Huntsvile Hamfest

Nikki KM4SBQ, Steve WB4OMM, John KI4LOF

An all time “new one” for all of us!

This past weekend, the three of us attended the 2021 Huntsville (AL) Hamfest. We drove 10 hours, spent the night, grabbed breakfast then headed to the Von Braun Center – arrived at 9:10 AM (opened at 9:00 AM). We checked out the commercial booths, then perused the indoor swap tables – we walked the entire floor twice, then grabbed a snack from the concession stand (only one place to get food),. WE then walked the floor once more – and we were done by 12:30 PM! Checked out from the hotel and drove back the 10 hours!

Yeah, long drive, but we had fun! Saw some ARRL folks, the Orlando Hamcation Folks, and picked up a few “things” (ladder line, a 4:1 balun, and a memory keyer project box). Steve spent about $100, John spent $1 (a spare wired keyboard), Nikki didn’t spend anything!

We were fortunate to only pay for only the one night at the Homewood Suites…..and dinner Friday night at Taco Mama was GREAT!!!! The drive home was uneventful.

Next adventure is the Melbourne (FL) Hamfest in October, then the Stone Mountain (GA) Hamfest in November…….

Back from the “Dead”!

Well, I had some time with the holidays here (yeah, I really am supposed to be retired) and finally got around to working on some “kinda new” items – well, new to me anyway!  I’ve been busy in the Dog House!

PART 1 – I got a Heathkit HW-8 QRP CW transceiver a few months back (yeah, like in March at Orlando Hamcation……) for real cheap. Got it for $120 and it was in cosmetically good shape, probably an 8/10. Fella said it worked fine – but I figured it would need work; they always do. I also got the HWA-7-1 AC Power Supply; an Oak Hill WM-1 QRP Watt Meter in pristine shape; and a like new MFJ-4070 Electronic Keyer too!  Whadda deal! The Watt Meter still sells for $150, and the Keyer lists on MFJ at $100!  Plus I got the radio and PS……Wow!

The HW-8’s serial number is 00611, so it’s probably one the earlier model production units. It’s been sitting in The Dog House (shack) ever since, waiting for me to fire it up.  The HWA-7-1 Power Supply is in excellent shape, cosmetically and electronically.  I’m thinking, like a lot of folks, this fella probably got the radio and accessories from someone thinking QRP radios are no different than those 100W commercial rigs – then found out these radios (especially these old ones) are not for “appliance operators” or folks used to putting out 100W and a beam.  Working QRP is really a skill and can be frustrating to someone who “jumps in” without the mindset of, “I’m gonna’ hear stations and they are probably not gonna’ hear me” a lot of times.  2W output is really some low power!  BUT I LOVE THIS STUFF (I’ve also been around a while……and do QRP because I love the challenge).

The Heathkit HW-8 Serial # 00611  –  just worked KD2OMV in N Y – 2W out

So yesterday (Monday afternoon) I put it on the bench – and I was right – It did need work. It had an added an S-meter circuit and LED lighting, but it didn’t hear well – actually didn’t hear signals on any band – and only had just over a watt output on 80/40/20. I couldn’t find the transmit signal on my calibrated receiver, so I knew it was way out of whack. I removed the LED strip, and after a full alignment, and it was back to specs. Just over 2W out on 80/40/20, and almost 1.5W on 15M. I put it on the air  on 20M and worked KD2OMV in NY with a 349 RST. Eureka, it’s alive!  The receiver seems pretty good and all works as it should.

PART 2 – A few weeks back, while at the Silver Springs Hamfest tailgate area, Nikki KM4SBQ and I were walking around looking at the “stuff” and I spotted another HW-8. This one, was not looking so good. The top cover was all scratched up and it looked like it had been re-painted (and a real bad job of it too).  The back panel was slightly bent, it was missing one of the band switch buttons and also missing some screws. The controls were tight. Cosmetically a 5/10.  I figured I could use a parts radio. When I asked what he wanted for it, he said make an offer. I told him I’d give him $20. He kinda balked, and said the radio worked. I told him, “Thanks, but I was just looking for a parts radio” and started to walk away. He replied, “I’ll take it”. I gave him the $20 and took the radio. Nikki laughed and couldn’t believe he parted for it for the $20. I told her it probably didn’t work, but there was at least that much in value for the parts I could glean out of it.

The “innards” of the Heathkit HW-8 Serial # 01623 – Wowee, it’s really clean and well built!

I put this on one the bench yesterday too……and it did work, just like he said. It hissed in the headphones when I turned it on. It was just so far out of alignment, I had to go through it three times before I got it into specs. Also had to clean and lube the switches and controls, but they cleaned right up. I was quite surprised when I took off the cover – this one inside was cleaner and it actually puts out a bit more power (almost 2.5W on 80/40/20, same 1.5W on 15M).  The receiver also seemed a bit quieter. I fired it up on 20M and worked VA4SMC in Winnipeg and got a 559 RST. Eureka, this one is alive too! This one has serial number 01623, a newer, later production model.  There were several earlier Service Bulletins put out by Heath, and they incorporated these updates/upgrades/corrections into current production models as the radio continued to sell.  I’m thinking that this one has some of those improvements over the earlier radio.

