Too many kits too little time
Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 11:48AM
NSRC- Account Owner

Happy New Year to all my fellow ham radio aficionados! Hope you had a great Holiday season and are all resuming your normal lives. Make any New Year’s resolutions? For me, I hope to improve my typing skills and complete some of my many radio projects, many of which I have already started. Actually, in many ways, restarting is worse than not starting at all because you have to remember where you left off and find all of the parts.

I bought a preamplifier kit that uses a single vacuum tube many years ago at Dayton and never built it. I wanted to see what it was like to work with tubes…but I had no practical reason to build the thing, since it is really used with guitars. Well, the opportunity presented itself when my son-in-law announced that he was learning guitar! The Vectronics kit was actually a great deal of fun to build and the instructions were generally clear. The first instruction was to inventory and list all of the parts. As a modest ADD type, I hated this step. But I knuckled down and started inventorying the parts and labeling them in a project box. And son of a gun, one of the key components was missing! We needed three 100uf electrolytic capacitors and I could only find two. I did my usual search on the floor…I am getting used to spending time on the floor (see former posts about the importance of not having carpeting below your project table.) Anyway, the part was definitely not to be found. So I moved on and would look for another later. The project proceeded nicely until I got to the final assembly. The instructions stated that I needed to cut wires precisely at 4”…so I did. But when it came in installing it into the project box, there is no way the 4” wire would work. I ended up changing the entire final assembly strategy because it called for some crazy heroics that just seemed impossible, like it is very difficult to solder a wire under a PC Board once the board has been installed?!. That is just one example. It is good to read ahead and conceptualize what they builders had in mind. That also doesn’t include the craziness of trying to get my fat fingers around nuts that are the size of a pin head when the Board is already in place. And, oh yes, the missing capacitor…. So, in the old days, I would dash off to Radio Shack or Tri-State Electronics and hope they had something to use. Nowadays, it’s not so easy. Enter the project box.

The Project Box. This is key to any ham radio shack’s inventory. It is a treasure trove could fill an entire room or just be a shoe box with some bags of stuff. Whatever it is, it is the nemesis of most wives. Clutter they call it! Salvation, I call it. When I chopped the shielded wires too short, well, I had to get a replacement. I only needed 12” so it seemed dumb to order something for such a tiny quantity…plus I want to get this project done while it was still 2016. DONE. I have a great three-tiered case my son gave me that is loaded with all manner of small length project wire. There, way down on the bottom was the stuff I needed. Same with the capacitors. I have several small drawer cabinets with all sorts of left over stuff. It took a while, but eventually I found the capacitor I needed. (Someday, I will get around to actually labeling the drawers!) Of course, you can always put the call out to the wider community. I often called on my ole buddy Greg…who also had ample supplies of wacky stuff to share. Between us both, we had what was needed. The point is, it pays to be somewhat self reliant these days. I now have a longer list of small things to buy at the next ham fest.

My kits-to-build box still is not empty. Got two more radios to build…but then I received this little book on Alexander Hamilton for Christmas (like 600 pages) and, well, I got side tracked. I have been reading that whenever I have a chance. You have to lead a balanced life!

Wishing you all a health full New Year! Let’s hope the bands open a bit more in 2017.  

73, Rob K9RST

Article originally appeared on NSRC- North Shore Radio Club (
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