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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

HF On A Budget

Stephen (KE7WAV) on December 8, 2013
View comments about this article!

HF On A Budget
By Stephen Bevan, KE7WAV

When I first got my license I had to get an HF rig--2 meters was only an after thought. A kind elmer gave me and HW-7 years before I got my ticket in hopes I would get a license. It was given to me on the condition that I learned the code and used it. When I finally got my license I called my Dad several times but he couldn’t find the rig in the recesses of his ham shack. So I started saving for my first rig.

Luckily for me another kind Elmer loaned me an old Swan 500C and a Nye SpeedX so I could get on the air and learn how to operate. Those days of 5wpm were sure nerve racking and fun. He helped me build my first HF antenna which cost me $25 in materials including coax. I made my first key from about $2 worth of parts (An unused mousetrap with an eyelet and a paperclip to make a side-swiper--seriously high tech homebrew right there!) He also encouraged me to get a 2 meter rig with the money I had saved for an HF rig so I could participate in the local nets. I followed his advice and was very grateful for his kindness. I used his rig for awhile but I wanted my own station.

When the day came I could afford a rig of my own it was a used HW-8 for a grand total of about $100. I now had my first HF station for a total of about $127! I used this setup for well over 5 years. (Although I did upgrade away from my mousetrap side-swiper to a whiterook side-swiper). I have made antennas for as cheap as $2 and still worked some great contacts.

My father even found my HW-7 during that time and when my HW-8 died it became my main rig until I could make repairs and get the HW-8 back on the air. I made lots of contacts, and not just local stuff, with my power house 2 Watts. I even got some good DX! It wasn’t all DX and easy contacts; in fact some days it was down right frustrating because I would call people and they wouldn’t hear me, but I still had fun and filled my first log book.

I share this because some of us get the idea that HF=Expensive. I never saw that formula in the ARRL handbook! We mistakenly think that a novice station needs to be a starter rig from some company asking for $600 or more and then we have to buy an antenna for at least another $60. That is simply untrue! A novice station can be set up for far less than my first station if a ham is willing to try. And especially if the ham is willing to start by learning the code.

If you haven’t tried HF don’t let the fancy ham magazines convince you that you will need a thousand dollars to get started, start small. My shack has grown over time, I returned the Swan to my Elmer, and I have four HF rigs now (the most expensive of which was $220 used.) After 7+ years I finally purchased a used rig that gets 100W out last month! Although I haven’t turned it over 60W yet.

You CAN get on HF. You CAN enjoy this hobby on a shoestring budget. You DON”T have to have the perfect station just to get started.

There is also another thing you will notice in my story-Elmers. Now that my station setup has grown I am looking for a local young ham to help. I want to become an Elmer to share and teach. It will help a young ham gain access to a new hobby and a new world. If you have three or four rigs--try loaning one out. If you have an old mic or key--maybe that will open the hobby for someone else.

In the end -- get started. And once you have gotten a good start, help someone else along in the hobby. Its even more rewarding than getting that sweet QSL card from a great DX station.

- KE7WAV

Member Comments:
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HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
You must have read the 2 Meters and New Techs discussion....

My first transmitter was an old Heathkit DX-100 I bought for $50.

My first receiver was an even older 'free' RME 43 general coverage receiver that looked like it was about WWII vintage and needed some capacitor replacement to be functional.

It wasn't very good and pretty quickly I built a 'modern' Heathkit receiver.

The new radios are certainly nice but not absolutely necessary.

In fact there is something to be said for starting out with simple analog equipment with real dials, meters, knobs and switches rather than digital readouts and menus.

I think all the digital stuff like memories, scan modes, auto notch filters, etc. just obscures the real functionality and significance of basic controls and settings. A beginner can easily get distracted by all the programming and 'advanced' features without really understanding the basics.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KE6SLS on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

Great story Stephen, and well stated!

I have several rigs on loan at this moment. I love stepping up to the plate and helping hams that WANT to learn. A ham that learns something from me is its own reward in my opinion.

I also have an HW8 and love it. My first contact on it was pure DX and I was thrilled. Even after 25 years, I feel like a kid when I make these types of contacts.

I hope you are in my log book. Good work om. TU again.

73

j
 
HF On A Budget  
by K4IA on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"You DON”T have to have the perfect station just to get started."

Great advice that applies to both radios and antennas. I repeat it over and over again. Some of my most memorable contacts were made with minimal equipment. Just get on the air and stop worrying that you don't have the newest and most expensive DXBoominCrasher4000 and a 190 foot tower with a 12 element beam.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KE4ILG on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I also started with a very inexpensive used HF rig. It was a broken Heath Kit SB-101 that did not transmit. After re-soldering some connections I was only able to operate on CW as the SSB still didn't work. I feel it was the good fortune that the SSB did not work because it forced me to use CW. The on air practice made passing the 13 wpm code test easy. CW has been my primary mode since and still find it fun ans challenging.

