After growing up in the Bay Area, I attended High School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One day my father, who worked as a programmer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, brought me to, and later got me a job at, a nerd's paradise called The Black Hole. I ended up working there for 3 summers and I think it was probably my favorite job ever, although it only paid $5 an hour. Many of the hours I worked were directly exchanged for random bits of junk, much of which I still have, to my wife's elation, stored away in boxes in our storage closet.
When I saw heathervescent's post about the upcoming Dorkbot Socal trip to APEX Electronics, I knew I had to go. The night before the trip I shot an email out to an especially geeky list that I run and CHS responded that he wanted to come along. We arrived a bit late at Machine Project, and Tom Jennings was mostly finished talking about what to expect. I mentioned my previous employment at The Black Hole and he told me that he make a road trip there every year, saying that it was one of his favorite places in the world.
After a short drive to the highly industrial Sun Valley, we made our way in to the wonderfully techno-detritus rich warehouse known as APEX Electronics. I immediately pulled out my camera, set up my tripod and began photographing the narrow aisles packed high with everything from oscilloscopes to capacitors to vacuum tubes.
APEX reminded me of a 1/10th scale model of The Black Hole, with less nuclear research equipment and more audio recording, broadcast and aviation gear. The organization of APEX is at least an order of magnitude better than The Black Hole, but I guess that having one tenth the amount of junk makes that possible. I should be careful about calling the contents of APEX or TBS junk, as they say, "one man's trash...", and also the collectors of said equipment seem to develop an emotional attachment to their toys.
Most of the aisles held boxes full of components, with a single version taped to the front of the box. Some of the more valuable gear like the microwave wave guides, windows and transmitters were locked up behind glass, which the owner, Don, was nice enough to open for me so I could take a photo. Tom mentioned that one aisle had collapsed in an earthquake almost 2 decades ago, and had yet to be cleaned up.
Outside there were towering piles of scrap aluminum, kegs, airplane wings, cable, and junk. I especially enjoyed the pile of "Safety First" signs that were haphazardly piled together along with what appeared to be a bomb, but was probably an airplane fuel tank.
It is a good thing that I am short on physical space in my loft, otherwise I surely would have purchased more than the $1 clamp that I picked up. If you are building a robot or some other fun project, this would be a great place to pick up those hard to find parts you need. If you are a junk collector, but you don't want to blow all your hard earned money in one place, you should avoid this place at all costs.
Full gallery here.
Update Heathervescent's flickr photo set can be found here, Zoetica's can be found here (Thanks thedaniel).