Hammarlund SP600-JX6

There used to be a large scrap yard not far from where I grew up in South Warwickshire. It had regular lorry loads of government electronic scrap plus some from local USAF bases. On one visit in the late 1960s or early 1970s I found a Hammarlund SP600-JX6 and the boss said “that’s a radio I want £5 for it.”

I found a broken 6C4 valve, replaced it and it worked! It was a fantastic RX and I used it for a few years and then sold it for £60 when I got married.

My dream rig

It has to be Collins S line not to collect and put on shelf but to use daily.

To me this is the pinnacle of radio design both technically and aesthetically and pure Collins quality. It takes me back to times when radios had to be operated manually, no computers, no DSP.

One day perhaps but not so many days left, I need to start buying lottery tickets.

FMT Morse Tutor boxed up and working

The Morse tutor is complete. I chose a plastic box that was only just big enough, I like a challenge and this certainly was one! It all worked out OK in the end but was a real fiddle to get the measurements right.

What I learned apart from home construction is fun:
1. A nice bezel hides a lot of mistakes!
2. Covering a plastic box in masking tape prevents it being scratched when drilling and filing.
3. Removing the glue after covering a box in masking tape is not easy.
4. Red is always the positive wire on battery connectors!

Phoenix Kits Online

CWops CW Academy

It was around 60 years ago that I realised there was a radio amateur living across the road, he was Jim G3LIO, an ex Navy WT operator.  When I passed the RAE in in 1972 Jim advised me to learn Morse, but I resisted and became a G8. He was right of course; it would have been much easier to train a younger brain.

In 2000 I started learning Morse and managed to pass a 5WPM test at the Harrogate Morse Camp which gave me a class A/B license and the M5 call. A couple of months later I went to take a 12WPM test at a local rally but the examiner never turned up and the Morse requirement was dropped a few days later.

Eventually I did a 15WPM proficiency test at the Newark Ham Fest but lack of confidence was still a big issue. After that I decided that my operating would be 100% CW and it was. Things slowly improved but only with straight keys.

Now my resolve it to get to 25WPM and use a paddle by my next big birthday! I have signed up for training at the CWops CW Academy  which should start in a couple of months. I am determined to finish do what I should have done 48 years ago!

FMT Morse Tutor MK3 kit

I can’t think of a better way to spend a wet and windy Sunday afternoon than building a Morse tutor! It is from Phoenix Kits Online and grew out of a FISTS CW Club Project designed by Paul, M0BMN.

Twenty years ago I learned Morse using an MFJ-418 Morse code trainer. While it was good the design was a outdated which made repetitive – the character generated were not random.

The kit was easy to build. It too around a couple of hours and worked first time. Now all I need is a box.

As I have been away from Morse for a while I wanted to get back up to speed. What is really pleasing is that the code has stuck in my aging brain so maybe with a bit of practice I will be back on the air soon.

A 2m transverter

I know you can’t really call this homebrew as all it needs is the two boards mounting in a box and wiring up. It was fun though, and irritating as it was a bit of a tight fit. The relay board was tested and the PTT line works. Now it needs a bit of RF from the G90 to see if there is output on 2M. If all is OK then I will need to find/make an antenna.

Xiegu G90

In a rare (opinions may vary) moment of madness, I have ordered a Xiegu G90 mainly fo portable operation this year. Now it is antenna building time. The first will be “A twenty metre portable antenna” as shown in issue 178, Spring 2019 of Sprat by Paul M0PNN.

Hi-Fi SSB?

A few years back it was fashionable to use ‘HiFi SSB’. The idea was to transmit a much wider AF frequency range with the emphasis on getting more bass response. I remember hearing a station who was proud of his studio mic and loads of processing gear. His signal had lots of bass and extend higher frequencies. His bandwidth was nearer 8Khz than the usual 2.4Khz. He said he did not care because he had spent a lot of money getting ‘better’ audio.

Years back I was taught that the frequency range for intelligible speach was 300hz – 3.4Khz.  I find that lots of bass makes signals harder to copy, especially when they are weak. Which is exactly why the military and aviation communications limit the bass response.

Why spend lots of money on expensive ‘studio’ microphones and other fancy audio stuff when all it does is make your signal less readable? Is it the just the dealers making money again? Is it the desire to be different/better that other ops? Or is it a lack of understanding of what radio communication is about?

Home construction, QRP, solar power 8 months on

When I came back to amateur radio in March 2018, I set myself some aims, more aspirations really.  I said that I wanted the station to be QRP, all homebrew and solar powered.

I have always enjoyed making stuff and now I have finally retired I have a lot of time to do just that. Second, I have previously thrown money at the hobby, got on the air and become bored.

QRP? Life is too short say the kilowatt cynics. Over the years I have enjoyed using a lot of small, home made radios with spectacular results. It takes more effort to winkle a signal out of the noise, but the rewards are bigger. Like many things in life it takes effort and patience to get results but the reward are higher.

uBITX

As the solar power I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint as I fear we are on the brink of a climate catastrophe.  You may not agree but I would urge you to read the evidence, from climate scientists, not newspaper articles, who agree that there is a big problem. Besides saving energy in the home saves money!

80w folding solar panels

So, 8 months on I am back on the air with a uBITX with the mods to reduce spurious emission and harmonics. Next is the AGC board. Using a LiPo battery I can get near 20W output but that is trimmed down to 5W. I also have a 20M QSX and am eagerly awaiting the launch of the multiband QSX.

20m QCX

The auto antenna tuner is nearly finished but in the mean time I have a 9:1 balun at the bottom of the antenna and an L match at the radio end. I can get below 1.5:1 from 106m to 10m which is fine for now.

The only thing to sort out now is a more permanent solar panel battery charging facility. I have the gear from ‘the van’ but want something more permanent.