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.

Collins 30K1 – Restoration Visual Essay

Collins 30K-1 Transmitter Restoration

The Cleaning, Restoration and Service of a Collins Time Capsule

Incoming

Shipping a 400 lb transmitter across the country is no easy task, but thanks to a
good packer and BAX Airfreight it arrived safe and sound in just two days!

You can’t use Styrofoam peanuts with these heavyweights, nothing less than high
density packing foam will do the trick!


RF Deck

The 30K-1 RF Deck, with a W7MGA mod, the DPDT knife switch attached to the
bandswitch. MGA was using multiple antennas and his implementation of a
switching network was both elegant and easily reversible. For my purposes, a
single antenna fed with balance line, I removed the switch. Thankfully he had
left the bandswitch connectors hanging on a loop of wire on the inside of the
cabinet, it was simple to reinstall for a single output.

The one and only casualty of the cross country move were the four porcelain
standoff insulators which attach the Output Network to the front cabinet. It
would appear that the inertia of the moving was too great. Thankfully my
junk box yielded four perfect spares!
 

The back of the meter panel and top of the RF Deck, prior to cleaning work.

The removed Output Network, prior to cleaning. Note plug in coil set on the left
side of the air variable cap, I have both the low and high band sets, so the TX
will cover 75 – 10 meters.

The Output Network after cleaning, a quick trip through the dishwasher did
the trick, washing away nearly half a century’s worth of dirt and dust.

The Front of the RF Output Network, note the insulation panels on the front of
of the unit. I assume these prevent arc over from the meter terminals.

 

The cleaning of the RF Deck. The large Johnson cap was removed and
disassembled for a through cleaning. Sure it takes time, but look at the results!


Modulator Deck
 

The Modulation Deck before and after cleaning photos. Love that 75th glow!
I did have a problem with the audio gain pot on the audio deck, the
unit was defective and a replacement 500K A/B pot was found and installed.
 


Low Voltage Deck

The Low Voltage Power Supply Deck, before and after cleaning. The unit
cleaned up very nicely, no repairs were needed, other than cleaning relay
contacts.


HV Power Supply Deck

The High Voltage Deck, shown with the 866 rectifiers removed for cleaning.


The Cabinet

The 30K-1 cabinet with all deck removed and ready for cleaning.

 


30K-1 Tour After Cleaning


30K-1 Glow


Amateur Radio Station W1UJR

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.

VE3HC QSL Card

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

The Meaning of the Wouff-Hong


The Wouff-Hong is amateur radio’s most sacred symbol and stands for the enforcement of law and order in amateur operation.
The Radio Amateur’s Handbook, 1930, page 11

My Wouff-Hong -KG2IC

Wouff-Hong. From 1938 ARRL Convention. Formerly belonged to Fred VE3HC.

I checked my backpack once again; just to be sure it was still there. It was, and its finish though now dull, still bespoke of a proud past. Of my radio purchases over the past 5 years, this simple item, purchased for less than one would spend on a lunch, had eclipsed them all. Let me explain.

On August 14, 1999 Bill K2LNU and I attended the moving sale of our friend, Fred Hammond VE3HC in Guelph, Ontario. I had first met Fred 4 years ago, when I was still quite new to the hobby. Fred, licensed since 1929, had established and maintained the outstanding Hammond Museum of Radio in his hometown of Guelph.  Bill and I, along with many others, had become frequent visitors to his museum.  His warm “V.. E.. 3.. H-Henry..C-Charlie” had greeted me several times on 75 meter AM as a return to my call of “CQ”. However, in 1998 Fred sadly suffered a stroke, and although recovering, has been absent from the air.

At the sale, much of the gear was quickly snapped up, but a garage full of cardboard boxes containing radio parts was left largely untouched. You know the type of the boxes I am speaking about, the kind found under the tables at many a hamfest, covered with alternate layers of dust and grime, so often overlooked by those in quest of more “glamorous” finds. I have always found such boxes truly the proverbial diamonds in the rough, time capsules of radios rich legacy.   Needless to say, I was soon busy rooting around in the parts boxes in the garage, boxes that had caught the attention of only a few other amateurs.  

