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Workbench: Toothpicks can help improve your bite

Try this temporary fix the next time you encounter a loose hinge

A recent issue of Crawford Broadcasting’s engineering newsletter “The Local Oscillator” touched on the subject of budget season.

Crawford Director of Engineering Cris Alexander, who also is the technical editor of Radio World Engineering Extra, urged his chief engineers to focus on infrastructure as they prepared their ’22 capital budgets.

Fig.1: This door at a transmitter site is made of steel, but the interior wooden frame is wood. It rotted from years of exposure to rain and wind.

CBC’s chief in Alabama is Stephen Poole, CBRE, AMD. He writes that seasons of heavy wind and rain have taken their toll at several of his sites.

For instance, at one transmitter building, Stephen noticed that the steel door had a loose hinge. Closer inspection showed that the heavy door had a wooden frame, and exposure to the elements had caused the wood to rot and pull away from one of the hinges.

So much for site security! But this is why we always look around with a fresh eye whenever we visit a site.

Stephen isn’t looking forward to the replacement project, because that door and steel frame were sold as a complete unit, and the frame is embedded in the concrete of the building. I’m not aware of a quick fix for his problem; ideas welcome!

However, when you are dealing with loose hinges on a wooden frame, here’s a tip that I picked up from a handyman years ago:

Fig. 2 (left): Toothpicks help build up loose screw holes in a wooden frame. Fig. 3: Place them deep into the screw hole as shown, then trim off the ends and reinsert the screw.

If a wooden door is sagging, it may be that constant use of the hinges has worn away the frame so there’s nothing for the screw that holds the hinge to “bite into.”

If the hinge screws just spin around when you try to tighten them, here’s a technique that may help. Remove the hinge screws one at a time and stuff several toothpicks into the worn-out holes. Shove the toothpicks in as far as they will go, then break off or cut the protruding excess so they are flush with the door or frame. Reinstall the screw. You should notice a markedly tighter fit as the screw bites through and compresses the toothpicks.

This is not a permanent fix but it should secure the door until you can schedule installation of a replacement door.

By the way, if the frame is rotted, try adding wood glue with those toothpicks.

When winter weather approaching, these tips may buy you a little time.

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Seal those crevices

In the same issue of the CBC newsletter, Mike Kernen, the chief of Crawford’s Detroit cluster, wrote about dealing with transmitter site pests.

Now is a good time to investigate any infestation, starting with wasps. Liberally spray wasp repellent around overhangs and vents. If you can arrange an overnight session, place one of those super-bright LED cordless flashlight inside your ATU or other outside enclosure (with the power off, of course!), and in the dark, look for any escaping light as you walk around the structure.

Mice and insects can squeeze into amazingly small holes and crevices. Seal any visible holes. Remember that for larger entry points, stainless steel or copper wool combined with a caulk-type sealing compound works best. Shop for stainless steel or copper wool in the kitchen supply department of a grocery, hardware or dollar store. (Regular steel wool will rust, causing its own set of problems.)

Do like Mike and include an electrical inspection of wiring to your towers. Combine this check with your quarterly tower inspection — whipping winds can loosen or break straps or black ties securing conduit.

The weather took a toll on one of Mike’s Austin Ring transformers that used to couple tower light AC voltage across the base of the tower. The primary winding needed to be rewrapped.

Again, with the power off, clean and dry the surface of the winding. Then brush Glyptal Red Insulating Paint on the transformer, followed by strips of gauze; allow them to dry, and then repaint. The Glyptal has a high electrical insulating characteristic. The idea is that the Glyptal and gauze form a smooth coating around the transformer core.

Glyptal is not cheap; a quart costs more than $60 on Amazon. But the compound effectively seals and insulates the Austin Ring windings.

Repairing and resealing is far more affordable than having to replace Austin Ring transformers.

Visit to read about its line of insulating and varnishing products. (Bonus tip: Put a dab of this paint on a nut you need to keep tight or on the edge of a potentiometer that shouldn’t be touched after calibration. It’s just a little extra peace of mind.)

Who knows where you are?

Advice that goes without saying sometimes needs to be said anyway.

Contract Engineer Allen Branch wraps up our inspection column by reminding us that whenever we’re headed to do work alone at a remote site, we should let someone know where we’re going and when we are planning to be back.

Also bring bottled water and a couple of protein bars in case the weather or a vehicle problem strands you. A roll of paper towels and a blanket in the trunk can come in handy. We have written before about other helpful supplies to keep at your remote site and in your car or pickup.

PS: Recently, one of Allen’s engineers went to a site and found several spent .22 caliber shell casings on the ground by the entry gate. There was no apparent damage, but let’s be careful out there.

John Bisset, CPBE, is in his 31st year of Workbench and has spent more than 50 years in broadcasting. He handles western U.S. radio sales for the Telos Alliance and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.

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