Refurbishing antenna analyzers

While browsing radios on ebay, I came across a couple of MFJ antenna analyzers: an MFJ-207 and MFJ-208.

They were both being sold as “For parts” and the person selling them wasn’t able to test them. From the description and the pictures that were posted, my expectations weren’t very high. The price was pretty low, and I figured if they worked I’d have a couple of antenna analyzers for pretty cheap and if they didn’t, I’d have an interesting project on my hands that I could learn something from.

They arrived in the mail today and I had a quick look inside both of them. Off the bat the 207 is going to need a new band selector dial. It looks like it’s supposed to be a one of those multi-position switch knobs, but if it was it isn’t anymore. On the 208 it looks like a new variable plate capacitor is in order. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure the plates aren’t supposed to touch when the knob is turned. I’ve also never seen a variable plate capacitor with just two plates (one moving, one stationary).

I’ll have to spend more time and go over them more closely, but if these two things are all that’s wrong with the two analyzers, then this should be a pretty easy refurb project for me (provided I can find the parts). Fortunately the manuals for both of them are available on the MFJ website, and the 207 manual even has a schematic in it.

This should be interesting. Pictures to follow

Radios: What do I want to get?

Amateur radio isn’t exactly an inexpensive hobby to get into. New base stations generally start in the $1-$2k range and go up from there. Portable/mobile radios a little less, usually in the $700-$1k range. There are a myriad of choices and sources available: new, used, vintage, auction sites, ham radio forums, hamfests, local users. For less $ and some elbow grease, you can still go the DIY route with a kit radio (a very intriguing idea). If you don’t know what you’re looking at or looking for, it can be pretty overwhelming.

Amateur radio equipment tends to be very modular, so it’s not just the radio you need. There’s also the power supply (another couple of hundred dollars), an antenna (or two, or three…how many bands do I want to play on?), and various and sundry accessories like filters, antenna tuners, maybe an amplifier and other things. It’s kind of like buying a car, and having to purchase the engine and tires separately. Most of the accessories can be acquired over time as the need for them arises, but the three basics are the radio, power and antenna.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a lot of browsing on ebay and swapmeet sections on various ham radio forums to get an idea of what’s out there and what’s available. I’m slowly starting to put together a list of what kind of gear I want.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to want at least two radios: a portable one for the car and a permanent station for the house. I’ll probably start with a mobile unit first. A third mobile/portable unit that I could take out and about with me without having to connect and disconnect what’s in the car would be nice too. That will probably be further down the road though. Both radios should be able to do HF/VHF/UHF, although I might consider VHF and UHF operation optional for the portable radio since I have my handheld.

As for specifics, I’m not partial to any particular manufacturer or brand. I think something new-ish so I don’t have to worry about it dying on me due to old age. There are some really neat looking old rigs up for auction on ebay that are tempting though. I don’t think I want to buy anything used online though. I’d much rather be able to play with it and see the radio in action beforehand, or know that the radio was actively used by the owner.

I’m not in a huge rush to get a radio just yet. This is the kind of thing I want to take my time researching and figuring out just what I want out of a radio set up. In the meantime, I’ll spend my time learning more about radio and getting more skill levels in electronics.

Amateur Extra in the books

My amateur radio license in the FCC ULS database changed from General to Amateur Extra this afternoon, so now it’s really official!

I put in the application for a vanity call sign, so in a few weeks I should be getting on the air with a shiny new and cool call sign.

Whee!

Still looking at radios and deciding what I want to get.

Adventures in electronics

Finally found some time to sit down with all the bits and assemble a second Morse code key using the supplied schematic. At first it didn’t seem to work, but after checking through everything I found one of the speaker wires wasn’t fully inserted (short lead). After I fixed that, it buzzed at me when I clicked the button! The button is the clicky kind, so it’s not that well suited for doing Morse code, but it works! The buzzer was also a lot louder than the kit, which I later discovered was due to me forgetting a resistor between the final capacitor and speaker.

The next step was to make it light up in addition to buzzing. Spent some time looking at the schematic for a place to insert an LED that I didn’t think would make it go poof or fry anything. Put in a red LED and connected it to ground, pushed the button and it lit up! Then I decided to try a second green LED in series with the red, and they both lit up! Success!

A variable resistor instead of the fixed resistor in front of the speaker I think should give me some volume control, so I’ll try that next. I need to get one first.

Amateur Extra, now what?

Now that I’m an Extra class ham, thoughts have turned towards thinking about what kind of HF radio I want, where to put it, where to locate the antenna and other fun things like that.

The past week or so I’ve been surfing the Ham Radio category on ebay just to see what kind of equipment people put up for sale there. I’m a bit of a sucker for older/vintage equipment, so while there are lots of shiny new radios available, my attention tends to get drawn to the older stuff. I don’t know how practical it would be for me to own and use older gear, but they do look pretty cool. Maybe by the end of the year or early 2013 I’ll have my own rig set up.

There are BarcampCHS sessions to prepare for, a garage to clean out (to make room for more workbench space) and ham shack space to think about. Thanksgiving will bring the #WATwitter (Worked All Twitter) QSO Party where I’ll be getting on the air with Connie/NR4CB to get Twitter/ham contacts. Work us on HF and you’ll get a 2-for-1 QSO!