve been too transient, and I didn’t like that idea – therefore the addition of the 66 block to separate the two.  One side of the 66 block will never need changing, while the other side can come and go as any phone lines are added or removed.  Again, it’s overkill, but it’s a simple concept, and doesn’t add or cause any problems to put it there, so why not.  Plus, they look cool.

After everything was mounted, wired and terminated as best as I could do before bringing down any existing phones, I figured it was time for a break.  Stephanie was planning on going out shopping on Sunday, so I figured I’d do the rest then.  Well, I then found out she didn’t have to go out again, since she went out earlier in the evening.  So she’d be home all day, and might want to use a phone or the DSL connection.  So, I figured getting the rest done tonight wasn’t a terrible idea, especially since I was on a roll and having fun.  So down came the phone lines, and I moved the surge protector block and the NID over to the plywood.  The surge protector is now properly grounded (the other end of the ground line just laid up in the ceiling near a water pipe, but not even touching it let alone bonded to it) though I’d like to get a better connector to bond it to the house ground system.  The phone lines from the outside world were reconnected to it all, and I got a clean dial tone from the protector, and from the test port in the NID.  Excellent.  Ran the twisted pair from the NID down to the 66 block, and tested again – nothing.  Dead line.  WTF?  Why doesn’t it work right, I had even tested for continuity across most of the connections I made in the 110 blocks and the 66 block, how come it’s.. oh.  Fancy that.  There’s two screw terminals for each wire in the NID, and I connected to one on each wire.  The others were loose.  And that’s where the connection from the modular plug goes to the house wiring.  Tighten those down, and the line works fine.  Duh.

After that was all set, the next step was to tie all the old lines into the new blocks.  One of the lines, which I ran right when we moved in for the DSL connection, was easy – brought that right to the 66 block, punched it down, and listened on the butt set while the modem woke up and reconnected to the world.  Next were the other phones in the house – spliced new wire onto the first one, brought it to the bridge (no point terminating them somewhere permanent, they’re all slated to go in the trash when the data network gets installed), punched it down, and moved to the next.  It was then that I realized, there’s three lines left, and I’m using three pair phone cable.  So I cheated and tied them all together, one on each pair in the new cable, and punched them all down at the other end with a single run.  Hey, why not 😛

So now all the phones are working again, and I don’t have a single in-line DSL filter installed in the jacks – everything gets split at the filter in the basement, the DSL modem gets its DSL, and the rest of the phones get an un-freakin-believably clean voice signal.  All the phones sound quieter than I’ve ever heard, and interestingly enough the butt set shows the line voltage at a steady 45VDC now, instead of bouncing from ~38 to ~48.  Even hooking up the butt set in the basement to any terminal is cleaner – you don’t start getting a wild hum as soon as one clip is on and the other floats, and when the second goes on, you can’t even tell you’re connected to a phone line.

Is this all overkill?  Probably.  I’ve seen worse installations in professionally setup offices.  But, I think it’s damned pretty, and the increase in phone and DSL quality are quite worth it.  Plus, in the future, expansion/changing/whatever will be quite simple, as everything terminates in connectors that are designed to be reused and reconnected.  Now, when the next person who gets the house sees all this, they may wonder what I was smoking (or how to do anything without a punchdown tool).  But maybe by then this sort of thing will be widely appreciated and understood.  I hope so anyway, ’cause I know if I saw this kind of phone plant in a house, I’d fall in love with it :>

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