Yet another shack clean up

Back in January when I took delivery of the FT857D I reorganised the shack, disposed of lots of surplus junk and the resulting layout has served me well for most of the year.

As I’ve acquired more equipment I have found myself struggling for space and the cluttered workbench has prevented any proper construction.

Following a rearrangement in the house I had a spare ‘desk’ which I wanted to make of, so the plan was to move the workbench and put the new desk next to the existing desk. I had some bookshelves which were being used inefficiently and I almost threw them out but decided to make use of them by cutting them down and modifying to make new shelves to sit on the back of the desks.

I had another clean out and the remaining junk is now in large plastic storage boxes under the desk should it prove useful one day. It is still a little cluttered but I have much more room with proper access to my books and magazines.

The workbench is at the end of the shack directly under the overhead light

 It is a work in progress, but it is a much better place to work and operate in.

All systems go…

Excellent service from Waters and Stanton, Radiozing and M0CVO Antennas meant my FT-857D, PSU and HF antenna arrived the day after I ordered them. They have however sat in the boxes while I have struggled to reorganise my workshop/shack after the Christmas chaos.

I have disposed of a lot of junk being quite ruthless to reduce the clutter and have completely changed the layout, increasing the size of the desk and putting it on the other side of the room next to the workbench, which is much more logical.

The new look operation centre

I have finally summoned up the courage to drill a large hole in the wall to allow the antenna coax to enter properly, previously it has been done by squeezing it around the door!

Unfortunately the weather this weekend has been horrendous, yesterday I planned to erect the antenna but gave up following the intense squall which hit in the afternoon with thunder, lightning and hail! Today hasn’t been much better with heavy rain for most of the day, the rain did finally eased off so I managed to erect a temporary mast with the 144/430MHz collinear on the top and the HF antenna underneath.  I know this isn’t ideal as the mast is metal and may affect the HF, but seems okay. The forecast for the next few days is also a bit worrying but the mast is guyed at two heights so should be secure.

The antennas, with the stormy sky behind

I have literally just turned on the FT-857D and had a quick listen on the bands, it is very daunting for this first timer! The first thing I have worked out is how to drop the power output, current set a 5W for HF and VHF/UHF
 

I have a power/swr meter suitable for HF/VHF and UHF I purchased at last years Hamfest and I have it connected in the setup, and was trying to check the SWR but it wasn’t registering anything when I pressed the PTT then I realised that with SSB enabled it wouldn’t!! Switching to FM and I was able to check that everything was okay… Beginners mistake I know!

Now off to read the manual..

Got a proper radio, well it’s on order!

Well I’ve finally done it..

I have ordered my first proper ‘rig’ It is a Yaesu FT-857D a nice small, portable/mobile unit that will give me access to the HF and 6m/2m/70cm bands in all-modes. It has took a while since I first identified it as potential purchase but thanks to some generous Christmas presents I now have the sufficient funds and following several recommendations have decided to take the plunge and ordered it from Waters and Stanton

She is a beauty!

I have a decent 7A PSU, purchased last year which I am sure would have sufficed for 10W maximum operation however I decided to also purchase a MAAS SPS-30-II 30A(35A peak) PSU. It was a good price from Radiozing and offers plenty of power for anything I am likely to run in the foreseeable future, and from the pictures and reviews seems to be built like the proverbial brick out-house. As well as the main connectors on the back it has spring clip terminals on the front as well as a cigar lighter type connector. Dual meters showing V/A and can be used in variable mode from 9-15V or fixed at 13.8V 

This is the beast!

I have also ordered one of M0CVO Antennas highly rated HW-20HP off centre fed dipoles as a starting point for HF. The antenna works in 6 bands (20, 17, 15, 12, 10 & 6m) without needing an Antenna Tuning Unit (ATU) which is one thing I haven’t purchased, however Nigel(M0CVO) Chairman of SKARS (South Kestevan Amateur Radio Society) and owner of M0CVO Antennas has kindly offered to loan me an ATU in the short term.

Delivery should be later this week and I suspect I have a large learning curve ahead of me as I hit the airwaves! If you should hear me please be gentle..

Shack Update

Again it has been a very busy month since my last post, but I did manage to get a few days to finally start sorting out my workshop/shack.
Just before the horrendous winter of 2010 struck I had purchased a 16′ x 10′ wooden workshop, in fact you can see it in the picture below the day after it was erected complete with a coating of snow! The workshop was subdivided into two separate sections a smaller 6′ x 10′ area with it’s own door for storage of garden paraphernalia and the remaining 10′ x 10′ section was intended to be a ‘man cave’ where I could keep my junk, set up a small workspace and experiment to my heart’s content without an accountability. The intention was to free up a small bedroom in the house and remove some of the accumulated junk from the loft!  
Well for the past 18 months despite my best intentions the workshop had become nothing but yet another store room! The first task was to empty the workshop and sort out the rubbish, almost immediately I became rather dispirited as it seemed a huge task, however after several temper tantrums, a beer or two and some ruthless decisions followed by several trips to the local tip I had got rid of a large portion of the contents.The remaining good stuff including tools, screws, nails and other items were sorted roughly into boxes to be properly organised at a later date.
 
I had already run an armoured electrical cable supply into the workshop but no internal wiring. The distribution/RCD unit, cabling, sockets, switches and lighting were still sitting in the screwfix box. Several hours of hard work in the sweltering heat and I had it wired it up with some decent lighting and power sockets. I also took the opportunity to install some proper thick moisture resistant chipboard tongue and groove flooring to strengthen the existing floor and that has been covered in some vinyl flooring for ease of cleaning.   
I had always intended to line out the workshop with plywood and insulate it but I had a change of heart, mostly due to cost but also for aesthetic reasons since it has a lovely rustic wooden feel inside with roof beams and the tongue and groove panelling, I will probably regret the decision in the winter, but given the fact that everything stored in it has survived two harsh winters with no signs of damp I have left it alone for now. 
I have furnished it with some unwanted items including a nice sturdy table, chest of draws and some old book shelves and have gradually been moving my junk into the workshop. I am now in the process of sorting out some more shelving and a soldering station and workbench so I can finally start tinkering again!   
I have also installed a wireless access point configured using WDS to connect to the main house WLAN and that seems to be reasonably fast and reliable and have an old PC which gives me access to the Internet and my music library I can listen to without being told to turn it down!
I should add the whole shed/workshop are protected by a proper security alarm with PIR and door contact sensors.