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.

Why Not A Wire Loop Antenna?

This was written back in the last 1990s when I lived near Buffalo, NY, in a suburb that had zero lot lines, and little space for antennas. A vacant field in back of my home became the antenna field for my station.
– Bruce W1UJR

As some of you may know, I am an advocate for wire antennas, and have been experimenting with horizontal loop antennas for HF work. I am currently running a 160-meter full wave loop that is suspended about 30-40 feet off the ground. Although the feedline for my loop is currently coax, in future installations I am considering the use of balanced, or open wire feedline for reasons of low loss, which may be the topic of a future article.

One caveat that I should mention before I start. The majority of my operating, and hence my observations, is on the lower bands, typically 160 through 40 meters. At these frequencies, the use of a yagi antenna is often impractical due to size constraints. If you do operate on 20 meters and up, you may find a yagi a better choice than the loop for its gain and directivity. That being said, what holds true for a loop at 160 meters, also holds true at 10 meters, so even those who operate on the “high bands” should find something of interest here.

Wire Loop Antena

The loop antenna has a long and distinguished history, but is often overlooked in light of the current focus on dipoles. However, loops do have some rather significant advantages over a dipole. Since the design of a loop is typically a circle or square form, the need for a long straight run of wire used by a dipole is diminished. A loop is quite forgiving, and perfect symmetry is not essential. It is necessary only to hang it in the configuration providing the greatest enclosed area. As such a loop can be strung up in unusual places and still perform well. Treetop suspension is ideal, but you’ll be surprised how well it works just lying on the roof where nobody sees it. Unlike a dipole that must be center fed, the loop can be feed at any point, allowing a most flexible feedline arrangement.

A loop is an efficient broadband radiator, even when low to the ground. The majority of the amateur bands are harmonically related, typically the 1st harmonic. This is where the loop really shines, as a loop is easily tuned to resonance on all even harmonics of its fundamental frequency. A dipole by contrast is easily tuned to resonance only on its odd harmonics. A loop starts out with 1.2 dB of gain over a dipole on its fundamental frequency, and gains are even higher if the antenna is less than a quarter wave off the ground because that is where the dipole efficiency plummets. For example, in my location my loop is quite close to the ground, only about 30-40 feet up at the highest point. Nevertheless, the antenna both tunes, and transmits just fine.

A loop’s gain over a resonant dipole increases with the increasing frequency of operation, so when used on its harmonics, a loop’s signal advantage over a dipole likewise increases. For a horizontal loop, that’s not the end of the good news, because as frequency rises, radiation angle drops lower and lower, producing increasing DX results that can rival a complex multi-element beam mounted on a 100-ft tower.

The venerable loop is easy for your tuner to match, even when fed with coax. The feedpoint impedance of a loop never gets as high or low as with an antenna that has free ends. Even a 40-meter loop can offer full 80- 10-meter coverage. My 160-meter loop allows me to both receive and transmit from the 160-meter band to 10 meters. Signal reception is also quite good with a loop for a number of reasons. As it is a terminated antenna, it is much less susceptible to atmospheric and man-made noise. As the majority of man-made noise is vertically polarized, the horizontal polarized loop can reduce electrostatic noise as much as 26db when compared to dipoles or verticals, so it is great for noisy RF areas.

The theoretical feedpoint impedance for a full wave loop antenna is approximately 100 ohms, but this does change, and is dependent upon antenna height above ground, near-by structures, and ground conductivity. When used with a 2:1 balun this presents a good match to the typical 50-ohm coax. Due to the low height above ground of my loop, I used a 4:1 balun which seems to offer a wider tuning range (lower Q). With the use of a transmatch (antenna tuner) I am now able to use my loop from 160 to 10 meters.

Loops can be either a 1/2 or full wavelength long. The formula for a full wave loop antenna is as follows: Length (feet) = 1005/fMHz. For example, a loop for the frequency of 3.800 MHz would be calculated as follows: 1005/3.8 = 264 feet. You can now divide 264 by 4 to obtain the length of each of the four legs of the loop. 264/4 = 66 feet each leg.

