Saturday, 9 July 2016

Oh eBay why do you tempt me so...

I was casually looking through eBay looking at the QRP gear and I discovered a Youkits HB1A that was going very cheap indeed. I have a HB1B but thought about a second radio because they are great fun and easy to use. 

All things went well and the radio became mine for almost a quarter of what you would expect them to fetch. Two downsides though, It was from a silent key and had the knobs missing but for the price I thought I'd take a risk. 

The risk was a risk too, the radio turned up and was low on RX and TX power, I opened up the rig and saw instantly what the issue was. The marks of burning gave it away instantly. 

Those of you with a trained eye will spot a rather sorry looking 10uH inductor. Heaven knows what had melted it away but replacing it has left the rig working fine and outputting full power on TX too. Thankfully I had a well stocked spares shelf and a steady hand. I also had a couple of dodgy left over knobs from other projects so please excuse it's Frankenstein's monster type features. 

Was the risk worth it, this time yes it was and I am lucky enough to have a radio that was cheap enough for me to start experimenting and modifying in the near future. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Portable preparations

I have been really enjoying working with the you kits HB1B and have used it most days to make a QRP CW contact by the bedside station or out portable. So far I've been using a 12v SLAB as a power source but it has proven to be a pain to carry around with such a weight. I emailed you kits to see if I could buy an internal battery pack and was told this is not possible because of shipping issues. What to do? Make my own...

I found lots of great information online and set about making a 18650 lithium battery pack to put inside the rig but the more I learnt about balanced charging the more I felt this should be a consideration so I also purchased a small PCB from an eBay seller that allowed balanced charging and voltage limit on discharge too. It was not hard to make a pack that charged nicely from 12v and allowed me to fit the whole thing internally. 

Please ignore my messy bench but here is the pack and control board as I soldered all the connections up. I did a dry run on the bench and all looked good so I put the pack inside the HB1B and started to make contacts around Europe. The pack can provide as much as 12.6v at full charge. 

All was good but I needed to make going portable easier, I wanted a nice Peli case but couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on a whim so went looking for what I had stored away to "make do." I discovered an old case that once held spares for my aquariums and soon stripped it down to basics and set about looking for any foam I may have laying about. This is naturally where being a hoarder helps and soon enough I found some suitable foam and plastic to make inserts and set about filling the case and making a secure holder for my basic portable station, the radio, key, charger, ear buds, coax, plugs and antenna. 

Here are a few images to show how I managed to cram everything into a small space and keep it secure. All I have to do now is get out portable and enjoy the summer. 
73 - M0TEF

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Video of the working Pixie 2 QRP CW radio on 30m

Below is a copy of the video I made showing how the 30m Pixie behaved in testing and how I modified it for the band. I have yet to test it better as conditions have naturally gone bad since it was complete. I did get a few reverse beacon network spots form Europe last night but nothing worth shouting about. I hope to have a half decent contact with it soon.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

More Pixie fun

I haven't been on my blog recently but that doesn't mean I have not been actively seeking more QRP adventures. I had been enjoying messing about with a Pixie 2 given to me by M0SIY when he almost died laughing at the strange chirping signal it produced. The good news was I was able to get it to play ball and started to modify the little rig to cover more frequencies with switched crystals and a ceramic resonator to allow me to cover more frequencies with the little gem.

The picture shows, left to right,my amplified speaker, 30m, 40m and 20m versions of pixies lined up next to the key. Indications on my meters suggest I'm getting 500-600mW from the rigs with 12v input voltage about 200-300mW with a 9v battery.

So during my trials I was enjoying the fact that the kits are so cheap that you can mess about with them until you can't find anything else to do with them but without adding any stress on the bank balance. I ordered three other boards, some inductors, crystals and variable caps and set about getting a pixie on 80m, 40m, 30m & 20m. I found that changing the crystals and adding a variable capacitor inline with the crystal was enough to get it working but I also needed to changed the pi output filter with differing values of caps and inductance but this is far from hard work and most rewarding for the efforts.

I haven't been able to make any contacts of value and have had a handful of Reverse beacon network spots but the real fun has come from throwing such simple rigs together and the knowledge that has been gained in the process of building VXOs and optimising the rigs.

The best outcome overall is the awesome fun I have had over the last few weeks messing about with the kits, the next stage will be to add an AF narrow filter for the CW reception to improve and to stop me listening to what feels like a whole band at once. 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

To the beach

My wife suggested we have a family trip to the local beach and I took that as an opportunity to put the new rig in my rucksack and see how it worked portable.

I took the HB1B, Palm mini paddle, 12v SLA battery, a multi band 40m EFHW design antenna and a 6m pole as well as all of the family picnic related kit. 

It was easy to find a spot out of the wind and set up, initially I thought something was wrong because of the lack of noise but it wasn't long before the signals on the band gave me confidence. I put out a CQ call at the 14.060 QRP watering hole and was answered by OH5LP and also worked HA0HH further down the band who was calling CQ and a decent signal to me. I didn't spend much time playing radio with having the family but did try the new station and work a few contacts. 

I took some video that I will try and edit together for YouTube but my early findings on this rig is that it is certainly a FB radio and just perfect for what I needed. I hope to get a few more portable ops done before I return to work next week. 

EDIT----- video link to YouTube

73 for now M0TEF. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

New toy - Youkits HB1B QRP rig

My new toy arrived today, I spotted an eBay bargain at the weekend and accidentally hit the buy it now button (well that's what I told my XYL) 

Early indications and quick tests including a couple of quick QSOs tell me I'm going to love the basic simplicity of this radio. Tomorrow I have even negotiated a trip to the beach so I can check it out by the sea. 

I hope to make a few videos of this and the pixie kits soon and get them on YouTube and linked to the blog. 

Please listen out for me and excuse my terrible CW skills. 


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

More building kits and home brew

I finally got going on another pixie, this time on 20m. It needs the experimental touch but for now I was happy having the two frequencies on a switch adding In capacitance to shift by about 4kHz. 
In an unusual twist for me I even made some effort to make it neat and tidy by putting it in a box I had laying around, it had enough room for internal batteries too. 

I was tempted to build in a VXO but with a youkits HB1B due here in the morning I might save the efforts and stick with two frequencies for the fun and simplicity of it. 

By the time I finished the build the band had started to close and certainly wasn't up to much on low power levels obtained from a 9v battery. Tomorrow I will give it a whirl and see where I'm spotted on the RBN and hopefully have some calls reyurned. 

73 for now M0TEF