Building WICEN Portable Cases

 
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First some background

For more info on their activities check out WICEN Bundaberg

In Bundaberg several Amateur Radio Operators serve the community in a group called WICEN. It's a Civil Emergency Network of Radio operators who assist the Emergency Service organisations during times of natural disaster.

When electricity supply fails and telephones exchange batteries fail... radio is the last line of communication as they operate on 12Volt batteries.

To be effective the radio operator has to be able to respond quickly by carrying everything they need to set up portable stations wherever they are required. They must be self sufficient and carry their own equipment.

A typical emergency Station includes the Radio equipment, the antennas and a portable office so that they can pass radio traffic and keep track of it all.

Our WICEN group received a Queensland Government grant [from the proceeds of Casino Gambling] for the purchase new portable radios, power supplies and tuners but the budget didn't run to the enclosures to carry all the shiny new equipment.

We had intended using suitcase style rolling bags but after the Bundaberg floods of December 2010 we realised that to have the operator and the radio gear transported by floodboat or helicopter they would need something much more robust and weatherproof. While we hope a box wouldn't be dropped in a flooded creek, we had to think about the driving rain and 'spritzing' the gear would encounter in a floodboat.

It was back to the drawing board - laying out the radio equipment and the ancillary items and measuring and rearranging and measuring again until we found and efficient design.

There are heavy duty plastic cases on the market for holding sensitive radio and engineering equipment but the price is high and they didn't leave a lot of room for the miscellaneous items a Ham has to take to an emergency comms site and we wanted to avoid having to carry another box of 'stuff'.

Our brief for this project was that the operator could sling this case over one shoulder, the antenna bag over the other shoulder and they could walk a reasonable distance. Once such antenna is our ENVIS Dipole.

The Bundaberg Amateur Radio Club provided the basic materials and Yank Engineering did the handiwork. The end result were timber (pine) cases outside dimension 740x370x210mm and with a weight of 22kg when fully loaded.

 

This project may be of use to you, so here is a pictorial diary as well as some design notes to assist...

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Cutting 19mm pine to size for the four sides of the boxes.

The lid and bottom sections were made separately so effectively 6 independent boxes were to be made. The lid height is 70mm and the Bottom 140mm x 19mm pine boards and as the raw pine is quite soft so all holes were drilled before screwing.

A production line was set up, cutting, marking and numbering the pieces and also trying to match similar grain for a better finish.

Jig to ensure the corners were square and aid the pre drilling work. It may take time to set up these aids but the accuracy helps when all the pieces come together.

 

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Glueing and screwing the individual boxes...

The pine board edges were routed to take the 7mm ply that became the top and bottom outer skin.

The tops and bottom sheets were 7mm ply sheets and they were rebated in to the 19mm edges.

They were glued and screwed to the edges because the box will have to take some weight over rough terrain.

The narrow box was fitted as a lid to the wider bottom box.

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Next came the job of sanding... and sanding... boy, that sure got old quickly.

 

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wicen08Rounding off the edges so sharp corners didn't catch to operator as they walked.

Used a poly filler to neaten up the pine and fill the natural blemishes and also fill the screw holes.wicen09

 

It's not easy to make a cheap sheet of pine look like a quality finish but we gave it a good shot.

 

 

 

 

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Hinges which come apart so that the lid can be removed and used for other purposes.

A groove was routed into the long sides to take a small partition piece of 7mm ply.

This created a snug holding place for the 40M roll of coax. It's a heavy item and we needed to be sure it couldn't move inside the box.

We then ensured that the heaviest piece on the top shelf was on the opposite end to keep the box balanced and easier to carry.

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Fitted a handle made of hardwood dowel, threaded rod, nyloc nut and it was time to varnish.

We used Cabot's Marine Clear. Two coats to the inside and 4 spray coats to the outside

 

 

The base board is 12mm Pine sheet strong enough to hold the radio equipment.

Small aluminium 'L' brackets hold each piece in place and keep metal to a minimum around the equipment.

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LDG YT-100 Tuner, Yaesu FT-857D Transceiver and Jetstream power supply make up the 'brains' of the case.

The lift out panel is rebated into the bottom box and results in a flush finish.

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wicen16The panel lifts out by using the fingers holes in diagonal corners so we're keeping the weight down by not introducing a lifting handle.

Lid detaches so it can be used for other purposes, like a tray or for holding paperwork etc in the office environment that the operator must create

 

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Underneath the lift out panel is everything the operator needs.

There's a 40M roll of coax, leads for battery connection, hammer, earth wire and earth stake, magnetic base for VHF/UHF antenna, clock, Hi-viz jackets for the operator, clipboard and plastic boxes containing message pad and office supplies and of course spare fuses.

Total weight when the box is loaded in this configuration is 22kg and well within the lifting limits for the active WICEN members

 

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The rear of the lift out panel.

All bolts are recessed into the timber so that there are no sharp protrusions to catch on the equipment or the operator

 

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Close up shot of the handle at Left.

The dowel handle has a smaller dowel stand-off the and a 1/4" threaded rod runs from a nyloc nut on the top of the handle, through the smaller dowel and into a threaded nut embedded into the 19mm pine wall.

The radio equipment is mounted so that the lift out panel can be moved at any angle and used anywhere.

Once again, no sharp protrusions in the case which might cause grief.

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Notice the underside again, as the nuts are all recessed into the 12mm pine there is nothing to catch on equipment below or the operator.wicen22

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Finished !

3 new Portable Emergency Amateur Radio Station Cases