The Amateur Amateur: Closed for Reshacking
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
my shack did not take nearly as long as I'd anticipated. Swoosh!
Everything went into a cardboard box, and when the box was full,
Swoosh! I started a new box.
August 6, 2006
Last year I wrote an article called
. It was about the dismal state of my shack,
the problems I foresaw in cleaning and reorganizing it and the
realization that the project seemed just too overwhelming
even contemplate. Now, many months later, I am pleased to report that
I did indeed do a complete overhaul of my shack.
My shack before and after the cleanup. You may not see much difference, but
believe me, my knees can tell. Note that I'm ready just in case
something bursts into flames.
The astonishing part was that rehabilitating my shack did not take nearly
as long as I had anticipated. While I was cataloging all of the
things I needed to do, the list kept growing longer and longer. This
made it seem like the job would take an eternity. Many of the
individual tasks, however, took only minutes to accomplish.
Clearing off the
various shelves and such, for example, went very quickly. Swoosh!
Everything went into a cardboard box. And when the box was full,
I started a new box. The only time-consuming task was
disconnecting things, and the most time consuming part of that
was making sure I didn't lose any vital parts (the equipment's, not
mine). I didn't, but some nagging odds and ends were
over. They looked kind of important but didn't seem to belong to
anything. Still, that troubles me a little.
The impetus for
the whole reshacking
project was for my transceiver to end up
sitting on something possessing two special qualities:
- I could use it as a writing surface.
- I could get my legs under it.
Gosh, that sounds
an awful lot like a desk
, doesn't it?
radio sat on a storage shelf, and its microphone stand was on a
wheeled table originally meant to hold a microwave. Accessing either
the radio or the microphone involved a whole lot of bending over, and
there was definitely
no comfortable way to write down
Worse yet, the
microwave table would occasionally decide to roll away from where I
was working. I would have to snare it before the microphone cord
became taut and recoiled, causing the delicate and somewhat expensive
microphone to go crashing to the floor. (Yes, it happened at least
The shelves, first as "desk" space, then as real storage space.
rebuilding of my shack I decided to use the shelves as, well,
, instead of as a tabletop. I stacked two twin shelving
units together, freeing up some floorspace and returning the units to
their original function -- namely, storing things. That was probably
the most labor-intensive aspect of the whole project, but it only
took about an hour. Well, make that two hours, because I bought a
second set of shelves to give my shack some real
table became the home for my computer printer. I jammed it into a
corner where, even if it decides to, it cannot wander far.
As for desk
space, it seems that I had a rather ancient but perfectly serviceable
table already sitting in the basement. So far it has accommodated my
knees and my papers just fine.
accomplished my main goal, I moved onto Phase Two, which was to
straighten out all the grounding wires.
Every piece of
electronic equipment in my shack appears to have a nut or a bolt to
which a grounding wire should be attached. Not wanting to tempt fate
(nor electrocute myself) I connected wires to each of them. And not
surprisingly, that led to a rat's nest of copper wires meandering all
over the place. They got tangled with everything and eventually met
in one big knot of wire that snaked its way to the nearest cold water
My adjustable "grounding bus." I'm kind of proud of this one.
To clean up this
mess, I mounted an eight-foot copper rod vertically against the
basement wall. I placed the rod as near as possible to the main
collection of electronic equipment and connected it to the cold water
pipe. I fitted it with several slide-connectors along its length.
Now, when I
need to ground a piece of equipment, I run a copper wire directly
from it over to the rod, which acts as my grounding bus. Actually,
I'm kind of proud of this bit of innovation.
objective of the reshacking project was to get the piles of
semi-useful junk off of the floor
and stored in some
meaningful fashion. As I'd mentioned, I'd put in a fair amount of
shelving during earlier phases of the project. But as I discovered,
any unused horizontal surface soon became a permanent home for some
random object, and the space was never
Now I'm going to
let you in on an incredible discovery passed on to me by my wife
Nancy: Storage bins.
They come in all shapes and sizes and
they can hold anything.
You can buy them at hardware stores,
discount stores, the Internet and other suppliers. Here is how they
work. Say you have an ancient-but-too-good-to-throw-away 128 kilobyte
computer disk. Instead of using an extremely valuable chunk of shelf
space, throw the disk into a small storage bin along with the rest of
your Paleolithic computer junk. Then you put the storage bin on the
All of your
vintage computer stuff is together in one place and you can stick
another bin on top of it.
You get to use the same surface area
all over again! What a concept! And for those of you who simply must
access to your stored treasures, you can buy
storage bins with built-in drawers.
Key chain LED flashlights all over the floor. Even though they were in
plastic wrappers, half of them turned on.
of this column are probably thinking that everything seemed to go way
too smoothly for one of my projects. Surely something
have gone wrong.
putting away a box of give-away items for our ARES
. It held a bunch of key chains with tiny LED
flashlights attached. The box slipped off of the top shelf (okay, I
it), and the key chains hit the floor and scattered
all over the basement. All right, things like that happen all the
time. But this
time not only did the key chains scatter to the
four corners of the basement, half of the tiny flashlights turned
. I had to scramble to find them all and pick them up before
their tiny little batteries expired.
That was the
worst thing that happened.
After that I
opened my redesigned shack and got back on the air. The desk makes it
much easier to operate my transceiver and to log my contacts. My feet
no longer get snagged in a tangle of grounding wires. Most everything
is now off the floor and stashed in storage bins.
Now, if it just
weren't for those mysterious left-over odds and ends . . .
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2006 American Radio Relay League