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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Quarantine Project: An AM Receiver for the 31 Meter Band. The Q-31.

During this StayInTheShack (SITS) emergency, it is good to have something to work on.  I decided it would be best to try to build something using only items currently in my parts collection.  I've been getting into shortwave listening again, and I've discovered that the 31 meter band (9.4 - 9.9 MHz) is my favorite. Thus the "Quarantine On-Hand 31 Meter AM Receiver."  A big part of the inspiration for this project comes from the AM receiver of Paul VK3HN. 

I propose that we all designate rigs built during quarantine as "Q" rigs.  This will be the Q-31. 

I had an old chassis on the shelf.  It held my WSPR DSB rig in Rome, and various other projects over the years.  It has so many holes in it that it looks like it has been used for target practice.  

A while back Pete N6QW sent me this really magnificent variable capacitor with at least two reduction dries and an anti-backlash gear.  I've been looking for a project that will allow me to use AND display this beautiful part.  It will be the main tuning cap for the Q-39. It will stay -- like the tubes in the rigs of days-gone-by --  above the chassis. 

While in London many years ago I picked up an old regen receiver at the Kempton Park rally.  The parts are still in my junk box.  A very nice 1.7 uH plug in coil (with socket) was there.  That will be the main coil in the Hartley Oscillator that will be the VFO.  I will add a few turns for the feedback coil (see circuit diagram below).  I wonder of that Eddystone coil was around for the Blitz? 

On the recommendation of our old friend Rogier (originally PA1ZZ), a few years ago Elisa got me a set of grey Altoids-sized metal boxes.  I will have three of these atop the target-practice chassis (they will provide shielding and will cover up the holes): 

-- One will hold the bandpass filter (designed with the Elsie program) and the mixer (probably diode ring, with transformers from Farhan). 

-- One will hold two IF amps with a 10 kHz 455 kHz IF filter between them (thanks to Bruce KK0S for the filters). 

-- One will hold the AM detector and the AF amplifiers. 

-- A fourth box will be under the chassis and will hold all the powered parts of the VFO circuitry.   I base my VFOs on this simple circuit from page 34 of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur: 

This quarantine looks like it is going to last a long time, so it is best to take your time on projects like this.  I might work on the VFO today.  No need to rush... 

I am shooting videos as I go along and will at some point start putting them up on my YouTube channel.  

So, I suggest that any of you who are feeling bored and confined (that would be almost all of us) fight back by launching a Quarantine "Q-Rig"  project.   Send reports to me -- I will try to put them on the SolderSmoke blog. 

Remember:  StayInThe Shack!   #SITS!  #flattenthecurve. 

73  Bill 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

SolderSmoke Podcast #220 -- S-38Es, AD9833s, Pete's Phasing Rig, FT-8

Java on the S-38E Tuning Dial
SolderSmoke Podcast #220 is available

Hunkered Down.  StayInTheShack:  SITS!  Flatten the Curve!  It is working.
Teaching English again – via Zoom.  Kids completing the school year remotely.  


-- Finishing up on the S-38Es.
-- I wrote up my alignment, isolation and dial string experiences.

-- SWL  WRMI Radio Miami International on 39 meters 9.4-9.9 MHz.  Rock and Roll.

-- S-38E work is causing me some serious legal problems.  They are threatening to take down our sites and our podcast.   Google has put a CEASE AND DESIST ORDER on my blog:   Check it out

--S-38E caused me to want to get my HRO dial receiver on the SW broadcast bands with a good AM detector.  

-- Next up: Hayseed Hamfest cap for my Drake 2-B.  And I have an idea on how to easily broaden it for AM:  Tap the 455 kc output on the Q multiplier jack.  455 AM detector to audio amp. 




Phasing Rig Project
DEAN’S PROJECT – Step by step.  Trouble shooting.  Understanding.  Receiver triumph.  FB.


Jack 5B/AI4SV doing well in Cyprus
Daniel SA7DER listens during commute in Sweeden.
Peter VK2EMU building a 6 meter amp.  With Tubes
Jim WA8ZHN  says there are still 7751 Novices on the books.   FB.

Mike WB2BLJ modding his BITX – having a lot of fun.
Fred KC5RT – Great idea on isolation transformer in my S-38E.  
Jerry Palsson: S-38C's curves vs. S-38E's exotic places.  Java. 

Anonymous mail:  FT-8 DX -- Are these contacts legitimate? See below. 

Dear Bill and Pete: 

I've been meaning to share with you something that has come to my attention by a rather circuitous route. 

As you guys know, I've been involved in the software/IT side of ham radio for many years. I've watched many digital modes come and go.  I've always enjoyed my work, but lately I've seen something that makes me uneasy. 

I'm sure you guys have heard of the fantastic DX that is being worked by many guys using FT-8.  It seems like all they need to work Jakarta is a couple of watts to a wet noodle. Shazam!  Contact! 

Well, I learned something that calls into some question the legitimacy of many of these contacts....  