I saw a nearby ham pickup, examine curiously and then return to the box an odd shaped metal object. The size and shape certainly looked familiar, but I discounted it, as I would never expect to find such in a box of radio parts.  Still, my own curiosity now peaked, I walked over, bent down, and picked up the item for myself. Yes, I thought, as I carefully turned it over in my hands, it really is. Although the once shiny finish was now discolored with age, and caked with decades of dust, there was no mistaking the classic form; it was a “Wouff-Hong”. 

Beginning in 1917, stories by an anonymous writer using the pseudonym “The Old Man” , abbreviated as “T.O.M.” began to appear in the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) monthly publication QST. Titled the “Rotten Radio” series, they harshly assailed and exposed the poor operating practices of the day with caustic satire and humor. It was in one of these stories, entitled “Rotten QRM”, that T.O.M. blasted the gibberish he’d overheard in one particular QSO, citing as an example the words “wouff hong”, which apparently was either a concocted abbreviation, or someone’s poor attempt at sending.

At the time of the articles T.O.M. did not know what a Wouff-Hong was, but he later adopted it as a disciplinary object with which to both flail bad operating practices and inflict punishment on the perpetrators. It is said that in the following era he had, tongue in cheek, proposed its use as an instrument of torture and discipline, to maintain decency and order in the ham radio community.  

It was early in the year 1919 that T.O.M. contributed an article to QST called “Rotten Starting”, criticizing the slow progress of the United States government to allow hams to operate again after World War I. It finished with “I am sending you a specimen of a real live Wouff-Hong which came to light when we started to get our junk out of cold storage. Keep it in the editorial sanctum where you can lay your hands on it quickly in an emergency. We will soon be allowed to transmit, and then you will need it.” Accompanying this article was a misshapen, wooden, wire-bound two-pronged tuning fork-like object. Yes, the Wouff-Hong.

It was in the July 1919 issue of QST that the portrait of the Wouff-Hong first appeared. At each meeting of the Leagues Board, the Wouff-Hong stood on display, to the humbled looks of the Directors.”


Hiram Percy Maxim 1917

Only after his death, was it was revealed to all that T.O.M. had actually been Hiram Percy Maxim, the founder and first President of the ARRL. It is said that he took the secret of the origin of the first Wouff-Hong to his grave.

And here, in my hands, was a Wouff-Hong, long considered amateur radios most sacred symbol of law and order. Cast into its base were the words “ARRL National Convention Chicago, IL Sept 3 4 5 1938”. I was holding an artifact from the Golden Age of Radio, made some 61 years ago. I found myself thinking back, wondering about the person that had brought this back from the Convention, now some six decades into the past.

What were the concerns and thoughts of this fellow radio amateur a few short years after the Great Depression? Would he even recognize the hobby today, and what would he think about radio signals now being passed through satellites, computers, and even the Internet? Had radio fulfilled its once bright promise? Would he find today’s amateur holding to the high principles of the past? I had to wonder if he would be pleased by what he found, or somehow sadly disappointed? Indeed, how would T.O.M himself see things? Would his famous “Rotten Radio” articles still be written, and if so, who or what would be the targets? Had we won the technology battle, only to lose the war for the spirit of the hobby?

Startled back to reality by the crash of a carelessly dropped metal panel upon the garage floor, I again considered my find. Possibly this “Wouff-Hong” was some sort of souvenir, or perhaps an award handed out at the Convention, I still have to research the exact origin. Delighted, I paid the requested $5 for the item, and carefully placed it with in my backpack for safe keeping until the sale was over. $5 was indeed a cheap price for a journey back into radios past, affording me the opportunity to examine my own beliefs and hopes for the hobby.

