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Author Topic: Main Station Equipment Table - Best Design?  (Read 3825 times)

Posts: 26

« on: July 26, 2001, 08:20:19 PM »

I'm ready to jump in and try to design a table for my HF / VHF / UHF station, plus all the normal junk (table lamp, clocks, PC, filing drawers, etc.).

I've seen a number of photos posted here on Eham that have given me ideas about the best way to proceed.

The forum's comments / suggestions would be welcome.

Here's what I'm thinking so far,

1 - easy access to the rear of table by using casters with locks.

2 - at least 2, maybe 3 shelves that can be altered in height at any time. Shelves should be supported at the ends at 1 or 2 places in between, but I want to maintain a nice cosmetic appearance.

3 - the area behind the equipment must have something permanent to tie cables (coax, audio, 12 Vdc, etc.) to so cable routing doesn't create a cosmetic mess, but yet is easy to change when needed.

4 - not sure what type of surface the main table should be. I've considered a hollow door that I could finish with stain then varnish. I'm thinking a door won't hold the linear and all the other "stuff" so everything is stable if the table is bumped, etc.

5 - Enough arm room on the front for CW, phone, and the necessary writing equipment. Of course the keyboard must fit in there somewhere.

Well that's about it. If anyone has ideas on what you consider very functional, yet easy to work with behind the table (I'm always changing and trying things) please feel free to post of email me directly. K9FTB@INAME.COM

73's, Dean, K9FTB
Fairport, NY

Posts: 9930

« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2001, 05:25:56 AM »

I heartily reccommend using the old interior door as a table.  I use this very thing in a closet in my spare bedroom as a desk for my main computer setup. And a benifit to using a closet if you choose to leave the door on the closet you can hide and even lock up your station to keep little fingers out of it.  I took the sliding doors off my computer setup.

 I screwed 2" x 2" wood cleats in the wall on the 3 sides of the closet with 3 inch sheetrock screws, ( try to hit a stud on each end of the cleat) and cut the door to fit.  I use the hole where the handle goes to run the wires through. I dropped the door on to the cleats and screw them in with a screw in each cleat.  I covered the top of the door with cheep self stick tile, ( this trick is also good for the bottom of bird cages!!)  If you buy the good tile it is too spongy, but the cheap, flat , 50 cents apeice tile works great, and is tough and can be replaces with out too much trouble if you barf it up too bad.

You can use the whole door with cleats on 2 walls (in a corner, makes it stable) and one of those fancy turned wooden legs you can get at the home depot for $5.00 to hold up the front corner, and put a couple of angel braces on it to stablize the leg when you kick it ( and you will  eventually bump it), to keep it in place.

You can find lots of shelving arangements for the table, but I like to use book cases in the four foot height. They are a foot deep usually and you can cut holes in the flimsy cardboard paneling ( backing) to run the wires out of and the shelves do adjust, but use what ever you prefer.  I even used another door in the garage one time as  the open end support for the horizontal door, and hung shelves between this and the wall on the other end.  I reccommend a solid core door for use as an end piece....easier to screw the shelves to and much stronger.  Once again you can brace the back with either brackets or plywood....  any how I hope this gives you a couple of ideas to start from.

N6AJR   tom

Posts: 25

« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2001, 08:14:53 AM »

Go to a used office equipment dealer and look for a desk with an overhang on the back.  This is sometimes called an "executive desk", and the overhang allows visitors to pull a chair up to the desk and have a writing surface.  Mine has overhangs on the sides also, and the top measures 36" x 72" as opposed to the usual 30" x 60".  It has a center drawer, three drawers in the left pedestal, and two in the right pedestal (one of which is is a file drawer).  It is very heavy, which is the only drawback.

I went to a local shop that makes bookcases, and had a "desk topper" built.  Mine is 40" wide, 18" deep, and 8" high.  It has two vertical dividers for strength, and a horizontal 1x2 across the back that also supports a copper ground strip.  I painted my topper flat black, and it is very unobtrusive.  The topper hold my equipment on and under it. I may have a digital photo somewhere that I could e-mail to anyone interested.  You can design one of these to meet your specific needs.  Now that I have lived with mine for a year, I wish that I had designed it a little wider and deeper.


David Farris, K5NT

Posts: 34

« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2001, 11:43:25 PM »

It depends all on what you want and your wood working skills?  I would sugest going down to your local hard ware store "Home Depot" and getting a book on building your own work shop.  Even if you dont have all of the tools. you might find some one who can cut and drill some of the peices you need, in return for some type of compensation. Then put all the parts together and for not much you have a coustimzable and home build work bench. I have helped my father build quite a few when he owned a two-way radio shop, and they are not that hard.  Also you can buy finished tops for work benches at most major hardware stores.

