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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Amazing New Geostationary Amateur Satellite -- LISTEN ONLINE!


Wow, quite a step forward in the amateur satellite world.  Qatar and AMSAT-Germany have collaborated to put an amateur radio repeater in geostationary orbit.  That's pretty amazing.  Read more here: 

https://hackaday.com/2019/03/18/eshail-2-hams-get-their-first-geosynchronous-repeater/

Read about a group of Norwegian students working on a satellite station for this bird: 

https://www.la1k.no/2019/02/20/getting-ready-for-e%CC%B6s%CC%B6%CC%B6h%CC%B6a%CC%B6i%CC%B6l%CC%B62%CC%B6-qo-100-part-2-how-we-did-it/

And this is really fun:  LISTEN TO THE DOWNLINK LIVE VIA WEBSDR! 

We can't hear this thing from North America -- it is flying over the Congo.  But stations in its footprint are putting their receivers online -- you can listen to the 10 GHz downlink via WebSDR: 

UK WebSDR:   https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Brazil WebSDR:     http://appr.org.br:8902/


Sunday, March 17, 2019

DISAPPOINTED! No Takers on Mechanical Filter Question! SAD!



So, in our last podcast I asked the group to take a look at two pictures of a mechanical filter that I had recently taken out of its case.   These pictures appear above and below. After a discussion of magnetostriction,  I asked the group if they could spot anything unusual about this particular device. 

I expected many responses.  What did I get?  CRICKETS!!  What is wrong with you guys?  Are you spending so much time with software and FT-8 and lines of code that you can't deal with a simple analog question like this?  SAD! I guess I will have to answer the question myself.  Scroll down. 


The diagram below presents the conventional Collins arrangement for a mechanical filter.   Note that at the input and at the output there is a coil.  This coil creates from the signal a varying magnetic field.  Because of the principle of magnetostriction, this field causes the resonators/rod assembly to flex and vibrate, much like a musical tuning fork.  At the output, this means that inside the core of the output coil there is a piece of metal vibrating at the signal frequency.  This will produce an output signal.  

But take a look at my little mechanical resonator.  Where are the input and output coils?  
THERE ARE NONE!  See those little rectangular things at either end?  Those are piezo-electric crystals that are MECHANICALLY connected to the disc/rod assembly.  So when the signal comes in, it is applied electrically to the piezo material which then physically vibrates. This vibration passes through the filter and to the piezo device at the other end. There the mechanical vibration results in an electrical signal at the output.  


So, I think it is time for you all to hang your heads in shame. Perhaps go to the doctor to see if you still have The Knack. Ask for forgiveness from the radio gods.  








Wednesday, March 13, 2019

We have lost our spiritual leader: George Dobbs G3RJV, SK


Yesterday we received the very sad news that George Dobbs, G3RJV has died. 

I think it is no exaggeration to say that with George's passing, we have lost our spiritual and  philosophical leader.  The founder of the G-QRP Club and Editor of our beloved SPRAT journal, George took his strong technical skills and his talent for writing and combined it with the wisdom about life that came from his religious vocation. He was a prolific writer and speaker, and in all his work you will find a unique combination of the technical and the philosophical.  Not only did he teach us how to build our own rigs, but he taught us why we should build them.  

We talk a lot about tribal knowledge -- George was definitely the source of much of that.  But he went beyond that and also became a major source of what we can call tribal wisdom.  He was one of our tribal elders. Instead of speaking to the tribe around a roaring fire, George spoke to us through SPRAT, through articles in other ham magazines, through his books, and through his talks at rallies and hamventions, many of which have been preserved in YouTube videos.  George's friend Tony Fishpool sent us the one embedded below. 

We are of course very sad to see George go, but we can all take comfort in the fact that he will -- through his writings and through his recorded talks -- remain with us. For years to come people who feel a strange urge to build their own radio equipment will find themselves reading George's work or listening to recordings of his melodious voice.   They will find there not only the needed technical information, but also the encouragement and tribal wisdom needed to carry on.  There will be a bit of George Dobbs in all their rigs.  In that way G3RJV will stay on the air.  And I know that George would be delighted by that.  

73 G3RJV.     






Friday, March 8, 2019

Viking Rigs Save the Day!


