RadioZilla Lives

As I mentioned in my last entry I’m working on a portable amateur base station.  I spent most of today cutting, grinding, drilling, and fitting the parts together. 

The first thing I had to do was build an internal frame in the Tuffbox 6 Space Rack Case so that it could handle the weight of the 33Ah SLA battery.  Here lies the first lesson I learned on this project: don’t be afraid to spend the money to get a decent case.  I tried to save on the case by buying the Tuffbox instead of a regular ATA-rated rack mount case.  I’ve probably spent enough in materials, tools, and time beefing up the Tuffbox to have bought the ATA case from the start. 

But now that I’ve integrated the steel frame, it doesn’t wobble at all.  You could probably stand on it, provided you made sure to stand over the steel parts.

Here’s a picture of the case with the frame installed and the battery mounted:

Once I had the frame and battery handled, the rest came together pretty quickly.  Here it is with all of the internal components installed, using a mobile antenna (off camera) and hooked up to the watt meter and SWR meter for testing:

As it is now, it’s functional, but I still have a few things to sort out.  First, I need an antenna and mount.  I’ve got a Harbor Freight 16-ft telescoping flagpole and a tripod base from a Sears work light that fit together.  All I need is to put a mount on it and to rig up a portable guy-wire system (I’m thinking paracord and tent stakes, or perhaps Homer buckets filled with water for situations where tent stakes are forbidden).  The other thing is to create some sort of front panel.  I’ve got a piece of ABS that I think I can cut into two pieces and make a fold-down front panel that doubles as a desk or folds out of the way if the desk is not needed (provided I can find the right set of hinges and support brackets at Home Depot).

The other lesson from this project: Harbor Freight is a double-edged sword.  They’ve got some really great inexpensive tools, which is good for when you have to do a job that needs a special tool that you won’t use a lot afterward, but things can be a bit hit or miss.  The el-cheapo air cutoff saw I bought was indispensable for cutting the angle brackets, and I wouldn’t have been able to drill half the holes in the case without this angle drill attachment.  But the not-that-inexpensive air hose I got from them burst while I was away on a short trip to Home Depot (amazingly I managed to do this project with only one trip today; I bought the other stuff a couple of weeks ago). 

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