Category Archives: K9ZW Built

Nixie Tubes – a Blast from the Past

In the midst of the all my computer chaos I’ve also started another project – building a Nixie Tube Clock kit.

What are Nixie Tubes?  They are a Cold Cathode Display Tube harkening back to the Cold War.  For the most part most Western Countries dropped Nixie Tubes in the Early to Mid 1970s, but the former USSR kept them in production another 20 years.


Nixie Tube of the type I am using

Nixie Tube of the type I am using



The Clock Kit I’m doing was sold by a UK based Nixie Specialist and uses the IN-12 & IN-17 size tubes. 


Nixie Clock Frank in a plain case

Nixie Clock "Frank" in a plain case

I’ve something quite different in mind for my case.


Former USSR countries are  the primary source for bulk Nixie Tubes, and though these tubes have rated lifetimes measured in many decades bulk packs of spare IN-12 & IN-17 tubes were also sourced, along with a good supply of the FET transistors and driver micro chips for further experimentation.

Will do some build pictures for a follow up.



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Bruce Array Antennas & Warehouse Floors

The crank-up tower problem on Washington Island had taken down the Bruce Array I had built for W9EVT. 

In building the first one we’d learned a lot and in the field tuning more nuances of the Bruce Array were discovered.

Field tuning was much more sensitive than expected.

So plans are being made to build another Bruce Array for W9EVT on WI-001L.

The warehouse where we built last time is filled with winter storage at the moment, though with the experience of the first build proving out the roll-up build system we trialed I think we could do the build in a much smaller area.

The field-assembly system we designed also worked excellent.  The transformation from a spool of wire & antenna ropes to a ready to lift Bruce Array couldn’t have gone any better.

Reality is that until the snow clears on the Island and the ground firms enough for the Terex Lift the Bruce Array wouldn’t go up – so perhaps waiting for the storage to clear and building then would work out.

Thinking more than one will be built – the main new one for W9EVT and a spare for him to store (will leave the balun out of the spare for the time being).

It would not be very hard to make this a short run of Bruce Arrays. 

If any of you reading might be interested in a 40m Bruce Array for your QTH this spring, please drop me a note.  We could discuss if the design we’re building would work for you and put some costs together based on whether you’d be helping with the build & the final spec.



Brian N1BQ’s Arduino Page – More Arduino Learning Resources

Arduino Picture
Arduino Picture with Breadboard

Brian N1BQ’s Arduino Page brings together a mass of Arduino resources as well as a tutorial he is working on. Lessons up to lesson number 7 are already up with 11 more to follow.

It is worth bookmarking this one if you are an Arduino experimenter.

Thanks to Brian N1BQ for the excellent all-in-one Arduino Page!



EDIT – URLs updated 20 FEB 2010

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An Illuminating Idea for Gear – Glowire

Glowire on a Pencil

I presently looking into using Glowire to light areas of my shack during operation that need some light, but only as a reference.

Some of the in-vehicle uses look adaptable to outfitting for amateur radio gear.

Same firm offers ultra-bright LEDs and also Glowsheets using the same technology on a flat sheet.

Here is a small sampling of the information on the Glowire website:

What is GLOWIRE?
GLOWIRE is an electroluminescent wire – a copper wire coated with a phosphorus material and wrapped with two tiny transmitter wires. It is then sealed in a waterproof casing. GLOWIRE looks very similar to neon when powered.

What makes it glow?
GLOWIRE must be powered by a driver (inverter) in order to glow. A driver takes a DC input voltage and provides an AC output voltage of approximately 120 volts. Both 9 volt and 12 volt drivers are available with varying frequencies ranging from 400 to 4000hz. Brightness is determined by voltage and frequency. The lower the frequency, the dimmer it glows, the higher frequency the brighter it glows.

How do I know which driver to use?
You need to determine the length of GLOWIRE you want to run and the type of power source you are using. 9 volt drivers will generally run a maximum of 12-14 feet of GLOWIRE. Using longer sections of wire will decrease the brightness. You also need to use a minimum of at least 3 feet or the driver may overload and be damaged. Some of the 12 volt drivers can power 120 feet of wire or more.

How is GLOWIRE used?
The uses of GLOWIRE are limited only by your imagination. Some of the most common uses are for RC models, car interiors, costumes, safety equipment, motorcycles, decorations, art projects, backlighting or mood lighting, signs and model trains. The list goes on and on.