I attribute the success to the Times Sequence Keying.  And, of course, to the analog VFO.  
Thanks again to Jeff Murray. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

SolderSmoke Podcast #210 Boatanchors, Magnetostriction, VFOs, AM, CW, SSB, Mailbag

2 March 2019 

SolderSmoke Podcast #210 is available: 

http://soldersmoke.com/soldersmoke210.mp3

Alexa, Marie Kondo, berets, and ham radio

Bi-Coastal Boatanchors
BATTLE CRY: The Vintage SSB Preamble! "We are NOT ashamed!" 
Bill's HT37 and Drake 2B 
Pete's National National NCX-3  TRGHS
Mechanical Filters
Magnetostriction
Why did Collins go with mechanical vice crystal filters? 
The foam deterioration syndrome in mechanical filters.  Sad. 
Please send any unwanted Mechanical Filters to Bill. 
BONUS QUESTION:   Look at the filter below.  What is different/special about this one?

Pete's antenna trouble
Pete's FB amplifier troubleshooting
Recent improvements in the uBITX finals
Pete's design for a VFO for Bill (and an indoor antenna tuner!)

Bill's VFO for Pete:  HRO dial and gearbox driving a rotary encoder

Guido PE1NNZ puts the QCX on SSB
"The Secret Life of Machines -- Radio"
HB HRO dial from DL6WD
WA1QIX's USB D-104
"The High Frequency Oracle" 
DeMaw's LC filter receiver
Godzilla and Ham Radio
Bill's poor quality SSTV images from space (what happened?) 
Listening to AM on an SSB receiver
Mixed feelings about CW 

MAILBAG
M0KOV's mom took him to the doctor due to THE KNACK. 
M0JGH getting married (ALWAYS LISTEN TO PETE!) 
Jac's FB Receiver


What is different/special about this one?





Sunday, February 24, 2019

An Update on Jac's Homebrew Receiver



About four years ago we posted a report on the FB homebrew receiver of Jac KA1WI     Here is the original report:
https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2015/09/jacs-homebrew-receiver-video.html

As most of us do, Jac has continued to work on his creation.  He sent me an update:

Bill:

Basically I have finished it, from a tentatively working model to a more definitive set. For example there are three IF filters, LSB, USB and CW switched by relays grounding the un-used filters.  The AGC was optimized for a good sound. So was the multistage audio circuit, avoiding unnecessary filtering which in my opinion masks the sound of some very good sounding transmissions, not to mention the terrible ones.

The front end works very well, with a SBL-1 DBM terminated with a low noise 2N5109. You notice it when a strong signal is nearly covering the weaker one you are listening to and it remains readable without loosing strength! No many receivers can do that, either because poor front end, noisy LO or bad AGC or all of the three. Not with this receiver!  

The BP filter bank is not my design but removed from a German receiver from the early 1970’s I had to align it to specs and it works pretty well, although I would have preferred  to use a tunable pre-selector. I am planning another set with three IF 9mHz filters which will include a pre-selector for optimum image rejection. I hope. 

In general I am happy with the set, despite the birdies of the DDS, most of them well under the level of most received signals. I wsh I could build a simple PLL to clean up the DSS LO signal. It is worth exploring issue as I see new VCO designs are available. I could try at least one ham band for starters, a PLL covering 350 kHz locked to the DDS,  instead of 2-30 mHz covering, should be feasible. 

Have more videos of the set I will send to you. 

73s de Sac

KA1WI






Note how well you can hear the band's noise floor when the antenna is reconnected in the third video.  

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Shortwave Radio Audio Archive


Dig out those old tapes and make a contribution to the archive. Lots of good stuff in there.  The Sandinista recording from 1979 was quite something.  Radio Moscow's Mailbag brought back Cold War memories.    Check it out: 

https://shortwavearchive.com/

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Shortwave Radiogram



On 18 Feb 2019 I talked to Kim KD9XB on 40 meter SSB.  Kim -- who is retired from the Voice of America -- told me about a really interesting retirement broadcast project of his. "Shortwave Radiogram" uses a variety of amateur digital modes to transmit what are essentially text and image bulletins.  The really cool part is that Kim uses commercial shortwave broadcast transmitters to get his programs out. He uses transmitters in the U.S. and in Europe.   Listeners around the world tune in via shortwave (sometimes through WEB-SDR receivers) and then use FLDIGI or similar software to read the messages. You can see one of the radiograms being received in the video above.  There are more like it on YouTube.

Kim's site has more information, including his broadcast schedule on his web site:
http://swradiogram.net/ 

All of this reminded me of our old idea about putting the SolderSmoke podcast on a commercial shortwave transmitter.  I have my eye on the Bulgarian station... Stay tuned.  

Thanks Kim! 
  

Monday, February 18, 2019

RE-RUNS OF VINTAGE SIDEBAND NET -- To fill those lonely hours between SolderSmoke podcasts...

I really enjoy listening to these guys, and I suspect SolderSmoke listeners will too.  Like the SolderSmoke podcast, it is the perfect thing to have playing in the shack while you are working on something.  

