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Monday, December 12, 2011

The "Snort Rosin" Test Gear Philosophy

Steve Smith, WB6TNL, and I often find ourselves on the same frequency:

Hi Bill,

After reading your latest blog post, I realized that you and I are somewhat kindred spirits. You successfully build and test relatively complex amateur radio equipment using the most basic and inexpensive test equipment.

As part of my business (land mobile radio) I own expensive and complex test equipment, however when I build and test homebrewed amateur radio gear I prefer to use inexpensive home-built or kit-built test equipment because that is what is generally available to most hams. My philosophy is that it is very important to impress upon beginning homebrewers the fact that fancy, complex test gear is not absolutely necessary to be successful in homebrewing.

Perfectly functional test gear can be built using only basic electronic tools. Certainly, homebrewed equipment might not have all the 'bells and whistles' of commercial gear and won't do everything 'automagically' but with careful calibration and learning how interpret the results, homebrewed test equipment can provide very accurate measurements.

One good example is your Palomar R-X Noise Bridge. Most every ham wants a MFJ 259B or Autek VA-1 antenna analyser but an inexpensive bridge like the Palomar or a homebrewed equivalent can provide many of the same measurements. Sure, a ham-band or general-coverage receiver is required to use a noise bridge but, by using -very- simple circuits, a very competent test receiver can be built using the most basic test gear.
Even with only a good SWR meter and a little math thrown in, +/- Xj (reactance) measurements can be made (See http://www.qsl.net/n8xpv/ for information regarding "the 3 meter method" ).

One of my favorite resources for simple test equipment is Monty Northrup's (N5ESE} site: 73.......

Steve Smith WB6TNL
"Snort Rosin"

"Steve Smith"

Great message Steve. Yea, I think the best troubleshooting tool is a real understanding of what is happening (or supposed to be happening) in the circuit and an ability to think logically about what could be causing the problem. Technical detective work.
And indeed, that SWR bridge can tell you a lot.
73 Bill

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  1. Why, test gear is best used for testing and repairing even more test gear!

    I have some really nice (but old) test items (Heathkit V-7 and IM-18 VTVMs), and I've built some nice things in Altoid Tins, including a 2-Tone oscillator, and my most used frequency counter, a PIC-based counter with a LED display.

  2. How about an article or two about troubleshooting. Including the 'dead ends' of investigation before the real fault was tracked down?


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