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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Peter's New Airplane

Again.  Amazing.  What a great workshop.   Note his comments on the importance of DESIGNING FIRST, THEN BUILDING.  Words to live by my friends, words to live by.  Read and heed.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Video on PCB Factory in China

This factory is a LONG way from Manhattan -- both from the island and from the technique.  

How about some Juliano Blue PC Boards?   

The machine that automatically checks for bad connections was especially amazing. 

And the boards are made in 24 hours, with 3 day shipping to the U.S. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"First Man" Neil Armstrong Movie Trailer

I think Ryan Gosling is a good choice to play Neil Armstrong.  It looks like this movie will deal with the "right stuff," a concept somewhat related to "the knack." 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Another Wood Box BITX! KC1FSZ Abandons Al-Fresco but Continues with Wood

'Tis a thing of beauty.   I like the wood.  And I like the hood.  The handles are a nice touch.  A fitting follow-up to its al fresco organic origins.  

Hi Guys:

I know there was a view that my giant BITX was supposed to be left out in the open, but I’m going to try to attend my local club’s Field Day festivities this year and the 4 foot long “planker” was pressing the limits of portability.  So I moved from the shack to the wood shop and built myself some custom cabinetry.  I think it looks a bit like an IC-73000 now don’t you think?  OK, maybe not.  

There is a hinged door at the top and shelf levels inside for the different parts of the circuit. The power supply and PA section are mounted on the bottom which can be removed for accessibility/serviceability.   The whole thing weighs about 10 pounds!!


Bruce KC1FSZ

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Understanding Antenna Directivity -- Help from Canada

I am in the process of repairing my beloved 17 meter fishing-pole Moxon.  It was taken out of service by the last Nor'easter of the winter.  This repair has caused me to review the theory behind antenna directivity.  I find there is a lot of "hand waving" in the explanations of how directivity happens:  "You put a reflector element next to the antenna.  And it REFLECTS!"   You are left wondering how that reflection happens.  

The Royal Canadian Air Force made a video that does a pretty good job of explaining how the reflector reflects.  See above.  Thanks Canada!  

While we are talking about antennas,  I wanted to alert readers to a really nice antenna modeling program that is available for free.  It is called 4nec2.  You can find it here:   There is a bit of a learning curve, and I am still climbing it, but I can see how this software would be very useful.  It has an optimization feature that runs the antenna through many versions and tells you how to optimize for F/B,  gain,  SWR, or whatever you want to prioritize.  

I have discovered that my Moxon was resonant below the 17 meter band.  In other words, the antenna elements were too big.  About 3.6% too big according to my calculations.  This may be the result of my using insulated wire for the antenna elements.  Apparently the MOXGEN software assumes the use of uninsulated wire.  I'm thinking that an easy way to deal with this would be to use the frequency 3.6% above my target frequency and then use the dimensions given my the MOXGEN program.  Any thoughts on this plan? 

What a shame that Cebik's web sites have all disappeared.      

Friday, June 1, 2018

INTERVIEW: Bob Crane Talks to Jack Purdum W8TEE at FDIM. Definition of "Homebrew."

Jack Purdum has been making enormous contributions to the radio art.  His background with digital technology has opened many doors for homebrewers, especially through his books on the use of the Arduino microcontroller.   I think his new "JackAl board" is really going to shake things up.  I was glad that our correspondent in Ohio, Bob Crane W8SX, caught up with Jack and interviewed him for soldersmoke: 

But I have one small disagreement with Jack.   It has to do with the definition of "homebrew."   Jack seems to define true homebrew as "designing and building your own rig from scratch."  My problem is with the "designing" part.  By this definition, those intrepid heroes of days-gone- by who saw a schematic in QST, ripped apart some old broadcast radios, and used the parts to build a 50 watt CW transmitter with a regen receiver were not true homebrewers.   I would maintain that they were.  I agree with Jack that kit building is a bit different, and of course designing the rig yourself earns you the coveted "designer" designation.  But for me, if you start with a schematic and an article, gather the parts and build the thing yourself, that is a homebrew project and you are a homebrewer.  After all, even the designers are very often making use of standard blocks of circuitry (Colpitts oscillators,  common emitter amplifiers, power supply circuits, etc.)

