I like “stuff” like me……old, but still working! (hi hi hi…..).
Over the year’s, I have been fortunate to locate a few “old” items, that occupy a special place in my shack. Here they are, in no particular order….. Click on a photo for a larger rendition of the item…..
80 YEAR OLD VIBROPLEX SEMI-AUTOMATIC KEY (“Bug”)
This is a “Signal Corps U. S. Army, Key Type J-36” Morse Code “Bug” – the metal plate indicates it is made by “The Vibroplex Co., Inc 796 Fulton St, Brooklyn, N. Y. Date- 10-28-40 Serial No. 346” . Yes, it has not been restored yet (cleaned), but it works!!! I had another one that cleaned up very nicely, and also worked.
I pulled two of them out of the trash at a local government building back in the mid-90s (I’m guessing they were “cleaning” somewhere and figured it was garbage, so it was tossed in the trash) – hence the old adage, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!).
I cleaned the other one up and sold it on eBay for $185.00 around 2005. I have had several offers over $100 for this one, exactly as it is!
HEATHKIT CODE OSCILLATOR and KEYER COLLECTION
My collection of Heathkit Oscillators and Keyers. Yes, I built everyone of these and they all work. I have made contacts on the air with each of the keyers……..
In order from left to right
Heathkit CO-1 Code Oscillator (1968)
Heath HD-16 Code Oscillator (1969)
Heathkit HD-1416 Code Oscillator (1984)
Heathkit HD-10 Electronic Keyer (used with my HW-16 below – WN2TAW in 1971)
Heathkit HD-1410 Electronic Keyer (1982)
Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer (Touch Keyer w/Memories) (1983)
(That small circuit board with the wires in the foreground is the original “Digipan” interface for digital modes – I built that in 1988 or 1989)
MY ORIGINAL 1971 NOVICE STATION – Heathkit HW-16/HG-10B VFO
WN2TAW (1971 to 1973)
HW-16 3 Band CW Transceiver – my Dad went with me to the Heathkit Store on 45th Street (NYC) in December 1969 and bought this for me for a Christmas present – it retailed for $116.95. It took me over a month to build, and when I got my Dad and Mom to watch me turn it on, it blew every tube in the radio! (Dad sent it in for repair, and believe it or not, they said I built it fine – there was a shorted variable capacitor that blew everything! They replaced the defective part, all of the blown tubes, aligned it for me and sent it back in late February 1970). This was my WN2TAW Novice station when I got my FCC license in February of 1971 I had five crystals – Novice Bands – 3.740, 7.160 and 7.170 ……and 7.040 and 7.050 – I could use the 40M crystals on 15M by “tripling” the frequency….21.120 and 21.150) running 75 Watts INPUT Power (yeah, about 35-40W OUTPUT!). I bought the HG-10B VFO in January of 1975 when I became WN4OMM here in Florida and the FCC changed the rules and allowed Novices use of a VFO! I don’t remember when I got the HS-24 Speaker, but probably around 1975-76.
When my Yaesu FT-767GX went in for service in 1989, I actually pulled this thing out of the closet and used it (I was going through withdrawal!) Wow! Horrible hum, no real selectivity, but it worked! I made several CW contacts with the 50W of output from this ancient relic! REAL RADIO – IT GLOWS IN THE DARK (the tubes, that is!)
I have a “re-cap” kit from Hayseed Hamfest that I will get around to installing that should remove the hum.
Thank you Dad, for believing in me and spending that kind of money on a 15 year old’s dream.
UPDATE!!! January 9, 2015!!!
I finally got time to “get into” the HW-16! Completely re-capped, replaced all of the power and bleeder resistors. Took me two nights (about 9 hours total), but when I plugged it in and turned it on……voila! No more hum! (and more importantly, it didn’t burst into flames!) After an alignment, I put it on the air last night. The VFO is not working (the next challenge!) but I had several FT-243 crystals so off to 40M we go, with a crystal and the HD-10 Electronic Keyer (yeah, just had to!). I called CQ on 7036, and within seconds W7JX in Washington State responded and gave me a 479! Wow! IT LIVES……….W7JX gets a “special” QSL card!
Tonight I worked 3 more folks, all gave me excellent reports (Alabama, Virgina, and Florida); well not the FL QSO, it was my friend K3RLL, and Don was just too close for the propagation 40M….but we did make a QSO! Don used to have an HW-16 too many years ago and we both recalled our early days. Using the radio and the keyer had me reminiscing about my early ham radio period. Then I realized I took my Novice Test the first week of January ’71, and got my license the following month – next month, 44 years have passed. Dang, I’m old! Using the radio made me feel good. A little bit of operating challenge, stuff glowing, and slapping the keyer paddles was “magic”. Good magic. Life is wonderful!
UPDATE!!! January 16, 2015!!!
