Spring 2006 Issue


Rack Mount Your Portable Station

 By Bob Witte, KØNR




Photo 1. The KØNR portable station

with the Yaesu FT-90 and

FT-100 transceivers.

The summer of 2002 brought a series of wildfires to the western U.S., including the Hayman Fire, the largest fire in the recorded history of Colorado. As part of the ARES support, I found myself operating my FM VHF station portable from a county fire station. My setup was typical of many such situations: an FM VHF rig fed by an AC power supply, connected to an antenna that was previously installed at the fire station. The rig was just lying on a table with the power supply next to it. There was no specific place for the microphone, so it also ended up lying on the table, too. I tried to prop up the radio so that it was easier to read the display, but it was not that great—functional, but not great. When the radio traffic slowed, I found myself looking at the pile-o-stuff and thinking that there had to be a better way.

Ultimately, this resulted in the creation of a portable ham station that has many uses (photo 1). My basic requirement was to have two transceivers, both covering 146 MHz and 440 MHz FM, as both bands get used during ARES deployments. Also, it is very handy to be able to monitor more than one frequency at a time, even on the same band.

I had a spare Yaesu FT-90 dualband (single receiver) transceiver and I acquired a Yaesu FT-100 HF/VHF/UHF rig. The FT-100 might be a little bit of overkill, but I liked the idea of having the CW/SSB modes on 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70 cm for VHF contesting. Including the FT-100 as the second radio gave me those modes, while tossing in the HF bands for free.

I’ve used this portable station for public-service events, emergency communications, Field Day, and VHF contests. It also makes a decent home station, one that can be moved from room to room as required. My purpose in writing about this is not to have you replicate the same thing, but to provide some ideas on how you might create a portable station tailored to your needs.

The 19-inch Rack Box

I had been looking for a good way to mount equipment in a box so that it would be protected and portable. I discovered some equipment boxes that are designed around a standard 19-inch rack. These boxes are used in applications such as sound recording and live music. Your local disc jockey who provides music for parties is likely to have a rack like this. A protective cover latches onto the front of the box, and a carrying handle is molded into the enclosure (photo 2). I have encountered two manufacturers of these rackmount boxes, SKB and Gator (see references for web addresses). These should be available at your local music store, or on the web at Musicians Friend and Sweetwater Sound.

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