I think we will have to turn to our lexicon expert Steve Silverman for a ruling.  

In any case, thanks to Bob Crane and to Jack Purdum. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hans Summers and his QCX -- G0UPL Cracks the Code on Si5351A Quadrature

Pete,  Brad WA8WDQ and I were recently e-mailing about our admiration for what Hans G0UPL has achieved with his QCX rig.   I cc'd Hans -- we got this nice and very informative e-mail.  Be sure to click on the link provided by Hans, and from there go to the link to his FDIM proceedings article.  I think that article is a real masterpiece -- there is a lot of very valuable information in there.  For a long time, getting quadrature output from the Si5351 seemed like an impossible dream.  But Hans has obviously figured out how to do this, opening the door to much better and simpler single-signal phasing receivers.   Thanks Hans!  

Hi all

Thanks for the nice feedback on the QCX and the FDIM conference proceedings a article, which I have published on QRP Labs web page along with other Dayton trip miscellany. See

My seminar presentation audio was recorded by Ham Radio Workbench podcast and they will be publishing it on 5th June.

The QCX kit has indeed been unbelievably popular, almost 5,000 kits have been sold since the launch on 21st August. It seems to have itched an itch that needed itching, in the QRP world. Sales continue to be strong and I'm currently preparing another batch of 1000 more. 

I'm very proud of my 90-degree quadrature Si5351A and it helped me towards my low cost, high performance target for QCX. Abandoning the 74AC74 saves a part, reduces cost, reduces complexity, reduces board area (and hence more cost) and even seems to provide better performance (higher unwanted sideband rejection when using the Si5351A in quadrature mode). Getting the Si5351A to do this is one of those things which look easy afterwards. But at the time, and faced with SiLabs un-useful documentation, it took an awful lot of headscratching, trial and error!

I'm not sure of the answer to the question about noise figure. Certainly radios such as QCX and the NC2030 which use the QSD architecture seem to have very high sensitivity without an RF amplifier ahead of them. This must indicate a low noise figure. 

73 Hans G0UPL 

Monday, May 28, 2018

VK2BLQ's Beautiful uBITX in a Wooden Box

Now that, my friends, is a BEAUTIFUL uBITX.  Stephen VK2BLQ put that one together.  Peter VK2TPM helped him get the KD8CEC software into his Raduino (Stephen had trouble  getting it to compile on his Raspberry Pi).  

For me there is good news and bad news here.  The bad news is that I can no longer tell people that mine is the only "wooden box" rig that they will ever work.   The good news is that I am no longer alone. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

INTERVIEW: Four Days in May 2018 -- G0UPL Hans Summers talks to Bob Crane

Once again, our correspondent Bob Crane W8SX has gone to the Four Days in May event and has sent back some really great inteviews with those who made presentations there.  

First on the list was Hans Summers G0UPL.   Hans is a justifiably famous Homebrew Hero, and a member of the QRP Hall of Fame.   The latest of his many contributions to the hobby is his amazing QCX transceiver.  Like the BITX rigs, the QCX refutes the idea that hams need to spend kilobucks to get on the air with a decent rig.  Priced at around $50,  the QCX offers excellent performance.  And it comes with built in test gear:  the signal generator you need to align the rig COMES IN THE RIG!  FB Hans.  

I think it was Pete who noted that the price range for rigs like the QCX, the BITX, and the uBITX is in the $50 to $110 dollar range, meaning that "One hundred bucks is the new three thousand bucks."  We owe a lot gratitude to Hans and Farhan for this very positive paradigm shift. 

Listen here for Bob Crane's 2018 FDIM interview with Hans:

We all also owe a debt of gratitude to the QRP ARCI folks who did all the hard work that goes into organizing Four Days in May.  Special thanks to QRP ARCI Preston Douglas WJ2V, and to FDIM Chair Norm Schklar WA4ZXV.  FDIM is one of the most important events on the Homebrew/QRP calendar. 

More info on the QCX (and order yours) here:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Epic Evening on 40 Meters

I had a good night on 40 meters last night.   The Radio Gods were obviously with me.  

