Charleston Hamfest 2020

This year’s edition of the Charleston Hamfest went fairly well I thought. I had a pretty good time there anyway.

Most of my time was spent up front at the microphone making announcements and picking door prize winners, but I did get to spend some time wandering around looking at stuff. Picked up a couple books, a box of analog meters, and enough spools of wire to keep me going for decades. Builder hams getting rid of stuff can be very generous when they find other builder hams (or aspiring builder hams) looking for stuff.

Toward the end of the hamfest, the “Free Stuff” table starts getting more and more things piled onto it. Found an old Heathkit Automotive Tune-up meter and an EICO Model 460 oscilloscope that ended up coming home with me. I figure the oscilloscope will make a nice restoration project to learn/practice on without having to worry about messing up. Also grabbed a box of miscellaneous wires and microphones off the free table.

Two of the big vendors that have been regulars at the hamfest were notably absent this year (retired from the hamfest circuit), so the vendor space seemed emptier than usual. Still a pretty decent amount of stuff to look at and buy.

Back this year was the go-box exhibition and competition. There were some pretty cool go-boxes that were submitted. One of these days when I have more time to spare, I’ll have to put one together.

No time for radio, building, or tinkering these days but once I get past the PhD, I’ll have plenty of projects to work on.

Field Day 2019

Didn’t get to spend as much time doing Field Day this year as I have in the past. Made it out to the Yorktown around 1PM and setup was still going on. Got the generator fueled up, plugged in the extension cord and we were ready to go.

Listening for call signs

It looks like I’m logging a contact here, but I’m just trying to pick out the call sign of a station amid all the noise and other nearby stations.

Spent a few hours operating at the station. Started with phone, but got tired of listening to the noise after a while and switched over to RTTY. A lot less RTTY activity on 20 m and 40 m than I expected (that the radio could hear anyway) but managed a few contacts over an hour or so.

Wasn’t able to make it out on Sunday because of injuring my foot trying to navigate my way around the ship. Missed a step and when I landed on my foot, it bent in a way that it shouldn’t have. Nothing broken, fortunately, but really sore and made walking around difficult.

Turn out for this year’s Field Day was pretty light. Not sure how many people came out for the evening/night shift, but there were only a handful of people during the time I was there.

With club members getting up there in age, maybe it’s time to find an easier to access Field Day location.

Museum Ships Weekend 2019

This year’s Museum Ships Weekend was a lot of fun.

Started with the USS Yorktown (WA4USN) on Saturday. By the time I got to the ship, Tom/AJ4UQ had already racked up about 100 QSOs. Then he had to leave, so I had the radio all to myself for the next few hours. Spent a couple hours hunting ships on 20m and 40m to make sure we’d have enough to earn the certificate from NJ2BB (need 15 ships in the log). Then I found a clear frequency on 20m, parked and started calling. Didn’t take long for the pileup to happen, and added another 60 or so contacts to the log before I had to call it a day. Band conditions were decent with contacts from the northeast and across to Texas and Alabama. Some propagation up to the midwest as well.

Sunday we activated the USS Laffey (NT4HI) and the USS Clamagore (NJ4DU). Tom had the idea to alternate activating the Laffey and Clamagore about every hour or so, with him activating NT4HI while I activated NJ4DU. Seemed to work out pretty well. Working pileups can get tiring so being able to switch up periodically was helpful. We definitely had pileups going for both ships. Lots of fun. Lots of contacts from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas today. Also had some propagation up to the northeast and midwest again too. Had a few Wisconsin and Michigan stations in the log for both ships.

Ended up with close to 200 contacts for each ship today. Pretty good weekend on the air.

Heathkit HD-1250 clean up

The Heathkit HD-1250 grid dip meter (SN 05706) I acquired at the hamfest a few months ago looked in decent condition aside from some pretty major foam rot.

Finally got around to getting it cleaned up, which turned out to be more of a mess than I anticipated. Unfortunately, the foam rot wasn’t as easy to clean up as I thought it might be.

The foam ended up disintegrating into an ugly sticky mess. I was able to brush most of it off, but it left a gluey residue on everything.

I was able to clean off the sticky goo on the coils, but unfortunately whatever it was that the foam disintegrated into also had the same effect as paint stripper. When I tried to wipe the residue off the case, the paint underneath was coming off as well.

Since it didn’t look like I was going to be able to get any of the goo off the case without taking the paint off as well, I decided to just scrape it all off. The case is in three pieces: face plate and two side pieces. Undo four screws at the bottom and one each in the front and back of the case and the case comes apart pretty easily.

The insides look in pretty good shape, aside from a leaky battery that also took the battery connector with it (easy enough to replace). A few more pieces of disintegrating foam that were originally to cushion the battery, but it was just dry and crumbly fortunately.

Scraping the goo off the face plate was easier once it was freed. Pretty much all of the paint on the top of the face plate ended up coming off. Some of the paint along the top of the side pieces where the foam stuck also had to be scraped off.

There was also a good bit of pitting in the lower part of the face plate from the goo.

Mostly cleaned up and back in the case

The HD-1250 is a little more bare, but mostly cleaned up. The labels on a couple of the coils have faded away, so there’s no indication of what frequency range they’re for. I’ll have to hunt down a manual and see if the coils are described in it. Aside from some surface corrosion on part of the RCA plug shell (easily sanded off), the coils still look in good shape. The electrical repairs and testing will have to wait for another day.

Charleston Hamfest 2019 acquisitions

This year’s hamfest notable acquisitions:

  • Yaesu FT-1802M/E 2m mobile
  • Yaesu FTM-3207D 70cm mobile
  • AADE LC meter IIB kit (unassembled)
  • Morse code bug
  • Heathkit HD-1250 grid dip meter
  • Kanga PSK interface (unassembled)
  • DZ 40m HT kit (unassembled)
  • Yeary Communications short wave crystal receiver kit (unassembled)
  • Several boxes of random items that were set on the “Free Stuff” table (I haven’t gone through these yet)
  • MITS Altair 680

Ended up spending more money that I usually do at hamfests, but quite a bit less than I could have.

I haven’t had a chance to test either of the radios yet, but they both looked pretty clean (the FT-1802 looked like it had never been taken out of the box).

The kits I picked up came from the W4RAK collection that was donated to the club. I had been wanting to get one of the AADE LC meters for a while, but unfortunately the owner died before I could pull the trigger on one. When I saw the unbuilt one in a box, I grabbed it right away. I saw the 40m HT kit, I was like “Huh, wut? What the heck? Holy crap! I need this.” A quick look at the documentation shows it’s a 40m (7.290 MHz) AM radio in a handheld form factor, rechargable (lithium ion) battery pack, but without the optional antenna/antenna matching unit). Realistically, it’s essentially a novelty item and I don’t expect to get a whole lot of use out of it. Maybe I can get it built in time for next year’s AM Rally though.

The Heathkit grid dip meter is a bit messy because of foam padding disintegration (foam rot), but otherwise looks pretty pristine. Should be pretty easy to clean up I think.

The gem of my acquisitions I think is the Altair 680. I haven’t plugged it in yet, but it seems to look in pretty good shape.

With PhD work, it will probably be a while before I get around to messing around with any of my new acquisitions.