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Colorburst 80 Meter Michigan Mighty Mite

After some work to figure out what was going wrong with my Michigan Mite MIte I finally have it running and by that I mean oscillating. As it turns out I had used the wrong coil formula and when I rewound a new coil and oriented it the way Pete Juliano suggested I was home free.

I really am so excited that home brewing can be this accessible to a novice builder like me and I’ve learned a lot in the experience.

I may try a 20 meter Michigan Mighty Mite next, but for now I’m going to bask in my success and fit this rig to a contain and to proper connectors and use a real key next.

Here’s what I picked up in the way of tribal knowledge:

1. Orient the coil with the short tap towards the copper board
2. Connect that L1 coil lead coming off the bottom coil wire toward positive power.
3. Using an alligator clip as a heat sink is not a bad work around if you don’t have small transistor heat sinks. (The 2n2222 gets very hot).
4. When winding the coil it helps to use masking tape to secure sections of the windings before they have a chance to unravel.
5. QRP radio gear is a team effort, I loved having people to bounce my questions off of. This is really the best part… there should be more homebrew clubs.

So without any more thoughts the video is below, keep in mind I am tapping two wires together and don’t have a proper key hooked up yet.

 

Color Burst Liberation Army

Today I can celebrate the oscillation of my Michigan Mighty Might, at least I hope that’s what I am seeing here.

This story starts with two great guys in the QRP/ Homebrew movement, Bill Meara N2CQR and Pete Juliano N6QW both of whom have been on the Soldersmoke Podcast of late.  I had it in my mind to do a small Manhattan style build of a small transceiver and on the podcast Bill and Pete were suggestion the Michigan Mighty Mite as it has a small number of parts and has a good deal of documentation out on the web. Master Meara was kind enough to put out a generous offer; to anyone that would build the Mighty Mite he would send a free 40 meter Color Burst Crystal for the project… free for the asking!  I quickly jumped on this offer and was greeted by kind emails by Pete with encouragement to take it on.

Pete even contributed a pencil layout of how I could put the mePads on the copper board (figure 1 below).

Fig 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to say I learn everything in the right order and never let my excitement take over but I have to say I went off quickly without using the layout and I built this, it didn’t work and I realized that there were two points where I made rookie mistakes and kicked myself… but every experience has a lesson and mine was not to rush too much. So I set out to build it again laying it out using the N6QW method.  I even used Adobe Illustrator to refine Pete’s pencil layout with some wire color coding, the image below (figure 2) is what I used to help me build my second MMM transmitter.

 

Fig 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This made is clearer and more idiot proof for me to connect the right component together, I didn’t put in the values as I was working from the pete’s drawing as well but I will do that and post a link to a pdf later.

So the next step as to draw a grid on my copper board using a quarter inch grid plane drawn with a soft lead pencil found in art supply stores (HB softness), this made it easier to lay down on the copper clad board. (fig. 3)

fig 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next I glued down the mePads using super glue and a pair of tweezers, using care I didn’t glue my fingers together! (fig 4)

fig 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went and soldered down all the components it was a much happier and calm experience as I didn’t have to snake any surprise wires in weird places or re-solder anything.  This approach had the added benefit of soldering each pad together without having to go back and melt everything again to add a forgotten component.

 

This last photo is of my finished board for the Michigan Mighty Mite next to an inexpensive Radio Shack General coverage receiver for SW listening.

Michigan Mighty Mite for 40 Meters

My first home brew Manhattan style transceiver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To say I’m “Chuffed” is an understatement!  You can’t believe the feeling of building a transceiver from scratch, there are no words adequate to fit the feeling of accomplishment.  I’ve done kits before, including Dave Benson’s Rockmite but sorry the feeling of satisfaction is not there for me.  I love the Manhattan style, the way you can see all the connections and components on one side and also the simplicity of laying something out.  When I tuned to the crystal’s frequency I heard a tone, and felt a rush of excitement inside – almost like I was walking in the large footsteps of Marconi, Morse, Armstrong and DeMaw.  I have definitely gotten the bug now.  Many thanks to Pete and Bill 73

A short video posted on Youtube:

 

Ham Radio at MakerFaire NYC 2014

Meeting Rex Harper W1REX at MakerFaire NYC 2014

Today’s Saturday MakerFaire was most excellent indeed with Ham Radio making a good showing with the local Queens club HOSARC manning a booth and attracting a good number of Makers ready to get bitten by the Amateur Radio Bug.  There are many reasons that Hams are sort of the original makers and hackers in this country but that is a different story, I was very interested to see at the same booth a QRP legend in the kit making business – Rex Harper W1REX of QRPme.com Rex’s products are known far and wide in the Homebrew/QRP community.  I especially recommend using his MePads for Manhattan style building, they are pre-tinned and very good for keeping a neat and organized circuit board.

