Posts Tagged ‘Ham Shack’

Weekend Ham Shack Update

Last week I blogged about the progress made on the multi-year basement ham shack, podcast studio, home office and just general man-cave project.  If you recall the sheetrock material was scheduled to be delivered and I had planned to start hanging the material just as soon as I was able to get the 4 foot by 8 foot sheets into the house (from the garage) and down into basement. 

Just like clockwork, the truck from the big box store pulled up on Friday afternoon and unloaded 46 sheets of 4×8 (1/2 inch think) sheetrock in the garage.  By the way, each 4×8 sheet weighs in at approx. 57 lbs.  These are bundled two per so total weight for two sheets is approx. 114 lbs.  Friday evening the task of moving this material into the basement was completed. 

I eased into my Saturday morning much like any other Saturday.  I’ll admit….I’m an addict and have been since my college days.  I can’t function with out my coffee and you don’t want to be around me when I don’t have my morning fix.  Anyway, I also applied a couple of Advil and a hot shower to get my joints moving again after the hard labor on Friday evening.  While giving all this time to work, I managed to work some DX.  I worked ON4CHD in Belgium on 15m JT65. 

Anyway, one other thing to note.  My house is a multi-family design. Meaning I share one interior wall with one neighbor.  It just so happens the portion of the basement I’m working in is that joining wall.  So while some would want to get an early start on a project like this, I want happy neighbors (I need happy neighbors) and never start anything before 9 AM. 

Now what possibly can an IT Guy know about home remodeling?  This is a good question and I wanted to spend a little time sharing my background.  While none of this work is rocket science, at some point in my life I’ve either been trained how to do most of the needed tasks or have previously done them. 

Most of the experience started by having a Dad who taught me how to do these sort of things as a teen.  Also, while I never intended to be a farmer, I did take 4 years of FFA in high school.  This taught me many skills which I’ve needed for this project including electrical, plumbing and general construction.  Finally, while I’ve been working in the IT field for almost 20 years, this didn’t start until late in my working life.  I spent about 4 years working for the State of Texas in a local public school system doing building maintenance.  It just so happened during this time both my Dad and I worked for the same school.  While we spent many hot Texas summers mowing and running a weed eater, we also did a lot of building maintenance  tasks.  It’s the experience of these tasks which has allowed me to do all of my own work. 

So with all that experience, we began the process of hanging the drywall.  My wife is a real trooper as well in all this.  Not only is she supportive in my amateur radio hobby, but she is instrumental in the help and guidance in the project from this point forward.  While I did all the framing, electrical and plumbing…she’s signed on to help me the rest of the way.  This help is making the drywall installation go much easier and will speed the painting process and all the other bits and pieces required before I move into this new space.

How about some photographs. 


As Norm Abram’s would say “Measure Twice, Cut Once”.  I’m measuring and marking the sheetrock material.


Carefully cutting a sheet for length.  No straight edge cut required for this piece.  Just free handing. 

Now as I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog updates.  I’ve tried to think of everything I could/would need not only today but in the future.  I’ve pulled extra coax for CATV as well as plenty of data cable.  In addition, I added many electrical outlets to this space.  All these added outlets require extra attention when hanging drywall. 

Back in my younger years, we would have to carefully measure where each electrical box was located and then mark the drywall sheets, then cut the openings before hanging the material.  You kept fingers crossed your measurements were accurate.  Today we have simple technology that speeds all this up.  I’m using a kit from Blind Mark.   Blind Mark uses strong magnets in a two piece device to easily locate your outlet boxes after you hang your drywall or plywood material.

Just place a Blind Mark target in each electrical box.  In the above picture one 4 foot piece of drywall was going to cover all three boxes.

A close-up of a single box.

Once you’ve secured the sheet of drywall to the wall, take the Blind Mark locator and slide it in the vicinity of where the outlet should be and it will find it.  Just trace with a pencil around the Blind Mark locator.

Then with your knife start cutting.  I also used a small cordless Dremel tool with a cutting bit to speed this process up.  Just be careful as the Dremel tool can easily cut into things you don’t want to be cut.  Once cut, just remove the Blind Mark locator and finishing securing the drywall to the studs.

How about a before and after shot?  Unfortunately, I can’t find the photos I took 5 years ago showing just the concrete walls (before framing) so you’ll just need to use your imagination.  These photos were in the blog posting from last week.

