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Thursday, August 31, 2017

VE1LEB's Ergonomic BITX Enclosure (in Juliano Blue)

Wow, Michael's amazingly cool BITX enclosure looks like you could use it to ask Scottie to beam you up. 
Put an end to those freakish contortions -- 3D print yourself an Ergonomic BITX box! Very FB Michael. Thanks. 

Hi Bill and Pete:

I thought you’d be interested to see my ergonomic enclosure for the BITX40. While operating homebrewed regen radios, I noticed that my hands/arms/shoulders were becoming uncomfortable after a while. After thinking about this for a few days, I realized that the dials on the front of these small radios were forcing my hands into freakish contortions—and having both hands on the dials at all times while tuning made matters worster faster! So I did some homework and determined that our arms and hands most naturally hold things toward each other, as though they are holding a small cylinder by the ends. But the conventional “dials-and-speaker-facing-front” radio case forces us to twist our hands up and outwards from our bodies to twist things. See my blog post http://blog.generaleccentric.net/?p=2009 for illustrations of this problem.

My enclosure design for the BITX40 re-orients the volume and tuning knobs toward the sides of the radio, making their operation much more natural—and pleasant. Although it’s not retro, it does have an unconventional appearance and should fit in quite naturally with all the other homebrewed solutions featured on SolderSmoke. 

You can visit my post at http://blog.generaleccentric.net/?p=2082; the box is available for download and printing at Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2508147

By the way, I also have a 3D printable mic for the BITX40: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2500483

73, Michael VE1LEB

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Something else "Completely Different": Meteor Pings

Very cool.  I want to try this.  I have the RTL-SDR and the software, so all I need is the antenna.  I may try to resurrect the 5 element 2 Meter Quad from my 90's adventures in the Dominican Republic (I still have the copper tube elements!).  I know the Graves radar is out of range, but there must be a suitable North American signal for this kind of thing.  Any ideas? 

For more info:


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Knack Victim Makes Good! Alan Yates in Seattle

Jean Shepherd used to say that in life, many of us come to a fork in the road:  down one path lies success.  Down the other, ham radio flea markets.  Alan Yates is proving Shep to be WRONG. 

I have fond memories of Billy and I building many versions of Alan's trivial electric motor.   We look forward to his virtual reality.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

K.P.S. Kang's Speech Processor and Antenna Tuner for the BITX (and other rigs)

Check out the blog of homebrew wizard K.P.S. Kang.   OM has a nice speech processor based on the LM386.   He also has a very simple antenna tuner and SWR bridge.  FB OM.  


Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Return of Pete's Simple-ceiver Plus (and a possible analog option)

Winter is approaching ladies and gentlemen, and it is time to think about radio projects.   Bob N7SUR suggested a direct conversion receiver project.  I think this is a great idea.   As a kid, I had fallen victim to the idea that building receivers was "too hard" for radio amateurs. Not true!  DC receivers to the rescue!  Carry on with the DC revolution first launched by Wes W7ZOI in 1968.

Pete N6QW is providing guidance and tribal knowledge via his blog.  For those of you who want to join the ranks of those who have defied the conventional wisdom and have broken through the "receivers are too hard" barrier.  I say build yourself a DC receiver.  Build it from scratch.  Many of you already got your feet wet in homebrewing with the Michigan Mighty Mite project.  Now it is time to jump into a DC receiver project.  

You folks already know what kind of VFO Pete will prefer:  It will be an Si5351.  That's fine.   But I will try to keep the banner of discrete component analog ludite-ism flying high.  This morning I ordered a batch of 7.37 MHz ceramic resonators.  I hope to pull them down into a significant portion of the 40 meter phone band.  If this works, I will share the batch with anyone who wants to joining my Analog Army (remember the CBLA?).   Note (above) that Pete has magnanimously left open the possibility of using a non-digital VFO. What a guy!    

