Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HW-30 & Auto Antenna Tuning Units

We left our hero, K7SZ, searching for a clean (as in unmodified) front panel for his newly acquired Heathkit HW-30 2M AM "Benton Harbor Lunchbox". Luckily he was able to find one on e-bay for about $45 including shipping. Now, back to K7SZ at the Bent Dipole Ranch, in beautiful almost rural Dacula, GA. 

The recently procured e-bay find of the HW-30 should be here in about two days. Yippee! The seller was unable to tell me if the radio functioned or not as there was no power cord available. Therefore, this rig is sort of a "pig in a polk". Since I am only after the pristine front panel, I really don't care if it works. Worst case, it doesn't and I use the carcass as a source of spare parts. With these 40-60 year old radios it never hurts to have a parts rig to cannibalize for parts that no longer are available. 

The only thing I am lacking now, to complete this restoration is the crystal (high impedance) microphone that Heathkit sold with these kits. I have several Hi-Z mics so I still can get on the air using one of them in place of the stock mic. However, I would love to procure the actual mic that came as part of the original kit just to complete the restoration. 

The hunt goes on! Stay tuned. 

Automatic Antenna Tuning Units (Auto ATUs): Over the last 15-17 years I have used several LDG models and an Elecraft T-1. I currently am using the T-1 and I have to say I really don't like it all that much. Nothing against the folks at Elecraft....I just prefer one of the older LDG Z-11 QRP tuners from the past. 

Luckily I found someone who wanted my T-1 and it will be going out USPS tomorrow morning. Thankfully, a ham in Virginia has an original LDG Z-11 QRP tuner he is willing to sell me for $40 plus s/h. Cheap at twice the price (and I do mean that literally). 

So why the step back in time on the tuner? Simply put the Z-11 QRP ATU has almost the same form factor as the FT-817. My first 817 was married to a Z-11 QRP ATU and it worked great. Back around 2001 or so a company called Mountain Ops sold a soft case that would fit the 817 and the Z-11 together in a nice compact bundle. Unfortunately the Mountain Ops folks are no longer in business so I cannot duplicate the original packaging for ARES/RACES/SOTA/Portable ops. Additionally the Z-11 has switches on the front panel that allow you to over ride the computer selected L/C ratios done while in the automatic mode. This can be handy in certain circumstances. This is where a good field strength meter and external SWR bridge come in. Just because the Z-11 "likes" a particular L/C ratio does not mean that you are putting out the most wattage. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen. By using the L-C switches on the front of the Z-11 I can nudge one or both of these functions and get a bit more RF out to the antenna. 

Once I procure the Z-11 I will be reorganizing my small ":Go- Bag" backpack and hopefully get the overall weight of the pack down to a reasonable level. While the T-1 is smaller and lighter than the Z-11 I'm not comfortable with the push/hush-hold functions of the ATU. With the Z-11 life is much simpler. 

OK, that is it for now. 

Vy 73  Rich K7SZ

 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Electronic Make Over

One of the great aspects of the radio hobby is the ability to preserve history by restoring "antique" radio gear, in particular communications gear of the past. Having been the hobby for well over 50 years I have seen, owned, traded, and  restored a ton (literally) of radio gear. Over the years I have developed an affection (my wife, Pat, KB3MCT, calls it an obsessive addiction) for specific gear.

Some of my favorites are the Hallicrafters twins: SX-117/HT-45 RX/TX, Ten-Tec PM series and the analog Argonaut series (505, 509, 515), Heathkit HW-101, SB-series (SB-302/402 RX/TX & SB-102 XCVR), HW-7 & 8 QRP rigs, HW-19, 29, 39 Benton Harbor "Lunchboxes", Drake 2B RX, TR-4, R-4/T-4 RX/TX, and finally the Icom "bookshelf" VHF rigs (202, 215, 402 & 502 transceivers). Don't get me started on the CB rigs or the military comm gear I love!

