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same as it ever was





My name is Jim and I first caught the radio bug when I got a Rocket Radio, a little crystal set built into a red and white plastic rocket ship. It tuned by position of a rod which slid in and out of the nosecone. I spent many wonderful hours listening to the "Joy Boys of Radio" show with Willard Scott and Ed Walker, their humerous patter and the great daily skit, "As the Worm Turns - brought to you by Stop No More". Later in the evening Felix Grant took over with his jazz program "The Album Sound". Terrific radio entertainment that continued to the last days of that golden era.

My interest in shortwave radio began when I discovered a Zenith Transoceanic radio in an upstairs storage closet. It had been presented to my Dad by his unit when he left Korea. I began punching different bands buttons and tuning around. Wow! I heard all kinds of really neat stuff - including ham radio operators. I was hooked! And the obsession has never let up.

Zenith Transoceanic

I got my Conditional Class license in late 1962 at age 14, while living in Germany. The CW part was easy, because, for months I'd been "bootlegging" CW QSOs using the station and callsign belonging to my friend, and fellow teenage ham, Bill. With US license in hand, the Postampt issued me my DL4- callsign. For the next two years I was active on 40-meter CW from Stuttgart, Germany where my first setup was a 40-meter dipole, my Dad's Zenith Transoceanic (I tuned a transistor SW radio up/down 455 KHz to act as a BFO) and Johnson Challenger transmitter, on loan from Bill, DL4WS/K4ZVT, who lived across the street. Just up the street was yet another teenage ham, Jim WA6SCK /DL4HG (now K4RGR). These two guys were my ham radio mentors.

Within a few months I had my own rig, an Eico 723 and Hallicrafters SX-110. Upon returning to the states in 1964 the family moved from Maryland to Virginia at which time the FCC assigned me my current callsign. I've been an active SWL/Ham ever since. I upgraded to Extra class sometime in the mid-1970's. Over the years I've had a lot of different equipment in my shack - for me, getting to know new gear is half the fun.

_ . . . _





My current station includes:

Freddy the Foxhunt Fox

Ten-Tec Corsair Model 560 HF transceiver

Ten-Tec Argonaut V Model 516 receiver

LDG AT-100Pro auto antenna tuner

Ten-Tec Model 260 power supply

Vibrokeyer single-lever paddle

E.F. Johnson Speed-X bug 

Hi-Mound HK-706 straight key

Homebrew electronic keyer


I operate mostly low power, 50-watts or less - often QRP which is 5 watts and under. It's amazing how little power is necessary on CW. I've even worked 44 states using 0.8 watts or less. My favorite activities are QRP Fox Hunts (www.qrpfoxhunt.org), Straight Key Century Club events (www.skccgroup.com), shortwave listening, and the Sunrise Net where I serve as Net Control/Host on Friday mornings (www.qsl.net/srn).

_ . . . _

More about my current equipment lineup . . .



The "Cool Blue" Corsair
Ten-Tec Model 560 Corsair  My favorite rig of all time is the Ten-Tec Corsair, a vintage 1982 rig with 100 watt output CW-SSB, covering the HF amateur bands, 160-10m, including 30, 17, and 12m. It has an 8-pole, 2.4 KHz crystal filter in the 1st IF. In the 2nd IF are 2.4 KHz, 1.8 KHz, 500 Hz, and 250 Hz crystal filters, yielding 12-16 poles of filtering. Many mods, including; ALC mod to allow adjustment of transmit power down to 0.5 watts, mod to silence amp relay, replacement of the original LED display with backlit LCD display, and replacement of the original PTO with direct digital synthesizer. The Corsair's receiver is outstanding, very sharp and sensitive for CW and very nice-sounding on SSB. Superbly crafted and undeniably beautiful, the Corsair has got to be the coolest rig ever!

Corsair Modifications

After the original LED frequency display bit the dust, I searched around for a replacement and found the Almost All Digital Electronics (AADE) site where several replacement display options were available. I chose the blue backlit display and found installation to be easy and quick. Some metal work was required, but my Dremel cut-off tool did the trick.