I also hope to become an Elmer and give some of what I have received from my many Elmers.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. 73 Mike ke4ilg
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K4XZ on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My first rig was a Drake TR-3 with the power supply and speaker. I built a 20 meter inverted V that was way to long so another $100.00 for the tuner. Was I surprised when found out that the TR-3 did not have a side tone in my first CW contact. Total cost 10 years ago About $350.00. Can be done for less if you really want to. Your first contacts are always the best. It just takes a few years to figure that out.

Joe Patrick de K4XZ
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I think that new hams who just buy a complete station and get on the air are missing something. They are more likely to drop out.

Especially if the first radio is just a 2M HT which may require some effort to figure out the programming but other than that requires nothing more than pressing the transmit button.

It goes without saying that if they just memorized the Q&A then they are likely to not understand what they are doing and less likely to enjoy the hobby. If they don't have a technical background they need a mentor. (The ARRL recommends not to say "elmer" since no one outside the old-time ham community knows what that means.)

I loaned my HTX-10 to a fairly new Technician and he's now very anxious to get his own HF radio and upgrade. This is what we have to do.

Starting with a relatively modest low-tech setup can get you on HF inexpensively and help you learn. Plus if you do something wrong and let the smoke out you're not out $1000.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by BOYSCLUBRADIO on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Most excelent article.

Indeed todays new ham is blinded by the glitter of the new radios and pass up giveaways or cheaper tube types that are 99% as good as the new ones.


However, today most new or cadet hams DON'T WANT to learn cw. They miss the real ham radio concept. MOST DON'T WANT TO WORK FOR IT. So even if their is a instructor that is willing to teach and donate there time for free... it goes into the waist can.

Half the fun is getting something up and going... the other half is making the great contacts i.e ones without the back stab'n potty mouth pissing contestants.

CW still is alive and doing well but, that being said a few heard do need the personal touch of a elmer being their to help 'em out and prefect sending tech.

It is a shame that the ARRL does not produce some of the older manuals on video so as to teach the correct way when the elmer is not around their location.

Ham radio has always been a single person effort in the end. Not all are in a position to where they can have a elmer attend to them. However, a good video on U tube or some other means would be a great effort towards teach the correct way to learn and send CW.

It is strange that the FCC still has a novice section on the ham bands where once it was populated with newbies once a month, when licenses were issued, that we all (oldies) remember starting out with 3 to 5 wpm. I sometimes wish that they would again set aside a CW license so as to promote the hobbie.

When we started SSB/AM was too expensive to buy so we all made our own transmitters and were lucky to have WWII surplus recievers made by some great companies like hallicrapers and national... to work with. Glowing tubes still are as good... if not better than some of the solid state rigs today. Maybe that is why collins and heathkits are stil sought after. Go figure

Hams should promote building a GOOD station. Not go out and buy one ready made. That is what used to make the hobb'y personalized and interesting. But, saddly finding GOOD OLD hams that know how to know today is like looking for chickens with teeth... grin
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"Hams should promote building a GOOD station. Not go out and buy one ready made. That is what used to make the hobby personalized and interesting."

http://www.arrl.org/wedothat-radio-org
"There are a LOT of similarities between hams and the growing Do It Yourself (DIY), Maker communities. We can learn from each other and share tools and ideas in our enjoyment of creating things for ourselves and not simply purchasing mass-produced products. ..."

Yes there is but, somehow we are not getting the message across to those people. Or maybe it is that they are just not interested in DIY radio comms as much as in robots and other gadgets. Maybe wireless communications by cell phone and worldwide communication over the Internet has just made radio seem ho-hum.

However, I think this is the group we need to be targeting, instead of the masses who some think will be attracted by cheap $50 2M HTs.

In a digital world, we need to be showing slick digital comms, APRS, etc., not ho-hum FM voice.

At the other end we need to be showing simple stuff that any tinkerer can make, like a crystal radio (not very useful but still pretty neat); or simple QRP CW or transceivers.

Extend the simple CW xcvr to a digital comms system which mirror the commercial technology but are buildable by the average DIY tinkerer and might fit with their other DIY interests (i.e. digital control, etc.).

Young kids are still fascinated by Morse code. Get them started early by building simple code practice oscillators that they can use to send "secret code" to their friends across the room. Then get them on the air. This will work. With any luck at least a few will become really interested in radio and stick with it long enough to get their licenses.

In the past I have argued against a new "Novice" license but having seen how interested kids get when you do CW I'm not so sure that a new 5WPM CW only low power only very simple written test Novice wouldn't be a good idea.
 
HF On A Budget  
by W4KYR on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. My first 'HF rig' was actually as 10 meter Uniden HR-2600 I bought used for $125 after I passed my 5 wpm. Shortly after I stepped up to the 'big time' when I got used Icom IC-730 for $350 in 1993. Made a lot of contacts with that puppy.

However first non HF ham radio I bought before the above two was the legendary HTX 202, I used that as my mobile radio, portable and as a base unit.

Today you might find a working IC-730 for $250 to $300. Just be aware that it doesn't have a general coverage receive, no 160 meter band, no FM and the preamp relay may have issues. But it will get you on HF for little cost.
 