First I called CQ and VP2EIH on Anguilla responded.  Nice to start with a whiff of DX.  

Then Jason W5IPA called in and said he wanted to try out his uBITX! See the pictures below.  FB!  

Then I got a call from K5WDW on Hilton Head Island -- Dexter runs Collins gear from an ocean-front shack (see above).  Check out his QRZ page.  

Then WA4PUB called in.  Dave has been on the air since 1948 and was a student of legendary ham and radio astronomer John Kraus.  Dave has directional antennas on 40 -- when he switched the pattern he went from LOUD to barely detectable.  FB.  Check out Dave's homebrew rig below. 

Finally Gary W7DO joined us.  He has a big 4 Square on 40 that also has some really impressive directional properties.  See below for a look at his 80 meter 4 Square. 


W7DO 80 meter 4 Square

Monday, May 21, 2018

BITX Night on 7277: First N6ORS and then Canadian BITX Builders

 I was about an hour late for the Eastern time zone meet-up at 7 pm local on 7277 kHz Sunday night (my wife and I watch 60 Minutes at that hour). but I figured I could work some guys if I got on at 8 pm.  Sure enough, I was called by Keith N6ORS on his MIN-X rig.  I was on my QRO DIGI-TIA.  It was great to catch up with Keith. 

Then I got a call from VE3THR.  Last year I'd talked to Tom when he was using his BITX40.  This time he was on with his uBITX.  FB.   Tom's club in Barrie, Ontario is obviously melting a lot of solder and having a lot of fun.  Here are some pictures of their rigs. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

F5LVG's Nail Board Receiver -- Names for the Technique

Pete WB9FLW reminds us that Olivier F5LVG has LONG been using copper nails and wood boards to build amazing rigs.  See above for one magnificent example.  That, my friends, is a superhet receiver.  Inspirational! 

A few posts back we asked for nominations for the official name of this technique.   We still have to consult with Steve Silverman on this, but the nominations are: 

Armand WA1UQO (perhaps reflecting his proximity to Washingotn DC)  "Wire-Tapping" 

Gary Hinson:  "Coffin Dodging"  (sounds a bit dodgy to me). 

And the front runner so far, from Melbourne, Australia -- drum roll please: 

Peter Parker:  "NAILBOARDING."  (Peter thinks he nailed it with that one.  I tend to agree.)  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Youngest Homebrew Hero: 17 year-old Sam Zeelof Makes His Own Integrated Circuits

Seventeen year-old Sam Zeelof, KD2ENL, is making his own integrated circuits in his garage. 

Wow.  This makes me think about another seventeen year-old -- the fellow who appears on pages 63-64 of Cliff DeSoto's "200 Meters and Down." (I have the story on page 81 of "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics.")   In the early days of radio that kid amazed us by making his own vacuum tubes.  Sam Zeelof is clearly following in that tradition. 

No "mysterious black boxes" for Sam!  No "appliance chips" for him!  FB OM.  

This is really amazing.  Here are the links:

One of Sam's chips
Thanks to Bruce KC1FSZ for alerting us to this amazing work. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Construction Technique that REALLY "Nails it" -- But what do we call it?

Thanks to Rogier PA1ZZ (long in W6) for this.  I guess I have used a variation of this technique in some antenna tuner projects, and maybe in a crystal radio effort.   This also reminded both Pete and me of the electronic project kits that we were given as kids.  Those kits had little springs that were supposed to keep the components in contact.  They might have worked better with nails.  

This technique definitely provides an opportunity for an earnest young guy to make use of his soldering GUN.  I don't think a wimpy 35 watt iron would be up to the task.  

What should we call this technique?  We have "ugly" and "Manhattan" and
"Muppet Boards."   What do we call this? 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

NN2K's Beautiful Pine-Board Al-Fresco Thermatron AM Transmitter

On Saturday mornings (around dawn) I often listen to the Old Military Radio Net on 3885 kHz.  I find it inspirational.  This morning the inspiration was provided by Rick NN2K.  His signal from Binghamton New York was makeing the trip to Northern Virginia.  When I heard him mention that he was using a "Pine Board Transmitter" I felt the urge to look for a picture. provided the photo.  