Mike N9MS has recorded and placed online many of the net's sessions, some going back to 2015.  FB OM.  We thank you.  Please keep doing this.  

Back issues are available at the site below.  Just put the letter V in the search box and click.  The back issues will then appear. 


My message to the group: 

Vintagers:

I have now listened to the mp3 recordings of three of your Saturday morning sessions.  They are really great.  I tried to listen via the airwaves, but I am too far east.  To whoever is recording and posting these sessions:  please keep up the good work!  These recordings allow the FB ham spirit of the net to reach a GLOBAL audience. Please make the older sessions available -- many of us only recently learned of the net and would like to listen to earlier episodes. If server space is a problem, maybe I could help.  Let me know. I don't know if you realize it, but you guys are producing a very cool podcast every Saturday morning.  

My buddy Steve N8NM tried to check in with his S line last weekend but you guys couldn't hear him.  I'm sure he will try to somehow get more fire in the wire.  Please be listening for Steve. 

As for myself, I find myself plotting the use of one of those WEB-SDR sites to check-in.  But I fear the wrath of the brotherhood.  
DEATH TO THE VIOLATORS! 

73  Bill N2CQR  
http://soldersmoke.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 17, 2019

SSTV from SPAAAAACE! International Space Station Sends Images


The crew on the space station have been transmitting SSTV images.   This morning I threw together a receiving system:  I used my four element refrigerator tubing quad feeding the an RTL-SDR Dongle with HD-SDR software in the computer.  For the SSTV decoding I downloaded a program from Japan: MMSSTV (very nice).  To get the signal from HD-SDRto MMSSTV I just plugged a cheap little electret computer mic into the computer and taped it to the speaker.  

At 0838 local today ISS flew almost directly over me.   I aimed the quad south-west, and almost as soon as it was above the horizon very strong signals started pouring in.  They produced the first picture (above).  

ISS went silent as it passed over head. I swung the quad to the north-east hoping to catch another image as the station moved away.  That is the second image (below). You can see that I was losing the signal about halfway through.  

The distortion in the video image may be the result of me manually adjusting the receiver for Doppler shift. 


Here is a little video of the action in the shack during the first half of the pass. 


Here is the RTL-SDR Dongle Receiver in an Altoids Box: 

Here is that the programs looked like on the screen -- HDSDR on top, MMSS on the bottom:  


Here is what the orbital pass looked like. ISS was East of New Zealand when I took this picture.  ISS came up over the Eastern Pacific and Mexico before passing over N2CQR.  This display comes from the excellent Heavens Above web site:  




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Listen to our Podcast while wearing a beret!

This is the official headgear of the Color-Burst Liberation Army. 

For a mere 16 dollars, you can wear the kind of beret worn by Pete Juliano, N6QW. 

Here at SolderSmoke, we are all about style, panache, savoirfair,  je ne se qua... 

If you send us a picture of yourself wearing a beret while either operating or building a rig,  you will win FOR FREE a one year subscription to the SolderSmoke on-line podcast.  ACT NOW!  Please tell them that SolderSmoke sent you. 


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Indie Documentary: Apollo 11



Thanks to Bob Scott for the alert on this.  This new Indie film promises to be even better than the recent "First Man" movie (which was somewhat disappointing, with too much focus on family drama).   Armstrong looks so young in this trailer. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Wizard of Wimbledon M0JGH: "Always Listen to Pete!"


Dear Bill and Pete,

Sincere apologies for my chronic lack of correspondence but life has proven exceedingly eventful of late. As a long-standing member of our international brotherhood I am aware of a reoccurring, often subliminal, theme: “Always listen to Pete!”. What follows is a cautionary tale of one humble ham following the sage advice offered to him during Soldersmoke 186’s Mailbag…

You might recall the report of my Christmas 2015 escapades from rural Italy, making homebrew CW contact with friends operating GB2RN aboard HMS Belfast, whilst trying to fend-off curious locals from tampering with the wire I’d strung through their trees. Throughout these shenanigans my remarkably-understanding girlfriend was nearby minding her own business (albeit with a certain degree of eye-rolling).

The following year we returned to the same summit above Frascati. Before setting off I advised her that, being a generous chap, there were now two miniature radios in my coat pocket: one for each of us to enjoy. She was politely thrilled by the prospect... but still faithfully assisted with antenna rigging. 

Once operational I insisted that we should try her radio first and, following Pete’s advice from SS186, I slipped the tiny red box out of my jacket pocket and knelt down on one knee... (Fear not, Pete, other sage opinions were consulted in the matter first too!).

