Live To Air – National NC-101X

Live To Air – National NC-101X finally back together tonight newly installed coil rack, with the bronze bushings and fabricated band indicator. Slides like it’s on glass, super smooth and low effort.

Listening to the melodious tones of the old Gray Hair Net, using Amplitude Modulation, on 160 meters shortwave. Exact frequency is 1.945 MHz. Not bad for a 80 year old radio, I think the original owner W1KEK would be pleased to know that his treasured set, that he bought back in 1937, has returned to the air.

Very pleased with how this project turned out. The audio is very sweet, with some nice wide bandwidth for hifi AM audio. Just waiting for the electrolytic filter capacitors to finish the project.

Replacing Coil Housing Bushings – National NC-101X

Here’s the solution to the sliding coil deteriorated bushing problem on the National NC-101X shortwave receiver. Unlike that other National products with “plug in” coils, like the HRO, the early NC-100 series use a “catacomb” coil assembly that slides inside the chassis to switch bands. A very ingenious design, and it works very well..for 80 years or so, and then the plastic bushings deteriorate from age and use.

The chances of finding new old stock bushings is slim to none, and even if they were available, they’d be just as deteriorated as the ones inside my receiver.
The solution, order a 1/2” to 9/16” bronze bushing from McMaster Carr, machine it down so the outside diameter is .512 inch, press in place using Loctite to retain, ream the ID so the shaft slides through the bushings freely.

I’d like to thank Marc KA2QFX for his very gracious and kind skills in the machine shop, machining the new bushings to fit properly into the sliding coil form.
After two long months, I can finally see the end of the NC-101 project in sight.

Better, Stronger, Faster – Or Rebuilding the National Sliding Coil Housing

National NC-101X Project – Update

Fabricating a new band indicator became a necessity since spare parts for a 80 year old radio are just not something you can find at your local Radio Shack, if you can even find a Radio Shack.

So the old sheet metal, aluminum actually, band indicator, which provides a white dot in each of the band windows as the coil rack moves, was literally falling apart. Given the flimsy nature of the failed unit, I almost wondered if someone made this one.

So, one of the final steps on this project, now that the bushings are installed in the moving coil housing, was to fix or fabricate a new band indicator.

A trip to my local hardware store yielded me some nice 22ga sheet metal to start the project. Thin enough to work with on the bench with simple hand tools, yet rigid enough to last another 80 years. To get the correct form, I straightened the old one out, and used it as a template for the new replacement, scribing around it.

Carefully I trimmed it out, and then used a file for the final shape and deburring. Several coats of white Krylon did the trick.

Better than it was before, better, stronger and faster.

– Bruce

Tonight Radio Surgery – National NC-101X

Tonight, Radio surgery.
1937 National NC-101X shortwave receiver.
Replacing 80 year capacitors.
Four down, seventeen to go.
Making ready for another 80 years.

– Bruce



Estate Planning – Some Thoughts About Radios and Plows

The following is a reply to a friend via email, about the offer of a set from my hometown of Buffalo, NY.
It’s something that has been on my mind the last few years, he just provided the opportunity to share it.
– Bruce 


Some Thoughts About Radios and Plows

Hi Bob,

A long answer to a simple inquiry, please excuse, I thinking out loud here.

As tempting a radio set from my old hometown of Buffalo would be, I’m kinda of at radio saturation right now. Still picking up the selected home brew set or rig, National and Gross Radio items, and ocassional parts, but I’m starting the long process of culling the herd.

Since I was first licensed in 1994, so many times at a hamfest I’d see that perfect project, “rescue it”, and bring it home to the radio barn for that moment in the future when I was “retried and had time to work on it”. I realized two things, one I’m not likely to retire, life is too interesting, and I love learning, two years ago started a second career in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as an EMT. My diagnostic skills, honed over the years on car service and radio, serve well, its just a systems approach to assessment and diagnostics, and then developing a treatment plan, same thing I do every day at work. Unlike the radio or car world, I’ve only got two models to master as an EMT, and neither has changed much in a thousand years.

I’m pretty young at 53, and blessed with good health (and a wife who keeps me so), but having helped more than a few friends who have become silent keys deal with the estate, I know first hand what a burden some radio collections can be. All of one’s beloved radio gear, parts, tubes, lovingly curated over a lifetime, sadly so often becomes a burden, and ends up in the dumpster. My own Elmer’s gear, beautifully hand built transmitters, deserving of a place in a museum, suffered that fate.