Rich says he built this rig in January 2018 based on a QST article by Bob Heil.   FB Rich! 
And thanks to Ted W3PWW for running the Old Military Radio Net for so many years. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

KE4MIQ's Repurposed Raduino Receiver

FB James -- Really glad you are listening,  and that you are having fun with a Direct Conversion receiver --- souped up with a Raduino! 

Bill, Pete

Just listened to #204. (New Listener)
You talked about using the Raduino with other radios.
I bought one of Mike Hagen's RaduinoXs to use with my Bitx40. So, I have repurposed my original Raduino as a VFO for my 4SQRP ZZRX-40 DC receiver. I used Allards's v1.26 with a few code changes to tune 7.000 to 7.300. It's currently al fresco on a piece of Hobby Lobby foam board. I may "cabinetize" at some future date.
Attached is a pic of the ZZRX-40, Raduino, and Goodwill Sony speaker with Jameco stereo amp, all running off of Harbor Freight 9v Nimh rechargables.

So far I have heard over 40 states and 20 countries with a 65ft piece of wire in the rafters.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

SolderSmoke Podcast #204 April 1, SPRAT Cover 2, uBITX mania, MAILBAG

SolderSmoke Podcast #204 is available!

5 May 2018

April 1 Recap -- We thank you for your support! 

Pete's Rig on Cover of SPRAT 174 

uBITX Mania

uBITX Dual Conversion Design

uBITX Gettng more out of the Arduino/Si5351 combo

uBITX KD8CEC's amazing software

uBITX Future Possibilities

uBITX On-the-Air Experiences, with CW too! 


KD8CGH's Hyderabox -- THERE ARE TWO! 
QSO with N1AW's cardboard uBITX
DuWayne on QSO TODAY
Jack 5R8SV -- Radio Gods NOT Happy
Jack Purdum W8TEE -- Thanks OM
Charles AI4OT
Chris KB4PBT 15 inch telescope
John WJ0NF Reading SolderSmoke
Ken W8KTP Ordering a uBITX 
Darren KG7KOI  Listening
Gary AK4NA  New Word:  "Cabinetize" FB OM! 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"The Thrill That'll Hit Ya..." AGAIN! Three cheers for Pete, SPRAT, and GQRP

On the cover of issue 173 of our beloved SPRAT magazine they had my little Direct Conversion receiver.  We joked on the podcast about the old song by Doctor Hook about getting on the "Cover of the Rolling Stone."  Well, on the cover of issue 174 they have one of Pete's magnificent creations.  

Thanks again to the guys who put so much work into SPRAT magazine.  They are now looking for some help.  Please subscribe, and check out page 4 of issue 174 for details on the help that GQRP is looking for.  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

KC1FSZ's Above Board, Al Fresco, Free Range, QRO, 4-Foot-Long, Wood-Based BITX



Hi Guys:

First off, congrats on back-to-back SPRAT covers.  

I’ve succeeded in my QRO quest.  Now I’m running the finals from 28V using a home-brew linear power supply and getting about 20W out.  LM723 + 2N3055’s.  I’m making a lot more contacts too.  The only problem is that the “Peppermint Line” is close to 4 feet long now! (Photo below).  I don’t know how N6QW gets his rigs packed into such small cases.  Putting the various boards in edge-wise will probably help a lot, so that’s going to be my approach to the final packaging job.


Bruce KC1FSZ

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hyderabox! uBITX in a Lunch Box

Oh man, I'm sorry I missed this one.  John sent it to me in January, but it got lost amidst all the uBITX messages.  

I like it!  It shows that I am not the only one guilty of re-purposing Benton Harbor Lunch Boxes.  

But what should we call it?  It is now more Hyderabad than Benton Harbor.  How about Hyderabox?  That's it!   

