Monthly Archives: December 2020

Restoring a vintage Polish built Wimshurst Machine

Actually a retired friend is doing the work and I am trying not to get shocked.

Throws a 8-12cm spark easily.

This particular unit is a post WWII soviet educational model, produced in Poland. Best guess is mid-1960s.

The Leyden jars were broken in transit, so these are American replacements.

Can’t even explain the “why” in how I came to buy the then decrepit device from a (formerly East) German dealer or why I wanted to set it right. Guess it just “sparked my interest” some how.





An Update on a Bigger FlexRadio Systems (2020)

This arrived a few days before Christmas from FlexRadio:

Dear Valued FlexRadio Family,

I’m not sure how to paraphrase 2020 except to say that this year has taken us all by surprise.  As we approach the holiday season and the end of a very challenging year, I hope this letter finds you and your family well.  Here at FlexRadio, we have been fortunate to stay healthy and strong amongst the many challenges we faced throughout the year.  Like most companies, we have worked at home more than we have ever done before, but we have also had to make adjustments as our vendors have had issues. Supply chains have been strained, components have become unavailable and we even had a manufacturing partner close shop. While we’ve put our contingency plans in place for each of these challenges, as we have many times before, we have never had so many of these challenges arrive all at once demanding simultaneous attention. As a result, we’ve spent more time this year adjusting to the challenging business environment and less time communicating with our many friends that comprise our customer base. 

As the American novelist E. L. Doctorow famously said, “You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So we, like most of you, found we must take it day by day and remain flexible to address the next challenge that lies ahead. We are truly grateful for your support and partnership during this time as we all face these unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic together.  Here’s what has been going on with FlexRadio in 2020.

The FLEX World Pre-COVID

We entered 2020 with an optimistic view of the opportunities in front of us.  In 2019 we won a large government contract in partnership with a division of Raytheon later acquired by BAE, which opened new doors for us in government and commercial HF markets. As we’ve mentioned before, we look for synergistic business opportunities that allow our amateur and commercial/government businesses to share technology and capabilities. It is exciting knowing that much of the technology developed in conjunction with this contract can be leveraged back into our amateur radio product line (and vise versa).

As has happened many times in the past, this new work has fostered growth in our company. Our engineering department alone has tripled in the last year. In the short term, many of these additions are assisting with our largest contract. Longer-term, many of these individuals will contribute to the amateur product line as well. With this unprecedented growth, you may imagine that we periodically discuss the role that amateur radio plays at FlexRadio. Any business leader would be remiss in failing to discuss the details of each product line and how to grow or phase out those lines as business dictates. As has been since the beginning, we continue to see huge benefits from our amateur business to the overall health of the company. Without exception, our key decision-makers have continued to reaffirm our commitment to the amateur radio product line and community. In short, we’re here to stay!

Since our last in-person interactions during Hamcation and the Yuma Hamfest back in February we have roughly tripled our employment and square footage.  Our new space has a custom build-out including two new state-of-the-art ISO-9001 certified engineering laboratories to accommodate this growth.  Growth has brought additional talent, equipment, and technology into the company that we would not have been able to acquire as an amateur radio only company. While it takes time to harvest the fruits of this expansion, we can already see many ways that you, our amateur customers, will be the beneficiaries.

Unbeknownst to us and the world at the time, our personal and working lives were about to drastically change.  We couldn’t have predicted that those first two hamfests of the year would have been our only face-to-face interaction with our customers in 2020.  On March 13, in the wake of COVID-19 realizations, we made a shift to “quarantine and work from home.” This impact on our daily lives forced us to construct new ways of doing business and engage with our customers. Of course, many or most of you are intimately familiar with the new way of working!

Since the early lockdown we introduced a complete brand refresh and launched a new website along with a new FlexRadio Community tool.  We’ve spent more time on customer education through increased presence on social media.  Our own Michael Walker, VA3MW, has conducted numerous Facebook live events on our FlexRadio Enthusiasts page on Wednesdays and Fridays around 2:30 pm CST.  If you missed them, these videos are also available on our YouTube channel.