Check out Pete's project here: 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pre-eclipse Solar Observation

I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a look at the eclipse tomorrow -- I'll be at work,  and in any case Washington DC will be far from the zone of totality.  But all the eclipse talk made me want to get my old 4 inch reflector telescope out today for at least one solar observation.  And yes, I know not to look through the 'scope. I projected the image onto a piece of white paper.   Notice the three large sunspots at the center of the solar disk.  Pretty cool.  

BTW, it is easy to aim the scope at the sun without endangering your eyesight.  Don't ever put your eye to an eyepiece (even on the spotting or aiming 'scope) when ole' sol is in the sky!  Instead, just look at the shadow that the scope tube is casting on the ground.  Make it circular and you will be very close to having the main tube aimed at the sun. See below.   

 I like to have the eyepiece aimed down at the ground or well above horizontal to avoid the danger of someone accidentally walking through  the powerful sunbeam coming out of the eyepiece.  You do have to be careful, especially if there are kids around. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Building an Airplane in the Basement with Insulation Foam, Tape, Glue, Poplar...

But this one is not a model RC plane.  This kid intends to pilot this plane while actually sitting in it.  

As a parent, I must say this is really nuts.  Stick to the models Peter!  Or maybe put some goggles on the big dog and let him fly it!  

Nevertheless, this is an inspriational look at what can be built in a basement using stuff from Home Depot or Lowes.    

For more info see:

Here's Peter's earlier Cargo Plane project:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Voltage Regulators as Audio Amplifiers - Who Knew!?

Mike KC7IT pointed out that the AF amplifier chip in my Sawdust regen receiver is actually a TL431 voltage regulator. Mike writes: "It's using the voltage reference input as audio in, and the voltage being regulated as the audio out."  It works great as an audio amplifier, and with just three terminals it is a lot easier to use than our normal LM386 or 741 chips. I'd never seen a regulator used this way.

Here's the data sheet:  http://www.ti.com/lit/gpn/tl431

And here are a couple of sites that discuss this very interesting repurposing:



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Regen that is NOT Evil

Look at that thing.  It is already painted Juliello -- this is a very good sign.  Steve Silverman sent me one of these Sawdust Regen kits a few years ago.  I put it together this week for my nephew John Henry who is very interested in Morse and ham radio.   

This is a regen that even I can love. It is simple, small and stable.  40 meters comes booming in.

Look at the schematic.  Why haven't we used that simple three-terminal AF amp IC before?   

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

International Brotherhood and the BITX Rigs

Bore and Heriberto's uBITX board
Nowhere is the International Brotherhood of Electronic Wizards more evident than in the work on the rigs designed by Farhan.  With the BITXs we see rigs designed in India that are now being built and modified all over the planet. Here are just a few examples of the global collaboration currently underway:

In Italy, Giuseppe is putting a BTX40 on 20 meters and making it a dual bander: 

Hi everyone, I just completed some tests on a Bitx40 running in 20 meters band. I addes the 20 as secondary band activate when needed. I apply some mods to switch to secondary QRPLab BPF filter centered to 20 meters and removed the C91 and C92 caps to work in USB. I done some RX tests in the weekend of iaru hf contest to listen some stations Active.
Here the issues registered:
1) the 20 RX sensitivity was a bit weak compared to 40 meters. I need to increase volume. ( To receive the 20 meters the vfo run to 26 MHZ, mybe some stage suffers of poor performance in this High frequency?)
I also tryed to increase the vfo over maximum allowed by raduino, using external buffer, but no results.
Please read the issues as: work but could work better!
2) the RX was not very clean: voice acceptable, but RX of Digital mode not very stable ( probably the cause could be the vfo shift for poor tuning control. I need to add lock function in firmware ...) Or interferences for free wire of connection.
3) Sometimes when switch on or change vfo to other band or mode, the bf amplifier start a self oscillation ...Resulting in my wife's screaming (the tests were also performed during the night!)
No tests was performed at the moment in TX because i need to install the LPF for the new band.
The firmware to make the test was a modified version of 1.17.1, few temporary mods to preset the vfo b to 14 MHz USB and correct the freq. Display.
These my tests.
Giuseppe Callipo IK8YFW.

