Back to hamfests: Shelby 2021

Made a trip out to our first hamfest in quite a while (last one was back in 2020).

We made the road trip out to the Shelby Hamfest for the first time. It’s one I had been wanting to get to for quite a while now, but it happens the same weekend as Dragon*Con so I never made it until this year.

We drove up Friday afternoon, and Saturday was the only day we spent at Shelby. Got there bright and early as the gates were opening, so we were able to get a decent parking spot. Spent the early morning wandering around the boneyard/flea market checking out the early birds that opened up their tables until the indoor stuff opened up. Checked out the indoor people, then spent the rest of the morning exploring the boneyard.

Lots of people out in the flea market area selling the usual range of really nice gear to miscellaneous stuff. Saw at least 3 or 4 people selling some really nice looking Collins radios, ranging from complete sets to single cabinets. I can see why people like to collect Collins gear. They’re really nice looking units. I got a bit drooly looking at them.

Didn’t really have a big shopping list going to the hamfest, but did end up picking up a few things with the goal of putting mobile VHF radios into the cars in mind. In the boneyard, I found a couple of Fluke multimeters for a pretty good price. Seller didn’t know what condition they were in, but I figured for $10, they would either be decent workbench instruments or fun projects to work on. Also found a D104 mic missing the bottom plate and connector for pretty cheap so I grabbed that too. A few other miscellaneous tool type items rounded out the shopping day at the hamfest. Didn’t see too many Morse code keys, but there was one table that had a selection of older Vibroplex bugs that I was kind of tempted by.

The crowd seemed to be a lot lighter than I expected, even during the middle of the morning and early afternoon. There were a lot of cars in the parking are by the time we left but it didn’t seem that crowded while we were there. I suppose the size of the hamfest helps spread everybody out. Had some fun random encounters with a few other hams that we new, and a nice conversation with Bill Morine/N2COP, ARRL Roanoke Division Vice-Director.

I was too busy wandering around checking things out and trying to decide if I “needed” it or not to get any pictures of the hamfest, but Connie got this early morning-ish photo of the boneyard off in the background.

Early morning at  the Shelby Hamfest boneyard
Early morning at the Shelby Hamfest boneyard

Charleston Hamfest 2020

This year’s edition of the Charleston Hamfest went fairly well I thought. I had a pretty good time there anyway.

Most of my time was spent up front at the microphone making announcements and picking door prize winners, but I did get to spend some time wandering around looking at stuff. Picked up a couple books, a box of analog meters, and enough spools of wire to keep me going for decades. Builder hams getting rid of stuff can be very generous when they find other builder hams (or aspiring builder hams) looking for stuff.

Toward the end of the hamfest, the “Free Stuff” table starts getting more and more things piled onto it. Found an old Heathkit Automotive Tune-up meter and an EICO Model 460 oscilloscope that ended up coming home with me. I figure the oscilloscope will make a nice restoration project to learn/practice on without having to worry about messing up. Also grabbed a box of miscellaneous wires and microphones off the free table.

Two of the big vendors that have been regulars at the hamfest were notably absent this year (retired from the hamfest circuit), so the vendor space seemed emptier than usual. Still a pretty decent amount of stuff to look at and buy.

Back this year was the go-box exhibition and competition. There were some pretty cool go-boxes that were submitted. One of these days when I have more time to spare, I’ll have to put one together.

No time for radio, building, or tinkering these days but once I get past the PhD, I’ll have plenty of projects to work on.

Charleston Hamfest 2019 acquisitions

This year’s hamfest notable acquisitions:

  • Yaesu FT-1802M/E 2m mobile
  • Yaesu FTM-3207D 70cm mobile
  • AADE LC meter IIB kit (unassembled)
  • Morse code bug
  • Heathkit HD-1250 grid dip meter
  • Kanga PSK interface (unassembled)
  • DZ 40m HT kit (unassembled)
  • Yeary Communications short wave crystal receiver kit (unassembled)
  • Several boxes of random items that were set on the “Free Stuff” table (I haven’t gone through these yet)
  • MITS Altair 680

Ended up spending more money that I usually do at hamfests, but quite a bit less than I could have.

I haven’t had a chance to test either of the radios yet, but they both looked pretty clean (the FT-1802 looked like it had never been taken out of the box).

The kits I picked up came from the W4RAK collection that was donated to the club. I had been wanting to get one of the AADE LC meters for a while, but unfortunately the owner died before I could pull the trigger on one. When I saw the unbuilt one in a box, I grabbed it right away. I saw the 40m HT kit, I was like “Huh, wut? What the heck? Holy crap! I need this.” A quick look at the documentation shows it’s a 40m (7.290 MHz) AM radio in a handheld form factor, rechargable (lithium ion) battery pack, but without the optional antenna/antenna matching unit). Realistically, it’s essentially a novelty item and I don’t expect to get a whole lot of use out of it. Maybe I can get it built in time for next year’s AM Rally though.

