New 2m shack radio

With the old 2m radio installed in the car, it was time to install the new 2m radio in the shack to replace the old one. We picked up a Yaesu FT-2980 a couple months ago and this weekend’s project was to get it up and running.

A 2m ground plane antenna was installed in the attic a few weeks ago, but I ended up having to reposition it to make it easier to run the coax into the shack. Once that was done, I was able to feed 50 feet of RG-213 coax through the conduit running into the shack with about 10 feet left over which got coiled up next to the antenna.

After a bit of running up and down between the attic and shack, I got the antenna trimmed enough to get ~1.1 SWR across the band.

The weekly ARES net gave me a chance to test out how everything sounded and see how well I was able to get into the nearest repeater. At first, it didn’t seem like I was being heard on the repeater, although I could hear everything going on. After looking up the repeater details, I discovered that I had the wrong CTCSS tone set. Once that was fixed, I had no problem being heard on the repeater.

On a good note, the radiant barrier on the roof sheathing seems to have absolutely no effect on the radio’s ability to pick up RF (in the 2m band at least). I wasn’t expecting the radiant barrier to have any effect, but I occasionally see people in forums say they’re bad for radio. I suppose that would depend on the type of radiant barrier that’s installed. The barrier on my house is just a thin layer of shiny foil type material glued to the back of the roof sheathing and as far as I can tell, doesn’t have any effect on the radio’s ability to hear the local repeaters.

Mobile radio in the car

I finally have a radio installed in my car!

The radio is a Yaesu FT-1802 2m rig that I picked up at the Charleston Hamfest a few years ago. After using it in the shack for a while, it’s finally going mobile thanks to a lot of help and advice from my father-in-law.

I thought running the wires from the radio to the battery would be the tough part, but the hardest part turned out to be finding a decent place to mount the radio. Using a fuse tap to run power from the in-cabin fuse box to the radio turned out to be pretty easy. No need to fish wire out into the engine compartment and to the battery.

Fuse tap connected to the in-cabin fuse box to run power to the radio
Fuse tap to run power to the radio

The best place we found to mount the radio turned out to be against the side of the center console on the driver’s side. It provides reasonable access to the radio and is pretty out of the way. The side panel popped off pretty easily and the radio’s mounting bracket attached quite nicely.

Mounting bracket attached to the center console panel
Mounting bracket attached to the center console panel

The white thing peeking out from behind the console panel is the power connector from the fuse tap. The ground wire is attached to a metal brace behind the console panel.

Installing the radio was just a matter of attaching the radio to the bracket.

The antenna is a simple mag mount stuck to the trunk of the car. I was able to tweak the antenna so that the SWR was in the 1.3 – 1.8 range across the 2m band.

The audio cable I have plugged into the AUX input of the car (normally used to plug into my phone) just happened to be long enough to reach the external speaker jack on the back of the radio, so the radio’s audio gets piped into the car speakers. Sounds pretty good.

Now I need to figure out where to hang the microphone.

A frequency counter kit

One of the items from the KB1SH collection of parts I bought at Hamcation was an unassembled frequency counter kit. A packing slip still in the box showed it was purchased from a company called S&S Engineering out of Maryland in 1993. A quick search on Google didn’t yield anything that looked like it might have been related, so the S&S Engineering that produced this kit probably isn’t around anymore.

I love assembling and soldering a good kit, and this looked like a pretty good one. Documentation included the assembly instructions as well as a circuit schematic and a brief theory of operation section. This particular kit included an option for an additional 4 digit LCD display. All the necessary parts turned out to be there, except for a TO-92 voltage regulator that could very well be buried in my carpet somewhere. I neglected to get any photos of the boxed kit, but I did remember to take photos while I was soldering parts on.

The circuit board for the counter is relatively large, 13.1×13.5 cm and the part density wasn’t high so there’s plenty of room to work on the board while soldering things on. The printed circuit board itself is etched and tinned, but without a solder mask that you’d normally see. The only problem I ran into while soldering were two parts that went into a very large ground plane/heat sink. This would have been a good point to break out the flux and switch to a larger tip on the soldering iron had I thought about it.

