And now dear readers, another episode of that fascinating radio serial…
December 21, 2008 – Snow Static With Video At W1UJR
Snow static is often dismissed, but is in fact a very real phenomenon. My elmer, W2UJR, used to report it,
and I now often hear it during most snow storms here on the Maine coast.
Heard in the receiver’s speaker, it sounds much like popcorn popping, a rapid series of snaps, the frequency of which varies
with the intensity of the snow. Here on the coast, it does seem more prevalent, or at least noticeable,
on the higher bands, 160 and 75 meters. I find the noise blanker largely takes care of the problem, which makes sense,
for the audio characteristic is much like a spark plug firing.
Far from being inconsequential, it can be severe enough to damage equipment, in fact has been blamed for some
aircraft losses…back in 1937. A most interesting article on the adverse effect of snow static can be found in the
“Time” magazine archive, see –>http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,770673,00.html
As I write this, we are, right now, in the middle of a yet another very strong Nor’Easter, with snow falling at a
prodigious rate. I heard the snapping inside my Matchbox this evening, so I broke out the video camera.
I took a few moments to make short video of snow static at my location.
Couldn’t resist getting some live feed of the arcing going on on the feed line.
Nor could I resist touching it, ouch! like a spark plug wire.
Inarguably this is not going to be good going into any solid state device, unless there is a path to ground.
Needless to say, you’ll be suitably impressed with the arc and the corresponding discharge and glow in the neon bulbs.
You may well ask, why the neon bulbs. I use the neon bulbs as rough indicators of both power and balance in the antenna
feed lines, an old, but very effective technique.
Because of the size of video files, and for reason of an accelerated download, I’ve posted the video online at the webiste of YouTube,
you can find it at –>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7HSTPl6e-I.
November 30, 2008 – The Eagle Has Landed – The Gross Radio Eagle That Is
Christmas came here in the W1UJR hamshack this year, with a new and most buzzardly addition to the line up.
A 1933 Gross Radio Company Eagle regenerative RX, complete with all four coils and documentation.
Think of a National SW-3, with a single coil rather the SW-3’s two. Band coverage is 200 meters down to 15 meters.
A pair of type 32 tubes, and a single 33 in the AF output. Time has been good to the old gal, she is in very good condition.
Plan to fire her up after the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Anyone have any additional information about this unit, or Gross Radio Company in general?
I’ve been researching the history of Gross Radio from NYC, but there is very little out there, what I have been able to hunt up is below.
November 1, 2008 – Momentarily Off The Air – Work In Progress
Updates coming soon, its been a busy month at W1UJR, with construction going on in the
radio barn ,a revised home office, better organization of the service area, and soon an authentic
space for the 1920/30s station! All should be finished once and for all by the end of November, just
in time for the cold weather! I’ll be able to post more updates and projects when I have my service bench back.
Until then, here is something for your amusement!
September 20, 2008 – Alton, NH Hamfest – East Meets West
Larry NE1S and I journeyed to the Alton, NH hamfest in his wonderfully restored 1960s vintage Ford Falcon.
A most delightful trip with spectacular scenery, made even the better by meeting fellow vintage radio buff
Bob Grinder K7AK who was staying in Maine for the summer. Bob is the author of a number of wonderful articles
in Electric Radio magazine.
You’ll note Larry’s 1960 vintage Ford Falcon in the background, with the Webster Bandspanner antenna
mounted on the rear, complete with dynamotor and vintage HF mobile station.
L-R: Bob K7AK and Larry NE1S
L-R: Bob K7AK and Larry NE1S with Ford “Falcoon” in back
August 23, 2008 – AWA Conference – It’s A Blue Ribbon Day!
I entered the recently restored W1FPZ rig in the Antique Wireless Association Conference
under the categories of “Amateur Transmitter” and “Restoration”, and the good folks
judging the event were gracious enough to award the rig two blue ribbons, aka 1st place!
This is more of a comment on John’s design and skill than on my humble restoration efforts,
but it was sure nice to know that all of those late nights and weekends were appreciated.
The complete story on the restoration project can be found here –>> www.w1ujr.net/1fpz_restore.htm.
A photo documentary is –>> www.w1ujr.net/1fpz_photo_essay.htm.
August 21-23, 2008 – Antique Wireless Association Conference
Can spending 20 hours in the car be worth it? It is when the winter restoration of 2007/2008,
otherwise known as “The 1FPZ Project” goes on display at the AWA Rochester Conference.
