Power supply!

An Astron RS-35A power supply is my latest acquisition. Saw it on ebay for a pretty decent price, and after a few days of watching it, I thought I’d put a bid on it fully expecting someone to come in at the last minute and snipe me.

Well, that didn’t happen so now I have a big beast of a linear power supply that puts out 13.7V and peak current of 35A (“25A continuous”) for less than half of what one costs new. My original plan was to use it for what ever radio I ended up buying, but we’ll be putting Connie’s radio and its power supply into the office/ham shack so this one will probably sit out on the workbench and supply power to my other projects, maybe a second radio if we end up getting one.

Except for a dinged up corner and a broken foot (probably during transport) it’s physically in good shape. After plugging the unit in, flipping the power switch brings the beast to life with an intimidating but satisfying “chunk” from the transformer and the hum of electricity.

The power terminals are these bare exposed bolts with nuts to hold any wires on. I don’t really like the thought of exposed power terminals, so I think I’ll look into replacing them with some Anderson power poles.

AB4UG

My new vanity call sign showed up in the FCC ULS database this morning!

Just in time for BarcampCHS.

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Working MFJ-208, I think

Put the MFJ-208 back together and tested it out with the antennas for my handheld.

I think it works. The LED light comes on when I turn the power on. I can hear a tone and static on my radio at about the same frequency as what’s indicated by the dial. The SWR meter moves when I change the frequency selector dial.

I’m not sure I’d use it for actually quantifying the SWR performance of an antenna. Maybe useful for quick checks of an antenna. I’ll need to find someone with a good working antenna analyzer that I could use to compare to this one.

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.