A few months back (August) I ordered some “updates” for the HW-8 from KC9ON, 3rd Planet Solar https://kc9on.com/product-category/qrp-accessory-kits/. John provides small board kits for the HW-7/8 that can really upgrade the performance. I purchased the QSK solid state T/R switch ($8); the LM386 Audio Amp Board ($8); and the Reverse Polarity Board ($6). I built all three boards yesterday afternoon.   I also acquired an MFP102 FET Transistor ($1.50) for the receiver front end amp and some 20pf caps ($1.90 for all 20!) for the receiver front end filters that will increase sensitivity and peak the front end better; and I also found an NTE488 Power Transistor ($7) to replace the final amplifier (a direct replacement that will increase 80/40/20M to 3.5 to 4W, and 2.5W on 15M). Over the next few days I’ll be installing these in the Part 2 #01623 newer radio, along with dial/meter lighting and a few other modifications.  Each install will be followed by an alignment.  I will do before and after recordings of levels on the VTVM and watt meter scales to see the improvements. Should be interesting!

BUT WAIT…..PART 3!!!  (There’s always more to the story, Paul Harvey!)

Earlier today, I received an e-mail from the HW-8 “groups.io” server site – a fella was selling an HW-7 already cleaned up and parted out.  The printed circuit board is almost complete – but the remaining parts and hardware are already removed and separated.  You would have to “rebuild the radio” – but all the parts were there.  INCLUDING A FULL SET OF BAND SWITCH BUTTONS!  Plus, the heterodyne, mixer coils, and other hard to find electronic components and parts and hardware are shared with the HW-8.  HE WANTED $20!!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  It’s on it’s way to me USPS Priority mail! 

It’s been lucky for me!  Looks like I’ll have an excellent condition, stock built working HW-8…….and an HW-“Super 8” radio to add to the barn. Plus a stock of replacement parts for the bench.

Stay tuned for more……and….HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Back to Parkpeditions!

After an extended, “vacation”, our local NAQCC-FL Group is back out in the field. There were 5 of us today, and we had a blast – 15 QSOs between us.  Look for a posting on the NAQCC Chapter page soon……..but I just had to post the following e-mail message that I received from one of the fellas I worked this morning.

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the nice QSO today! Conditions were fair and you had a nice signal here to central Long Island. I was scanning the band when I heard you calling CQ. Thanks for answering my call. I maintained solid copy. Your setup sounds FB. Please find the attached MP3 recording of our QSO. You can hear your signal and conditions on my side. Your fist was nice, easy armchair copy. No need to reply QSL. My log shows this was our first QSO. My SKCC # 19736

Deliver To: STEPHEN W SZABO 536 CENTRAL PARK BLVD PORT ORANGE, FL 32127
Station Date UTC Frequency RST Mode Log #
WB4OMM 2020-1016 15:15 14.059 579 CW 3142

I was using my Xiegu X5105 driving an Ameritron AL-811H with 100W to a 102’ G5RV Antenna up at 30 ft. The key I was using was the straight-version shown. See setup image below. Please visit my QRZ.com page for a description of my shack and vintage/homebrew gear.

http://www.qrz.com/db/n2jpr

I am also a 34-year member of the AWA and work my vintage gear on a regular basis; usually 20, 30, 40 and 80 Meters and always CW. I visited your QRZ.com webpage to get your email address and enjoyed your description and image. I am always glad to make contact with hams interested in mobile/portable, vintage/homebrew, QRP activity and CW operation. I hope to work U again soon. God bless you and your family.

Keep up the good CW work Steve! BCNU soon.

Best 73, Lou N2JPR

BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART – He sent me the audio of the QSO!  FB, THANK YOU LOU!

201016_002 WB4OMM

2020 Skeeter Hunt

First Place Florida

First Place in Category 2 (Home/Kit/HB Antenna)

62 Contacts – 53 Skeeter Qs; 7 Non-Skeeters Qs; 2 Non-QRP Qs – 26 States

WB4OMM – Wow! I think the sunspots are back!  Ran the full 4hours, never left the radio!  Started on 20M and was very successful so I stayed there. Very good signals.  Checked 40M after 3 hours, heard and worked one station – (AK4JA) and went back to 20M after hearing nothing for 15 minutes.  Worked 7 more stations!  Elecraft K1 running 5W to a HB 124 foot End Fed Wire with HB 9:1 Balun.  Worked from the Shack this year, many parks closed/restricted, and though it would be better staying home.  Had an absolute blast!  Thanks to all that worked me, and apologies to the few that I just couldn’t pull out of the noise.  Looking forward to going back out in the field next year.  72/73 to all, Steve WB4OMM.