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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 21st Nov 2017, 10:11 am   #1
Ian - G4JQT
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Default Sorting your valves!

A tip prompted by my request (and generous offer from Phil) for some 6BW6 valves.

Like many of us I have a random collection of valves I built up over the past 30-odd years. They were sort of categorised, but after moving to a new workshop 10 years ago they got well and truly jumbled. I found I was buying any I needed rather than sorting through, and this had to stop! But the job seemed almost insurmountable.

Last summer I had the idea of laying them out on the lawn and grouping them. Should this be by valve type or in alpha-numeric order? Without an encyclopaedic knowledge of valve types or the tedium of looking many of them up, I decided alpha numeric was the least worst. But there were hundreds; after one hot afternoon progress had been painfully slow. This was going to take days and days of bending down and crawling over the lawn - and hoping it didn't rain!

I happened to mention this to Mike Barker who had a suggestion. He suggested if they were really very mixed and if I had so many that it would be too time consuming to sort them into groups, just put them in numbered boxes as I find them and use a basic spread-sheet program to catalogue them.

Good idea. This was a two person job over about four days; a friend calling them out and placing them into a large-ish numbered box, and me typing them into the list. There was lots of tea/coffee/banter and biscuits!

We filled 21 boxes with a total of 990 vales. Many NOS, many without their own boxes, quite a few unidentifiable, and one or two very odd or very old ones - no idea how I acquired those. I've just found a carrier bag with even more...

One top tip; don't use boxes that are too big! If you're after two 6BW6s, say one in box 11 and one in box 17, you don't want to be sorting through more than about 30 valves in each box, especially if many of them are loose and unboxed. It also helps if those that are in their own boxes are upright and marked with the vale type showing - obvious I know...

I haven't tested them. Too big a job. That comes as they are needed. But the whole effort was a worthwhile job, although you need some sort of program so you can search for the ones you want on the screen as they become highlighted. Of course doing this on paper would work, but searching written columns would be very tedious. (Yes, this is how it was done in the past!)

So come on. I bet there are a few here that have been putting off a similar job. Now the long winter nights are here, get a radio friend to help, just don't forget the refreshments!

Ian, G4JQT

PS: I offered the 40 or so unidentifiable ones on Freecycle. A teacher wanted a few to show his class what valves were for a science/communication lesson, and the rest went to someone who wanted them for inclusion in an art exhibit...
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Old 21st Nov 2017, 10:43 am   #2
Boater Sam
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

It is a dilemma how to catalogue a valve collection, mine runs to over 11000.
I have used various criteria over recent years but they all break down when another load of valves are bought.
I spreadsheet mine and sort into base and series type.
For example, E40, E80, E90, U40, U80 series.
Then B4, B5, B7, B9 base series.
Octal and M-O series.
The P series and EHT rectifiers I don't list as they are give or chuck aways, I don't do TVs.
( Should anyone want any TV valves I have thousands that are yours for free )
Seems to work till the rack for one series becomes full and then it has to be relocated and sorted again.
I have in idle moments tested a lot of them but it is a boring job and there is always something more interesting to do.
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Old 21st Nov 2017, 7:08 pm   #3
Biggles
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

I went through a similar thing a few years ago. The few NOS boxed ones (about 100) are put to one side together. The boxes are stacked on end and are marked on the end of the box. This is the "only touch if absolutely necessary" box. The rest are in a block of storage drawers. I grouped them by base type, and put the most commonly used types together. The drawers are marked by base type and a + if popular types. Very popular types are marked with ++. It works fine for me as I don't often need to look for replacements and if I do, I don't have to look through a drawer of more than about twenty valves at a time. I don't have a huge stock though.
Alan.
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Old 21st Nov 2017, 8:24 pm   #4
dseymo1
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

Very good idea to store them randomly and list them logically, and applicable to other items too.
Of course, if the catalogue is a spreadsheet, you can re-sort it at will into type, equivalents, base or whatever, just by including that data.
It's similar to current wisdom on organising computerised data - basically, make sure the filenames are logical, then just chuck them all in together; use 'search' to locate what you want. Goes against the grain a bit, but it really is more efficient than careful hierarchical filing!
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Old 21st Nov 2017, 9:01 pm   #5
yestertech
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

Completely agree with dseymo1 ....I found the only sensible way is via a spreadsheet - the exact box fill order being completely random.
This allows additional stock to be added to the last part filled box, or a new box added. This system is infinitely expandable if new stock turns up . I have about 15 or so medium size boxes and searching the spreadsheet ( ordered by type number ) tells you which of these the valve is in. It also gives original box/white box/no box details ( 3 columns ) which all contain the manufacturer. This makes it easier to find a particular valve within a box , by say, looking for a 'Mullard' carton for example.
Another column 'condition' indicates a number ( % emission if tested ) ' NOS ' ( assumed good but be wary) or 'U' for untested ( could be a dud )
Yes it does mean that a given type number may appear in several boxes. But its usual only to need one at a time. Searching by maker and type is also possible if a particular brand of valve is sought.
To list totals of each valve across the boxes, simply use a pivot table.

An additional page at the front of the spreadsheet ('read me') reminds where to find/the type of the box or container ( i.e. really useful plastic box, 'Shurgard' box , box on workshop shelf etc.etc. ) any sort of container can be listed ( even drawers )
The loft stored boxes all have a 'Vxx' large label on at least 2 edges, so they can be found when needed.
From time to time the boxes need consolidating ( adds/disposals/merges) and this is simple to do on a spreadsheet ,as a search can be done on a box number and its entire contents transferred elsewhere.

