We were very poor when we bought our home. That limited our choices primarily to "fixer-uppers". After seeing many that needed a lot of work, the realtor showed us THE ONE! Like all of the others, this home had been abused and neglected for many years. It needed a new roof, furnace, siding, windows, driveway, paint, and TLC. What made this home special though was a 12' X 20' powered shed deep in the back of the property. Visions of radio shacks danced in my head.
Through the years, we have provided the home the TLC it needed. It is now a very nice place. The shed has similarly been upgraded through those years until it is now a thriving workcenter of electronic design and production, and an active RF communication center.
---I gave myself a retirement (an a "you survived open heart surgery") gift and decided to modernize my radio inventory. wanted a 100W rig that was SDR-based. While Elecraft was my first go-to, they have priced themselves out of the reach of the average ham. Thus, a lengthy search turned up the most popular rig on the market today: the Icom IC-7300. Thus, my current station rig is a 100W 160M-6M all mode software defined radio. It's a treat to operate!
--- My alternate station rig (and CW contest rig) is an Elecraft K2. This rig is an all-band, CW & SSB, QRP Kit. It can output up to 10 Watts from 160M to 10M. It uses a dual synthesized VFOs, Variable bandwidth IF, switchable AGC, 10 VFO Memories, and an internal Keyer with memory. The receiver in this radio is rated one of the best of any rig available today.
Installed options are: Separate Receive antenna Jack/160 meter coverage, SSB operation, RS-232 control, Audio Filter w/ real-time clock, and a Noise Blanker.
---KD1JV's ATS-3B. The first time I heard of one of these rigs, I thought "another CW-only rig for $200? He must be kidding". Then, when Steve made another run recently, I took another look: This a 6-band HF rig, CW-only, but with AGC, DDS-Tuning, 4 pole IF filter, up to 5W out, and capable of being powered by a 9V battery! On a whim, I ordered one; boy, am I impressed. The entire rig fits into two Altoids Tins: one for the rig, one for the band modules. I could fit an entire station including antenna, feedline, power source, rig, and tuner into less space than my main station rig takes. Quite impressive!
--- Baofeng UV-82 2-Meter and 440MHz FM Transceiver. I paid $49 for this at the ARRL centennial convention. It is a basic HT with a huge feature set for very little money. It has 128 channel memories at 5W out. The receiver is broad enough to listen to the FM broadcast band. Heck, it even has a built-in flashlight.
** In preparation for retirement, and for my ultimate demise, I am reducing my equipment inventory. I don't want my family to have to value and sell this equipment. Thus, I have removed and plan to sell:
-Heathkit HW-7 QRP Rig
-Heathkit HW-8 QRP Rig (Sold!)
-Icom IC-725 Synthesized 100W all-band rig
-2N2/40 Homebrew All-transistor 40M QRP rig
-BitX20 20M SSB Kit
-MFJ9406 6M CW/SSB 10W rig
I doubt I'll ever buy any more antennas; I've been burned by buying an antenna. I purchased the Isotron 80 in the hopes that I could run it on my small lot. It didn't perform nearly as well as the manufacturer claims. In fact, while it could hear fairly well, NO ONE could hear me. I'd probably make as many contacts running into a dummy load.
Thus, all of my antennas are homebrew (except 2 verticals I inherited from my grandfather). The list is currently:
6 Meters- Recently Rebuilt- A Moxon Rectangle. It is made from fiberglass driveway markers as spreaders, and 18ga silver-teflon wire I found at a hamfest. At only 7 feet wide, it's a wonder for its size! I can't say absolutely what the specifications are, but when rotated, it produces a noticeable null to the sides and rear.
10 Meters thru 80 Meters - Trap Dipoles. In order to make my antennas as tall as possible, I needed them to perform double duty supporting my mast. If I used separate inverted Vees, I would have needed 8 antennas. Instead of the mess of 8 separate antennas dangling from the peak of my mast, and trying to find places to tie the resulting 16 ends, I grouped them into 3 Trap Dipoles: 10-15-20; 12-17-30; and 80-40. These three antennas are all up over 30 feet (better than the previous 22ft I had!!) and made from #18 silver-teflon wire. The traps are shameless copies of SotaBeam's Trap Kits.
Since the summer of 2017, my main antenna support was a 25' Telescoping Flagpole. After the lightning strike of 2014, I wanted a support I could remove during storms or when we were away from home for periods of time. Masts designed for that purpose were either very heavy; making them nearly impossible to erect easily, or very expensive. The Flagpole though is only 14 pounds and cost me about $300. But eventually I got sick of running marginal antennas. So, I bought a 50ft fiberglass mast. Now I run those same antennas at twice the height. I haven't used this configuration in a contest yet, but assume the upgrade will yield much better result than I've had up to now.
I wasn't sure whether to put this in antenna or accessories. I am the owner of an AB-155 mast. It's an old guyed military mast system. Goes up to 40 feet. Fully portable. Two people can erect it in about 45 minutes (most of that time is spent untangling the guys). When torn down, it's stored in a 5 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot canvas package.
---I use a homebrew PIC-based digital Power Meter, and a separate Homebrew PIC-Based SWR Meter. They both use LCD displays. The Power meter is capable of reading from 1mW to 1KW. and the SWR meter has both a numeric display, and a bar-graph display for at-a-glance display of SWR.