HF On A Budget  
by RSHIRE22 on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
An end fed antenna thrown into a tree with a toroidal feed plus coax. For a radio use a TS-430, FT-757, or Omni C, Argosy. About $300-$350.

I started with a Ramsey 20 meter transmitter with a Sangean ATS-803A receiver but I liked cw and wouldn't recommend it for most.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KK7GB on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I first got interested in ham radio approx. 50 years ago. I took a class sponsored by the local ham radio store. Passed the 5wpm code but missed the written by one question.

Fast forward 45 years, I had someone who worked for me that was an amateur. We held a few conversations and eventually it rekindled my interest. I got my tech license, but held off on my general because of the code requirement.

Eventually the code requirement was removed and I went on to get my general and extra. My first hf rig was a Knewood TS-130SE, which I use a s a backup to my TS-440SAT.

I am working on learning code again but it is taking a lot longer at 62 than it did at 12.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KL7AJ on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I have an entire chapter, "Zeru Budget Radio." in the Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge and Lore, (Which, by the way, has JUST been re-published by W5YI).

My first rig was a Johnson Adventurer and a pair of ARC-5 receivers; one for 80 meters and one for 40. They had front ends like barn doors, but they sure were sensitive!

I was licensed for about 25 years before I ever touched a vhf rig, when 2-meter packet came out.

Eric
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC8QMF on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Don't think you have to spend thousands of dollars to get into HF. There is a lot of good used equipment out there. Ask other hams who has equipment for sale as they most always know where it will turn up.
My best station that I still use today in a Ten Tec Corsair II. I have a lot of newer stuff but it is the best CW rig that my ears have ever heard. And the only QRP rig is an Emtech 40 mtr kit I put together sometime ago.
I guess what I'm trying to say is if you want to spend a small fortune on HF then have at it. But I get the same guy on the other end no matter what I use.
Merry Christmas to you all.

73 KC8QMF
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KB6QXM on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As most new hams do not seem to realize, is spend the money on the antenna. Yes, a nice radio is nice, but in my opinion, a $10,000 antenna and a $200.00 radio is much better than the inverse.

Considering that the author was a "no-coder", I am glad to see that he took the initiative to learn the code. His older "classic" Heathkit radios are very cool. The Swan is also a "classic" radio. I love their look. They were known to drift quite a bit, but I just LOVE that generation of radios. Early 60's-Mid 70's.

I have had my share of that vintage of radios. FTDX-100, FT101B to name a few.

Now I use my Flex 5000a just to rag chew on 80 meters.

Great article.

73
 
HF On A Budget  
by WA7KGX on December 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My first true working ham station consisted of a Knight R-100 receiver, Ameco 2 meter converter, converted taxi transmitter, 55 watt hi-fi amp, and a modified 10 element channel 2 antenna on a used tower. I made a 110 mile contact on AM with it. Not too much 2 meter activity in northern Wisconsin back then.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by W8MLD on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I also started out on HF on the cheap. I had bought a Heathkit HW-101, but it was way out of alignment for $100. An Elmer of mine Hud K5ZG came over to help me set up an antenna for HF. Anyway the Heathkit was too far out of alignment to get on the air that day, so Hud gave me an Alinco DX-70 and helped me put up a G5RV. I am so much in his debt for that. Without him I'd would not have been able to get on HF until the next year when I saved up enough for the Kenwood TS2000 I bought in late 2009.

I eventually got the Heathkit HW-101 aligned to find out the balanced modulator was bad; it leaked carrier on 20-10m USB. On LSB it was fine. I still need to replace the balanced modulator board when I find a decent priced Heathkit HW-101 that is being sold for parts
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by W1JKA on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great article.The big difference between today's hams and us old timers is that we all started knowing and using CW by requirement (license) and necessity (finances) with mostly small home brew gear then progressed in the hobby as experience and finances permitted as opposed to today's young hams who can get right on the air with voice modes but if finances are a concern are limited to a low cost HT due to the lack of less expensive SSB only kits not to mention the often lack of desire to buld one with scavenged parts.My starter rig: hombrew 6v6 2 tube xtmr. from old TV parts on Mom's best cake pan and used S-120 rcvr.$25.00(lots of mowed lawns).Eventually mowed more lawns and graduated to a Johnson Adventurer xtmr. which I still use today 60 years later.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K5LXP on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I find it somewhat amusing that there'd be an article about expensive HF equipment today.

Radio gear has never been cheaper than it is today, no matter how you figure it. In 1975 a Kenwood TS520 was $600. That's $2600 in today's dollars. A basic entry level rig like a Heathkit HW-16 and HG-10 in 1968 would run you close to a grand in today's dollars. A Collins KWM-2A would be a lofty $10,000.

