All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Hearing Back.

I've always been fascinated with talking around a corner to somebody out of sight. Hearing somebody that could also hear me, preferably around a corner and out of sight, some distance away. It was fun when I was very young, about seven, spending summers at my grandparents place which had some acerage, and I learned to make tin can telephones with the neighbour kid, stretching the string across my grandmother's big yard, although you couldn't stretch it around a corner.  When the corner touched the string, the vibration stopped and so would the voice.  
We overcame that eventually with a garden hose.  So we made a garden hose telephone.  But garden hoses are only so long, and we had only so many neighbours willing to let us borrow their hoses so we could connect them together to go between Gramma's house and my cousin's house at the other end of the property.
Some years later in seventh grade my science teacher made the mistake of showing us how to make a real telegraph with a couple iron nails, wire, a cut up Coke can (remember when soda cans had to be punched and were made of ferric metal that would stick to a magnet?) - and a couple blocks of wood.  Just add two 1.5v Dry Cells.  Made both key and sounder.  Even though we had to learn code to use it, we now had a system that could be used over considerable distances so long as there were two wires and a couple dry cell batteries.  Soon our apartments had wires going from one to another as we learnt the ropes of land line telegraphy and DC circuits.
It was just a matter of time before we kids figured out that we could screw a telephone receiver on each end, remove the battery, and simply talk through that receiver.  We read from books in our library that the standard telephone receiver (at that time, 1969) used an Edison carbon button microphone and a Bell magnetic transducer.... which was the original Bell Telephone invention of 1876, and required no battery.  The transducer alone could be used as both microphone and as receiver.  Distances were limited only to the amount of resistance of the wire itself which increased as the amount of wire used increased.  Philadelphia to Washington D.C. was about the limit.  

One day I was talking with my friend Jeff over our little telegraph/ telephone, when suddenly we heard a voice that wasn't part of our group.  Somebody had hacked our line!  Someone calling himself "The Texas Traveler"!  This peaqued my curiosity, and at that point we began to discover how to leave all that wire behind.

By this time we had returned to the U.S. after having lived in Germany for some years and we were living in the Philadelphia suburb of Devon, off the Main Line.  I was given a pair of very inexpensive walkie talkies at some point.  It was amazing what I could hear!  The signals increased when I touch the antenna to a grounded metal object.   What I had was a four transistor pair of superregenerative walkie talkies, a then common kid's toy.  It claimed a range of up to a quarter mile.  I gave one to my friend Jeff who lived upstairs and kept one down stairs in my flat.  These little walkie talkies became a focal point of attention and interest.  Sometimes foreign language broadcast could be heard drifting in and out.   There was a constant rushing sound accompanying these voices unless the loud voice of the Texas Traveler would announce his presence.  When his signal was intercepted, that rushing noise disappeared entirely!   Who was this guy, Texas Traveler?  Was he close?  We would call after him, but it was to no avail, like calling after those foreign service broadcasts we could hear now and then.

I discovered that with the aid of a rubber band, I could park one walkie talkie by my brand new cassette tape recorder, and take the other with me on my ten speed and check my range.  Soon I went from telescopic whip to a wire stretched across the area between my apartment and the next building.  I could ride my bike a little further.  Maybe almost half a mile before losing the signal.  Then I found I could snap two 9 volt batteries together and hardwire it into place.  Then three.  I changed my antenna around to connect to Jeff's balcony above mine.  Sometimes I ran both wires, the one across to the next building and the one leading to Jeff's balcony above me.  I had as many as five batteries wired into this poor walkie talkie!  With each innovation I gained another few yards.  My goal was one mile.  

Then one day it happened.  I made contact with another station.  It went something like this:  I had just added my fifth battery and I took the contraption outside.  I was calling to see if any of those voices I could hear could hear me as well.  

"Is anybody there?" I would call.  Several times.  

Then suddenly the rushing noise of my receiver stopped and a clear and very loud voice came over the speaker:

"Come on back, Yellow Bear".

???  Who is "Yellow Bear"?   Once more the voice came:

"How about it, Yellow Bear?"

Silence.  Only the rushing sound.   I keyed once again

"Are you talking to me?"

"Yes I am.  Are you the Yellow Bear?"

Who was this?  It sounded too young to be the Texas Traveler, who sounded like an older man.  Whoever this was, he was about as loud!  And.... he heard me!!

"I'm Gary. I may have sounded like I said that.  I was calling if anyone was there.  But I can use that name if that's ok."

"Sounds fine to me, Gary.... or Yellow Bear!  Where are you?"

"Oh, I'm walking down Avon Drive!  I'm using this walkie talkie and...

