RAN Technology

"B" Bench update

Technical 0 Comments 02/03/2020 

Making my work area suit me rather than vice versa

Posted By: Robert Nickels (ranickels)


Like most of those reading this, I've upgraded and added to my test equipment inventory over the years, starting with the Heathkit VTVM I built when I was 15 or so.   There's no "right" piece of equipment, just personal preferences, and while I'd be the first to say my work habits are anything but "right" they are what they are, and I'm old enough to realize that my workbench layout will have to conform to my preferences, rather than the other way round.

I recently decided to make some changes to my "B" bench, which either stands for "boatanchor" or because it's the second-best equipped.   My primary bench is used mostly for design and building and SMT assembly and it's undergoing some changes too, but the "B" bench is where a newly acquired piece of gear is most apt to land for an initial check-out and where restoration of most gear will take place.  

It's an 8 ft. wide stand-up (my preference) bench where the needed variac and power related stuff occupies the right hand end area.   I'd had peg hooks for tools but found I was very poor at actually putting things back, so I decided to try the four plastic bins instead.   Tools are organized loosely from the most frequency used in the left-most bin.    A Weller soldering station is to the left (I'm a southpaw) and the Haako desolder and 150 watt gun are underneath.    I do not like having to look "up" to see a meter, so I'm anxious to try the Fluke 37 which I recently acquired which is front-and-center on the bench and will be nicer to read and use than a handheld.    The very good HP 3466A DMM is atop my bench receiver, the Heathkit SW-7800 when morr precision is needed.   The SW-7800 is not Heathkit's best effort but works well in this role because it has digital readout, an attenuator, and USB/LSB/AM/Wide AM modes.   It's used only for audio monitoring of whatever RF emitter I may be working on at any time.  There's also a B&K "Flip-o-Matic" VTVM, mainly because I think it's cool.

There is just nothing better than an analog scope for looking at analog signas, IMHO.   The Tek 475 is a mil-spec upgrade of the basic 250 MHz scope  and replaces a Tek DSO which I'll get more use out of as a portable.    Other gear:

B&K Function Generator.   I like that it has enough output to test speakers yet is very simple to use.

To the right of the Heathkit, top to bottom:  Elenco signal generator/counter   I'll bring over a signal from my main HP sig gen for alignments, etc but it's nice to have an RF source with a knob handy.  Boonton 8210 Modulation Analyzer.  This is a new addition and since I work on AM transmitters a lot it will see some use.   Racal-Dana 1992 universal counter timer.  I've needed a better counter and this 1.3 GHz counter fills the bill nicely.

Next:  HP-410C   I don't need a VTVM often but this is the industry standard and the RF probe also covers the range I'm interested in.   The Waters dummy-load wattmeter has switchable ranges from 10 to 1000 watts.  For  more accurate measurement I'll use the scope for low power or a Bird.

Those with sharp eyes will note the Supreme "Audolyzer" on the top shelf.   This instrument from the late 1930s is very handy when repairing AM radios because it can act as a tunable RF voltmeter to check RF and IF stages and as a signal tracer.  It was scrounged from a dumpster at a hamfest because no one knew or appreciated what it was.   The box with the red chicken-head knobs on top is a speaker substitute box known as a " Coastwise Ferret 721".    Panel jacks allow selection of voice coil or it's built-in transformer - these were popular items in the day when a serviceman would bring the chassis of a radio into the shop for repair but would leave the heavy cabinet containing the speaker and its transformer in the customers home.

Lastly there's a B&K transistor tester, an HP DC power supply, a Fluke DMM and a big honkin' semi-regulated Motorola DC power supply that is basically a battery substitute for mobile radios.   I don't use it often but it's nice because it has a variac to make up for voltage drop.

Every shop and every person's needs are different, and I have a bunch of other gear I'll bring in when needed but this set pretty much does what I need for boatanchor tube and solid-state repair and restoration.   My FT-817 is often used as a  low-power signal source and as a receiver, very handy piece of test equipment when not being used on the air.    The same is true for a simple RTL-SDR but that will be another story!




Click on the image title or on the image itself to open the full-sized image in a separate window.