Remarkably, she said yes! And, exceedingly generously, I was allowed me to make a few contacts too... after all, we had gone to the trouble of lugging it from London and setting up the antenna. Owing to poor telephone reception the first person to learn of our wonderful news was an unsuspecting DL on 40m CW.

We are now happily married so I’m pleased to report that, unsurprisingly, the SolderSmoke tribal knowledge offered to me back in 2016 appears to have been spot on. To return the favour here is my own life lesson to take from the story:

Should one ever need to conceal a surprise gift from a loved one, a radio shack is a cavernous world which even the most curious spouse is unlikely to dare explore.

Furthermore, if one “has previous” (as British policemen say) for smuggling tiny boxes of radio wizardry away on holiday, what better cover could there be for the unsuspected transportation of an engagement ring? 

The power of QRP knows no bounds...

All the very best for 2019 and thanks again for the life-changing advice.

Jonathan
M0JGH

Editor's note:   In case you don't remember SS186, Pete's advice -- upon hearing of the ham radio tolerance of Jonathan's then-girlfriend -- strongly advised him to "marry that woman!" 











Saturday, February 2, 2019

Friday, February 1, 2019

UK Wartime Radio -- The Secret Listeners


We had this video on the blog before, but it was seven years ago, so it it time for a re-run.  

http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/5108

Thanks to Graham GW8RAK for reminding us of this. 

Listening to it again, I was struck by the claim that the nationality of the operator could be discerned purely by his or her CW sending style.  Is there really an Italian accent in Morse Code? 


Thursday, January 31, 2019

A SolderSmoke Message to the Vintage SSB Net



Inspired by what I heard on the Vintage SSB Net web site, I wrote to the group: 

Esteemed Vintage OTs: 

As the proud owner of an HT-37/Drake 2B station, I immediately identified with the values embraced by your inspiring preamble. It is almost as good as that other preamble that we all hear about from time-to-time.   

On our SolderSmoke podcast, we often discuss the cluelessness of many of the operators of modern appliance "radios" :   

-- How often have we called CQ on a clear frequency on 40 meters, only to be answered by a chorus  of "YOU ARE ON THE WRONG FREQUENCY!"?  (How could that be?  What was WRONG with my frequency?  It took me a while to realize that they think 40 has been channelized and that emissions must be on whole kilohertz frequencies.) 

-- How many times has someone whose "rig" is really a computer complained that your "60 over S9" signal is "too wide" on his waterfall? 

-- How many times have we had to deal with the apparent psychological trauma caused to some hams by an ancient VFO that drifts a little bit? 
"You are drifting ALL OVER THE BAND!"
"How far have I moved?" 
"More than 40 hertz!"  
Oh the humanity! 

Anyway, we really liked your preamble, especially the bit about how "smoke and flames may occur at any time." Words to live by my friends.  

Could we please have a written version of the preamble?  We want to recommend that all SolderSmoke listeners post it on the walls of their radio shacks.  Some of them may want to have it tattooed on their backs (we leave that to them). 

73 and keep warm out there (the boatanchor rigs really help with this). 

Bill  N2CQR


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Putting the QCX on SSB


Here is a very cool mod to Hans Summers' amazing QCX CW phasing transceiver.  This rig seemed to have been crying out for an SSB mod.  Guido has come up with a very clever way to put this rig on phone. 


Guido PE1NNZ wrote: 
Jan 28   2019

Over Christmas I have been playing around with a simple modification that transforms the QCX into a Class-E driven SSB transceiver. With this setup I have been able to make several SSB contacts and FT8 exchanges across Europe and so far this experiment is working reasonable well. It can be fully-continuous tuned through bands 160m-10m in the LSB/USB-modes with a 2200Hz bandwidth, provides up to 5W PEP SSB output and has a software-based full Break-In VOX for fast RX/TX switching in voice and digital operations.

The SSB transmit-stage is implemented in a completely digital and software-based manner: at the heart the ATMEGA328 is sampling the input-audio and reconstructing a SSB-signal by controlling the SI5351 PLL phase (through tiny frequency changes over 800kbit/s I2C) and controlling the PA Power (through PWM on the key-shaping circuit). In this way a highly power-efficient class-E driven SSB-signal can be realized; a PWM driven class-E design keeps the SSB transceiver simple, tiny, cool, power-efficient and low-cost (ie. no need for power-inefficient and complex linear amplifier with bulky heat-sink as often is seen in SSB transceivers).

An Open Source Arduino sketch is used as the basis for the firmware, a hardware modification bypasses the QCX CW filter and provides a microphone input in-place of the DVM-circuit; the mod is easy to apply and consist of four wires and four component changes and after applying the transceiver remains compatible with the original QCX (CW) firmware.

