Posted in: New Hams Corner

New Hams Corner: Test equipment and tools

Test equipment and tools

I recently saw an online post from a beginner who wanted to know what test equipment he should have in his budding shack. A lot of answers flowed in but the common theme was there in most of them.

A) A good Volt Ohm Meter. Fluke makes some very good ones and most electronics folks have one or two in their toolbox. We old-timers like an analog meter as well so we can see fluctuations in things that cannot be easily seen on a digital meter. The little cheap ones are good in a pinch but when you can spend a few bucks on a good one. I still have my Simpson from 1978!

B) A good soldering iron. Wires fall off, you want to put connectors on and every now and then might try to do a project. Most people will tell you to have a good 60-75 watt iron for general duty work and something much higher for those things that absorb heat rapidly! I have a soldering gun for those kinds of things.

C) A set of good simple tools. Large and small screwdrivers. Jeweler screwdrivers. Pliers, wire cutters and a ratchet set. I prefer open end wrenches with ratchet on the opposite side. Having two of some common sizes is VERY helpful 7/16”, ½” and 5/8” will work for most antenna parts and mounts.

D) A good watt meter and SWR meter. At some point you will want to experiment with different antennae. It is always nice to know what is going on when you try to tune an antenna or see what your loss is thru a cable. Having 2 or 3 good jumper cables is a high priority for me. They are always used for testing and no station is complete without a few for everyday use as well.

E) A dummy load. You will need this for testing equipment and not radiating a signal. I always like putting everything together and seeing what is happening into a known quantity. A dummy load should not change over the years so you know you have a known quantity that you can trust. Look around at ham fests and online for a good one offered at a bargain price.

F) Here is one most people forget about but I have used them for years and they Save me a lot of time…Alligator jumpers. When Radio Shack was good you could Go in, buy a package of black and red plus some wire and make your own to the length that was most useful for you. I just used mine at work a few weeks ago so they still come in handy for testing or measuring.

This is by no stretch of imagination the whole list. You will want specific things based on what you like doing and what projects you will tackle. ALWAYS put your call on your gear. When you have 5 hams together working on something tools are everywhere and it makes easier to return to rightful owner.

Safety note: ALWAYS treat equipment as live and having lethal voltages. I know a few People who did not follow this rule and are now pushing up daisies


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