The Lost Art Of Component Scavenging

With the easy and cheap availability of parts by Internet mail order, it’s easy to forget that acquiring electronic components was once a more tedious process, and it was common to use salvaged parts because they were what you had. Scouring a panel from a dumpster-find TV for the right resistor may now be a thing of the past, but it’s not entirely dead. [Ryan Flowers] was lucky enough to score a box of old CB radios at a garage sale, and takes us through a teardown in search of parts he can use to make a QRP amateur radio rig. Delving into aged electronics is right up our street!

An IF amplifier was high-tech back in '75.
An IF amplifier was high-tech back in ’75.

A possibility for a 27 MHz CB rig is to convert it to the neighbouring 10 m amateur band, but since these were all AM rigs, a mode that sees very little amateur use, it was better to part them out. It’s an interesting study in the evolution of radio design, as an entirely analogue design of mostly discrete components is revealed.

Careful inspection of the photographs reveals a Fairchild uA703 5-transistor IF amplifier chip in a metal can, but that’s about as high-tech as it gets. Unexpectedly there is a huge bank of crystals rather than the frequency synthesiser that would have been standard only a few years later.

He comes away with the chassis, switches and pots, and the RF inductors and crystals from the PCB. Those miniature Toko inductors used to be a common sight, but are now something of a rarity. If you fancy a wallow in semiconductors from this era we’ve previously taken a look at the vintage Fairchild catalogue, in which the uA703 is on page 398.

113 thoughts on “The Lost Art Of Component Scavenging

    1. Same, though for a solid 22 years now. I’m 28….

      Still got boxes and boxes full of PCB’s: old test equipment, medical gear, PPE (gas detectors), a tub full of one time use temp loggers (Arm7 mcu). A bit of everything :)

      1. Recently I went online to purchase a few LM350 adjustable voltage regulators that you used to be able to buy for about $3.00 only to be shocked to find that they now cost around $50.00 each from Mouser, Jameco, etc. !!! WTF happened !!?? Obviously they must be in very short supply, no longer being manufactured perhaps, hence the exorbitant price !

          1. Thanks for the info Roger ! I wasn’t aware of that factoid. I damn near fell off my chair when I found that the cheap, $2.00 LM350K TO3 now is selling for $50.00 each !! I shit-canned the LM350K that was blown out and replaced it with a TO-220 cased, LM317 instead as I didn’t require much current anyway as it was part of my homebrew, adjustable DC power supply that I built for doing silver electroplating. It works perfectly using the LM317 which are cheap and plentiful. take care !

          1. Yes, of course, I needed the TO3 package of the LM350K. I got around it by simply using a LM317 instead since I didn’t require high current. I built an adjustable DC power supply for use in electroplating of silver. It works flawlessly ! I originally built it using the LM350K since that’s what I had at that moment but when it went poof I figured that I’d just order another one and replace it. That’s when I discovered that the price skyrocketed to $50.00 ! I found an LM317 in my parts stash, used it instead and all is well, works great ! Take care brother !

        1. The LM350 is an ancient part. Use a smaller regulator driving a big mosfet. You can find them with 1 milli ohm of on resistance now, about equal to the PCB trace.

          1. Chances are that if you are using big LM350, you aren’t exactly worrying about I*R drops.
            As for MOSFET, the ones you are looking for isn’t going to be the lowest Ron, but rather ones with the highest SOA rating. The low Ron parts are designed for straight On/Off switching and don’t necessarily have a large die to handle the thermal needed for doing linear circuits.

            Cool kids would use a switcher for handling most of the voltage drops and only use a LDO for the last 1V or so thus putting the power under control in a much more available TO220 or eqv package.

            The LM350 crowds aren’t into complex circuits or know about better parts. They are better off with current sharing a bunch of ya old LM317 in TO220 or Boost current with an external power transistor.

          2. Thanks for the tip on using a LM317 and a MOSFET ! I appreciate it ! Yes, from the price of $50.00 for an LM350K surely a different approach is in order ! I suspected, from that price, that they were obsolete. Thanks again !

    2. Same here, I live in a very remote location and it’s hard to get parts. I have to wait and I don’t like waiting 4-5 days each time. Also, I like to save money. So I’ve been taking apart electronics since I was very young (not that long ago though) and scavenging the parts and sometimes getting some actually useful/cool stuff. I have had to buy some stuff though, you can’t exactly just find a z80 and some EEPROMs in an old microwave now can you?