Had a great time, got to visit with old friends, meet some new ones, and check out the great
AWA museum. Not to mention the wonderful drive through the Finger Lakes area on the way back.
As a bonus, a nice RME 69 and National SW-3 somehow found their way into the Volvo for the ride back to Maine.
I’ve included some AWA photos, more over at my AWA 2008 page, for the complete photos see www.w1ujr.net/awa_2008.htm.
August 10, 2008 – Gross Radio Company Data Site Up!
After much effort and scanning, I have finally complied the Gross data from the files of W1FPZ.
This info includes promotional sheets, schematics, photos of various Gross receivers and transmitters,
as well as some of John’s personal notes. Thanks go to Tim W1GIG for his efforts to sort out and get the
material to me. I’ll continue to update the site as time and additional materials permit.
You can find the introduction page to the Gross data site at www.w1ujr.net/gross_radio_company.htm
June 14, 2008 – Gross Speech Amp Work, New Home for Amp
Finished up the Gross CB-25 speech amp, permanently replaced the failed paper coupling cap
with a Sprague “orange drop”. Used the heat gun to soften the wax on the paper cap case, then
pulled the defective cap out of the paper housing and slide in the replacement. Another touch of the
heat gun and all was well, the unit looks like new.
The 6C21 amplifier built by John W1FPZ found a new home today, NE1S stopped by to claim it.
5:26AM now, its time to head to bed.
June 11, 2008 – Gross Radio Page Started
Thanks to the efforts of some good folks, I’ve been able to dig up some info on the Gross Radio
company. I’ve started a simple on line archive of what I have discovered, and been sent, so
all may read and download the data. In addition, I’ve created, with the help of a friend,
reproduction coil set stickers for the Gross transmitters. These stickers are identical to the
original, even “aged” to look 70+ year old. You may download the stickers from the Gross
archive area, see www.w1ujr.net/gross_radio.htm.
June 4, 2008 – Gross Transmitter Info Needed!
Gross Transmitter – Model ?
A very special transmitter arrived at my shack this week, and I could really use some help locating information on it.
The transmitter was originally owned by Bill Orr W6SAI, and given to my friend John Rollins W1FPZ SK to restore.
The deal, as I understand it, was John could keep it if he would restore it for Bill. Parker W1YG, drove all the way to
California and back to pick up the unit for John.
With John’s passing the unit came from his estate to my care. Overall, the transmitter is in remarkable condition
thanks to John’s restoration efforts, but I’d like to find out a little more about it. Unfortunately W6SAI is now a silent key,
and a internet search found nothing of interest.
A description may help, the unit is rack style construction, with the power supply on the bottom, and the RF section on top.
RF output is balanced via two ceramic insulators on the top panel. Two meters are on the center panel, with leads that plug
into various stages for turning purposes. NE1S discovered that the “extra” tubes on the power supply are actually a modulator
for the rig. I’m not even sure of the model, as their is no nomenclature tag on the unit, but the unit does use a pair of 46s in the final
section, and has as older type of xtal socket on the RF deck. The modulator tubes are another pair of 45s.
Overall, the transmitter looks like the W1FPZ rig which I restored over 2007/2008. In the 1937 ARRL Handbook I found an advertisement
from Gross for a similar unit, labeled a CP-60. However this unit had not modulator and was therefore CW only, utilizing but
a single output tube.
I’d be interested in any and all info on the Gross company from NYC, especially in terms of their line of transmitters.
Happy to pay any copying costs as needed. Thanks for your help!
May 30, 2008 – Interesting Homebrew Regen Set Enters The Station
Another “project”, this very nice looking homebrew regen has entered the station. I’ve not yet had time
to test, but hope to do so this weekend. It would appear to have been built for reception of the AM broadcast
band, but I may convert to amateur band use. A pair of ’01As are used in the set.
April 26, 2008 – 1KSC TX Exciter and Modulator Work
With the power supply well in hand, it was time to check out the Millen
exciter. I noted that the meter on the unit would stick about 1/4 of the
way up the scale. Closer inspection reveled two problems, first the meter
needle was bent toward the scale, and second, the meter scale itself
appeared to be damaged or “bent” upward.
I removed the exciter, and then the meter. Carefully disassembling on the
bench showed that the meter indeed had a Millen scale face, but that was
just glued on top of the actual meter face. Seems that the meter, given its
markings on the rear, may have been a war surplus item that Millen adapted
to its own use. So I pulled the meter apart, and glued the scale back onto
While I was waiting for the meter glue to dry, I turned my attention to the
modulator deck, also in need of some attention.