So next time you need a new antenna installation, consider the time-honored loop. Simple and inexpensive to homebrew, you can put the money you saved toward something really important…like a trip to this years Dayton Hamvention!

-Bruce KG2IC

Visiting Fred – VE3 H-Henry C-Charlie

Meeting Fred Hammond VE3HC

VE3HC – Fred Hammond

About that transformer story…it’s true! It was done for me, although I would not be surprised if Fred has not done that for someone else. When I first acquired my RCA BTA-500MX a few years back, one of the low voltage transformers was burned to a crisp. I visited Fred at his museum, and took the damaged transformer along with me to compare to the unit in his RCA BTA-1M. Upon seeing the transformer, and hearing of my plight, Fred not only took the transformer to be rebuild for me, but had it shipped to the front door of my house a few weeks later! All for free, without asking or expecting anything in return. During the same visit Fred also loaded me up with spare 833 tubes for the unit. Upon hearing that someone had replaced the mercury vapor rectifier tubes with solid-state units, Fred promptly handed me several “hollow state” replacements for the “proper glow”. 

I always enjoyed visiting Fred and his museum with Bill K2LNU and the other Buffalo gang. We were indeed fortunate to live close enough to make this short trip several times. Typically we would meet at the Swiss Chalet in Guelph, where Fred always wanted to pick up the tab, before heading off to his museum for hours of fascinating discussion on Real Radio.

VE3HC – Radio Museum

One of the things that I enjoyed most about Fred, aside from his spectacular memory, outstanding generosity, was his idea of how a radio museum should be run. Fred’s museum was not a “hands off” affair by any means. A most of the amateur equipment was connected and functional. Ever wanted to operate a Collins KW-1? I did, for the first time at Fred’s museum. How about sending your callsign with a spark gap transmitter, also at the Hammond museum.


How about broadcast transmitters? Fred had two commercial transmitters that had once graced AM broadcast stations. Both Bill K2LNU and I acquired broadcast transmitters after viewing and using Fred’s. Converted to work on the amateur bands, typically 160 meters, these unit offered superb audio, bulletproof construction, and were typically available at a low cost, or even free! Free you ask, nothing is free. Many of the commercial stations were in the process of converting from tube to solid-state equipment, for reasons of lower energy cost and reliability, and the station engineers who had cared for the tube transmitters for decades, we more than happy to give them a new home with a willing amateur. The alternative, to scrap out the units, was unthinkable. Not lightweights by any stretch of the imagination, Bill and I both hauled home 1500 lbs units. 

Fred loved people as much as he loved radio, and it was that sincerity that made my visits so enjoyable. The new museum location, although wonderful in layout and execution, is sadly missing once crucial element that I enjoyed so much in my previous visits, and that element is irreplaceable, Fred himself.

-Bruce KG2IC

AM Dictionary and Glossary

AM Glossary

The AM hobby is rich with specialized terms and phrases that mark the unique character of this special mode of modulation. 

Feel free to send me your favorites!