As i understand it, certain manufacturers, in cahoots with a major American ham radio organization (that happens to be very dependent on ad revenue from that manufacturer), have secretly set up a system that combines the internet and ham radio. 

Here is how it works:  Suppose Joe Ham gets on FT-8 on 40 meters.  He puts out a call using his QRP transmitter and the aforementioned wet noodle.  No way that signal is going to Jakarta, right?  Well, it will with a bit of help.  

The system has SDR transceivers  and great antennas set up at strategic points around the world -- these are really great locations -- think mountain tops near the coastlines, always with high speed internet T5 connections. I think this is part of the whole “contest superstation for on-line lease” business model.  
One of these stations picks up Joe Ham's FT-8 call. Sometimes it will just re-transmit it, sometimes is will send it to a counterpart station on the other side of the globe.  Bingo, Joe Ham's signal is suddenly in Jakarta.  A station there enthusiastically responds, and that signal goes back with the same kind of repeater/ internet assist.  This is all done out of the reach of the FCC.  They are usig overseas locations,  some of them in Mexico.

Of course they have to be careful not to "facilitate" these kinds of contacts during times in which the bands are obviously dead,  That's why 40 is so useful for this system.  Obviously they can't keep this kind of thing secret forever -- they just want to get guys hooked on FT-8, then they can reveal the system, selling it as nothing unusual, you know, sort of akin to Echolink.  

Of course, this hasn't been made public (for obvious reasons!) but I can tell you the name of the system:   They tried to make it sound like something familiar (in this case like APRS): They call it  "Automatic Private Radio Internet Link 1."  My understanding is that when they do their “roll out” they will offer the new service to those willing to pay a subscription.

Obviously as an old-school, traditional ham, I'm troubled by all this.  What do you guys think?  I wonder what your listeners would think. 

Please don't mention my name..  But here is a site that describes the new system: 

Thanks and 73... 

Please let us know if you have any information on this, or have observed any unusual and suspicious success with FT-8.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Quarantine Rig: VK3YE Resurrects an Old BITX Project

I think we should start calling these "Quarantine Rigs."  Many of us are pulling off the shelves rigs that we started a while back but then put aside.  Now, with the pandemic,  we have the time (and the need!) to work on them.  

I like Peter's BITX receiver video, especially the part in the beginning where he wipes the grime and oxidation off the long-neglected copper-clad board.  

Follow Peter's lead:   Pull those old projects off the shelf.  Get them going.  Now is the time.  SITS!  Melt solder and flatten the curve. 

Thanks Peter.     

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Excellent Video on Maxwell's Equations

Really well-done.  He gets to the essence without getting bogged down in the math. Great graphics too. 

How They Make Chips That No One Can Understand

The December 21, 2019 edition of The Economist had an article about the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's plant known as Fab 18.  In just a few paragraphs  the article explains something that I have been wondering about:  We hear that some of the modern chips have millions, or even billions of transistors on them.   Who could possibly design at that level of complexity?  The article provides the answer:  humans don't do it.  These chips are really designed by other computers (see above).   

I don't like to use integrated circuits because they often seem like mysterious black boxes   I want to be able to understand how the rig I build really works.  Some ICs do allow for this kind of understanding -- you can get the internal wiring diagrams for an NE602, or an LM386, for example.  You can study them and gain an understanding.  Those little black boxes then become less mysterious.   But that kind of understanding is just impossible with the kind of modern microprocessors churned out by Fab 18. No one really knows how these chips work:    
"The circuitry is not as complex as, say, the human mind, but it is far more complex than any human mind could fathom."  

Sorry, but I prefer fathoming.  Please pass me some 2N3904s.   

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Radio History Question: Why 455 kHz as the IF frequency?

My work on the S-38Es, on the HRO-dial receiver, on the Mate for the Mighty Midget,  and on various mechanical filters has caused me to think (once again) about why we ended up with 455 kHz as the  IF frequency for so many radios.  I've heard many explanations for this, but unfortunately I've forgotten the explanations and lost the sources.  I started digging into this again today.  I found the below e-mail from Al N3FRQ on the Boatanchors mailing list (2008). 

I contacted Al to find out if he had learned anything else on this topic.  He has not.  So if anyone out there has answers to Al's questions, or anyother info that would shed light on why they went with 455, please let us know. 


Every so often the question comes up: Why are all the IF’s 455 KHz? I’d 
like to get an article together that solves this riddle while the people 
who know are still with us. I know parts of the story, but I need help 
with a couple of issues.

There are two major consideration is the choice of the intermediate 
frequency used in a superheterodyne receiver. The lower the frequency, 
the easier it is to attain high selectivity. Also, in the early days, 
before tetrode and pentode tubes, it was easier to achieve a high degree 
of amplification at lower frequencies. Conversely, a higher IF frequency 
results in better image rejection.

