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Saturday, March 1, 2014

38 Year HB Mystery Solved? Was it the phasing dots?

 During the summer of 1976, at the age of 18, I made an audacious attempt to join the ranks of the true homebrewers.  I tried to build a receiver.  It was the Herring Aid 5 from the July 1976 issue of QST, a 40 meter Direct Conversion receiver intended for use with the famed Tuna Tin 2. As I have recounted (perhaps ad nauseum), I never got it to work.   My recent encounter with the ORIGINAL Tuna Tin 2 (Mojo was transferred to my BITX17, and it definitely works better now) got me thinking about this painful experience.   I decided to try again.

There is an updated NORCAL schematic for this rig.  I found it (and some good articles) on the NJQRP club page.   In the original, designer Jay Rusgrove, WA1LNQ, used only parts that could be found at Radio Shack stores.  In the days before the internet and Mouser, this was a good idea.  Instead of toroidal ferrite and iron powder coils,  Jay built his coils around Radio Shack solonoidal 10 uH chokes. 

The NORCAL version dispensed with the Radio Shack chokes, and used toroids.  But I wanted to try to find out what went wrong 38 years ago.  So I dug up some 10uH chokes. 

I know that my problem was that I never got the oscillator working.  I remember being able to hear signals with my "almost" receiver when I put my HT-37 in "CAL" mode and tuned through 40.  I was so close!  The Herring Aid was picking up RF from the HT-37 and using that in lieu of the LO energy that obviously wasn't coming from my Herring Aid VFO.  But WHY didn't that oscillator work?

Today I started with the VFO.   Again, it didn't work!   But now I have decades of troubleshooting experience under my belt.  So I poked around a bit.  Then I decided to look closely at the phasing.

Take a look at the schematic(above) and the picture (below).  L7 is the 10uH choke.  L6 is 4 turns wound over it (or adjacent to it).  Now, here is the key question:  Look at the phasing dots.  How would you guys connect those coils?   For me, the schematic indicates that the TOP of L6 should go to the Zener and the BOTTOM of L6 should go to the drain of the JFET.   The TOP of the choke should go over to C5, and BOTTOM of L6 should go to ground.  Right?  Or am I reading the phasing dots wrong?

Well, the oscillator was not oscillating in this configuration.  Then I did something that I might not have known to try back in 1976:  I reversed the phase of L6:  I put the top of the coil to the Drain of the JFET and the bottom of the coil to the Zener.  Bingo.  The joy of oscillation.  Now it works.  (The picture below shows it as it is when the oscillator is working well.)

So,  is there an error in that diagram?  Was this not all my fault?   

Aha! I just looked at the schematic of the NORCAL version.  Check out the dots!   I think that was the problem!


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