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Re: [TowerTalk] lightning bolt

Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] lightning bolt
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Tue, 03 Jan 2006 18:19:43 -0800
List-post: <>
At 06:04 PM 1/3/2006, Rick Karlquist wrote:
>Jim Lux wrote:
> >
> > or, a bit more subtly, that the vendors of products such as quads that are
> > small companies, particularly ones with a small product line.  These
> >
> > Antenna manufacturing is probably one of those businesses where the
> > capital
> > investment required is fairly low.  You can contract out the manufacture
> > of
> > the machined parts in small lots, and all you do is package up the parts
> > and mail them out.  The trick is in hitting a ham-acceptable price target,
> > which is very, very difficult to do (unless you have access to some other
>SteppIR is also a small business, yet it's only problem is that the volume
>of sales is so high they have trouble making enough antennas, and the
>price is actually fairly high (expensive but worth it).  The difference is
>you can't homebrew a SteppIR like you can with a quad.  SteppIR shows that
>if you have a really good product, you will be successful.  The LB quad
>was a nice implementation, but nothing special.

And therein lies the secret.  You need that unique product that can't be 
homebrewed. Or, you have to have a way to homebrew it yourself and still 
make a profit selling it.

>The price target thing comes up with products like the Hazer that are
>expensive, but NOT worth it.  In that case, you can homebrew a better
>version AND save money (speaking as an owner of a previously owned
>Hazer and glad I didn't pay the new price).

There's always the "save time by spending money" aspect.  I bought 4 MFJ 
remote antenna switch boxes a few months ago. Sure, I could probably get 
the relays, wire them up in a box, etc. for less than the $120 each or so 
they cost, but it would be close, and this was turnkey.

(Now all I want is a turnkey antenna tuner/adjustable LC network with 
remote control.. I'm torn between designing my own using relays, modifying 
a LDG (or having them modify them), cobbling up some scheme with stepper or 
gear motors and rotary components or something else entirely).

>BTW, one way of cultivating suppliers if you are a low volume
>business is to find small suppliers for which your volume is significant.
>In the long run, you may be better off paying them more than the
>big guys, who could suddenly lose interest.  Where I work, we go
>through mom and pop distributors to buy connectors at ridiculous
>markups.  Sure beats getting long delivery and high minimum orders
>from the manufacturer.  We'd rather make less money and stay in

This is why McMaster-Carr is in business!  But you're right, for machine 
shop work and the like, it's the cultivating that counts.

When I worked in a small business doing manufacturing, we had those 
relationships with sheet metal fabricators (who could bend and punch all 
sorts of nifty things) and machinists.  However, it's that "develop a 
relationship" part, and that's non trivial if you don't happen to work with 
people who know those people, etc.  Working your way through the yellow 
pages would be pretty tedious!

Maybe that's who should be advertising in the back of QST and at hamfests.. 
ACME CNC machine shop, send us your napkin sketch, we send you your 
parts.  For an extremely interesting example of mailorder CNC machining 
check out  Never again will I punch a 
D-sub shaped hole; or heavens forbid, dremel it.  Life is too short to 
spend hours with a file.

Jim, W6RMK.


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