Pavel is a young fellow in Cuba who is doing great things with the Raduino software: 

My Photo

Hi to all.
The code was updated, the change log is this:
v1.4Update to catch up with the features added in the Raduino v1.17.1 from Allard's code (CW SPOT and bug fixes)
  • Upgraded the operations instructions
    • More user friendly version with embedded images.
    • Add instructions for the S-meter, AGC and TX-power mods details and tricks.
  • Moved all images to its own folder "images".
As usual tips/bugs/comments/suggestions are welcomed, you can reach the code here: https://github.com/pavelmc/bitx40/
There is a inoffensive bug in the calibrate process, in which the actual calibrate value is not correctly showed in the LCD until you move the pot to adjust it, I'm working on it.
I'm slowly working in this direction now:
  • Bug removal in the calibrate function.
  • Finish the upgrade of the Si5351mcu lib with some improvements.
  • Adding CAT support via ft857d lib (https://github.com/pavelmc/ft857d):
    • Full compliance needs get rid of all the blocking delay() sentences and that need a structural/paradigm code change and a lot of testing (I have Fldigi/MixW/Hamlib to test, I think if that 3 works the rest will do it)
    • Moving to a library (yatuli: https://github.com/pavelmc/yatuli) for the pot usage, that will ease the process of implementing the CAT as almost all delay() calls are related to pot/clicks, so I'm on it.
    • Maybe implement a multiclick lib to optimize the code and make it more easy to understand.
 Any thoughts or whishes related to that?

I plan to make the CAT operation optional via a #define declaration as not all of us will/want-to use that.
73 Pavel CO7WT

Here we see Bore in Montenegro working on a uBITX designed in Cuba by OM Heriberto

Hi Colleagues
Bore Lezaic from Montenegro is working on the uBitx PCB designed by Heriberto -CM2KMK- from Havana, Cuba
Here some pictures he(Bore Lezaic) have posted in my FB wall.
Any question regarding uBitx PCB please send to Heriberto Gonzalez Mendoza at cl2kmk@frcuba.cu (please take care with the email address it is slight different to his actual call sign).
73's Jc

Bore and Heriberto's Board
Hidehiko in Japan was struggling with some LCD noise in his experimental BITX40.  I passed along the active filter circuit that I'd first seen in Roy Lewallen's Optimized QRP rig. 

BITX20@groups.io Jul 29 2017 at 4:22 AM I've finished the Bitx40 experimental project today. I added the AF-AGC and LM386 POP limitter with raduino v1.20.1 (Thanks Allard). And I also added the DuinoVOX for Digital Mode operation. It's a great radio but the problem is only the "LCD noise" when increasing the AF volume. hi... Can I reduce this noise? Or I have to use the analog VFO? Any suggestions welcome.
ja9mat Hidehiko

To Hidehiko JA9MAT: 
Very simple.  Just three parts.   NPN transistor (like a 2N3904) and a 47k resistor (collector to base) 100 uF cap (base to ground).   Vcc the collector. Emitter goes to the DC power input of the AF amplifier.  You can see my use of this circuit in the schematic in this blog post:
Look in the lower right, near the LM386 AF amplifier.  Click on the schematic to enlarge.  73  Bill N2CQR 

Thanks Bill,
Well I added "3-parts"(2N3904+47kohm+100uF) between the D18(1N4148) and the junction of R111(100ohm) and R1113(220ohm). The noise has absolutely gone!
ja9mat Hidehiko.

Monday, August 14, 2017

ZL2CTM's Homebrew Transceiver Project

Wow, Charlie has a lot of very cool ideas in this initial video.   Some suggestions: 

-- With the IRF-510 in the final, beef up the heatsink, and follow Farhan's lead by including an option for 24 volts on the drain.  That would take you  up to 20 watts or so (for those who are so inclined). 