Millen Exciter Meter Repair
April 25, 2008 – 1KSC TX Power Supply Final Work
With a new line cord, new filter capacitor installed, and some elbow
grease, the power supply of the W1KSC transmitter is looking good
and ready for installation back in the transmitter. Testing to commence
this afternoon or evening.
April 24, 2008 – W1KSC Power Supply Work
So when is a capacitor not a capacitor? When its a resistor!
Check out the reading on the Simpson meter, the leads right across the cap.
Notice anything, like 0 ohms of resistance, a dead short? Yep, this cap is shot,
shorting the full plate voltage to ground, yikes! Ok, problem one solved, on to adding
a safe power cord, replacing the cap, and getting this rig on the air!
April 23, 2008 – W1KSC Transmitter Project Kicks Off!
Thanks to my good friend Carl WA1KPD, yet another homebrew transmitter has ended up
in my ham shack, this one built by W1KSC back in the 1940s. This rig is rather unique as it
uses an entirely wooden rack, with metal chassis, and masonite front panels. Most racks
of the day were typically metal, so the nicely stained and finished wooden rack is a treat.
I’ll still got to do my homework, but I couldn’t resist plugging in the mains and seeing if at
least the filaments would light up! And light up they did, after throwing some half a dozen
toggle switches. The skill level was quite high for this builder, and the rig is both Fone and CW
using a pair of 812s in the output stage. The exciter is a Millen unit, not sure if that was
originally used during the build, or it was later added to the unit.
This will be a good winter, or rainy day project. In the meantime, if you have any recollections
of knowledge of W1KSC or this transmitter, I’d be delighted to hear from you.
April 16, 2008 – 1FPZ Powered Up And Live To Air
Finally back together and working quite well, the 1FPZ transmitter returns to the air at 9:17PM.
Click here for the mp3 audio file and greeting from amateur radio station W1UJR.
Thanks to Larry NE1S for his help, Wayne W6IRD for his metal fabrication and powder coating, and of
course John W1FPZ SK for his gift last July. This project may be winding down, but I’ve still got
plenty more on the shelf, so stay tuned!
The link to the complete story at 1FPZ Transmitter page can be found here –>> www.w1ujr.net/1fpz_restore.htm
April 11, 2008 – Finished Rebuild of 1FPZ Transmitter Meter Panel, RF and PS Decks
Dating back to October 2007, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel in the W1FPZ
transmitter project. Due to the rainy WX, and armed with a nice assortment of stainless steel
hardware from McMaster Carr, I spent most of this weekend working on the bench. I managed
to surprise myself how much I could get done with a couple of late night 3:30AM sessions. The
former plywood meter panel has now been replaced with a nice sheet metal panel bent up by
Wayne Spring W6IRD. In fact credit goes to Wayne for his powder coating work, its just outstanding!
Between the coffee, Papa John’s pizza and WWCR broadcasts, I still managed to focus,
and get the entire power supply and RF deck rebuilt, with only 1 error. I found that I had
misrouted one of the power supply wires, a primary for one of the filament transformers,
but I quickly discovered the problem, and in no time at all I had the pretty blue glow of 500+
volts on the 866 Jr. rectifier tubes. All that remains is to reassemble the cabinet rack, and
carry out final testing later this week. If all goes well, I hope to have her on the air for the
Antique Wireless Association’s Linc Cundell Old Time DX Contest this month.
More on the W1FPZ Transmitter Restoration at www.w1ujr.net/gross_tx_restoration.htm.
RF Deck Photos
Meter Panel Photos
|Before – Wooden Panel
|After – Sheet Metal Panel
Power Supply Deck Photos
April 8, 2008 – Rebuild of the Utah Jr. Power Supply Deck
Finished off the power supply deck last night about 9:30PM, checked the voltages and it worked!
I tried to reuse the original components where possible, accounting for some of the less than perfect lead dress.
The large paper covered electrolytic capacitor, on the front of the power supply deck needed to be replaced,
you’ll note the black scorched spot on the paper case where it the original cap failed. I believe that this may have
been what took out the power transformer as well. I wanted to retain the original housing, rather than hiding a
modern day cap under the chassis. So a trip through the microwave melted off the beeswax, and I was able to
install a modern cap right inside the old paper housing. I then melted the remaining beeswax to seal and encapsulate
the housing. Looks pretty good, perhaps not as spiffy as if I had hidden the cap under the chassis, but I was aiming
for the authentic look.