    3. It’s the only way I or anyone I have ever met could afford to screw around with electronics. Nowhere near dead when you can order soldering equipment that is specifically purposed to remove things from the board while often treating the board as dispensable. Sometimes we even go the extra mile to save all or part of the board if it has particularly useful features. I have the LED controller from a dead TV I use to random LED stuff, awesome simple controller rated for a wide variety of wacky configurations.

      1. I needed to do it for lack of money, but it either helped or reflected my electronic knowledge.

        The first few projects I tried failed. I copied the parts list and went to the store, not able to “buy cheap”. They didm’t work.

        I suspect a lot of it was my lack of soldering skill, but I knew so little that I woukdn’t know if that loopstick had the same pinout as the article, or that generic transistor they sold me was suitable.

        The first thing that worked was a code practice oscillator, tge leads just twisted together. But the parts came from surplus boards I bought cheap, me cutting the boards to get the parts off. Then a crystal.oscillator.

        Tye differenve was that by then I knew enough to be able to substitute and my fear of “making mistakes” was lessened so.I could just plunge in.

        After that I always scrounged, though sometimes I had to buy some parts because I wasn’t finding them. I know a few years later other kids at school got interested, and I”d tell them that 1/2 watt resistors were specified because they had been most commonly available. Another spent good money on an HEP replacement line op-amp, and when I pointed out the cheaper alternative, he did say “I don’t want to make a mistake” .

        I’ve pretty much always looked at schematics and thought about what parts I could use instead, or how to change it to fit my parts. It comes from understanding.

  1. For me in the 70s it was mostly old TVs, some of which had valves, though my best teenage find was an early varicap diode (obviously from a later model). I can still remember the stench of the phenolic paper PCBs as they were heated.

    1. Heated by desoldering with a 75W Weller ‘gun’ model my Dad used to build vacuum tube transmitters in the 50s was one way to liberate the aroma of phenolics, and if there bugger survived that, another way was pushing 4-5W through a 1/2W part, before having learned about power dissipation. Good times!

      1. What about the smell of old solder flux core? When I repair something from like the 70s I immediately feel transported back in time as I were still a kid playing with electronics. It’s not the leaded solder as I also use it today (unleaded solder sucks, period), it’s the ancient flux core, probably rosin.

      2. My approach was to use a Bernz-O-Matic blow torch and pull components off with pliers. It was too stinky to do inside the house, so it was mostly a summer time activity outdoors. If there were delicate components, then of course I used a soldering iron. One of my first good bench tools was a Weller WCTPN soldering station – that worked many times better than a Radio Shack pencil iron. Also a Sold-a-pult and rolls of Solder Wick found much use.

        The early 1970s were the heyday for cannibalizing old electronics. Lots of things were made from generic parts that were easily looked up in Signetics, Fairchild or National handbooks. When I was in high school I used to buy stacks of boards from Data General, Burroughs, Mohawk Data Sciences, etc. at the Dayton Hamvention for almost free. I still have quite a few parts pulled from those boards in my parts cabinet – though I could probably toss the DTL ICs at this point.

        It is getting tougher to find stuff that yields parts that are easy to play with now, given all the application specific and surface mount parts – though I recently found a Chinese iPod FM modulator for $1 at a discount store that yielded up a nice through-hole frequency synthesizer chip that could be repurposed,

        1. When I was a kid I could buy via mail order all kinds of cool surplus stuff like PCBs pulled from obsolete computers which I used for parts and things like brand new in box spares for obsolete military aircraft and complete military radios.

          Even in the late 60s there was still plenty of WWII and Korean war military surplus left over, perhaps belatedly driven out of military inventory by the need for new stuff during the Vietnam war.

          As an example, I bought a brand new in box compressed air driven gyroscope from a WWII bomber (can’t recall which one for sure, but I think it was for a B-17) for virtually nothing, a precision mechanical jewel.

          Here’s the outfit I shopped for the military surplus. I read they went out of business in 1988:

          Meshna Surplus Bargains: “our 84 page catalog crammed with fantastic & unusual electronic & optical equipment purchased from govt, and other sources.”

          https://www.radioexperimenter.us/rm-1967-06/meshna-surplus-bargains.html

          Sad:

          THE DEATH OF SURPLUS
          December 7, 2015

          https://hackaday.com/2015/12/07/the-death-of-surplus/

          1. Satellite electronics on Main Street in Vancouver in the 80’s

            Oscilloscopes and oscilloscope repairs, chart recorders with fantastic galvanometers for laser shows.