  You mentioned in your last podcast recycling "Benton Harbor Lunch Boxs". Many decades ago I talked my Junior High shop teacher into letting me build a Twoer instead of his lame project. Over the years  2 meter AM and the Twoer faded away. 
I recently revived a Lunchbox case for my uBitx. I added a Sotabeams CW filter that is controlled by the old T/R knob. Down the filter is bypassed, up one is wide CW and up two is narrow CW. The green pilot light light is a CW tuning indicator. 
I use KD8CEC's code which cleans up many small problems and adds a memory keyer and CAT control to the uBitx.
I modded KD8CEC's code to remove the paddle sense segment so that it only works with a straight key. This makes the keying much cleaner. 
First contact with the modded uBitx was this morning. With 5 watts out I got a 599 from K3Y/7 (K7QBW) in Oregon back to me in Ohio.
    Bob    KD8CGH

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

N1AW's uBITX -- Cardboard Panels, and the Mic in a Sharpie

On Sunday night at 7 pm local on 7.277 MHz BITX users gather.   This week was the debut of my uBITX.  I was able to make only one contact before we were over-run by the Rookie Roundup, but that contact was a good one.  Above you can see N1AW's FB uBITX.   The front and back panels are made of cardboard.  The mic holder is from a re-purposed Sharpie marker.  FB Al.  Thanks for the contact.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Carpentry and Socketry for the uBITX

Yesterday I decided to spend some time at the bench -- I wanted to get the uBITX boxed up.  My basswood box had arrived from Amazon on Friday.  It was time for what George Dobbs G3RJV called "socketry."  

First, the back.  I figured I would need five connectors back there.   Connectors for 12V DC, speaker, and antenna would be needed right away (it is my preference to have the speaker connector on the back of the BITX).  Looking ahead, I might want to also have a jack for T/R control of my linear amplifier, and a jack for 24 VDC if I want to go wild and put more voltage on the drains of the IRF510s. So I put two extra holes in there.  

Basswood is SO easy to cut.  I put the LCD in the center of the front panel, and opted to put the board close to the front of the board.  This avoids the need for jumpers to connect the Raduino to the LCD, and it keeps the lines to the front panel controls and connectors very short. I mounted the board on the spacers that came with the BITX, drilling holes the bottom of the basswood box.  It all fit quite nicely. 

I would need to put two jacks on the front panels:  key jack and mic jack.  And I'd need two controls: main tuning and AF gain.  I used hole saws to cut holes big enough to accommodate the four items. 

The controls and jacks were then placed on two small pieces of copper clad board.  These then went on the front panel.  

Wiring up the uBITX was  easy.  I just followed Farhan's instructions.  I did the wiring AFTER placing the boards and controls in the box -- this helped me keep all the wires at their optimum length (not too long, and more important -- not too short!).  If you do it this way, put a cloth over the boards so you don't drop solder blobs on the uBITX. 

Farhan's uBITX fired up nicely as soon as I applied power.   The receiver really sounds nice.  I hope to make some contacts with it today. 

Three cheers for Farhan! 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Boxing up my uBITX -- Question for the Group

Our friend Rogier and I are involved in an East Coast -- West Coast uBITX launch project -- we plan to assemble our uBITXs together (more or less, via Skype) and then get them on the air. 

As has been my recent practice, I have opted to put my uBITX in the same kind of wooden box that I used for my three scratch-built BITX projects.  See above. 

Now, due to Farhan's wizardry the uBITX is considerably smaller than the box.  This is, of course, a good thing. It leaves room in the box for many bells and whistles.  

But here is my first box design question

Should I put the uBITX board to the front of the box so that the LCD can be connected to the board DIRECTLY via the connector on the Raduino board (no jumpers needed), or should I put the uBITX board to the back of the box so that I can stick the PA heat sinks out the back?   In the later case I'd have to use 4 inch jumper cables to connect the LCD to the Raduino.  This use of jumpers seems to increase the possibility of noise from the display. 

What say the Knack Wizards?  Back of the box with LCD jumpers, or front of the box with no jumpers but heat sinks inside the box? 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

AMAZING 1999 Video on the Invention of the Transistor at "Hell's Bells Laboratory"

Thanks to Armand WA1UQO for alerting me to this.  I really liked the book -- "Crystal Fire" -- that this 1999 video is loosely based on. I'm also a fan of the narrator,  Ira Flatow, whose melodious voice is heard each week on NPR's excellent "Science Friday" radio show. 