April 4, 2008 – Rebuild of the Utah Jr. RF Deck
Began rebuild of the RF deck for the Utah project, spent about two hours adding the air variables
and basic components. Ran some short lengths of interconnect wiring, and called it a night.
March 25, 2008 – W1FPZ Transmitter Power Supply Deck Teardown
3 hours of tagging and bagging, and its done. The power supply deck is stripped and ready
to be powder coated. Now, if I can only remember where everything goes the parts come back.
This was really the right thing to do, more time involved, but the results are well worth the
effort. I’ll clean and paint the xformers and chokes while the panels are out for refinishing.
March 24, 2008 – W1FPZ Transmitter RF Deck Teardown
Yes, teardown. I liked the powder coast finish so well on the other panels, I decided to
teardown the complete RF deck, and send the chassis top out for powder coating.
Sure, its a chore, but the transmitter deserves it, and if I know if I don’t do it now,
I’ll never do so. So a quick call was placed to Wayne this evening, giving the heads up
that more sheet metal was coming his way!
March 23, 2008 – W1FPZ Transmitter RF Deck Assembly
Began work on the RF deck assembly today. Started by cleaning out the powder coat finish from countersunk screw
holes. First I used a small round file to clean any powder from the hole, then using a series of drill bits, starting with
a smaller size and working up, I was able to clean any powder from the countersunk screw holes. Like on the ECO
deck, I also replaced any visible and removed fasteners with stainless hardware.
After Power Coating, Service And Cleaning
March 22, 2008 – W1FPZ Transmitter ECO Assembly
Today was the day to work on the W1FPZ project, with the sheet metal fresh from the powder coater.
Wayne did a wonderful job with the sheet metal, exceeding my expectations, it simply looks great,
as close to a period vintage black crackle finish as I’ve seen. I’ve got a fair amount of work to do
with this rig, so I started today with just the electron coupled oscillator (ECO). I thought it would take me
at the most 3 hours, but with the detailed cleaning, trips to the hardware store, electrical work,
and testing, I spent very close to 9 hours on it!
It has been some time since I took the rig apart last fall, but thankfully the digital camera images saved
the day during the reassembly process. All of the front panel hardware was replaced with stainless steel
fasteners, and the old two wire line cord replaced with a 3 wire grounded unit for safety. The large 100 mfd
450 VDC filter cap was replaced as a safeguard. Subsequent on air testing reveled that the unit is as stable
as a rock, with a nice note when keyed, even at higher speeds. On reassembly I again marveled at the work
and detail that John had put into this rig, everything was very well built, like commercial quality. I believe the
only thing which I miss is a pilot light, and think to include this as some future date.
After Power Coating, Service And Cleaning
February 17, 2008 – Westford Radio Meet and Visiting “The Major”
On Sunday I attended the 2008 Westford, MA Radio Meet with Larry NE1S and Tim WA1HLR. It was a beautiful day for a drive
down from Maine, and the trip took about two hours. The Westford meet is always a welcome relief from the long Maine winter,
and a chance to see friends, pick up projects or find complete sets. I was a tad bit disappointed in this year’s Westford, like most
meets as of late, the numbers seemed down, but I enjoyed chatting with some of the regulars. Missed Ed White W1NPL, but saw
most of the other crowd, Ray W1RY, Dave Crocker, and Ray Chase. John Terry, the editor of Antique Radio Classified, the
publication who organizes the meet, was on hand, also saw several other hams, notably Mike W1RC and W1CL.
I was hoping for a nice 1920s set, a Grebe CR-18 specifically, but nothing caught my eye, so I loaded up on books.
Found some nice vintage theory books, ARRL Handbooks, Radio Boy books, and a number of 1920/30s Radio News magazines.
Also found a nice very early Boy Scout’s Radio Merit Badge book, and the 1928 and 1934 ARRL Handbook in hardcover.
I have not seen the old handbooks in hardcover before, they are nicely done with gold colored embossed lettering.
The info inside is the same, and as the price was about the same as the paperback covers, in the bag they went.
Also came across a very nice National FB-7 receiver instruction sheet, the early gear did not have “owner’s manuals” per say,
and a early National catalog from the 1930s. Just as we were getting ready to leave, I came across what I think is the correct
replacement transformer for my Utah Jr. transmitter project, still in the Utah box!
Ran in my friend and the gentleman who writes the “Vintage Radio” column in QST, John K2TQN, he’s quite a guy, and really does
a super job getting the vintage radio interest play in QST. John and I share similar interests in the early days of the amateur service,
mostly pre-war gear. He had found some goodies at the meet, but as I believe they may be mentioned in a future article,
I won’t spoil the surprise here, suffice to say that I was quite impressed! I believe that Larry NE1S came back empty handed as he
was mostly on a parts hunt, and parts were few for the picking at this meet. Tim found a old GE console radio, looks like a early RCA set,
understand that GE used to build for RCA, so Bessie hauled that back up to Maine.