Early superhets had the IF at 100KHz or lower in order to get adequate 
gain from the available triode tubes. They suffer severely from 
“two-spot tuning” (images). By the early 1930’s, broadcast set had 
settled in at 175KHz, and automobile receivers would later adopt 262KHz 
as a standard.

The advent of the short-wave craze, and multi-band broadcast receivers 
dictated a higher IF frequency to achieve adequate image suppression on 
the short-wave bands. The broadcast band occupied 550-1500KHz at this 
time, and the designer encounters sever problems if his radio tunes 
across it’s own IF. Some shortwave sets used 1600-1700KHz for better 
image rejection, but one couldn’t go higher if the 160-meter ham band 
(1800-2000KHZ) was to be covered. Most multi-band receiver settled in 
near 450KHz, a comfortable distance from the first broadcast channel at 


Odd multiples of 5KHz, 455, 465, etc., were usually chosen so that the 
image of the carrier of a broadcast-band station could be zero-beat with 
the carrier of the station being tuned to achieve minimal interference. 
(This assumes 10KHz channel spacing. Did the Europeans (9KHz) do 
something else?)

The Radiotron Designers Handbook, Third Edition, p. 159, states “A 
frequency of 455 Kc/s is receiving universal acceptance as a standard 
frequency, and efforts are being made to maintain this frequency free 
from radio interference.”

(1) Do FCC and international frequency allocations reflect this?

(2) I’ve heard the term “Clear-Channel IF.” Can anyone cite references?

(3) At lease one news group posting claims that broadcast frequencies in 
a particular market are assigned to prevent strong inter-modulation 
products from falling near 455KHz. Is this factual? Need reference.”

(4) Was this (3) at least part of the reason for “Radio Moving Day” in 
1941? See:

(5) Many National Radio sets used a 456KHz IF’s and I think I remember a 
437 somewhere. Why? Are there different considerations for short-wave CW 

Further input, corrections, and elaborations are greatly appreciated. 
Scolarly reference will be looked upon with great favor.


Al Klase - N3FRQ 
Flemington, NJ

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Mr. Carlson Restores an All-American Five -- Tribal Knowledge! SITS! Flattening the Curve! (video)

It is always a pleasure to see a new video on Mr. Carlson's awesome YouTube channel, especially in these days of Staying-In-The-Shack (SITS).  Obviously Mr. Carlson is doing his bit in this area.  FLATTEN THE CURVE!   Thanks OM! 

My recent bout of S-38E madness has peaked my interest in the All American Five design, so this March 10, 2020 video was especially interesting to me.  Mr. Carlson puts out so much great tribal knowledge.  I didn't know about "rounder" resistors.  I didn't know that you have to be careful not to short out (to the IF can case!) the 455 kc transformers.  I really like his approach to dial cord restoration.  

Mr. Carlson's discussion of the adjustment of the front end tuner circuit on this broadcast band radio was very interesting.  Unlike the S-38 radios, there are no front end coils being switched in as you change bands. In fact, it appears that that big coil/antenna inside the back cardboard piece IS the front end coil.  This discussion has caused me to question my front end alignment technique for the S-38E.  Did I have an appropriate antenna or antenna substitute across the antenna terminal when I set the peak on the input LC circuit?   I will check on this.  Hooray!  One more thing to do during the COVID-19 SITS period.  

UPDATE:  I checked on this using the test set up described in an earlier post, but this time with my antennas connected.  First with a 40 meter dipole, then with my 130 foot doublet, then with a 50 ohm dummy load I was still able to see the resonance dips at exactly where I wanted them to be. 

My favorite bit of Carlsonian wisdom from this video?  Mr. C's confirmation that some hum in All American Five receivers IS NORMAL!  (This may be too much for the folks who find normal band noise to be offensive.)  

For Inspiration and Education: Dean's Radio Blog (with video)

Be sure to check out the blog of Dean KK4DAS.   He is a new homebrewer who is having great success with one of Pete Juliano's ingenious SSB designs. Dean has a video of his receiver working -- AL FRESCO -- as construction on the full transceiver proceeds.   

This is amazing.   Just a short time ago Dean was taking his first steps as a homebrewer with his version of the Michigan Mighty Mite.  He has followed the advice of the Tribal Wizards and has proceeded slowly, step by step, stage by stage, gaining the experience that has allowed him to actually build a superhet receiver and be on the verge of completing a full SSB transceiver. 

Lots of inspiration to be found on Dean's blog.   Check it out:

Technical Manual 11-455 -- Radio Fundamentals -- July 17, 1941

This is an illuminating little book.  It was published by the U.S. War Department on July 17, 1941, less than five months before Pearl Harbor.   Far from being dated, this book contains a lot of  great explanations of -- as the title indicates -- the fundamentals of radio.   I turned to it this morning for a little refresher on the physics of regenerative feedback.  

You can get your own paper copy here:  

Or here: 

Or you can read a slightly more recent edition (1944!) online (free) here: 

Please let me know if you find this book useful. 

Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column