The “Dog House”

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The Dog House Installed on 10/11/2009           Tower installed Dec 2011            Tower antennas installed Jan 2012

(NOTE: CLICK ON ANY PHOTO FOR A LARGER RENDITION)

When my lovely XYL and I moved into our current home some years back, part of our decision to purchase the residence we occupy was to “downsize”.  So we left a 2,500 sq ft, 4 BDRM, 2 story house and bought a 1,900 sq ft 3 BDRM house…but on a bigger lot (100’x150’…with some nice tall pine trees in the back yard – and NOT in a deed restricted community!)  So, a few months after we moved in, my beautiful wife asks me, “what a re you going to do with all of your ham stuff?” (All of it was packed into boxes for the move to the new home).  I replied I was not sure – and next comes the blockbuster – “why don’t you do like some of them other guys, and get a “shack” for in the back yard.”

I could not believe my ears…………

That was in late 2007….so I researched different shed manufacturers, sizes, and styles; determined the code requirements and permitting for my city; and planned the design of the inside and outside of the structure, keeping power, cabling, A/C and other considerations, plus the future antenna farm.  After almost 2 years (all of 2008 and most of 2009), I purchased and installed a 10′ x 14′ outside shed in the corner of my back yard.  I bought a “Bull Shed”, manufactured here in Volusia County – the 2×4 framing was spruce, not yellow pine, with an aluminum “skin” and roof, and they actually built it for me – which allowed me to specify the door size (a 4′ wide) and windows (I wanted 4 for lighting and Air Conditioning installation). 

On October 11, 2009 my shed was installed…….so now for the real work!

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          The Official Permit from the City

The construction…….. from the inside electrical and insulation,  to the drywall and carpeting.

Yes, it took over 4 months from the initial shed installation to the completion of the interior!!

Yes again, I did all the work except for the electrical service (licensed contractor) and taping the drywall.

Interior Electrical Wiring, Outlets and Fixtures

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The “trench for the electric service – 168′ from the Shack to the Service Panel!

Air Conditioning and lighting!!   Thank Goodness!!!!

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Insulation and Cable Access Ports

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Drywall with “knockdown” finish, then painting (two coat of exterior premium paint)

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Installing the fixtures, outlets and carpeting

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Finally in!  Here is the initial “pieces and parts” that went in……..early March 2010

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And then…….the Tower!  (Yeah, another City permit!)  (2011)

So I have to tell the “how I got the tower” story…….

I wanted an aluminum crank-up tower, maybe a 35 to 40 footer (my City code prohibits any height over 40 feet).  So I started looking at this size/style; a standard tower (AlumaTower) was over $2,200!!  So, back to looking around some more!  As luck would have it, not too long went by and Dan K1TO from the Florida Contest Group posted, “a used, crank-up tower, for $300, but you have to pick it up”.  So I immediately e-mailed and called him, telling him if it was in any decent shape I would take it.  But for $300 I was not hopeful.   Later in the week he sent me an e-mail, said it was “kinda ratty”, but structurally sound – it was old, but a 2-section, 40′ crank-up tower.  He would take it down and it would be ready for pick-up……in Tallahassee, some 250 miles away! I told him I’d take it…..and two weeks later, my son and I drove the 4 hours to Tallahassee and picked it up, paying the folks there the $300 in cash – we transported it home on my truck, with absolutely no problems!  4 hours later it was on saw horses in my back yard.  After a week or two of “cleaning it up”, I discovered I had an old AlumaTower T40-XHD Extra Heavy Duty Tower – valued at $4,000 new!!! (I was able to locate only one “used” tower like this, and they wanted $2900 for it, plus shipping!  Wow!  Did I get lucky!  Thank you Dan Street!!

So after getting the permit, I dug the hole…..42″ deep, and 36 inches square.  I had to buy a small shovel, since when I was in the “hole”, I could not use my standard size!  Then I got the shocker…….I only needed about .9 cubic yards of concrete, and when I called CEMEX (the local distributor), the concrete cost was $161 plus tax…..plus a $150 up-charge for a residential sale less than a cubic yard, and a $250 delivery charge!  Holy Cow!  $561 just for the base!  I called a really good friend of mine who did mason work years back, and he got both the up-charge and delivery charge waived.  Thank you John Kirvan!!

The tower on my truck in Tallahassee, FL!

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What it looks like today……..2013.

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                                The Shack                                                         The Dog House and Tower

The 2015 Shack Update………

June 20, 2015

After several years of use, the ol’ Dog House was in need of some TLC.  The weight of the operating desk and equipment caused the shack to “tilt” to the East, resulting in the shed being off level (almost 4 inches!), and causing the “frame” to bend making the front door hard to open and close.  I also found the desk and equipment arrangement was a bit hard to work long periods of time comfortably.  Add the desire to use more than one radio at the desk, and adding antennas and I figured it was time for some “sweat equity” in the old ham shack.

First Task “Leveling the Shack”.  I used an automotive “scissors” type jack to level the shed base, and yes, I measured a 4 inch rise to make it level.  I added additional brick supports on this end due to the weight.  The door now opens and closes easily again! (Whew!).  I also built new steps up to the entry using pressure treated wood and placing the tread risers on bricks placed in the ground.  Much sturdier and easy to enter.  Only problem – the dog won’t go up the steps!  He had no difficulty before, and it looks like he is scared of the new “structure”.  So I have to pick him up and place him in the shack.  Glad he’s only 10 pounds! (Update 08/10/15:  He figured it out, and now enters/exits in a single bound!)

