In this post I will be showing you my 70 cm yagi antenna.  This antenna was a project to make in an afternoon.  The parts I used in this antenna are a few coat hangers a piece of scrap wood one piece of coax.  This antenna is great for satellite contacts.  Here is a picture!


I don’t fish very often, but have somewhere around 15 fishing poles, most without line or reels. I have heard about making antennas on these for awhile, but never actually done it. You can make a simple holder for one of these out of PVC pipe and stick it up outside a window, on a boat, atv, or even an alice pack.

The idea is simple, just mount a wire dipole to a fishing pole. Maybe you could run the wire inside a big enough pole???

IMG_5708  I just soldered the wire to the SO-239 connector and zip tied it in place. I mount the connector on the bottom and roll the ground wire up to be let down when in use, since it’s polarity is not critical. I need to find a better way to secure the connector itself so I can’t break the wire off again. I built one of these and soldered the wire directly to the poles, which works just as well.

IMG_5712 Then secure the wire at the top

IMG_5724  I zip tied my coax to the handle so I couldn’t yank the coax and break the connector.

I also took advantage of a tripod and pipe for portable ops

IMG_5722 IMG_5728


Last weekend I stopped in at a yard sale and, among other things, for about 8 CB mag and lip mount antennas in a pile and gave about $6 for all of them. None of them were particularly useful as they set, but by screwing the right antenna with the right base I now have a halfwave 2 meter mag mount, a CB mag mount, a 2 meter lip mount, as well as a pile of bases, cables and antennas that will all be useful with minor repairs.  Details on their specific uses will follow….


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

Here’s the finished grill I started last year, minus a handle.  It works well with charcoal, so I’m not going to attempt adding gas burners at this time.


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.



I was touring my scrap wood pile the other day and stumbled upon the base of a wooden kitchen chair. Hmm…some decorative sticks, with holes and dowels…they made a great gavel.


I took two of the handle pieces, cut it off at the right place, then stuck the handle (with already  attached dowel), into the pre-drilled hole. I originally tried gluing the two pieces together, but had an issue with the glue and just opted to shoot a fine-threaded screw in through the side of the head, going into the dowel.


After brushing on a finish it looked pretty good. Certainly an interesting conversation piece. If you ever need to find out who’s in charge at a meting, look for the guy with his own gavel!!!

Backlit Crew Big Ole Hole Hole From Interior Placing Door Finished Product

I believe the pictures are self explanatory. I used a bolt for a hinge pin and still plan to add a latch to keep the door closed better.  It is ready to attach a chimney!IMG_4781 IMG_4780 IMG_4779 IMG_4778 IMG_4776 IMG_4775 IMG_4774 IMG_4773 IMG_4771

This is a marine band antenna that I picked up at goodwill:


There were two problems: The radiating element measures around 38 inches long, (just a little too short for a 2-meter half wave antenna) and the coax had broken off inside the mount.

I fixed that by cutting the plastic case off the antenna to reconnect the coax and trimming the shielding down to slightly increase the antenna length:









After this was done (and while the plastic case was off so I could see the full length of the antenna) I measured right at 39 inches.  A 2-meter half wave should be 40 inches.  At this point, I’m calling it close enough for occasional mobile use with low power  (4 watt HT), but I will eventually get someone to put an analyzer on it and see what the SWR is like.  If it’s real close, I’ll leave it alone.  If it’s too far off, I may attach a piece of stainless wire to the top of the antenna to tune it properly.

Lastly – pictures of how it’s mounted.  It was made to be mounted on a boat, so I had to fashion some brackets to hold everything in place:



Added bonus of the boat antenna - it folds down (meaning we can still drive into parking garages!)

Added bonus of the boat antenna – it folds down (meaning we can still drive into parking garages!)

Over the years of yardsaling I we have accumulated several 12v drill accessories no proper drill batteries, which we are slowly converting to 12v lead acid batteries.


I  took a small lead acid battery, soldered  a length of AWG 16 gauge wire to each terminal on the battery, electrical taped the two wires together every 12 inches or so, and soldered the wire to the positive and negative terminals on the light.


It works very well. I am leaving it in a building far from electricity, where it will certainly come in handy on many occasions. Because of the 12ft of cable the battery can be set down and the flashlight is still highly usable. It also has the advantage of not being a “grab it and run around” flashlight, meaning it will stay in that building and not disappear like small $1 flashlights tend to.