Best of luck..


Posts: 1912

« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2001, 09:05:02 PM »

Here are some things I've found useful after 40+ years of hamming, and having assembled many different station setups.

1. AC Power: Buy the long power strips with an outlet every 6 inches or so.  They come in a variety of lengths - get one as long as your table, and fasten it to the wall behind or to the rear of the table.  

2. DC Power: A more modern requirement!  Don't screw around with a dozen wall-warts plugged in to your AC outlets.  Buy one of the MFJ DC power distribution strips and mount it to the back of the table or the wall.  Feed that with a 12 volt supply of 20 amps or so.  Use the double banana plugs to tap into the DC strip and replace all the wall-warts with that type of connection to the strip.

3. Keyboard: The only place for the keyboard is in a pull-out drawer mounted underneath the tabletop.  That puts it at the right height and you can easily push it out of the way when not needed.

4. Microphone: Don't mess around with desk mic stands.  Get one of the swivel arms with a table edge mount at your local music store and mount your mic in that.  Takes zero table space and easily swings out of the way when not in use.  And- is cheaper than a desk mic.  

5. Desk: Nothing wrong with using a door and don't underestimate the strength of even the cheapest cardboard core door.  Support it properly and it'll hold everything you an throw at it.  For the top, I always have a local glass company cut a piece of 1/4 inch plate glass to cover the working area.  I put small felt adhesive dots on the back so as to get a bit of clearance from the table top.  Then, you can put all those frequently referenced paper items under the glass so you can see them but they won't interfere with you. Candidate info for under the glass: DXCC country list, Your license, your QSL, ICOM or other frequency/privilege chart, net or repeater frequency list, etc.

After graduating from the door-as-table phase, I went to one of the modern furniture stores and bought an inexpensive assemble-it-yourself desk that has a very heavy MDF core and a formica-like finish all over.  Easy to clean with windex and wears like iron.  Has a high wife-acceptance factor!  

6. Shelf unit construction: I now use 3/4 inch plywood with an oak veneer on it.  Extremely strong and good looking and easy to finish.  At the home improvement stores, you can buy matching oak veneer tape that you apply with your wifes clothes iron (at your own risk!). The result is a very strong structure that generally doesn't need intermediate supports, at least over a three foot span.  Don't EVER build a shelf unit to accomodate your existing equipment with little room to spare.  Soon, you'll be changing gear and then the damn stuff won't fit into the shelves. Build a bit oversize to start with.  Finish shelves with Minwax stain and tung oil. Result: very nice looking finish that's very durable, and can be applied using wiping cloths - no messy spraying, etc.  Of course, if you're lucky enough to have a basement (not here in the South), you don't have to be so concerned about how it looks.

Posts: 0

« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2001, 06:08:43 PM »

Here is a shelving technique I've been using for several years that works well, looks good, is very strong, and readily adapts to changing height requirements.

My shelves are supported by four sections of 1/2 inch black iron pipe that is attached to the shelf corners with "floor flange mounts".   The flange mounts attach to the shelf with 4 screws and provide a screw-in pipe thread connector for the pipe sections.  The pipe sections are available at most hardware stores in various lengths and can be easily cut to suit.   I also found that 3/4 inch slip-on rubber feet work nicely to provide a secure footing for each "leg".  A 5/8 inch flat washer in the rubber foot will keep the pipe end from cutting the rubber foot.

The pipe sections could be painted but what I do is slip a piece of the split black plastic ribbed cable management tubing over each pipe section.  This stuff is available at RS or some hardware stores.  I also paint the pipe flanges satin black to match.  Looks very professional.

For shelves I use some nice edge joined pine 2X18x72 inch pine shelf sections available from Home Depot.   The stuff looks  really great with a little light stain and poly varnish.  3/4 inch plywood would also work well but might not look as nice.  

I have three of these shelves stacked on a old steel office deck that I picked up used for $10.  The first shelf has the heavy stuff (PA-77 Alpha) and I put another floating support under one end of the linear to spread the load and prevent sagging.

Now when I re-arrange the equipment all I have to do is change the pipe sections to whatever height the new arrangement needs.  After doing this several times I have a stock of different lengths available.

