The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Shack

Hello, Frank here.

I've had a few questions about the equipment I use and why I use it. I want to thank you for the comments that I can post and for the comments that I can't post. 

The gear that I use is simple. I recently started off with a Kenwood VHF/UHF radio and it was a first class piece of equipment, but for me it was too complicated to operate. Yes, I do read the manuals, but I don't practice everyday using all the different gizmo thing-os that a radio will do. So, I traded it for an easier to use radio. I have a scanner that is the same way and if I don't play with the buttons often, then I am not going to be able to use it. So for me, I prefer a good, quality piece of equipment that easy to operate and simple.

First, my power supply. It is real simple. I can't remember where I bought it, but I have added a site that sells them. I haven't bought anything from them, so I can't say anything pro or con. I am going to buy a backup for the one I have and this company sells theirs for about $50. It runs a  continuous 30 amps and is pretty inexpensive. The voltage output is adjustable and it has absolutely zero bells and whistles. But it works. That power, I run to a power strip which I think is made and sold by MFJ. Everything that comes out of the power supply is13.8 volts. It's easy to use and handy. For low power
devices I put three or four devices together and put them on one pole - like handheld commercial radios, GMRS radios, battery chargers, clock and I have two three outlet power ports (cigarette charger type) that I use to charge temporary devices with cigar type plugs. Soon I'm going to add an addition to the power strip that allows for the connection of power pole connectors and a couple of USB connectors. There will be more on that later. The power from the power supply goes straight to the power strip, and from there goes to all of the radios, scanners, battery chargers, my clock and everything that I use 
right here in my little corner of the world. What I refer to as my little corner of the world in the ham world and CB world is referred to as a shack. Many people literally have a separate building or small travel trailer, but I prefer to have it inside my house so my wife (YL) can keep an eye on me.

First on the list is my little 16 channel Uniden Bearcat scanner. It is probably 25 years old and scans the VHF and UHF spectrums. In the scanner world, it is a dinosaur. But I use it for a small group of selected frequencies that I want to monitor.

Next, is a Radio Shack scanner. It is a Radio Shack Pro-2050 and is also about 15 years old. It scans 300 channels in 10 different zones. It will do things that other scanners can't do, but I don't know how to get it to do them either. So it basically scans everything I want it to scan.

Going down the list, I have an RCI-2970N2 that is made by the
Ranger Corporation. It is a 10/12 meter radio that has an inserted chip that can also operate on 11 meters (CB). Most people would consider this to be a high dollar CB radio. It also works good on the 10/12 meter ham bands. And, yes, it has SSB.

The radio I use the most is an Alinco DR-635T. It is a ham radio for the VHF/UHF frequencies. This radio can be easily modified to operate on extended frequencies, like GMRS, FRS, MURS and public service. Remember modifications to any radio mentioned in this post probably are illegal. Check your regulations. I use this radio for local ham use talking to repeaters, which is called duplex. I use it for simplex, talking directly to another ham operator. More on repeaters, duplex and simplex later. This is a nice radio, easy to use, easy to learn and is of respectable quality. And it is easy to modify. Also, more on that later.

These little handheld radios are used everyday at our house. They are commercial HT's (remember? handy talky), VHF/UHF, and computer
programmable. I use these for VHF ham radio, listening to public service and talking if need be (more on that later),monitoring the weather frequencies, listening and talking on GMRS, and the MURS frequencies. Where I use them most around the farm is on the MURS frequencies. They will communicate with the Alinco DR-635T on all of the frequencies I just mentioned. They have a legal power of four or five watts which will hit any ham repeater in our area. These radios cost 
a little more than some  other handheld commercial radios, but I have been using these for a few years around our little homestead. They go to the barn every day and milk, they work in the garden - they work. In the picture you will see what is a standard antenna and what is called a rubber ducky. The smaller one is very flexible, which allows for more bending and twisting and it won't break off. As Fern just mentioned, I would highly recommend these. Many radio companies sell them.

