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Old October 6th 18, 10:03 PM posted to,,,
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Default [FOAR] Random bits of wire ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio

Random bits of wire ...

Posted: 06 Oct 2018 10:00 AM PDT

Foundations of Amateur Radio

One topic that is longer than all other topics combined is that of
antennas. Designing, planning, sourcing, building, tuning, using, you name
it, all of this is regular fare in the day of a radio amateur. I've
discussed the topic here regularly and no doubt I'll revisit that when the
mood or necessity takes me.

One topic that is rarely discussed is that of failure.

About six months ago I moved house. I've been rebuilding my shack, doing
all manner of fancy shuffling of gear and yesterday I finally got to the
point of getting some HF activity happening. During that process I went
through boxes and boxes of stuff, with coax, connectors, wire, nuts, bolts,
heat shrink and all the other necessities of being a member of an
experimental hobby like ours.

One box contained wire. You know the adage, only two types of wire required
in our hobby, cheap wire or free wire with a preference for free. This box
was stuffed with wire. Bits with connectors, bits wound around spools, bits
in zip-loc bags with labels, bits of random length - lots of bits of random

There was even an abortive attempt at labelling dipoles for various bands
on the outside of a couple of zip-loc bags, but no idea if the bit of wire
in the bag was actually ever tested and resonant on whatever band was on
the label, so who knows, they might have just been cut long waiting for
another day and another set of experiments and measurements.

I needed around 50 meters of hook-up wire for my HF antenna experiment and
it occurred to me when I was hunting through my box that I couldn't look at
a spool and tell you how much wire there was. I did a dodgy measurement of
one bit, put it on the kitchen scales and determined that another spool was
heavier, so it was likely longer, but without bringing in my calculator,
doing extra measurements and doing some head scratching there was no way
that I was going to get to the point of knowing how much actual wire was on
that spool.

In the end I made do with the dodgy piece, soldered some joins, that's a
whole other adventure, involving a gas-powered soldering iron and a flame,
the flame won, as well as several other breaks and fixes.

While I was in the process of putting up my new antenna experiment it
occurred to me that part of the process of experimentation, even of shack
maintenance should be the documentation stage.

I have bits of terminated coax, some of it 20 meters long, some longer,
some shorter. How much longer, and how much shorter you ask? No idea. But
wouldn't it be great if I could put my hands on a piece of kit that I
needed that was the length that I expected and not 10 meters over length,
or 1 meter short.

In my audio kit, I have started labelling patch leads with their functions,
using key-ring tags. I don't expect that to work for plain wire, but it
should be a good solution for coax. I could use cable tie labels, but past
experience with those leaves the text fading on the label. I've
experimented with a printed label with clear heat shrink, but for reasons
best known to chemists, the clear heat shrink becomes yellow in short order
leaving the label unreadable.

I've heard of people using electrical tape with colour coding, perhaps one
ring for every 5 meters of length, but they seem to come undone in the dust
when you go camping.

One thing I do know is that this is a recurring problem for me. This is the
first time I've actually stopped to talk about it and perhaps it means that
I'll get a little closer to a solution.

I'd love to hear what you do to deal with this and how you keep track of
the countless different lengths of wire, coax and rope that's lying around
your shack.

I'm Onno VK6FLAB
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