AM Amplitude Modulation, a method of modulation that utilizes two sidebands and a carrier. Know for it’s full, rich audio quality, and personal interaction. AM offers a fraternity unique among the various divisions of amateur radio hobby
AMer One who uses the AM mode. Often technically inclined, using home-brew, or modified transmitter. Uses words like “Yellowly, PW and Strap”.
AM Window A fictitious invention of the ARRL. 
AM operation is legal anywhere in the Phone area of the band. 
B.A. Abbreviation for ball assembly. “That guy’s voice was so low, it sounded like he had a third BA.”
Crapped Out Failed in service, Gave up the ghost. Usage: My modulator tube just crapped out. Lesser version of zorch. 
Crapstal  Small piece of X or Y cut quartz that oscillates at a given frequency when current applied. Used to generate stable frequency of Amplitude Modulation transmitter. Hams using other modes often refer to them as “crystals”.
Cunt’rent A substitute term for current.
Deerchester The site for one of America’s fabled Amplitude Modulation oriented hamfesters. Originally held in Deerfield, NH, it was later moved to Rochester, NH. Hundreds if not thousands of AM’ers congregate in motor homes, campers, motorsickes, etc. to  swap lies and gear for two great days. Happens twice a year, in October and May.
Deyellification The process of modifying a transmitter to beless “Yellowly”.
Draining the Log Gone for a leak.
Drilling and Blasting Extensive modifications to a rig.
FECES A less than honorable name for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 
See also FECES Magic.
FECES Magic The formula used by the FCC to calculate AM Power limits. 
When is 375 watts of AM carrier output equal to 1.5K SSB? When it is FECES Magic!
Gimmick Capacitative device, usually a 1 inch wire protruding from the chassis plane, to be bent to shape for best results in getting the correct L/C ratio in a RF circuit, or as an aid in neutralizing a wild stage, etc.
Grid Leak Drip Pan A wonderful little pan to be slung under the grid leak resistors, to catch the excess drip. Used as give aways by Sangamo, IRC, etc. during the halcyon days of AM ham radio, when men were men and wimmen were wimmin, and amchurs built their own rigs and wound their own xfrmers. 
Intrascent Interesting, but only to AM’ers. 
JN Abbreviation for Johnny Novice. Used to describe a newcomer to AM, or radio or a youngster (sometimes highlighting the lack of knowledge or experience).“Yea, my wife had to drop the JN off at the babysitter.” Or “Back in 73, I thought I could put up a 80 foot mast without guys. What I JN I was!
JS “Jock Strap”. A temporary method of securing a device. Often becomes permanent. Usage: Just JS that fan to the back of the rig.
Loop Modulation From those exciting days in the dawn of AM radio when one would couple a single or two winding loops to the final tank coil, using a carbon microphoniumin series. Preferably one with a NON-METALLIC housing. Definitely not hi-fiaudio.
Microphonium A term used for microphone. Usage: How does this new microphonium sound?
Maul Big transmitter or signal
Monkey Transmitter or modulation meter, as in “Swing Monkey!” (making the modulation meter move upwards).
Old Buzzard Older operator, not so much related to age as to state of mind. See Piss and Moan.
Old Buzzard   
A very e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d transmission, often punctuated by tuning up the rig on the air, incessant ramblings about matter of personal health and hygiene.
Olene A liquid hydrocarbon distillate that explodes when an electric spark is introduced into a closed compartment where the OLENE is introduced in vapor phase. Several of these compartments are arranged as an “engine”, which in turn propels the AM’ers automobile down the road towards a desired destination, like SorryExcuse, NY or Pissburg, PA.
Piss and Moan A mode of conversation often engaged in by Old Buzzards.
Piss Weak or “PW” Low power transmission or transmitter. Usage: You are Piss Weak here. Or I am running the PW rig tonight. 
Rectumfier Obvious reference, rectifier, diode.
Rubberizing Padding a crystal it with a small variable cap to pull it freq. a small amount to one side or the t’othah. Could also squeeze the crystal’s nuts by threading in a small shaft/plate/knob combo to apply pressure against the xtal wafer thereby changing the freq.
SBE Abbreviation for sideband eliminator. An AM rig with large amountsof incidental FM. The contantly moving carrier tends to drive away slopbuckets since they can’t zero beat it. The highest form of SBE technology is a modulated self-excited oscillator.
Scrot Scrotful – derivation of scrotum. Used as a round about way of saying something has balls, i.e That’s a scrotful transmitter.The antonym is scrotless.
Shock Modulation Cupping one’s hands and yelling against the cover of one’s presumably unstable VFO, thereby EFF-EMMING the bloody thing and causing at leastsome degree of intelligibility
Sing for (its) Supper Running a tube(s) or transmitter at or over its specified ratings.“I’m running 4kV on the 833’s and they are singing for their supper.”
Slop-bucket A sideband station, esp. one that is interfering with, or crowding into the AM window. Usage: A slop-blucket just straped you.
Strap A sophisticated monosyllabic expletive used by seasoned AM’ers to denote a signal that swamps/demolishes/buries another signal. May be used as a straight out primitive male macho statement, as in putting your signal on top of another’s, and yelling “STRAP” or, more politely, putting thesignal on and then inquiring, “Am I STRAPPING this guy?”
Talk-back That fine sound when the mod xfmer laminations rattle awayyy
TimTron Tim WA1HLR, very well know Maine AMer. Originator of many of the fine phrases on this page.
Vomit Meter A volt meter. 
Woodolene Forest fuel. Small chunks of properly dried arboreal matter which, when tossed judiciously into a WOODOLENE STOVE and ignited, will heat the AM’ers shack/kitchen/living room to a comfortable level during those cold winter nights, and stimulate that special feeling of AM camaraderie which hams using other modes can only envy.
Yellowified State of extreme agitation or anger. Also used to describe your reaction to a bad situation, “I hit the high voltage switchand all I saw was sparks and smoke. Man was I yellowfied.”
Yellowee Poor sounding rig, characterized by restricted audio respone or hum or distortion or some combination there of. Also used to describe a bad thing or situation e.g Joe: “I went to the hamfest and all I saw was computers.” Bill: “Errr, hyellowee!” Derivation, deyellowfy- to modify a rig for better audio quality. Comment: The ultimate bad signal is one that is piss weak and yellowee.
Zorch To burn out, or smoke in a spectacular fashion.Usage: I just zorched my feedline. Also known as “Letting the smoke out.”

