We have a hobby of taking things apart. You can learn quite a bit about how different things work by disassembling them. Additionally, the parts you scavenge can be utilized in other projects that may otherwise be financially unfeasible.

The difficulty arises when one attempts to store all of the various and sundry items that one inevitably accumulates from this hobby. Our current strategy is to photograph items, label them with a description and store them in large pallet sized tote. We have far more storage available on the property than we have under roof, so the tote option keeps them mostly safe from the elements and easy to recall by searching through digital image files. I have attached a handful of some of the items we have collected.

Any suggestions for what we might build with them?

Peltier cooler

Peltier cooler

Torroidal coil transformer

Torroidal coil transformer

Big screen TV projection lens

Big screen TV projection lens

Dual squirrel cage fan assembly

Dual squirrel cage fan assembly

Speakers, power supplies and controllers

Speakers, power supplies and controllers

12v DC pump

12v DC pump

Dual DC motor assembly

Dual DC motor assembly

Ink pump

Ink pump

AC capacitor start motor

AC capacitor start motor

AC capacitor start motor

AC capacitor start motor

Servo assembly with magnetic solenoid

Servo assembly with magnetic solenoid

Sony viewfinder from a Betacam

Sony viewfinder from a Betacam

A couple of scooter motors in the 350 watt range

A couple of scooter motors in the 350 watt range

Washer pump

Washer pump

Dishwasher motor

Dishwasher motor

AC geared motor

AC geared motor

AC motor with capacitor start

AC motor with capacitor start

IMG_5163 I usually climb to our antenna-mast several times a year for adjustments/additions. It is a bit of a pain as  it can not be climbed and I have to pull out the ladder. Lately I have started carrying a basic tool belt up with me to carry whatever tools I will need for that visit. Whenever I need something, I have it on my hip, much safer than trying to tote up all the tools and grab them from the ladder.

That’s it for now,


If you’re into ham radio, you know how important the shack is.  A couple weekends ago I spent some time adding to and re-organizing my desk to make it more usable.

My shack has no HF (yet) and is primarily used for VHF and UHF ragchews, as well as for work during the week. I have setup antennas all over,  even in closets, however I like to be in the house while talking, and preferably not too shut off. This might be different if I were somberly chasing DX, but I wanted a place to sit down with the radio in the evenings and still be able to do other stuff.


First off, the desk. This desk was an old organ last year. It didn’t work very well as an organ, plus no one played it. With all the innards taken out and a top added, it works pretty well as a desk. I like to modify things, so a nice looking desk means I can’t wire in an outlet, add a microphone clip or etc, but it still works well.

In the picture above I show my storage trays. Being a organ it has no drawers, but with a simple 1 by 1 along the back I am able to set in free standing trays to be pulled out when needed.


A computer is becoming quite important in the shack (and everywhere else), plus it was an advantage to other things I do there (like writing blog posts). I started out with a 1998 HP, but between crashing every time I opened two tabs and being flat out slow, I upgraded to a slightly newer one (2003). Desktops from that era lasted forever, but for modern purposes they don’t always cut it. I don’t do too much with it, not running HRD or anything, but it still needs to load QRZ and the blog.


A nice ancient alarm clock/radio goes well with the old lamp.

IMG_5074 IMG_5087


This lamp is nice because I can adjust it as needed. I use an incandescent light bulb to avoid the interference of a CFL, plus it keeps things warm.

The radio…


The radio is a basic baofeng with hand mike, always on the charge. Once in awhile the charger produces interference, but it usually cures itself. It has 36 feet of RG-58 feed line going to the solder free ground plane 15 ft off the ground.

It also has a handy county  map for my police scanning…



Simple enough, and not the golden standard of shacks, this has what it takes to be well outfitted for ragchews. I will be adding a power strip on top  of the desk soon so I can plug things in to test them. One thing I didn’t mention is a comfortable chair :) Mine is ok, but it occasionally loses pressure and goes down 8 in.






These are pictures of my computer go-bag.  It’s a small suitcase with the items that I often need when repairing a computer or setting up a portable workstation, including the following:

  • Small computer monitor
  • USB keyboard/mouse
  • Power cords for computer and monitor
  • Router and power supply
  • Small set of speakers
  • Assorted cables, including
  • -VGA Cable
  • -Firewire 400
  • -Firewire 200/400
  • -USB
  • -Mini USB
  • -Various audio cables
  • -Universal laptop power supply
  • -S-Video cable
  • -Ethernet cables

Basically, anything that I’ve needed while working on a computer or have to pack and carry with me regularly.

