Collins 21E Adventure


Chapter 2

       Measure Twice, Cut Once

Most of us have heard that piece of carpenter's
wisdom: Measure twice, cut once. How many of us have
failed to follow it and have paid a price? As you will
see in this chapter, following this sage advice paid
big dividends.

The Collins 21E is a large rig. Spread through three
heavy, steel cabinets, trimmed with chrome and glass,
each cabinet measures some three feet wide by two feet
deep by just over six feet in height.  The total
weight of the entire radio approaches a ton and a
half, including transformers, relays, blower and
cabinet doors. 

Something that bulky and heavy could not be safely
moved onto the first floor of Norm's house without
bracing the floor from below.  Further, without
substantially sacrificing the interior his house,
there was really no place for Norm to put the
transmitter in the living area.  He thus determined,
quite logically, that the Collins would need to go in
the basement where it would safely rest on a level
concrete floor. 

In the basement, lines and cables could be easily and
visibly routed along and across overhead floor joists,
and there would only be a short run to the basement
electrical service.  But getting the cabinets into the
basement was going to be a challenge, and for a time,
it appeared that the project was going to end before
it began.

Prior to committing to the sale, Norm had made
detailed measurements of the Collins' cabinets at the
WEBO transmitter site.  He went home and constructed
out of lath and cardboard, a light, but full sized
mock up the size of the two larger cabinets.  These
two cabinets, one of which which houses the driver and
audio and the other the PA, are positioned at each end
of the three cabinet array.  The cabinet in the center
houses the power supply, and as may be seen from the
accompanying illustration from the Collins manual, is
a little narrower.  Norm then began to look for ways
to maneuver the mockup into the house and down to the

The side door into Norm's is on the driveway side of
his house and it also provides immediate access to the
basement stairs.  Understandably, this was his first
choice for bringing in the cabinets.

As you enter the side door to Norm's house, you step
onto a small landing.  Straight ahead are three or
four steps that lead to the first floor, while
immediately to the right are the stairs to the

But no matter how he twisted and turned the mockup
cabinet, there was just not enough room to make the
turn from the landing at the side door and descend to
the basement.  There were two major obstacles to this

The first were the stairs to the second floor of the
house, situated directly above the basement staircase.
The place where the stairs meet the first floor in the
dining room also happens to be the place where a steel
I-beam crosses beneath the floor at right angles to
the basement steps (see accompanying photograph of the
basement stairway).

Because of the staircase above, and the location of
the I-beam, there was not just a lack of space
overhead for lifting and turning; the mockup did not
have a long way to travel before it had to be dipped
beneath the I-beam.  Those of us who have clipped our
foreheads on the I-beam, which Norm has very
thoughtfully covered with foam rubber, on the way down
to the basement can attest to just how close that beam
is to the basement stairs.

The second obstacle was a wall, immediately opposite
the top of the basement stairs which created a fairly
confined area on the landing within which to try to
turn the cabinet.  

After a period of reflection -- and frustration --
Norm had an idea.  Was it drastic?  Yes.  But it
turned out to be the answer to the problem of getting
the cabinets into the house and safely down to the
basement and it was the green light for the project
which seemed very close at that point to ending.

Why not remove the first run of stairs going from the
dining room to the second floor, as far as the
landing?  This would clear away the overhead
impediments. Further, if the cabinets were brought
into the house from the front door, they could be
carted straight through the dining room and then
lowered onto the basement stairs through the place
where the stairs to the second floor used to be.  No
more problems with  overhead clearances, and, as
Norm's measurements showed, the back wall would no
longer be a problem.

Out came the stairs and a new, one piece staircase to
the landing was constructed.  The one piece staircase
was built so that it could be easily removed thus
permitting future moves in and out of the basement to
take place.

It was now time to schedule The Move.

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