Monthly Archives: March 2022

Learn to Run the Gear You Have

Sent my way as an unattributed cartoon:

Most likely any one of us has a lifetime project of really mastering the gear we already have in our shacks.

Yet we wait with baited breath to see what the latest and greatest new gear will be shown at Dayton/Xenia, whether the next model transceivers will offer the rumored 0.00001% improvement in some metric that can be measured but operationally matters not at all, or if we just added a MacGyver ABC-123 doohickey that our contest rates will somehow double.

All these promises when we barely know what features our existing gear has built into it, might not have even tried those features out, and pretty much are operating in the “six knob twists from out of the box” mode. That is where we cumulatively have adjusted six or less parameters from the factory fresh state, at which point we falsely declare “that is all you can milk out of this YaWoodCom 99999” as if we had already arrived at maximum performance.

I’ve bought complex transceivers from hams who never learned to operate their purchase, and in one case despite being unboxed to display in a ham’s had never been powered up long enough to make any QSOs. I’ve heard the name “Shack Trophies” for such gear.

It would seem the real challenge is to learn and master running the gear you have.

In self assessment this is something I need to work towards myself.

Some gear I know very well, and others not so much.

Making time to set that right. Are you?



Collins Progress Update 1

Some in progress pictures as Chuck W9KR does his magic on the Collins 32S1/75S1 station.

Digging in at W9KR’s very well equipped workbench

Testing found some weak and failed tubes, all which are being replaced. I had bought tube kits for some of the units, and others have been sourced. All told about 8-10 tubes across the equipment are being replaced.

After a prolonged period of increasing voltages controlled by a variac, good meter readings

Prolonged means a lot longer than I would have thought, a gentle process.
Continue reading

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Disposition of radios (2) – Collins S-Line Station

Collins S-Line (32/75/312-4…) Station Loaded for Service Work

Over the last 12 years I’d accumulated enough Collins S-Line equipment to not only complete the 32s/75s station started when George W9EVT gave me a 75S1 receiver with a shopping list of what I needed to complete an operating S-Line station, but a second KWM-2A transceiver based station which I will come back to in another post.

The 32S/75S setup was never fully setup once collected and consists of:

  • 32S1 – transmitter
  • 75S1 – receiver
  • 30L1 – amplifier
  • 312B4 – remote VFO
  • 516F2 – power supply
  • 312B3 – speaker
  • DL-1 – dummy load
  • Matching SWR Meter
  • SM-1 – microphone
  • SM-2 – microphone
  • Voice processor
  • Digital frequency Display
  • necessary interconnect cables, manuals, some spare tubes, and so on

At no one time has the entire station been in operation.

I reached out via the reflector to fellow members of the Collins Collectors Association asking for help checking over the gear, and more importantly helping me with some issues with the other S-Line station (the one that I will come back to in a later post).

Chuck W9KR reached out to me, as we are just over an hour apart, offing to help me out.

So the station made it way to Chuck’s QTH for review, tune-up and any catch-up work/mods.

We opened up the 30L1 amp to test the tubes, as replacing these tubes has become rather pricy. W9KR has awesomely kept tube testers that outshine a typical museum piece which were put to duty testing the four tubes.

All of the power tubes tested great, and digging a bit further we discovered this particular 30L1 had already had a power supply upgrade board and kit installed.

We spent some time with my describing how I wanted to end up with a robust station that I and others who didn’t have much of a chance to operate tube radios could work with learning these skills.

The station was left with Chuck W9KR to be systematically gone through. Planes are to bring in the KWM-2A station from Washington Island so Chuck can help me sort that station out as well.



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Disposition of Radios (1) – TenTec Paragon II Setup

Paragon II in route to a new home

This TenTec Paragon II is an interesting story. It was given to me as a “parts or repair” radio by George W9EVT ten years ago, with a request “that if it was repairable, could I get into a the hands of a ham who would use it, but didn’t have a HF radio?”

The radio went off to TenTec’s service and in all honesty more parts and labor were put into repairing and aligning the transceiver than perhaps it was worth.

I’m not going to name the two hams that have used this radio over the last decade, as one had it briefly until they saved enough to buy the rig they wanted, and another had it for quite a few years. These were hams whose personal economics didn’t have room for anything expensive, and both took great care of the radio.

The second ham recently returned the radio asking that I get it to another ham, as he had scrounged up a smaller transceiver, which given his small government housing would free up space.

I went down my shortlist of possible new operators, eliminating some based on the observation that being radio-poor was a choice when their economics allowed for new cars and vacations. Another group when I started checking working my shortlist had gotten HF radios, which further whittled down the list.

Of the remaining list one ham who is living on a very small military pension quickly became first choice and this weekend the TenTec Paragon II setup was handed off to another worthy ham.

In another post down the road I will lay out my ideas behind having loaner/starter radios to help people out. I also learned a pretty good trick how to make sure a radio basically loaned out never comes back, if that is a goal. I’ll touch on that later as well.

Net effect for me is an expense absorbed long ago continues to provide a series of hams operating opportunities, bringing ham-joy into their lives. What could be better than that?



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Nine but not Ten Band Radio Days

As often mentioned in my posts, I have long figured out a way to run an instance of FT8 remotely which gets exercised from my office desk.

Propagation has changed this week, perhaps as a result of the CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) that excited the Earth’s electromagnetic “spheres” recently.

Been able to make FT8 contacts 160m through 10m daily, but so far nothing heard on 6m. For me this week 6m remains dead.

160m is an early in the morning opportunity, as is 80m which for me fades by about 8 am. As the day progresses 40 & 30m take over, and by lunchtime 20m is good.

Then it is possible to run 17, 15 and 12m fairly easily with 10m being the more difficult band.

At this point I am using the ZeroFive Flagpole as a vertical for FT8.

Nice to have better conditions and lots of contact opportunities.



Still on Pause

A couple special projects and some rather stilted writings needing to be fixed, are the main hold ups.