A few observations and thoughts on the video: 

-- I liked the irreverant Calypso song "Hell's Bells Laboratory."  It looks like those folks had a lot of fun.  And wow, Shockly's secretary was named Betty Sparks.  TRGHS. 

-- I have the same big Variac on my bench.  And I have one of those "third hand" devices.  

-- I'd like to build my own replica of the point contact device with the triangular piece of lucite and the gold foil. 

-- While Shockley seems to be the real bad guy in this story (he seems to have all the bad characteristics of David Sarnoff,  Lee DeForest, and Steve Jobs),  I liked the his use of "physical intuition" to understand devices and the problems they were meant to solve.  

-- The image of the two Japanese founders of Sony working in the late 1940's in a bombed out department store was very powerful.   

-- Although I came on the scence a bit later, I WAS one of those kids who used a transistor radio and an earphone to surreptitiously listen to rock-and-roll music. 

-- "More transistors are made each year than raindrops fall on California."  Hmmm.... 

More info here:
Extra interviews:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Solder Haze -- Sing Along with N8NM and Jimi Hendrix

Back when some us were thinking of new names for the podcast, Steve, N8NM thought of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and came up with this set of lyrics (listen to the video above to get the tune). 

Solder Haze, all in my brain
Making rigs, some don't work that great.
They're acting funny, but I don't know why
Kill some birds for that Legba guy.

Solder Haze, all around.
Don't if I should turn the bias down.
Or maybe I should raise the Vcc
Oh, it's a FET, that would make it Vdd.

Solder Haze, all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night.
You got me blowing, blowing my mind
Come tomorrow,  I won't be to work on time. 

Pete, WB9FLW took a more, well, defiant line.  He came up with new name for the podcast that sort of captures the shocking level of indignation that this completly bogus story generated.  Pete suggests that we simply call the new show: "FLUX YOU"

Thank you gentlemen.  You are both, in a way, poets.  And Hendrix would, I think, approve. 

Now, will the Wizard of Newbury Park pull out his guitar and get to work on this?   

Monday, April 2, 2018

REPRIEVE! SolderSmoke Saved by a Loophole!

First, let me thank the many, many MANY, loyal listeners from around the world who wrote in with expressions of support and sympathy.  Special thanks to our UK listeners who were notable in their indignation for they saw as a blatant example of US litigiousness "gone mad."  One loyal British listener went so far as to pledge to immediately end his patronage of the Birmingham Vaping business known as SodderSmoke.  We found this quite, well, suprising.   But we were chuffed, nonetheless.  Thanks OM! 

The expressions of concern were really quite touching.  One listener asked if he should  -- in an effort to keep us out of hot water -- destroy his SolderSmoke coffee mug.  With fans like that, well, what can I say?  

In responding to the legal crisis, our listeners displayed ASTOUNDING creativity in their crafting of alternative names for the podcast.   

Buck seems to have a real "knack" for name-smithing. He wrote: 
The easiest would be Solder Haze - it's a simple scan & replace.  But
if the trademark trolls grabbed 'haze' too...
Some other ideas:
Eutectic Point
The Solder Wick Chronicles
The Joy of Soldering
Fahrenheit 368

John suggested the rather toxic  "LeadVapors," but we feared that that one might lead to even more trouble, perhaps even with the EPA.  (But, no, wait -- no worries there!) 

Gary suggested SolderSuckers.   I briefly thought of the many people who wrote in (see above) but concluded that that one just sucked.  No. 

A number of listeners suggested legal counterattacks and fund-raising effots.  (We did get one unsolicited donation!)   One fellow suggested fighting fire with fire by having us trademark the phrase "Chicks dig it" and then just letting the money roll in. 

One devoted radio amateur said that he "informed his club and launched a letter writing campaign."  Thanks OM!  Keep those cards and letters going... 

There were, unfortunately, many disparaging comments about California, and "pot-heads," and "California pot heads."  But hey, Dudes...  they don't mind.  They are not going to let you harsh their mellows. 

Stewart tried to claim that there is some sort of UK rule that says that things like this can't be carried on past noon local time in Britain.  Ha! I said.  We are no longer bound by Imperial edicts.  

