All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

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.

To go to Part 3, click here.

To return to Part 1, click here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Restoring (more or less) the Siltronix 1011-D, Part One.

The Siltronix 1011 series of transceivers was something I knew about for many years.  Before I became a Novice, most of my CB friends were using Ham rigs, modified to take them above the regular 23 CB channels.  In those days, the early 1970s, this region was known as "HF".  I remember how I wish I could afford a rig like these CBers had.  Tempo Ones.  Yaesu FT-101s (which came set up for 11 meters!), or even those CBers who had the really old rigs like the Johnson Rangers and Hallicrafters HT32s and 37s, with their big impressive receivers, the SX-101s or the Hammarlund HQ145X or 180s.  Some CBers even ran the KW Johnson Invaders!  Oh, and the antennas they had!  The towers.  The quads and yagis.

One rig that was included in this category is the Swan/ Siltronix 1011.  Although these transceivers came with Ten Meter transmit only (28.5-29.0 MHz) and a 27 MHz range that covered 26.0-27.5 MHz set up for receive only, it was an easy reconfiguration of the band switch that enabled transmit on 11 meters.  And while Swan took a lot of heat for this.... so much that they had to set up a daughter company, Siltronix, to produce the 1011B, C and D series, lest they lose QST ad space.... leave us not forget that other rigs, notably some Japanese rigs which were then becoming very popular with the Amateur Radio Market, came to our shores with NO modification required!  Oddly enough, Yaesu, whose FT-101 models came with 11 meters already installed,  never took this sort of heat, as far as I know.

I was not only well aware of this rig, it was one of the ones I drooled over at the local Ham Radio outlet, Amateur Electronics Supply.  I'd go into their old show room and just.... spin the dials.  (before they remodeled in 1980, they had about 1000 sq ft. of show room space with shelves and shelves of used and new rigs.) And yet, when I finally procured one just recently, I discovered I knew, in reality, nothing about them!  Fortunately there is a site that fairly covers a lot of the Siltronix Story and details about the 1011 in particular.  So I need not go into a lot of background about this rig.

I was recently gifted with a complete Siltronix 1011 set up, the "Comanche" transceiver itself, the SP1011 outboard speaker, the FD1011 digital read out, and a Shure 444 microphone.

It was stored in a garage for quite a while.  The power cord was missing, so I ordered one from eBay, which came in short order.  The paint was ok, but was dull, with some major chips.  But no dents, and no rust beyond some easily sanded surface rust.

I began my refurbishing by simply taking off the cabinet of  both the SP1011 and the rig itself, and whatever pieces needed it, went into the dishwasher.  Then, when I got a clear look afterward of what needed sanding, what paint was peeling, what was what, I proceeded to treat those areas alternately with 100 grit sand paper and / or steel wool.   I then gave the top cabinet shells a new coat of wrinkle finish jet black, dried under a heat gun.  The lower shells, or bottom plate, in the case of the transceiver itself, had the front lip painted gloss black.  The wrinkle finish and gloss bottom is pretty close to the original paint scheme.

 Here are the cabinet parts awaiting the dish washer.  Left to right: the speaker top clam-shell, the transceiver's bottom plate, the speaker enclosure chassis, and the transceiver top clam-shell.

Also included in the cleaning was the speaker's polished metal grille and nameplate.  These items were actually pretty good as they were and only needed a little polishing when dried.

These are the top clam-shells after painting.  The top is the speaker, then the transceiver, and the bottom shot is a close-up of the finish.  These cabinets turned out very nicely!  And if you haven't figured it out by now, after reading my radio restoration posts, I am a really huge fan of black wrinkle finish.  Not only does it look authentic even when it isn't (in this case, it is.), it covers a multitude of sins, and does not require priming!

A few basic replacement items were needed: some filter caps in the power supply, one or two more electrolytic replacements beyond the power supply, and a relatively easy receiver and transmitter alignment, courtesy the downloaded 1011D manual.  After ramping her up on the Variac, she seems to behave well.  On her original 8950 final she does show 20 watts AM, adjusted to a slight forward modulation swing to bring her to approx 30w at modulation envelope peaks.  On SSB, she shows about 50 watts on an average voice level input with the mic's audio set at 9 o'clock, with 75 watt modulation peaks at a whistle,  at what I am guessing to be 1000 cycles. I don't have perfect pitch, but it's a rough estimation.  Works for now, anyway.  I was able to completely suppress the carrier following the manual, which actually fails to tell you where the mode switch should be when doing preliminary tune up!  It may not matter, but that being the case, it should have indicated so.  I plan to modify the final to a less expensive tube, these 8950s cost over a C note!