This experiment is created to try out what can be done with minimal hardware; a simple ATMEGA processor, a QCX and a bit of signal processing to make SSB in an artificial manner. It would be nice to add more features to the sketch, and see if the QCX design can be further simplified e.g. by implementing parts of the receiver stage in software. Feel free to experiment with this modification and let me know your thoughts or contribute here: https://github.com/threeme3/QCX-SSB

73, Guido
PE1NNZ


Schlitz Beer and Ham Radio


Another necktie in the hamshack. Can anyone identify any of the gear? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Vintage SSB Net



This group looks like a lot of fun.  I like how they record the entire session and put it on the web.  


You should listen to their "preamble."  It describes the purpose of the net and the group's belief system.  Very well done.  These are our people!  I will request a full transcript of this important and inspirational document. 

Here is a link to a reading of the net preamble:


"Smoke and flame may occur at any time!" 

DON'T BE A VIOLATOR! NO MODERN RIGS!  

Monday, January 28, 2019

HT-37/2B QSO with K6ZA (three short videos)



On January 23, 2019 on 20 meters I talked to Barry K6ZA.  He is near San Francisco.  I was running my Hallicrafters HT-37 with my Drake 2B.  I was really pleased to discover that the guy I was talking to loves these two pieces of gear as much as I do.  

Barry said he wished I could record his voice coming out of the HT-37.   My iPhone came to the rescue.  




The Secret Life of Machines -- Radio



We had this on fhe blog three years ago, but it is so good that it deserves a second posting. 
Thanks to our old friend Stephen Walters for reminding us of this gem.  There is so much soul in these old machines. Thanks Stephen. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Godzilla, an SP-600, a D-104, and a Turner SSB+2 Transistorized Mic



We were in a restaurant last week and this trailer played on a TV that was all the way across the room.  The SP-600 caught my eye.  I once had one of those, but chickened out when I read about the horrors of black-beauty cap replacement.   There is also a D-104 in the trailer (several of those are with me now).  And the girl is transmitting with a Turner SSB+2 Transistorized mic -- I have one of those also. 

Thomas K4SWL over at The SWLing Post  notes that the SP-600 Tuning Dial appears to have been modified.  I'm thinking the wanted it to look like some sort of transmitter output meter. 

I think I can also see some sort of Collins antenna tuner.   

Any ideas on whose shack this all comes from?   It looks like a real ham shack.  

From the trailer, it appears that the ham gear somehow helped us establish contact with Godzilla, who then went on to save the planet.  I hope.  ONCE AGAIN, HAM RADIO SAVES THE DAY! 

The ham radio stuff is in the first minute or so of the trailer. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Rescued at Sea! Saved by an S-38!

Just click on the ad to enlarge it. 

Another cartoon relayed via the Facebook page of Jeff Murray K1NSS.   

Sure, there was a rescue at sea, but what about all the casualties caused by the AC/DC "widow-maker" S-38 power supply? 


Friday, January 25, 2019

When Hams Wore Neckties, and AM Transmitters Were in the Living Room

Jeff Murray K1NSS had this on his Facebook page.  Great stuff.  But I felt like yelling out, "Stay in the basement OM!  Stick with your haywire rig!" 

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Homebrew HRO Dial by DL6WD, Homebrew Hero


Take a look at that beautiful rig in the bottom of the cover pictures. (A closer shot appears below.)  That is an HRO dial, right?  Or is it?  

No, it is not.  In the picture we see the homebrew receiver designed and built during the 1960s by Rudolf Fishcer, DL6WD.  It is magnificent in every respect.  Because I have been working with the HRO dial and gearbox given to me by Armand WA1UQO, the tuning dial on this receiver caught my attention. 

Here is what DL6WD says about this part of his project:  "The main tuning gear was built around a BC-221 tuning capacitor and reduction gear. The counter dial and tuning knob are the result of four weeks of labor, The counter dial reads in tens of kHz, where the main tuning knob has a calibration of 200 Hz per division, from an HRO inspiration."  The counter is in the little window to the upper left of the tuning knob. The window to the upper right is a phase-lock indicator. (See below.)

By the way, by the time DL6WD got finished with this all solid state receiver it weighed in at 52 pounds.  Rudolf noted that "excessive shielding pays in electrical performance, but not in weight!" 

DL6WD earns the title "Homebrew Hero."