Similarly, Peter in Australia complained that the story reached him on April 2, rendering it null and void.  Sorry Peter, these are UTC operations my friend.  Time to wake up and join the rest of the world!

Well, let me get to the point:   The beloved name of our podcast and blog has been saved by a loophole.  You see, any legal challenges of this nature launched and announced on April 1st of each year are HIGHLY likely to be found, on even casual examination, to be be null, void, and totally bogus. 

So no, 





But we thank you for your support.  And, to make it official:  APRIL FOOL!  73  Bill 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

NO MORE SMOKE: Lawsuit Leads to Podcast Changes

We mentioned on the last podcast that we had some difficulties that led to a long delay between Podcast #202 and #203.   We couldn't go into detail, and we are still somewhat limited as to what we can say, but we thought that today we should bring you all as up-to-speed as we can with what has been going on.  

First, an apology.  Some of what we told you was, in retrospect, kind of misleading.  Pete's computer didn't really crash.  Sure, he did have to reconstruct a lot of files, but his original computer was just fine.  The problem was that it had been taken by court order as part of the legal mess we find ourselves in.   

Here is the deal:  We got hit with a "violation of trademark" lawsuit.  It seems that one of the new agricultural industries that has sprung up recently in California has taken a very aggressive legal stance in protecting their "rights."  Part of this effort is a proactive filing for trademark protection for any product name that could in the future be related to their product.   So apparently anything with "smoke" in the name was scooped up by them.  They also claim to forsee the possibility of a "solder-scented recreational product." We also suspect they are in cohoots  with the new electronic cigarette "vaping" industry.   We  have heard that they are working with a "vaping" company in Birmingham, England that calls itself "SodderSmoke."  (As you may have heard, the word has a different connotation in the UK.)  They are using this British Vaping thing to bolster their claim that we are violating their trademark.  

Pete feels terrible about all of this.  The fact that he is located in California was what allowed the LA lawyers to take us to court in that state.  And we have been advised that we do not have much of a chance in this matter.  You see, marijuana has become a very important product in Pete's state. And "vaping" with e-cigarettes is also very big out there.  So there is big money and big cultural forces behind this effort.  We a tiny small fish caught in the net of big new industries.  

Pete wants to fight this (you know how he is) but I think we will have to just give in and move on.  Look, STARTING TODAY they are threatening to sue us for ONE MILLION DOLLARS every instance in which we use name of the podcast that you have all come to love so much.  I am scrambling to expunge the title from all the blog files.  Just look at the header on the top of this blog page. 

So at this point we find ourselves in search of a new name.  We turn to you, our loyal listeners, for ideas.  We hope to come up with something that will remind people of what we once were, of the good times we had under the old name.  Please send us your suggestion.  PLEASE DO NOT use the e-mail address that has the old name in it.  That would just make the lawyers and the "farmers" rich.   Instead, send your suggestions to

Bill and Pete


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Yet Another Household Item Useful to Homebrewers: Toilet Bowl Cleaner for PC Board Fabrication


We have already been using Desitin ointment for heat sink compound, kitchen breadboards for radio breadboards, Scotchbrite pads for polishing, nail polish varnish for toroidal core coating and Olive oil as a field-expedient lubricant. (Am I forgetting anything?)   But I must say I was a bit taken aback by KV4QB's mention of his innovative use of the dilute hydrochloric acid in toilet bowl cleaners in his PC board fabrication process.   Good one DuWayne!   Eric Guth went the extra mile be suggesting a recycling of the liquid. 

This was a really interesting QSO Today interview.  Listen here: 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

SolderSmoke Podcast #203 Winter, Transceivers, Antennas, DC RX, uBITX, Mixers, 'fests, MAILBAG

N6QW in 1959. Building an SSB transceiver
SolderSmoke Pocast #203 is (FINALLY!) available:

24 March 2018

--The reasons for our delay. 
Winter, Computers, College, Family Trees, Lawyers....