Next, is what some people in the ham world call the big dial. It is an HF, high frequency radio. This is what most people think of as ham radio. My model is an ICOM IC-718. It is considered to be an entry level radio or, more precisely, the bottom of the barrel. Some of this language is going to sound strange, but we'll talk more about it later. This radio I have will talk to and receive any station that the
much more expensive radios will. It has minimum bells and whistles, it costs about $700, when other HF radios cost $1000, $2000, $5000 and up. This radio meets my need. Now I added an antenna tuner to it and the antenna I chose to use is a dipole type antenna. More on antennas later. This little radio gets excellent reviews, it's easy to operate and inexpensive. I don't contest and I don't compete. Everything I do with radios is with the intent to communicate when the grid power goes down someday. 

I hope this helps some folks that are looking for basic answers to basic questions. We live in a complex world and when I want to communicate, I like for it to be simple. Other ham operators and CB operators will give you an entirely different opinion. This is just my opinion and this is the way that I like to do it. 

I took my HF radio down the road to a friend's house and we hooked up the same antenna. He has a real nice, first class TenTec radio. Any station he could hear, I could hear. He just heard it with a higher quality of sound. His radio is a much, much nicer radio and I am happy for him. Mine is a much lower quality, much lower cost, much easier to operate and it meets my need. While I was at his house, we cranked up his CB radio and on side band listened to a man talking in Ontario, Canada. His CB is a Galaxy 979 with no modifications with a 108 antenna.

Bill Clinton, not my most favorite president, had a plaque on his desk: KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. I try to follow this every day of my life - keep it simple.

On a side note, we have not had internet for the last two or three days. I use DSL from my local hardline phone company. Last night we went to a friend's house so Fern could post about canning. Tonight, I am posting on a brand new Verizon Jetpack. What I realized today, if you want technical information from the sales people at the Verizon store, then you have come to the wrong place. But if you want a sales person that can match your new phone with your shoes, then you have come to the right place.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank


  1. Mike in SE VirginiaJuly 13, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Hi Frank,

    I appreciate the time you spend to present all this radio info; I was a HAM as a kid back in the '70s, but my license expired decades ago and I'm just getting back into it a little bit. I bought a pair of Galaxy DX959 SSB CB radios for disaster comm after a hurricane about 10 years ago, and also have some Motorola GMRS radios that talk duplex so I can hit a local repeater, but that's it so far.

    I also don't have a base station antenna yet, but I was thinking about the Solarcon IMAX 2000 instead of the Antron A99, but that's just based on reviews I've read. If you know folks that have used the IMAX 2000 and either do or don't like it, I'd appreciated any feedback you could provide. Also, is the 108 really that good, being that short? I'd be mounting my antenna on an existing (grounded) steel pole extending above my roof line.


  2. Frank, glad you are back. Missed your wit and wisdom. I have read several of your post over the past few days. I think on one of them you mentioned your radios were powered by solar and batteries. What type battery would you suggest. I have been thinking about marine deep cell or golf cart battery. Tom

    1. Hi, Tom. This is kind of an old post and I hope you see this response.

      I am currently working on a new solar project up on my greenhouse. It will be posted when I get it completed.

      But to answer your question, my current solar system involves eight Trojan L16 six volt batteries. They work fine and they do the job. I will include a copy/paste link below.

      For my newer projects I have used a 12 volt AGM battery, link also provided below. The reasons for the AGM. They are lighter than the L16, and I am not getting younger. They do not produce a gas when they are charging, which was never a major concern of mine, but it is a safety issue. I did not buy the L16s from Amazon, they came from a local vendor.

      Tom, when I complete this next solar project, I will do an article about the current and former set up I am using.

      Thank you for reading, thank you for the interest, and as soon as the heat and humidity break here, I will get the article up and posted.

      Thanks again, Frank

      Trojan battery

      AGM battery