The importance of junk in amateur radio

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.


  1. Dave, N8SBE says:

    I probably have as much junk as anybody (measured by cubic yards per decade of accumulation, or some such), but it’s not always in an easily accessible form. Thus, I still end up at the local Radio Shack sometimes, bemoaning the lack of whatever connector type I’m looking for. I’ve also studiously avoided (in the last couple of decades) from acquiring any junk with tubes in it, thus I don’t have much, if any, of high voltage components or tubes.

    I suppose that could change, but frankly, I don’t wish to branch off into something else (that is, until I’m good and ready to). Maybe by then, transistors will be obsolete, and I can dump all that junk.


    – Dave, N8SBE

  2. I was thinking about something similar yesterday. It’s good to go through you junk drawers/shelves/boxes occasionally so that you know what you have and where it is. That way you can put your hands on it when you need it.

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