Fall 2009 Issue

Beginner’s Guide

Try Your Local Hardware Store!

By Rich Arland, K7SZ

Summer in the Atlanta metro area is hot, HOT, H-O-T!! Now I finally understand why they call it “Hot-Lanta”! Thankfully, as I write this in mid-September, so far our ancient heat pump/air conditioner is still purring away keeping us at a cool 77° F. Any hotter and I can’t think!

Well, by now my new shack is starting to really take shape. With the re-acquisition of my old Ikea operating table/console I now have more than enough room to start setting up the HF and VHF+ stations. Having sold off the majority of my gear prior to moving to Georgia, I was in immediate need of a good HF transceiver that could also be pressed into VHF+ service using it as a tunable IF for outboard transverters. Even though I had my old faithful Yaesu FT-726 for VHF+ use, I felt that shopping around for a quality HF transceiver with a contest-grade receiving section would not be a bad idea. That way, should something happen to the 726, I could procure some 6-meter, 2-meter, and 70-cm transverters and still maintain a presence on both the HF and VHF bands.

In January each year the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society (GARS) holds a “Tech Fest,” which strives to showcase various operating modes and equipment to the general public and possibly recruit new hams into the hobby. Tech Fest ’09 found me ensconced in a booth next to the South East DX Club (SEDXC) folks. I was showing off some of my military gear and soon found myself talking DX with the SEDXC members at the adjacent table. One thing led to another, and I soon parted with a year’s membership dues to the club. That was just the start of things. Via the SEDXC I became acquainted with K1ZZI, Ralph, who just happened to have a near-mint-condition Kenwood TS-940SAT HF transceiver (loaded with crystal filters) and a matching SP-940 station speaker. The price was definitely “right,” and soon that cute little (?) TS-940 followed me home and now sits proudly on the operating bench next to the FT-726. Mission accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, as the 940SAT cost me a few bucks, but only about 25% of what it originally sold for in the late 1980s. This 20-year-old DX machine has a great receiver and, with the addition of a new IF board from a company called Piexx (<www.piexx.com>) and a computer running Ham Radio Deluxe, you have an instant computer-controlled radio for either HF or VHF+ operations (via transverters). Arland done good!

Support Your Local Hardware Store!

Without a doubt, the “Big-Box” stores are great places to shop. I know that between Home Depot and Lowe’s, I have spent thousands of dollars remodeling my home, not to mention picking up much needed tools, accessories, and “must have” items at great prices. With all the convenience of these “Big-Box” stores, it is very easy to forget the local hardware emporium, many of which have been in business for half a century or more and are mom-and-pop operations that have remained in the family for several generations.

Often these smaller hardware outlets have things that their bigger counterparts don’t offer or fail to stock. Case in point: washers—not the type that you wash clothes in or the things you put on the ends of bolts. I am talking about large rubber washers that I have found very useful for sealing the ingress points of coaxial cables coming into my home. Having scoured the big outlets, I was on a trip back to northeast Pennsylvania and had the chance to drop into the local hardware store on the main street in my former home town of Wilkes-Barre. Good ole “Main Hardware” helped me erect my 55-foot tower about 16 years ago, along with countless other ham-radio-oriented and home-improvement projects over the 20 years I lived here. Going in there was like stepping back in time to my early days in Palouse, Washington, and the Ankorn Hardware store. You could quite literally find the solution to almost any construction project just by cruising the aisles of the store.
 

This is a photo of my VHF/UHF stack on the end of the house. In ascending order: KU4AB square Halos for 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70 cm; and a BlueStar 2-meter J-pole on the top for local FM work. Although these antennas are relatively close to the ground (only about 20 feet up), they will be moved to the peak of the roof soon to achieve a total height
of about 45 feet. (K7SZ photo)

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