-- Winterfest 2018 
-- Pete launches 2018    THE YEAR OF THE TRANSCEIVER
-- SDR -  Satan's Digital Radio?  
-- Direct Conversion Receiver Projects
-- Mixer Musings 
-- A Thailand Troubleshoot 
-- Nor'Easter knocks out Bill's Moxon -- An appliance replacement? 
-- Homebrew Electret Mics.  Seriously.  
-- uBITX Build with Rogier
-- Civilized Crystal Testing
-- Baofeng! 

N6ORS's SDR rig
Mike Rainey's DX-100

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Haunted by Hallicrafters At Winterfest

I was on the verge of not going to the Vienna Wireless Society's Winterfest Hamfest this year.   We had just returned from a long trip.  I was tired.  Armand WA1UQO bailed due to a family obligation. But, since this is about the only hamfest that regularly attend, and because it is only about 5 miles down the road, I went.  

As soon as I got there I started wondering if I should have stayed home.  Here's why:  Hallicrafter S-38s.   Just about everywhere I turned, there were S-38s.  I had never seen so many of these EVIL  AC/DC trandformerless widow-makers.  I watched in horror as innocent hams reached into their wallets and bought these little monsters.  "Does it work?" asked one victim. "Well," said the seller, "it hums like crazy when you turn it on."  Yea, I'll bet it does.  (The guy bought it.) 

It was kind of a Hallicrafters day.  I even saw an Hallicrafters TV!  See above. 

Nothing big followed me home.   I got a couple of nice variable caps (one with a reduction drive).  A Radio Shack speaker.   Some coax.  A project box of BITX40 size.   A Weller soldering gun  slightly less beat up than the one I've had since age 13. 

I got to meet Richard Choy of Midway Electronics.  He has a business out in the Shenandoah Valley and is selling a neat little 2 watt CW transceiver kit.  Go to for more info. 

Oh yea, I got a kick out of this ENORMOUS BFO.  I almost bought it for Pete (who is so fond of tiny little oscillators).  This is a real Boatanchor BFO.  I wonder how many Si5351s you could put in that box? 

Thanks to VWS for putting on the 'fest.  In spite of the S-38s, I had fun.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

WA1UQO's Discrete Ceramic DC Receiver

Armand writes: 

The attached picture is your DC receiver. A little tweaking left to do as the range right now is ~ 7.44Mhz to 7.032Mhz. I used one of Farhan's trifillars and a couple of air coils that you gave me last year.  Listening to the Wisconsin QSO party as I type. 

FB Armand!  The receiver looks great.  I hope others will follow your lead and build this simple little receiver for 40. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Homebrew Your Own Electret Microphones

Don't be such a microphone appliance operator.  Whip up some of your own electret material and turn it into a mic.  Imagine how the audio adjustment guys will react when you tell them you are using a special, tailor-made,  homebrew electret material that gives added PRESENCE and BRIGHTNESS and SPARKLE.  Wow.  Minds will be blown.  A cottage industry could be launched.  

I realize that I tried to fool you guys with a bogus story about making your own Rochelle Salt mics using Tartar sauce.   But on this one, I'm not kidding.  Check out Hack-A-Day's excellent article:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Great Video on Crystal Motional Parameter Measurement

Who out there can save us from further Dishal distress?  Who has one of these fantastic bits of old test gear and is willing to donate it to the cause of accurate filter building?  

Thanks to Tore LB4RG for alerting us to this gem.  

Friday, March 2, 2018

Moxon Destroyed

The north-east region of the U.S.  is experiencing a very strong winter storm.  These storms are called "Nor-Easters"- that describes their track up the coast.   Here, we had wind gusts at 71 mph -- that was around what we had with Hurricane Sandy.  But no rain or snow down here -- it is a different story in New England. 

I was on the air, having a nice chat with Ivo OP2A on 17 when suddenly my SWR went way up.  I knew immediately what had happened.  I stepped outside and saw what you see above. 

Oh well, we had a good run.  It went up there on July 20, 2014.  Not bad for some fiberglass poles from Amazon, some scrap lumber and some wire from Steve Silverman (thanks Steve).  

To tell you the truth I was kind of hoping this would happen.  I'll replace it with a Moxon or a Hex that covers at least 20 and 17.   

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