 .... and at that point the walkie talkie made a funny noise, gave out a weird chemical smell, and died. End of conversation.  One battery too many, I guess.  It was beyond my ability to fix, but regardless, the Radio Bug bit.  All it took was another party to tell me that I was being heard.

This became a defining moment for me.  Being heard and hearing back.

Fifty years later, and I'm still hearing back.

vy 73, de wd4nka.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Binding a Downloaded or Copied Manual

So, you've downloaded that manual you need to help you with your restoration project, or maybe just for instructions on how to operate that Hamfest find, or you simply need a schematic and a parts list.  You've downloaded about thirty pages, more than likely printed on one side unless you have one of those printers that will do two sides.  Now you have all these loose sheets that are too many to really simply staple.  So, you grab that three-hole punch and knock out three holes so you can just snap those pages into a three ring binder.  Which, isn't actually a bad thing to do sometimes.... unless you've punched into the text or into that section of the schematic or parts list that, it turns out, you critically need.  Is there a better way?
I think so.  Why not bind it like a bookbinder would?  It's not as hard as you might think.
A book composed of single sheets, as opposed to sewn leaflets, or "signatures", is actually little more than a glued paper pad with a cover surrounding it.  This is called "Perfect Binding".  Even hardback (case-bound) books are bound this way.  It's a cost savings for the publisher, and these books actually look really good.  
But it has limited life.  That is, unless steps are taken to build in some strength and reinforcement, so the book, or booklet - won't tear itself up.  I have two hard bound books that are now over ten years old and are doing just that.  Tearing itself up.  The pages have fatigued the glue that holds it in, and once one page works loose, something like a domino effect begins.  More and more work loose and fall out.
In this blog installment, I will attempt to show you how to bind your manual such that you have a shot of keeping it in your inventory for a long, long time, and handle well.  To a book binder, a book is a living breathing thing, comprising of a front cover, a back cover, a spine, and a text block (the assembled pages.)  Everything else is what binds all these elements each other such that one doesn't damage the other in it's normal course of operation.
Lets begin.  First you will need to round up a few things.

I will use a 60-odd page manual I downloaded sometime back as our project.  We will bind this manual, possibly better than it originally came from the publisher.  I'll go over these items one by one.
1. A bone folder.  this is nothing but a strip of bone, probably cuttlebone, cut and polished in the shape you see in the photo.  It's purpose is to smoothe, to crease, to flatten, and to otherwise apply pressure without leaving a mark.  Other things can be used.  A smooth plastic 150mm ruler, for instance.  Make sure there are no sharp edges, you want the edges rounded, or at least, not sharp enough to create an accidental tear in your project.  I've even used the back of a teaspoon, although be careful using metal to smoothe or rub paper.  Some metals leave a streak or some sort of deposit.  I used a high grade stainless spoon, but only after testing it on scrap paper to make sure I didn't leave a mark.
2.  Open weave muslin, or linen.  This is called "mull" in binding parlance.  It gets glued to the spine and serves a very important purpose in re-enforcing the spine.  More on that later.
3.  The front cover.  If one is included in your download.  They usually are.  I would use cover weight for the front and back cover.
4.  "End Sheets".  You need two for the front and the back.  This can be just a blank 8.5x11 inch blank sheet, although usually I use a nice quality low weight or "text weight" or textured bond paper, like Neenah linen or Classic Laid.  In fact, I usually print out a nice manual using Neenah Classic Laid, classic white, for the text block (the printed pages, the "guts" of your manual.)  You can get some nice faux marble 8.5x11 sheets at Hobby Lobby or almost any craft store.
5.  Your text block.  Now you know what that is... if you read the above.
6.  The back cover.  It might be the downloaded and printed back cover of one is included, if not, it can be a blank piece of the same stock you used for the front cover.  The front cover must be of the same stock type as the back.  The two must match.
7.  Glue.  You want a glue with superior holding power with the materials you use, one that will not change color with age because of acids, one that ages well.  As a binder, I find good ol' Elmer's Glue hard to beat for the money.
Aside from this, some boards and two larger C-clamps would be good.  The photos will give you and idea of the size and type of wood you might use.  I suggest poplar or oak or at least clear pine.  These can be have, almost pre-cut, from Lowes or Home Depot.
You will also need a couple single edge razor blades and a metal straight edge such as a metal 18" ruler. These will be used for final trimming. 

So, once again, from back to front:
-Back cover (notice how I bent the edge upward.  A little over half the thickness of your text block. 
-End sheet.
-Text Block
-End sheet
-Front cover. (notice how I bend the edge down...a little over half the thickness of your text block.  Can you see what's happening here?)
Let's begin.

