In my QSO Today with this week's guest, Bill Meara, N2CQR, of "Soldersmoke" podcasting fame, we discussed the "Manhattan" method of circuit construction that Bill uses to build his home-brew radio transceivers (see show notes). The conversation took me back in time to my first electronics technician job, just out of high school, for a marine electronics company in Costa Mesa, California. I shared the shop with another ham, Harry Wells, W6LYC, later NI6S (SK). Harry was a huge fellow, rolled his own cigarettes, spoke like a sailor, and chased everyone out of the radio shop upstairs where we worked. He some how took a liking to me, did not chase me out, and he became one of my best elmers.
Harry liked to "dumpster dive" at lunch time and taught me the fine points of where to dive and what to get out of the trash. He recovered enough teak squares about 3" X 1", from the trash bin of a teak cabinet maker, over a few weeks, to cover the entire wall of his dining room. The treasures that we found were quite remarkable, and I admit that I still dumpster dive today, much to my wife's displeasure. Harry taught me how to fix radios and radars, autopilots and depth sounders. When I built my first amateur remote base control system out of military surplus relays, he quickly agreed to mill and drill, in his home machine shop, a 19" rack panel for my Western Electric 247B touch tone decoder and about forty of the surplus relays. I remember bringing back the completed project, a few weeks later, all wired with 22 gauge telephone wire and tied every inch with mono-filament fishing line to make a perfect wiring harness. He spent more than a few minutes studying every inch of it. Then he looked over the frames of the huge black glasses that he wore in the shop and said, "beautiful job, Eric". It was a beautiful job, on account of Harry, and the investment that he made in me. As I could never repay him for his kindness, I could only pay it forward to others in the future.
So back to Bill - when he mentioned the Manhattan method for creating circuit pads for home-brewing, I was reminded that Harry taught me how to use the "island pad" method using a miniature drill press and a 1/4" hole saw to cut the round pads in printed circuit material. Like dumpster diving, this is the method that I use for home-brewing some 35 years later. When the company closed, not long after I started to work with Harry, I lost touch with him.
I will always be grateful to my elmers, like Harry, who taught me so much about electronics, ham radio, and other "skills" that I carry with me to this day. And because many of them are gone now, and wanted nothing from me in return, I attempt to pay it forward as an elmer to others. That his why amateur radio is a great hobby, because it is the perfect vehicle for mentoring and being mentored. This podcast, I hope, is a weekly reminder that we have amazing elmers in our hobby who help us to be better from their contributions, and in turn allow us to learn, then teach. How cool is that?