Discovered two unsoldered wires in the power plug to the HG-10B VFO, and the OB2 voltage regulator tube bad. Resoldered the pins, replaced the tube, and BAM! The VFO works great! Made a new RF cable with the RG-62/U; went to align it…..and it was “dead on” frequency without adjustment. Will try it out in the next few days, but it seems to be working great.
Also received some new crystals today too, so now have plenty of freqs on 40 and 15 to work. Still need to replace the 80M heterodyne coil in the HW-16 to get 80M receive (I isolated that coil as the suspect in the 80M receive not working). As soon as I can “cannibalize” another HW-16, I should be in business.
Standby for more on the HW16 as I progress……..
UPDATE!! February 2, 2015!!
Got a replacement coil today, courtesy of Terry N3GTE…..he mailed me the coil and declined any payment…..and he paid for the First Class postage too! WHAT A GENTLEMAN! (He has a ten spot on the way via the mail). Replaced the coil, and it now receives on 80M! Yippeee!!! While I was there, I did the “two resistor replacement” modification to increase the sensitivity of the receiver. Re-aligned (didn’t need it), and was on the air with HG-10B VFO…worked CO8RRM! He gave me a 599. Loud audio into speaker, signals very nice and clean. Whadda radio! It’s on the shelf at the operating position with a coax switch so I can use it from time to time. Next challenge – Novice Rig Roundup starting February 6, 2015 for a week. I will be playing as much as I can. Looking forward to the Roundup. Here’s it sits in it’s new home in the shack!
Hallicrafters S-38 Receiver, circa 1951
I purchased this from a fella at the Orlando Hamfest for $10 – he said it didn’t work and was junk. After a general cleaning, recap and alignment, it works great! I love the way music sounds from an old tube radio….more depth and resonance! I also performed a change to the wiring, eliminating the “hot chassis” and replacing the AC line cord with a “safe” one! I would like to remain around to do more of this stuff!!! SAFETY FIRST! The case and innards are in remarkable shape for a radio this old. This is a 9 out of 10 for sure!
Heathkit HW-7 CW QRP Transceiver (circa 1975)
No, I didn’t build this one…….but bought it for $10 as “dead”….after replacing the PA Transistor and removing the dead bug (yeah, really, looked like it used to be a large ant that was “fried” across the 12VDC power connector), it sprang to life! Had to do a serious re-alignment of it, as it was so far off, I had to start all of the coils and stuff from “zero”! This rig is waiting it’s turn to get on the air and make a QSO……soon, grasshopper, very soon……..
AMECO AC-1 CW QRP Transmitter (circa 1965) (acquired February 2, 2015)
My “newest” adventure! No tubes, no coil, but in pretty good overall shape. Got the original manual too. Thanks to W2ID!! He was willing to part with it as I am looking to put it on the air, and we hope to make a QSO together in the very near future! the transmitter has some mods (meter added to left side, SO-239 on right side) and I will have to re-cap and deflux…..No bad rust or damage, front panel pretty good too. I just ordered the tubes today and have two 5 pin coil forms. It will be one of my “priority” projects! I hope to “mate” it on the air with the Hallicrafters S-38…..real old glow in the dark radio!
The Drake “Novice” Twins – 2C Receiver (1966), 2-CQ Q Multiplier /Speaker (1967), and 2-NT Transmitter (1970)
Wow! What a nice station! These Drake “twins” were aimed at Novice License holders in the late ’60s and early ’70s -but way out of my price range!
(click on the ad photo to enlarge it)
The Drake 2C Receiver
(click on the ad photo to enlarge it)
The 2-C Receiver was offered by the R.L. Drake Company from 1966 through 1974 and is a vacuum tube (five) and semiconductor (fourteen) hybrid design which offered coverage of the pre-WARC amateur bands between 3 MHz and 30 MHz (80, 40, 20, 15, and 10m) in USB, LSB, CW, and AM modes and included four switchable receive bandwidths. The Receiver retailed at $229.00 in 1966; I have the 2-AC Crystal calibrator installed in mine ($16.95), and I also have the 2-CQ Speaker/Q-Multiplier and Notch Filter ($39.95). I paid $100 for the receiver, $25 for the calibrator, and $65 for the 2-CQ.
The Drake 2-NT Transmitter
The Drake 2-NT transmitter was introduced by the R.L. Drake Company in 1966 for Novice licensees and was a vacuum tube (three) and semiconductor (twelve) hybrid design which offered crystal-controlled CW-only output on the pre-WARC amateur bands between 3 MHz and 30MHz (80, 40, 20, 15, and 10m). The 2-NT transmitter featured single-control tuning, adjustable-delay automatic T/R-switch, a sidetone oscillator, and a “spot” function, making it easy for the well-heeled Novice licensee of the era to have a fully-integrated, high-end Novice station. This transmitter retailed for $149.00 – and needed Crystals to transmit! I paid $75 for the transmitter. Original Crystals (FT-243) cost from $7 to $16 from various sources. I have 4 for 80M, 11 for 40M, and 6 for 15M. None for 10 or 20M (yet…working on it).
So here’s the story on the “Evil Twins”…..