Anymore, you can put together a decent, modern HF station for relatively little money and not have to resort to the heavy, drifty crappy equipment that was all I could afford as a kid. If one figures what they spend in the course of a year on their goofy cell phones or trendy tablets you can easily afford a decent used, if not new HF transceiver. You can buy a dual band HT for less than a tank of gas anymore. $500-$1000 for a modern HF transceiver is a walk in the park. It cost us OF's a lot more than that in inflation adjusted dollars to get a whole lot less radio back in the day.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC7ZOH on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hello fellow hams. I started out with CB SSB in the 70's. Once I started in ham radio it was UHF VHF until this past January. Picked up a Radio Shack HTX 100 for $125. I use it with an inverted V dipole, a two section ham stick on a magnet mount with a counterpoise on my house roof and even a K30 magnet mount with a shortened welding rod element for 10 meter. My longest contact has been 5 watts with the K30, Las Vegas to YY4DNN in Venezula. Wow was I excited. I have filled two pages in my log book with contacts. Getting that HF radio pushed me to get my General ticket which i did in September. Now on to Extra and eventually a used all band HF base or QRP radio. Great article, thanks Kevin KC7ZOH.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Building stuff is still an option, but it does not appear to be very popular with new hams. As I noted previously, it seems there should be a connection between the DIY/Maker movement and Amateur Radio, but I don't think there is a real attraction. I think the reason for that is that ham radio is not perceived as 'cool' or whatever the current term is.

Also back in the 50's and 60's and maybe 70's, you could easily build something at least reasonably comparable to at least a store-bought entry-level CW transmitter, for two reasons:

(1) The entry level was Novice, CW only. In fact CW was still an extremely popular mainstream mode. There were no cell phones, CB, FRS, etc. CW was still used commercially, and it was not considered 'obsolete' by the general public. Radio was still 'magic' to some extent.
(2) Parts were readily available by scrounging from old TVs and radios.

Both of those conditions no longer exist.

It may also be that since now there are published Q&A, many new hams pass a test by memorization rather than learning the theory and are uncomfortable with actually building anything. It is sad that with today's supposed educational emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) that people are not more knowledgeable about such things.

 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>Anymore, you can put together a decent, modern HF station for relatively little money and not have to resort to the heavy, drifty crappy equipment that was all I could afford as a kid. If one figures what they spend in the course of a year on their goofy cell phones or trendy tablets you can easily afford a decent used, if not new HF transceiver. You can buy a dual band HT for less than a tank of gas anymore. $500-$1000 for a modern HF transceiver is a walk in the park. It cost us OF's a lot more than that in inflation adjusted dollars to get a whole lot less radio back in the day.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM<<<<


I like your points, Mark. Thrift and economy are nice, but all too often I see new people getting taken advantage of and roped into buying some real junk, all in the hope of getting on the air "on a budget". Then the "please help me!" requests get posted online, or verbally on the repeaters.

Everything's relative. A "budget" new transceiver that's fabulous is the new Yaesu 1200 (and I've always owned Icom), IMHO. If you want to spend less, then look at something like the IC-718 with DSP. Even used, you'll end up with a much, much nicer setup with far less frustration than having to wrestle with some old Heathkit or Swan junk, for example.

THRIFT DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN OLD JUNK!

Good luck.....


 
HF On A Budget  
by W8KQE on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As a newly minted 16 year old General Class licensee back in the 70's, I remember using a converted (to 10m) AM/SSB Lafayette 23 channel CB to get on the air. I sat inside my mom's Olds Cutlass using a Hustler center loaded trunk lip mount CB antenna cut and tuned for 10m, and worked the world from our driveway in NJ! Of course, that particular cycle was strong, and I would regularly get '59' reports from all over the world, and even worked a good number of VK and ZL running 12 watts mobile! I don't think I've had as much fun on HF since...
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by W9PMZ on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Cw, no CW.. Not again… ugh!
An amateur is progressive learning about new technology and keeping abreast of new technology.
The whole point of Amateur Radio is for those of us who are so inclined is to communicate with each other by ***whatever*** means necessary; and to use technology to our advantage to communicate with each other.

For those of you who still cling to the concept that Amateur Radio ***is CW*** do you still hitch up your horse to the wagon to go shopping? Got to use that horse and wagon because it won't be affected by EMP and all of the other disasters waiting to befall society...
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by NI3S on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Many new hams seem to think they need a fancy antenna that covers all the bands. Many times a simple, well made monoband (20m or 40m probably) would offer enough to get someone on to and into the ham world. My first rig after getting my HF ticket was a TS-140S bought used. My first antenna was a folded 20 dipole made from $10 worth of cheap 300ohm ladder line. It got me learning to copy CW, rag chewing on SSB, and trying PSK on a homebrewed interface. That stupid antenna, which I still have, worked incredibly well attached to my deck rail about 20' off the ground. Was it the best? No way, but even with one band to work I was able to understand a LOT of of the hobby.

I guess my point it you don't need it all at once, and that alone will make the hobby doable for those on a budget.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KB2HSH on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great advice! A local ham here in Buffalo is under the impression that you shouldn't even BOTHER getting on the air unless you can have the latest and greatest (i.e. FT-990 and a tower with a beam) equipment. Compare that mindset to when I was a new Novice and used a Hammarlund HQ-170 and a Ramsey Electronics QRP-40 transmitter (kit) that emitted 1 watt. It was HARDLY state-of-the-art, but I was on the air.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yeah, but it's a question of balance....like most other things in life.