Starting with your text block, stack the several pages even and edge level as possible.  I use a flat edge to "jog" the paper against to insure even-ness.  When you have it even, hold the spine edge firmly and rest it between two pieces of wood as shown.  What I do is lay some wood behind the clamping board so the paper lies flat, then using a flat edge at the front, jog the paper from behind with another clean, straight piece of wood.  I usually apply pressure from the back forcing the paper against a straight edge, another piece of wood from the front, laying down the top piece of wood onto the paper.  Holding it in place, I apply the C clamps.  I then double check the staightness and flatness of the spine end of the text block now held in place by the clamps.

This is the front, showing the spine end of the text block, which is very level and flat.  The text block is also level with the wood at the front end.

While the next step can be done in a vertical position, I find it much easier to do the next step if you can hang the clamp and block so the spine is horizontal, as shown.  I used an old wooden wine crate I had around the shack/ print shop.  A cardboard box would do.

Take a piece of cotton, and wet it.  Not dripping, but wet enough to make the paper damp as you rub this cotton over the spine edge of the paper.  We do this to encourage the glue which is next applied, to penetrate a bit into and around the paper just a "nanometer".  Just a little bit.
Next, run a bead of glue down the center of the spine.  You want enough to rub over the entire spine leaving a good and level coating of glue.  Try not to get any glue on the wood, or at least, not a lot.  You don't want the paper to glue to the wood.  Let set until the glue is almost dry, but not quite.  At this point, apply the mull as shown, and run yet another bead of glue down the middle.  Again, you want enough to leave a level coating.  Try to cover only the glued area of the spine, as best you can.
When dry, release carefully.  You might wish to have a kitchen butter knife to separate the text block from the wood, no doubt some part of the spine will have a little adhesion to the wood here and there.  The knife (I use a paring knife) will cut through the glue but leave the paper undamaged.
This is what you should have at this point.  The mull should overlap the text block by about the width of the spine itself, maybe a tad more.  It's not that critical just so there is some overlap which can be bent over and glued, which is the next step.

At this point, place one end sheet over the front of the text block.  The mull will be folded over and and glued to this sheet.

This is another view of the above step.  The end sheet is placed atop the text block, ready to be glued onto the mull.

Run a bead of glue as shown.  Smooth out with your finger.  Then fold the mull over, letting the glue penetrate the mull.

I use my finger for this because I can feel when the glue layer is penetrating the mull.  Some use the bone folder, which is ok, so long as you clean off the bone folder afterward.
Now that you did this side, repeat the above steps on the other, and let dry.
The next steps are the application of the cover.

Once the mull is dried, turn the text block to the back side and run another bead of glue over the folded mull, and smooth out with your finger. You want a smooth and level layer as much as you can.  Don't be sparing.  Note that we are starting to apply the cover from the backside first.

Apply the glue to the spine as well.  The reason is when you apply the rear cover, that fold we made at the spine edge of the printed covers will overlap onto the spine.  So it will be glued over the mull on the back atop the end sheet and to the spine.


Use your folder to smooth down the cover where it is glued.  Smooth out any bubbles or irregularities such as you can.  We want a sharp angle where the fold is.  Smooth out that spine.  At this point, repeat on the other side using the front cover, of course.  Note that when you fold the front cover folded edge over the spine, it will go over the back cover fold you just applied.  Apply glue to the inside of that fold, and smooth over the spine and mull with a folder, bone or otherwise, as before.  You want firm and even contact with the mull, as the mull is making firm and even contact with the end-sheets and the spine.  Can you see how these elements all play together?

The next steps involve the final clamping.  If you have a nice bookpress, you can use that here as well.  I am assuming you don't have one of those.  Nice as they are, they are seriously overpriced these days.  Mine is a home shop made "nipping press", but that's another story.

Back to our project:  Here is where I use either a transparency or a piece of wax paper.  In the photos below I am using a transparency folded to fit over the spine, the front and the back.

At this juncture, the glue is only semi dry.  Get your boards and C clamps ready, we are gonna lock this puppy up to dry under pressure. 


Can you see how I apply pressure on the spine as well as the front and back cover?  When I clamped up the manual, I left just a tad bit of the spine to poke just beyond the wood clamp, and set the whole think upside down onto the spine.  No extra pressure needed, the weight of the wood, clamps and manual itself is sufficient.  Let dry for a couple hours.  Sometimes I let it set overnight.