I got the 2-C Receiver in 2014 from an acquaintance that bought it in the early ’80s. It was (and still is!) in excellent shape – even though it has serial number 0432, indicating it is an early production unit (first year – 1966). It required new filter capacitors, an alignment, and cleaning of all the switches and controls…..but it hears great! No hum, and works at or better than the specs…a really nice receiver! I got the 2-NT transmitter in 2015 for $75 in an online sale, and the 2-CQ in 2017 for $65 at the Orlando Hamfest. I purchased the 2-AC calibrator online in 2019 for $25.00. The transmitter is serial number 1693, telling me it was made in 1970; the 2-CQ has serial number 189, and that was manufactured in 1967. The transmitter also was re-capped (thanks to Hayseed Hamfest for the filer caps for both units), aligned and cleaned/lubricated. I also replaced the neon “output indicator lamp” and the meter pilot lamp. The transmitter output on 80M is about 86W at full power; 65W on 40M, and 35W on 15M. (As measured on a Bird Wattmeter). It has an antenna relay built-in for use with the 2-C receiver. The 2-CQ just got the switches and controls cleaned and lubricated. It really improves the received signal and selectivity! This transmitter-receiver combo is really nice! Wish I could have afforded it back in the day!
I will be on the air for the Novice Rig Roundup (http://novicerigroundup.org/) starting on March 6th……look for me!
Knight Kit V-44 VFO (circa 1955?)
My Heathkit HW-16 can use crystals or the HG-10B VFO; but up until now, the Drake 2-NT could only use crystals, as I did not have an “outboard” VFO (the HG-10B has a dedicated power source in the HW-16). I really wanted to find a Hallicrafters HA-5 (I had one a long time ago), but the last few months of searching for one was unsuccessful. I researched the various “self-powered outboard” VFOs from yesteryear, and was lucky enough to find one that would suit my purposes – the Knight Kit V-44 VFO.
I bought it on eBay (yeah, well, you take what you can find), and the seller honestly told me he didn’t know if it worked. I figured the worst case would be gutting it and re-building it from scratch (I found an assembly manual online – and there really were not that many parts in it). So, I took a chance and bought it for $75.
It arrived in a few days, before I even powered it up, a quick inspection revealed an old electrolytic capacitor in the power supply and a two-cord AC wire. So I ordered a replacement cap from Mouser ($8) and pulled an 3-wire grounded AC cord from my workbench.
I also saw some frayed connections and “something else” – yeah, I have no idea what it is…..I found a 5 lug terminal strip on the rear panel terminal strip that wasn’t showing in the manual. There was a diode, two resistors, and an electrolytic capacitor that was connected between another terminal strip and one of the tubes. The parts didn’t match the kit contents either. The rest of the wiring traced correctly, so I removed “The Thing” and wound up using the grounded lug of the terminal strip for a ground connection.
Testing the tubes revealed two “duds” and one weak, and the OA2 Regulator tube was showing “gasssy”, so I ordered a complete replacement set of all 4 tubes from TubeDepot ($24).
I also cleaned/lubricated all of the controls, and in general, “cleaned out the funk” (old electronics have a distinctive smell – and it ain’t very nice). The tubes and new electrolytic cap arrived in a few days and I replaced the old cap, installed the grounded 3-wire AC cord with a 1/2 amp inline fuse, replaced all 4 tubes and then “cleaned up” some of the other solder connections. In particular – the coax center wire and braid were both corroded and frayed, and touching each other – and the plug was cracked and broken. I cut it and trimmed it and re-soldered both to the terminal lugs with no more “short”, and left the other end open to install an old crystal case for a plug later on.
Here goes – the “smoke test” – plugged it in, turned it on – no popped GFCI, no blown fuse, no smoke or flames! The pilot lamp came on, but was very weak, and then started flashing! Turned out, someone placed a GE257 bulb (a 14V flashing train set bulb!) there instead of the 6V #47 lamp that was supposed to be there. I replace the flashing bulb with a #47 and it lit fine. The OA2 glowed it’s wonderful purple, and the other tubes all lit.
I toggled the VFO from standby to operate, and looked for a signal. I think I found it – rough, buzzy sound – yep, placed in in standby and the sound disappeared. Back to operate – yep, it was there again. I went through the alignment, but the tone was really rough – and not real strong (it should have been – it pumps out 30V of RF). I turned it off, re-checked the wires, connections, etc….than checked the tubes – Volia! Someone had written the tube IDs on the chassis with a pencil, and they had them reversed! Stupid me, I just assumed the marking were correct. I traded tubes, and now had a strong, clear signal! Success!! I also “erased” the incorrect tube IDs and penciled in the correct ones.
I put in in the case, and did one more alignment – it’s dead on – and will place the crystal plug on the coax shortly, and then will fire up the Drake 2-NT for a operating check. It will be nice to not be restricted to just crystals anymore!
A grand adventure for $107!
MORE COMING SOON……….check back often!