Lately the Yellow Jackets have been overrunning our yard. Between Yellow Jackets, Japanese ladybugs, and Wasps it’s hardly safe to step out. We tried making some of the two liter Yellow Jacket traps, but they were useless. It seemed like they were concentrating themselves near the walnut hulls, and a few of them were drowning in my not so good walnut stain.

IMG_3321   This was made by putting all the hulls in a barrel with some water and pressing them. I strained the hulls out and got this, coloring wood a dull grayish color. But, the yellow jackets love it. It was in service after stirring in a few squirts of dish soap to break surface tension. They land, and sink to the bottom, PERFECT! To this day it has 80+ kills and counting, having mostly eliminated out Yellow Jacket problem. That homemade stain was good for something!


Here is the start of a stand for this grill:


The part that sticks out on the front will be trimmed back, the frame painted, and a wood table top installed.

I removed the gas burner for the time being, as I am still trying to iron out some of the problems getting it to burn properly. I think it will need a better valve, and a Venturi of sorts to pull more oxygen into the burner.

Here is the grate I cut from a piece of expanded steel:


About 6 inches below that grate is another grate to put charcoal on. This way I can go ahead and start using the grill and iron out the design problems later.


  IMG_4324We began making a rock garden bed a few weeks ago. We’ve talked about making one in this spot ever since we moved in. There used to be a flower bed there before we moved in. We made the walls entirely with rocks from our woods, most of them huge rocks with the exception of a few spoiled bags of concrete (middle picture) Large rocks are hard to move, but don’t require as much skill to lay. I filled it with well composted horse manure from a neighbors horse field.

   I’m experimenting with different kinds of fall crops to plant now, then find it’s long term purpose later. It would make a good herb garden, but I’ve also tossed over the idea of a bed for just root crops, a mint patch???


  I’ve planted several different fall seeds in the bed. Radishes, lettuce, garlic and a few others. The soil is well composted, and holds it’s moisture well. The question now becomes what will do the best. At any rate, we have $0 in this project. There is free manure all over if you don’t mind shoveling.

Sometime this winter I would like to have a few more beds like the ones I mentioned above. We will see if the amount of sun we  get is suitable, if not a few trees can be cut.

I am now on the lookout for more spoiled concrete, as the few bags I had were light and easily stacked.

Today I cleaned the inside of the tank, cut out the remaining heating elements and pipe, trimmed the door so it closes (somewhat) flush, and welded in angle iron brackets to support the grate.



Building the Propane Burner:

After some research online, I found what looks to be the best balance between price and durability for a grill burner.

The controller and regulator were removed from another inexpensive grill. It is necessary to have the proper gas controller and regulator, otherwise the pressure won’t be consistent enough to keep a good flame.





The burner itself is a black steel pipe with slots cut in the bottom every inch. The pipe can be purchased at Home Depot or Lowes – it’s the same thing used for natural gas lines in a home. After cutting slots in the bottom of said pipe, I drilled three holes through which I will inject the gas before welding both ends closed.


Here is a picture of the dry fit to see that it burned:


And here are pictures of the finished burner after welding mounting brackets onto it:


When our water heater started leaking under pressure, it created a huge safety hazard necessitating its replacement (Once a tank is weakened to the point it leaks, it doesn’t take much to make on blow up). I took the old one out and replaced it as soon as I could, but wasn’t so quick to haul the old one off. A few days after replacement, I decided to cut the skin off and see what it looked like. I didn’t take pictures of that part, but it was pretty simple though time consuming. The shell appears to have been a thin sheet of metal wrapped around an insulated tank and then crimped into place, so it came off easily enough with a pair of pliers, tin snips, and some time. In the future, an angle grinder with a cutting wheel would be much faster/easier.

After the skin is off, there will be insulation. Fiberglass is easy enough to remove, but foam appears to be more common. Foam would be squirted in from the top before the foam hardens, so the only way to get it off is to scrape and sand it. I have since heard that setting the tank on fire will work, but my method was a sharp knife and sandpaper.

After the insulation is removed and all the plugs/drain/valves are removed, the tank looks like this:


Many tanks will have a glass or ceramic lining, and they can be useful for – you guessed it – water! Galvanized tanks are good for any application that doesn’t involve fire or food/drinking water. The best kind (and the kind this happened to be) is just a steel tank with no linings. The tank I have here is safe for almost any use, so I saved it for later use.

Now I’ll jump ahead several months, to where I actually found a use for the tank: A grill. Made properly, this could be the main part of a gas or charcoal grill that should last for years longer than most commercially sold grills today.

