Showing the sample and asking for it, is far better than describing the item to the shopkeeper that you want to buy. Saves a lot of time especially if you are in a busy shop at a wholesale market. When I became a Radio Ham, I was on a shopping spree, buying all kind of stuff required for our hobby.
Soon I realised that I should maintain a sample box, wherein I can put one sample of everything (requisites and components) I buy for a Ham Radio hobby. Though technically, everything is available online today, with pictures, details and specifications, which you can easily refer to when required.
But here is the difference, let me explain you with an example.
Let’s say you have 4 nuts, which you are going to use with SO239 for your HF Antenna. A couple of months later, you are homebrewing something, and you want to make an acrylic case for mounting that PCB, which requires a screw and a nut. You are ready to drill holes, but you have no idea what screws size will be best suited here (head, length & Diameter).
But having a sample of the screws, nuts & washers that you have bought in the past, would have been more useful in such scenarios before you buy a packet of 10 or 25. This sample, would not only help you but other ham friends also. I remember, my Guru Mr Charudatt Uplap (VU2UPX) showed me samples of things with an explanation, whenever I asked him any stupid questions.
A couple of times he would reach out to his boxes and gave me a takeaway sample with details and where to buy it from. For example, the fishing line string for anchoring the HF antenna. He is the inspiration behind this article.
Here’s a brief story of my Sample Box. So for the first time when I bought some coax cables, I cut 2 inches of it and kept it in the box, then came the screws, nuts, washers, solder wire, different sizes of shrink sleeves, cable ties & lugs. Then while experimenting with antennas, I bought copper wires (multiple strands) in different sizes (1 to 6 Sqm).
Then while making some UHF dipoles (for the Wi-Fi experiment), I bought bare copper wire (single strand) of the size 18, 20, 22, 24 and 26 gauge. I cut a few inches from all above and put it in my sample box. One makes a lot of things out of a Ham Radio Hobby, I made a little bit of everything like Amateur Electrician, Plumber, Carpenter & a Mechanic too.
I can’t stop laughing right now. Yes, I made some blunders and mistakes also. But then I learnt a lot and still learning. I just love DIY. I ended up having samples of different types of screws in mild steel, stainless steel, copper, brass and their wall plugs. Finally also maintaining the samples of my stationaries like rubber bands, envelopes, notepads, note stickers and all. I know it sounds crazy. But I love every bit of it.