Star City Radio Tools

Storage in the Explorer

 

     I have to pack a lot of stuff into the Explorer for field use. If I am on top of a mountain in the wee hours of the morning and two or more hours from home I hate to find that I need something that I don't have. Here are some of the solutions that I use for storing items in the Explorer. You will note that many of these storage solutions utilize Plano items. Plano has been a mainstay in storage for me for many years, and the local branch of a major national fishing-hunting-camping retailer carries an immense selection of Plano. I like to joke that I own so much Plano that I should have bought stock in the company. This page will grow over time.

 

Wire Case   Grease Box   Oil Box   Primary Parts Cabinet   Secondary Parts Cabinet   Hardware Box   Dremel Case   Connector Cabinet   Adapter Box   Tape Box   Critter Kit   LPB Box

 

 

Wire Case

Hookup Wire Storage

     This is a simple but effective way to carry a variety of hookup wire for repairs, modifications, and new construction. The cabinet is from Newark Electronics, and I got it free with an order that I placed decades ago. I located some plastic spools online that are a perfect fit - the case holds 100 of them. This lets me carry an assortment of wire in two types (stranded and solid), five gauges (18, 20, 22, 24 and 26) and ten colors (the RMA colors, used to code resistor bands). The sections are marked with the gauges, with stranded in red numerals and solid in black numerals. Both sides of each spool are marked with the gauge in red or black Sharpie. Elastic bands secure the business end of the wire on each spool so that it will not unwind. The case is not yet fully populated but I am slowly increasing its contents - it holds more varieties of wire now than when this photo was taken. I generally buy hookup wire in 50- or 100-foot spools, with the bulk stored in my shop for use there.

 

 

Grease Box

Grease Storage

     For years I carried a variety of lubricants and heat sink compounds in a variety of tubes and other containers. Three that were used a lot (conventional heat sink compound, silicone-free heat sink compound, and bearing grease) were in large plastic syringes coded red, green and black, respectively, with vinyl electrical tape, as Sharpie markings on the syringe bodies did not hold up well. I have now standardized on oral syringes from the pharmacy holding eleven compounds. Each is color coded on the body of the syringe and the butt of the piston using colored electrical tape, and each is sealed with a vinyl cap from the auto parts store on the business end. They are housed in a Plano spinnerbait organizer with a cheat sheet taped to the top in case I forget the color code, storeded in the connector cabinet. There is an identical organizer in my shop. The contents are, from left to right:

 

 

Oil Box

Oil Storage

     This Plano box holds oils, powdered lubricants, thread lockers, and adhesives. There is an identical box in my shop. The contents are, from left to right and top to bottom:

 

 

Primary Parts Cabinet

Primary Parts Cabinet

     Most of my small electronic parts are stored in this Plano Guide Series Pro Stowaway rack tackle box system. It replaced an earlier model of the same type of box, whose lower portion held four drawers with dividers. It was worn out after about fifteen years in the field, and was replaced by this box, which uses large removable Plano boxes in place of the drawers. Its little brothers are the secondary parts cabinet and the connector cabinet.

     Compartments in the lid hold small power resistors, and the area under the lid has Plano boxes for resistors and ceramic discs, as well as for coin envelopes holding RF chokes, precision resistors, and trimpots. The slide-out boxes in the body hold linear, TTL, and CMOS ICs on conductive foam slabs, and coin envelopes holding non-DIP ICs, transistors, diodes, rectfiers, and LEDs. Larger items such as bridge rectifiers, power transistors, seven segment displays, and potentiometers are in individual compartments in the racked slide-out boxes.

 

 

Secondary Parts Cabinet

Secondary Parts Cabinet

     When my small parts storage outgrew the primary parts cabinet and some small parts started occupying Plano boxes in odd places in the Explorer I added this Plano Guide Series Stowaway rack tackle box system (twin to the connector case and little brother to the primary parts cabinet).