            At RP electronics I got a high precision 20,000 volt power supply. Stunning thing. It could be set to anywhere from 0.00v 20 20,000.99v! It had a huge vacuum tube rectifier. It was overkill for my Plasma Scientific 2mw He Ne laser and you should have seen the sparks when I had to flick from 15,000 down to 2000 as the tube needed a trigger spike and this PS was not built for doing that!

            Both places had TONS of wire-wraped circuits from rack mount computer systems that had been scrapped. I never had to buy new wire wrap supplies and actually went into business doing custom circuits that cost me nothing to build but the chips and components and 2$ each for a loaded 12″x6″ board!

            Good times.

  2. From time to time I reuse and rewind transformers from broken ATX PSUs and other SMPSs. I even make “transformer soup” to unglue the cores. I reuse magnet wire from those big iron core PFC chokes some PSUs include…
    Sometimes I reuse resistors and capacitors, when I don’t have one i stock, I save up all transistors, ICs, switches, many connectors, and everything else of value…

      1. Yes, you can!

        You start with few transformers, they can be freshly desoldered, or you can use those from parts bin, that had time to ripen a bit. Remove the tape that holds the core halves, use sharp and thin knife to cut or remove any visible resin holding them to the bobbin. Put the transformers in a small pot and pour enough water to cover them all. Transformers should stand on their legs. Bring the pot to boil and let it simmer for 5-15 minutes. Using pliers or other tool pick one transformer, place it on dry cloth and grab the core halves through it. Try to separate them from the bobbin first, then try to pull them apart. Be gentle but firm because it’s easy to crack the ferrite. If you can’t separate them yet, place the transformer back in pot and pick another one. If you remove one half but other won’t budge, put the transformer back for few minutes, then take it out, grab the bobbin and use narrow pliers or other tool to push on the core through the center hole of the bobbin.

        Transformer soup requires no seasoning. Serve cold…

  3. This was common at my college in the early nineties. They had racks of pcbs which had been donated. We often scavenged parts for projects.
    I dont recall ever seeing an RS catalogue around. If we had to buy parts from Maplin or RadioShack it was out of pocket and therefore less beer money…

  4. New parts are cheaper on many levels. To scavange a part, you are investing time to find correct PCB, time to get part from the board, praying that heat won’t damage it and eventually not even being sure, that part is fine or has developed some hidden failure after years of original use.
    Sure for rare parts or hard-to-get / expensive parts it makes sense, but otherwise it is waste of time, which can be used in a better way.

    1. Not necessarily true. You can learn a lot by playing around with old PCBs. Besides, not everyone can order components from China, so scavenging is their only option. I personally love scavenging components from old junk. It is therapeutic and there is always some value in reusing/recycling something that would otherwise just be dumped. Everything doesn’t always have to be absolutely optimised. Sometimes playing has value in itself. But to each their own I guess…

    2. Mass disassembly with a blow torch goes pretty quickly with maybe a few casualties of stubborn components with pins in fat ground traces. I would sort and check components at time of disassembly, I agree that digging though a box of boards looking for a specific part while in the midst of a project is time consuming and frustrating. It is also possible that somewhat casual disassembly could induce latent failures that don’t show up right away. For anything important I would use new parts if I could.

  5. I have a collection of old parts from TV and Radio. They come in handy .. partly for doing sympathetic repairs to old test equipment, and professional music equipment (lots of 350v, 450v capacitors, ECC83 valves, high wattage resistors and so on) and partly for dekatron and nixies. I’ve never been into ham radio – my head was turned at an early age toward audio and musical equipment, but I have a huge collection from someone who was, and passed recently. I now have multi-vaned tuning caps, plug-in crystals, a a ton of valves and power transistors, diodes, moving coil meters, coils, N type connectors … One thing I realise we miss out on with modern electronics are the colours, and the variety of finishes, and shapes and sizes. I have big colour-coded resistors, and huge polyester and polycarbonate caps, big brightly coloured electrolytics, TO3 power transistors with a highly polished case (put those transistors on show!). Having such a resource makes finding the right-looking set of parts to repair an old valve guitar amp easier, to say the least.

    1. Hi Nick ! I have been a ham radio operator for 43 years and LOVE to build my own equipment, especially RF power amplifiers and It sounds like you may have some larger, transmitting type or even smaller ‘trimmer’ type air variable capacitors in your inherited stash. I’d be very interested to know what you may have, transmitting tubes, air variable capacitors, roller inductors, etc ! I’d really appreciate getting in touch with you ! I have been a parts scrounger all my radio life as I don’t have a large budget with which to purchase new components so I repurpose all that I am able. Thank you ! Best wishes !

