Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I got my antenna lines into my ham shack...

So over the holidays, I moved my computer den and ham shack from an 8'x10' room on the main floor to a 16'x11' room in the basement. The trick (as always) is to get the feed lines from the antennas on the roof to where the radios now are. I asked around with a few of my friends in the L'anse Creuse club, and the general response was "just drill through the mortar, that's what I did!" Well, I'm pretty hesitant to make any permanent holes in my house, particularly ones at ground level. So I kept pondering and looking at my options, and it finally occurred to me that there's an openable window in the room that would be easy to pass coax through. Being that it's now winter, and there's been snow for the last few days, I don't want to just open the window and pass the lines through. That will make this room even colder than normal, plus possible let it snow in here. Instead, I took a fairly easy solution and replaced the window pane with acrylic, and put barrel connectors through it.

First off, I measured the existing window. Then I went in search of some acrylic. Lowe's had some that was .22" thick, and I really needed 7/16". I decided two layers of the .22" would be fine. Next I drew the window pane in Visio, and included the holes I wanted for the PL-259 barrel connectors. I exported the file from Visio to a .svg file, and then took the acrylic and my data to i3Detroit. I am a member there, and they have a laser cutter that I knew would do way better than any manual 'score & snap' process I tried.

So, an hour later and with help (Thank you, Nate!) I had two identical layers of acrylic ready to go!

Here's the window that I'm replacing:
I took the window off the frame, brought in into the house (it's still cold outside), unscrewed the panels on the window, and removed the existing window (which is 2 layers of thin glasss and a plastic spacer between them:

Then I placed the new acrylic where the glass was...
and damned if it isn't too long! (I knew this project was going too smoothly.) So down to the basement I went, and used a Dremel cutting disc to trim the excess. That edge isn't as nice as the laser cut edges, but once the window is back together noone will see it anyway.
After trimming the edge, I put the acrylic back together, and placed it back in the frame.
Hooray! Now it fits properly. I screwed the frame back together, put the UHF connectors in their cutouts, and re-attached the window to the sill.
This is looking pretty good! What's that? The barrel connectors are on the wrong edge of the window? Firk... ding... blast! On the plus side, I'm getting really good at taking apart and re-assembling this window.
That looks better. I closed the window, attached my antennas, and all seems to be working pretty well at this point. I'm able to actually use my radios now. Hooray!