COVID Era Challenges

The loss of one of our manufacturing partners led us to shift the load to our other partners (who were experiencing the same demands from other customers). Prior to COVID-19, our strategy had our manufacturing partners performing our test procedures on individual circuit boards, assembling these into finished units, testing these units, and collecting completed radios and accessories into a box that was ready to ship to you. We saw a number of benefits from this strategy, but it takes considerable effort to work with a manufacturing partner on everything from executing test procedures through ensuring a quality product is boxed before shipment.
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K9ZW Antenna Transition – Big Hex Beam Dismantled and Stored

The Big Radiowavz HexBeam never made it to the top of the tower. As you can read in, the physical build wasn’t up to my environment.

Over the Christmas weekend I dismantled it and started the preparation for storage.  Photos were taken to document the areas I hope to improve in the eventual rebuild.  In the disassembly a few additional areas of concern appeared, which I will be digging into as part of the redesign.

It was about 20F (-7c if you are Celsius-minded) but otherwise a nice day to work outside.

I have a couple other hexbeams and have started to dig into the hexbeam literature on the web, so I hope to get the redesign done over winter.

Though RadioWavz has gone radio-silent on me, in my research I found they had addressed some of the issues – see for a build of a smaller RadioWavz hexbeam.

Whether I can effectively retrofit the later upgrades is something I can explore.

Provided the rework is cost effective, there is a chance the antenna will go back up in 2021.

If the costs look to be excessive the “fish or cut bait” maxim will force a decision to abandon this particular Hexbeam project.



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Non-Radio – 1965 Panhard 24bx (24bt but different)

One of our old cars is a model you most likely will not see on the road in North America. Some photos as teasers:

Anything look familiar?  (If it does you most likely spent a lot of time in Europe)


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The 2008 K9ZW Station

K9ZW 2008 Station

Found a 2008 picture of my radio station.

Things certainly have changed!

The old station was built around a TenTec Jupiter transceiver and an Alpha 78 amplifier.

The Dell computer is on the floor, and the square monitor is kind of a classic. Likely running Windows XP and N2PY’s control software.

All very different than the FlexRadio based radio station I run now, but this simple TenTec station did the business back in the day.



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A change in Antenna Direction at K9ZW Home QTH

On my main Skyneedle was supposed to go a RadioWavz Barrett Hexbeam with Broadband option.  The antenna was bought about four years ago and health and then a home QTH move kept it from going up in the air.

RadioWavz built this antenna with the high power and heavy duty options, and it is purported to work as a rotatable dipole on 160/80/60/30m, a 2el wire beam on 40/6m and as a 3el(+) wire beam on 20/17/15/12/10m.  Original configuration was using three antenna drop feedlines, but two can be combined with a harness they offered.

RadioWavz helped me out sending new element guides made of metal which replaced the DOA original fiberglass guides, replacing most of the parts missing from the original antenna (though the spare parts ordered have never arrived) and sold me a upgraded support rope set made of a Kevlar type material.

In the antenna building process twice I have had damage from deer getting into the antenna.

First incursion pulled a number of elements loose and broke one of the smaller fiberglass arm pieces.  My calls and emails to RadioWavz had not been answered, when I figured out who supplied the fiberglass.  Ordered new fiberglass parts direct and made the repair.

Second deer incursion again pulled some elements loose but this time half of the 40m element with insulators and spacer cord went missing.  Presumption is it was caught on the deer’s rack and carried away until it could be shaken loose.  The wire element I can cut locally but as my spare parts supply of extra insulators and cordage was never shipped, I’ve had to have the special insulators locally fabricated and I’m scrounging for similar cord.  Again my emails and calls have not been answered by RadioWavz.

What I have learned is that the business was sold to the next generation, and the founders retired to another state, plus the next generation is up to their eyeballs dealing with a child’s severe health issues.

I get it.  Family is WAY more important, period.
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