AM Geography

Buffoonalo Buffalo
Cuntnecticut Connecticut
Filthadelphia Philadelphia
Kenfucky Kentucky
Massolechewits Massachusetts
New Hamster New Hampshire
Penissylvania Pennsylvania
Pissburgh Pittsburgh
Plymo Plymouth
Poontiac Pontiac
Porkrot Rockport
Rottenchester Rochester
Sorry Excuse Syracuse
Tennesemen Tennessee
Verminmont Vermont
Waste Coast West Coast

Credits: Bruce KG2IC, Y.A. Feder W1UX, Steve WB3HUZ, Ed VA3ES

An Afternoon With John W1FPZ

Born May 27, 1924, John enjoyed a very full life, as member of the US Army during the occupation of Japan, as a petroleum geologist, traveling throughout the work, as a private pilot who had owned several plans over his lifetime – holding an instrument rating, a most skilled gunsmith and nationally ranked pistol champion, and finally as a ham, with a life long interest and love of radio. It is in the radio context that many of us many have encountered John, and his creations. He was both well known and very well regarded with the vintage radio community, perhaps best remembered for his wonderful home-brew rigs, often built on cherry wood.

He was also an amazingly generous man, happy to answer any technical question, and frequently giving out gear to others, with the only request that they use it on the air. I was recipient of John’s kindness, with the gift of the W2ER rig, a transmitter that John built some years back for Marshall W2ER SK.

I had the privilege of finishing up the Linc Cundell Contest report for John during his illness. While reviewing the logs, it became quite clear how well regarded he was, almost every log entry included a personal letter or card wishing John the best, and thanking him for
his efforts.

73 Bruce W1UJR

radio, ham radio, shortwave radio, awards, arrl
arrl, awa, wireless, radio, ham, amateur,
arrl, awa, wiresless, ham radio, amateur, radio,

This was written by Tim, W1GIG. (Thanks Tim!):

John passed away on March 18, 2008. It was 11 years ago that Bruce Kelly asked John to take over the Amateur Radio column in the OTB as Bruce himself was winding down. John was a man of many talents and had a most interesting life. Because he was always so busy helping others, he rarely took time to talk about himself, so I am going to take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about him.

