Spring 2009 Issue

Beginner’s Guide

Creating Your Station Setup

By Rich Arland, K7SZ

Welcome back to my column! I am writing this from the lanai at my daughter, Gwen’s, new home in Tampa, Florida. The weather here in Tampa is in the mid-70s, sunny with a light breeze blowing in from the north. Rough duty, but somebody’s gotta do it!

Florida weather is amazing. VHF+ operating is fantastic with all the FM repeaters available, not to mention what seems to be a DX pipeline that appears to terminate here in the middle of the state. While Gwen and her husband, Kyle, are both licensed hams, the CC&Rs of the housing area prohibit external antennas, so their on-the-air operations are relegated to whatever they can do while mobile. However, Florida is basically a flat topography, and a modest 40–50 foot tower and some Yagi antennas would make for some great DXing opportunities for terrestrial weak-signal work from Gwen’s new home.

Ops Desks 101

Gwen is not the only one with a new QTH. Pat and I moved from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Dacula, Georgia (about 40 miles ENE of Atlanta) just before Thanksgiving last year (2008). With each new QTH come challenges when setting up a ham station. Over the years, traveling the globe with the USAF, I have had ham shacks in closets, spare rooms, basements, attics, bedrooms, hall closets, in our 1978 VW van . . . just about anywhere you could imagine. After 20 years in our home in Pennsylvania, two things became immediately apparent as we prepared for our move south. First, “We have too much junk!” Man, it is mind-blowing how much “stuff” one can accumulate in a 20-year span in one location. Second, no matter how much thought is given to preparing the shack, shacks (like model-railroad layouts) are never finished. There are always improvements of one kind or another that can be made to facilitate operating efficiency, workbench area, test equipment bays, etc. Let’s not forget the usual mess of coaxial cable, power cabling, and the occasional open-wire/ladder line. This adventure was no different.

We had lots of land on which to place antennas at our new Georgia location, but the trees were not placed correctly (imagine that!). I liberated one room (a small 9 ¥ 14 foot room in the renovated former garage area) and proclaimed it “The Shack.” This will be my last shack, most probably, as I do not relish moving again, and therefore I decided early on to put some creative thought into preparing the room that would house my radios and my operating position. Pat was more than satisfied, as that room was one of two rooms on the very end of the house away from the normal foot traffic and entertainment areas of the new home. That meant that the normal rat’s nest of wires, coaxial cables, and power leads, along with all the station accessories that are associated with a well-appointed ham shack, would not be visible to guests (and her) on a regular basis.

Me? I love the new shack. It’s on a ground floor! The shack in our old home was on the third floor, so establishing a good RF ground (especially on HF) was a bit of an adventure. Gone are the days of having to negotiate several stairways every time I want to “play radio.”

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