The first step in turning this into a grill is cutting it open. I set it on a table and marked where the cuts should be made, and then cut ONLY the back like so:


Once the back is cut open, attach the hinges before making the other cuts. Some people recommend using large chain links as hinges, so that’s what I did:


After the hinges are attached, go ahead and cut the other three sides. My tool of choice was an angle grinder, though a cutting torch or pneumatic die grinder would have been easier. Make sure to wear safety goggles, especially while cutting the curved part.

This is the main body of the grill after being cut open:


The chain link hinges didn’t operate as smoothly as I would have liked, so they were replaced with two standard door hinges (these came off a large cabinet).


The only other thing I’ll do today is weld stops onto the inside of the tank to hold the door straight while its closed.


Repairing and adding nesting boxes – after hammering the dents out, pieces of cage wire were cut to fit as new bottoms and fastened into place with sheet metal screws and short pieces of aluminum fence wire.





And building a chick brooder, part one:

A brooder is where the birds are kept immediately after hatching. They will stay in the brooder until they no longer need extra heat (provided by a heat lamp hanging above the brooder).

This one is made primarily out of a shower floor (removed from an old camper). There is a frame built out of 2x4s in the corner of the chicken coop, which the shower floor sits on.





After the shower floor is in place, part 2 will be building a cage around it that will keep the chicks in and the larger hens out.

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.

Portable Car Stereo


CRT Mount Toolbox





Both are painted with less than a pint of aluminum colored epoxy-coat purchased from a yard sale ($5 for 1 gallon).

This is a boot scraper I put together. All the metal was from a free angle iron pallet, and the wood base was leftover from another project. Welding is the faster way to do this, but with a little patience it could be bolted together. I simply cut out the five pieces to required to make the boot scraper and clamp them together with welding clamps. One more clamp to hold it to the table (which also serves as the welder ground) and I weld all the joints together.

Now all that’s left is screwing it to a wood base.


This will stand near the door, but since it has its own base, it can be moved around as necessary.


We have had a 12 volt DeWalt drill laying around the house, and I just recently decided that it was time to either use it for something or get rid of it. My first thought was to buy new batteries for it, since the drill and charger were both good. I changed my mind very quickly after researching the cost of replacement batteries compared to the cost of a replacement drill with batteries and a charger.

That left me with two choices – Come up with a way to use it without spending a lot on parts, or throw it out.  Eventually, after thinking about it a while and doing some research online, I came up with a plan to reuse the drill. I’ve seen this in the past on some more expensive tools (Milwaukee and Makita, I think), but I’ve never seen it used with other tools. It’s simple: Attach an external battery pack to your belt, and run a wire between the battery and the drill. This allows for cheaper battery replacements and considerably longer battery life.

Here is my version and how I built it:

The battery itself is a 7Ah Sealed Lead Acid battery, which was placed into an old fashioned camera case with a shoulder strap. The case has two holes drilled in the top, and carriage bolts run through them to serve as the charging terminals.

This picture shows the inside of the lid. The two carriage bolts will be used as charging terminals, which is done by running a wire from one bolt to the negative terminal on the battery and another wire from carriage bolt #2 to the positive terminal. The wire that runs to the positive terminal has a switch in the middle to kill the circuit and prevent shorting. In addition to making it easy to charge, these will be a good power output for testing 12v equipment or for attaching to a vehicle or tractor while working away from power sources for long periods.


With the battery in place, and the charging terminals attached, there are two more wires left to run. One goes from the battery negative terminal to the drill negative terminal, and the other connects positive terminals. You can see in the following picture how the wires are attached to the battery.


The length of the wire connecting to the drill will depend on personal preference. I made this one with a long wire so the bag could be sitting on a floor or table while it’s being used, but there is room inside to coil up excess wire if I’d rather wear the bag while running the drill.

Now for connecting the wire to the drill itself. There are really two ways to do it:

1) hack into a broken battery pack and connect the wires there

2) solder wires directly to the terminals on the drill

The advantage of option 1 is that you can still use standard batteries with the drill, since there is no modification to it. I, however, went with option two because I didn’t have a battery to hack into.


The case removed, and soldering wires directly onto the drill.

As for what kind of wires to use: It doesn’t really matter, though I highly recommend using stranded wire to connect the drill to the battery for extra flexibility and strength. It doesn’t matter if you use solid core or stranded wire inside the pack. I’ll also add that I chose not to install a fuse or relay in this pack. My thoughts are that if the original battery didn’t have one, I don’t really need one here. Had this been a larger tool that would draw more current (or a significantly larger battery), I would have added in-line fuses and relays for charging. For this, that would be overkill.