Unfortunately I do not have the space to restore and display a lot of gear. However, I still love to restore gear, the smaller the better! With that being said my latest efforts are to restore a Heathkit HW-30 2 Meter AM (QRP) rig from the 1960s. I grew up in eastern Washington (state) and we had a local TV station on channel 2. Therefore, not wanting to cause any TVI with a 6M rig I chose the HW-30 as my first VHF rig. It was a great little kit and it followed me to college where it occupied a position of honor in my dorm room. There were a bunch of us in the electronics engineering program that got on 2M AM for a couple of years. Ah, yes, the "bad old days"!! Actually the were pretty darn good days, looking back on things.

On the Yahoo Heathkit Group I came across Emil, WD4SCZ, who wanted to sell a working HW-30 without a case for $15. In the end I traded him an autographed copy of my QRP book for the rig and reimbursed him for the shipping. When the FedEx truck dropped off the box, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my "new" rig had been recapped and came furnished with a crystal for the low end of 2M.

The "Lunchbox's" front panel had been hacked. Somewhere along the line a previous owner had added a crystal socket and DPDT toggle switch to change between the internal stock crystal socket and the front panel mounted crystal socket, making QSYing fairly easy. There is also a hole in the front panel for modification that was apparently removed in the past. Overall cosmetic condition was fair to good. All the original knobs were pristine and front panel finish and lettering was great. The chassis needed some cleaning and the front panel needed replacing to bring the rig back to where I wanted it. Where to get a "clean" front panel and a case.

The case was easy. Terry, N3GTE, came up with a case for a Heathkit CB-1, which is basically the same cabinet used for the entire "Lunchbox" line. It arrived a day before the radio, so I was ready to put the two together. The fit was great! The front panel poses a problem. Not many unmodified/clean "Lunchbox" front panels exist. The obvious solution is to find a HW-30 that has a good front panel and cannibalize it.

I have my eye on a couple of HW "Lunchbox" rigs on e-bay and etsy. Prices are a bit high for what the rigs are, but the law of supply and demand dictates price. My ultimate goal is to get all four "Lunchboxes" restored and on the air. An additional spin-off goal is to stir some interest within the local ham clubs to get folks on VHF AM and have some fun while experiencing the halcyon days of 1960s ham radio.

As the restoration progresses I will be posting progress along with pictures on this blog.

In the mean time, stay tuned.

Vy 73 and good DX!
Rich K7SZ    

Friday, July 28, 2017

Need vs. Want

What a GREAT topic! Several of my good ham radio friends and I have discussed this topic on occasion. After some serious debate we all agree that there is no such word as "need" in the ham radio vocabulary. "Want", however, is VERY prominent in the ham radio lexicon.

Now I'm going to step to the edge of the abyss. Aside from a radio(s) required to get on the air (along with the associated accessories like antennas, coax, key/mic, etc) a ham "needs" nothing! Seriously, how many radios can you use at one time (EmComm aside)?

Technician class hams have it pretty easy.....give them a dual band handheld transceiver (HT) and they can live quite happily on the V/UHF bands. OK, OK...add a dual band mobile/base rig and they will be a happy camper.

However, General and Extra class hams have a "need" for a lot more gear, or so they think. True if your interests lye in HF operation, you'll certainly "need" an HF transceiver, or, going old school, a transmitter and matching receiver. Then there is the problem of antennas, since your HF rig won't load up well on your 2 meter omni! Wires are good....beams are better. Beam? Add a tower, extra coaxial cable, rotator, rotator cable, guy wires, ground anchors.....the "needs" are almost endless.

Then, of course, comes the specialized modes of operation: packet, digital modes, satellites, contesting, DXing....once again, the "needs" are almost endless.

Face it......this ham radio hobby we enjoy is a money pit on steroids! Aside from the basics to enter the hobby at your level of license, you don't really "need" much more. However, we can certainly talk ourselves (and our significant others) into shelling out big bucks for a hobby that, on the surface, seems quite introverted. Hmmmmm....sounds like food for my doctoral thesis.