     The lid has six small covered storage compartments holding mounting hardware. In the top are four boxes holding items such as transistor and IC heat sinks, mica kits, and silicone pads. Two larger Plano boxes in the top hold tantalum and silver mica capacitors in coin envelopes. The four racked slide-out boxes in the body hold fuses and fuse holders, push button, toggle and slide switches, micro and interlock switches, lamps and lamp holders, and electrolytic, film, and small transmitting mica capacitors.

 

 

Hardware Box

Hardware Box

     Broadcast engineers frequently need odds and ends of hardware while working in the field, and I carry a variety in what I call my "hardware store." It is a small Plano tackle box with the tray removed and eleven Plano boxes holding hardware. I carry a variety of machine screws, flat washers, split washers, inner-tooth and outer-tooth washers, fender washers, and nuts, in sizes from #2 to #10, with assorted other sizes (and a little metric hardware). I also have stainless hardware for 7/8", 1-5/8", and 3-1/8" EIA flanges, as well as a variety of smaller hardware in non-magnetic stainless, brass/bronze, and nylon. Other hardware includes wood and sheet metal screws; lag bolts; fender washers; metal, porcelain, plastic and phenolic standoffs and spacers; small angle irons; plastic feet and felt pads; assorted steel and plastic wire and cable clips and clamps; toggle bolts and molly bolts; wire staples; plastic caps and metal and plastic plugs; springs; cotter pins and hair pin cotters; and grommets. Sitting in the lid are more felt pads, plastic anchors, and cable feed-through bushings that sit on top of the Plano boxes.

 

 

Dremel Case

Dremel Case

     My Dremel tool sees a lot of use, and this case, sold by Dremel, is stuffed to the gills. The tray holds lots of attachments including: aluminum oxide and silicon carbide grinding stones; high-speed, tungsten carbide, structured tungsten carbide, and engraving cutters; saws and cut-off wheels; sanding bands and discs; abrasive buffs; cotton and felt polishing cloths and points; rubber polishing points; carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, and bristle brushes; and collets. Some of the attachments were sold by Wahl for use with their long-discontinued rotary tool, and sections of small aluminum and brass tubing are hot-glued into some positions in the tray to keep those Wahl attachments (with smaller diameter shafts than Dermel uses) in position. The bottom of the case holds the tool, equipped with a universal chuck; a flex-shaft extension and lamp; a set of miniature drill bits; and four small Plano boxes holding spare sanding drums and discs, spare polishing discs and points; spare abrasive buffs; and small quantities of eight abrasive and polishing compounds.

 

 

Connector Cabinet

Connector Cabinet   Connector Cabinet

     I never know what connectors I may need in the field, so I carry a large assortment. I have replaced the connector case shown in an earlier version of this page with a new Plano Guide Series Stowaway rack tackle box system (its big brother and twin brother are my primary and secondary storage cabinets for electronic components). Over the decades I had outgrown the old case, which held audio, RF, and D-sub connectors, as well as other items such as telco patch plugs and alligator clips. The new case holds all of those plus connectors formerly stored in other locations in the Explorer such as solderless connectors, solder lugs, molex plugs, Euroblock connectors, and RJ-11 and RJ-45 plugs. The new case also holds all of the crimping tools and other specialized connector tools such as Molex pin removers that were stored in a number of places. It has freed up badly needed storage in four tool and parts cases.

     The body holds four racked slide-out boxes holding most of the connectors (the audio connectors box is shown opened), and the lid has six small covered storage compartments holding RJ-11 and RJ-45 plugs and telephone splice connectors, as well as rack screws and clips and bridging clips formerly stored in the hardware box. The area under the lid holds four boxes of solderless connectors and solder lugs (shown propped inside the lid), two boxes of Euroblock connectors (not shown), and two of assorted connectors (not shown), all of which sit on top of the specialized connector tools. Since these photos were taken I have done some rearrangement so that I could replace one of the slide-out boxes with the grease box.