73 Jack

Posts: 101

« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2001, 03:00:00 PM »

Whatever you do, make sure you have plenty of ventilation to keep your gear from getting too hot. Space out the shelves and supports, and don't box in the back. Electronic gear is less reliable when it runs hot.

Posts: 6

« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2001, 02:10:27 AM »

I've had many radio desks over the years, but none pleased me. I don't want my leg room restricted, and desks with drawers and rear panels are restricted and heavy to move out from a wall. I'm also tall and most desk tops are just too low. While reading about Spark stations from the 20's I noticed they used a basic table design with a low shelf underneath for batteries and other power supplies. I really liked the shelf and the unrestricted leg room, so I got some old library tables at a school auction and added a shelf and some casters. They are 30" tall and just right. One is 30"x96" and supports my main operating position. A second is 30"x60" and supports my boatanchor position. The low shelf holds power supplies and accessories out of sight yet still accessible. I put rings and outlet strips on the underside and back of the tables to keep all wiring well organized. These old tables are very solidly constructed out of oak and beautiful when restored. They look especially good holding radios. I guess some of the oldest ideas are best. I added slats to the sides of the tables to make them look Mission Style and have received many compliments on them. I also built angled shelves that sit on the tables to hold the equipment off the table tops. They are 5" high at the front and 16" deep so keys, mics and such can be tucked underneath. I don't stack my equipment because it impedes air circulation and my view out the window behind the table. I stapled 3" copper flashing along the rear of each shelf for a common ground bus and connected each piece of gear to it with short pieces of 1" copper strap. Everything is easy to work on with the table pulled out from the wall. I find these simple tables easy to live with. It's really nice to slide from one end of the table to the other and not bump my kness on anything!

Posts: 20

« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2001, 11:36:09 PM »

Good topic.  LOTS of variety.  First question would be what sort of operating you do or intend to do.  As a contest op, I wanted something which would support two radios--not only in terms of physical support, but the ergonomics & design to enable me to operate efficiently.  Having spent over a year trying to find something suitable, I concluded I'd have to build it.  (Pictures can be found on N4ZR's contesting website....)  Spent a week making a full-size mockup out of cardboard, of the real desk & all the gear. Cardboard boxes, cut & taped together.  This technique, although primitive, worked for me, not having a CAD program.  I spent a week making the real desk & shelving.  The base is 3/4-inch plywood.  It's a U-shape, which wraps around me. There's room behind it.  There are 40 AC outlets (permanent type) & there are also DC taps.  The room has overhead lighting (it's a dedicated ham shack room) & there are also individual LUXO lamps on the desk.  The trim is pine (cheap & easy to finish) & the surface is gray Formica.  (Tough, yet easy to clean.)  I've had it for over a year now, & wish I had spent the time to build it before.  It makes operating easier.  It's oversize--although I can't imagine getting larger radios anytime soon!  The only thing I might change is the use of the computer keyboard.  I can't stand those drawers which slide out--they are all too shaky for my hammer fingers.  The desktop is just a bit high for normal "office setup" typing.  But there are only four major contests a year, & sometimes I'm at a multi-op or in the Caribbean.  It's okay, but could be improved.....yet it's the best desk I've used in 39 years of hamming.

Posts: 3

« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2002, 09:25:22 AM »

I've been using a computer desk by O'Sullivan for several years now, and it's worked out VERY well.

It has a hutch on the back, which I have elevated with some 2x2 pine stock. This enables me to put my TS870 under the hutch just so. I have cut out some of the cardboard backing behind a shelf set, which enables my TNC and antenna selectors to fit nicely.

Obviously, being a computer desk is an advantage when integrating that equipment into the station.

There is one cubby hole left that will be adapted for use with my Alpha 374A.

This doesn't address my need for a suitable place for my classic Collins and Drake equipment, but that's a subject for another post ;-)

Bill in Richmond, VA

Posts: 14

« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2003, 05:18:45 PM »

I don't have a ton of equipment, but I have a 6' banquet table.  I got it from my church when they got new ones.  I took the hutch top off of a computer desk I found in the garbage, and bolted it to the top of the table.  It leaves one 2 foot section of table with no topper, for being able to work on all sides of stuff.

My shack is next to the storm room, in the basment so all my feeds come from above.  I can just drop a feed of power down where I need it.

My chair and my little 2 seat couch came from an office that was remodeling here in town, and I rescued them.

All in all my furniture cost, $ 7.50 for nuts and bolts, and a couple of eyelets from Ace, to attach everything together, plus make sure it wasn't moving.
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