After the meet NE1S, WA1HLR and I headed up to Merrimac, MA to visit the grave site of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong,
a most solemn and sincere moment. The Major passed away 54 years ago, the time variously given as January 31 or February 1, 1954.
It seems to common to see January 31 in written literature, but the marker stone notes the date to be February 1.
His wife, Marion, passed on in 1979 and is buried next to Armstrong. The cemetery is situated in a very peaceful setting, on the top of a small hill,
and the large stone is appropriately marked “He Leadth The Way”.
We had lunch at a nice Mexican place in Amesbury which was then followed by a trip over to Andover, MA and a most enjoyable visit to the home of W1ZB.
Gerry has a very nice and well organized collection of vintage gear, Collins, Hallicrafters and homebrew, and he played the consummate host,
think we spent well over 2 1/2 hours there.
Arrived back in Maine about 5PM or so, after a full day of radio and fellowship, and loaded with plenty of reading material to carry me out
through the rest of winter, and no excuse now for not finishing up the Utah Jr. transmitter project! More, including the Utah Jr. project.
A Visit To Major Howard Armstrong’s Grave – Last Fall
Tim WA1HLR and Larry NE1S – Major Howard Armstrong’s Grave
January 31, 2008 – Celestial Navigation Study or Where Have I Been Hiding?
Little radio time for the last three weeks as I’ve diligently worked to tech myself Celestial Navigation.
Yes, I know in the days of GPS and SatNav it seems somewhat questionable someone would bother to learn a
500 year old method of navigation, but that’s the point! Its cool because it’s old, and does not require either
a satellite or computer! A skilled celestial navigator can figure out his location to within a few miles, just by
the Sun and the stars! My first effort appears below, close, but not quite, I was about 120 miles off!
January 5, 2008 – The White Stuff On The Antenna
Ah, the joys of balanced feedline and wire antennas.
They work great, have low visual impact, and makes great snow sculptures!
And I wondered why my antenna needed retuning after the last storm.
January 1, 2008 – Utah Jr. Transmitter Restoration Begins
From the engineering diagram, it appears that Utah first offered this unit for sale in late 1937.
Aimed the new ham, it was a entry level unit, sold for $15.95, and offered CW only operation.
The design is quite simple, consisting of only one rectifier tube, and a single 6L6. Despite the simple
tube layout, Utah claims coverage from 160 to 10 meters with the appropriate crystal and coil.
Overall, I found my unit quite clean, but upon disassembly on my workbench to replace the
missing line cord, I discovered that the some had replaced the power transformer.
Further testing revealed that the electrolytic filter capacitor was shorted, most likely the
reason the original transformer needed replacement. The original filter cap was encapsulated
in wax, inside a cardboard carton, so a suitable replacement will need to be fabricated.
I believe that I can melt the wax out with a heat gun, and install a modern electrolytic capacitor,
while still retaining the vintage look. Clearly someone had been working on this unit before,
little wiring was connected in the power supply, it appeared that someone had started the project,
but not finished. I removed all components from the power supply deck, and will rebuild from scratch.
The RF deck was another story, complete, but very much in need of a good cleaning. In addition, the
kit builder was not terribly skilled, and most of the soldering needed rework. These kits were sold as an
entry level kit, often to newly minted hams, so one would expect that experience in kit building would be
lacking. I have no doubt that the unit worked at one time, but had clearly been sidelined with the power
supply failure. As pretty as much of this vintage gear is, I like it to be functional, and not just for shelf ornamentation.
So restoration needs to be carried out in a manner which is both authentic, and yet allows consistent
and reliable operation. Whenever possible I always use new old stock parts, and this kit will be rebuilt in my usual manner.
Following the same strategy of the power supply deck, I disordered and removed all components from the RF deck,
inventorying all in Ziploc bags to ease the future rebuild. The resistors, caps and chokes will be checked, but much
of the cloth covered vintage wiring is showing its age, and will be replaced.
With the deck components removed, but leaving the air variable caps in place, I then ran both the RF and
power supply decks through my dishwasher, placing them on the upper rack to avoid heat damage.
This treatment, really does wonders, and no damage occurs if the system is run on low heat.
I would however, suggest removal of any component which has a decal or label.