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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:

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:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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

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

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. 

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. 


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

Friday, January 4, 2019

Jan's Slovakian Si5351 VFO

Jan in Slovakia put together a very comprehensive web page on his Si5351 VFO project.  Check it out:

Thanks Jans! 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Please Listen for Dave AA7EE's New "Boris Beacon"

From Dave's blog: 

The beacon sends the letters “BRS” at 10wpm, with a break of 3 or 4 seconds between the end of one transmission and the beginning of the next, with a mighty power to the dipole of about 1mW. The frequency is a nominal 13556.9KHz (13.5569MHz), which varies either way by a few tens of Hz, depending on the outside ambient temperature. I will be overjoyed if anyone, anywhere hears it! There is no battery, so it transmits during daylight hours only. It comes on about half an hour after local sunrise, and goes off about half an hour before local sunset. I’ll update this with more accurate information, as I observe the on and off times over the next few days.
AA7EE is in Oakland California.  His cat is named SPRAT.  Please send him a report (and if possible a recording) if you hear his beacon. 

New Rock Video By Astrophysicist and Queen lead-guitarist Dr. Brian May

We don't carry many music videos on this blog, but this one definitely belongs here.  We've mentioned Brian May several times:  Lead guitarist in the rock group Queen.  PhD Astrophysicist. 

I didn't know that he went to work as a full member of the New Horizons (Pluto and beyond) mission.  

The video is definitely for us -- it features a lot of antennas.   And it includes the computer-generated voice of Stephen Hawkings.  

Read more about Brian's careers and about his latest adventure here:

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern poses with astrophysicist and Queen lead guitarist Brian May on Dec. 31, 2018 at Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland just before New Horizons flew by Ultima Thule.
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern poses with astrophysicist and Queen lead guitarist Brian May on Dec. 31, 2018 at Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland just before New Horizons flew by Ultima Thule.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

HNY (Happy New Year), SKN (Straight Key Night) 2019, and an HT-37 with "presence" -- even on CW

I got the HT-37 working just a few days before the New Year's Eve/New Year's Day Straight Key Night event.  Looking at my older blog posts, I now see that the problems first surfaced in LAST YEAR's SKN.  Wow, it took me a long time to get to that problem. But I'm glad I fixed it in time for SKN.  

For SKN I used the VU3XVR straight key from India that Farhan gave to me.   See the picture above.  

I started out on 80 meters on New Year's eve.  I rarely operate on that band -- I thought it would be a good change of pace. Here is who I contacted on 80 CW: 

In the warm-up period before the official start of SKN I worked John KU4AF.  John was running a homebrew tube transmitter and a REGEN receiver.  Respect, my friends.  RESPECT! 

N9EP Ed near Chicago was on a K3. 

VE9XX Don was on a KX3. 

NJ8D Tom in Ohio. 

K4IA, Buck, down the road in Fredricksburg Va.  Buck was running a Drake TR4C with a Begali key.  FB Buck.  He mentioned that he had had a Drake 2B -- he said he regrets selling it.  Indeed. 

VE9WW Bill in Moncton NB.  On a straight key. 

AA8MI Gene (gosh, that name really sings in CW -- try it!) in Ohio.  Gene was running 5 watts from a K3.  This added a needed QRP element to the festivities.  Thanks Gene. 

AI4SV Jack in Rockville Md. OH MY GOD!   NOW I REALIZE WHO THIS WAS!  Jack!  Jack of Antanarivo Madagsascar!  And now I understand what he said to me.  He said in CW that my HT-37 has "Lots of presence." Huh?  What?  I couldn't figure out what he was talking about, but now I realize that he was joking about all our discussions mocking the poor audiophiles.  Well, thanks Jack. I'm glad the rig has presence, EVEN ON CW!  THIS QSO GETS MY VOTE FOR BEST SKN QSO. 

I also listened for a while to W3GMS.  His signal had a lot of character and personality.  He was telling the other fellow that he suspected this was the result of a soft voltage regulator tube in his DX-60.  I think he was also using a Drake 2-B.  I didn't get a chance to talk to Howard, but I'm sure it would have been fun. 

 On New Year's morning I switched bands.  First to 40 where I worked Greg NM2L near Atlanta. He said he fingers and wrist were out of condition, but I told him his fist was FB. 

Then I went to 20 CW where I worked a bit of DX.  First David F8CRS then Bert F6HKA.  The contact with Bert reminded me of the charms of DX contacts using CW. "VY GM DR OM."  It was nice.  

N7AQQ Mike in Montana.  

So it was a good SKN for me. Working the French stations reminded me of the allure of listening to CW coming in from far away, and from a foreign culture.   And it was great to hear from AI4SV that my HT-37 has "presence" even on CW. 

73 and HNY to all. 

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