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Closet to RF Shack ideas and questions

Skyd

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Joined
Jan 9, 2023
Messages
46
Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
So my interest in all thing RF has been re-kindled as of late. What started as simply hooking up my scanner antenna again has turned into a GMRS license, 2 new HT's, studying for my General ham license, and now......deciding i need a proper RF station/shack.

The space needed to meet a few requirements:
1. I can somewhat easily run coax to it
2. It's in a spot where I will ACTUALLY use it - i.e. not in my 1890's era basement.
3. It's gotta be minimal work/renovations to get up and running.

So all of this has led me to a small closet, 24" deep and 42" wide that's mostly just a junk collector. I never finished the inside of the closet when I did the 2nd story renovations years back. So right now it's open stud partly, with attic above it. Prime conditions for running coax. I currently have a small desk just outside the closet which means I can feasably use my laptop at the desk and be within reach of all my radio geek stuff.

1st things first. What I plan to use the shack for - I'd like to setup some ham equipment, a GMRS radio, and eventually a few scanners. External speakers will be added as well over time. I don't have any interest in running high power amplifiers at the moment, and if I ever do it likely will have progressed beyond a tiny closet setup anyway.

So maybe 100w max on the ham side, and 25-50w on the GMRS side.

Planned antennas - 1 or 2 scanner antennas probably discone or something like an OmniX. 1 Antenna for GMRS (maybe UHF/VHF in conjuction with ham? IDK, need to read more). 1 antenna for HF if possible.

So that's 2-4 coaxes coming into the closet.


So here are some questions that some of you may be able to help with or give me some ideas.

1st - Running the coax into the room, is there an issue with having the 2-4 cables run bundled together?
2nd - How much, if any, space should I give the coax away from 110v wiring?
3rd - How much power will I need in there? I know this is a loaded question, pun intended, but just thought I'd get some points of reference. I'd prefer to just tap into my bedroom wiring and add a few outlets. It's a 15amp breaker and I don't run much in my room off it other than a TV and Nintendo Switch, phone charger, and none of it very often. I MIGHT be able to run a new line and breaker, seems silly for just that closet and it would require some fancy wall fishing but I have room in my panel.

Bonus question - I'm going to build the "desk" top out of particle board but would like to finish the top of it with something. Should be reasonably durable for sliding equipment around occasionally, and writing on, etc. Epoxy maybe, some kind of 1/8" hardboard, something else?

Any other tips or ideas anyone has, or can point me towards for putting together this little mini shack is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
 

belvdr

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Don't forget cooling, especially with such a small space. If the gear is left running with a door closed, it has the potential to overheat.

I would suggest using MDF as your table. It's stable, smooth, and can be painted. You do need a carbide blade to cut it, though. You can then avoid concerning yourself with how to fashion a smooth top to particle board. Alternatively, you might find a free desk online that you can snag the top from and cut it to size.

I would keep your electrical circuit as far away as possible from the coax. The coax can come into the area together. Ham gear requires a 13.8V power supply.

If I'm running cable to a new area, I tend to ensure I overspec it a bit. In this case, I would suggest a dedicated 120V 20A circuit. That means 12ga wiring , a 20 amp breaker, and a 20 amp receptacle. You may be able to get by with what you have, and the only way to know is to try it. If the breaker trips, you have another project. :)
 

Skyd

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Joined
Jan 9, 2023
Messages
46
Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
Don't forget cooling, especially with such a small space. If the gear is left running with a door closed, it has the potential to overheat.

I would suggest using MDF as your table. It's stable, smooth, and can be painted. You do need a carbide blade to cut it, though. You can then avoid concerning yourself with how to fashion a smooth top to particle board. Alternatively, you might find a free desk online that you can snag the top from and cut it to size.

I would keep your electrical circuit as far away as possible from the coax. The coax can come into the area together. Ham gear requires a 13.8V power supply.

If I'm running cable to a new area, I tend to ensure I overspec it a bit. In this case, I would suggest a dedicated 120V 20A circuit. That means 12ga wiring , a 20 amp breaker, and a 20 amp receptacle. You may be able to get by with what you have, and the only way to know is to try it. If the breaker trips, you have another project. :)
Thanks for the quick reply - the particle board I'm referencing is actually smooth, I can't recall the actual name of it but it's about 1/4 the cost of MDF (which I've worked with plenty as well). That's a good idea on the desk top idea though, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Cooling is something that crossed my mind, the door wouldn't be closed when equipment was in use but still a good idea.