OK, let's face it, all us hams like to accumulate all sorts of "stuff" relating to the hobby. In my case, having started in the hobby in the early 1960s when vacuum tubes and AM were kings of the bands, I like collecting and restoring the older tube gear. Generally called "boatanchors" by those of us who enjoy them, these relics of the earlier days of our ham hobby are special. For one thing, restoring these older rigs helps to keep the history of ham radio alive. Additionally, there is something magical about watching the warm glow of the vacuum tubes when we fire up the station. Using boatanchors you will get some outstanding audio reports, especially if you work AM on a regular basis. And finally being young when many of us entered the hobby we didn't have a bundle of cash to buy a Collins, Drake, Hallicrafters, or high end Heathkit. To that end, many of us old PHARTS are, in effect, reliving our "yoot". OBTW: PHARTS is an acronym for Pennington Heath Amateur Receiving and Transmitting Society....no, really it is!

In my case I had a borrowed EF Johnson Viking Adventurer and a Heathkit HR-10 receiver (which I built). That was my Novice station for a year. When I upgraded I traded the Adventurer for a Knightkit T-60, which earned me a "pink QSL" from the FCC field office in California for working 80, 40, and 20 meters simultaneously! Needless to say I was petrified. It all worked out and George Comstock, W7CJ, my mentor in all things ham radio, helped me find and repair the problems in the T-60. Eventually I off-loaded that transmitter for a Heathkit DX-40 which was a great little rig on AM and CW!

In college we started a ham club station which consisted of a Hallicrafters SX-117, which I fell in love with. The transmitter was a homebrew beast consisting of four 811s modulated by four 811s. It was huge. It had to be because it was part of our class grade to combine our talents and produce a working AM transmitter for 160, 80 and 40 meters. The following year we retired the beast in favor of a brand new Hallicrafters HT44 transmitter and a matching HT-45 Loudenboomer kilowatt linear amp. We were now in the big league!

I fell in lust with that Hallicrafters pair: SX-117/HT-44. Over the intervening years I procured and restored four (4) of these stations. Unfortunately, I never kept one of them for my shack. Too many other restoration projects. However, there are at least four hams out there in radio-land that had the chance to experience some iconic boatanchors of the 1960s.

Most of us old timers who didn't have the finances to afford upper class gear back in the dawn of our ham careers start out seemingly benign: to recreate our first station. After all the prices on most of the 50+ year old gear from our Novice class past can be procured pennies on the dollar. Of course, there are the exceptions like a Hallicrafters SX-88 receiver (only about 80+ currently exist), Collins "Gold Dust Twins" and others. All I can say is bring your checkbook or some good plastic!

OK, now we have our Novice station all set up and working. It's time to get on the air and enjoy the fruits of our labor. UCK! I never believed that my old HR-10 receiver sounded this bad!!! It's true, friends....the crowded bands of today make using this older simple gear a real chore. Add to that the limitations imposed by a crystal controlled transmitter and its time to obtain a VFO!! Never the less we have reached our goal of accumulating our first station.

Unfortunate most of us we don't stop with our first station. We start in procuring gear that we liked back in the day and soon end up with more equipment than we can possibly restore or use. This is where the ham hobby gets out of hand. I have had the pleasure of seeing several very interesting collections of radio gear. I mean these hams pulled out all the stops and made a significant effort to flesh out their shacks with boatanchor rigs. Buckle your seat belt and go to QRZ.com and look up Andy Howard, WA4KCY, and Bill Wilson, W4BIZ to name just two collectors/restorers). Remembering when you look at the pix, know that this is only about 1/3 of their entire collections!

The point I am trying to make is that when the "collectors bug" bites there is no known cure! Of course it is fun! Not to mention the bragging rights when you restore a classic radio and use it on the air. The main issue that presents itself is where are you going to put all the gear you amassed? Our previous 3750 sq foot house was getting very crowded and not with humans! Suffice it to say I off-loaded a LOT of gear when we moved from PA to GA in 2008. Talk about depressing.

