FOA Basic Skills

Lesson: Fiber Optic Skills Lab, Do It Yourself


Objectives: From this lesson you should learn:
  • Where to purchase basic fiber optic tools and components
  • How optical fiber transmits signals with light
  • How to perform basic fiber optic installation processes: striping, cleaving, splicing, terminating fiber
  • How to build a fiber optic link and test its performance

Before taking this course, you must first take the Basic Fiber Optics online course at Fiber U and get your Fiber U Certificate of Completion.

This is a basic skills lab for fiber optic novices covering how fiber optic links and cable plants work, cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. You will be directed to watch some videos, perform some hands-on exercises and work with some simulations.

The hands-on exercises are based on readily available components and tools. You can purchase the tools and components you need online inexpensively and do the exercises yourself and/or as part of an online class. The lesson will give detailed directions based on the tools and components listed below.

The Lesson Steps
  • Obtain tools from school or purchase online
  • Follow exercises below
  • If part of an online course, you will demo what you learned to your instructor on videoconference
  • You may be asked to return the finished lessons and tools to school
Acquiring Tools And Components
This lesson uses the basic fiber optic tools and components shown below. These tools and components are readily available online at reasonable prices. The total cost of tools if purchased from Amazon or eBay should be under $100 and the two media converters should be about $60. If you are purchasing for yourself, the search terms for Amazon, eBay, etc. are given as well as approximate prices.
If you are part of a class with an FOA approved school, they may send you tools or advise you to purchase them yourself.

BSL Tools 

Tools (with online search terms if purchasing online)
  • Fiber stripper, 3 hole 3mm/900micron/250micron (fiber optic stripper 3 hole ~ $12-15)
  • Aramid fiber scissors (fiber optic Kevlar Scissors ~$5-10)
  • Fiber cleaver (fiber optic cleaver approx. $20-25)
  • Visual Fault Locator VFL (fiber optic visual fault locator - ~$20-25)
  • Alternative: in searching you may find kits of the 3 tools above plus other items you can use for other exercises for ~$40-50 which is OK
  • Black vinyl work mat, ~2X3, 0.5X0.8m (black vinyl upholstery fabric, 1 yd, ~$5-10)


Components (with online search terms)
  • SM cable, 3- 4ea (fiber optic patch cord SC to SC duplex singlemode 3-5m length, ~$10-15ea)
  • SC-SC duplex mating adapters, 4 each
  • Mechanical splices (fiber optic mechanical splice, qty 5 or 10, ~$10-15)
  • Splice type connectors (fiber optic quick connector singlemode, qty 10, ~$9-10)

Fiber optic media converters

Fiber Optic Media Converters
  • 2 media converters (~$30 each)  Fiber optic media converters are used to create fiber optic links. Two types are available, those that operate over 2 fibers like most fiber optic links and those that operate over one fiber bidirectionally like fiber to the home (FTTH) passive optical networks. Exercises are provided for both types. If you want to do both exercises you will need 2 pairs of media converters. See the exercise on links for more details on them. 
  • Fiber optic media converters - Ethernet input on Cat 5e cable to singlemode fiber - you will be using singlemode fiber cables from the installation exercises to connect them
  • You will connect them over fiber used in the installation exercise
  • Also order two Cat 5e patchcords to connect your electronics if you do not have any yourself

fiber optic
                              power meter

Fiber Optic Power Meter

  • Used for testing the link you will build
  • Available online (~$20-40)

Additional Equipment Required

  • Safety Glasses (hardware or drugstore, ~$5)
  • Cleaning supplies (alcohol and wipes)
  • Fiber disposal bin (Paper cup with lid, marked "Fiber Scraps")

Lessons and Exercises
The following lessons and exercises are included in this course.