Partially assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering, part of the KB1SH collection purchased at Hamcation 2022
Partially assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering

There are a total of 10 ICs in the kit, which I decided to use sockets for. 8 of the sockets and all the resistors are installed in the photo above. The other two were for the 40 pin ICs used to support the LCD displays at the top of the board.

Partially assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering, part of the KB1SH collection purchased at Hamcation 2022
Partially assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering

Above is the fully populated board, except for the two LCD driver ICs and the LCDs themselves.

LCD driver ICs installed on the PCB with header pins for the LCD displays
LCD driver ICs installed on the PCB with header pins for the LCD displays

The kit came with two 40 pin sockets, which the instructions say to cut apart and use for the LCD displays. I opted to use the sockets for the ICs, and some tall header sockets for the LCDs.

Assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering, part of the KB1SH collection purchased at Hamcation 2022
Assembled frequency counter kit from S&S Engineering

The fully assembled board looks pretty nice. Unfortunately, the frequency counter isn’t working yet. I’ve confirmed that the 10 MHz test point puts out something close to a 10 MHz signal, according to one of my DMMs. Not sure if I’ve put in something wrong, bad soldering, or if there’s just a problem with the LCD displays.

Random LCD segments showing up with power applied
Random LCD segments showing up with power applied

A few seemingly random LCD segments show up and then eventually fade after a few minutes. This makes me think it might be an issue with the LCD displays themselves. They are almost 30 years old (at least) after all. I’ll see if I can stick them into a breadboard or something and test them out. Wonder if it would be possible to wire in some other kind of display.

Figuring out how to get this frequency counter working will be as much fun as putting it together I think.

Update: Getting closer to figuring out the problem. Turned out I had the LCD driver ICs installed upside down. I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the installation instructions. With the ICs installed properly (glad I had them in sockets), now I can get the digits to display properly if I wiggle the LCDs in the header sockets to get them into a certain position. I might need to replace the header sockets with something else.

Overflowing with parts

One of my biggest purchases at Hamcation 2022 was a large set of bins and boxes of electronic components from the Swaps building. They were all part of the workbench of KB1SH (SK), and his wife and daughter (very nice people) were at Hamcation with a bunch of his homebrewed radios, tools, and components. I learned from them that KB1SH was an electrical engineer, an avid electronics homebrewer, and spent some time consulting for Ten-Tec. From the radios he built that were on the table, I could tell that he was quite a skilled builder and liked to build with vacuum tubes.

Here are 5 of the 6 component bins I acquired. They’re filled with resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, toroids and coils, crystals, connectors, and other bits of hardware for building.

5 of 6 component bins from Hamcation 2022
5 of 6 component bins from Hamcation 2022

In addition to the component bins were several boxes of more bagged resistors, caps, inductors, coils, kits of assorted potentiometers and capacitors, tubes of integrated circuits, and spools of wire.

Kits of assorted potentiometers and capacitors
Kits of assorted potentiometers and capacitors. Check out that old school Digi-Key logo!

It’s a pretty vast collection of parts and much of it is new or (now) new-old-stock/NOS. There’s pretty much everything you might need to build something radio-related in the collection.

I still consider myself a bit of a dabbler when it comes to building electronics, but I think KB1SH’s wife and daughter were pleased to know that his collection was going to someone interested in building like he was.

The Handbook Collection

With my recent ARRL Handbook acquisitions, I consider my collection pretty much complete now. I’ll add newer ones as time goes on and if someone is getting rid of older ones, I probably won’t turn them down. I feel like my collection covers the history of amateur radio from the ARRL Handbook perspective pretty well now.

My ARRL Handbook Collection starting with a 1926 1st edition Handbook on the left progressing to the 2014 ARRL Centennial edition Handbook
My ARRL Handbook Collection starting with a 1926 1st edition Handbook on the left progressing to the 2014 ARRL Centennial edition Handbook

From the left there’s the 1st edition 1926 ARRL Handbook, followed by 1927, 1931, 1944, 1950, 1956, 1963, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1993, 2005, 2012 (my very first handbook from when I first got my license), and finally the 2014 ARRL Centennial edition Handbook. The next one I end up purchasing will be the 100th edition 2023 Handbook.

I’m pretty happy with my collection. It’s a wealth of excellent reference material and project ideas.

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