Since the move I have tried, and I do mean REALLY tried, not to start collecting/restoring any boatanchors. However,, I have still managed to acquire two (2) Heathkit SB-series stations (SB-301/SB401 and SB-303/SB-401 with the associated station console, station monitor, and panadaptor), SBE-34 (lovingly restored by Dale Parfitt, W4OP), a National 122 receiver and a EFJ Viking Adventurer transmitter, a Heathkit VF-1 VFO, one HW-8 and two (2) HW-7s, two (2) Ten-Tec Argonaut 509s, and a Wilderness Radio NC-40A. To the uninitiated this collection of radio relics may seem excessive, but believe me when I tell you that my current collection of rigs is about 1/4 of what I had previously and that is without factoring in my military comm gear!!

Having said all this, its time we need to address the 900 pound gorilla in the room: that time in our collective lives when we pass on/become a SK. Yeah, kinda morbid, huh? Well, as my grandfather George said "Nobody gets out of life alive!" Oh, how true. So whatcha gonna do with all that radio gear? Looking forward to the inevitable, might I suggest that you begin by listing all your gear by model/serial number and their current used price. Then contact someone within your local club to act as the executor of your ham gear. Write it all up, give a copy to your selected ham radio executor and the other to you spouse. In this way, you have delegated a fellow ham to help your spouse dispose of your gear with minimal hassle. It's only fair. Remember your spouse will have one less task to be burdened with.

 Vy 73 es Gud DX

Rich K7SZ
 






Sunday, July 23, 2017

In the Beginning........

In the beginning, Heathkit marketed the HWA-7-1 power supply that was designed to power the HW-7 and HW-8 QRP transceivers. Unfortunately this power supply  was little more than a battery eliminator with a Zener based voltage regulator. Many of us who purchased the HWA-7-1 quickly found that the PSU was not a good fit for the radios. 

Why? 

Without going into great detail lets just say that the direct conversion (DC) receivers in the 7 and 8 did not respond well to the AC fields set up within the PSU's transformer! The result was some vicious hummmmm which made for some difficult listening. Additionally the primitive voltage regulation circuitry inside the HWA-7-1 left a LOT to be desired. Voltage regulation in the HWA-7-1 is accomplished by using a Zener diode to set a threshold level of 13.8V on the regulating transistor, Q1.

When reverse biased, Zener diodes are designed to provide a stabilized voltage under fluctuating current. However their current handling abilities are very limited; ergo the addition of the NPN transistor to handle the current. Also Zeners are quite noisy and you need to be very cognizant about injecting additional noise into your receive system. 

There are definitely better voltage regulation circuits out there which is one reason to seriously consider either rebuilding your HWA-7-1 (scrapping everything but the case,switches,& power transformer) or using one of the newer switch mode PSUs with your DC receiver. My Alinco 25A switching PSU induces no additional noise or hum into my HW-8 and the cost was in line with older analog PSUs. Money well spent. 

I know that there are HW-7/8 aficionados (read that "purists") that would not seriously entertain the idea of gutting a HW-7-1 PSU. In order to use the AC mains the other inexpensive solution would be to procure a ham fest "find" of an old 2-3 amp analog AC supply (working or not) and re-purpose it by turning it into an upgraded power source for your Hot Water QRP rig. A multitude of schematics are available via the interweb, so don't let fear hold you back! Assemble your parts list for the upgraded supply and hit the hamfests in your area. Chances are you'll find most, if not all, your needed parts at the fest. So get busy!

Alternatively you could go to a battery and ditch the AC PSU altogether. The up side....no induced hummmmm. The down side....you gotta keep the battery charged, and with an intermittent operating schedule, unless you keep your battery on a trickle charge,r you may not have any "juice in the box" when it comes time to fire up the rig. OH, yeah...then there is always the chance of hydrogen buildup in the shack as the battery charges and hydrogen is quite flammable! Be extremely careful!

For several years I ran K7SZ QRP off of a sealed deep cycle marine battery connected to a "smart" charger and that configuration worked well for me. The down side was that the big battery was always getting in the way (my shack was VERY small). My ultimate goal was to use some photo voltaic panels to charge the battery. However, that idea got put on hold when we moved from PA to GA. I still have the solar panels so provided I can find a suitable location for the placement of the panels I will be solar powered QRP!