Yes, we do a disservice if we lead new people into thinking that they need the mega rock-crusher setup just to get on HF. But also the idea that an old, dusty, smelly, corroded flea market beauty is all that's needed to get on HF is equally bogus, IMHO.

The idea is to encourage, not to frustrate,
 
HF On A Budget  
by KK4VID on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for your article and insight, Stephen on just starting out. I just got my ticket a few weeks ago and after reading your article I know I can get on the air with reliable used gear until I upgrade. Thanks again!
 
HF On A Budget  
by W2UIS on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yeasu FT 857D, power supply, and a 40 meter dipole.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KB2DHG on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
YES, you can get on the air for less money than many other hobbies these days... For the newcomer I would recommend joining a radio club... Chances are some one will have an old rig laying around that he will either loan sell or give... I did just that, There was a young kid that just passed his tech exam and had no equipment. I have an old 2 meter rig and antenna that was doing nothing but collecting dust in my shack. I gave it to the young lad and made his day!

There are many ways to get on the air for very little money and enjoy the hobby just the same!

Nice article...
 
HF On A Budget  
by NA5XX on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Our club has taught licensing classes and the common question was "What is the best radio and antenna". That question can not be answered. Recommendations for first radios on the other hand is a different matter. I was licensed in 1997. My station was a used HTX-202. Then I got an HTX-100. I worked the world mobile with that radio and still would recommend one to any Tech wanting HF on a budget. As one upgrades, there are many good used solid state radios available. I am a Kenwood user and therefore most familiar with them. Find a TS-130, 140 or 430. All are under $300 if you look around. As to an antenna, I like the Off Center fed Dipole. A single wire antenna that is resonant on multiple bands. They can be purchased cheap or made cheaper. You can get a Power Supply if you want. I run strictly off battery whether at home or in the field. So radio and antenna for under $400. It's up to the individual to decide if that is in the budget or not.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2UCA on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!