Anytime I replace a common wear item, I vacuum seal the old one to keep in the vehicle as  a spare.  I also do the same with any parts  that were replaced by mistake or that have been replaced more than once in a particular car. Currently, the list of spare parts I have vacuum sealed and stored includes the following:

  • Serpentine belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Spark plug wires
  • Ignition coil
  • Ignition control module
  • Powertrain control module (computer)
  • Headlight bulbs

Here are pictures of the few that I have sealed most recently with a food saver (purchased from a thrift store):



These headlights were put into a piece of PVC so the vacuum sealer wouldn’t break them.




Here is my upgrade to this table Noah built a while back.


There is room under the table for a small bale of alfalfa hay and the nesting boxes to be stored. I will be cutting a hole in the top of the table to hold a feed bucket, similar to the last table.

This time the table is on the opposite side of the chicken coop next to the door.  This will leave more room on the other side for a chicken run and extra cages.

Total cost so far $0.  I’ll be adding a light above the table in the future, but it’s already being used right now.

Rabbit table

IMG_3510       For the past several months I have kept my rabbit feed in a watertight bucket on a rickety “table”. Now I have finally built an Ideal table.

IMG_3515 The first thing I did was securely fix a 2 by 4 to the side of our chicken coop. Once the 2 by 4 was up I nailed the tabletop to the 2 by 4.


IMG_3512 I then drilled holes in both sides of my table top for the ropes to be tied in.

IMG_3511 Now I nailed the ropes to the coop, with the table at a slight upward angle to allow for stretching. If I did it again I would tie the ropes to hooks.

IMG_3509 Lastly (something I should have done first) I cut a hole for my feed bucket with a jigsaw. Now the feed bucket sets down in the table, and I have plenty of workspace for  filling waterers.

I find that one of these plastic holders marketed for storing extension cords works quite well for rope:


Note that there is 100′ of rope in the picture


The kind of rope in the picture comes in a neat, tightly wound spool – but it’s impossible to keep that way after using or cutting some off.

One of these could be built quite easily with a small board and two large hooks to wrap the rope around.

I like to hang this type of tool on a wall to make them easy to find/pick the right one without cutting yourself.

The hand saws are hanging on the back of a door – I built a wood frame and screwed it to the metal door to give something better to put screws/nails in.


Lay them out carefully, and add as many screws as it takes to hold one stable.  Be sure it's not attached in such a way you can't remove the saw to use!

Lay them out carefully, and add as many screws as it takes to hold one stable. Be sure it’s not attached in such a way you can’t remove the saw to use!

I highly recommend tracing each tool with a permanent marker. It makes them much easier to put away in the future.

I highly recommend tracing each tool with a permanent marker. It makes them much easier to put away in the future.


Notice you can see exactly what is missing.

The same idea is good for C Clamps.  These are hanging on a wall next to the door.  It’s much easier to attach tools to a wall than a door.




It only took about a day to find a problem: anything placed on the shiny top of my trunk organizer would slide around the trunk. This happened on every turn and while braking, otherwise it wouldn’t be an issue.

This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but I typically carry a toolbox and several bottles of spare fluids in the trunk. The crashing noise on every turn got annoying real quickly.

This was, however, easily remedied with the addition of four plywood blocks used as “stops” to hold boxes still. Several pieces were cut into an L shape and screwed down in the appropriate positions to keep things from sliding. This holds both the toolbox and a milk crate full of automotive fluids still.





Aside from that issue, the organizer worked so well that I built another – this time a wooden box to fit in the extra space next to the spare tire.



More of these will likely appear here in the future…

20130822-213356.jpgI’m building this trunk organizer for a large sedan. The measurements will be specific to the vehicle, so than the container fits nearly perfectly in the bottom of the trunk.

The entire thing (minus the lid) is made out of one partial sheet of 1/4″ OSB (leftover from another project), then painted with the same epoxy-coat I have mentioned before. That will give it a protective coating on top that should be difficult to scratch or damage by loose items bouncing around.

These pictures are of building the main box, before adding dividers or a top.




Now come the dividers – I used more of the same sheet of OSB, cut to size and screwed into place. I attached them like this because it’s easier, but the dividers could be made adjustable if someone wanted to spend the extra time doing that. Also, these dividers were spaced randomly so each compartment is a different size. If there’s something specific you need to store in here, keep that in mind.

With the first coat of paint:


The only thing left is the top. Again, keeping in mind what you wish to store, this too will need cut to size. Because of the items I will have in/on it, I opted to have a split lid to make access easier. This is a particle board shelf that just happened to be the right size to fit on top, cut into three pieces and laying on top of the box in the position it will be attached.


Cabinet door hinges work great for this, and it happens that I had several left over from a previous job.