John was born in Guatemala of American parents where his father worked for United Fruit Company (think bananas). At an early age, his father died of malaria and his mother moved the family back to New England. He also lived with an Aunt and later with his much older brother, an airline pilot, who lived on Long Island. As a teenager John discovered radio and his brother bought him a $5.00 two tube regenerative radio kit to build. John built the kit, but it was another 6 months before he got another kit for the power supply. With the help of a ham who lived nearby, he got the radio working which opened up a whole new world for him. John was in High School when his brother went with him into NYC to test for a ham license at the FCC Field Office. For the next couple of years he was active on 40 M. CW using the regen receiver and a Hartley oscillator.

At this point, WW II got in the way. John enlisted in the Army and was trained in radio repair, shipped off to New Guinea, and assigned to be a telephone lineman. The Army moved John steadily North to the Philippines and then to Japan where he was finally sent back to the States for discharge. John enrolled at the University of New Hampshire where he discovered his love of geology. He liked it so much he went on to get a Masters at the University of Nebraska and several years later, a Doctorate also from the University of Nebraska. He continued to work for Chevron exploring for oil in Africa, Madagascar, Spain, Denmark and many other countries including the US.

While he was in college, John remembered his love of radio, but unfortunately his ham license had expired, so he went back in 1954 to test again receiving the call W1FPZ which he held ever since. Later, he tested for his ham license in Madagascar (in French) and in Uruguay (in Spanish). Not many of us have tested for our licenses in three languages! While he was in Madagascar he built many of the transmitters that are still in use at his home. He even wound his own power and filament transformers to get the voltages he wanted.

John also discovered that he was an excellent pistol marksman, but that his results could be substantially improved by reworking the guns themselves, so he taught himself to be a gunsmith. His skills at woodworking, carving, machining, precision casting of bullets and loading target shells were such that this became a major hobby business for him which he pursued right up to recent months.

John was a survivor. While in the Army he survived a major brush with a 3,300 volt power line and later a plane crash while in Africa. Since small planes were the only way for John to get to his job sites, he decided that he’d rather trust his own skills as a pilot than relyon the brush pilots that the oil company had hired. Back in the States, recuperating from his injuries, he got a private pilot’s license, then went on to a multi-engine commercial license with full instrument ratings. Just before he retired, he was working out of Denver and flying his own twin engine Queen Air to Maine to work on his retirement home. He even flew from Maine to the AWA conference one year picking up MarshallEtter, W2ER from Long Island on the way.

Preparing for retirement, John and his wife Liz doubled the size of their new home in Maine. As part of the project, John wanted reliable ham communications with his friends around the world. Limited by normal power regulations, he decided to build a BIG antenna. His final choice was a horizontal V beam aimed at the Southeast. The beam legs were 1,100 feet long and supported on three 100 foot towers. Looking for wire strong enough to span the distance he ran across an ad for #6 phosphor bronze wire run by Marshall, W2ER who had salvaged the wire when he was closing the RCA site at Rocky Point. The two men became fast friends and co-conspirators. Marshall provided quality parts left over from RCA and John, using his metal and woodworking skills, customized the parts to suit his projects. The result was a long series of radio projects that he gave to friends with the caveat that they were required to use them on the air in AWA events.

John always had a fascination with the products of Jerry Gross of NYC. He built a Gross replica transmitter for Marshall who used it for many years. Parker Heinemann, W1YG found an original Gross and had John restore it along with the receiver, station monitor and antenna tuner. They set up an entry in the 1991 AWA contest that exactly duplicated a Gross add from the 30’s and took first place. After the conference, John got a call from Bill Orr who offered John his Gross if John would restore it. That transmitter is part of John’s home station.

Not satisfied with the Hartley oscillator, John discovered that if he used the Colpitts circuit with a split stator condenser and grounded rotor, he could eliminate the hand capacity effect. One of his last projects was to set up the tuned circuit for me and share several of his other construction secrets. The circuit is rock stable on 40 meters.

Thanks for the opportunity to fill you in on some of the less well known aspects of John’s life. It was an honor to know him and he will be missed by all.