I home brewed my own direct conversion transceiver. The cost was minimal but I learned a lot. I have never used fancy antennas and have worked the world. Its all about the effort, band conditions. Antennas do matter but the equipment does not.
Nice article!
Kabir Rekhi
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by VK2NZA on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
VK2NZA, Hi
My entry to the world of amateur radio was as a youngster in the South Island of New Zealand. We seemed so far away from the rest of the world "downunder' that shortwave radio was a popular medium back in the early fifties.
My first access to ham radio was via a crystal set built into an early type of plastic soap container. With it one tuning knob I listened to the world , BBC R'Australia etc and the odd AM signal from local amateurs using the masses of excess US WW2 military Xmitters and receivers left in the Pacific after the war along with copious quantities of Studebaker 6WD's, White halftracks and Dodge powerwagons etc
A Japanese National brand 13 transistor, 3 SW band radio purchased by my father in 1960; was sneaked into my bedroom. Under the bedcovers at night I tuned more signals than I had ever heard before aided by 20ft of lamp wire strung out the window to a wire fence attached with alligator clips.
Remember no Plasma TVs, rural environment no really powerfull local transmitters although our local govt run statons were running 10KW and the Wellington based 2YA AM station was running 20KW.
In 1966 my father was posted to Washington DC and I attended high school in Bethesda MD. The school had an amateur radio club. I was hooked. My schoolfriend and neighbour then WN3LTJ and I would huddle around his RME 4350 (with SSB) receiver and ? Xmitter in a snowy DC winter and I envied that great machined alloy tuning knob.
After many mowed lawns and a paper run , (hated collecting money on a snowy Somerset Sunday evening)
My first purchase was at Radioshack, Yup! the veritable DX150 with voice frequency speaker!
Single conversion and full of birdies I listened to amateurs all over the world, I sat for my novice licence and became a WN3! A second hand purchase of an Eico 720 had me on air and on top of the world.
I thought I had really arrived when my father drove me over to Arlington VA to look at a second hand Hallicrafters SX-130. Purchased it for $110.00 hard earned dollars and learned the marvels of crystal phasing and good stability , dual conversion and few birdies.
Well its too many years on now,I have lived in Australia for 3 decades and my shack is well established, State of the art Icom Stn, DSP, 1 KW Linear, auto tuning and 300 acres to raise antennas and an 80 ft tower but I have never had as much fun and wonderment as those early years marvelling at the world of radio communication.
I thank those Elmers at the school club station and an ex Nasa comms engineer now SK who lived around the block and showed me the ropes.
In the age of the internet youngsters are saturated with communication devices and I feel sad that most will never experience the joys of a hard earned contact. My local club is committed to attracting more youngsters into the world of Amateur radio however this isn't so easy nowdays particularly in this age of instant gratification.
all the best Roscoe VK2NZA
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by VK2NZA on December 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
VK2NZA, Hi
My entry to the world of amateur radio was via shortwave radio SWL as a youngster in the South Island of New Zealand. We seemed so far away from the rest of the world "down-under' and shortwave radio was a popular medium back in the early fifties.
My first access to ham radio was via a crystal set built into an early type of plastic soap container. With it one tuning knob I listened to the world , BBC R'Australia etc and the odd AM signal from local amateurs using the masses of excess US WW2 military Xmitters and receivers left in the Pacific after the war along with copious quantities of Studebaker 6WD's, White halftracks and Dodge powerwagons etc
My father was stationed in the Pacific in the RNZAF during the war, and through a still serving airforce buddy he obtained (in 1961) an old comms set out of a PBY Catalina flying boat that were being refurbished with newer equipment, (Catalinas' were still flying from NZ to outlying Pacific islands until the late 60's) however while it made a lot of static I never did get it to hear anything, made a great play prop though!.
A Japanese National brand 11 transistor, 2 SW band radio purchased by my father in 1960; was often sneaked into my bedroom. Under the bedcovers at night I tuned more signals than I had ever heard before aided by 20ft of lamp wire strung out the window to a wire fence attached with alligator clips, funnily due to the relatively few MW transmitters in a small country of 3 million (at the time) stations went off air at midnight leaving great MW conditions for signals from other countries.
Remember no Plasma TVs, rural environment, lots of room for longwire aerials, no really powerfull local transmitters although our local govt run statons were running 10KW and the Wellington based 2YA AM station was running 20KW.
The bands were open, Quiet and yet full of wonderful foreign stations, sadly mostly are no longer on the air.
In 1966 my father was posted to Washington DC and I attended high school in Bethesda MD. The school had an amateur radio club. I was hooked!
My schoolfriend and neighbour then WN3LTJ and I would huddle around his RME 4350 (with SSB) receiver and ? Xmitter in a snowy DC winter and I envied that great machined alloy tuning knob.
After many mowed lawns and a long running paper run ,(Collecting paper dues on a snowy Somerset Sunday evening wasn't high on my list of favorite pastimes) I had saved enough to purchase some equipment.
My first purchase was at Radio Shack, Yup! the veritable DX150 with voice frequency speaker!
Single conversion and full of birdies I listened to amateurs all over the world, I sat for my novice licence and became a WN3! I built a Heathkit Q multiplier to aid the DX150's woefull selectivity but it did actually receive quite well.
A second hand purchase of an Eico 720 transmitter with 730 modulator for AM had me on air and on top of the world. I learned about dipoles! (and I'm still learning!! hi hi)
I thought I had really arrived when my father drove me over to Arlington VA to look at a second hand Hallicrafters SX-130. Purchased it for $110.00 hard earned dollars and learned the marvels of crystal phasing, good stability, dual conversion and few birdies.
Well its too many years on now,I have lived in Australia for 3 decades and my shack is well established, State of the art Icom Stn, DSP, 1 KW Linear, auto tuning and 300 acres to raise antennas and an 80 ft tower but I have never had as much fun and wonderment as those early years marvelling at the world of radio communication and poring over the ARRL antenna handbook.
I thank those Elmers at the school club station and the ex Nasa Comms engineer from Somerset who lived around the block and encouraged me, practising Morse and teaching me about his National HRO and changing coils .... "the times are a changing'
Now in the age of the internet, youngsters are saturated with communication devices and I feel sad that most will never experience the joys of a hard earned contact or the why and how their systems operate.
My local club is committed to attracting more youngsters into the world of Amateur radio however this isn't so easy nowdays particularly in this age of instant gratification.I believe this will be one of Amateur radios greatest challenges in the future.
all the best Roscoe VK2NZA
 
HF On A Budget  
by RADIOPATEL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
story from VU land (India)

During seventies Mr Noshir Mulla VU2IN got Hammerlund Receiver as gift and to complete the shack he bought Vaccume tubes from local Flea market and made the transmitter. The antenna for 160M band ran accross road next to his building in south Mumbai (then Bombay). Mr Adolf Shepherd VU2AF during those days used to homebrew. For tuniing crystals he were rubbing and fine tuning crystals. There are many such stories herein India.

In my case a friend of mine VU2ORO - RANAJAY helped me get hardly used FT817ND at very reasonable price of about 300$. Now days due to RF noise budgeing for good HF set is difficult task however if one is interested there are many options.
 
HF On A Budget  
by RADIOPATEL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
story from VU land (India)

During seventies Mr Noshir Mulla VU2IN got Hammerlund Receiver as gift and to complete the shack he bought Vaccume tubes from local Flea market and made the transmitter. The antenna for 160M band ran accross road next to his building in south Mumbai (then Bombay). Mr Adolf Shepherd VU2AF during those days used to homebrew. For tuniing crystals he were rubbing and fine tuning crystals. There are many such stories herein India.

In my case a friend of mine VU2ORO - RANAJAY helped me get hardly used FT817ND at very reasonable price of about 300$. Now days due to RF noise budgeing for good HF set is difficult task however if one is interested there are many options.
 
