As luck would have it, I find myself the recipient of another lucky draw on the real estate based poker game. Rewinding, this story starts in 1975 in my dad’s 2 car garage. My first acquisition was with a high school friend and I acquired a pile of hard-to-sell military surplus. I moved from there to my first rental space in midtown Omaha. After 8 years that building sold and I was forced to move into my own estate with “out” buildings. 5 years later I bought my first building of about 5000 SF in downtown Omaha. 7 years down the trail I bought my beloved Kimball Laundry building just up the block.
Kimball allowed expansion into 80,000 SF. I still was not thinking in terms of cubic feet at this point and was still on two dimensions. This is where my luck starts to play a part. After 15 years, Kimball is full. I just acquired a 28 semi-load deal from Power One, the power supply manufacturer. This forced me to either acquire more satellite space or a new building. At the same point in time, the condo market in Omaha was peaking, bringing me a buyer for Kimball that allowed an unexpected profit. I jumped further north in town to a mostly blighted area and bought a warehouse that was built in the 1860’s. High ceilings. Now I thought in a third dimension. How high could I stack it. As it turns out, I could stack it 10′-15′ high and I had about 150,000 SF to fill up.
After another 15 years, not only was this building full but now this neighborhood was being eyeballed for development into something bigger and better. I thought my Ashton building would become apartments some day but other forces were moving and shaping the neighborhood into a creative, cool place to work. Offices. Something to do with the Mastercraft building next door I suppose. Succumbing to trendy developers was becoming a habit, so I sold out.
On the downhill path of Grinnell’s lucky real estate arc I stumbled into my current building. It actually has 4 dimensions. Width, depth, height and cool. Since this is my first and last building that will take me into retirement, I needed to make sure I would never out grow it. Here we have 6 million cubic feet to organize and store to the Nth degree. In broad strokes we have 144 LED lit metal shelved aisles, 220′ long and 10′ high. This is for storage and organization of small parts. We also have 20 rows 250′ long of 18′ high double deep pallet racking. This for bulk storage of inventory and unsorted purchases. All lined up to be broken down and added to the website. Add a super snazzy office with expanded shipping facility and you have Surplus Sales of Nebraska, Fort Calhoun.
In July of 2017 Surplus Sales was invited to bid on the entire Apex Electronics warehouse located in Sun Valley, California. Almost every major acquisition we have made in the last 30 years involved a warehouse in a redeveloping part of the city that was more valuable in a future reuse than in its present static warehousing form. That was the case with the Apex building. Consequently, they wanted to sell the entire contents, wall to wall. We made them an acceptable offer and a deal was struck. Now the fun starts.
Our crew arrived in LA with one objective in mind. To load up eight 53′ shipping containers as quickly as humanly possible. That would require long 10 hours days. Our hosts were gracious and accommodated our schedule as well as providing additional labor and equipment. Building 40″ x 48″ pallets eight foot tall was the singular focus. Everything had to come off of the shelves and be carefully packed to travel the 1600 miles. Boxes were packed and then stacked on pallets up to 8 feet tall. 26 pallets would need to be squeezed into each truck.
We packed our last truck 10 days after starting. Cuts, bruises and hurting bodies all packed in for the trip back to Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. After all, trucks were arriving that needed to be unloaded. That is about all the further we got with the Apex acquisition. Unloaded and stored into our vast pallet rack system. We were just starting to move our main warehouse across town so first things first. Over 500 truckloads were moved. We look forward to settling down into a steady process of accessing each new Apex part and sending it up to the website so you all can feast on this vintage treasure from California.
I love building. The biggest reward in creating a circuit is watching it work when you fire it up. One of my first projects, when I was first licensed in 1975, was to build a 3 band trapped diploe. I used molded mica transmitting silver mica capacitors and B&W coil stock. Once the traps were constructed, and checked with a grid dip meter, they were ready for installation into the wire antenna. Through the years, ceramic doorknobs became more common place than the old micas, I suppose due to availability and not form, fit and function. The mica was and always will be a superior capacitor for use in and outdoor antenna trap. That 20-40-80 meter dipole worked faithfully for many years.
Molded silver micas are made with a hermetically sealed envelope, impervious to weather of all sorts where and the doorknobs are made from porous ceramic. They don’t hold up to the Midwest elements like snow, ice, water, freezing and thawing. Eventually they pop apart. The mica is great for small traps made for a 200 watt or less transmitter and will last a long time. Micas are made both with solder terminals and screw terminals. I prefer the screw type. They have 6-32 solid brass tapped screw holes and can be soldered if you insist and a tight mechanical connection is made. The solder joint is also subject to weather over time. Micas are also available in literally hundreds of values allowing latitude in design and the ability to change values sliding the resonant frequency of the trap a little if need be. It is not uncommon to parallel molded micas as well. Micas are 30%-60% less than the current cost of ceramic doorknobs. RF current handling is greater for the silver mica.
Too many new hams take the easy route of a random wire and an antenna tuner. Live a little. Build traps. If you can’t find coil stock, wind your own inductor on 3” thin wall PVC. Used 10 gauge enameled wire and then urethane the winding in place once its wound. We also have ceramic insulators you can run through the middle to take the strain off of the trap. There lots of construction stories on how to build traps. Try the Radio Amateur’s Handbook for example.
I made these traps early in my ham career. Conveniently, the same year Jim and I started Surplus Sales. So, for the next 40+ years of buying parts for the surplus business, I always kept an eye out for silver micas. Handy little buggers. They have also been a great seller through the years. We have not raised prices on these for decades. And to make matters even more tantalizing for the reader contemplating building an old fashioned trapped dipole, I acquired another 500 pounds or so of molded silver mica caps to add to stock. Not much chance we will run out anytime soon! Check out our web page for micas and keep an eye on it as it expands very soon! Fistell Electronic’s inventory has only had the surface scratched but we just found a pallet of micas during our move to the new building.