  6. Ah yes, addiction! In my early twenties, my gran gave me a perfectly working Philips AM/FM radio with six shortwave bands, and I just couldn’t resist pulling apart for it’s air-gap tuning capacitor. Still regret it decades later.

  7. Scavenging components from junked electronics is a useful endeavour for anyone interested in electronics. Working in industrial electronics I have been doing this for years.
    First, the therapeutic value of simply stripping electronic components cannot be beaten as a way to unwind. Disassembling an old electronic device then de-soldering components from its PCBs maintains manual skills and requires little mental input. Then some device or other peaks your interest and a search on the Internet finds its datasheet so you carefully extract it for possible reuse. On the odd occasion, the full item is found to be too interesting or potentially useful to immediately breakdown into parts so a repair is attempted. Most of my home test gear was sourced this way.

    1. ^^^ Yeah, this ^^^

      Space has forced me to stop grabbing as much curbside stuff as I used to, but it’s still somewhat therapeutic and practical to disassemble something, and have some part or subassembly pique my interest. I now have a pretty big stash of parts, enough that for many repairs and projects I have just about everything on-hand.

      I don’t have the skills or eyeballs for reworking today’s surface-mount stuff, and I do love the availability and low price of all the SBCs and other modules available today, so electronic scavenging is probably a dying art.

      1. Something to think about is that bedbugs like warm dark places. A curbside TV might come with six legged hitchhikers. Ugh! Check carefully before hauling inside. Also TVs owned by smokers have that nasty smelling brown tobacco smoke residue all over everything, especially the CRT high tension lead where it is most unwelcome. I repaired several TVs for family friends who were smokers. Yuck. It is pretty tough to get that smoker residue smell off your hands.

  8. Problem with newly bought components, are their quality! All components come from China, here where we live, and most of it is of unasable xtremely poor quality! Output transistors are the biggest problem! Totally underrated, made in China! Therefore I only use original old quality components!

      1. Make sure you get one with 2 heat settings, high and low. The low setting is going to be around 250C which with care you can use for reflowing BGAs etc. However, the more precise and controlled air pencils are now only twice the price of a cheap “paint stripper” heat gun.

        1. In the first wave of lead free solder problems with laptop GPUs and chipsets, I operated on a few with one of these. I actually had a drill press for a hand drill that the heat gun fit into nicely. So I had it in that, then I made a tinfoil shield with a hole in for the chip I was working on, and just basically sat it under there for 10 mins, while waving around an IR thermometer like I knew what I was doing (Okay, I was checking the chip came up above 220C and didn’t get toooo much higher than that.) Method worked as well as many others, gave you a few months of fix, but that’s only really bettered by reballing.

    1. One of the most fun things I learned a few years back was desoldering parts with a heat gun. My most recent attempt got me 5 (with another messed up) 62-pin edge card sockets, and more still on the board. It does take some practice, so practice on junk before you go for the good stuff. A lot of the time components won’t quite fall out without a little prying, but it’s quite satisfying when it happens.

  9. That’s how I was taught soldering, by learning to desolder. By the time I got my start someplace else I was pretty good at it. Oh and let’s just say it annoyed the heck out of the folks when I was away at school.

  10. Prior to ‘wheely bins’, garbage used to be piled loose or in black bags on the streets. As a kid I used to cycle around the neighbourhood on trash collection day and drag home old TVs and valve radios etc, which I would then disassemble and store. I didn’t have the knowledge to use the components at that stage, but that’s probably how I got interested in electronics

  11. I really thought this was going to be an article about miniaturization.

    I’ve been doing less and less scavenging because the parts are getting so small, they’re of less use in hand-etched designs, not to mention the major switch from more analog input schemes to digital switching.

    The time it takes to recover components, as well as my personal convert-to-scrap ratio is also significantly higher with SMD components than their through-hole counterparts, even when using all of the appropriate tools. So yes, its just more worthwhile to order new than deal with old 0805 resistors that the pads fall off of when i go to reuse it.

    1. I’ve come to terms with soldering SOT-23 transistors (hint: turn them 45 degrees when soldering to 0.1″ perf board), but the hard part is identifying the damn things. Usually there’s only 2 or 3 letters, and some of those parts are double diodes. But if you’re lucky, they’re on lists that you can find.

      I used to work where there were a couple of pick-and-place machines, and I guess I did something right for a guy, because when he would vacuum them out ever couple of months, he’d leave the bag of random parts at my desk. There’s few things crazier than trying to sort that wide a mix of components. The smallest ones I called “grit”, barely larger than coarse sand. It’s a different sort of scavenging, but still fun. I sorted a few dime bags of SOT-23 transistors from it. I tried to do a project with some. Real life prevented me from finishing, but I did learn that I could solder SOT-23 by hand.

