Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ham Shack Upgrade Diary #4 - The Bench and Shelves

I have a yellow workbench/desk that I built years ago that wraps around two walls in my home office. When I decided to setup a ham shack I took out an old drafty patio door that I never used and framed in a wall where the door used to be. I then extended the workbench/desk around that corner of the room and extended it past the new wall.

Now I had bench that wrapped around 3 sides of the room and new ham shack section that I built a few months ago needed to be taken back outside and painted to match the rest of the finished bench.

The weather had finally gotten hot and dry enough and the propagation was miserable so I decided now was my chance.

Between coats of yellow paint I went out to the shop and finished the shelve that I had started for above the bench. Once it was completed I stained it as well.

After both the desk and shelf were dry I moved them into the house and got them bolted into place.

After another day to dry I finally got the shack all setup again last night and was back on the regional 80m net.

The finished upgrade project

Ham Shack Upgrade Diary #3 - The Rotator

The tower and antenna came with a broken old milk crate. Inside were two different rotators and the what was left of a controller.

Once I dug into the rubble a bit deeper it appeared that at least one of the rotators and the busted up controller were a match pair. Too bad the controller was in such bad shape.

I headed to the internet and discovered that my matched pair was a Wilsom WR-500 and they were not as common as other makes and models. Lucky for me on the first day I started looking around I found a guy on the internet selling just a controller for a WR-500 and it was in very nice shape. I won the auction for $26.00 US. The shipping actually cost me more than the controller :(.

The controller arrived a week later and didn't disappoint. It was in create condition and everything appeared to be working.

WR-500 Controller - Thanks eBay!
The actual rotator was a dirty mess so I cleaned it up and took it apart, checked the bearings, and put it back together. I ended up taking it apart later when things weren't working correctly, but it's working much better now.

Cleaned up Wilson WR-500 rotator
 One of the hardest things to find for a Wilson WR-500 seems to be the cables ends? Lots of conversations on the internet of people trying to source the connecters without much luck. I was really lucky because at the bottom of the busted up milk crate was half a cable with on of the connectors still attached.

I started to worry but then I looked at the back of the busted up controller and BAM! there was the other connector hanging in the back of the controller is about of inch of wire hanging from it (FYI the connectors are different at each end?).

I found some very nice 8 conductor cable that is slightly larger than factory spec and made up a new cable.
The new cable with the original connectors.
After that there was a little troubleshooting, a little installation and calibration, and now it's a complete new antenna installation for my shack complete with a tower and a rotator. 

Here is a little YouTube video of the entire system in action.

Ham Shack Upgrade Diary #2 - The Antenna

The new antenna is an older (exact age unknown) Mosely CL-33 triband yagi (20m, 15m, 10m). It came in pieces as the previous owner had disassembled it sometime ago.

Lucky for me the parts were all marked with either color coded paint or small marks made by the previous owner.

I used steel wool to clean off all the parts and cleared off my concrete patio to make room for the setup. With a fresh bottle of Noalox I started putting the elements back together and then the boom. Once the measurements were confirmed I start tightening all the bolts and I had an antenna ready for testing.

Thanks to Doug VE7VZ for making the trip out to Lumby and bringing his antenna analyzer along. It decided to rain at that exact moment but we soldiered forward and got it done.

The next day I was solo and it was fun and a little scary getting the antenna up onto the roof and then onto the tower. It deceiving from the photos but the boom of the antenna is just over 20 feet long, so to get it onto the roof I simply stood it on end and it reached the roof. Then I climbed the ladder and lifted it from the top (42 lbs) and set it onto the tower.

I didn't have the rotator ready at this point so my first tests were just getting the antenna onto the tower and rotating it manually.

I also took my VHF/UHF antenna and put it onto a section of fiberglass pole and stuck it onto the very top of the tower. Once the tower is extended this is getting that antenna up an extra 15 feet or so from it's original mount and cleaning up the rooftop a bit.

First install on the lowered tower (no rotator) just clears the chimney.

They look so small in the air, you need to see them on the ground for perspective.

Completed installation, fully extended, with the rotator installed as well

Ham Shack Upgrade Diary #1 - The Tower

It all started with an ad in the local ham clubs Swap and Shop. A local ham was moving and I purchased his old 40' crank-up tower, triband antenna, and a milk crate with two old rotators and 1/2 of a controller (it was in pieces).
Panorama of the freshly painted TriEx 237 crank-up tower
After I sprayed a couple fresh coats of paint on the tower I let it cure in the back yard behind the workshop for a week. Weather was horrible (heavy rain) so it took some extra time to firm up.

Finally on a sunny day I grabbed my neighbor Gerald and we put up the tower. My house is two stories tall so the edge of the roof is just over 18 feet from the concrete pad below.
Thick rubber strip supplied by Gerald was used between the top edge of the roof and the new tower

Towers Up!
You can see from the hole in my siding that I removed an old patio door and framed it in. On the inside of my house this is the location of my Ham Shack desk. I built a cable pathway in the lower center of the new wall. The majority of the wall has traditional insulation but in the cable pathway it's solid foam insulation with removable plywood covers on the inside and outside. My intention was that as needed I could drill though the pathway and pass cables easily. After a few years if it's riddled with holes or I want to start again all I need to do is replace the plywood covers and the solid foam and it's all fresh again.