What's all this "junk box" stuff anyway! Many of us have heard the expression "junk box" on the air, but what is it, and what should be in it?
As I was sitting at my bench recently, working on my latest project, a request for a help to repair a power supply came across on the local repeater. After getting on the air (and opening my big mouth again), I suggested a slightly different transistor than the one he was looking for simply because it was in my junk box. And the ratings on the one I was suggesting were better. In fact, since I was at my bench anyway, I suggested that he bring it by and I would help with the repair. Before I could put the mike down, there he was in my garage workshop holding his power supply and wanting to see what treasures this mysterious junk box held.
The supply was repaired. But no, the junk box was not a large golden Pandora's box in one corner of my garage. Instead it was an organized collection of odds and ends that had been accumulated over a 20-year period. For those of you who enjoy building projects as I do, the pack rat syndrome seems to catch up with us as we realize that a failed project is not a failure. Instead, it's a source of parts for yet another project waiting to be born.
The parts come from many places. One friend who was moving from a house to a condo cleaned out his ham shack. He bestowed upon me a large collection of meter movements, RTL and TTL IC's connectors, tubes, wire, transformers, and transistors.
But for the ham today, what should you keep, what do you throw away? What should you stock for that next project?
Sadly, the state of the art has advanced to a degree that radio building in the garage is a thing of the past. So do you need to keep anything?
As long as the manufacturers of amateur radio equipment put connectors on their equipment the answer is YES.
Recently the ARRL was trying to get the various vendors to standardize on connectors for basic functions like power, antennas mike connectors and audio. This attempt was met with open hostility. Why standardize! Different and proprietary connectors make for brand loyalty.
For this reason the ham shack should have a small stock of wire and connectors to get that next project installed without ten trips to the store.
I still get a chuckle when I think about a friend who wired his last connector project with plastic twist ties from bread bags. It got it working until he got some wire the next day. (By the way the wire in twist ties has some modest resistance and does not take solder well).
It's times like these that make you think "yes, there is a need for some basic stock in the shack". Don't go into debt and buy the entire contents of a Radio Shack. But look at your equipment with open eyes and look for the connector types you use the most.
Murphy always visits at the worst time. That spare connector for your favorite equipment could make the difference between operating or not during the next emergency activation.
Copyright 2005 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.
Permission in advance is granted to those who use this for non-profit Amateur Radio club newsletters as long as it is used unmodified including this copyright notice and that notice is given to the author via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, please forward a copy of any newsletter this appears in to: Gerry Crenshaw WD4BIS, c/o GARC, 1027B W. Austin St, Garland, TX, 75040
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