  12. In the late 70’s, to get IC’s off cheap surplus boards I found it easier to use a propane torch. This would get the part off in seconds, minimal heat to the chip but it destroyed the PCB which was fine. I will still liberate some parts from ewaste if they look useful. Good quality (low ESR) caps are otherwise pricey. And if a piece of equipment has a nice smooth action toggle switch, I just can’t let that be thrown out! And if it’s an iPhone, I just run a coaster app on it and leave it on the coffee table.

    1. I’ve accumulated an assortment of old cell phones from the by-the-pound thrift store. (which I’m really jonesin’ for after more than a month of lockdowns) Next week I’ll go through them and see if any can be used as cameras for making youtube videos to document projects. Basically set them up for fixed angles, start them going, then when done copy off the video and throw it into editing. I expect at least one or two of them to be useful.

  13. Here in Los Angeles, we are blessed with several “Electronic Surplus” outlets, stuffed to the walls with already separated components. I acknowledge this removes the thrill of destroying abandoned or idled “Gadgets”. And if this pandemic ever goes away, the TRW electronics/ham radio swap meet will resume.

    1. Surplus is dying out badly everywhere else. Cali might be the last place it survives in North America.

      I’m currently mourning the swap meet I didn’t get to go to this weekend.

      1. Indeed, surplus IS dying. Not so long ago, local aircraft manufacturers operated a “surplus” building, and what a joy it was to wander through, picking out specialized tooling and exotic materials. Who knows, it might be used one day. As it stands today, the best local (Los Angeles County) is Cal Aero Supply, 13840 Paramount Blvd, Paramount, CA. (google it) They sell tooling by the pound. (Drills, taps, etc.) Screw, bolts, nuts, by the pound also, True, some stock is the typical “Harbor Freight” stuff, but wander in the back for a real treat.
        As for electronics surplus, head North to the valley. All Electronics, 14928 Oxnard St
        Van Nuys, CA 91411 Cheers..

          1. Yes, a visit is mandatory. Difficult to believe the level of stock available.
            5 years ago, (A lifetime in retail stores) I forced my grandson to visit all known surplus outlets in L.A. and Orange County. It took all day, but he was amazed at the availability of “Stuff”.
            He used this info to support his college classes, where he was building “Cube-sats” and 3 D printed rocket engines, Now he’s out of college, and repairing computers on cruise ships, and submarines. As far as swap meets go, the TRW is the grand-daddy of all. But, like everything, it was slowing down. Now, it’s waiting for the virus to stop.( https://w6trw.com/ )The last “Cool” purchase I made was a WWII high speed 35 mm gun camera in the original shipping case, (Shhh don’t tell my wife) I suspect I’ll try to make it into a lamp or something. Perhaps a background object for my video podcast. And last year the TRW offered two missile gyros for sale, but even though they were beyond cool, I passed.

  14. God, save any air variable cap you encounter! I guess they’re not too hard to make, and most people wouldn’t have a use for them, but I don’t think they make them like they used to!

    1. Good quality caps are actually still available, but even the chinese ones easily go for prices of $10-15.- so saving them is worth it.
      But by now, devices with air variable caps are also starting to become historially interesting themselves.

  15. I thought tye referenced article was looking mited. He found a CB set, but was excited about the common parts. It’s somwthing I’ve noticed elsewhere, that anyone can post but it doesn’t mean the best information.h

    I already posted a long reply over there, hints at better things to scrounge from, but also the suggestion that for some esoteric parts, best to keep them board intact because the board lrovides data on those parts and how they are used. Besides, sometimes when using eslteric parts, you may need a chunk of the circuitry as is, so might as well just cut away that area of the circuit board (if it’s not a separate module to begin with).

    1. This is a good comment.
      You will have a hard time keeping apart oscillator coils from RF tuning coils and all that stuff if you don’t have the rest of the circuit around it.

      I once took apart a radio not with restoring, but i meticulously labeled all the various coils with their designation in the cicrcuit. So i have something like [type number of radio, component designation] IF coil 452KHz stuck to the can.

      Sure you could put the coil in an oscillator circuit and see what frequencies it spans, but that’s a lot of extra work. Checking them with a dipmeter can be hard because of the RF shielding.