-- Could that Teensy SDR board work at the IF frequency?  If so, consider putting it ahead of the crystal filter.  This would enable us all to join the Waterfall Signal Purity Police Force. 

-- I love the OLEDs too, but I found them to be noisy.  I minimized the noise with shielding around the OLED and active decoupling on the power line to the AF amplifiers.

More of Charlie's work here: 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Audio Clips from N2CQR/HI8 Contacts with MIR Space Station (now in mp3)

Back in 1995 I was in the Dominican Republic.  I used an old 2 meter rig and a homebrew 5 element quad (see below) to talk to U.S. Astronaut Norm Thagard on the MIR space station.  (You may have heard me bragging about this before.) I made a bunch of audio clips from the contacts.  They'd been in the now defunct RealAudio format, but I have been able to convert them to mp3.  You can listen here: 


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Real-Time 3D on an OLED Display

Oh man, I thought I was so cool when I got the OLED to display 7215 kHz and other frequencies.  Then I see this.  What next?  Real-time 3D SDR Waterfalls?  On an OLED?  Holograms?  


Friday, August 11, 2017

Alaskan Road-Kill Microphone

I got a kick out of Paul's message from Alaska -- on my bench I have an almost identical project, including the sink strainer (see below).  And of course the now-iconic SolderSmoke podcast mic is just an electret element inside what used to be an IKEA floor lamp. 

N2CQR Lamp Mic 
Hi Bill and Pete,

I have been following your and Pete’s adventures on Soldersmoke for a while and want to say that each episode always brings some of my past experiences to the surface.  I have been fiddling with radios and electronics for over 60 years, licensed since 1964.
I needed a mic for Bitx40 build and started thinking about this as I was working on other projects. Every day I walk a mile and a half to my mailbox. Wednesday’s and Friday’s happen to be the days of trash pickup and people put the trash bins out next to the road for pickup.  Last week I spotted a little desk lamp sitting on top of one of the trash bins with the cord cutoff so on my return from the mailbox it was still there and it followed me home.  (fig1)
Removing the shade left a flexible vertical support for a mic, (fig 2).
Your recent podcast you mentioned your D-104 microphone, that was my first mic once I had phone privileges back in ’65.  Scrounging through my treasure box I came across a 1 ¼” to 2” PVC pipe coupling that looked just like the basis for a mic. A few hours of mediation and a couple hours at the lathe and mill produced a mic with stand and a PTT switch (fig 3).
Some scrap bin aluminum and a free lamp from the trash and another hour at the lathe, (fig 4 & fig 5). And yes, it has some heft as the base has a large hunk of cast iron in it. Will admit I spent $1.24 for the sink strainer that sacrificed itself to become the grill ala D-104.
The self-satisfaction of building your own gear and accessories is one of the rewards of this hobby, can’t buy that in a store. And repurposing someone’s trash into something useful is a plus.

Keep the soldering iron hot.
Wasilla, Alaska
PS JoAnn’s is one of my favorite places for finding useful materials.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Please Help This Guy

From time to time we use the SolderSmoke blog and podcast to try to help those in need.  We have close ties to the Dominican Republic and often become aware of people who are in real trouble in that country.  Here is case of a man who really needs some assistance.  Please take a look and consider helping him out.

More on K0EOO's Amazing Homebrew SSB Rig

Hello Bill,

The rig was my own design based on an article by Guy Gillet, ON5FE, published in QST, Jan 1970. (Editor's Note:  ON5FE's article also appears in the 1970 edition of the ARRL's book "Single Sideband for the Radio Amateur.") His article had some features I wanted and became the guts of the transceiver I finally came up with…  The rig took me some 2-4 years to complete mainly because I keep changing circuits and improving performance.  For example, I started with a 4 digit counter using nixie tubes and ended up with 7 digit 7 segment LED counter summing the BFO, VFO and HFO.  I also later added the keyer and CW audio filter and so on…..

Other than the outer cabinet from LMB, I did all the metal work complements of the metal shop at our lab at CDC’s advanced design lab.