Before Sheetrock.  This is the corner where my main operating position will be located.  This room is roughly 16×16.

Before Sheetrock. 

After Sheetrock.  The corner unfinished portion is framing I had to do around a support post.  On the other side is a utility closet and where I’ll run antenna feed line, grounding etc. for the amateur radio station.   The wall on the right and left of the corner will be fitted with cabinets above and some below with an “L” shaped counter surface.

Another after sheetrock. 

All-in-all, the weekend was very much a successful weekend.  Together, my wife and I hung 17 sheets of drywall.  We are a little over half way getting the walls done.  Pending all goes as planned, we should be able to finish the walls next weekend.  Of course, once the walls are finished all that will be left is the ceiling.  While I can say I’m not looking forward to this part of the project, we will rent a sheetrock lift which will aid in the installation. 

Tentatively we are planning to do the ceiling on the weekend of 10 March if we can keep up the pace.  This would be three weekends in a row, but it would also be the completion of the sheetrock installation.  This would bring us to the dirty phase of taping, mudding, sanding and texturing.  But of course this phase must be done to bring us to the paint phase. 

In the mean time, I will begin wiring in the electrical outlets, network jacks, telephone jacks and CATV outlets in the areas where we’ve installed drywall.  I will work on a few every other evening or so as I have time.  While we’ve made significant progress on the first weekend, this is not a race to the finish.  However, I believe the progress we made did open our eyes to the fact that YES we can do this and we can complete the work in the next few months.

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)

A Ham Shack Update

For many who follow this blog, you’ve known me for about as long as I’ve been licensed (almost 5 years).  Unfortunately, during a large portion of this time I’ve been talking about the work I’ve been doing on my new ham shack, home office and man cave.   If memory serves me, I began framing the unfinished portion of the basement in 2008. 

I worked pretty much every weekend (and some evenings) and managed to get the 2×4 framing done in about 4-6 weeks.  Then a few more weeks I had all the electrical, network, coax for CATV and telephone all done.  I also had to do some plumbing work to move the washing machine hot/cold lines and drain down a foot or two.  Then I stopped working on the project.

Weeks turned into months and months turned into a few years.  Some of these delays were trying to decide what sort of wall material to use (sheetrock or paneling).  The decision was made on sheetrock but then we kicked around whether we would do this ourselves or have it done.  Finally we came to the conclusion we would continue with our plans of doing all the work ourselves. 

So just after the new year I began working on the project once again.  I had a few more items to do before I was ready for the sheetrock.  All these final items where checked off the checklist and last weekend we placed an order for the drywall material.  The drywall was delivered today.

Many of you have asked for photos along the way and well I finally snapped a few showing the stud walls.  The picture below is one corner of the main room that will make up my ham shack, home office and man cave.  The room is 16 feet by 16 feet.  (I’m actually finishing out a much larger area than just the ham shack/office area) This corner will be my main operating position.  The wall to the right is 8 feet and the wall to the left is 16 feet.  I will install cabinets above and some below with countertop for the desk surface. 

I’ve been working in a corner type setup for the past several years and actually prefer it. To my right will be my Yaesu FT-950 for SSB operation and to the left will be my Yaesu FT-897 which is setup for digital modes.  My LCD computer screen will be positioned in the middle.

The picture below shows the above mentioned 16’ wall (this wall to my left).  Again this will have some cabinets above and some above with work surface to the end. 

I’ve tried to think of everything I would need not only today but in the future.  Again this space will serve both as my ham shack and my home office.   I also plan to have a nice TV and surround sound setup for when watching those action movies and sporting events.   So I’ve pulled extra coax for CATV as well as extra network cables. 

I plan to start hanging the drywall tomorrow (Saturday) after I move it down into the basement area.  My rough goals are to have the drywall done by the end of March and perhaps painting done by end of April.  We’ll see…

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Building Your First Station

A few weeks ago, I posted a video from Tyler, N7FTP, who posted a “Getting Started” kind of video on how to use an antenna tuner. And I am a firm believer in getting back to basics. It’s saved my bacon a bunch of times. When I came across this video, it was a no brainer on if I should post it or not. So Tyler is back with a video and tips on building your first Amateur Radio station. He demonstrates equipment that is important to have in a first station.


The Basement Project

While I’ve mentioned it several times on my podcast, I don’t recall blogging much about it.  I did blog once about moving my ham shack from a 6 foot area to a larger area here.  But for what feels like a decade, I’ve been planning for and slowly working on my new basement ham shack, office and just general man-cave.  It all began sometime in early 2008 when I got the idea to turn the un-finished portion of my basement into a new ham shack. 