  16. I haven’t really done a “harvesting” session in a while. When I was a kid it was AM radios that seemed plentiful, so a lot of bits for my first projects came out of those. Then around the millennium, I got a slight thing for VCRs, the yield and variety seemed good, and one didn’t end up with too much ungainly junk like CRTs to dispose of. Then we were having the capacitor plague, and I was using piles of motherboards as organ donors for other motherboards. For the last while though, I’ve tended more to the pick them as you need them approach.

    A few times though, I’ve got stuff “for parts” then discovered it’s something interesting in itself. There’s an S-100 board of some kind. Galaga arcade boards. Board with an 8088 on that I haven’t identified yet, keep flip flopping on whether to strip that or trying to run it somehow.

    1. Back in the ’90s I had at it with a copule of PDP-11 boards (single-width with two edge connectors) that I found at a thrift store. I think one was a UART board, but nothing special like CPU or memory boards, or I might have cared more.

  17. A scavenge story from my teens in the early 1990s. My grandfather’s microwave broke – some microswitch somewhere had failed. It sat in our basement for a while. A couple years later, one of my Dad’s co-workers brought in a broken Amiga 500, with a couple of Epyx 500XJ joysticks. He starts scavenging for parts, and low and behold, the 500XJ used the same microswitches that the microwave used. I took that microwave with me to university… I remember telling my roommates this story, and one of them said: “That switch must have made editor’s choice of Switch Journal in 1988”

    1. I replaced a door switch 3 times on our old (now retired) microwave oven.
      The replacements came from a variety of donors. The other switches for the door have not failed.

  18. I do this for work (auto electrician) when repairing ecus etc sometimes driver chips / fets / whatever are hard to source in sensible qualities So I try to keep a stock of a few good donors of common boards, thankfully most manufacturers are reasonably consistent about the internals of their ecu’s, its usually either that or rolling the dice on potentially junk parts from china. Im sure phone/laptop/games console repair places so the same, lots of proprietary stuff.

    All that said I used to do it as a kid (old radios, TVs etc)to get parts cause I couldnt afford to buy new parts for projects, have to say surface mount stuffs a lot easier to re-purpose once you get the knack.

    1. Pretty much this for me as well. Sure, if there’s some rare or hard to find component that you just happen to need and happen to have the scrap for, but other than that “meh” is my stance as well.

  19. My problem is knowing when to NOT salvage something and just let it be. “I’ll have a use for it someday” turns into “I have to get rid of all this crap” pretty quickly.

  20. Once a year the neighborhood I grew up in had “junk day”. My father and I would go curb shopping. The amazing things people threw out that only needed a bit of tweaking here or there or we would strip it for the tubes, spent hours at the bench testing tubes gotten this way and inherited cigar boxes of them, except I did throw away all the 1B3’s. My first recording device was procured this way before I was in second grade, a perfectly working Webster Wire Recorder with extra spools of wire. Old garrard and BSR turntables, once an entire wood stereo cabinet with everything still in it. Jensen speakers, it was alot of fun.

  21. I can’t tell you how many items that were thrown away because of thermal fuses that I replaced for a couple of bucks and sold for profit. At 12 my mom bought me a set of Popular Mechanics Encyclopedias and my education about everything electromechanical took off from there. I received mechanical Engineering degree but always had my roots in electronics. I should have doubled majored. I still scavenge today and my wife thinks I have an addiction. I only take what’s useable. Really!

    1. Everybody ought to have 3 sets of those, a 50s edition, a 60s edition and a 70s edition. Skip the 80s (final?) one, it was the same problem as the mag was by then, a “How we want to spend your money” publication instead of how to do stuff. There was a Popular Science and Practical Handymans one that’s worth looking out for too.

  22. Most stuff just is not worth scrapping anymore, but once every month I root through the e waste drop off at our local trash collection office. There is definitely stuff worth scrapping here and there I scored a 90s era all through hole vitals monitor (tons of electro pneumatic parts, expensive instrument lamps, to3 volt references etc), a few bench power supply’s, an hp200a audio oscillator, and lots of other fixable stuff or things loaded with high end esoteric parts.

    1. Well, i believe we are at the point where one individual part after another disappears from our eyes due to miniaturization, leaving the pcb space for more and more specialized ic, which are more difficult to check and reuse, difficult to find home in another device.

      Looking forward, i believe that there is “something” only on the entities-level scavaging. That, from a scavangers’ perspective, the present day through-hole is a board. On this direction the new trend of circularity has some very interesting concepts, which, upon a lot of engineering work and social interest, can lead to more standard, seperable, repairable and reusable devices. But again the reality on the ground seems different.