HF On A Budget  
by RADIOPATEL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
story from VU land (India)

During seventies Mr Noshir Mulla VU2IN got Hammerlund Receiver as gift and to complete the shack he bought Vaccume tubes from local Flea market and made the transmitter. The antenna for 160M band ran accross road next to his building in south Mumbai (then Bombay). Mr Adolf Shepherd VU2AF during those days used to homebrew. For tuniing crystals he were rubbing and fine tuning crystals. There are many such stories herein India.

In my case a friend of mine VU2ORO - RANAJAY helped me get hardly used FT817ND at very reasonable price of about 300$. Now days due to RF noise budgeing for good HF set is difficult task however if one is interested there are many options.
 
HF On A Budget  
by RADIOPATEL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
story from VU land (India)

During seventies Mr Noshir Mulla VU2IN got Hammerlund Receiver as gift and to complete the shack he bought Vaccume tubes from local Flea market and made the transmitter. The antenna for 160M band ran accross road next to his building in south Mumbai (then Bombay). Mr Adolf Shepherd VU2AF during those days used to homebrew. For tuniing crystals he were rubbing and fine tuning crystals. There are many such stories herein India.

In my case a friend of mine VU2ORO - RANAJAY helped me get hardly used FT817ND at very reasonable price of about 300$. Now days due to RF noise budgeing for good HF set is difficult task however if one is interested there are many options.
 
HF On A Budget  
by RADIOPATEL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
OMs and XYLs sorry for repetition due to browser errors.
73
Dinesh Patel - VU2DCI
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Looking at all these responses, the common thread is clearly an interest in and love of radio which includes a desire and willingness to actually learn something about the technology.

Contrast this with the tendency today of some to look at studying for the test as a necessary memorization chore rather than an opportunity to actually learn.

I'm not saying that everyone has to want to be an electrical engineer, but those who have no interest in actually learning the basic theory and/or actually doing anything hands-on generally do not make good hams. These are the people who will get stuck on 2 meter repeaters with a HT or mobile, will use the "high cost of HF" as an excuse not to upgrade, and will likely get bored after a while.

Yes we need to get new people in to the hobby, but I think in general if we downplay the technical aspects too much we are making a mistake.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by W5LZ on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Brings back memories doesn't it?
I started with a borrowed transmitter and a military surplus receiver. A folded dipole on 40 meters, strung up -on- the side of my parent's house. Had two crystals for 40 meters, but listened to the whole band for a reply (and got them, lots of us in the same boat then). Different rules about logging, filled up numerous pages with CQ's and no answers. Had more fun than I'd ever believe too.
I -saw- a 2 meter radio back then, once. It was a HeathKit 'lunch box' radio! All of about 2 watts on AM and he could even get out of town with it! Amazing!
Things changed and so did my equipment. Wish I had back several of those thingys...
- Paul

 
HF On A Budget  
by KJ6ZOL on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I am a newbie here, and I just got my General ticket in October 2012. I have been interested in radio since I was a kid, but never got a ham license until last year.

I was searching online for swap sites, looking for an old HF rig, when I came across an ad on a local club's newsletter from a ham who was selling HF rigs he didn't need anymore, they had been donated to a high school radio club he once headed as a former HS teacher, and he still had them sitting in his garage.

I called him and asked him if he had any he would give away. He told me about a Heathkit SB-102 that he thought might work. I drove up to meet him, and he pulled out the dusty Heathkit, which needed a tube and some other work. "Gee, this thing is gonna take a LOT of effort to get working, I know you would like to get on the air now, would you like the Kenwood?" I said yes, and he pulled out a Kenwood TS130S and an Astron RS20A power supply. I got both radios and power supplies, and a Ten Tec 228 tuner, and a dummy load, free. It took me a while how to figure out how to use the 130, and that the internal speaker was blown.

When I told the elmer that I wouldn't be able to work on the Heathkit for a while-it turned out to need a LOT of work, including a total rebuild of the power supply-he said that the real reason he was getting rid of so much stuff was that he was bankrupt and would have to sell his house to satisfy his creditors, and move out of state, so I could sell the Heathkit. I got $270 for it on fleabay! A year later, I still use the Kenwood, and eventually I hope to get an Icom.

Also, after I got my license, I was approached by a man who had passed his test at the same session I did, and who was trying to operate a Baofeng UV-5R, the same model I had. He couldn't make head or tail out of the "Chinese English" manual, and he had been driving around town trying to get somebody to explain it to him. He'd just looked up new hams, and showed up unannounced on their doorsteps, looking for help. I was glad to explain it to him.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by N6AJR on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
first rig an ft 101 ee and a home brew 5 band fan dipole on the roof with a 5 band set of 1 radial hooked to the ground side.
 
HF On A Budget  
by VE7VTC on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree that having fun with minimal equipment is a big part of ham radio. My best mobile contact was with a TS-520 (powered by an cheap noisy inverter to get 100w) and a hamstick. I worked eastern South Africa and got a 5/5 report. It sure gave me the DX bug!
 
