MFJ-208 refurb project

An examination of the innards of the MFJ-208 antenna analyzer didn’t reveal any obvious problems other than the messed up variable plate capacitor.

Everything else inside looks pretty clean.

With a pair of needle nose pliers and some very gentle pressure, I was able to bend the plates of the variable capacitor back to where I thought they should be. Both plates are parallel to each other now and don’t hit each other when rotated.

Now I just need to put everything back together, add power and test it out.

MFJ-207 refurb project

Spent some time going over the innards of the MFJ-207 antenna analyzer I picked up and doing some research to figure out what kind of rotary switch I’ll need to replace the existing messed up one with. I think I’ve found the correct replacement switch (a Lorlin CK1025 rotary switch).

Everything else inside looks in decent shape as far as I can tell. I haven’t tried to test all the individual components yet. No leaky/bulgy capacitors or burn marks and all the soldered connections seem solid. Aside from the rotary switch I’m not seeing anything else wrong with it.

Now to go over the MFJ-208. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a variable plate capacitor to replace the existing one, but I might be able to fix it up so that it works the way it should.

SoftRock SDR radio kits

The SoftRock SDR radio kits I ordered arrived in a little box yesterday. The SoftRock Lite II receiver and the SoftRock Ensemble RXTX kits I got both contain a lot of bits and pieces to put onto relatively small boards.

The SoftRock Lite II kit.

The SoftRock RXTX kit.

It will be a little while before I’m ready to tackle either of them. The receiver kit looks like it will be the easiest to start with. There are a few SMT components to put on, but not as many as the RXTX kit.

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.