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

T-368 Transmitter Registry – Email Me To Add Yours

T-368 Singing For It’s Supper

Of all the T-368 transmitters known to have been manufactured, and yes there are ways to track these things, only a few are known to still exist.

Email me to add yours to the list!

Total manufactured: 2251
Total known units: 103

I remember visiting Fair Radio in Ohio in the lat 1990s, and seeing stacks and stacks of these sitting inside warehouses, outside rusting away, in various states of repair.

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?