Here is my ideal HWA-7-1 rebuilt PSU design criteria: 

Full wave bridge rectifier 
IC voltage regulation 
High quality electrolytic caps (4700uF @ 25WVDC or larger)
Fused AC input and DC output
Crowbar circuit that trips at 15VDC
Decoupled AC line ahead of the power transformer (.01uF disk caps to ground)
RF shielding on DC output (copious use of ferrite beads)
Three wire AC line cord. 
Ground screw on PSU case
Anderson power poles on DC output

Which ever route you choose rest assured that your version of the HWA-7-1 will definitely work better than the Heathkit offering. Power supplies are the heart of every ham shack. Information and experience you gain by undertaking this project will enhance your ham radio experience. None of this is difficult. Circuitry exists in numerous publications, including the ARRL pubs, that will allow you to construct a very well filtered and stabilized PSU that you will proud to place on your ops bench. 

I am in the process of gutting and rebuilding a small PSU to power my HW-7 and HW-8 and will give details on the project as I progress. Don't forget the ham radio hobby is a technical adventure. There will always be things to learn in this technical hobby. 

Until next time

Vy 73 

Rich K7SZ





Monday, July 17, 2017

Ode to Heakit QRP Radios

There is no doubt about it, the Heathkit HW-8 is one of the most popular QRP radios ever made. Additionally, it also holds the record for the most modified QRP radio in history (so far). 

My love affair with the Heathkit QRP rigs started in early 1970s when I built my first HW-7. Stationed at Lajes Field in the Azores, I found the challenge of QRP invigorating using a 5BTV Newtronics vertical. My first QSO using my HW-7 was a ham in Scarborough, Ontario Canada. 

With one ear on the AFRTS broadcast of Super Bowl VII and the other attuned to the 20m CW band, I called "CQ" and was rewarded with a VE3 who came back. After a short rag chew I let it be known that I was running about 2 watts of RF output power. At which time the VE3 station stated that was impossible as I was a solid S-8/9 on his meter! I sent a picture of my QRP station along with my QSL card. A couple of weeks later I received his QSL and a very nice note stating that he was going to look into this QRP stuff! Welcome to QRP!

The HW-7 followed me to Tinker AFB, OK in late 1973. For FD 1974 I took the HW-7 and a dipole antenna, battery, and a small table out into the bush near Lake Thunderbird. It was then I found out how REALLY bad the receiver was in that rig! I made one QSO and decided that between the HW-7's receiver and the man-eating mosquitoes it was time to go home! 

In late 1979 I was re-stationed to RAF Mildenhall, UK (G5CSU) which was a god-send for my QRP efforts. In 1979 I retired the 7 in favor of the new HW-8.  In addition to the HW-8 I also had a Ten-Tec PM-3A in the shack. My first QRP QSO was with Colin Turner, G3VTT, one of the charter members of the G-QRP Club. The station was about as bare bones as you could imagine....PM-3A fed into a chain link fence behind my off-base house in Bury St. Edmunds. This first QRP to QRP QSO was the start of the most fascinating tour of my USAF career. 

Over the years I sold/traded several HW-8s but still kept my devotion to the "8". About a month ago I managed to procure a HW-8 (and a modified HW-7) from my long time buddy, Mike Bryce, WB8VGE, with the idea of holding on to both of them. The "7" needs some TLC. The "8" seemed ready to go out of the box. 

After shoveling out the shack so I could actually find my way to the ops bench, I put the new "8" on the air for the last two days of the 13 Colonies special operating event over the 4th of July. With a very intermittent operating schedule I managed to work a total of 7 of the 13 colony stations all on CW at about 1W output to wire antennas. 

Thankfully my HW-8 waited until the end of the 13 Colonies event before dying. I was having a lot of difficulty in tuning the rig up on 80 meters. The auto ATU I was using was buzzing and clicking away happily but I was not getting a good match. All of a sudden I noticed that the thru-line bidirectional watt meter was showing no RF output, BUT the meter on the HW-8 was showing RF output! I tried re-tuning everything and setting the ATU loose in the tune mode. No output! 