Second Task:  “Install Exterior remote antenna switch”.  I placed the relay box on a leg of the tower, and trimmed the coax from all the HF antennas.  I actually shortened two them by some 20 feet each!  I also trimmed the coax from the VHF antennas (6M beam and 2M/70cm vertical on the tower).  I measured a total of 80 feet of coax removed!  New crimped UHF connectors, soldered center pins, waterproofed and new “boots”.  I used one of the removed sections of coax, new connectors, and now have only 4 leads coning into the shack – control cable, 6M beam, 2M/70cm Vertical, and rotor control cable (4 cables less, and a much cleaner look).

Third Task:  “Reconfigure the Operating Position”.  While my Yaesu FT-2000 remains my mainstay in contests and such, from time to time I also like to use my ancient Heathkit HW-16, some of kits I build (The PigRig, Cyclone, etc), and even my Elecraft KX-3 once in a while.  I also had an ICOM D-STAR 2M/70cm radio I wanted to mount somehow so I could do some nets.  I attended “Contest University” last year and also wanted to “re-arrange” my gear for max comfort and efficiency.  Sooooooooo……….here’s what it looks like now:

IMG_1846The “New” equipment arrangement – from left to right – Wireless Phone, Dymo Label Printer (for QSL cards), FT-2000 with Filtered Speakers and Antenna Rotor Control Box, WinKeyerUSB under the monitor, HG-10B VFO, HW-16, Antenna and Radio Switches, FL-7000 HF Amplifier, LDG AutoTuner, ICOM ID-880H D-STAR 2M/70cm radio, Vibroplex Iambic Paddle, Speed-X Straight Key, Wireless Mouse and Keyboard.

Note the single, 20 inch LCD widescreen monitor with integrated sound-bar. 

Ergonomically great!!!

IMG_1847Close up – FT-2000, SP-2000, Rotor Control (Remote FT2K Pad on Rotor Box)

 IMG_1848HG-10B VFO and HW-16 Transceiver, WinKeyerUSB, Wireless Keyboard

IMG_1849Remote Antenna and Radio Switches…….NICE!!!!  The “Spare” Antenna position is a coax cable mounted on the right side of the desk under the top edge.  This allows me to connect any additional radio I want to use.

IMG_1850FL-7000 HF Amplifier and LDG AutoTuner

IMG_1851ICOM ID-880H D-STAR 2M/70cm Radio

IMG_1845 (2)While I was at it…..cleaned and re-arranged my “brag wall” too!

Fourth Task: New Shelves” Cleaned and rearranged the kit radios, souvenirs, awards, bookcases.  Nice and neat now!

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FINAL FOR NOW………

Whew!  Next tasks…….sorting through all the drawers and storage boxes, ditto for the workbench. Also looking to install my ICOM IC-706MkIIG with the 2M and 70cm all mode features along with a small beam antenna for these bands.  But that’s for down the road.  Along with the 17 odd kits waiting to be built!

73! Steve WB4OMM

8 thoughts on “The “Dog House”

  1. Looks great! But with those wire inlets facing down, do you have to worry about snakes or other Florida creatures climbing in? Or are they blocked some way?

    • Hiya Larry!
      GREAT QUESTION! Actually, I have a “plumbers pipe stopper” in the unused one – looks like a round plug with a butterfly screw that you use to expand the plug ans seal the pipe (look for the two red “thingys” in the photos by the pipes before installation). The pipe inlet that has cables is stuffed with paper towels from both ends, and then the ends are saturated with insecticide. I change this out annually (every September/October) when I do my scheduled maintenance, and I have not had an uninvited guest yet!

  2. de N4QNF — The red “thingy’s” that block your inlets are just the kind of thing I have been looking for. I bored a hole n the side of my house and inserted the same kind of pipes n it for wire inlets but have never been comfortable with the way I sealed it up – stuffed it with a rag and soaked it with wasp spray just as you did. After I read your page I went looking for the stoppers you used and could not find them–I’m using the wrong label for them in my search. Any chance you could be a little more specific in either nomenclature or location for them? I already got stung once (before I added the spray) and don’t want that unpleasant experience again. I enjoyed reading the page, by the way.
    73 from Tallahassee.

  3. As a kid, many hams still had shacks, real shacks, like yours…This was very common in the 4s, 50s. Even in the 60s & 70s when I was a kid, many local hams had a real shack…As a kid, I dreamed of having a shack, separate from the house — my own private domain! I am happy with my radio room, however, in the end! Great job! Nicely don
    e! de W3DCB

  4. You live in a humid area. Do you leave the AC on all the time? If not, have you had any problems with high humidity and heat in the shack damaging your radios?

    73 Jerry NY2KW

    • Hi Jerry,
      Yes, I have a 5,000 BTU A/C window mounted unit that runs just about all the time. My current model is a Frigidaire with an EER of 12.2. It is an automatic “energy saver” model (electronic thermostat) that I set at 74 in the spring/summer, and 70 in the fall/winter. By a calculation, it costs me about $45 a year to operate. This is my second one, the first model (another brand) was similar and lasted about 4 years. Both were about $100 from WalMart. The current model I have now goes for about $200 at Target.
      My humidity level stays between 45% and 65%, similar to my house – all depends on how much the front door is left open. But it clears the moisture pretty fast. During the summer (when the outside is 96 degrees and 85% humidity, I use a small table top fan to blow across the A/C output an get it to move around more. Keeps me very comfortable!.
      I keep all my “stuff” in there and have not had a moisture problem. I sealed it up pretty good when I put in the insulation, drywall and carpeting.
      73! And thanks for asking!!!
      Steve WB4OMM

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