Did this “Wouff-Hong” at one time belong to Fred VE3HC, or was it simply a museum piece carelessly discarded into one of the boxes, discarded and forgotten by a generation that often pays little tribute to past? That question has yet to be answered, but to me, the origin of the piece is not as important as the meaning attached to it, the rich, proud legacy of a magical hobby and the remembrance of a friend.

Bruce W1UJR (ex KG2IC)

AM, What Is It?

AM Is Hardly “Ancient Modulation”!

Although at times it is jokingly referred to as “Ancient Modulation” by its detractors, AM is “Angel Music” to those who enjoy this special mode of modulation. AM refers to the method of modulating the RF carrier, in this case, Amplitude Modulation. Amplitude Modulation (AM) was the first voice mode used in amateur radio, and is now very much alive at it enters the 7th decade of its life. AM is a well-regarded specialty within the radio hobby, and its operation offers a warm, rich audio quality that provides for more personal interaction. AM is rich with tradition, and the time honored tradition of elmering and homebrewing equipment are no exception. AMers often build and maintain their own antennas and transmitters. The simplicity of AM circuit design encourages hands-on restoration, modification and homebrew construction to an extent no longer found among contemporary radios. 

AM Culture

You may find AM culture is a bit different than what you are used to. Often QSOs tend to center around technical discussion, especially relating to tube type gear. Antennas are also a popular topic, and different styles and methods of feedline construction are often debated. Transmissions tend to be more extended, and VOX is rarely used. In fact, the pace of AM QSOs is often quite leisurely. AM slang is very descriptive, do not be surprised to hear some rather interesting terms, from some quite interesting people!

Technical items are not the only issues discussed however, and established nets deal with topics ranging from UFOs to historical events. Two of the more interesting nets, in this authors opinion, are the “Future Net” found on 3.875MC Sundays at 4:00 PM and the “Gray Hair Net” on 1.945MC Tuesdays at 8:00PM. Not to be missed is the “AM Swap Net” on 3.885MC Thursday at 7:00PM, where equipment and parts are exchanged in a “tongue in cheek” fashion. Locally look for the “Sunday Morning Brunch” net on 3.815MC around 9:00AM, the “160m Early Morning Net” on 1.885 which starts around 6:00AM and the “2m AM Net” on 144.450MC Sunday evenings at 8:00PM.

AM activity can be found on a variety of other frequencies both day and night. For daytime operation check around 7.290, 14.286 and 29.10 MC. Evening and early mornings 1.885, 1.888, 1.945, and 3.885 are your best bets. Most AM operators will gladly welcome newcomers to the mode, give it a try!

Transmitter Setup

That’s it; you’re ready to get on the air on AM. If you are running a solid state rig, you will want to reduce the RF output to about ¼ of the maximum valve. For most of today’s rigs this equates to 25 watts carrier. You might also want to reduce the mic gain somewhat from what you are running with SSB. These settings may not be exactly right but this should get you close. Once you get on the air, ask for an audio report to determine to determine if you need to do any tweaking. If you access to an oscilloscope, by all means, use it to adjust your mic gain. Using a scope, you can determine your percentage of modulation and if you are “flat-topping”. Flat topping refers to the distortion that occurs when a transmitter is driven past its max power output. Distortion, and splatter onto adjacent frequencies occur during flat topping, something that you want to avoid.

If you run your transceiver into an amplifier, follow the same steps with the linear in line. One important thing to remember is that your amp will be running at about 20 -25% efficiency, and what does not go up the antenna as RF is given off as heat. So, you may want to get your calculator out and determine how many watts you can run without exceeding the plate dissipation rating of your linear. Remember that AM is a 100% duty cycle mode, as opposed to 30-50% for SSB. So the tubes and the power supply in your amp will be working much harder. You may not want try to squeeze every last watt out of your rig. The difference in received signal strength is just not worth it. Err on the side of safety.