Found out a couple of VERY interesting things while troubleshooting the defunct HW-8, to wit:


  1.  The PA transistor (2N4427) died due to parasitic oscillations. The original transistor is very hard to find. However, a 2N3553 will work as a replacement for the 2N4427 Hw-8 PA. Although  not  a perfect replacement it does work with the added feature of slightly more RF output. If you have similar issues with your HW-8 PA, be sure that the ferrite bead is on the BASE lead when you install the replacement.
  2.  The new power output (as measured by two separate QRP watt meters) is 2.5W output on 80M, 2.25W on 40M, 2W on 20M and 1.0W on 15M.
  3. Another "sub" for the stock PA is a RCA SK-9645. I have two of them but haven't tried them yet. 
  4. In my travels around the Internet I discovered a site that has compiled a complete listing of all the replacement devices and their commercial equivalence. Heathkit part numbers are unique to Heathkit. This cross reference is a godsend for those of us trying to repair/restore 40 year old gear with parts made from "Unobtanium"! Try: http://www.radiomanual.info/schemi/Surplus_Radioamateur/Heathkit_components_cross_reference_2003.pdf.  
  5.  Additionally someone had been all over the inside of that rig. Nothing Earth shattering, but the PA has been removed, and none too gently, I might add. The PCB traces are all messed up, but thankfully I have a high-end de-soldering station and got the bad PA out. Putting the new device in was a bit awkward, but I now have RF output and it is on freq w/apparently no parasitic oscillations.
  6. The 36V Zener was, in fact, dead. Put a new 36V 3W Zener in the rig with no problems.
  7. I found that the TX/RX relay was not closing when I went into TX mode (apparently some cold solder joints)! Methinks that this was the initial problem causing no load on the PA, which most likely took it out.
  8. I didn't notice that the relay was not closing during the 13 Colonies event since I was wearing some high-end head phones and they mute a lot of the outside noise.
  9. I am awaiting the KC9ON TX/RX relay mod kit and will install it and permanently get rid of that relay. The relay pins on the bottom of the PCB were very badly soldered. I am thinking of going over the entire PCB and re-heat/flow all the connections.
  10. The dial cal was off by over 10 kHz so I tweaked L9 to move the VFO up about 10-12 kHz as an immediate measure. Once I get some additional info not included the manual I received (like the schematic and tune up illustrations) I will do a complete alignment of the radio and then perform the mod to the VFO to reduce the tuning range to 125kHz.
  11. Speaking of L9....I have a very bad microphonic problem, all centered around the L9 area pf the PCB. I have re-heated the case lugs and the contact points on the PCB. It curried the majority of the problems but I still have some work to do to get rid of the problem. 

That is about it for now in my pursuit of restoring this HW-8. In addition I have two HW-7s and two Argonaut 509s in queue for restoration. I will detail the procedure here on the blog. 

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ








Monday, July 10, 2017

I love this radio hobby!!

Way back in the "Good Ole Days", 1992 to be exact, I had just authored my first book on QRP for Tiare Publications out of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I was excited.....no, I was REALLY excited. I had finally made "the big time". Over the next couple of months excellent reviews of my tome appeared in QST, CQ, Radcom, QRP Quarterly and several other publications. I was ecstatic.

Then, in the Michigan QRP club newsletter, The Five Watter, a review appeared that shredded my beautiful book! Some hack writer by the name of Emory Schley, N4LP, ripped me a new one in print! Of course, I wrote him back and vented my anger at his obvious lack of literary expertise, What transpired after that time was the thing that legends are made of. After calling into question Emory's editorial/writing ability I found out that he was the editor of five (count 'em, five) weekly news papers in Florida. Add to that the fact that Emory had a decades long history of newspaper editing, and I was eating crow! Serious crow! Little did I know, back in 1992, how much Emory's coaching would impact my writing.

Emory, in his infinite wisdom, apparently saw some raw talent in this author, because he outlined where I had "gone wrong" and offered several suggestions to fix the problem in later efforts to author the world's greatest book on low power operating. Emory even offered to edit or at least look over my next book with no cost to me. How could I say "no"?