The FD1011 digital readout, which is an outboard unit made by Siltronix specifically for this radio, turns on and shows 25.500 MHz on it's red LED read-out, which is it's "no signal" default reading.  But it does not see the VFO output.   It does see and registers RF from other sources, like my Dynacom Walkie Talkies, so it does respond and read RF accurately, just not from the 1011D itself, currently.  There may be a ground fault or an open in the FD1011's feed line.   That is something I will be looking into.

Opening her up, I was pleasantly greeted by a fairly clean radio.  While a little alignment was necessary, she was, actually, functional.  I had to re-calibrate the CB channels to correspond accurately to the dial markings, which is normal for old rigs.  The one light bulb was burnt out, but I replaced it from the local Auto Zone, a No. 57 14.3v bulb that works nicely. It's a 14.3 volt bulb that burns rather cool. I got that bulb (and the wrinkle finish paint) from Auto-zone.  One tube, the VFO amp seemed a bit weak, I replaced it, but the FD1011 still does not see the output.

Since the FD1011 wasn't reading the transceiver VFO output, I had no way of finding out where I actually was on the 28.5-29.0 MHz range.  Using my HQ-129-X receiver, I discovered at length that instead of 10m, it was altered to cover 27.5 - 28.0 MHz.  So I went on a search to find out what to do to put the original range back.  The calibration variable caps for each band are shunted by small NPO caps.  It was pretty obvious when I saw four, instead of two such caps on the 28.5 MHz VFO, that here is where the altering happened.  It was a clean job, whoever did the soldering did a darned good job.  But which caps do I remove to put her back on her original frequency?

This became a challenge.  While the owners manual (which does contain alignment procedures) contains a lot of detail, the schematic had to be downloaded separately.  Once I printed out an expanded view of the schematic so it wasn't so small, I identified the VFO and searched for the shunt cap value for the 10 meter VFO, only to discover that the values for all VFO shunts were listed as "Select".  No value given.

The 11 meter VFO was left alone by the prior owner(s).  Two NPO caps are shunted across it's calibration variable. The four NPOs across the 10 meter VFO calibration variable were presumably meant to drop the frequency  from where it was, a complete 1 MHz decrease in frequency, from 28.5 to 27.5 MHz. Each of the four cap values are different.

As I perused several web sites in search for the missing values, I discovered in my readings that the 1011 was really a modified version of the Swan Cygnet!

As such, I downloaded the Cygnet manual from BAMA, and found the self same solid state VFO schematic, I found it was, in fact, an expanded version of the 1011's,  covering four ham bands, instead of two bands.  And, like the 1011 manual, the shunt capacity for the calibration variable capacitors were listed as "select", but the values were also given!   And since the calibration variable is the same in both rigs, I have something that should get me into the ball park: 10pF.   So I now need to identify which two caps were added to the collection of four NPO caps added by a prior owner.

My ultimate goal is twofold: First, to get the 1011 so I can operate it on ten meters.  Second, to get the FD1011 to see the 1011D transceiver.

I told the Siltronix Owners Group on FaceBook that I would post a series of blog entries as I progress along with the restoration process.  This is installment No. 1. I should add that there is also a Yahoo Group that treats the Siltronix 1011.

So, that's the view from here.  She is getting good reports on both SSB and AM on 11 meters.  In fact, this ham here has worked three states on the 1011D in 11 meter mode just trying to get somebody to tell me how it sounds!  All on SSB, of course.  She tunes as if less power is coming from LSB than USB, but on key down, it's the same PEP on both sidebands.  Oh, and the reports are all very positive.  The Shure 444 apparently sounds very nice.  I have heard that the Astatic D-104 element actually does a better and brighter job with this rig, but I think I'll just stick with the 444 that came with the station.

That's it for Part 1.  Stay tuned.

de wd4nka.

To go directly to Part 2, click here.