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 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 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 ( ) 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

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