The importance of junk in amateur radio

September 11, 2012 Dan KB6NU

As I wrote yesterday, I went to the Findlay (OH) hamfest yesterday.As soon as we hit the flea market, I told Ralph, who had driven down with me, “Let’s go find some junk.” Junk is an important part of amateur radio.

By junk, I mean stuff that one might find in his or her “junk box,” including connectors, adapters, bits of wire, resistors, capacitors, etc., etc. etc. When I say ‘junk,’ I’m talking about those odd bits and pieces that we use to make our electronics projects work.

Every ham should be well-stocked with this kind of ‘junk.’ If you don’t have it, or don’t have enough of it, then you’ll never be able to make anything work. Let me give you an example.

Ham Key HK-1 PaddleYesterday, I purchased a Ham Key paddle (see right). If you look closely, you’ll see that instead of terminals to which you solder wires, or binding posts that screw down onto wires, this paddle uses a couple of phono plugs to connect the paddle to a keyer or a rig. This is the only paddle that I’ve ever seen do this.

Fortunately, I happened to have a couple of phono plugs in my junk box (and a three-conductor, 1/8-in. plug) so that I could make a cable and actually use the paddle that night. Sure, I could have ordered something online that night, and probably have gotten them Tuesday, but I didn’t have to. I had the right ‘junk’ to make it work last night. If I’d had to wait to get the parts, who knows when I would have gotten around to it?

The more junk  you have, the more you can do. That’s why every ham should have a lot of junk. Next time you’re at a hamfest, think about that, and get some good junk while you’re there.

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