I recently moved a couple of legacy transmitters from one floor to another on top of the Empire State Building and that of course was an opportunity to really give each one a good cleaning prior to installing them in their news functions as backups.
These are vacuum-tube transmitters and so the high-voltage wiring accumulates very fine dust over the life of the unit. Normally when you perform a routine cleaning there is only so much you can do to pick up this fine dust; but on this occasion I decided to go farther - so I cut all the tie-wraps holding the high voltage bundles, and cleaned the wires individually.
The primary items used to clean this fine dust are some sort of rags - preferably cloth-based - although tough kitchen paper towels will work. The cleaning fluid I use is isopropyl alcohol. It works well for several reasons:
◊ You need something to dampen the cloths, to pick up dust.
◊ It removes oils well.
◊ It evaporates fast, leaves no residue.
It's a good idea to use some sort of rubber gloves when making use of isopropyl alcohol because it will dry your skin quickly.
Cloth rags are best for cleaning typically because they don't leave anything behind. I was surprised that they are not as easy to find as they used to be. If needed, order some online ahead of time. ERC Wiping Products is one resource. You might get lucky at a grocery store or dollar store for something inexpensive that works just as well.
Another tool to pick up plain old dust are the duster cloths like Swiffer. Run those over all the horizontal surfaces inside what you are cleaning. They pick up dirt and dust remarkably well.
A different item that is handy while cleaning the old rig is a small paintbrush (never used for painting though). Dislodge dust and dirt around the inside, through tight spaces, vertical spaces and everywhere. Then use a vacuum cleaner to pick up the dislodged dirt then.
There are two items you should have on hand when cleaning and repairing a transmitter cleaning or other work. One is an inspection mirror. It seems there is always some spot inside you need to see, but it's obscured by lots of other parts. These mirrors are indispensable. Hardware and tool stores, including Grainger, carry the Proto mirror.
The second item you should have is a telescoping-magnetic-picker-upper (for lack of a better name). When you drop a screw deep down inside, you can likely still pick it up. I picked mine up at Sears. There is also a magnet/mirror combo.
It's not that hard to make that old transmitter rig look (almost) as good as new. It's funny too how they always seem to work better afterward.
Keep it clean
With tablet computers gaining in popularity, perhaps you keep your manuals on one. Transmitters are not always the cleanest, nor are your hands while you're working. Here's a neat item you may want to make use of while you work: Chefsleeve. This is a disposable (and recyclable) plastic sleeve that goes over the tablet, and allows you to keep using it, even while you are doing a messy job.
Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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