During a POTA activation a few days ago, I was in the middle of a QSO when my Palm Mini paddles started behaving erratically. I knew right where to look for the cause of the problem.
The Palm Mini paddles have been my go-to paddles in the field for many years. Although the German manufacturer, Palm Radio, is no longer in business, they are still the only paddles I take along for portable work. They are compact, have a great feel, and work perfectly with the clipboard arrangement I use in the field. I loved the first set I bought and later acquired a second set.
These great little paddles have one weakness: the cable connection. The three-pin connector is similar to standard header pins with a two-piece plastic backshell held together with a tiny screw. Once inserted into the paddles, there’s no locking mechanism to hold it in place. It’s definitely not the most rugged arrangement. After my first encounter with cable issues, I ordered a couple of replacement cables. Sadly, that’s no longer an option.
During my most recent episode of cable problems, the connector backshell had fallen apart, leaving the tiny wires exposed. I grabbed a spare cable and was back in business in short order.
Fortunately, after some searching, I found the two backshell pieces on the floor of my truck. The screw that holds the backshell together goes into a threaded boss, which had broken. I encountered an identical failure on another cable a couple of years ago, so I knew how to deal with it.
After I got home, I carefully checked the wire connections and confirmed that they were still intact. So this time, the fix was just to reassemble the backshell. Since I could no longer screw the two halves back together, I had to resort to drastic measures. I call this the “final fix.” Once implemented, it can’t be undone.
I positioned the connector in the bottom half of the backshell and re-checked the connections. Then, I applied a dollop of Goop™ adhesive inside the backshell and put the top half on. The Goop™ filled the inside of the backshell, holding it all together and providing some additional strain relief for the tiny wires. After cleaning off the adhesive that squeezed out during assembly, I clamped the backshell overnight. The next morning, I gave it a test and confirmed that everything was still working.
I’ve seen webpages describing ways of replacing the fragile connector with something more robust. I’m not quite ready to perform major surgery on my beloved Palm Mini paddles. Someday, I suppose, I’ll have no choice.
72, Craig WB3GCK