Saturday, February 9, 2013

Building a Ham Radio - Saturday Adventures

A number of people I know love amateur radio, otherwise known as "Ham Radio".  Clubs abound, like the Radio Club of Tacoma and others in your own community.  My friend Dr. Jim at  Every Blade of Grass
has given me a number of tips on getting started.  And Indy's own Roberta X of  Retrotechnologist has built several ham radios, some of which I've marveled over in her basement. She's absolutely brilliant, but with the right instructions and some patience, I bet even  I could make my own.

A Ham Radio.

The principals can be basic. Metal resonates (vibrates), and different lengths of metal  will resonate at different frequencies. This is the basics of ham radio,  hooking up a piece of metal to a receiver or transceiver that resonates at the frequency you want to listen to or communicate on.

That can't be hard, can it?

First, I'll need to make a schematic.

click on photos to enlarge
Then supplies -

It's all coming together. I bet I can pull this off. 

Hmm.  I may be missing a part or two.

So those of you on the airwaves. . stay tuned.  Or not.  

At least stay tuned for our next DIY post - the ham and cheese omelet.


  1. When I just read your title, I envisioned a canned pork product.
    And you came through for me! Thanks!
    (Actually, I was thinking more a SPAM slab with wires sticking out of it, but, I'm not as techy as you guys!)


  2. Brilliant in its simplicity.

    Love those tubes. It isn't really a radio unless it glows in the dark and keeps the radio shack warm in the wintertime.

    73 de Mike in WA :-)

  3. I'm going to be grinning all afternoon, now. And wondering if I can substitute moose or salmon for the ham. Hmm...

  4. Was this serious? If so, congrats on joining the fraternity / sorority. Hams are mostly friendly, welcoming, geeky as heck, and caring folks. They seem like the folks with whom you hang out. It's also a great way of passing the time when you're spending a great deal of time in the car.

    Good luck passing the exam, and hope to catch you down the log.



  5. The problem is, you eventually let the magic smoke escape from many components. You will need a source of replacement smoke, and as it turns out, they sell it at Cabelas.

  6. @ Rev. Paul: You can, but then you only get CNBC stations.

  7. Um... you forgot the eggs... :-)

  8. I must have done something wrong. I followed your blueprint and all it picks up is a squeal:)

  9. A Kw brick makes a dandy foot warmer! If you ever get your ticket, let me know--maybe by then I will have the GAP back up!

  10. Where's the bacon? Won't work without bacon. Gotta have bacon.

  11. I think somewhere around here I have an old Oscillation Overthruster. If you think it will help.

  12. Great post!

    Glad to see some of those parts I donated will be going to good use!

    73, Jim

  13. armedlaughing - I'm sure there is some post apocalypse radio made out of Spam.

    Mike - my best to you and the guys in the local club.

    Rev. Paul - I'd go for the Moose, the Salmon might cause frequency migration.

    Turk Turon - yes!

    Emmett Kelly - I'm totally a beginner, but enjoy the learning process. It will be a bit before I take the exam, but it's something to work towards.

    Rich - serious beer snorting on that one. Priceless!

    Dr. Jim - thanks for the pieces and all the info. It was much appreciated.

    Dick - it's hard to pass on the bacon.

    Og - somehow I can't say that term with a straight face. Any stuff you got is welcome.

    Vic - I'll keep you posted, seemed like a good winter venture.

  14. LOL If the Dr. thing doesn't work out for ya, you have a future in the art world.

    This is one of the things to learn on my ever growing things to learn list. I think someday having a ham radio will come in very handy. Especially for us living out in the middle of "air and natureland."

  15. There is actually a SW receiver that uses a SPAM can for part of the antenna. And I think over on QRZ there is a small transmitter that uses a ham can that someone made several years ago as a lark but it worked so well he wrote it up and sent it in to QRZ. I think it a 40m or 80m and was a QRP rig that put out 1.5 watts.

    If you do get something together please post it. I'd love to see it.


  16. Your schematic had me truly laughing out loud.

  17. I had almost thought you were going to... who knows, maybe actually show how. I have asked others, most poo-poo the notion of building your own, same with oscilloscopes, if I would still prefer to do so. Not required, they say. As if that were the reason for all things?

    At least I got a chuckle out of the post. Urhm, or... you got me.

    *bang, bang, my baby shot me down*

  18. I can see a problem. Your toaster is on a seperate circuit.


  19. I never liked learning morse, so I skipped the whole HAM thing when I was into electronics. In the military the Tech schools I attended at Correy Station Pensacola Florida also had the Code schools for the was a bit disconcerting hearing them wandering around the base talking to each other in dits and dahs. :)

  20. That was just great.

    After many years of procrastination, I, too, am studying. Figure on testing out with novice and general. Can't wait to get on the airways.


  21. FYI, for you Brigid and anyone else seeking their USA ham license. has an online practice testing system that works great!


  22. A well-known directional antenna design for WiFi utilizes a Pringles can's RF characteristics. You can Google for DIY instructions or buy one from

    My graduate research is in software defined radio. One of my favorite listening toys is the key device featured in this video.

    Yes, it really does work for ADS-B "Out". Kinda scary and cool at the same time.

    Sadly, my advisor isn't interested in publishing on my ideas for securing ADS-B so the rig is strictly for "planespotting" -- lots of fun since we live right above PDX.

    Once you have the antenna mast, I'd be happy to walk you through the details. Can I get internship credit?

  23. Technician, not Novice.

    My oops.



  24. .- / -... .- .-. -... . -.. / .-- .. .-. . / ..-. . -. -.-. . / ..-. . -. -.-. . / -.-. .- -. / -- .- -.- . / ..-. --- .-. / .- / -.. .- -. -.. -.-- / .- -. - . -. -. . .-

  25. MonkeyWrangler - I have their study guide.

    Roscoe - thanks!

    D.W. - . . . _ . . _ . _ . . _ . . . . . _ _ . _ . . _ . _ . . . _ _ . _ . . . _ . _ _ . . _ _ . . _ . _ _ _ . . . _ . . _ . _ . _ _ _ _ _ . . _ _ . . . . . _ _ . _ . . . . . _ . _ . . . _ . . . _ . .

  26. Rev Paul,
    Isn't Ham Radio all about
    Rich in NC

  27. That thing is gonna need a grease trap -- and I'm a 20 wpm Amateur Extra Class, so I should know.

    (Whippersnapper kids and their Hammond eggs radios, hrrrmpf. The tuna tin is the more traditional approach.)

  28. I had meant to get my license back when I was in my teens, but I never got past the code requirement. Late in 2011 I saw a copy of what turned out to be QST Magazine (from ARRL) with a couple of Boy Scouts on the cover. I asked him about that and found out that code was no longer a requirement. I bought the ARRL study guides (which come with a practice test generator and grader on a CD) and got Technician and General in short order and followed that up with Extra a little later. So far I'm mostly doing just drivetime chatting on 2 meters, but I've got a Kenwood TS440-AT waiting for the weather to clear up enough that I can get a dipole up in the trees.

    It's a lot of fun, and when all else fails you can still get communications in and out with ham radio because you're not dependent on public infrastructure. Glad to see you're pursuing it. There's plenty of clubs around. And when you go to a meeting you'll find yourself in what for you is a familiar environment - men will outnumber women about 20 to 1.



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