 

 

Adapter Box

Adapter Box

     A wide selection of RF adapters is sometimes a station-saver in the field. This tackle box has three trays and a bottom compartment for larger adapters. Nowadays the largest coax I work with is 1-5/8", so the bottom has 1-5/8" EIA to N and 7/8" EIA to N adapters, as well as a 7/8" to 1-5/8" plate reducer, all mainly for testing FM transmission systems or to put an FM exciter or IPA on the air in an emergency. It also holds items such as bullets and O-rings.

     The trays hold a variety of between-series adapters to suit any need that I am likely to find in the field, plus tees and right-angle elbows, as well as specialized items such as a variety of coaxial pads and terminations, items for line pressurization systems, and some used coaxial connectors for possible emergency repairs.

 

 

Tape Box

Tape Box

     A roll of Scotch Super 88 black vinyl elecrical tape lives in my primary tool kit, but I carry a number of other tapes stored in a large plastic file card box. They include Scotch 35 vinyl elecrical tape in the other nine RMA colors (the colors used to mark resistor bands), wide masking tape, "duct tape" (which no respectable HVAC tech would use on ducts), HVAC tape (what HVAC techs use), rubber mastic tape, self-fusing repair wrap, and package sealing tape.

 

 

Critter Kit

Critter Kit

     Insects and mice are frequent problems at transmitter sites. To deal with those pests I have this box, dubbed the "critter kit." One important component is not kept in the kit - two cans of wasp and hornet spray that are in a plastic milk crate behind my seat in the Explorer for quick access. The lid of the kit has compartments holding coarse and fine steel wool for removing rust and pest contamination from inside neglected ATUs. The removable tray holds a can of Great Stuff sealer, a couple of insect foggers, and various tubes of caulk and sealant often used to fill small holes in ATUs. Some of the items in the box have been moved or opened to be more easily seen. At the left is a container of green mouse bars to refill the mouse traps unseen in the bottom. To the right of that is a container of moth balls mostly hidden behind plastic cups used to hold them in ATUs (they will discourage other insects). Next to those are cotton balls in toilet paper tubes - an invention I call "flea tubes." If mice get into transmitter buildings they often carry fleas. While waiting for the mice to die in traps the tubes will take care of the fleas. The cotton balls are doused in an insect repellent containing permethrin. Mice carry the cotton back to their nests, where the permethrin gets into their fur. That either kills the fleas or repels them causing them to starve. Beneath the flea tubes are surgical masks and examination gloves. To the right of the flea tubes are rolls of weather stripping, and additional rolls in other sizes are stored in pouches on the ends of my wire and cable tote.

 

 

LPB Box

LPB Box

     I work on many LPB low-power AM transmitters - AM-30P, AM-60P, and AM-100P. Many AM stations with low nightime powers use them. Ever since LPB folded a small number of veteran engineers have taken over work once performed by the factory, such as frequency changes. Some of that work is best done in my shop, but most repairs can be done in the field if one is properly equipped. This repurposed tool box holds my LPB parts and tools. The two boxes on the floor can be removed from the lid, and hold plastic ventilation plugs and cover plate latches on the left, and output surge suppressors and hardware on the right. A third non-removable box in the lid holds coaxial adaptors used with my custom-built modulation monitor box, which is at top center. It goes between an LPB transmitter and a dummy load or antenna. LPBs have no mod monitor ports, but the manuals detail how to build an R-C circuit to steal a small amount of output power to feed a mod monitor. The C value depends upon output power and frequency. My box contains twelve rotary-switch-selectable silver-mica caps allowing me to connect any LPB, at any power level and frequency, to any mod monitor. It also has an oscilloscope / RF voltmeter / spectrum analyzer port to observe and measure the output to determine output power and quality. The BNC cables for it are at the upper left, and at the upper right are a custom-built adapter to set RF amplifier bias current, a roll of enameled wire for rewinding the RF boards elliptical filter inductors, and a quantity of RG-174/U coax to replace internal RF plumbing. At each end is a Radio Shack muffin fan that is a close match to the ones in the AM-60P and AM-100P transmitters (I bought a bunch of them when Radio Shack was closing stores with fire sale prices). Three Plano boxes hold all of the spare semiconductors.


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