The VFO in my Corsair was drifty. While not a problem in normal operation, during my 2-hour plus stint as Friday morning net control station for the Sunrise Net, the rig would drift 300 to 400 Hz, much to the amusement of the fellows on the Net. So, rather than send the rig to Ten-Tec for tweaking, I opted to spend the money to replace the archaic PTO with a direct digital synthesize VFO. The N4YG DDS VFO looked like the best bet and the installation turned out to be well within my technical abilities. The result has been outstanding. Now I have very good stability, readout to 10 Hz, A/B VFO, and split-frequency capability.
The first picture shows the digital encoder mounted under the display/DDS housing. The encoder shaft goes to a 1/4" to 3/16" shaft-reducer and through the front panel to the original VFO knob. I used the tuning shaft from the old PTO to go to the knob and I made the mounting bracket from the covers off the old PTO.  
In the second picture below you can see the DDS board to the rear of the U-shaped subchassis and the digital display assembly right behind the front panel. The height of the display unit required that I move the status LED driver board from the front panel to the side of the enclosure. 
With the cover installed.
_ . . . _
Argonaut V "Argoceiver"
Ten-Tec Model 516 Argonaut V  I recently purchased this little rig knowing that it did not transmit (declared unrepairable at Ten-Tec).  No transmit was OK since I was looking for a good general coverage receiver.  Having owned a fully functional Argonaut V before, I knew it would make a very good SWL set, easily on par with the the Palstar R-30, CommRadio CR- 1A (less the VHF/UHF coverage), or Icom R-70-75 series.  The included TCXO supports ECSSB, exhalted carrier ssb reception, very well (poor-man's sychronous detection).  The receiver is also excellent for receiving of SSB and CW signals with a DSP filtering system that allows up to 6 KHz bandwidth AM reception all the way down to 200 Hz on CW. AM broadcast band reception is outstanding as well.  On top of that it's built like a tank and pretty good looking to boot.
I've done the following modifications: removed the final amplifier transistors and heatsink; removed the microphone connector; and added a front panel RF gain control.   The result is a serious general coverage receiver for just $250 invested.  I just can't say enough about how pleased I am with this little gem.  I recently re-badged it Navigator.
Argonaut Modifications
The Argonaut V is a really, really nifty rig; but, it has one major flaw - no RF gain control.  I've owned several of these rigs over the years, and always found that omission unforgivable.  Instead, the rig has a squelch control. As a CW operator, I never found squelch to be particularly useful. It occurred to me that one could use the function internal RX GAIN trimpot on the front panel in place of the SQUELCH control.  The RX GAIN trimpot adjusts the gain of the 45 MHz IF stage.  In this case, since squelch is useful on an HF receiver, especially for monitoring utilities, I decided to re-task the MIC/PWR control instead.  
In order to move the RX GAIN function from the upper PC board to the front panel, it was necessary to remove front panel, both PC boards, and internal sub-chassis.  Once that was completed, I removed the RX GAIN pot from the upper PC board, removed the MIC/PWR dual pot assembly from the lower board (while I was at it I removed the MIC connector from the front panel and installed a hole plug).  Once the  MIC/PWR pot was out of the PC board, I bent the pins so that I could solder shielded cables to the appropriate pins and route them to the upper board for soldering into the RX GAIN pc holes.  It was necessary to install a 1.2 k-ohm resistor across the RX GAIN pot to obtain the proper value from the 10 k-ohm MIC pot.   The pictures below show this modification (upper board left, lower board right):
Lastly, I removed the final transistors and heatsink.

_ . . . _


In March 2010 my wife Pam, KA4EWG, and I moved to our retirement home just outside Grottoes, VA. We're in a no-antenna community; nevertheless, I put up a "stealth" 80-10 meter G5RV dipole in the trees at the edge of the woods behind our house. The antenna is impossible to see from the street and even very difficult to spot, up close. I used black-jacketed #18 stranded wire and painted the end and center insulators with OD camouflage paint. The 60-foot run of coax is buried from the tree to the back of the house.

For shortwave listening I have a 51-foot end-fed wire from the peak of the roof that really thick tree in the background just left of center.  It works fine.  Pam built that wall out of rocks collected in, and dug out of, the yard. She stacked 50 per day over three summers. It's now comprised of over 11,500 rocks.

_ . . . _

Pam and I were active from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, from 1970 to 2001 and now live in the Shenandoah Valley with our Shetland Sheepdog, Shadow, and Sheltie-Corgi mix, Ginger.  We adpted Shadow and Ginger from Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue, see http://www.nvsr.org.  That's us in the picture below (photo by Martha Heisel).  


(BTW, I'm not a big guy, Pam is just really tiny)



_ . . . _



In 2002-2003, I built a six-tube regen receiver based on a series of articles written by Bruce Vaughan, NR5Q (now SK), which appeared in Electric Radio Magazine. I included a Select-o-Ject circuit from the 1964 ARRL Handbook to help sort out signals. The resulting receiver, built in two cabinets, is shown above. Using this receiver with a Johnson Adventurer transmitter, I had hundreds and hundreds of enjoyable CW ragchews on 40 and 80m. This receiver now resides in the antique radio collection of Ron Lawrence W4RON and is featured on his website:

Two more of my more photogenic homebrew projects: Left, Mini-Mountaineer (photo by Alan Walters), a 40-meter, 750 mw CW transceiver adapted from a Wes Hayward W7ZOI design . . .

Photo:  Alan Waltersregenerative receiver, 2-tubes, 2-13 MHz

. . . and, right, my first homebrew regenerative receiver comprised of two dual-triode tubes and homemade wooden cabinet. I got the circuit from Secrets of Homebuilt Regenerative Receivers,by C.F. Rockey. Coverage: 3-20 MHz.

_ . . . _
_ . . . _
Over the almost 55 years I've been a radio enthusiast, I've owned quite a variety of rigs.  My fondest memories are of the Johnson Navigator/SP600 setup I had as a high-schooler.  I had many thousands of hours of shortwave listening using several outstanding receivers, notably the Hammarlund SP-600 and HQ-120 and the Collins 51S1.  Below is a more-or-less complete listing of the rigs I've owned.

My special little guy, Teddy, 2001-2013


73, Jim


1436637 Last modified: 2014-11-13 16:43:43, 36079 bytes

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