Any other physical sorting system tends to be very inflexible. It's of course possible to see if a valve is available without venturing anywhere near the draughty ol' loft !!

Andy

Last edited by yestertech; 21st Nov 2017 at 9:08 pm.
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Old 22nd Nov 2017, 6:25 am   #6
Bazz4CQJ
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

Nice idea which I will be adopting. Anything which helps improve storage is worth knowing. I've always liked date-coding (e.g. 171122) any kind of item which benefits having a unique number - a letter suffix can be added if needed, and most software will automatically file reverse coded numbers (as above) in sequence.

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Old 23rd Nov 2017, 7:07 am   #7
G3VKM_Roger
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

Very interesting discussion! I have about 15 boxes of various sizes full of valves, stored in a garden shed. Often I need a valve or see a posting from someone needing a type I probably have but find the whole search thing a put off, especially if I have to lug the boxes outside onto the lawn to search.

Finally though, our kids are moving their furniture, etc out of the attic of the family home, so now might be a good time to bring the valves in from the cold, sort them out and catalogue them.

I like the sound of a spreadsheet but my EXCEL skills are a bit rusty. Any chance of one of you more-organised guys sharing an example of a sheet?

Cheers


Roger
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Old 23rd Nov 2017, 7:55 am   #8
FIXITNOW
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

This is what I used
have about 8 nice plastic crates
the boxed ones are in one of them
the ones starting with a number are in the next
the ones starting with a P in the next
the ones starting with a E in the next
etc
and a box of odds

this at least points me to one box to search saving some time

none are full so have room to add if need be
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Old 23rd Nov 2017, 3:42 pm   #9
G3VKM_Roger
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

Many thanks FIXITNOW! That will do fine, not too complicated for an old duffer!

Cheers

Roger
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Old 23rd Nov 2017, 4:05 pm   #10
martiR2R
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

For storage, I like the flat-pack CD boxes from Dunelm for small glass valves (7,8,9 pin), using the excellent boxes sourced by 'Pamphonica', 50 are a perfect fit. Larger valves, I use (free) Banana boxes from Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available) which are sturdy and stack well.
My spreadsheets are alpha-numeric, one for small glass 7,8,9 pin valves and one for large base valves, Octals etc. Columns can be for, base type, NOS, storage box number, quantities, etc.
I have less than a thousand and this works for me (it might not work with 11,000 like Sam!).
Hope this may be of some help.

Regards
Martin
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Old 23rd Nov 2017, 4:09 pm   #11
Boater Sam
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

I gave up boxing and testing used valves, It would cost me a fortune and I will not live long enough!
Plastic mushroom trays are handy and free, they stack well with miniature valves in.
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Old 24th Nov 2017, 11:19 am   #12
David Simpson
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

The nicest valve collection, and most evocative of the vintage era, I have ever seen is - a friend's complete Mullard valve tester set-up. The HSVT itself set on a special steel desk which has compartments for Mullard's range of valves - all in original NOS boxes. Plus the card holding units. A joy to behold.
Me - all 2V Filament valves in their own big lidded plastic box, the same for 4V Filament valves. All ECC types in a couple of cardboard boxes. In a couple of larger cardboard boxes - all big BT's & Pentodes up to 50mA, and the same for over 50mA. Large DDT's, mixers, rectifiers, etc., all boxed separately. Finally, all miniature valves boxed alpha/numerically(or vica/versa). Back in the RAF, 'twas dead easy - CV1 to CV1000, so to speak, all in neat rows in a drawer or on a shelf. No confusing civilian multi-company references. When I started out on my vintage radio pursuits 10 years ago, it took me ages & ages to get into cross-referencing different manufacture's valves.
I've recently got involved with testing a friend's ancient(from 1917 onwards)(& horrendously rare & expensive) collection of valves. Its difficult to get a spec to study. Also - if anyone else has rare old valves in their collection - use special designated & secure stored well padded storage boxes.

Regards, David

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Old 30th Nov 2017, 3:44 am   #13
FrankB
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

I sort and store my NOS ones in Archive or 10 ream paper boxes. I numbered the boxes and made a database of them. Very time consuming, but makes them fairly easy to find. (Up to 90 some cases of them now ! Still sorting out- literally- a 28 ft semi trailer packed full of them. And yes, I do question my sanity at times, as do others here. ). Had to quit, as I was rapidly burning out sorting.
I have cardboard bin boxes in my garage, with tube numbers on them, into which I sort the good, tested used tubes. I find Steam Punk folks like the bad ones for projects, so they get recycled to them.
Makes it easy to grab the bins, put them in boxes and haul them to the Hamfairs.
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Old 16th Feb 2018, 9:28 pm   #14
FrankB
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

I have about 200,000 valves here. (I... was... going to open an online store). Or to put it into perspective: A 28' semi trailer packed front to back, floor to ceiling! + another 50 or more boxes in the garage.

I store them in Archive style boxes and inventory them in the computer in an Open Office Spread Sheet.

(This is a long, boring job now that life priorities changed after Jillian's death.)

I have close to 100 boxes inventoried full of NOS and I store the used, tested ones in bin boxes in the garage on shelves. Many more to go, when time & energy & weather match up.
I make no effort to sort them by type or number when boxing them up.
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Old 16th Feb 2018, 11:23 pm   #15
McMurdo
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Default Re: Sorting your valves!

I do the same as Fixitnow. Plastic boxes from B&M / Poundstretcher / Home Bargains and grouped in E.series (large) E.series (small), P.series (ditto), D.series, American (ditto), Numerical, Mazda-type numbers, misc etc. I dont have so many that I need to catalogue them beyond that.
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