The Heathkit grid dip meter is a bit messy because of foam padding disintegration (foam rot), but otherwise looks pretty pristine. Should be pretty easy to clean up I think.

The gem of my acquisitions I think is the Altair 680. I haven’t plugged it in yet, but it seems to look in pretty good shape.

With PhD work, it will probably be a while before I get around to messing around with any of my new acquisitions.

Charleston Hamfest 2019

The 2019 edition of the Charleston Hamfest is over, and this one was an especially busy one for me. In addition to helping with set up and cleaning up, I ended up taking over the announcer/door prize giver-outer/question answerer role for the hamfest. I didn’t have quite as much time to browse the hamfest and shop, and I wasn’t able to help out in the license test session like I have in previous years. However, one of the perks of participating in the setup is that you get to see a lot of what’s being offered for sale, so that was when I ended up doing most of my shopping.

In 2018, the club received a substantial donation of equipment from a club member (W4RAK) who was downsizing due to health reasons. It took several months and many truckloads to move the equipment he donated. Sadly, W4RAK became a Silent Key around October 2018.

I don’t think I got to meet W4RAK, but I’m told he was a long time club member and that he was part of the Air Force MARS program. Based on the equipment he donated to the club I can guess that he had been a ham for a long time, was a big collector of radio gear, and liked to build things. Among the equipment donated to the club was a huge collection of Heathkit, Hallicrafters, Kenwood, Yaesu, Flex, and Elecraft radios, an abundance of power supplies, kit items (built and unbuilt), and other vintage equipment.

A fair bit of the donated equipment is going to be set up in the CARS club room for operating and display. A much larger chunk of the equipment was put up for sale at the hamfest and priced to sell (both to get the gear back into the hands of hams who would/could use it, and so that club didn’t have to store it).

A "small" selection of the W4RAK collection sold at the 2019 Charleston Hamfest
A “small” selection of the W4RAK collection sold at the 2019 Charleston Hamfest

For anyone into vintage rigs, it was like being in a candy store. I was able to acquire a few pieces that I’m looking forward to playing with.

KM4HXA showing off his home brew antenna collection
KM4HXA showing off his home brew antenna collection

New at this year’s hamfest was a Go Box exhibit/competition, a suggestion by KN4EXJ. People were invited to bring their Go boxes to the hamfest to show off to others. For an inaugural event, there were a few Go Boxes on display. KN4EXJ had a few of his that were pretty impressive.

Looking forward to having the Go Box exhibition again next year. Maybe I’ll have one of my own to enter into the exhibition.

Charleston Hamfest 2018

This year’s hamfest was a busy one for me and a far cry from last year’s hamfest where I could only stay a short while.

The day before the hamfest was a full day of helping set up tables and chairs for the hamfest, and then helping some of  the vendors that showed up early to unload and set up. Hamfest day started at 6AM helping more vendors unload and set up followed by the doors opening at 8AM.

One of the nice things about being around to help with the set up is that as the vendors are unpacking, you get to see what everybody has and, if you find something you really want, buy it before the crowd gets there.

I gave my two short forum presentations to an audience of maybe 6 or 7 people I think. Got some decent interaction out of them, so I was pleased with how they went.

Found a few things to pick up at this year’s hamfest, and a bunch of other things that were in the “ooo, I want” category.

Someone left a stack of old QST magazines from 1951 and Popular Electronics from 1962 (a year before ZIP codes were introduced).

1951 QST
1951 QST

1962 Popular Electronics
1962 Popular Electronics

I’m going to enjoy reading through these. The ads in these old magazines are almost as fun to look through as the actual content.

There was only one person tailgating this year, but he had a neat looking RCA VOM that I thought would be neat to have in the toolkit. He also threw in this odd HP probe with an N connector, so I also picked up an N/SO239 adapter from another vendor to go along with it.

RCA WV-98C Senior VoltOhmyst
RCA WV-98C Senior VoltOhmyst

HP Probe
HP Probe

Hamtubes.com was a new vendor at the hamfest this year (making a stop here on their way to Hamcation next weekend) and they had a pretty large selection of tubes. Found all the tubes I need for the Hammarlund, although I failed to notice on my list that I needed two 6BA6 tubes instead of just one.

Tubes for the Hammarlund restoration project
Tubes for the Hammarlund restoration project

Most of the tube replacement kits I’ve seen on eBay were in the $65 range, so at $33 for these ($36 if I had gotten that other 6BA6 I needed), I’m pretty pleased.

A copy of VHF/UHF Manual (4th ed) from the RSGB, some Anderson Powerpoles to replenish my stock, and a blister pack of SuperGlue rounded out my hamfest purchases for this year.

VHF/UHF Manual
VHF/UHF Manual

The afternoon VE testing session had a pretty decent sized crowd of 17 testers. I think 14 of the 17 left the session with either a new license or an upgrade.

It was a pretty good hamfest this year. Lots of full tables and lots of vendors. Heard attendance through the door was down a little bit though, but the crowds didn’t seem too much smaller to me. I had a good time this year. Looking forward to the next one.