Saturday, January 19, 2019

Switching to a Mechanical Filter from 1967 for my HRO-ish Receiver (with video)

From RSGB Handbook 1982

Having overcome the difficulties with the National NPW Dial and Gearbox, I turned my attention to the 455 kHz filter.  I had been using this old Toyo CM - 455 kc filter (Date stamped August 1969).  CM stands for "Crystal-Mechanical."  These filters are hybrid with some of the features of a crystal filter and some of the features of a mechanical filter. For more details go here: 
https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-meaning-of-cm-in-toyo-cm-455-filter.html

I was disappointed by the CM filter.  It seemed very lossey, and it just didn't seem to be of sufficiently high Q -- it seemed very broad. I could hear the other side of zero beat.  It was barely a "single signal" receiver,  and being "single signal" is the whole point of a superhet. 

I remembered that Pete Juliano had sent me a Japanese-made 455 kc mechanical filter. Maybe this would do better.  Last night I did a quick comparison test and -- wow -- Pete's filter was much better.  The Fifth Edition of the RSGB Handbook seems to agree with my assessment, noting that mechanical resonator filters were superior to the Crystal Mechanical hybrids (see pages 4.17 and 4.18) 

Pete's filter is from the Kokusai Electric Company.   Part# MF 455 ZL.  (Date stamped May 1967). "ZL"indicates lower sideband.   I checked and indeed the passband goes from just above 452 kc up to about 454.5 kc.  This is a 40 meter receiver and SSB on 40 is LSB, so this filter would work perfectly right?  Not so fast!  Sideband inversion had to be considered.  

I was running my VFO from about 7455 to 7755 kHz.  This means that the modulated incoming signal would be SUBTRACTED FROM the VFO signal to get to  the 455 kHZ IF.  And when that knd of subtraction happens, we have sideband inversion.  The LSB signal will look like a USB signal when it reaches the filter. 

My BFO was running right at 455 kHz, using a ceramic resonator at that frequency. I briefly considered just shifting it down to 452 kHz, but this proved to be difficult.  Then I got a better idea. 

I could just shift the VFO down to 6545 to 6845 kHz.  This would mean that the VFO frequency would be subtracted from the incoming modulated frequency.  There would be no sideband inversion.  I had been thinking about doing this frequency shift anyway, thinking that VFO stability gets better as you go lower in frequency. 

REMEMBER THE RULE:  If you are subtracting the modulated (signal) frequency from the frequency of the local oscillator or VFO, only then will you have sideband inversion.  See: 
https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2015/05/sideband-inversion.html

Moving the VFO was easy. I am using a variable capacitor with several variable caps on the same rotor.  I just moved from the smallest variable cap to the middle variable cap -- this added capacitance to the system and lowered the frequency.   I also added three additional turns on the coil.  This put me very close to where I needed the frequency to be.  I added one additional 9 pf cap and this put the VFO freq right where I wanted it. 

I was really  glad to include Pete's filter in this receiver.   The mechanical resonator technology fits very well with the very mechanical old-tech theme of this project (it already had a gearbox -- a mechanical filter seemed to fit right in).   It is a fascinating device -- it is almost like having a set of tuning forks all tuned to 455 kc (see above for the RSGB description of how it works).    And having it from from Pete adds a TREMENDOUS amount of mojo, juju, and soul to the new machine. 

Icing on the cake: As I type this, I am listening to Fred K3ZO converse in Spanish with hams all through South America.  Fred preceded me by three decades at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, but when I got there the local hams were still talking about him  -- he was much loved and admired by the Dominican hams.  TRGHS. See Fred's story here (scroll down a bit): http://www.gadgeteer.us/DRDISP.HTM 



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Solar Cycle 25 -- The High Frequency Oracle Has Spoken (THFOHS!)

Not quite as authoritative as a spoken message from the The Radio Gods themselves (as in TRGHS), but the HF Oracle seems to be well connected.   Time to start planning for Moxons and Hex Beams!  

Read the full poetic report from the Oracle here: 

https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?threads/the-hf-oracle-prognostication-for-solar-cycle-25.626433/

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

National Dial and Gearbox Problem Resolved

Thanks to all who offered advice and assistance.  With help from you guys -- and  especially from Pete Juliano N6QW -- I think I have this fixed.

Pete was right -- the problem was really with the variable capacitor.  The one I was using was kind of stiff and irregular in its motion.  I found another one in the junk box that was easier to turn (it has one set of ball bearings).  This fixed most of the problem.

I also spent more time making sure the shaft of the cap lined up perfectly with the shaft of the gear box.  This also helped a lot.

I realize now that some of the "stickiness" that I occasionally feel while tuning may be coming from the dial -- not from the gear box.  It looks like my dial took a hit that slightly bent one portion of it.  It seems that the numbers have a bit of trouble clicking over on that portion of the dial. Some lubricant may help there.  But I can live with it.