At this point the manual is dry, released from the board clamps, and needs trimming.  Here is where you need your single edge razors and your straight edge.  Unless you happen to have a commercial cutter or a guillotine, as I have.  What I will describe is what is known to binders as a "plough", essentially a blade that slices through all the sheets, guided by the straight edge.
First of all, here is why we probably need a final trim.  When you folded the cover to leave a folded edge with covered the spine, you actually shortened the width of the cover.  The text block is probably poking out beyond the cover by this width as well.  I have never seen a manual that did not have enough manual to trim this excess off and still have sufficient margin. 
Lay your straight edge where you cutting line will be, the edge of the cover.  I sometimes cut a couple molecules off the cover too, to ensure a level and flat cut.  Having secured your straight edge (I often just apply pressure by hand.), carefully, slowly and methodically begin to slice with your razor.  It needs to be a new razor.  Let the blade to the cutting.  This is the way books were trimmed by this sort of plough for almost 500 years, since Gutenberg.  You can made a very professional trim using this technique.
Watch your fingers, especially the hand holding the straight edge if that is how you are doing this.  Slow, even slices.  You are in no hurry.  I would use scrap wood to cut on. 
And there you go.  Your new manual.
A word about my manuals: I always prefer single sided printing of manuals because each page has a blank page facing it for notes.  These manuals will handle just like a work book.
I usually print schematics using three or four overlapping pages, pages trimmed to about a half inch all around to fit into a pocket I make by gluing a pocket cover inside the rear cover.  I like seperate overlapping sheets for schematics because I can, if needed, join them all together but more often than not I am dealing with only a portion of the schematic at a time.  Just my personal preferences.  My manuals serve as a workbook as well as a manual.

Here is the rear pocke of my latest manual for my Hallicrafters HT-37.  I also have the schematic bound into the manual, but I made four separate overlapping schematic sheets so I can have both the schematic section I am working on, as well as the manual freed up to flip to whatever page I need, such as the parts listing.

This is my most recent manual, the Hallicrafters HT-37, copied from the original manual which I possess.  I didn't want to mess up that manual, so I made this.  Note that I added a linen spine covering, just for added strength at the spine.  Technically I should trim this, but really, it's ok as it is.  I did not overlap the covers on this manual because I used the linen spine covering (which is none other than regular 'gaffing tape'.  Book binder took vendors sell it as linen bookbinding tape at about four times the price!!  Go to a music store, ask for Gaffing Tape if you want to do this, too.


These are some shots of my 1908 vintage Craftsman 28" commercial cutter, hand lever operated.  One of my favourite pieces of equipment!  This is what a professional trimming looks like.  If I make your manual, this is how it would be trimmed.  I do have a plough, though, for fine trimming.
That's it, folks. Hope you enjoyed this installment and find it useful.  There are all sorts of ways to treat this subject, what I shared was my way.   As you do more and more of these, you may hit upon different techniques that may be more suitable for you.  But this is a start!
vy 73 es God bless u es urs.
de wd4nka ar k

Monday, April 8, 2019

CW Copy Pads.

CW "Copy Pads" are designed to integrate with most logs.  Each sheet is approximately 5" by 8", with data fields at the top of each page which can be entered during the qso.  Included is a date field, time field, frequency field, a field to record the call sign of the station worked, and RST field that can be selected for RST sent or RST received, a larger field to record the QTH, and a comments field to record any needed specifics.  The bulk of the page is blank, to record the qso, or whatever portions thereof the operator normally fills in during the course of the conversation.  (I usually write out the whole conversation, or pretty well most of it, unless it's a contest.)

At the end of each session, the data recorded on each sheet can then be recorded in the station log.  Since the sheets are dated and have a control number (each pad is numbered 000001 - 000100 using an ancient German numbering head!), sequence of QSOs can be easily kept in order if you are like me, and tear the sheets off the pad so I can also use the reverse side if I run out of room on the front.

Pads like these can be handy for contesting, weekend sprints, or general rag chewing and causal contacts.  Useful also for traffic handling: add check and other handling data in the Comments field.

These pads are being offered at a special introductory pricing of $10.00 per pad, in quantities of three ($30.00).  I will pay the shipping for all introductory offers.

To order: Please send PayPal payment for $30.00 to: 

Here is a shot of the actual page itself.  A red control number will appear on the bottom right of each sheet, padded in sheets of 100.  These sheets can also fit in the carriage of most typewriters and mills.
Here is a short video showing the actual printing of these copypad sheets.  These are printed one sheet at a time on "Ol' 36", my 1936 Chandler & Price "New Series" iron horse, in the exact manner traditionally used for these sorts of things since the very early 1900s. 
These particular pads were designed just after the 2019 Novice Rig Round-up last March, in attempts to better organize the pile of papers at my operating position resultant from each session of the contest.  Rather than sifting through countless notebook and pad sheets, reading each one over to locate the logging data I needed, these pads keep this data in easy to find fields, and in order both by date and time, and also by control number.
Hope this helps to make things all the more enjoyable and interesting at the operating position!
-gary // wd4nka
NRR founder.  (Nr. 8)