This is really very simple to do. Here is a picture of the battery connected to an automotive charger:


And here is one of the completed project:



Another version (which I may make next time there’s an extra 12v drill laying around) would probably have a sturdy belt with the battery attached directly to it on one side and a drill holster on the other.  With a retractable cable in between the drill and battery, that alternative could be a very handy setup even though it’s no lighter or smaller than the current one.  A trickle charger could have been incorporated into the battery case for more convenient charging and a battery meter to tell when it needs charged, but I didn’t think it was worth the extra cost.  I’ll just charge it after any use and periodically in between uses with the automotive charger.


All said and done, I now have an extra portable drill for the total cost of $0, and kept a camera bag, power drill, and SLA battery out of the landfill (not to mention we didn’t have to haul them off!).

For this project, I fitted a used car stereo into a metal file box to make it portable.

This is the box. It was free, since the latch was broken and it was slightly dented.


And the stereo purchased from Goodwill. This is the one found in most Ford vans and trucks from 1998-2002.


The speakers were also purchased from Goodwill, brand new in box and including the covers.


First thing I did was test the radio and speakers. Testing the radio was easy, because it matches the one I have in a car. I just swapped them out to test everything before going to the trouble of cutting out holes in the box. The speakers were wired to another radio I already had and tested that way.

Next was to mark and cut holes for the speakers, and then installing them. Use a compass to draw a circle, then cut it out. I used a drill for pilot holes, and then a jigsaw with a fine toothed blade to cut everything out. The speakers were then mounted with 1/4″ carriage bolts and the covers put on over them.




Next thing is mounting the power supply. Before mounting it, the supply was modified be removing the two internal fuses and replacing them with a short piece of wire. I’ll add an external fuse later, so if it blows it’s easy to change.

The power supply outputs 12vdc at 4-6 amps. Plenty of power for what we’re doing.


Now I mark the hole where the radio itself will go, and then cut it out the same way as before (a drill and jigsaw).

The radio is easy to install, because it just snaps into place. I will probably reinforce it later, but this is fine for now.



All that’s left is to do the wiring. I bought the connectors necessary at a salvage yard, and wired everything to them according to a pin out found online. The antenna plug goes to the mount from a mid 90 Ford Ranger, and the antenna will be attached to it. There is a switch wired to the backlight, so I can control when it’s on or off. A fuse is installed between the power supply and the radio power input.

Next things I do will be painting the box, installing either an internal or collapsible antenna, an adding battery clips so the unit can be run directly off a car battery.

An 8 Track, for the younger people, was like the predecessor to a cassette tape.  It is similar to a cassette, since it’s a tape with its own cartridge, but you couldn’t rewind it to the very beginning or skip a track.  The only control was the channel, and each channel usually had 3-5 songs.


I put this 12v automotive player into a toolbox with its own speakers to make it portable.  In this project, I used a small metal toolbox, two 4 ohm speakers, a wall wart that outputs 12vdc at 1.2a, and some metal brackets and bolts.


First I had to figure out how to mount the player itself in the toolbox.  I finally determined the best position to mount it would be as shown in the picture below.


This was achieved by using part of the original mount with two carriage bolts at the bottom, a wood shim on one side, and a large zip tie across the top.


All that’s really left is the wiring, as I decided to let the speakers sit in the box with some extra wire so they can be pulled out of the toolbox.

12v + goes through a 5a blade fuse to the player main power, and 12v – goes directly to the radio case (this one grounds to the case instead of having a ground wire).


Now all that I have to do is wire the speakers according to the label on the player.  Here is a picture of the finished product.





That is, broken beyond repair.

Anytime a power tool is broken beyond repair (translation: repair cost > replacement cost), I quickly disassemble it and save any known good parts.

In the most recent drill, for example, the chuck was bad, as well as several other small parts (gears, bearings, etc).  I took the outer case off and pulled out the motor, power switch, and cord, which should be useful for a later project, while putting all the broken gears/bearings into the metal bin* along with short shafts and snap rings.  The only thing actually thrown away was the plastic case.

I took one picture – the motor.  It is stored with electrical tape wrapped around it to keep the center from sliding out and the brushes getting lost.  This type of DC motor pretty much just falls apart if not in a case.




* I have a plastic tote that is used for any and all scrap metal (that will fit).  Whenever I have metal pieces that I don’t think are worth saving, they go here.  Eventually the tote fills up and after looking through it one more time it’s hauled to a salvage yard. They pay us a small amount for bringing it, and then are able to resell most metal to other companies to be reused.