Over the years Emory and I corresponded and I have to say his sage advice, combined with that of Fred Bonavita, K5QLF, (now a SK), resulted in my authoring four editions of the ARRL's QRP book, four years editing the QRP Power column in QST, and ultimately becoming a staffer on CQ VHF, Popular Communications and CQ magazines. Obviously these two long time editors had a positive impact upon me. Believe me when I say that without Emory's and Fred's tutelage I would not have been able to accomplish the things that I have over the last 20 years. Add to this "talent on loan from God" and you begin to see how important Fred, Emory and God were in my success as a writer.

Emory and I maintained loose contact over the intervening years. Once he found out that I really liked drag racing (no, not guys wearing high heels and dresses running down a quarter mile race course) he procured an autographed picture of Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, one of the most prolific drag race winners in the history of the sport, and sent it to me. Seems he knew the folks at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida, where he lived! That autographed picture of "Big Daddy" now resides in a place of honor on my book shelf! Thanks, Emory. 

Flash forward to 2013: Emory sent me an e-mail that literally stopped me in my tracks. Emory had a QRP rig he wanted to send me. This particular rig was an offering from Elecraft and there was only ONE catch: I was never to sell it. If I found someone who needed a QRP rig, and I felt that someone was worthy, I would GIVE the radio set to him/her. I was never to sell the rig, but only to gift it to some deserving QRPer. Once again, how could I say "no".

The Elecraft K1 arrived a couple of days after our exchange of e-mails. I was unsure as to exactly what I was going to receive, however, after opening the box and popping the case, I suddenly found myself in possession of a full-housed K1. The ONLY option that was not included in this radio set was the LDC back light option! WOW!!!

This was KARMA in the extreme. Going back to the late 1990s, my original K1 was stolen out of my truck! I was visiting Fran Slavinski, KA3WTF (now K3BX) and Paul Stroud, AA4XX, who had just fractured the world distance record for a QSO on 40 meters using QRP. In the length of time it took the three of us to greet each other (at Fran's place) and swap a couple of "QRP war stories", my new K1, along with a palm top computer and SWR bridge was stolen from the cab of my truck! I was devastated. Fran, Paul and I combed the area, asking questions but drew nothing but blanks.

About 2 years ago I purchased a K1 from Jim Stafford, W4QO, and used it while on several trips to Pennsylvania. I ended up trading this K1 off for another QRP rig. While I liked the K1 a lot, the only way I can play the ham radio game is to sell off gear in order to afford new gear. Oh, to be independently wealthy!!!!!

I always liked the Elecraft K1. It is relatively small, can generate a full QRP "gallon" of 5 watts output, has a really hot receiver with selectable bandwidth crystal filter/noise blanker and offers up to four (4) HF bands (40, 30, 20, and either 15 or 17 meters selectable upon building). The K1 is an outstanding radio and provides the frugal QRPer with a great portable/trail friendly radio with expansion capabilities.

Needless to say, I was totally stunned by Emory's generosity. I went on the Elecraft website and priced out the K1 and all the options: $670+ worth of radio!! My only reservation was "why me"?? That is when it dawned on me: Ham Radio is a tremendous hobby with unbelievably generous people. I felt humbled and honored by Emory's generosity. Eventually, mostly likely sooner than later, I will be presenting someone with this K1: paying it forward, if you will. Until that time I fully intend on operating that little radio and enjoying some serious DX! Thanks, Emory.

Until next time, I hope to meet you on the air.

vy 73
Rich K7SZ

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Of canoe anchors and such.......

I know, I know....I should be ashamed for not posting on this blog for so long. Actually, a number of things came into play, none the least of which was several surgeries and a down turn in my enthusiasm for ham radio. WHAT???? How can someone who has been in this hobby for over 50 years lose interest? That's just it....50 years of ham radio and I had to take a bit of a vacation and get back into photography. All that and the fact I ran across one of Bill Meara's, N2CQR, Solder Smoke postings telling the world I had a blog!!! I figured that I better get back in the saddle and do something to earn that endorsement!

In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson, "I'm BACK!!!!!" 