Does it come in different colors?
General purpose GLOWIRE comes in 10 colors: aqua, blue, green, lime, orange, pink, purple, red, white and yellow.
Heavy duty GLOWIRE comes in 8 colors: aqua, blue, green, lime, orange, red, white and yellow.
Ultra heavy duty GLOWIRE comes in 5 colors: aqua, blue, green, lime and yellow.
Aqua is considered to be the brightest color as it is the natural color of the wire.

What is the difference between general purpose, heavy duty, and ultra heavy duty GLOWIRE?
General purpose GLOWIRE has a diameter of 2.3mm. It is generally used for situations where the wire will not be under a great deal of stress. Heavy duty GLOWIRE has an extra layer of PVC protection and also UV protection giving it a diameter of 3.2mm. Ultra heavy duty GLOWIRE has an even thicker layer of pvc protection and has a flat side for easy installation. The ultra heav duty GLOWIRE comes with 1/8″ clear 3M double sided high bond tape for easy mounting.

Does it ever burn out?
Although GLOWIRE never burns out, it will become dimmer over time. The higher the frequency used to power the wire, the faster it will dim. At 4000hz it will last over 1600 hours. At 400hz it will remain bright for over 5700 hours.

Can it be cut?
GLOWIRE can easily be cut with wire cutters. The cut end needs to be properly terminated to prevent moisture damage and to prevent the wire from shorting out. GLOWIRE runs on a parallel circuit, therefore there does not have to be a return path. The end will need to be sealed with super glue, epoxy, silicone, heat shrink, etc to make certain that no moisture will get in the wire.

Can GLOWIRE be spliced with other wire?
Yes, you can add as much hook up wire as needed, but the total amount of GLOWIRE is limited by the type of driver you are using. For example, if you are using a 5541-2K driver, it can drive 18-45 feet of GLOWIRE. You can have 5 feet of hook up wire, 20 feet of GLOWIRE, 10 feet of hook up wire, 10 feet of GLOWIRE, 5 feet of hook up wire and up to 15 more feet of GLOWIRE.

More to follow as I experiment with Glowire. I have a R/C airplane started and plan to incorporate it in this plane as well as experiment in my shack.



Sample “Sudden Storm” Receiver Kit Built

A Completed 9v Sudden Storm Receiver

(The photo is from Rex W1REX’s websight as I built the 12v version).

Built Rex Harper W1REX’s “Sudden Storm” receiver kit in about an hour the other evening, as a sample-build for a possible club building project. 

From the website:

 The Sudden Storm kit is QRPme’s implementation of G3RJV Rev. George Dobbs’ Sudden Receiver as written up in October 2006 Practical Wireless magazine.

It makes the perfect companion receiver to the Two Tinned Tunas or Tuna Tin 2 kit.

An easy and straight forward kit to build with NO surface mount parts.

All the parts come sealed inside a factory fresh tuna can with an easy open pull top lid and custom label.

This kit is an excellent kit for ‘beginners’ or ‘experts’ alike and also makes a perfect gift. Can be assembled in one evening by a ‘beginner’.

A great conversation piece for every QRPer’s bench!”

The build was very straight forward, with a single undersized hole to deal with.  Product improvement does have a couple bottom size grounding jumpers added, which I nearly missed. 

Power options towards the end of the build are for either use of a 9v Battery or for drawing power from a 12v supply.

I’m not certain this is the kit for our club project, most due to the the need to appeal to pre-HF members, but it was a fun build and went together very well. 

Good fun & recommended!  Tell Rex W1REX I sent you!



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Would two BoArduino Kits built be BoArduini? More from the Arduino Family and Lady Ada

While Winston KC9FVR was building his K-502 Stereo Amp Kit I built up a couple BoArduino “Arduino-less-onboard-USB” kits from Adafruit.

Two BoArduinos and a Arduino with ProtoShield Daughter Board

The two mounted on top of the breadboard circuit boards are called BoArduinos and the front one is a Arduino with a ProtoShield prototyping daughter board on the top.

I had the Arduino & ProtoShield previously built, but whipped up the two BoArduino units.

Had myself worried as I had special glasses made for fine detail work and somehow I was mixing them with my regular glasses. Thought my vision was taking a turn for the worse, where I really was just wearing the wrong spectacles!

The three boards are being powered by a USB cable for the Arduino with Protoshield, a USB-to-TTL Conversion cable for the USB-less BoArduino on the left and a a nine-volt battery for the USB-less BoArduino on the right.

These boards are imbedded microprocessor controller prototyping modules. Once programmed they do not need the computer to run their programs anymore.

Check out my previous Arduino related posts (use the search on the right) to find out more on these neat kits!

Oh I should admit that unlike Winston KC9FVR I did need to unsolder one resistor… grrrr, I guess I am slipping!



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