I don’t want to focus on my own mortality, and I know well where I’m going after I pass on, but the fact of the matter is things happen. Working as an EMT in EMS I see that every day.

What makes me sad is so many of the young folks today, whom I imagined giving some of my radio gear on to, have zero interest in radio. It’s Facebook, the internet, instant message….I guess can’t fault them, it’s likely the same excitement that you and I had tuning in that shortwave broadcast station late at night, so many years ago.

I used to plan to donate all my gear, once friends had first dibs, to the Antique Wireless Association, but lately I’m having second thoughts about that. Not sure they want it, can use it, or if it will even be on display. My other plan to was to offer it some younger local hams, budding radio amateurs, but they seem as scare as hen’s teeth.

A few weeks back I read an article in the news about the children of some older folks rejecting the inheritance of their mother’s prized tea cup collection. The essence of it went like this, the mother had spent most of her adult life collecting special tea cups, antique tea cups, painted tea cups, imported tea cups, you name it. The mother, having amassed this collection at great effort and not inconsiderable cost, understandably thought her children would be as delighted with it as an inheritance gift. Turns out the new generation views collections of anything, tea cups, old books, and I guess even radios, as “burdens”. Who knew, guess that explains why younger folks are not as excited about my offer of vintage ham radios.

I’ll share with you an analogy that has haunted me for the past few years. I’m reminded of growing up on an old farmstead, complete with barn, farmhouse, and old farm equipment sitting outside. Growing up I vividly recall an old horse drawn plow sitting on hill near the barn. It was next to a stream, by the garden, and as children we played on that plow. As teenagers and adults we watched it dissolve, over the next two decades, into the fields it once plowed. The farmer that spent his hard earned money to buy that plow was undoubtedly quite proud of it, and I’m certain he treasured it, never thinking it would be left to weather the elements. Unfortunately time, and frankly utility of use passed it by, and it was left rust and decay by future generations. Of the millions of plows like that made, our current society only valued a few that were to be placed into museums.

I’ve got to wonder if the story of the old farmer’s plow is to be the fate of my radio collection, of the sets that I and others once prized, chased, and restored with loving care. Sets we operated, and obtained countless hours of joy and satisfaction with and from. Radios that somehow represented a time capsule of our society, a snapshot of a time gone by.

I’m currently restoring a National NC-101X, which had been purchased in 1937 lovingly cared for for 75 years by the original owner, but after his passing, the son and grandson had no interest. Nor did they have interest in the impressive collection of old radio and automotive books and parts he had collected over the years, they were placed outside on the lawn to be given or thrown away.

In the past I spent nearly a year each restoring a Gross Radio CP-25 transmitter, and another year restoring a home brew TZ40 rig. I can’t begin to count the hours I spent. The parts cost and the powder coating were minimal in comparison to the long, and late hours I spent in the barn documenting, researching, disassembling, and rebuilding those sets. They turned heads, no doubt, won a Matlack Award at the AWA Convention, but other than that, no one is interested in them, the average person on the street would think them “old radio junk”. And after I go onto my reward, I expect they’ll be…well I’m not sure.

I’m starting to think that reward, the real value in these Herculean efforts, and even in the rigs or sets themselves, is in the joy they brought me during the process, the lessons learned, and the friendships made. I’m reminded of a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” In less eloquent words, “The joy is in the journey.”. And I’m thinking out loud here Bob, that may be, just may be, the best joy of all…

What do you think?


National NC-101X Project – Status Update

Progress continues tonight on the National NC-101X project. First real desoldering and parts replacement work. Remove and replaced dry rotted old line cord and chassis feed through grommet. Installed new a three wire line cord, with grounding chassis, for electrical safety.

Tomorrow evening I start with replacement of the old wax paper capacitors, 21 total. Then onto the replacement electrolytic, reinstallation of the moving coil assembly, paint some Extend rust convertor on the bare chassis spots, and finish off with an alignment. 

Rotten Radio in 1917

This is the letter that started the entire “Rotten” series in QST, written by “The Old Man” himself, not other than Hiram Percy Maxim.

Rotten QRM

By “The Old Man”

“The Old Man” or “T.O.M.”

