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-301/401 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