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The Signal Stuff 2022 “I can’t believe I missed Black Friday!” sale

The short version

Due to circumstances beyond our control we missed doing our traditional Black Friday sale, so we’re doing one a week late! The sale will begin on Friday, Dec 2, 2022 and will continue through the end of Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022. If we run out of stock on anything I’ll make more and get them shipped within a week.

The sale:

Other changes:

There are two other changes of note that I’ve rolled out with this. The first is that for 440 and 220 antennas I am no longer going to keep all the colors in stock — I just don’t sell enough to make it worthwhile and it takes far more time and energy than is worthwhile. Instead I am now only keeping Black and Glow in the Dark. Orders of 50 or more can request a different color heat shrink if they want =]

The second change is that I have added a “factory second” product type at a significant discount — these are products which are completely usable but have some type of defect. Some of them are really really minor — everything left that still had 3d printed parts are in there now, for example, as well as other minor issues where I am *almost* comfortable selling it anyway. Others are a bit more significant, like a cracked or broken piece of plastic which nonetheless has no effect on performance.

The price is significantly reduced, but the warranty is also decreased and you don’t get to choose your color — it’s just a “give me something usable for cheap” type of deal and I hope you find it useful!

The longer story

Early sample of the SMA-F injection molded plastic cover — Picture taken Dec 22, 2021

For the last couple of years I’ve been slowly investigating getting our plastic parts injection molded; while I love being able to make all the parts myself and make rapid changes, there are also some downsides. For one, 3d printing large batches of items makes it very easy for little problems or inconsistencies to be missed! Another that hit us a number of times though is that it isn’t as strong and so we had a lot of SMA-F connectors where the cover was damaged during shipping. Also printing the tips was a *pain* — so much could go wrong and they were so small that it required changing print jobs every 6-8 hours for days on end and the result was far from truly professional.

First usable sample of the “lightbulb tip”. Jan 17, 2022
Non-glow in the dark sample from the first iteration of the mold — it didn’t fit right but was close enough to make a usable prototype. April 1, 2022

At any rate, in May 2022 just barely in time to get new parts ready for Dayton Hamvention we got our first (barely) usable shipment of black plastic parts for SMA-F. We had already changed to using injection molded tips sometime earlier in the year (I can’t find a picture to tell me for sure when, but probably March or April sometime). The trouble with the parts we got in May was that they were too tight – and they made a mistake and didn’t send me any glow in the dark parts. I had to build some special push tools so that I could get them on — but they were fortunately barely usable. At this point we realized that the injection mold company needed to have samples of the metal parts to test them on, giving precise dimensions just wasn’t going to cut it.

Injection molded black caps for the SMA-F connectors, first fully usable samples. April 7, 0222
One of the first SMA-F antennas made with the new injection molded parts. May 13, 2022.
I used my Bantam Tools Desktop CNC mill to make this out of Delrin plastic; the top piece holds the plastic cap, the SMA threads slide into the bottom, and you can use it to push the part in. That is the only was I was able to install the parts for several months.

Getting the size issue fixed took a lot longer than it should have and the person I was working with at the injection molding company in China no longer works there. Long story short, though, I finally got both properly-fitting parts and the glow in the dark parts towards the end of August. At that point I finally started working on the molds for BNC and for SMA-M.

The problem

So all of this was very cool and I have been super excited about it — but the challenge is that when you make a change like this as soon as you have new parts that look *way* better than the old ones you feel like you can’t sell the old ones! For most of October and basically all of November I didn’t want to make any more antennas than I had to with BNC or SMA-M because I knew those new parts should be coming out any day — and I didn’t want to get them and have a huge number of “inferior” antennas that I still needed to sell.

Then just as they were finally done and had been sent to the forwarding facility — the city the forwarder was in went into a 7 day COVID lockdown. I had already stopped making those and I decided that instead of continuing to make and sell antennas that weren’t as good I would hold off. That lasted until Nov 29 (past Black Friday) when I finally received the parts. By that point you could accurately describe the state of my shipping shelf as … bare.

This was taken Nov 28; even most of these antennas were gone this morning (Dec 1) when I finally had some new antennas to put in the bins.

Building as fast as I can

If you read my recent(ish) post on How Signal Sticks are made you know that the process — even en masse — can be rather time consuming. I started prep work on Monday by getting the heat shrink installed and trimmed; Tuesday I spend the entire day crimping pins and installing the new plastic (which arrived Tuesday afternoon). The thing is — I needed more of almost *everything*. I still had plenty of SMA-F pink and violet, but everything else I needed more of. That may not sound that bad, but to have a base of 20 of each type means 3 different connectors (BNC, SMA-M, SMA-F), 12 different colors (Pink, Violet, Brown, Green, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Silver/clear, White, Glow in the Dark, and Black). That would be 720 antennas just to get that bare minimum… but I sell a lot more black than that, so I need more like 150 each of those and 50-100 of the GITD (glow in the dark) as well, so it was a very *very* busy few days.

If memory serves, this is about 160 GITD, 425 black, 20 pink, 20 violet, 50 silver, 60 yellow, 100 orange, 50 brown, 60 blue, 60 red, 60 green, 30 white… and I made more on Tuesday because I realized I didn’t have enough of some of them =]
The new injection molded parts look good!

So at the time of writing this I finished about 900 antennas last night; I think I have maybe 400 more to do adhesive on today, but I got enough to unblock and let me fill all current orders. I’ve decided to drop all 440 and 220 colors except for Black and Glow in the Dark because it just takes too much time to keep them all current and I don’t sell that many of them.

Each tray has two directions; 41 antennas fit on each tray going each direction for a total of 82 antennas per tray. Under the bottom tray there are about 115 smaller (220 and 440) antennas. This picture was taken at 5:34pm
I am really enjoying how good these parts look
I did have some help throughout the day — you can see in this picture that the stack has grown and my third son Ethan (age 9). I also had help from my brother-in-law David (KD7VQT) for much of the day. This was taken at 6:54pm.

So I finished last night at around 11pm — no, I didn’t finish everything, but it is enough to get all current orders out and today the plan will be to get a bit ahead.

9 trays; the top was not totally full (maybe 10 slots free), so that’d be 82 * 9 – 10 + 110 is somewhere around 840 antennas (I don’t have an exact count on the 220/440 antennas — because I’m lazy). Taken at 11:10pm


So, the obvious conclusion here is: I talk too much! However, I thought some of you might find it interesting to look at what it takes to do a sale like this for a small company like mine.

I will be offering the older model antennas for sale at a discount sometime soon — I just need to find time to set it up! Most likely it’ll be a “choose your connector and band, you get what you get” type of deal and I’ll aim at a price point roughly 50% off at least during the sale. We’ll see how it goes!

73 de KD7BBC