SHACK-ZONE-LOGO

MM7WAB  Hairy Paul's hamshack

hamshack in summer 2022

Main operating position in the shack with most equipment within reach for ease of operation.

the image above was the shack setup at the start of June 2022.

It changed  few days after this photo as I built a new bench to the left of my seating position with larger area for working on equipment without getting in the way of operating. 

My shack setup changes over time as different equipment comes and goes.

 The specific gear I use in the main shack also changes depending on what I decide to bring down out the attic shack to give it a run for a while.

With many old classic valve sets and early solid state receivers in my collection.

 I try to run the old gear as often as I can to make sure they still work and do any necessary maintenance on them to keep them working well.   

homebrew equipment and test gear. MM7WAB

I also have many bits of hombrew test gear and handy gadgets that are only used occasionally.

These are stored in boxes under the benches and in the attic shack until they are needed for developing and testing projects or doing repairs on equipment for others.

Old shack setups from the past

This was my old shack in the caravan back in 2019 before I got the chance to use part of one room in the house.

As this was a very limited space there was a lot of gear crammed into every available space.I even managed to work on bike frames and make custom parts for other projects in that little shack. The radios and computer gear was covered with dust sheets when sanding, prepping and painting bike parts.

Old hamshack in caravan 2019

Although it was quite cozy in the old caravan shack the biggest problems were dampness and temperature instability. IT was like an oven in summer and like a freezer in winter! There were two PCs running constantly out there for about 3 years, one was used for ADS-B aircraft tracking on 1090 MHz and ran a pair of SDR receivers 24 hrs. The other PC was used to run a small internet broadcast station from 2015 to 2016 but this was taken offline due to having an unstable, slow, low bandwidth internet connection via a 5 GHz WiFi link to a communications tower near Troon, it worked OK in good weather but suffered badly with high packet loss whenever there was fog, mist or rain and dropped out altogether when it snowed.

I also had an old laptop screwed to one wall that I used for operating on the Hamsphere 4 HF simulation system, this was great fun but suffered badly with drop outs due to the poor internet connection.  The PCs kept a little bit of warm air circulating in the shack. In the winter months these were supplemented by a small low wattage frost-heater that kept the shack reasonably dry. I would usually only use classic gear in the summer as despite best efforts corrosion due to dampness was a constant battle so most sensitive equipment was kept in the attic shack for its own good over winter and only taken out to the shack in the summer months. 

MM7WAB's old shack in the caravan

Portable 'shack'

MM7WAB fatbike and trailer for portable radio operation
MM7WAB's portable HF radio on bike trailer
MM7WAB's shack on wheels for portable HF operation in the hills

I know this is not technically a 'shack' as such, but I think of it as my open-air portable shack on wheels. The trailer consists of a steel frame with a removable plastic crate that I have used to carry everything from concrete, logs and coal to radio gear (after being thoroughly washed out & dried) 

The lid of the box is simply a small sheet of plywood that also doubles as a table-top for the radio when working at alternative locations up in the hills. The radio shown above is an old MK1 Icom IC-756 HF set that covers 160m to 6m bands. This is powered by a large car battery housed in the trailer. I have had a lot of fun activating WAB grid squares and a few trig points around Ayrshire with this setup.  When working this setup I normally use homebrew mono band wire antennas arranged as horizontal or sloping wires depending on availability of trees or other mounting points to string wires from . When there are suitably placed trees I also use a G7FEK multiband wire antenna strung up with it's feedpoint about 1 to 2 ft above ground, this has worked very well on 80m to 10m bands at many locations. 

 

I have operated using sections of old wire fences as NVIS antennas on 80m and 40m bands at derelict farm sites and even got s half decent workable match onto a 3/4 mile length of deer fence with a home brewed impedance matching box and a length of copper water pipe shoved into soft-ish ground providing a good low impedance single point ground. I was surprised to work over 50 stations on 160m, 80m and 40m bands in several countries on the 'deer fence antenna' before changing weather conditions forced me to pack up and head back home. 

When experimenting with random wire fences there are some things that must be taken into consideration before You try hooking anything up to them. #1 Who owns it?  When possible get permission from the farmer or land owner before You start, The last thing You want is a confrontation with an angry farmer!  #2 check the entire length of the fence to make sure there is nothing connected to it that may be a problem, such as an electric fence transformer unit. Even an old unit with dead battery can be trouble when You start shoving RF into it. Also check the fence wire is not buried in the ground, where it has fallen over or been broken in the past.

When out looking for possible locations keep in mind that You don't need to use an old metal wire fence, a series of  fence posts can be used to string your own wire antenna along for temporary NVIS operation on the low HF bands, NVIS operation works below 10MHz so a simple center fed dipole strung over some fence posts, or a few sticks shoved in soft ground will be fine for short range NVIS contacts. By short range I mean within the UK and often a few countries across the North See depending on propagation conditions. I have worked a lot of UK grid squares and several countries using random fences and resonant NVIS antennas from sites around East Ayrshire including, Scandinavian countries, Kalinengrad, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and even Poland & Austria on 160m, 80m and 40m bands.  

The "portable shack" makes this sort of operation easier than carrying gear and I have had a lot of good contacts and a whole bunch of fun with it.