This QRM business is getting my Nanny. Here it is midnight, and this msg. from a fellow whose girl has not had a letter from him for a full twenty-four hours, is still stalled. I have smoked myself into a state of funk, the floor is covered with burnt matches, I am losing a perfectly good temper, and there is no sign that this will not continue all night long. How long do these radio bugs sit up at night any way? Right now, as I write, there is that old gink 2AGJ up in New York State fluttering along with that bird –in-the-cage spark of his, 8YO is yelling his darned head off for somebody over on the Pacific Coast, apparently, 8NH is still trying her best to be ladylike in spite of a full hour of trouble, old 8AEZ is booming out QSA but QRM bad CUL, 9PC is trying to do something to 5BV, I distinctly heard 4DI say a bad word, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, no one has got anywhere.

What are we going to do about this business? It used to be that we were perfectly satisfied to listen to SLI and once in a while on Saturday night when we could stay up late, we would listen to Arlington send time. When heard some commercial say QRM, we had to look it up on the chart to see what it meant. Later, we began talking to the fellow over on the other side of town and then was born amateur QRM. Sometimes, the “little boy with the spark coil,” (the latter is all right, but dog gone the hide of the former) would try to call us at the same time, and we used to think we were in trouble. Still later we used to think we were bothered when we were in the middle of a “conversation” with a fellow in the next town, and some whop would butt in. It about this era that we began to organize Radio Clubs, with high faluting ambitions about “promoting radio communications and controlling interference.”

But when we have a fellow who has not written to his girl for a full twenty-four hours, and who positively must get the msg. to her over in Illinois, it becomes a serious matter to have some one else getting gay with the ether, especially when the later had no conception of the existence of the word “brevity.” One thing I will say, and that is that good old 8AEZ is brief. His spark may drown out every-body in the western hemisphere when he sends, but he is brief. He says what he has to say in a few words in a few signals and he stops. He also does not go in for the long technical discussions about gap speed and condenser construction while forty or fifty others of us are waiting with five or six messages each, many of which have been stuck on the pin a week. Far be it from even me, a real blown-in-the-bottle radio grouch, to find any fault or mention any names, but some of the young gentleman who burn up my valuable time every night and thereby multiply this QRM business, ought to look up in the dictionary the definition of that particular combination of letter indicated by B-R-I-E-F. I could call off a dozen of them right now, and I would if I thought that Editor down east would print them.

The trouble is, the young squirts don’t stop to think. They start out and call somebody somewhere every three minutes. Everybody they hear, they immediately call. If they don’t hear anybody, they send a QST something like this: — QST QST QST QST QST QST QST de 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT. Any station more than fifty miles distant hearing these sigs. please send postal to Willie le Nut, Nutville. Willie repeats each of this msg. three times. Each letter is sent so slowly it puts you to sleep. He uses up just exactly twelve valuable minutes sending out this hogwash, and drives an old timer to the point where he radiates brush discharge from every hair on his head. These fellows ought to be limited to hours between supper time and 8:30, and any one of them slopping over ought to get a letter from every respectable amateur within his range threatening to spank him if he ever transgresses again. I know a certain some one who will put in his bid for election to the office of Chairman of the Committee on Chastisement.

Here is a sample coming in right now. Listen to this slop:– Columbus co 2pp 18co all sigs charles 9vy u no hf a motor little heavier than the racine sorry sorry om qrm qrm pse qta k fish smell rotten yes yes wyd boston how do you get me gap bum bum rubber band qta pwf about motors. (Bad squeaks here. Sick spark coil near at hand. Wheezes terribly.) Want to hear tone like commercial? ark r r r yes ark r r r listen nw.

Here begins ten minutes of the darndest scratching, screeching, groaning, blowing off steam, blubbering that ever mortal ear heard. At its worst it goes on into — — fine fine how do u do it? ark r r r rubber band on  vibrator—BANG. My friend with the one k.w. over on the other side of town explodes. He calls an 8 station. When finishes, the scratching reduces. Then we get the long distance QRM again. Cul om sk spfscity bunk allemo bish mela hash breakfast wunkey wunkey lala lala 2asj arm bad qsl 3zw must go to bed now hw hw hw abt abt abt msg msg msg pse pse pse k k k. This is the way my log book this evening looks. It’s enough to raise a blister on a wooden leg.