  23. US “11m” CB’s exist that have SSB… I even made an incredible 1000 mile contact with one back in the 90’s solar cycle, despite the noise common to that band. Altering the IF in one of these units isn’t much different than one of the more common-mode CB’s – at least as far as the older models go. Modern units use chip-based oscillators, for the most part that are more difficult to modify. The real problem is that the 10m band has been pretty much dead for DX in the past few decades due to extended lackluster solar conditions that have been unusually inactive during this time.

  24. I scavenge an ISA debug board from an old computer, and it had 5 TIL311 and some other goodies, also found 33 am27c4096 EPROM while dumpsterdiving.
    It’s like treasure hunting

  25. I’ve taken to storing the PCBs after removal from the case. They take less space and it’s easier to identify parts if you have the entire board.

    I did scavenge a lot of parts from some old telecom boards with a propane torch by banging the end of the board to knock the parts loose. It worked, but not as well as I’d like. I really need to make bumper to clamp on the board for that.

    DIPs are a challenge to efficiently remove. I’m still looking for a better way. I was quite disappointed by my desoldering gun. There’s just enough solder left to keep stuff stuck in place.

    1. Yes, part of my comment at the original site was to keep boards intact.

      On the other hand, at one point I started carrying a few tools along to strip down electronic junk I saw waiting for the garbage truck. It is easier to grab that power transformer or that variable capacitor than dragging the whole thing home. Or open up that comouter to grab the memory, or hard drive or exotic peripheral board.

      Sadly, I’m seeing less electronic junk, in the garbage or at garage sales. I assume it’s going to ewaste collection, which as someone once suggested, ensures that people buy new.

      1. Before I take stuff to ewaste (VCR’s, DVDs, and such) I disassemble them. Then I only have to pay the higher recycling fee for the boards themselves, and a lower rate for the rest. They haven’t charged me for the metal cases which go straight into the metal bin.

    2. I keep meaning to make a tool for DIPs. I visualise something like two mini claw hammers, for the curved claw part, and having those jointed to two arms and a handle, so when you push on it, they roll and lever upwards together. Or just a better metal chip puller. I had a sprung tong type one I made of an ISA slot punchout, for removing some RAM chips one time, but it was sized to those, so not a lot of use for anything else. Doesn’t help if the damn things are epoxied to the board either, like some SOJ are.

      However, pin by pin with a sucker, it’s usually best to use the iron tip from the side, and get the sucker right over the top of the pin before triggering, then they usually come pretty clean. If they don’t, then go down the row and “ping” each one with the iron and that should break the joins. If you’ve got real tight through holes with big rivets, that seem to be too narrow to suck through… then sometimes the only thing for it is to walk the chip up by pulling up one side at a time a mm or so until it’s right out. Heat, lift one side, heat other side, lift, repeat. When one of my tips was worn out on a 30W iron, I chopped the end off, then cross cut it and put an inch wide triangular slice of copper in there, then drilled a small hole through, I put a tiny bolt through to hold it. Now it’s a kind of mass pin heater/slicer/dozer for some awkward stuff. Either heat rows of pins at a time, lift one side of a SOJ at a time, or kinda bulldoze off some of the small Rs and Cs.

  26. A state park in the county has a 1920’s farm, house and outbuildings. We provided the player piano, the typical digital music player of the day. My boss took on restoring the finish and grill cloth of their battery radio in the front parlor. It had a knob missing, molded Moderne styling. Monkey Ward has been around a while. I looked into a box of old radio and TV knobs and there was a saved treasure, a match for the missing knob. Once on the radio, alright! Back home again in Indiana.

    1. Don’t overlook the possibility of making a silicone or Bondo mo[u]ld of an existing knob, and casting an epoxy replica for the missing one.
      As Seen On Hackaday (TM) serveral years ago.

  27. I built a modular (22 panels) synth out of mostly scavenged parts. I had to buy a few pots, jacks and switches tho – and some of the more specialised ICs that just are not to be found in radios etc.

  28. When I was a kid in the 1950s, there was a radio/TV repair shop about a half mile from my house. They had a shed out back where they dumped the sets that customers didn’t want repaired or sets they had fixed but that customers didn’t pick up. A couple times a year they would let us kids load up our wagons with anything we wanted. What joy we had! I remember finding a Zenith Transoceanic that was still working. Got my first taste of shortwave radio listening with that set. Much later on I worked for a while at Zenith as a tech in TV Engineering.

    1. VERY cool on finding the Zenith Transoceanic SW set !! I have been a licensed amateur radio operator for 43 years and got my start at age 6, listening to shortwave radio in it’s heyday ! I’ve LOVED the hobby and building my own gear, it is VERY educational on many levels including geography and world cultures !