I know a 20 amp circuit would be ideal, I'm hoping to avoid it due to fishing the walls all the way to the basement and also the cost of 12/2 these days - holy cow! I might start tearing mine out to sell it. LOL

I'll have to take a closer look at my circuits and see what's on each one.
 

mmckenna

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LATA 722
So here are some questions that some of you may be able to help with or give me some ideas.

1st - Running the coax into the room, is there an issue with having the 2-4 cables run bundled together?
No.

2nd - How much, if any, space should I give the coax away from 110v wiring?
You don't want to bundle them together, but they can be side by side. With good coax, it shouldn't matter. Since it's open studs, there's no reason to put them side by side though. Run it down in a separate space between studs. Makes it easier if you decide to run more later on.
And while you are at it, make sure running more coax is easy before you button up the wall. Conduit is nice, but not necessary.

3rd - How much power will I need in there? I know this is a loaded question, pun intended, but just thought I'd get some points of reference. I'd prefer to just tap into my bedroom wiring and add a few outlets. It's a 15amp breaker and I don't run much in my room off it other than a TV and Nintendo Switch, phone charger, and none of it very often. I MIGHT be able to run a new line and breaker, seems silly for just that closet and it would require some fancy wall fishing but I have room in my panel.
I'd run a new circuit. Or even more than one. Based off what you are talking about, you are not going to exceed 15 amps. But if you are doing it from scratch, having more than you need is much easier to do now. Run 2 20 amp circuit from the panel. That gives you power to spare, and if you ever do decide to expand things. 20 amps will cover an amplifier if you ever do. Having more than one circuit lets you separate things. Make sure you put in enough outlets that you do not need power strips.

Bonus question - I'm going to build the "desk" top out of particle board but would like to finish the top of it with something. Should be reasonably durable for sliding equipment around occasionally, and writing on, etc. Epoxy maybe, some kind of 1/8" hardboard, something else?
Formica, or whatever you want. Even plain plywood would let you use it as a small work bench.

Any other tips or ideas anyone has, or can point me towards for putting together this little mini shack is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Grounding. Make sure you have a dedicated ground wire going to the home ground rod.
 

mmckenna

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I know a 20 amp circuit would be ideal, I'm hoping to avoid it due to fishing the walls all the way to the basement and also the cost of 12/2 these days - holy cow! I might start tearing mine out to sell it. LOL
I wouldn't tap into an existing circuit. The cost of 14/2 and 12/2 is minimal.
 

Skyd

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Jan 9, 2023
Messages
46
Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
You mean grounding the antennas right? Which I have plans for already. They will need to have their own ground rod and then be bonded through my basement due to location of my service entrance.

With the electric, I didn't mean t-tapping. I wired all this when I did the renovations, and I need to go down to the basement and look but I may have put a 20 amp circuit on the bedroom. It was 10 years.

100ft of 12/2 is currently over $100. Copper prices are still crazy high unfortunately.
 

mmckenna

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You mean grounding the antennas right? Which I have plans for already. They will need to have their own ground rod and then be bonded through my basement due to location of my service entrance.
Grounding the antennas is important, even if they are in the attic.
Your radios should be grounded, as with all station equipment. Ideally you want a ground buss in the shack that bonds everything to the same ground as the antennas.

With the electric, I didn't mean t-tapping. I wired all this when I did the renovations, and I need to go down to the basement and look but I may have put a 20 amp circuit on the bedroom. It was 10 years.
No, I understand. I figured you'd come off one of the existing outlets and daisy chain. You could certainly do that if that is your only reasonable option. Unlikely you'd ever exceed the capacity of the circuit with your list of radios.
However, in new construction/perfect world/unlimited budget, you'd want your own new circuit.


100ft of 12/2 is currently over $100. Copper prices are still crazy high unfortunately.
Yeah, I used to recycle a lot of copper, and the price nosedived many years back. I think I need to start through my stuff again and see what I can trade in.
 

Skyd

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Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
Ok so between some more research on my part and the great info and pictures you guys provided I have a good idea of what a proper setup looks like.