The receiver now tunes very smoothly and I can go right back to a frequency and find the signal exactly where I left it.  There does seem to be a very slight difference depending on whether I "approach from above" or "approach from below" -- but this is not a big deal.

Check out the pictures of the receiver and the VFO.  Note the "cardboard from a coat hanger" coil form.  The winding is held in place with nail polish varnish.  I had planned on having the variable cap, the coil , and the associated fixed caps all in a box for better thermal stability, but the VFO is very stable even without the box.  I have the VFO running 455 kc ABOVE the signal frequency.  It runs from about 7455 kc to about 7800 kc.  I could have set it up to run 455 kc BELOW the signal freq.   That would have made it a bit more stable (it is easier to attain VFO stability at lower frequencies) but VFO is so stable that I probably won't mess with it. I followed DeMaw's rules:  Physical stability, NP0 caps.  For the NP0 caps, put several of them in parallel to get the desired capacitance value. Keep heat-producing active components away from the coils and caps.   

Thanks again to Armand WA1UQO for giving me this amazing piece of radio history. And thanks to Tim Sutton for the big box that holds this receiver. 

James Millen knew what he was doing.  See: http://www.isquare.com/millen/millen-page.htm



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

M0KOV's Real Life Dilbert Moment -- His Mom Took Him to the Doctor

M0KOV's BITX
Dilbert's mother took him to the doctor because of ham radio.  Jean Shepherd's date said that Shep's mother should "take him to a doctor" (he was obsessing over his Heising modulator.)  And now we learn that Steve M0KOV was hauled into the doctor's office because of his "obsession with electronics."  You are in good company Steve.  The Knack diagnosis is confirmed. 

From Steve M0KOV: 

Just watched young Dilbert at the doctor's surgery.

Although I was late getting my ham licence, I'm sure that I fit the standard knack victim mould. I built my first radio at the age of 10 and even before then I preferred to be bought batteries, switches and lamps rather than sweets. Within a couple of years my small bedroom comprised of a bed, somewhere to throw my clothes and an electronics work bench. The bench and  floor were completely covered with half built electronic projects, ex military radios, tools, my beloved old Heathkit oscilloscope and the rest. 

Now, my true Dilbert moment. I remember being in the family doctors surgery and my mother was discussing my inability to get to sleep (a perfectly normal ailment for a 13 year old male). She was voicing her concern that it might be my obsession with electronics,  and it was all going round in my head and keeping me awake. Funny, later in my life she never seemed to be bothered if the worry of studying or exams kept me awake.

Thanks for another great podcast.
73 de Steve M0KOV

Sunday, January 13, 2019

SolderSmoke Podcast #209 SKN, Old Rigs, Movie Review, Safety Tips, Mail Bag


SolderSmoke Podcast #209 is Available: 

13 January 2019

http://soldersmoke.com/soldersmoke209.mp3

An HT-37 "With Presence!"  Even on CW!  A Straight Key Night Story
Saving a much-loved HT-37 
Drake 2-B Alignment
Tweaking the Mate for the Mighty Midget
Fixing a Deaf DC Receiver
A Wobbly National HRO-ish Gear Box 
Minimum Discernible Signal Tests
Pete's Festive Holiday Transceiver in a Bottle

Movie Review:  "First Man"  Neil Armstrong goes to the moon. 

Safety Tips for 2019:  Fuses, Hard Drives, Flu Shots. 

MAILBAG: 
Dave G6AJW builds Pete's Sudden Transceiver
Rogier KJ6ETL builds a new shack
Steve N8NM Helps save the HT-37
Jim AL7RV W8NSA builds Parasets
Dave AA7EE puts a beacon on the air -- Please Listen! 
Jan OM2ATC builds and documents an Si5351 VFO
Bruce KC1FSZ Homebrew's a BITX
KB1GMX's Tip on IRF-510 Oscillation Prevention
Ryan W7RLF Homebrews a DC Receiver

Listening to August K5HCT from the East and West Coasts on 40
Tim WA1HLR rebuilding his 1968 transmitter.  



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Old Station On-The-Air -- A Transmitter Half as Old as Radio Itself

I'm biased, but I think it is "a thing of beauty."   With some unexpected free time available, today I followed up on my HT-37 work by cleaning and aligning the Drake 2B.  I was assisted in this by one of the many great YouTube videos by Alan Wolke W2AEW.   

The Drake 2B's 50 kc and 405 kc oscillators were right were they were supposed to be -- no adjustment required.  And I don't think they have been peaked since 1973.  The 455 kc IF can was also very close to perfectly tuned. 

Since most stations from the mid-1960s had some QSL cards on the wall behind the rig, I pulled out some old ones and put them up.  Many of these contacts were made by the rigs in the picture. 