Pictures show bottom with RF bottom plate installed and bottom view of RF section with plate removed.  Front panel and picture of top cover open showing the plugin PCB’s.  Cannot see the digital counter display board in any of the pictures.

Here are a couple pictures of the old girl.  I’ve added a description of the rigs features:

  • Dual conversion, first IF tunable, second IF fixed
  • RF clipping
  • 7 digit readout of exact operating frequency (digital summation of BFO, VFO and HFO)
  • All solid state except for 6146 and 12BY7 driver.
  • RF gain is 0-60dB step attenuator on input
  • Dual VFO’s for separate receive/transmit or transceiver A/B
  • Modes are USB/LSB/CW
  • Auto zeroing S-Meter
  • Built in VOX and PTT
  • Built in CW keyer and sidetone generator
  • Built in CW audio bandwidth filter
  • Built in Tune mode
  • Built in RF Clipping lever control
  • Built in keying to PTT external amplifier
  • Output signals for SB-610 scope receive signal monitoring
  • Output signal for SB-620 Scanalyzer panadapter
  • Diode T/R switching through out the radio, no relays, totally silent TR switching

Well Bill, you opened Pandora’s box when you asked me for more details, hi, hi…  You can almost see the buttons popping off my vest as I reminisced the feature list…

Regards, Dennis, K0EOO

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

K0EOO: Homebrew SSB in 1974

It is not everyday that you get on 40 meters and run into a guy who has actually built a single sideband transceiver.  But that is what happened to me today.   I spoke to Dennis, K0EOO.  He  showed an unusual interest in my BITX DIGI-TIA.  He went on to explain that he had done some homebewing himself.  In the picture (from 1974), right next to his Vibroplex bug we see his homebrew,  80-10 meter,  dual conversion,  solid state (except for the 6146 final) SSB transceiver with digital readout.  Wow.  That's a beautiful rig.  

Off his right shoulder is a homebrew 700 watt amplifier using dual 4CX250s. And behind his left shoulder we see a homebrew tube-type receiver.

Note the look of pride and determination in OM's eyes.  You can just hear him saying it: "Rig here is homebrew."

More pictures of Dennis and his rigs (including some amazing vintage gear)  here:




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Thermatrons Al Fresco: W4GON's FB HB AM Rig

I was listening to 7290 kHz with my BITX this morning and I heard W4GON say his AM rig is homebrew.  So of course I fired up the DX-100 and the HQ-100 and gave Joel a call.  Conditions were terrible but we had some support from the radio gods.  

From Joel's QRZ.com page: "It uses a pair of 6L6s in Push-Pull Class AB1 high level plate and screen modulating a 6146. I still have a lot of work to do on this rig, like building an enclosure, but it works and I just couldn't help but getting on the air with it!"  

I think it is a thing of beauty. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Let's Give Jason NT7S Some Support!

Most of us are using Jason's code and his Arduino Si5351 libraries.   We now have an opportunity to help him continue to come up with the innovations that keep things moving forward on our workbenches.  

Consider becoming a patron.   Learn more here:  


Thanks for all you do Jason!  

"So You Want To Build?" Words of Wisdom from Pete Juliano

Everything on Pete's blog is worth reading, but this article was so good that I could not resist posting a link to it here. 

Tribal knowledge from a leader of the homebrew tribe: 


Thursday, August 3, 2017

AE7KI (VK2APG), FT8, and WAS on a BITX20

I've had several very nice conversations with Gerry AE7KI (aka VK2APG).  His Australian accent sets him apart from the other Tennessee stations.  Last time we talked Gerry mentioned having competed Worked All States with his BITX20 (below). Very cool.

Gerry also alerted me to a new digital mode created by Joe Taylor.  This one is called FT8.  Gerry is using it to good effect on the 6 meter band. Here is Peter Marks' initial reaction to FT8:

As I type, there are 252 stations monitoring 6 meters for FT8 signals.   You can see a map displaying these stations here: 

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