  29. Interesting. Got a message last year from a kid that pulled a 22 year-old ag control box out of a dumpster. Back then I put my email address on the S/S layer. My (marginally competent) partner, at the time, insisted on sanding off the IC ID. So the kid wanted to know what was on the PCB and what the box was intended to do. And his roomie wanted it for parts. He got the box functional after replacing a cap and a transistor.

    We have been talking back for a while, and have recruited yet another to the Dark Side. When he returns to school, he will change to EE major. All hail Lord Vader.

  30. Boards have to be the right vintage.

    Too early: they have old useless DIP parts on double sided PCB. Hard to remove and not worth the effort. I have 20 tubes of various unused parts and bins of them. I haven’t touched for last 20 years and the suck power like no tomorrow. The analog stuff are easier to remove as they only have a few pins.

    Just right: SMT parts are easy to desolder with a hot air tool. The boards are still made of jelly bean parts so they can still be used.

    Too late: Big SoC that was designed with one and only one function. They won’t be useful for anything except what they were designed to do. BGA or other hard to use packages that requires multi-layer boards. Mostly picking off the passives.

  31. My problem with that is you kill the original piece and I have ha hard time doing that. A long time ago I got a bunch of Unix machines that had big for a PC 300 MB SCSI drives in them and memory that could be modified to fit in a PC, 20 whopping megs in each machine. I sold them for less than the value of the drives just because I could not tear them apart myself. They still worked. I do have some boxes of junk boards though from stuff that is really hosed and I do scarf parts. I have found with little surface mount parts that is a lot harder.

    1. Author here. This used to be a problem for me, but I got over it. I woke up one day and said “This thing is going to either collect dust and not be useful to anybody, or I can tear it apart and at the *very least* have fun tearing it apart.” “BUT ITS’s VINTAGE!” somebody says. Yeah, and? Useless is useless, no matter how old it is. These 23 channel CB’s are neat, but useless even as CB’s. When’s the last time anybody had FUN with one of these radios? A long, long, long time. I’m getting more enjoyment out of them than I’d guess anyone has in the last 25 years. Now *That* is value, and makes them worth something.

    2. In fact it reminds me of something I thought of while I was pondering this very subject the other night:

      Sentimentality is for historians and archaeologists. I’m neither.

  32. Wow! Look at all these replies. And I thought I was the only numbskull that loves tearing junk apart. And I have nothing new to add here. It just nice to see others who have evolved just like I have.

  33. It was the way of the past, and it will be the way of the future. Resources are limited, and learning by connecting different origin components together is the best form of learning. And saving money …

    I assembled my electric guitar amp few weeks ago. Pickup is a solenoid. Speaker from random stereo system. Power supply from a printer. Switch 1950s vintage, made in USA :) Pot little newer. Knob from old testing equipment. Audio transformer is actually 120 / 24 V power transformer … I used new transistors, but that was optional. I have hundreds of old and new ones around.

    The end is near! Prepare … :)

  34. I have a few boxes with old through-hole component boards, instead of removing all the parts. Now i made a deal with the local recycling station: i can take any mechanical / electrical device – they get some repaired ones back (which are given away for free) and i have an unlimited supply of parts. Must havecolleced 20 LCD TVs by now. Best finds: an almost new washing machine with error code on display. The error was: clean filter. And an espresso machine with error. A few cycles with vinegar and presto!

    1. It is stunning what great items fools throw away ! I have NEVER, EVER purchased a new TV but have had many great TV’s over the years, collected from the curbside trash heaps and repaired at VERY little expense. My latest TV that I am currently using and works fantastic is a 50 inch LED TV with a nice thin screen ! I didn’t even have to repair it ! the reason the guy was tossing it out is because the center speaker had a rhythemic ‘ticking’ sound coming from it that was almost below human hearing level ! Instead of even worrying about fixing it properly, I simply disconnected that speaker ! The left and right stereo speakers work just fine, good enough for my requirements ! Lol !

  35. The best scavenged unit I just found was a 512 Canon printer. The sum of the parts I scavenged was well above the price of this old printer. 30 micro switches, 6 small stepper motors, 150 small screws, 22 small match sets of springs, 26 plastic gears of different gear ratio’s, numerous wire ribbons and connectors and all the electronic components I can recover from the boards. And I was able to send all the plastic pieces to a recycle center instead of a land fill. These are a scavengers Honey Hole of parts. Never, Ever let one go without getting all these parts out. Major find…

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