If you’re under 18, click here.
This topic is about the dangers of ham radio. Real dangers, experienced by real people. Horror at its best.
Not too long ago a not-to-be-named (PD5BUS would hate it if I did) Dutch ham radio operator discovered the delights of classic ham radios. Tubes, filaments, high voltages, tuning, loading, repairing, restoring, GREAT! With little or no experience under his belt he became a regular on the local repeater, asking for advice. Enough oldies to help him out, and with a truck load of tips and warnings he went to work. Quite successfully, if I may add.
On one occasion however he forgot about the ‘High Voltage’ warnings we gave him. Just a fraction of a second of distraction was enough to make him hit high notes even a professional singer would have trouble to hit. Because his body was reasonably insulated from ground, he survived the ordeal with minor injuries. You can’t take such an outcome for granted, as K9UWA can testify.
“Although after 50 plus years of working around high voltage I do know better. I was working on my Home Brew Ham Amplifier about 10 years ago. The hole in my index finger is the B+ going IN and the holes in the thumb and the backside of my wrist were the exit points where my hand was grounded against the frame of the supply. The B+ Entry point was the backside of a Millen High Voltage connector where although the wire had adequate insulation it didn’t completely fill the exit hole in the connector. Thats 7600 volts DC at 20 amps. It had my whole arm like a VISE GRIP. I was down on my knees on a carpeted concrete floor. I had the presence of mind to push with my knees to force myself out of the ball of fire. The cut in the middle is where the surgeon sliced into my hand to get under that whole mess to do the cleaning of the tunnels burned below the skin. The picture was taken a one week after the accident. It took 9 months before all those burns were healed completely. Amazingly I have only some permanent nerve damage to the fingers and a slight limitation of motion to the thumb joint.
The only reason I am still here is because it just wasn’t my time to go yet. Had the backside of my hand not been grounded to the frame of the cabinet then the exit point would have been through my knees carpet and into the concrete and someone else would be explaining this to you. My heart was thrown out of rhythm and stayed that way for nearly 12 hours in the local hospital. It finally did convert on its own just prior to the time they planned on stopping it and restarting it hoping that would solve the problem.
So yes guys do pay attention and stay away from the serious high voltage stuff when its turned on. As to the old radios? Yes I do get bit now and then from some litic or B+ supply. Those bites I don’t worry too much about.
Another not-to-be-named (in this case I’ll keep my promise, he’s as big and strong as a bear) Dutch ham radio operator showed up at my house once, his face (specifically his nose) covered up in bandage. He looked horrible. Of course I asked what happened, but he refused. “Can’t do. You would tell everyone.”
Me? I’m as reliable and trustworthy as the average politician, so I answered “No I won’t. Read My Lips. You can trust me.” After a few beers, though clearly a bit reluctant, he started to talk.
“I was driving on the highway and had a great QSO going on, but also an itch up in my nose. So I started steering with my knees, holding the microphone in my right hand, and picking my nose with my left hand.
At that point another car in front of me hit the brakes real hard, and I couldn’t avoid a collision. The air bags went off, with my finger still in my nose.”
I tried not to laugh. I tried to look serious. I tried to look compassionate. And failed miserably.