An Invitation

The AM mode can be a tremendous bit of fun. Although it is most often associated with older, tube gear, modern day transceivers can produce some very good sounding AM when properly adjusted. Whether you were an active AMer in the past, or new to the AM mode, by all means get on the air and give us a call. Welcome aboard!

-Bruce W1UJR

1928 MOPA Transmitter

Two Stage Telegraph and Telephone Transmitter built by AB9ZG.

Though I’ve experimented a great deal in the field, using amateur radio satellites, as a ARMY MARS operator AAR2AJ, and even played with QRP (low power) gear, my interest tends to the early days of radio the 1920-1930s, what I feel was the golden era. During that time little commercial equipment was available, and most hams simply made their own using off the shelf materials and vacuum tubes, a process known as home brewing. Over the years I’ve restored many of these vintage radio sets, check my Restorations page for more details.

One of my antique radio friends built this transmitter some years back, a very true and authentic reproduction. I admired it at the time, not sure I ever worked him with it, but remembered it fondly.

Jon, the builder, kindly entrusted it to me as the caretaker, and looks like, given the weekend weather, I’ve finally got time to get it unpacked, tested, fired up, and on the air. Long, cold winter nights in Maine are ideal for radio.
I was therefore delighted to be contacted a few weeks by Jon, asking if I had interest in his creation. In any case, wanted to share Jon’s handiwork with my radio, and non-radio friends.

Even if you’re not an antique radio fan, you’ve just have to love the time and skill that went into building this rig. The wood, panel work, winding the coils out of copper tubing, the straight and true lines of the bus wiring, entirely handmade, it’s a work of art.

It is crystal controlled, you can see the xtal on the right of the upper deck.
The upper desk is the RF section, and the lower deck the power supply and modulator.

Ideally I’d like to find or build an old table so I can set up a replica 1920/30s station, complete with one of the early National SW-3 receivers.

I’ll post more as I get it on the air and operating!

– Bruce W1UJR

1928 MOPA Transmitter
1928 MOPA Transmitter
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1930s W1UJR Station Now Ready

Had a few minutes this morning to get Scott W9WFA’s old National NC-101X out of storage and onto the new 1930s station desk. I’ll be moving the other 101X over once the restoration is finished, but it’ll be on the workbench for a bit, so time to fire up something else.

Listening to 40 meter CW on the National NC-101X receiver with the green “magic eye” tuning indicator. Bands are pretty lousy this morning, much static.

Transmitter is a MOPA (Master Oscillator Power Amplifier) built by amateur radio operator AB9ZG, modeled after one of the early Aero designs.

CW “Bug” (keying device for transmitter) is an early Vibroplex “Zephyr” model built in New York City. Believe this belonged to my Elmer Dick W2UJR. “Cans” (headphones) are vintage Brandes “Superior” model, built also in New York City in the late 1920s or early 30s.

Antenna is a traditional balanced feed line 160 meter dipole up about 50’, right on the coast.

Photos on wall are of a teenage ham radio operator from the 1930s who lived in Kennebunk, Maine. The other of some young radio hams from Syracuse, NY in a home built ham shack.

73 DE Bruce W1UJR

Opening The “Catacomb” – National NC-101X Coil Set

I removed the sliding coil assembly, often called a “catacomb coil” for cleaning and service. Needed it too, 80 some years of dirt, and old grease build up make it a mess.

Removed the coil sets, used a sharpie to id the location with small dots, and threw the aluminum housings, top and buttom, in the dishwasher. Worked like a charm, the reassembled, and carefully cleaned each coil set, and wiped down the pins with Deoxit. Lubricated the shaft that it slides on, and cleaned on the old nasty hardened grease out of the gear drive on the front. Tomorrow I have to paint the white band indicating tab, and reassembly. Or, I may go after the recap work first, the old wax paper caps aren’t too bad with the catacomb coil set out. Only a total of 21, should be an afternoon’s worth of work.