I briefly discussed the possibility of a DSB kit someday and he indicated that he has that on a back burner.  The toughest part of being a success is that Rex doesn’t get enough time to build himself as he is too busy shipping out orders to all parts of the country and the world.

If you’re a new ham, consider building Rex’s Tuna Tin II, it is a very flexible and well put together kit and you’ll learn a lot about radio by building your own equipment.

I love MakerFaire, the Maker Spirit and the variety of things happening in the world of DIY electronics and other types of building. We are see a revival of making things here in the USA and I love that the Faire included people from all over the country, coming to Corona, Queens – once the site of a World’s Fair and a prediction of all that would come in the future. Our future is happening now and it is in the hands of everyman (and woman).

New Beach 40 Project

 

 

This week I am launching into a homebrew project that was recommended to me by a good friend in Vermont,  I am referring to VK3YE’s “Beach 40″ DSB Transceiver.  Peter Parker/ VK3YE has put together a very nice little QRP Double Sideband Transceiver with a very modest number of discrete parts.  The Beach 40 has been featured in SolderSmoke Podcast and website and is outline in several YouTube Videos done by Parker right from the beaches in Australia!

I haven’t built anything from scratch yet and I am going to do this in Manhattan style building techniques, which is somewhat ironic in a cheeky way as I live in Manhattan.  It looks like I am nearing the acquisition of most of my parts, including the copper boards and little square things from the internet.

In building a homebrew rig for the first time.  I do have some soldering experience with several kits two CW transceivers from Hendrick’s QRPkits.com and two Rockmite kits from Dave Benson/K1SWL at Small Wonder Labs.  Dave has closed Small Wonder Labs, cheers to him for making nice affordable kits that let me cut my teeth so to speak.

I live in Manhattan as I said before and I don’t really have a dedicated bench so we have to see how I do on the dining room table, also I don’t have any sophisticated bench gear.  All I have is a multimeter and a soldering iron.

I am very excited by this project because of it’s simplicity and also because I haven’t done a voice transceiver yet, the thing with CW rigs is that you need to know CW to actually enjoy using them.  As amazing as Peter Parker has been at creating this rig I think that there are lot’s of gaps that can be filled in terms of documentation and mentoring. This would be an excellent rig to build for the new General class ticket holder that may not have a lot of money to spend on gear and also would like to go portable or even pedestrian as Peter Parker terms his walking excursions.

So may the radio Gods be with us and hopefully we can breath life into our own gear and as Bill says put the “spirit into the machine”.

 

Antennas are self sustaining

Antennas always warm my heart

 

In this age of on-demand, internet/wi-fi and cable services it always warms my heart to see an antenna still above the roof lines.  Why you ask? Because antennas now stand for something that we’re moving away from as a society. The lone antenna is all that was once needed to get content into our living rooms. A finite investment of thirty dollars and an afternoon paid us back many times over in free content.

Many antennas now are simply the remnants of old analogue TV, rusted relics of a bygone age.  Broadcast networks and the FCC turned their backs on analogue in the name of better service and the modern age.  Valuable bandwidth now freed up so the FCC can make some money and the companies vying for these resources can mint money.

What warms my heart are the antennas that are up for other reasons, newer digital antennas for Broadcast TV and ham antennas.  What antennas equal are a desire to remain independent of the big block providers like Time Warner Cable or others here in NYC.

I recently took an afternoon to build one of those coat hanger HDTV antennas that you find on YouTube.  I wanted to see if we could survive with only broadcast TV if we so desired but my experiment was  dashed by poor reception due to the many large skyscrapers in our location that blocked out any possible signals we might receive.

I will continue to think about alternatives to all monopolies in my life because there is something very American about being less connected to all of these metered services that seem to extract more and more of our hard earned cash.

Benton Harbor Lunchbox in!

My new "Sixer", the Heathkit HW-29a 6 meter transceiver

 

I have come to own a fantastic little piece of amateur radio history!  The nifty little “Benton Harbor Lunchbox”,  a Heathkit HW-29 “Sixer”.  It didn’t come with the microphone but hopefully I’ll be able to get one of those as well, if not I guess I can always try and wire something up myself from a different mic.

When I heard this rig was coming in I began to do a bit of reading on Heathkit and they really were an amazing company for the time, talk about DIY… they set a generation on the path to the “Knack” and probably launched more than one engineering degree.  The company has changed hands several times and hasn’t made kits since 92′s ( http://goo.gl/hxfbT ) but at their height Heathkit made kits for just about every conceivable kind of electronic gear not the least of which was for ham radio.

