New Club Members
Order Club Badge
Ham Radio Inventory Documentation
Breakfast Club
« A Holiday KISS | Main | Thoughts before the Chicago Marathon »

Helping hams

When I first joined the Club, there was an active group who worked several weekends a month helping other hams with their stations. We took down towers and antennas. We put up towers and antennas. It was a fun way to meet members of the club and provide an actual service. Since that time, we still do this work, but the volume has dropped considerably. Perhaps it is because so few seem to be on HF? Or perhaps, more are doing this work on their own? I know that I benefited greatly from these work parties, especially in the early days of my ham radio career when I was eager to learn as much as I could about grounding or antennas or even operating. As many of you know, I have an 8 foot sling shot that we have all used on Field Day…now many others have the same device, so the demand for is has diminished, but I still get to do some house calls.

Recently, Randy K9OR asked me over to help put up – well, first take down – his old 80 meter wire. We slung it up there maybe 7 years ago. He had only one request then…get the antenna up the tree in the corner of his lot without having to get on his neighbor’s property. It was a very difficult shot, but I just aimed and nailed it on the first shot. Well that antenna was very well anchored. The tree literally grew around the dogbone at the end of the wire, which is why it was impossible to get down. Pulling with all our strength, we couldn’t get the old wire antenna down at all. So, using a little old Yankee ingenuity (I think I have a bit of MacGyver in my gene pool), I took an extension ladder and braced it up against the base of a tree and then took the wire from the antenna and wrapped it around the end of the ladder…making a giant lever. Now we had a mechanical advantage and we pulled the wire right out of the dog bone (it remained in the tree), with almost no effort. So, we got the wire out. The next challenge was putting up a support rope for the new antenna. I wasn’t as lucky this time. Took several shots, but eventually we did get it and we never had to get on his neighbor’s property. Randy now has a new 80/40 dipole. We had a great time installing his new gear…and I got to practice my sling shot skills.

Cables, Connectors and me

I have been around this hobby long enough to have collected enough wacky cables with unique connectors to fill two file cabinets. I keep them in plastic bags so that the cables don’t mate at night (have you ever noticed how cables will entwine if you just put them in a drawer? The plastic bag solved that problem…it s a social thing. Anyway, I have a Yaesu 8800 radio that needs a unique programming cable. I had the software, but not the cable. I did have one cable I bought on the Internet from a manufacturer in Hong Kong. When it arrived it had a driver disk that didn’t work. I remember sending the guy a note saying his software didn’t work and he send me the file via email…but that was 4 years ago. That’s when I found out my cheap Internet purchase wasn’t such a bargain.

Still, now I needed that cable again. So I ripped through my drawer looking for that darn cable…I had every strange cable but the one I needed. After spending almost a day looking for the programming cable, I decided I was better off just buying a new one…and I made sure it had a driver this time. It arrived the next day and worked like a champ. Then, of course, I found the first cable I bought, along with zillions of other cables for old cameras, obsolete recorders and power cables for every imaginable cell phone that was made since 1995, etc. etc. 

Yeah, the drawer was stuffed. What is it about ham radio that demands that we save every connector, every scrap of wire? I know for me it is the hope that one day there will be a need for that one cable…and, of course, when that day comes, I probably won’t be able to find it and I will have to just buy another. Welcome to ham radio!