29 May 2021

2021 Ham Shack Update

I have spent the last several months getting my 11th base QTH (home base station) set up so that it is usable by my kids as part of their science curriculum next year.  I must say that of all my setups, both fixed and mobile, this is my favorite.  I thought I would take a moment to walk through what I have running in my shack.  A lot of these things deserve their own post, but I needed to start somewhere.  I included links for reference.  Much of my equipment is no longer available, or no longer available for the price I got it at, etc. None of these are affiliate links or anything like that (Not that I would be opposed to them, wink wink, nudge, nudge).  I can say I have had great luck with Ham Radio Outlet, Gigaparts, Antenna Farm, and KF7P Metal Works.

I have been a licensed Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) operator since 1998, and my goals have stayed about the same.  I got into ham radio for:

  1. Playing with science
  2. Participating in Emergency preparedness and disaster recovery
  3. Engaging with like-minded people

It's funny that when I take breaks from ham radio it is usually the people that bring me back to it, when I replace equipment it is dictated by what could be used in an emergency... but what keeps me up at night scheming and planning is still the idea of modulating radio waves with some form of information... and being able to do something with it... often over a fair bit of distance.

Having been in this for 20+ years, I have had several different setups.  They probably each need a review at some point of what I did right and what I did wrong.  I like to think I evaluate those things as I design the next one... but sometimes I think I just put things where I think they will look cool, and be accessible to my operating style.

Circa 2008 with my oldest child, operating an antique Vibroplex bug.

Man, what did I do with those LED lights...that was sweet

This is the same setup as the picture above, circa 2016.  I was a VP of Engineering for a startup.  In many ways, it was the most fun work I have done, designing and prototyping hardware.  This was also the first countertop desk I made.

Preparing for our move across the country in 2017.

One of several folding table stations I have had over the years.

My first attempt at a station in this house.  It never really worked out, couldn't get cables ran out of the room in a functional way.

Final throw-back to the worst antenna setup I ever did.  I was stupid and put it way too close to where the power came into the house.  We are lucky there was no incident... but don't be me... don't be dumb

So, onto the present shack:  
The desk itself is an L-shaped countertop with shelving along part of the backstretch for radios.  The Bottom shelf does extend over the desk for easier operation of the rigs.  My primary desktop sits next to the station rack, and 120v UPS sits below.   

The eventual goal is to get all the wires and such off the floor. I have 3 kids under 2 years old right now, and my kids have always been welcome in my radio shack.

The coax generally exists in varying states of disarray, but in this case, it is run and tidy.  You can also see a ground bus behind the second shelf, which is all tied to the main ground, and ground rods outside.  I use DRF-400 low-loss coax for 90% of my runs.

From my primary operating position, I use an Icom IC-7300 for HF and an Icom IC-9700 for local VHF/UHF work and satellite operation.  I go between a Shure SM-58 and a Sennheiser MD-421 II as my microphone on HF, and generally use the standard hand-mic on VHF/UHF.  Headphones are the Beyerdynamic 250 OHM DT 770 Pros with a JDS Labs Headphone preamp.  My CW key is a Begali Simplex.

I am a systems administrator by trade so every chance I get to rack things... I do.  On top of the rack is a mess of DC power distribution.  The next unit down, with the front plug, is a Furman power conditioner.  Then a power distribution unit.  Anything in a radio path is either on DC or goes through the power conditioner.  Then there is an 8 port Cisco 2960G that connects to my main rack via fiber so that everything is isolated.  Next is cable management and a West Mountain Super PWRGate.  Below that is an Astron SRM-50M.  The fans below that are switched controlled, but hardly ever needed.  The space below that is about 30ah of battery backup.

The aforementioned mess of 12-volt wires.  Everything is fused and terminated in power-poles.  I use a West Mountain RR/4008H for distribution.  On the left, you can see the USB power supply for my tablet and surface and a USB switch to switch the two main radios between my Surface Pro 7 and my desktop.

While it certainly deserves its own post, I am now running an APRS digipeater/IGate using an old Yaesu FT-2800M and a Microsat WX3IN1 Plus 2.0.  At some point it will get weather added to it... but I am not there yet.

Moving out of the shack and into the adjoining utility closet is a used Motorola SLR-5700 that I am in the process of repurposing as a DMR repeater.

Moving a little further out, you can see the generator and lightning protection. I use Polyphasers for most things, but also have an Alpha Delta for passing DC to the 440 preamp on the roof.

Finally, some pictures of the M2 Eggbeaters I use for both terrestrial and satellite VHF/UHF work.  Still working to clean up the install, but they work and I have made lots of contacts on them.  I do use a SSB-Electronic SB-70 Preamp on 440MHz.  Currently, I am using a very sloppy G5RV for HF, but it is not really worth taking a picture of.

Also pictured throughout, but not as exciting to talk about: