All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Monday, August 14, 2017

Restoring (more or less) the Siltronix 1011-D: Part Three.

I had to order a new transistor to replace a blown vfo buffer amp.  How did this amp get blown to begin with, you ask?   Simple: I blew it.   I did not realize I had a screwdriver about eight inches long poking through a cavity 3 inches wide.   Well... something like that.  What really happened was while checking voltage continuity, I accidentally arced the collector and emitter together.  

Pop.  Out went the lights.  Actually, gone were the signals.  I killed the vfo buffer amp.

 Q2 was the culprit, a 2N5130.  Now, the 2N5130 has been discontinued a long time ago.  But there was a fella in Greece selling a few, with the same case type.  I purchased three, and it was a good thing I did.  Turned out that the FD-1011 had a blown RF input amp, which was the very same type.

In order to replace the transistor, here shown as the transistor on the left, with the black case and a little puff of ash at the base connect, I had to remove the board.  This involved the cutting of five wires and a coax.  These would later be soldered together with slip-over insulation protecting the resultant solder connect.

Now, the VFO consists of a board that is mounted at an angle approximately 45 degrees to the board that holds the variable tuning caps, what I call the "Cap Board".  There are two wires that connect, as shown above.  I un-soldered these at the VFO amp board, taking photos as I went.  All these wires are colour coded, so chances of a mix-up was minimal.

 This photo should bring the two boards into perspective with one another.  The VFO board is on the far left, the tuning board is on the right.  There are four caps on the board, the two on the right are the band calibration caps.  Of these two, the one on the left is the ten meter "hi" calibration cap (28.5 - 29.0 MHz), and the one on the right was the 11 meter calibration cap, now with all it's shunt caps removed and tuning 28.025 - 28.625 MHz.  This photo was taken before I removed those shunt caps, which are the NPO disc caps situated above the variable caps.

Having removed the board, it was just a matter of clipping the original transistor out, and soldering the new one onto the original clipped leads.  I did not want to de-solder the transistor from the board because I noticed that the traces began to lift from the phenol as I began to de-solder with my smallest and finest soldering pencil.  So I halted that attempt, and simply clipped the leads.  These boards have been exposed to heat for many years, it's not unreasonable to expect that the traces would lift.  This happens in Drakes and the Heath Kit HW101's and SB100s I have worked on in the past.  Best to clip, leave enough lead to solder, and keep the heat from the traces as much as possible.

This is the vice grip that I use for my soldered board pieces.  It has a swivel that permits pivoting and rotating.  Quite handy.  Notice the coax, the yellow/ white and the blue/ white wires.  Also at the upper right you can see the two points where I de-soldered the leads that connected to the calibration board.  Fortunately the traces from these two points did not lift.  Re-soldering was a snap.

I mentioned that the FD-1011 digital read-out which sits outboard, and plugs into the VFO buffer output via a jack in the rear apron, could not see a signal from the 1011D.  As it turned out, it had a blown 2N5130 RF input amp, but how did it get blown?   I think the above was the culprit.  It was soldered as a dead short.  How, I have no clue, but the VOM showed complete continuity with ground, and when I lifted the connections, and removed the 1/8th inch jack and checked it, it was still shorted.  So I changed it out, re-soldered, checked continuity, and mounted it back onto the rear apron.  I then replaced the FD-1011's RF amp in the same manner as I described with the VFO board.

And here is the result.  I now have a working and calibrated digital read-out.  On Ten Meter "Low" (28.025 - 28.625 MHz) this device is critical because the resultant frequency after conversion does not come close to the 27 MHz read on the transceiver's actual dial.  The "High" band is great, spot on, the the "Low" portion requires the use of the FD-1011.  Oh, I suppose I could make a conversion table but that would be rather clumsy.

In order to remove and replace the jack on the rear apron, I had to remove the power supply board.  I also replaced the filter caps while I was at it.  BTW, this was how my operating bench sat for a solid month awaiting those transistors.  My own post office delayed delivery by about three weeks by failing to leave an attempted delivery notice.  But, it came, and everything went together well.

Well, this about wraps up the restoration and rehabilitation of my Siltronix 1011D Ten Meter station.  I do have one thing to add: Drift.
I have heard all the horror stories about the drifty Swans, and this rig is no exception.  One of the reasons lies in the fact that it has a very high intermediate frequency, which in turn uses correspondingly high frequency variable tuning RF elements, oscillators, and such.  Conventionally, such circuits are kept as low in frequency as possible, usually relegating higher frequency oscillators as xtal controlled, with low frequency VFOs injecting at the mixer stages.  Swan doesn't do that.  Their receivers, and as such, the entire RF chain, transmit and receive, is quite high in frequency.  While using higher frequencies as the intermediate frequency is great for front end image rejections, heat generated from within the transceiver will really set things off until it stabilizes, which might be after about 30 minutes warm up.  However I found that a fan also helps maintain temperature regularity, and thereby stabilizes frequency drift, faster than with no fan.  
Normally, such a vent fan draws air out, but the rear aprons of the Swans have very little ventilation.  Almost all ventilation comes via the top clam shell half, which is perforated, sides and top.  The final is dropped into a cavity which is almost impossible to get to, and air flow is quite restricted.  As such, I decided to force air into the rig and let it blow out the sides.  I have had any number of folks correct me on FaceBook over this, but I maintain that better cooling with this rig is to blow the air in.  At least, it's working for me.   Without the fan, during warm up, AF4K identified a 200 Hz drift in the course of one minute's transmission.  Have contacted several stations since, with the fan running, no appreciable drift has been noticed after a reasonable warm-up period.  The fan in the photo operates on 117vac, and plugs into one of the a.c. outlets on the back of the rig, as does the FD-1011.  The fan plugs into the outlet that is switched by the power switch on the radio, so it turns on when the 1011D is powered up.
Another drift-prone point is the VFO switch.  Swan incorporated a band switching VFO.  Separate LC tuning circuits for each band, which means the actual wafer switch to which these VFO connections are made affects the tuning of the band, too.  If you slowly turn the band selection switch, listen to the rig's receiver.  Man, it's all over the place until the switch is in place.  Don't rock the band switch!  Change your band, leave the switch alone, and you're golden.  A little DeOxit on all these switches and moveable connects is advisable.   Once clean, once all screws are tightened, once all moveable items are secure, these rigs are actually quite stable.
Now that the rig is done, I have spent the last week working evening/ late afternoon sporadic openings with good results, most folks I call  come back.  The receiver is sensitive to a fault!  Transmit quality gets compliments.  The Shure 444 mic that came with the rig does a great job, and the speech amp really "kicks".  The weak 8950 permits about 45 or so watts output PEP on sideband, and about 20 watts on AM.  Fine for me, actually. The ANL actually limits noise although voices sound better with the ANL off.  But in a pinch, it does save the ears, and signals can be heard.  The FD-1011 tracks dead on, on AM and on LSB.  USB reads 4 KHz higher, which makes sense.   

She's been an adventure, she's fun to use, and she's actually amazingly simple and easy to maintain.  In the big scheme of things, there really isn't much to her, she's a very basic gal that seems to age well, and if you understand her characteristics, she'll show you a great time.

de wd4nka.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Kingdom Not Far Away..... the Stamps of Adanaland and the Perfect State of Flatby.

Over the years I have received packets from the Kingdom of Adanaland, and her sister state, Flatby.  These came courtesy the Popesgrove Philatelic Co., based out of the Kingdom itself.  These packets contained what we of the Stamp Collecting obsession call "Approval Sheets".

There was a time many years ago when various stamp companies, such as Scotts or Harris or Minkus, would send to subscribing collectors stamps, all neatly arranged upon a sheet.  The idea was to select the stamps you needed, and return the approval sheet, along with your payment for those stamps you selected.  Every month a new Approval Sheet would arrive.  Many of these were aimed at new collectors, to provide them with a great way to "seed" their collection.  Some were tailored after a profile you provided, and may send only "Classical", pre-1900 era pieces, or commemoratives, or various definitive issues.

Above is an approval sheet sent to someone who collected Cuba, possibly Spanish Carribean Colonial issues.  I still have one or two that I picked up.  Still, closer to the subject, is another type of Approval Sheet, one that actually tells the story behind the stamp or the place of issue.  These sorts of tidbits of information from around the world which stamp collectors amass is one reason why you probably want a Philatelist on your Trivial Pursuit team.

A bit closer to the subject at hand, and a wee bit more fun, are other sorts of Approval Sheets, wherein the specimen above gives excellent example.  The above sheet offered not only a set of one of the most unique stamps ever printed, but also one of the most interesting stories of Philatelic History!  The Lundy Island Puffind Stamps.  Click and enlarge the above image, and read the story for yourself.  These stamps not only passed the mail and were privately cancelled totally under the radar of the Crown, they are now very much sought after by specialist collectors.  Check these stamps out of eBay, sometime.  Some of these illegally printed, not valid for postage stamps fetch over $100.00 apiece!  What made these illegal was that the owner of Lundy Island, which was a three mile wide privately owned island off the coast of Great Britain, actually considered himself the Ruler of Lundy, actually printed stamps and minted coins, Puffins.  That's what got the attention of the Crown.  He actually considered these stamps which he had privately printed, valid for postage, and passed them through the mails accordingly.  That was illegal.  The private minting of coins was, of course, illegal.  The King of Lundy was eventually arrested, fined (five bob), and forced to relinquish his royal prerogatives.
Adanaland is different.  Adanaland makes no pretensions of passing it's currency, postal stationery, or anything else through any intercourse beyond that of their sovereign borders.  They print no money because they are happy with, well, the traditional coins of the realm, which works well for them.  They don't mint coins, as Lundy Island did,  for the same reasons. The old coppers and throp'ney bits seem to at least purchase their postage franking fees. But they do celebrate their unusual Sovereign Domain, trapped in time somewhere in the mid 20th century, when phones had dials and families walked along the dikes and parks on Sunday afternoons.  The Kingdom bans foreign products, so only mid century English locomotion methods are seen.  Even their mail boxes are Victorian.
Of course, they keep their whereabouts in the Realm to themselves, so nobody really knows where Adanaland and her sister province, the Perfect State of Flatby really are.  All we know about either place comes from what is featured on their postage stamps.  They seem to be a peaceable lot, and value their local products alot because they never seem to reach the outside market.  
I do have a special connection because I know the owner of the Popesgrove Philatelic Co., situated within the Kindom of Adanaland itself.  Alan.  Alan is also the proprietor of Hedgehog Press.  Well, I say I 'know' him, I really don't.  I am acquainted with him through the mutual avocation of Letterpress Printing.  Alan prints these stamps.  He is, in fact, Adanaland.

All of Hedgehog Press' productions, these stamps in particular, are printed on a table top press known as the Adana 8/5.  The name implies that it's maximum print area is eight inches by five inches.  The closest thing we have in the US is the Kelsey Handpress, which is indeed very similar in size, shape, and operation.  And amazing work can be produced from both.

So, yesterday I decided to expand my 1938 Scotts "Modern Postage Stamp Album", lovingly dubbed "The Red Book".  My original book which I had since a kid was falling apart.  I located an empty book, the same publication, but in better shape, with a cover and binding that was not falling apart.  My stamp books see a lot of use.  I look at them quite often.  Stamp collectors do that, y'know.

You gotta love that biplane flying up and over the Empire State Building!  And the Art Deco Lettering.  This was the stuff of the New York World's Fair!  This was a Modern Postage Stamp Album!   And, indeed, it is my favourite.   Not the most detailed.... actually, the reason why I am expanding this book is because I have to add pages.  The book was intended for intermediate world-wide collectors, and so many of the full sets of issues I have need added pages.
I copied the border design used for the book's pages, and printed them on an off-white quality stock, right from my home ink jet printer.  The pages actually look like they belong in the original book!  I will be "tipping" these pages in, or gluing them in place, "piggy backing" the following page at the inside edge with a 1/8th wide bead of acid free glue.

In this photo, the added expansion page is on the right.  While the stamp book is copyrighted 1938, I decided to take stamps up to the closing of World War 2, or 1945.  Except . . . . 
. . . I decided to add the Kingdom of Adanaland and the Perfect State of Flatby to this album.  That is, only if the added pages do not jeopardize the spine and binding of the stamp book itself.  If it does, I will create a separate, stand alone album.  Privately made Adanaland Albums already exist, btwAdanaland and Flatby stamps are not only well known, they have been the subject of Philatelic lectures at exhibitions and Philatelic events.  I think this is part of what is so amazing and attractive about these stamps.  There is a genre of art that comes close to how  these stamps may be defined, called "Artiststamps", which are somewhat different, although functionally the same.  Artistamps tend to be very individually expressive, like a painter's canvas and media.  They do not generally claim to represent a populace, real or imagined.  They tend instead to reflect the artist, or to promote a cause.  The Adanaland stamps reflect a Kingdom, which I guess could be seen as a reflection of the creator, Hedgehog Press.  Artist stamps, however, do not tend to adopt a style adapted from known and classic postal designs.  Adanaland and Lundy Island stamps have far more in common in this regard.

I scanned a few of the finished pages of from my Adanaland/ Flatby collections.  I have also contacted Popesgrove Philatelic Co., in the Kingdom of Adanaland, for fills of the issues I have missed.  I only wish I could go there to personally pick them up.  That would be a fun trip. (sigh...)

All of these images can be enlarged. Just click on them.  Then, for windows viewers, you should be able to right click the image, and select "view image", or something like that.  For XP users, that is what you do, anyway.  This permits and enlargement of the image.
The approval sheet above reads: " The Kingdom of Adanaland is an independent fragment of England which has somehow remained unchanged since the mid-20th century - it may be glimpsed in the pages of old catalogues of the Adana printing machine company.  The population consists largely of self-employed tradesmen who, in their leisure hours, enjoy tea dances, whist drives, masonic meetings and healthy outdoor sports.  Many also run small letterpress printing works in their garden sheds.
"Adanaland has a number of overseas colonies and maintains friendly diplomatic relations with other oneirophilatilic states throughout the world.  Its stamps are produced at the Hedgehog Press in Wivenhoe, using Adana presses."
I may add that the Adana Presses are table top hand presses.  Not sophisticated C&P Craftsmen or Heidelberg Windmills or automatic Kluges.  No, just simple hand presses.  Speaking of which . . .  

The Adana 8/5 commemorative itself!  And what better place to celebrate a half century of these amazing printing machines than from the Kingdom of Adanaland!  Show above is the approval sheet, and a "gutter" ended single.  Of course, all of these stamps have never been used.  There are no cancellations, and they all have their original gum.  That is to say, those stamps printed after Alan procured a gumming machine.

Here he is, the developer of the Adana Press, Mr. Donald Affleck Aspinall, or "D.A. Adana".  This stamp is a dead ringer for a photogravure!  But no, it was printed on an Adana 8/5 handpress!  Alan, how did you do this?  You must have used four different tertiary shades of the same purple colour, and ran this through the press four times!  Perfect registration!

I saved the best for last.  This is best described as a souvenir sheet.  This grouping is technically called a sheet.  It might be called a block of four, but since there is no plate number, it cannot be called a "plate block".  I call this the most breath taking bit of postal ephemera that I have in my entire collection, both regular postal issues and cinderellas.  The design appears influenced by both the German, British and the French colonial issues.  German, because of the border and design frame.  French because of the two colour pallet, especially with the central image being key-black.  And British . . .  because I can read the words.
From time to time we will revisit these amazing stamps of the Kingdom of Adanaland, the Perfect State of Flatby, and their extended proprietorships, protectriates, and territories.

Thank you for joining us here at "All Things Wireless & Letterpress".  We hope you enjoy the unique variety of subjects, all of which relates to either Letterpress printing, or Wireless, and where the two find their mix.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Air Piracy, or, "The Summer of '71"

This is a reprise from my original article written about fifteen years ago.  It is still on my ancient web page, but you need an ancient browser to view it.  I thought it best to bring the original story here, and a little added goodie.  Before we begin, I might add that this is actually a post I made to the Glowbugs Group, probably around 2000.  It is a straight narrative.  This was later copied to a section of my old radio website called "Radio Rescuers", stories of  rescuing and reclaiming radios from eternal demise.  I bring it again, here.

"Air Piracy."

From the Radio Rescuers Journal, entry #3.
This is not so much a tale of radio reclamation from the electron abyss as much as an episode in my past. sort of a midnight confession.  The following is transcribed directly from my post to the Glowbugs List. The topic was Novice Memories and as usual, we deviated into other radio memories. This is when i told the story of WLRE, AM940 (sort of) . . . 

. . . and the Summer of '71.

"Talking about the novice memories brought to mind another facet of my chequered radio past: Piracy.
Well, not big time. When we moved back to Fla, we lived for about 2 years in an apartment snugged into a housing area, one of the largest in Winter Park at the time. Some of you old time Winter Parkers might remember 4-Seasons, not too far from Rollins College.  Also not far away was my school, Winter Park High. And the Orlando Navy Training Center. Also not far was our shopping center which contained our local hang-out, Crusty's Pizza. And Dunkin Donuts, where the cops gathered.

I lived in a 2 story building which had a roof area that was nearly an acre, ringed by a rain-gutter. Each corner of the building had a down spout. My bedroom window was a scant 2 feet from one of these downspouts.  Needless to say, any which way you looked, you scanned literally hundreds of residences in only a 2-mile square on the east end of Winter Park.
The most popular rock station was WLOF, 950 AM, which had the ear of all the teens in central Florida. There were some FM wannabees, but during the summer of '71 Winter Park was still an AM Radio town. We still had Soda Shoppes, Pizza "parlors" and drive in restaurants where you could flirt with the waitresses . . . and they flirted back.

We had a Lafayette store downtown on Mills and Montana, and it was run by a guy named "Lafayette Dan". ( when he answered the phone he would say ' Lafayette . . . . Dan', hence his nick-name.) Well, Lafayette Dan sold me one of his Wireless Phono Oscillators and gave me the tip . . . no, the concept . . . of increasing the range by coupling the antenna to a large metal gutter. I took it home, hooked it up to that downspout, phoned Mary, my girlfriend- at-the-time, asking her to tune 940 kc on the dial. I figured i might be noticed if i was pretty close to WLOF. 

She called me back and reported clear reception. WLRE AM 940 ( or so ) was born. The 'LRE' was for what was stamped on the chassis of the oscillator. "Lafayette Radio Electronics". It had 2 tubes, a rectifier and a 50C5. It was slug-tuned for frequency control, and came pre-set to 1650 kc. Cost: $ 15.00, no small chunk of change. It had 3 feet of wire for an antenna, and i soldered a coax at the final tank and alligator clipped the other end to a part of that downspout which i scraped clean of paint with a knife. It took a high impedance input directly from the phonograph cartridge, but if you cranked the volume enough, you could work a low impedance output from a reel to reel into it with a decent noise factor. Sorta.

Well sir, i took my old Tannberg reel to reel which i was using as a guitar amp, borrowed some of Mary's fantabulous album collection, airing everything from CCR to Cat Stevens and Harry Nilson.I produced an hour of programming obviously patterned after the Bill Dennis show on WLOF. I gave the Time, my version of the Weather, a'la George Carlin's "Hippy-Dippy Weatherman with the Hippy Dippy weather . . . . . man", various snippets of David Frye's "Richard Nixon, Superstar", some pretty daring Alice Cooper, plus various and sundry editorials against the Orange County School Board's dress code. I had a large pool-side listener-ship by the youth-age pool, 100 yards from the "studio".

Took my old Patrolman Pro on the bike and did a range-check. I could hear myself for just about a half mile either direction. A one mile station! A CB buddy of mine who lived over by the High School could hear me late evenings, he lived about a mile from me. Not bad for 100 mW and a gutter.

A significant injection of activity occurred in my social life. A lot had to do with Mary talking up the station with the gals. A lot had to do with my friendship with the local "Arthur Fonzerelli" type that was the ace pizza flipper at Crusty's, Jeff.
Jeff was cool.
Jeff was from Chicago.
Jeff had a Honda 350.
Jeff was 19 years old and was a Junior.
He could kick the Juke and make it play "Theme from Shaft", No. 255.
He wore a tee-shirt under a leather Ike jacket.
His helmet matched the paint of his Honda.
Jeff tuned me in on the shop radio, and i would take requests, if i could. The juke-box did the rest. I was close enough, and the population density was dense enough to effect the local Pizza business. At least, Jeff thought so.  All i had do was mention that Jeff was flippin' on a given friday night, and the place was crowded---- mostly with gals. Well, it sure seemed that way, anyway . . .  yeah, Jeff really liked WLRE. Mary, on the other hand was wondering if it was such a good thing, after all.

Mary had little to worry.

Well, what put an end to WLRE AM 940 (or so)?   2 things, really. 

One was the High School FM Radio Club, members of which had been noting my activity over the summer, and in the fall gave me fair notice they had every intention of reporting me to the FCC for Part 15 violation. The REAL story was, i think, that i had an audience after a fashion. Or so it seemed. They, with their 25 watt FM and 50 ft. Bow ties oriented to the boonies did not want the potential competition. And it particularly galled them that I, the goteed radio geek, could possibly have pulled this off.  Well, one need not have a huge range, just a strategic location. And a huge rain gutter.

That threat alone was not taken very seriously, but my dad came home one day to announce we had just bought a house . . . in Goldenrod. The Swamp! I was crushed. So was Mary. So was Crusty's.

ah, c'est la vie.

It is a good memory, and like all memories, subject to embellishment. You'll just have to trust me. 

Mary moved on, herself. Crusty's was bought out by Dinos. The Phono Oscillator was traded for another CB. Jeff went back to Chicago, the Winter Park High School FM Radio station fizzled out, and my radio endeavors took another direction . . . Amateur Radio. 

It was a fun summer, though."

 That's the end of the narrative.  It took a long time to find anything that I could post to show just what it was I was transmitting on.  The "Wireless Phono Oscillator" seemed to vanish, leaving no trace!  Nobody remembered it at the time of my original posting.  I do remember it being in the 1971 catalog, but nobody ever recalled buying or using... or even seeing one!  Then, just recently I found this video.

This, my friends, is the transmitter.  In the flesh.  I wish I had one now!

Can you just hear the crackling reception of 3DN's "Joy to the World" over your AM radio??  I know I sure can.

Thanks for walking down memory road with me.

de wd4nka.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Commemorative Letterpress Christmas Seal.

Let's begin first with the concept of the "Christmas Seal".  So many folks today give me a blank stare when I talk about Christmas Seals.  What image must this conjure in their minds?  The concept dates to a day when there was a certain elegance to the written letter, a time when we were concerned with the aesthetics of the envelopes, the covers that we sent.  Sending a letter was a very personal and laborious effort at one time. While quite another subject for a later time, letter writing was something that reflected upon the writer.

For many years, postal systems carried labels that might call attention to certain charities and events.  For instance, the "Sanitary Fairs" during the American Civil War might call attention to certain war efforts conducted by ladies' groups to wrap bandages for troops in the field.  In Europe, "semi postals" were available to help fund organizations, or charities.  These were special stamps that would not only cover franking, but also earmark some of what you paid the postal clerk for these select stamps, for donation to the indicated charity.  In Belgium these stamps were marked something like "15 + 5".  You paid 15 centimes plus and extra five, for a total of 20 centimes.  Fifteen would cover the postage, and five would go to whatever charity the stamp was featuring in it's design.  The German National Socialists, for example, funded "Sorgen Kind", a children's charity for orphans, by the use of semi postals.

In 1904, the Danish postal authorities were authorized to sell special stamps for, and collect revenue for, a Christmas Charity.  These stamps had no postage franking value.  But you could adhere the stamp to the rear flap of the envelope, a sort of "seal", hearkening back to the days of the wax seal, to show the recipient of your letter that you supported this Christmas Charity.  These stamps were as authoritative looking as the regular postage stamps of Denmark, but were used to show donation to the Christmas Charity only.  They were also printed by government sponsorship, by the government printing agencies

During the time of the issuance of this first Danish Christmas seal, an American social worker with the National Red Cross from Wilmington, Delaware, USA was visiting Denmark, and spotted these seals in use.  The worker's  name was Emily Bissell.  Emily was working with the American Lung Association's arm of the National Red Cross,  at a time when "consumption", tuberculosis and various other serious lung conditions were claiming the lives of thousands of urban residences.  Each year the National Red Cross would raise funds for the care and treatment of these victims of lung diseases.  Emily thought of a way that she might employ this same fundraising technique.  
In the US, when it comes to the interaction between Government and charities, things are a bit different.  Especially at the dawn of the 20th century.  Private business may enter into contracts with the government, such as private printers printing the US Postal Stationery, but this was contract work, not fund raising. The Government printing offices could not be used to print private fund raising ephemera, unlike Europe.  The USPOD  (United States Post Office Department, which was then a government uniformed service, not the quasi-independent "service" it is today) could not be used to collect revenue for a private organization.  But still the idea of selling seals was appealing, especially if they enhanced the look envelope.

Emily Bissell designed the first seal herself, three years after she saw the Danish Seals of 1904.  The National Red Cross contracted Theordore Leonhardt & Son out of Philadelphia to print the very first Christmas Seals in the United States.  There were two versions.  The one I show at the top of the page, and the one shown here below.

The reason for the two different versions is interesting.  The first version went on sale before Christmas.  The second was issued to cover the lapse between Christmas Day and New Years Day, 1908.  Type Two was sold for use after Christmas, to cover those Happy New Year cards, as well.  Emily designed them both.  And for Theo Leonhardt & Son, well, they printed the seals for the next year too.  After that, Strohbridge Litho, also out of Philadelphia, picked up the task of printing.  Then it fell to Eureka, also in Philadelphia.  Christmas Seals for the first few years was a very local thing!

So, how were these seals promoted?   By direct mail to members and subscribers to their funding efforts, and through a local Delaware Valley Newspaper.  The Newspaper PSAs began when sales of the first seals, Type 1, began to lag just before Christmas, after a whopping twenty five dollars had been raised.  Emily went to the above mentioned Newspaper (I forget the name of it) for help to get the word out, and with the new design of Type 2, the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Red Cross finished out the season raising Three Thousand Dollars!

Did the idea take?  Yes, it eventually went national.  The very next year, a Mr. Howard Pyle designed the second Seal for 1908-09, based on the original Bissell design, and the National Red Cross raised $135,000.00!!   The rest is history.

In time, the National Red Cross would become the American Red Cross, and by the end of World War One, The American Lung Association would become a separate entity, adopting the double-barred cross.  Funding raised by Christmas Seals to fight the "White Plague" (Tuberculosis) would escalate into the multiple millions per year.

In 2006, I began searching the web and asking around, such as I could, as to whether there would be some sort of 100th anniversary seal issued to commemorate the issuance of the first 1907 Emily Bissel Seal.  I was well aware of the history of the seals and as a philatelist myself and a Seal Collector.  I thought surely some design would happen.... but it did not seem as if it did.  None that ever came to my attention anyway.  At the time I was the 19th century printer at the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, Barberville, Florida.  I had just rehabbed two of their letterpresses and was organizing their vintage printing exhibit when the thought occurred:  why not do something along the lines of creating such an issue ourselves?   Every year we had an event called "A Florida Christmas", and we had a functioning periodic Pioneer Settlement Post Office that could cancel mails at certain events.  The Post Office at Christmas Florida is a similar set up.  It is active only at certain specified times.

I did not want to do an exact copy of the Bissell design.  I wanted to base my commemorative design, however, off the original.  Just as Howard Pyle did for the '08 Seal.  Close enough to get the idea, yet different.

I did come quite close to the original holly leaves, berries and the red cross.  I used another font to carry the text, and then added a frame with the legend :"Commemorating One Hundred Years of Christmas Seals in the United States.   The design was then etched onto an 0.25" copper die, backed with hardwood, type high.  This was done by Owosso Graphics, gratis ( thanks again, guys! ). 

We printed these seals in souvenir sheets of 9, perforated and imperforated.  They were printed in brick red oil base, and process blue.  More red were printed than blue.  These were, in turn, used as souvenir sheets as a free gift for visiting our Settlement, issued both at the Post Office and at the Print Shop.  We did encourage donations to the American Lung Association, although we were, of course, not authorized to collect revenue.

While I had planned to issue these each year, on a different colour paper with different ink colours, than has not happened.   A total of 250 sheets were printed in red, and about 100 in blue.  Half were perforated, half were not.  These were issued in a special folder created for the event.  I have no idea how many were even kept, how many were used.  Probably not that many.  These were not gummed.  The user would have had to actually glue it on.  We did not think that folks would actually want to tear up a souvenir sheet to get at nine imperfectly perforated "primitives".

Our perforator was a Chicago Line Perforator, just like as was used in some European Countries in the 1850s, when they made the move away from cutting stamps with scissors or postal knives.  The presses we used were standard Platen style Letterpresses, Chandler & Price Old Style 8x12, one was made in 1890, the other in 1910.  Today, I have at my own shop a 1936 C&P and a 1965 Open Kluge 10x15.  

It's been a long time, ten years since I printed those Centennial Christmas Stamps.  I may take that die and print up a green version for this year.  If anyone is interested, that is.  It's a fair amount of work, and one thing I do not have any longer is a line perforator.  Who knows?  The year isn't over yet!

Here is the blue version.  The design is the same, it was printed from the same copper die.  These were also available perforated and imperforated ( collectors call them "perf" or "imperf".)

Here is a shot of the few sheets I have left.  Most of mine are imperforate, and a few line perforated specimens where the perforations are really not well centered.  This was something that plagued the printers of a lot of the European Issues of the mid 19th century as well.  It's very hard to register a single perforation line perfectly.  Let alone, er . . .  'imperf'ectly.  Heh..

This is the hardwood backed copper die used.  It is a one of a kind.  The copper is incredibly thick.  The image is acid etched in the same manner used by commercial platers back in the 1890s, although computer generated negatives are used now instead of the line-shot camera negatives that I knew as a lad in the industry.

And, for those totally unversed in "Seal Etiquette", the way you should used them is just as a wax seal on the center pointed flap of the envelope, or in the case of a post card, next to the stamp.  Some place it in the center top of a post card back.  Nobody is keeping notes, but as a collector, we do value seals that are tied with the stamp by the cancellation, if collecting as an entire, or un-ripped on an envelope, which is actually pretty rare to find.

Here is a properly placed Centennial Commemorative Seal:

I really like the old designs, and you know?  Emily Bissell did not see herself as an artist designer, she just wanted a pretty design, and this is what she came up with.  It is now Iconic, and really, for a Seasons Greeting, it's really hard to beat.

Now, were any of these early Christmas Seals ever printed by Letterpress?   Yes, indeed!  Eureka ran several years of what are listed as "Typographed" cards.  This is, in fact, Letterpress.  It is raised surface printing, one of the best methods of rendering fine detail, next to line engraving.  Most of the typographed seals were printed between 1910 and 1920.  I may be off a couple years, I can double check but it seems to me that it was around the War years and up into the 1920s that Letterpress was used.  By far, most seals were, and are, offset lithograph printed.

That's it for now, folks!  I thought you might like a little Christmas in July!   Hope it was of interest.  As a printer and philatelist, these things are quite interesting to me, anyway.  As if you hadn't noticed!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Revisiting "Field Day" . . . 1981!

The year is 1981.  I had been a General for one year.  I was also an amateur photographer who wanted to freeze time on paper.  The idea that a shadow freezes permanently, for all time, simply because a plus power lens focuses whatever is in range and leaves a permanent record was fascinating to me.  Like.... like looking in a mirror, and your image freezes there for all time.  Photography is the closest thing we have to time travel.  It's not an electrical reproduction, it's the actual physical object, preserved by natural processes,  the action of Silver, the medium of paper and the action of acetic acids and bromium.

People have been freezing time on paper since 1827.  I was doing it in 1981.  Using both medium format 70mm and 35mm black and white.   Black and White is also timeless.  The only calibrator of time is what may or may not appear in the photograph.  The technology frozen in time.  The dress.  Take dress and technological implements out of the Black and White photo, and you really don't have a reference.  You can't tell when the photo was taken.  An Alex Gardener photo of the Grand Canyon shot in 1875, the same canyon shot by Ansel Adams in 1948, and one shot by myself in 1970 all look alike.  Unless, of course, you are a photographer who can tell wet collodian prints from dry, from a 8x8 wooden view camera image with a spherical lens to a Graflex 4x5 to a Mamya C330..... &c.

Add colour, and for some reason the "timelessness" is removed.  Colours fade on prints faster than Black and White images, and some B&W images never fade!  I once visited a colour Autochrome exhibit at the Smithsonian, "Indian Summer, 1898".  The colour glass transparencies were wonderfully vivid, very, very true colour.  And.... it looked like a bunch of folks got dressed up in 1890's outfits and somebody shot them in Kodachrome!  It looked . . . . fake.  Black and White seems more definite to me, more authentic, more....

.... more real.

On this fine day of June, 1981, I set out to do two things.  Attend my first Amateur Radio Field Day, and to record the event.  The Club that sponsored this location (Ben White Raceway, Lee Road, Orlando Florida) was the Orlando Amateur Radio Club, W4PLB - pretty little blonde.

The location at the time was somewhat remote, close to the intersection of Lee Road and the Orange Blossom Trail, Hwy 441.   The sun was bright.  The temperature was typically warm, high 80s.  Several large screen enclosure tents and a truck camper was set up for the various stations, and several antennas were erected for the event.  Some on towers, some strung between poles.  Some wires sloping down from the towers erected for the event.

What is field day?  It is an event that requires stations to operate "off the grid", that is, not on commercial power.  The idea is Emergency Preparedness.  These events have been sponsored yearly by the American Radio Relay League, since 1938.  Batteries, Generators, portable equipment and antennas are the name of the game.  The time spent doing this: from Saturday around noon till Sunday around 2pm or so, time may vary.

Field Day is actually a contest, with different portable set-ups positioned all over the United States and Possessions, each contacting other eligible stations for points.  The idea of scoring points is to help gauge the effectiveness of your particular station under emergency conditions.  Hams in Florida are particularly interested in Field Day, owing to our Hurricane-prone environment, and the fact that so many of us have gone for weeks without power or telephone, with communications almost entirely being handled by hams on remote power.  Florida has a long legacy of Ham Operation corresponding to weather emergencies.

To be sure, in 1981, Hurricane David was a fairly recent memory.  As was Hurricane Frederick.

And so, without further adieu, Field Day, 1981:

The Ben White Raceway had a Club Building on the premises, but we used only their parking lot.  All food, drinks, and fuel was brought in by the club members and the ops themselves.  What you see in this photo is one of the Winnebagos, a portable crank up tower and, I believe, a monoband 20m yagi.

This is a wire beam on a guyed tower.  That palm tree is in the background.  A close look shows a sloper antenna suspended from the tower's top.  That building in the background is part of the stables for the race horses and storage for the sulkies.  This raceway was a horse track.  It no longer exists.  This whole area is now built up.

A ground mounted 4-BTV.  Radials are spread out around the area, probably almost to Lee Road, visible behind the hedges.

This photo shows an interesting dipole lash-up.  The tower is about thirty feet with a ten foot mast.  A cross member "T"s at the top.  Each end of the "T" supports an inverted vee, and, if you notice that white cord at the bottom center of the photo, an 80 meter inverted vee, arranged 90 degrees from the  two inverted vees on the pulleys.  A lot of wire coming off that pole!   The inverted vees on the T pole are raised and lowered by a pulley arrangement.  The tower is painted red - white - red.

One of the generators.  These are placed a safe distance from the operating tents, as you can see.  Why?  Carbon Monoxide from the exhaust, not to mention the noise.  Some of these generators were not all that loud.  But the place did smell of petrol.  There were no diesel generators.

Wow.  Memories.  These rigs were brand new, then.  A Kenwood TS-520, matching speaker, Swan watt meter, an electronic keyer and the good ol' J38.  I do not know the name of the op.  I did not know many of the hams at OARC.

This op worked at Amateur Electronic Supply, Orlando.  I think his name is Pedro, although forgot his last name and call.  I can tell you he was a great fella to work on the air, one of the very few that took my regen receiver building anything LIKE serious (Charlie at AES did, too!) .... and sold me his HW-8 at a super deal.  Now, check out the equipment.  It looks like the TS-520 kinda ruled the tents!  He is using a Turner power mic.  A Swan SWR bridge sits on the Kenwood, and... a wind-up travel alarm to keep time for the log.  Remember paper logs and notes?  This was REAL operating.

Op and Logger.  I haven't talked to Rusty, KD4NT since the late 1990s.  I forgot who the fella to the left is.  I am sure somebody will embarrass me by reminding me, but you know?  Thirty-six years is a long time.  It's hard in this photo to identify the rig Rusty is using, here.  But one thing I can say, everything here is the latest state of the art as of 1979-80.  This scene is taken inside a pick-up truck camper.  Rusty is doing the talking, his partner is doing the logging.  To me, this is the quintessential Field Day photograph.

This was the one and only Field Day I ever attended.  I did operate from midnight on, for a couple hours, on 40 cw, using a straight key until I was replaced by a fella who came in with, what I think was a HAL code reader/ sender.  It had it's own CRT, that's all I remember.  That was the end of my operating, I guess I was too slow.  Anyway, I'm sure they got a ton more contacts from that operating position.

It was a lot of fun.  It was a long time ago.  I'd almost hesitate to see a Field Day setup these days, I wouldn't know what button to press!  I wouldn't know PSK31 from WD40.   I might guess that's why my station is, itself, locked in time.  :)

Wishing y'all a great Field Day 2017!!

de wd4nka.

Restoring (more or less) the Siltronix 1011-D: Part Two.

Before I start this installment, here are the "instruments" I used for tuning.  I don't have much test equipment at my shack, I share it with my Print Shop, so there's not a lot of room.  Here is what I used to work on the 1011-D:

My Antenna Tuner.  Its a Dentron MT3000A, which has a built in dummy load.  That is what I am using to both load into, read the power output, and also tune my 40m vertical down to 10m.

My Hallicrafter HA-5 vfo.  After about half an hour warm up, she's very stable.  I calibrate her against the xtal calibrator on my Drake 2B.  I kept her parked on 28.5 MHz during this whole process.
In addition, I used the mA meter on the Siltronix 1011D itself, along with it's S-meter.  Unless the radio is radically unadjusted, normal tune-up uses peak tuned signal at the front end to align the receive (it's only a single conversion superhet, the transmit output tuned circuitry takes care of the other receiver tuned circuits).  Tuning the vfo means sending a known signal into the front end, and tuning the output is a step by step affair following the manual, using the on-board mA meter.  That's really all you need!  A Dummy Load, a way of reading output, which can be done on the rig itself, a way of reading signal input which is also done on the rig itself, and a frequency standard or reference.  I might add that if my FD1011 was working, that would also be a handy tool.  But at this point it's not seeing my vfo output, so that is not being used.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     

I decided to spend a good part of the afternoon bringing at least one band back to Ten Meters.  There is a dearth of information regarding the relationship between the parallel shunt caps and the vfo calibration cap.  Having mentioned in the prior installment that the 1011 is essentially a Cygnet, and locating the vfo on the Cygnet's downloaded manual, and identifying the parts and values as basically the same, I determined that 10pF is the approximate value needed for 28 MHz.  More or less.  

Shown below is the vfo calibration caps, indicated on both the 1011D and the Cygnet manual as being 5pF (I will assume full mesh.)   If the shunt capacity is 10pF, we're talking 15pF total.  The lower the capacity, the greater the ability of the calibration tuners to vary the frequency because the ratio of values.

On the left is what was once the 28.5 MHz vfo calibration tuner, and the 27.0 MHz on the right.  Note that the 11 meter vfo is shunted by two caps.  They look to be a total of 15pF.  The 10 meter side had four caps in shunt, I removed one, a 5pF NPO cap.

Because of how tightly the caps are soldered together, I cannot tell the values of the three remaining, but having placed a calibrated signal through the receive chain, I was able to easily calibrate the receiver at 28.5 MHz, dead on the nose.

Now, having done this affected the drive tune to the finals.  Now that the 11m side and the 10m side are one full meg distant (as they originally were!)  I found I had to re-tune L201 (mixer output) and L301 (driver plate tune)  Both of these, as well the carrier null, are located on the bottom of the rig via access holes.

L201 is on the left, L301 is on the right.   These perked the 10m output quite a bit, reading the power output off the watt meter on my dummy load.  However, this was at the expense of the 11m output.  It would appear that I have a choice, either operate 10m or 11m.  Now, when these rigs were built, the whole point was operation on 10m.  It was receive only on 11m.  Which tells me that when (what we call today "Freebanders" today) converted these rigs down to 11m, they had to not only alter the vfo by the addition of caps, but they also had to re-tune the whole transmit train for 11m.  So I am, essentially, reversing the modification.

Since the above is true, that tells me something else: I need to bring the 11m section also up to 10m.  It's just a matter of which range.  28.0 - 28.5 MHz or 29.0 - 29.5 MHz?  I am leaning toward the latter.

So as it is right now, the 10m portion appears to be back where it was.  The maximum output in tune position is about 45-50 watts.  In the AM position, I am getting about 30 watts with forward deflection on the output meter, on SSB (I had to re-null the carrier after the re-modification) I am getting in the vicinity of 60 watts on a hard whistle.  I don't have a tone generator, but I can get an idea by sending sound through the mic.  Also, I can get a good idea of carrier suppression and modulation quality via using the Drake 2B as my service receiver.  Maybe I should have shown it as part of my "test" gear.

From what I can hear, the 1011 sounds great on both AM and SSB.  The acid test is when I actually talk to somebody on the air!

Stay tuned for Part 3.