Here is another sample of qrm slush:–v v v v v v v v v v—————- (Somebody sitting on his key.) v v v v v v v v v linneg se with the wlce sore feet commercial wirlih. Now what in Heaven’s name would you make out this? Is it to the effect that somebody has a line a commercial who is on the warpath for some amateur with sore feet? One cannot be sure of these matters. It might be that it is the commercial who has the sore feet, chasing down some poor amateur around town probably.

Listen to this:– Yes yes jst wyd glucky wait a mt muddy wouff hong bliftsfy monkey motor. We assume from this msg that Glucky is being asked to wait a minute while Blifsky seeks a wouff hong with which to wallop a monkey the next time the latter faces toward the motor. I do not think I know just exactly what a wouff hong is. Probably some piece of apparatus used in the southern states to beat monkeys with.

It is this form of uninteresting “conversation” which clutters up the air with QRM. Of what moment is it to the rest of the world that this fellow Blifsky is going to smear somebody’s monkey with a wouff hong? When anybody relapses into such mental slop as to want to operate with a thing named a “wouff hong”, he ought to keep his trouble to himself and not compel all of us respectable amateurs to listen to his drool.  To slaves and slobber a lot of foolish twaddle like this when that poor girl out in Illinois has not had a letter since yesterday, is plain wicked.

Sorry om qrm qrm 9vy few words schlipsh nuzzle his mucket faded undershirt cfrish reptg pain in neck sus gup om cul ark. This is a real relay, evidently. 9VY over in Fort Wayne is mixed up in it in some way. Whose undershirt they are talking about and what schlipshing one over is, I do not know exactly, although I have a rough idea. Whether the signals faded or the undershirt faded, or what was the matter with the sus gup of the neck of the undershirt, I be darned if I know.

Just cast a lingering look at this:– Biirgrmp bru rotary ge ge ugerumf om with my set rettysnitch spitty tone hit in potimus? Now what do you suppose the poor gink was trying to say when unreeled that? You have to guess a lot in wireless, and how would you guess this? Something is wrong with this fellow’s biirgrmph, his rotary also has a bad case of ugerumf and somebody around the place must have spit on his rettysnitch, because his tone was so rotten it hit him on his potimus. Sound bad to me. Why will some people send such personal matter by wireless when the whole country can overhear it. It isn’t decent, and it makes the QRM more rotten than ever, and just think of the way it makes a perfectly good log book appear.

I spent the better part of an hour trying to make out what ailed the poor fellow’s biirgrmpg, but had to give it up while I listened to a child with a spark coil scratch out this at a rate of around three words a minute:– how do s……..e…….? how be …..? how do I cowp ……. cw ….v v v v v v ——————— come in ? ? ?ark After a long wait another trouble maker with a bad cold in his head stumbled back with:– r r r r r r r r r r r r ok ok please ? ? ? ark Another pause followed by the first little demon with:– r r r r r r r r r r qta qta qta pse rat . . . . . . . ve . . . . . . . .? pse ttt . . . . . . . . . . .qta pse repeat ark. These brats kept this up for twenty minutes and they ended up just where they began.

What we ought to do is organize an Anti QRM Association. Then let us elect for Chairman the worst plug-ugly we can find in these U.S.A. Then let us chip in for a little money and hire a clerk with a bad disposition who will write letters threatening the life of everybody whom the members report as causing needless QRM. If anybody gets balky, we will all join together and swear the gink is sending with a decrement greater than two-tenths, and so report to the local Radio Inspector. If the latter does not within twenty-four hours have the boy arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, we will all band together and find another job for said Radio Inspector. Let us rise, fellow bugs. Rise and crush this octopus which is engulfing and overwhelming us. Eight hours a day and triple time for overtime is death and starvation to our families. Hash for breakfast, rotten smelling fish, and QRM — — — We will have naught of it. Down with the fellow with the scratchy spark coil, down with the fellow who calls three times three, down with the fellow who calls everybody he hears and down down down with that unspeakable skunk who calls somebody and sends a long relay message repeating each word three times when the station to which he is sending is sending something himself.

There by heck, I have that off my chest. Now you there in Illinois, get this call. Let everybody else stand back from now on. I’m tired and sleepy and cross, and I don’t care who I QRM until I get that pin cleared off.

-The Old Man