I have what may be 1 major issue, at least sources I've read make it seem like a major issue. My shack is on the 2nd floor, bonding it to the rest of the system will require a wire no shorter than 25 feet. I've read this is an issue because it then basically becomes an antenna. Now that being said it would be run inside my house to the basement where I can bond either to my water main which is already tied to the electric panel, or I can run it to the panel which would be another 6 or 8 feet.

I also have a metal roof - so attic antennas are out anyway.

I know grounding is a touchy subject and there's alot of opinions out there. I'm somewhat familiar with NEC 810, I'm just trying to reasonably reach code as well as keep unwanted noise to a minimum.

Oh and also I found about 50' of 12/2 in my basement I forgot I had, and I took a look at the path I would need to take and I think I can fish it reasonably well so I may just go ahead and install that new circuit.

I'm getting a bit discouraged to be honest and I haven't even started yet. I don't have any better spots in the house that I can use, and this seems like it might be about the worst spot to put a shack.
 
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Skyd

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Messages
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Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
I may have found my solution and in fact this would be even easier for me to accomplish. It reportedly works well and allows me to not have to worry too much about the distance between my station and the ground rod.


1674655556180.png
 

iMONITOR

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So all of this has led me to a small closet, 24" deep and 42" wide that's mostly just a junk collector. I never finished the inside of the closet when I did the 2nd story renovations years back. So right now it's open stud partly, with attic above it. Prime conditions for running coax.
Expect that closet to get very cold in the winter. :eek:
 

Skyd

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Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
It's funny to me how every time I read an article they assert themselves as the person with the only correct answer. LOL - that being said that was good information and might be my best bet. Thanks for the link!


Expect that closet to get very cold in the winter. :eek:
My house was built in 1890 - it already gets very cold...HAHA - but on a more serious note I meant that the interior walls of the closet are open stud, not the exterior which is just 1 side of the closet. Also i plan to insulate it because my daughter's room is right on the other side and she won't wanna hear my nerdy radio stuff, and I don't wanna hear teenage girls giggling.
 

mmckenna

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NEC would want you grounded/bonded to the ground rod.
Water pipe might work technically, but the rod is a better spot.

The long ground wire issue might be a challenge on HF, but I'd not get too hung up on it until you know for sure.
The coax shield ground makes some sense, but again, NEC rules…..
 

G7RUX

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Jul 14, 2021
Messages
73
If yuo can thread the 12/2 up to the cupboard, could you run the coax down that way to the basement? The better grounding from having the shack down there will probably make for a better, quieter setup in the long run.
 

Skyd

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2023
Messages
46
Location
Northern Grafton County, New Hampshire
If yuo can thread the 12/2 up to the cupboard, could you run the coax down that way to the basement? The better grounding from having the shack down there will probably make for a better, quieter setup in the long run.
The basement would be a terrible place for my shack, I'd never use it - it's an overpoured foundation that used to be fieldstone, it's not a place I like to spend much time unfortunetly though I do have a workbench down there and alot of my tools.

NEC would want you grounded/bonded to the ground rod.
Water pipe might work technically, but the rod is a better spot.

The long ground wire issue might be a challenge on HF, but I'd not get too hung up on it until you know for sure.
The coax shield ground makes some sense, but again, NEC rules…..
My thought with the water pipe was that it is also bonded to my panel so it's just a point of connection, however with some more thought on this I think I could just as easily go outside to a ground rod, either the service entrance or the one I'll be placing for the antennas and then bonding to the service entrance (will have to travel through my basement).
 
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slowmover

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It's funny to me how every time I read an article they assert themselves as the person with the only correct answer. LOL - that being said that was good information and might be my best bet. Thanks for the link!




My house was built in 1890 - it already gets very cold...HAHA - but on a more serious note I meant that the interior walls of the closet are open stud, not the exterior which is just 1 side of the closet. Also i plan to insulate it because my daughter's room is right on the other side and she won't wanna hear my nerdy radio stuff, and I don't wanna hear teenage girls giggling.
It’s a “reply “ to discussions elsewhere. Tom Rausch is someone at the top of the game. Look him up.

.
 

belvdr

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It’s a “reply “ to discussions elsewhere. Tom Rausch is someone at the top of the game. Look him up.

.
Must not be that popular. Only hits I received were theologians and musicians, as well as an auto group.
 
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