---The station is powered by an Astron PS-20 that can provide up to 16 Amps continuous. I also use two 12V 7.2 Ah SLA gel cells as battery back-up powered by about 10 watts of solar panels. I obtain the batteries from my local Burglar Alarm installer...they always have several that have been swapped out of alarm systems that have a lot of life left in them!
--I utterly revamped my radio operating position and upgraded my computing power to an older Win 7 desktop machine. I added a USB wi-fi adapter to it and now I have a fully functional Win 7 machine with internet connectivity. I use that, along with my logging program, and a MORTTY kUSB keyer, as my station keyer. Now I simply type my Tx CW instead of using a key or paddles.
--Microphone - A co-worker was cleaning out his father in-law's garage and happened on a unique-looking microphone. Knowing that I dabbled in electronics, rather than toss it out, he gave it to me. It turned out to be an Electrovoice 644...highly directional, very wideband mic. It sounds excellent. The bandwidth is dead flat from 50 Hz to 10KHz. I mounted it about 6 feet from my operating console pointed straight at me, but away from the fan on my computer. I hope this will help my contesting efforts!
Oscilloscope - My first, and favorite oscilloscope was a Heath SO-4552 that I had for over 20 years. The fourth time the horizontal section blew, I again tried to repair it, but exact replacement parts weren't available any more. The substitutes left the time base very distorted...no fun! On a whim, I looked up Digital scopes on Google and found a company in the next city over selling a 60MHz digital hobbyist scope for less than I spent on the old Heath scope 20 years before. Sadly, that brand of scope was very low-quality junk...and I was taken by them twice!! I have since learned my lesson and purchased a wildly popular 250MHz dual-channel digital scope for the princely sum of $350. That's still less than I paid for my original Heathkit 25MHz CRT scope 30 years ago!!
RF generator- I use a homebrewed DDS-based generator. It loosely follows AA0ZZ's IQ-VFO. I used a 20MHz clock and the 15X internal multiplier of the AD9854 DDS to provide a 300MHz master clock signal. This allows me to put out any frequency from 1Hz to 150MHz continuously. With the addition of a single high-speed op-amp, I have a complete signal generator with better specifications than anything available on the hobbyist market for nearly no cost at all!
**At some point in the future, I will place this item in the "Projects" area of this page.
Function Generator- My function Generator is homebrew based on a Maxim MAX038 IC. It provides <1 Hz to about 10MHz in 4 ranges. It outputs SIN/TRI/SQ from 0V to about 6V pk-pk. I also included a digital frequency counter to know the precise frequency, and a low impedance output to drive speakers.
LC Meter- I recently purchased an overseas L/C meter from e-bay. It claims great accuracy and is quite small. What the heck, for less than $15 I now have a commercial tester.
Frequency Counter - My main Freq. Counter is a Heath IM-2420. I lucked out and found this gem at a local Hamfest for a mere $15. It is a 512MHz counter with an oven-controlled timebase clock. It has two channels and can do period as well as frequency. When I first tried it, the sensitivity very poor. After some simple troubleshooting, I found 2 of the front-end clamping diodes installed backward. The poor sap that built it probably hated it all the years he owned it; all because of his own mistake! Once fixed, this counter is on par with any lab-grade unit.
DVM - I got the greatest deal ever: A calibration house called my workplace saying that they needed to sell "a large quantity" of Fluke DVMs for them to get a very large bonus from Fluke. The bonus was so large, that they could sell the meters for $1 and still make money. They offered us brand-new Fluke 87Vs for the cost of calibration...about $75. These meters are $350+!! Thus, I have retired my old Radio Shack meter, and now use a NIST traceable calibrated Fluke meter!
Antenna tester - I found an Autek Research tester at a hamfest for $25. On a whim I bought it. The display was intermittent and the unit did not work very well, but after I resoldered every joint in the device, It sprang to life. Now I have a device that will tell SWR, impedance, and reactance at any frequency from 1MHz to 39MHz. Nice.
'Tenna Dipper - Several companies make all-in-one antenna testers. These are simply low-level VFOs tied to a SWR bridge and/or an impedance measuring device, and can typically run $250 to $300. A fellow QRPer, Steve Weber, KD1JV devised a much simpler version of one of these devices. It uses a 74C4046 PLL IC as the VFO. The particular '4046 he chose can go as high as 46MHz; perfect for an HF meter. This VFO is tied to a resistive SWR bridge whose output is fed to high impedance DC amp. The display device is a Hi-Intensity LED.
An added bonus to this circuit is a "Stinger singer" frequency counter provided by Dan Tayloe. This counter tells frequency in CW and can either "display" with the push of a button, or continuously. Speed is adjustable from around 27 WPM to 15WPM. The counter makes this circuit even more useful to me than some of the higher priced commercial units.
The kit simply comes with the PCB and parts. The recommended enclosure is an Altoids tin. Using the Altoids tin only allows for the antenna jack to come out of the enclosure. To change bands or even turn the device on, you must open the enclosure. While this approach is desirable when hiking or camping, for my needs this was a little spartan. Thus, I enclosed it within an aluminum two-piece enclosure. While I was in there, I replaced the 4-pole DIP switch, Hi/Lo jumper, and power switch with a 3p10t rotary switch. The PCB is soldered straight to the chassis mounted BNC connector that protrudes through the top. (**Note: The "TUNE" pot and "PGM" Switch are covered by the battery on the internal view picture.)