There has been speculation that Heathkit may again make kits for the amateur radio enthusiast,  I fired off an email to Heathkit’s current director of kits and I will update later if I get a response.

So… the great adventure begins with a new piece of gear, can I get onto six meters and make a contact?  Stay tuned for more to come.

Hello or CQ

 

I have the usual collection of amateur radio books to help me with learning the technical side of the hobby,  I recently purchased Danny Gregory and Paul Sahre’s delightful book ” Hello World/ A Life in Ham Radio”.  As someone with a graphic design background I was chuffed that the production and the layout of the book was so beautiful and interesting.  The book centers around the Ham Radio hobby of one Jerry Powell from Hackensack, NJ.  One of the authors stumbled across Mr. Powell’s QSL card collection at a flee market and bought the whole lot, they didn’t even know what they were but they looked interesting to them.

The book is written in a breezy style that fits the visual layout and introduces the readers to Ham Radio vocabulary and basic operation as well as an overview of all of Jerry’s QSL cards and the ham’s that he contacted.

The book is more poignant when you are aware that Jerry Powell has been deceased for quite awhile and when many of the call signs are searched (I did) the calls come up inactive which probably indicates silent keys.  Regardless, the book is really nice to have by my station as the styles and format of the QSL cards are so interesting.  Much of the charm of correspondence of this type is that it is not done so much anymore with email, SMS and software.

The authors have put together a nice archeology dig of a ham’s life and it is wonderful to behold for us newer hams to behold, we can fall in love with all of our digital modes or technology but it is undeniable that the older guys have something we don’t… memories of a simple time when the hobby was the only “wireless”.

So, anyone  out there still use QSL cards?  I’d love to design one of my own if only someone would still exchange with me!

W2DAB is now an Amateur Extra

Testing at ABC World Headquarters

I’m thrilled to announce that I tested and passed my Amateur Extra exam last Wednesday night at the BEARS testing session at ABC Headquarters here in NYC. The BEARS VE’s were all terrific guys and the session was pretty heavily subscribed, by my rough count and feeble memory there were 5 Tech tickets given out two Generals and two Extra licenses.

I really enjoyed the venue, entering the ABC Headquarters in Manhattan I felt like it was kind of cool to be going into a major broadcasting company on official radio business!

If you not an EE you can be kind of intimidated to be going for Extra with the math portions of the test. I studied all kinds of equations, some I had down and some are still a bit of a stretch for an “artist type” like myself. So I laid out my trusty old TI-82 which I dusted off and put in new batteries for, my sharpened pencils and prepared for a little figuring and calculating. Ha! not one question that needed a calculator, I didn’t know weather to be grateful or a little disappointed that I didn’t get to use my new found skills. But that is the nature of a test, you learn more by testing than by just reading or studying.

There has been a lot said about “no code extras” and I guess I will feel the brunt of some old crusty codgers but the group of experienced hams from the BEARS group were nothing but polite, professional and courteous… the embodiment of the Amateur’s Code.

The BEARS club also offered free membership, I am looking forward to getting involved with them and contributing to that great club. As I strolled out into the cool night air I fist pumped a little and also steeled my resolve to go on and master the code (morse) so that I could connect to what I consider the primary roots and history of this great hobby. 73

You got to know when to fold ‘em

As Kenny Rogers sang “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, when to fold them… ” etc. So when my good friend Lou / KB1UYS from Vermont made me an offer I couldn’t refuse I came into the possession of a working Ten-Tec Century 21. Now as I go forward I am enjoying the sweet sounds of the double direct conversion receiver!

I can now concentrate on my antenna, and my morse code practice.

Someday I can repay the kindness my fellow hams have shown me by paying it forward so to speak. But I am reminded of the great community I became a member of when I passed my first license exam.

Morse’s sweet code endures

Several years back I got my amateur radio license about the same time that I was applying to a top design school, NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. At the time I really didn’t connect the hobby that much with my aspirations to create new interactive products and experiences for a living.

Since that time I’ve learned more about inventions and technology than I’ve ever known in my adult live and it is in no small part from my hobby AND my vocation.

I was therefore very interested in a thesis project by Joshua Clayton, a graduating ITP’er. “What hath God wrought” is an interesting look back at Morse’s invention, language as encoded in Morse Code and the mysticism of the times that telegraphy was established as a new communication medium.

You can read more of Joshua Clayton’s thoughts here:
http://itp.nyu.edu/shows/thesis2011/joshua-clayton/

Be sure to find a video of his thesis presentation of last week in the video archives section on the left sidebar.

I think it is nice that a technology that was invented 167 years ago still can inspire a new generation of inventors and interactive artists. Morse was a painting teacher at NYU many years ago and he still has a strong connection to New York City.