Ham Spot Salvage: LCD for Free

There are many types of components you can salvage from items most people would have thrown away.  This can save you a considerable amount of money if applied appropriately.  You can easily fall into the trap of spending a hour to salvage a part when it would have been more cost effective to buy new or NOS.

I have provided some examples of which types of parts to scavenge and which parts to buy new.  As well as how to organize your parts while you are salvaging them.

 Be on the lookout at fleamarkets and other places for used and NOS parts.  Check out your local thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, DAV and so on for outdated electronics that can be parted out.  Also find a local recycler that will take your waste.  You might be surprised to know that some recyclers will pay you for circuit boards and plastic in sufficient quantity.

Parts to Scavenge

  • Sheet Metal chassis covers, brackets, shields, etc
  • Screws & Nuts (Machine, Sheet Metal, not wood)
  • Washers (Metal, Teflon, etc)
  • Gears, pulleys, clutches, etc
  • Rubber Gaskets, O-Rings, Seals, belts, etc
  • Rubber Feet, spacers, shock absorbers, etc
  • Brakes (felt, paper, etc) - adds friction to make a knobs more precise\
  • Wire, wiring harnesses
  • Connectors, plugs, jacks, etc
  • Meter movements
  • LEDs, lamps, etc that are easy to remove
  • Potentiometers, High Power resistors, rotary encoders and other knob-like bits
  • Knobs!  Plastic knobs to turn potentiometers, inductors, capacitors.
  • Heatsinks, Radiators, Heatpipes (chunks of aluminum & copper with fins that conduct heat)
  • Electrolytic Capacitors
  • Transformers & Power Supplies
  • Inductors, magentic coils, anything with enameled copper wire is invaluable.
  • LCD Computer/TV Monitors (good bartering material with a TV shop, they usually cost $4-10 to fix if the screen itself is intact.  High resell value and low cost to repair.)

Parts to Buy

If you have other scavengers nearby ask them before buying new. Like me, they may have significant stores of NOS (new-old-stock) items they have scavenged from TV/Radio shops, fleamarkets, hoarders, etc.  They may be willing to barter with you; I know I will.  I have been known to give away parts that are interesting but not particularly valuable.  For instance, I have a box of 8088 CPUs which are utterly worthless to sell but they are a brilliant CPU to learn how CPUs work.  If nothing else its a good chance to see what types of things others scavenge to give you ideas on how to go about doing so.  And, hopefully, they can give you storage ideas to keep the space needed to a minimum.  The goal is to have useful parts on hand without spending much money; not to be buried in parts no one will ever use.

  • Microcontroller, CPU, RAM, ROM or any other IC Chip (Frys!)
  • Resistors (Newark, Digikey) - Buy 100 of each standard value/precision and you're set for years.  In bulk you're looking at $30 total for every possible standard resistor.  At Radio Shack you're looking at $20 for a pack of 50 with 43 values you'll never use.
  • Capacitors (Newark, Digikey) - NOS is best.  If you must buy new avoid Korean high-density electrolytics.  There is a near 100% chance of failure on high density electrolytics unless you know precisely what you are doing.
  • Inductors (Newark, Digikey, specialty shops) - Learn to make your own!  Its trivial and cheap.  (Enameled copper wire you scavenged above)
  • Vacuum Tubes (Buy NOS from scavengers if possible, Russian-made if not.)
  • Transistors (Newark, Digikey, Frys)
  • Proto-Circuit boards (Frys)