Safety - Read information below before beginning any exercises.
How fiber optics works and transmits information
Basic fiber optic cable handling
Fiber optic splicing and termination
  • Stripping fiber optic cables
  • Cleaving fibers
  • Splicing fibers with a mechanical splice
  • Terminating fibers with a prepolished/splice connector
  • Visual tracing and fault location
  • Microscope inspection of connectors
  • Loss testing

For each exercise you complete, fill in a scorecard to document your results. Download Scorecards (PDF).

When you complete all exercises, you can get a Fiber U Certificate of Completion.


Lennie works safely

Please Note: This is not the usual online course - it is intended to guide you as you learn some of the basic skills used in fiber optics. It involves using actual tools and components in a realistic manner. Some of the processes here can be hazardous, like working with sharp scraps of optical fiber and chemicals.

Always wear safety glasses when doing any of these exercises and dispose of all fiber scraps immediately and properly.

Do not look directly into the light from the visual fault locator - it's bright!

These guidelines are strictly the opinion of the FOA provided for educational purposes and the reader is expected to use them as a basis for learning. The FOA assumes no liability for the use of any of this material.

Familiarize yourself with these safety procedures and follow them all the time. Watch
FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics  or read
Online FOA Guide: Fiber Optic Safety 

Do not work with fiber without safety glasses and a proper work area that is easy to clean up.

We recommend working on a black vinyl mat to make it easier to see the fiber (and any scraps).
It is best to work on tile or concrete floors, not carpet. If you drop fiber scraps into carpet they can be very hard to find or pick up with a vacuum cleaner.
Place clean paper over your work area to keep from harming the worktable surface.

Safety glasses must always be worn. Use them, keep them clean, and protect them from damage like any other tool. Always wear safety glasses because you will generate fiber scraps that may fly through the air and land anywhere. If scraps get into your eye, you will be making a visit to the local hospital emergency room.
Do not allow others to watch you work unless they wear safety glasses also. Fiber scraps can fly a long way! 

fiber in
X-ray of fiber shard in finger

The broken or cleaved ends of fibers are extremely sharp and can easily penetrate your skin! Be careful to not stick the broken ends into your fingers, since they invariably break off and are very hard to find and remove. Most times, you have to wait for them to infect and painfully work themselves out.

Avoid these accidents by exercising a little caution. Dispose of all scraps immediately and properly. Put them in a properly marked paper cup or other container for disposal. Do not drop them on the floor where they will stick in carpets or shoes and be carried elsewhere. Do not eat anywhere near the work area.
Clean up after your exercises carefully.

Video: FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics   Online FOA Guide: Fiber Optic Safety 

Lessons and Exercises

Click on the links for each exercise. Download the Scorecards to keep records of your completion of each exercise.

Safety Rules - Read before beginning any exercises (above)

1. How Fiber Optics Works
(hands-on, one exercise)
2. Basic fiber optic cable handling and preparation (watch 3 FOA YouTube videos)

3. Fiber optic splicing and termination (hands-on, 4 exercises) These exercises need to be completed in this order as each of them are dependent on the prior exercise.

4. Testing

5. Fiber Optic Links

When you complete all exercises, you can get a Fiber U Certificate of Completion.
If you have watched all the videos, used the loss simulator and successfully completed all the hands-on exercises required you may take this Fiber U Certificate of Completion exam.

If you are taking this course yourself, the
Fiber U Certificate of Completion exam cost $20. Go here to pay and take the exam.

If you are
taking this course with an instructor from an FOA Approved school, they will provide the link for you to take the exam.

This information is provided by The Fiber Optic Association, Inc. as a benefit to those interested in teaching, designing, manufacturing, selling, installing or using fiber optic communications systems or networks. It is intended to be used as an overview and/or basic guidelines and in no way should be considered to be complete or comprehensive. These guidelines are strictly the opinion of the FOA and the reader is expected to use them as a basis for learning, as a reference and for creating their own documentation, project specifications, etc. Those working with fiber optics in the classroom, laboratory or field should follow all safety rules carefully. The FOA assumes no liability for the use of any of this material.


Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics

(C)2021, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.