April 19, 2010

Long live the hamfest

This weekend I went to a hamfest, and spent a few dollars--the ticket price and gas to get there cost more than what I spent once I got there, but I am very pleased with what I found.  For the radio hobbyist looking to build up the junkbox and locate parts for building stuff, most hamfests are still potential goldmines.

A case in point:  while digging through a box of junk on one of the swapmeet tables, I found a box that contained a one-pound spool of #30 Belden Polythermaleze magnet wire--the kind with heat-strippable enamel coating--for $5.00.  Just for grins I looked it up on the Mouser Web site and found their price: $83.73.  I checked the price for similar magnet wire from one of the parts and kits places, and they were selling 15 feet of similar stuff for $2.00.  My one-pound spool contains about 3140 feet of wire!

I also found a NOS (new old stock) air-variable capacitor for fifty cents that would probably cost me around $15 if I tried to buy it new from a supplier.

For a quarter I bought a 10-turn turns-counting dial that would have cost $8-10 new. 

For one thin dime I got another nice hank of magnet wire--maybe 50 feet or so.  For $5.00 I got two hanks of multi-strand copper antenna wire and a length of ladder line--enough for a nice end-fed Zepp antenna. 

I found a box of random parts that was marked $1 (for the whole box)--it contained a bunch of integrated circuits, including several ULN2003A Darlington transistor arrays, some quad op-amps, some MC1556G op-amps, some CMOS digital chips, several LM317 voltage regulator chips, a 75-to-300-ohm TV balun, and a bunch of other little odds and ends, including about a dozen short banana plug test leads--a lot the rest of it is useless to me, but the stuff I can use would have cost me a lot more than a dollar. 

I bought one UHF bulkhead connector from a commercial vendor--a whopping $3.85--but everything else I bought was from the swapmeet tables.  Plus I had a great time connecting with some hams that I knew from the local club, and it was a lot of fun to see a bunch of old radios and test gear and antennas and other junk.

If you like to build stuff, and if you are lucky enough to have a hamfest happening nearby, don't think twice about it--take the time to go and see what you can find.  You may not be able to find everything you need for that next project, but chances are you'll be able to save some money and collect parts for a future project, and you might even learn something in the process!

73 de aa0ms

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