More 10 GHz Garage DXing

Saturday morning, Peter VA3ELE made a trip out to the grid boundary at EN82/EN83/EN92–all of which would be new grids for me on 10 GHz. K2UA came over to my garage and we operated from under cover to stay out of the generally unpleasant weather–30’s and raining, eventually turning to snow. Rus brought over a kerosene bullet heater to keep our feet warm and also made some great videos of the mayhem.

357 km–best DX yet!

Peter then moved across the grid lines to EN83xa and EN92bw…

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Pre-war Crystal Holders Part 2: ICA 415 “Button” Crystal Holder

An Insuline Corp. of America (ICA) No. 415 Holder. I met W9QUF (he was W0QUF after the war) at a hamfest somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa years ago, though I acquired this recently. When names are attached to things I leave them as part of the history.

In the last article I made mention of using a small button as an electrode rather than a large metal plate. This was a pretty common technique for getting quartz crystals to oscillate at higher frequencies with flat (and easier to manufacture) electrodes. We’re going to look at the button version of the ICA 415 holder to illustrate how it works.

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Pre-war Crystal Holders Part 1: Bliley BC2 Holders

A BC2 in need of some love….

This is the first in a series of articles on pre-WWII quartz crystal restoration. This article walks through the restoration of an early 30’s crystal holder that is fairly common on the surplus market, pointing out some of the characteristics and challenges that are unique to 1930’s crystal technology.

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Playing around at 10 GHZ

The family moved to new location in rural New York, which happens to be on a hill with a clear view to the west. While the sunsets are nice in the three months that we have sun, it’s good for VHF and up all year ’round.

It had been more than a decade since the last time I had communicated with another human being on the 10 GHZ band, but look at that horizon:

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Repairing an Astatic D-104 microphone

I got this mic at a local hamfest with the intention of putting it on the Central Electronics 10B. The seller said the mic was good but that the amplifier in the base was “disabled.” This is perfect for my use, because I’d rather just use a straight Hi-Z element and use the preamp inside the 10B. Of course, we don’t know what we’re getting into until until we open it up and find out what “disabled” really entails….

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Repairing a Heathkit PS-4 Power Supply

The PS-4 is a variable high-voltage bench supply that was manufactured starting around 1960. It is regulated up to 400 VDC at 100 mA, and it also has a separate low-current negative output from 0-100V in case you like make a manual curve tracer or whatever, as well as a 6.3V AC output for lighting up filaments. It appears to be electrically identical to the Heathkit IP-32 supply, but I don’t have one to compare it to. I regularly use this one as a steady voltage supply for my early one-tube oscillators like this one since the regulated voltage tends to keep the frequency steady. However, it took a little work to get it there, and I figure I might as well write about it in case it help (or just entertains) anyone looking to do the same.

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1924: A Five Watt Sending Set for $25

The first question about a transmitting set that a fellow wants answered, —or maybe it is his dad who wants answered—is, “How much is this thing going to cost?” Well, that all depends. You can buy all of the fixin’s and do-gadjits and make a set that cost a couple of hundred dollars and still have only a 5-watt set, or you can buy only a few things, make the rest of the parts yourself, hook ’em up in a good old circuit, and talk to amateurs several hundred miles away for $25. The latter sounds the best.

Mason, H.F., “A Five Watt Sending Set for $25” QST, Vol 8 No. 2 (Sept 1924), p. 56.
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Crystals for the Central Electronics 10B

Now that the 10B is alive again after what was probably several decades I figured it was time to make some crystals for it the old fashioned way. Yes, I know what a VFO is, but that is not the point. I’m a sucker for the lost art of quartz crystals. There’s so much mystery and old wives tales around that that it has become some sort of dark art. In my limited experience its not magic, so long as you know your materials and keep in mind the laws of physics, and obey them.

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Central Electronics 10B Exciter Restoration

Just as I got it

This past spring I picked up a Central Electronics 10B exciter. This is a low power radio transmitter that was part of the on the first generation of single-sideband voice on Amateur Radio bands in the 1950’s. You can think of these transmitters as full-carrier double-sideband AM transmitters that use phasing circuits to cancel the carrier and the unwanted sideband. In fact, if you ever written software for an SDR (like one of Tony Parks’ softrock kits) its pretty much the same complex multiplication using a quadrature signal, just with analog parts rather than software. What’s old is new again!

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1920’s-Style Homebrew Mica and Glass-Plate Capacitors

One of those not-so-safe things. This transmitter is full of homemade components.

Building a radio with homemade condensers (that’s the old word for capacitor I’ll be using herein) is an art as old as radio itself, but one that had largely passed away by the mid 1920’s. Constructing a condenser for your spark transmitter was a right of passage in the days before radio licenses. The old spark sets often used tin foil and various materials for dielectric: glass, mica, oil or oil-soaked paper, etc. Air could be used, but it was both mechanically difficult and the relatively low dielectric constant and breakdown voltage was a challenge for the amateur who needed a large capacity at at least a few kilovolts for a small set. Oil dielectric was a messy but viable option, especially for its self-healing properties in case of an arc (and is still used in high-voltage capacitors today). Power loss due to corona discharge from the edges of a the metal plates in air were a problem with the RF voltages involved, and this was often mitigated by rounding corners of the plates and even immersing the whole sandwich of materials in a high-dielectric-constant binder such as shellac or paraffin. Using a solid binder also tended to improve the physical construction. Discarded window glass and 4×5″ photographic plates were popular materials; it helped to be friends with a glazier or photographer.

For typical example of homemade glass-condenser construction for a 1 kW amateur transmitter, see the July 1914 issue of Wireless Age, p. 847, available over at American Radio History. The only materials are shellac, glass, and tin, so quite a bit of of money would be saved compared to purchasing a commercial mica condenser, like the ones here:

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