   Faust Gonsett started the Sideband Engineers (SBE) company in 1962 and introduced their first product, the SB-33 four-band transceiver with a two-page ad in 73 magazine for February 1963 that featured his mugshot on the left page and the introductory ad for the SB-33 on the right.   He talks about how he came out of retirement to start this new company in response to many requests but do...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  02/15/2020 
   Well known radio repair guru and AM fan Jeff Covelli WA8SAJ of Cleveland OH wanted better receiving performance than his stock Nouveau 75 AM transceiver provided - and the VERSA-TR came to the rescue.  Jeff decided he preferred having the board mounted in an enclosure with connectors and the photos show his approach.    The VERSA-TR automatically switches the antenna from his S...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  02/11/2020 
   Ernie Mason, W6IQY, of San Diego CA was a prolific designer and builder of SSB equipment over many years.    Mostly self-taught in electronics through his ham radio experience,  Ernie began working in IBM's Field Engineering organization where he rose into the management ranks, but defying the odds, was able to stay in at his adopted San Diego home town.    H...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  02/08/2020 

A first-person history by an Airway Keeper's daughter

Life on the (Radio) Range at Medicine Bow WY in the 1930s
Category: Vintage Radio
 Most vintage radio enthusiasts are aware of how intertwined the development of radio and aviation were.   Many still enjoy using low frequency receivers and DX-ing the "beacon band" which was a key element of the first generation of aviation radio and navigation.   Before there were radio beacons, pilots depended on visual beacons - the flashing (rotating) light...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/31/2019 

Remembering Michael Hopkins, AB5L (SK) - a unique individual

Founder and humble scribe for the Five Meter Liberation Army!
Category: Vintage Ham Radio
Michael Hopkins AB5L is fondly remembered by early denizens of the internet and specifically the "Boatanchors at the Porch" mail reflector.   A truly unique individual, Michael made the internet a happier place through his eclectic interests (ranging from Tecraft converters to ferrets) and his wonderful imagination and storytelling ability.  Through his writing, we le...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/23/2019 
    This all started when I discovered a fantastic collection of vintage photo QSL cards on a Google+ site – I’d encourage every ham to spend some time looking through this amazing bit of history:   https://plus.google.com/115747543308902188110The photos capture a wide range of ham gear and stations from the spark era through the 70’s, and nearly every picture trigger...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/11/2019 
   I have no interest or affiliation with the company and discovered this product when I was looking for a good degreaser to clean my jukebox.   IT IS THE BEST!I like data, so I put confidence in the test results that can be viewed in the infographic below.I also like RESULTS and this stuff delivers.   Greasy dirt and grime are instantly dissolved and wipe away.   You ca...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/09/2019 
   Some pieces of vintage ham gear are not really unique, but are so rare as to almost never be seen.   The Multi Elmac PS-500 power supply is an example, it was sold as an AC power supply for the A54 and A54H transmitters in the mid-50s. There's nothing special about it - just a big transformer with 5 volt rectifier, 6.3 volt filament, and 500 volt secondaries.  Two nice chok...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  11/14/2019 

My experience with the Nouveau 75

a new AM QRP transceiver from the 4SQRP group
Category: Technical
Mini-review of the Nouveau 75 by W9RANI like it, warts and all!OK, maybe not quite that "mini"...here's a few of my impressions of this innovative kit from the 4 State QRP Group.I've been interested in amplitude modulation of a class E PA for some time and after Dave Cripe said to stay tuned for the next 4SQRP offering, I wasn't too surprised to see what it was, and bought on...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  11/12/2019 

VIEW News Item

Announcing the W9DYV Radio Society

honoring SSB pioneer Wes Schum W9DYV
VIEW News Item

Making A Transistor Radio

in memory of Rev. George Dobbs G3RJV (SK)
VIEW News Item

Soviet Spy Radio found in forest

(oh yeah, I put that there...I'll take it now thanks!)
VIEW News Item

Take the Boatanchor Survey!

Let authors and organizers know what you're interested in
VIEW News Item

W9RAN's "VERSA-TR" (as featured in Dec. 2018 QST)

A Versatile T/R solution for SDRs and vintage radios
VIEW News Item


Cool mics from my collection and ones I wish were
VIEW News Item

WBBM-AM tower moves to Bloomington IL

watch the old tower fall (video link below)

(There are currently no Blogs.)