Finally, everything painted, put together, and installed:



One last thing to keep in mind – Make sure that this will not block access to your spare tire, or if it does, build it in such a way it can be easily removed.  Changing a tire in the dark on the side of an interstate is no fun, and even less fun if you have to empty your entire trunk to get to the spare.

A typical A/C service/checkup call will typically include the following:

-Drain check
-Coil check
-Freon Level check
-Filter Check

And a few other items, depending on the company. I’m going to show how to do what I consider the most important part of the service – checking and cleaning the coils.

If your coils are dirty or clogged, there will be reduced airflow and you may notice the unit freezing up regularly.

The main cause for the evaporator coil to be clogged is the lack of an air filter, or one that hasn’t been changed and is allowing dust through. Anything floating in the air that isn’t caught in the filter will stick in the coils, and cleaning the coil is a lot harder than changing an air filter.

Start be finding the indoor unit (Central Heat/A/C). It will probably look something like the picture below and will be found in a basement/attic/crawl space/garage or even a closet. Note that some units are all one piece, but I’ve been seeing those less and less lately.

20130817-231156.jpg This picture doesn’t show the whole thing, but gives you a good idea.

Before you start – Make sure to cut all power to the unit as a safety precaution. While not entirely necessary, I also fin it easier to clean the coil without the fan running.

Now take off the panel(s) that cover both coils. The coils can be found with the help of the copper tubes that will go into the unit. These lines carry refrigerant and connect directly to the coils. The lines can be seen in the top right corner of the picture above.

One the panels are off and the coils visible, the fun begins. I recommend using a condenser/evaporator coil cleaner which can be purchased in an aerosol can at most hardware or refrigeration supply stores. Start by following the directions on the can – if the result is not satisfactory, then get a soft bristled brush and start scrubbing (being careful not to bend any of the thin metal fins).

The ends of the coils.

The top of a partially cleaned coil – you can see the shiny silver part up front and the back is still caked in dust.

This coil has just been cleaned.

20130817-232025.jpgThis is the back side of both coils. Rarely will this part be dirty, because they typically clog long before the dust/dirt reaches this side. Notice the bubbles appearing – that’s a good sign. It means the liberal amounts of cleaner applied to the other side have finally penetrated through.

That’s mostly it – Here’s a picture of the brush I use for cleaning them-it’s just a soft bristled cleaning brush taped to a rod to make it easier to stick into the unit:


Many units have a place up here to add a second air filter. If yours does, now is an ideal time to install/replace it.

When you finish and put the panels back on, check for area where they don’t seal together and allow air into the unit. That can cause problems with freezing down the road. If you can’t get everything to seal properly, just attach it and use duct tape to seal any gaps. This is probably the closest use you will ever see the “duct tape”s original intended purpose. I also choose to close the unit back up with self tapping metal screws instead of the ones I removed, as I can get as good or better seal with them and they’re more convenient for me to replace when lost.


One last thing on the indoor coils- the stuff in this picture stays in the attic all the time. That saves me from hunting or having to purchase tape/cleaner halfway through the job.


To clean the outside coils is much easier and really never needs done. Most people only choose the clean them so they stay shiny, so I won’t explain in detail how to do it. In short, remove any panels covering the coil, spray cleaner on and let soak according to directions, and hose the coils off.

While I’m at it, here’s a way I found to store extra air filters:



It would seem that old milk crates are good for just about anything.  It’s not quite true that you can do anything with a milk crate, but I use them for several things including storing a wide variety of objects.  In the pictures below, you can see how we use them for organizing shelves.  In the first picture are power tools, sorted into crates with their cords rolled up neatly.  The second picture contains battery chargers/testers and consumable items such as grease and caulk.  A standard milk crate is roughly 12″ x 12″ x 12″, so it’s easy to build shelves for them.  Not to mention they stack, so it’s easy to move around or use for temporary storage.




Old milk crates can be mounted sideways on a wall and used as shelves. Because of the size, they are ideal for storing repair manuals or other books.
Mount the shelves by screwing through the back or side and then use zip ties or wires to hold them to each other.
You can make a door by tying metal or wood panels to the front. This keeps books from falling off when there is vibration from nearby power tools.

Old floppy disk storage boxes are pretty easy to come by, because they are quite obsolete. We have found them a great way to organize resistors packaged inside 6”x9” envelopes that are folded roughly in half.


We mark each envelope with the value of the resistor enclosed. On the storage box lid, we have a color code chart. Inside the cover, we have a list of the contents of the box. This particular box holds 50 each of 50 different 1/4 watt resistor values.


The resistors are metal film type and were purchased and delivered for less than $20 from an eBay seller in Shenzen China.