It is with renewed interest and enthusiasm for ham radio in general and QRP in particular. I am also going "retro". I am tired of being bombarded with digital this and digital that.....I like radios that have knobs, push buttons, analog dials, some even glow in the dark....you get the picture. Oh, OK....I'm reliving my "yoot"!

It's not that I am against the digital revelation in ham radio, it's just that I have more fun and more attachment to the analog gear. I have built a K1, K2, KX1, K3/P3 and I have loved the novelty of using "bleeding edge" technology. For me, it's more than software defined radios, and digital signal processing. It's the "feel" of using older analog gear and busting a pileup or working a new one, being able to actually WORK on the radio gear and not get eyestrain or having to invest into specialized bench tools and test equipment in order to troubleshoot and repair the newer digital gear. 

To that end, I have, over the last few months, became the proud owner of two (2) Heathkit SB-series HF transceivers: SB-301/401 pair and a SB-303/401 pair, along with the station monitor, console with clock, and the panadaptor! That's the QRO station.

In the QRP arena I just procured a near mint Heathkit HW-8 and a little beat up HW-7. Additionally I have two (2) Ten-Tec Argonaut 509s which I am restoring and a VERY highly modified Wilderness Radio NorCal-40A (actually, I may rename it a NC-40AX). 

Unfortunately my shack was moved about 3 years ago from the back end of the house which had no HVAC to the spare bedroom. At one time it was all set up where I could do some serious QRP operating. However, about 2 years ago it became a "temporary" storage area during some remodeling. That "temporary" designation ended up being more of a permanent storage area so now I have the task of digging out all the gear from the mess and setting up a couple of stations. It's a tough job and I wish someone else would do it!!! 

OK, let's talk about the Heathcritters....the HW-7 and HW-8. Talk about iconic QRP radios, these two rigs, which Heath brought out in the early 1970s (for the HW-7 followed in a couple of years by the HW-8), have the distinction of being two of the most heavily modified QRP rigs on the planet. My current HW-7 is the fourth one I've owned, and the HW-8 is my seventh or eighth one...actually I've lost count! They are fun rigs. Plus when built from the original kit they gave the original owners a particular sense of pride in accomplishment, especially when they made their first couple of QSOs with about two watts RF output.  

My "new" HW-8 is not pristine....it has had a couple of mods: a SO-239 replaced the original RCA phono antenna jack and there was a S-Meter mod. Other than that it is stock. Overall cosmetic condition was an 8.5 on a 10 point scale, so this rig is definitely worth the effort to customize into a real "DX-getter". 

Over a couple of weeks I trolled the interweb and found so much info on modifying the HW-8 (and HW-7, too) that it was difficult to pick and choose what I wanted/needed. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the Hot Water Handbook by Mike Bryce, WB8VGE, but I muddled through the overabundance of articles on the web and selected the ones that looked particularly suited to my needs.

Here is where I found out about John Clements, KC9ON, and his "3rd Planet Solar" e-store (http://kc9on.com/ ) which offers a whole bunch of unique kit-lets and homebrew parts to warm the heart of any HW-7/8 owner. 

There are three "modules" that are on order from John's store: the replacement audio board module, the solid-state full QSK replacement module for the TX/RX relay, and finally the reverse polarity module all for under $20 plus s/h!!! (On my last HW-8 I accidentally reversed the 12V power leads and suffered the indignation of telling Mike Bryce, WB8VGE, who quit laughing at me after about an hour!!)

Those three mods are absolutely necessary to move the HW-8 (or HW-7) from the bare bones QRP transceiver into the realm of a very nice analog rig that is a pleasure to use. John also offers an audio filter (CALIF) and two versions of a CW keyer (one for internal mounting and the other for outboard) plus a replacement module for IC-1, the MC-1496 IC, in the HW-8 that is currently made of "unobtainium". Luckily I was in the right place at the right time and procured an actual MC-1496 IC about 10 years ago and I have it in my bench stock. Thankfully these ICs seldom go bad. 

As I progress in my mods on the HW-8 I will post the details (hopefully along with some pictures) on this blog. 

Until next time, Vy 73 es good QRP

Rich K7SZ