We had half of our basement finished soon after purchasing our house in 2004.  It’s been in this finished area where I’ve setup my ham shack, podcast recording studio and home office.  Because this basement area was finished prior to me getting my ham ticket, I have to run my coax feed line either across the ceiling or across the carpet to get it to an outside wall.  Of course we do what we have to do to get on the air.  But I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a space that didn’t have coax and power cords everywhere. 

The first step was to move everything from the unfinished area of the basement (primarily used for storage) to the finished area so I could begin construction.  The unfinished portion of the basement is concrete floor and concrete walls.  While I would have no problem working in a concrete space like this, the object was to create something that was nice and comfortable.  So up went the 2×4 stud walls. 

The framing portion of the overall project went fairly quickly.  The main room of my ham shack/home office/man cave is a room approx. 20’x20’ with a hallway measuring about 8’x16’ opening up into the area that is the laundry room which when framed in was about another 12’ or so of wall space. 

While I started the framing project in 2008, if memory serves me correctly all the framing was complete in about 3-4 months.  So what have I been doing the past three years?  Well obviously not a lot in relation to the basement project.

Part of the delay has been due to life schedule conflicts.  You know work, travel, good DX conditions etc.  In recent weeks, it has been hard to pry myself away from the radio to go work on the basement.  But I really want to get this done and the wife really wants to claim the rest of the basement for other uses. 

A few weeks ago I started working on the basement area again.  I’ve been running electrical, CATV, telephone and network cables in the new area.  With the help of my wonderful wife, we have mapped out where my desk and such will be.  I’ll admit I’m not the most tidy person on the planet.  My current shack area looks like a bomb went off.  I blame this primarily on the fact that I have no cabinet space.  Everything is either on the desk, under the desk or stacked beside the desk.  The new space will have cabinets under the desk surface and cabinets from the ceiling down with just enough space in between for the work area. 

Speaking of work areas.  I’ll have my primary operating position in one corner.  I’ve worked in a corner type setup for the past couple of years and like having the LCD in the corner with my FT-950 on the right and my FT-897 (used for digi modes) to my left.  There will be plenty of space for my VHF/UHF rigs, packet and just about anything else I want to do.  I have also factored in a large workbench area where I can build projects and restore those old AM radios which I enjoy. 

For the wall material I’m going with sheetrock.  While we had investigated other options, we kept coming back to drywall.  This will be one area which we’ll contract out and for a couple of reasons.  One, it will be difficult for just my wife and I to handle the sheetrock (especially the ceiling) the time to complete the job would take us a few weekends.  The sheetrock process is a dirty and nasty one.  I can hire a contractor and crew to come in and they’ll hang, plaster, sand and texture the walls in just a few days.  My wife and I then will paint and do all the rest.

Back to the cable planning.  I’ve factored in both what my present need is as well as looking ahead.  Because the exterior wall where I run the coax feed line for my Hustler 6BTV (ground mounted in my back yard) will be covered in sheetrock as well as the ceiling above it, I’ll need a way to access this in the future. I installed a 1 1/2” PVC pipe across the ceiling for my coax needs.  Some may argue and say I should have installed a larger pipe, but living in “HOA Hell” I’ll never have a need (nor permission) to install anything other than a vertical antenna in my back yard.   I’ll still have access from the utility closet where I’ve pulled the feed line for my 20m hamstick dipole, rotator and VHF/UHF antenna. 

The final decision to make is on the floor covering.  Everything from just the bare concrete floor to tile has come into our heads.  I do know that carpet (any style is out).  I want to be able to zoom from one side of my desk to the other in my chair without issue and carpet just doesn’t allow it.  Plus carpet in a basement is a bad idea any way you look at it.

I have just  another weekend or two of work to do before we can bring in the sheetrock guys.  I need to run speaker wire for a surround sound setup and make one more plumbing modification near where the laundry area will be.  If all goes as planned, we would like to have the sheetrock installed just prior to Christmas and use some of the time-off to do the painting. 

I’ll update everyone in a few weeks on our progress and hopefully with pictures.  I don’t see much need in adding photos to this blog article.  I think everyone knows what concrete walls with 2×4 studs in front look like. 

Until next time….

73 de KD0BIK (Jerry)

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