If we say that 1897 marked the first use of radio, and if we assume that this HT-37 was manufactured in 1959,  that means that my old transmitter has been in operation for almost HALF of the history of radio.  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The AL7RV (W8NSA) Paraset, Regens, Test Gear, and Schematics Varnished into Enclosures

Jim W8NSA ex AL7RV is an old friend and a really talented radio builder.  Over the years he has sent me many boxes of very FB radio parts.  I'm sure that almost all of my homebrew rigs have parts from Jim somewhere in the circuitry.  Jim recently sent in an update on his radio building efforts. 

Bill,

I managed to cobble up some regen's over the summer.  Most fun was my version of Dave Richards, AA7EE  Sproutie, it turned out so nice I have it on my bedside table. Yes, the Sproutie has displaced the trusty old Transoceanic, brings back memories of late night SWL'ing with my Space Spanner as a teen.  
The Sproutie worked well enough I'm considering a build of the Dave's Sproutie MK II, maybe not in such a grand cabinet or with such fine metal work as Dave's but a functional copy.

I also built the regen receiver from the SOE Paraset design, other then a coil winding mistake the receiver worked well at power up. 

I built the Paraset receiver to test a number of mods others have suggested to improve the receiver's performance.  Using the mods involves modern solid-state components and additional band-spread functionally. Many consider the mods be in poor taste but they go well making a much better receiver.
I am ready to build my copy/version of the Paraset, now that I've missed SKN I have almost a year to get it built.
  
I've been gathering Paraset parts for years, was lucky to get in on the group purchase for a set of 3 Paraset knobs made from the same molds by the same company SOE used when building the transceivers in the 1940's, having a real part of that history is exciting, to me at least. 
Paraset Parts (see picture above)  (some parts shown may not be in the proper location)

At last I have all the major components.  I am at the point of gathering up the various resistors and small fixed capacitors needed. Some builders have gone to the efforts of embedding newer, smaller, parts in the carcass of vintage 1930s & 40s parts hollowed out and repainted.  Too much effort for me, I want a functional radio, not a museum grade replica, but I really do want to keep the look of the SOE issued set.

Case and front panel...
Many of the U.S. Paraset builders are using a wooden craft box from Hobby Lobby, It is just about the correct size and shape.  You can see at the right side of the photo a detailed panel layout.  Building the Paraset is not quite Heath Kit but with so many talented builders having made so much information available I feel so lucky to follow the effort. 

Years ago, during our RV travel days, I picked up a box of Bliley AX2 40 meter crystals.  Good price and just about every one of the crystals were found to be working.  Have a total of eighteen 40m crystals from 7.0024Mhz to 7.0986Mhz, have two 80m crystals in the CW portion but none of the AX2 crystals are for the traditional QRP frequencies, close but...   AF4K and others are selling HC49 crystals for the QRP frequencies, problem is the 6L6/6V6's used in the Paraset are known to be real crystal crackers.. (as was my 1964 novice rig!). 

I'm considering the use of a transistor oscillator and driver stage to feed the 6L6 as a PA in effort to save the crystals and maybe allow the use of an outboard DDS VFO, yes I can hear the moans of dismay from other Paraset replica builders
The box included a number of sockets and crystal adapters too.  Was great find. Having so may 40m crystals I'm starting to have thoughts of optimizing the Paraset build for just 40 meters. I can improve the sets performance but of course lose 80m and possibly 60m.

Today's project while catching up on SolderSmoke Podcasts is a test device to aid in checking the resonant frequency of L/C networks. It's always nice to prove your math is correct! 
Building it Manhattan style into an old rat shack plastic box.

I have always loved the way WW II equipment had the schematics varnished into the covers or cases.  I try to do the same with most of the things I build.
Schematic reduced to fit, ink-jet printed. Using an old credit card I spread a very thin layer of E6000 clear adhesive on the case, apply the paper image, then using a clean credit card or the edge of piece of circuit board feather the schematic into the adhesive. 

Let dry for about 10 mins, wipe off the excess glue around the edges.  Let dry for 24  to 48 hours and cover with a few thin coats of Testors Clear Lacquer Overcoat.. several thin coats, follow the recommendations for re-coat time on the spay your using.

Please read the cautions for using E6000.  Pete may not be able to purchase it in his state!
The Paraset antenna output connections use a porcelain crystal socket, the AX2 crystal purchase included a few dead or empty crystal cases, I modified two of them to use as adapters.  

OH! and yes, I'll be using outboard low pass filters with the Paraset! 

Thanks again to you and Pete for the blog and smoke efforts!

73,  Jim W8NSA aka AL7RV

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