HF On A Budget  
by K1AVE on December 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My first rig was a used Heath AT-1 TX, and an AR-3 RX with QF-1 Q multiplier. T/R switch was a twinlead knife switch and the antenna was a 1/2 wave (give or take) 40 meter dipole in 1956. Got the General in 57 and building the DX-100 at night almost flunked me out of high school! Still good memories of skeds to England and around town. Was a great hobby then and still is 57 years later.
73, Gene k1AVE

 
HF On A Budget  
by W4FID on December 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I began hamming as a high school kid on the south side of Chicago St. Pat's Day 1961 as Kn9FID with potentially the first Heath DX60 ever sold (with two crystals) and a Heath AR2 receiver (4 tube AC/DC -- no filters). 80/40 meter novice CW the hard way! I built some home brew rigs from salvaged TV parts during my high school years and was every inch the classic geek. One of the club guys realized I would have a tough time working enough QSOs to build my code speed with that receiver so he offered me his SX-99 and I could pay him a few bucks whenever. He taught me a major lesson in life. Notice who needs help and offer what you can. It is still possible to buy older generation rigs -- and even to build rigs -- and have fun on a very skinny budget. Especially if you do CW.

Have whatever station you can have. Have whatever antenna you can have. Then enjoy the QSOs you have. Sure -- bigger is easier -- but not necessarily any more fun.


 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>by KC2WI on December 11, 2013....
I'm not saying that everyone has to want to be an electrical engineer, but those who have no interest in actually learning the basic theory and/or actually doing anything hands-on generally do not make good hams. These are the people who will get stuck on 2 meter repeaters with a HT or mobile, will use the "high cost of HF" as an excuse not to upgrade, and will likely get bored after a while.
Yes we need to get new people in to the hobby, but I think in general if we downplay the technical aspects too much we are making a mistake.<<<<


Yeah, I agree spot-on, Peter. We have some of those 2 meter rangers here locally, and they've made it quite painful to listen/use those machines. The good news is that there are many more people on other bands/machines/modes who more than make up for the zombie rot on 2 meters.

I guess the thinking that old guys (me) need to guard against is the notion that "getting technical and learning" means rolling up your sleeves and digging into an old, derelict radio from our early years. True, it's more difficult to experiment today, but in a way that's a good thing since it shows how much advancement has taken place, and how intricate (complicated?) things are today by comparison to our early experiences in the hobby.

"Back in the day" (I'm even rolling my eyes), we had to know how to repair our radios, but today it's completely different in a high-tech, fast-changing, throw-away society. Still, there's much, much more to learn today, and parking on 2 meters and babbling your life away is such a waste of a great opportunity to really enjoy the hobby.
 
HF On A Budget  
by W3TTT on December 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
What about a home-brew station from parts salvaged from an old TV or Radio? Cost: $0. Hours of fun.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
W3TTT >>>What about a home-brew station from parts salvaged from an old TV or Radio?<<<

Nice thought but it would have to be an OLD TV or Radio. Like 30 years old. Those are getting scarce. You don't even see them in people's garbage that much any more.

Not much in a modern TV or radio that you can use. Just highly integrated analog and digital chips.

I suppose some of the components in an newer CRT TV could be used but I think that it is a lot more difficult to reuse transistors than tubes.

Radios have been mostly digital tuning for a long time. No more salvaging tuning caps, etc.

The other thing that is getting scarce are "shortwave" receivers. Most newer ones have PLL digital tuning that is not suitable to use on the ham bands.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KD8NGE on December 13, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Horse trading.
I put a quarter of a century of my life into using professional two way radio -- fire, police and paramedic services -- when I finally got married my bride told me she did not want to become a young widow so I left what I loved in the rearview mirror for someone I loved more.
Always wanted to try ham radio so when a local fire dept LT told me his grandmother was going to throw out his grandfather's tube rigs unless I wanted them, I set a land speed record getting there.
As nearly everything was home brew and I know almost nothing about tube rigs, what I acquired became "Trading Stock" -- an old-timer, now SK, offered to trade the old home brew tube sets for a modern rig.
It must've been a good trade.
I plied him with fresh baked corn bread and coffee, he plied me with stories, we wheedled,haggled, flattered, swindled, slickered and otherwise managed to cheat each other out of the other's eye teeth -- when the dust settled he had the tube sets,I had the newer rig, and each of us was so absolutely convinced we'd just swindled the other fellow out of his socks that neither of us could look the other in the eye!
The moral of the story:
Don't overlook good old fashioned horse trading to get what you want!
 
HF On A Budget  
by KJ4NOO on December 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My 1st station was a free , non working FT-101EE and a G5RV ! I fixed the 101 and had a lot of fun and even worked Antarctica with it and the G5RV. I found a great deal on a kit to add the WARC bands that works great and learned a lot from that radio ! I still have it and it still works great. I have since upgraded and added newer radios with more efficient antennas but there was nothing like the thrill of tuning the 101 ! You can get on the air with a lot less and still have a blast !
 
HF On A Budget  
by N3MDG on December 15, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I read this article hoping to find some good advice. Instead I read someone reminiscing about days gone by that have little relevance to a new general class ham on a very tight budget in the 21st century.

I apologize if this offends the old hams that learned to work the world with cats whisker and crystal sets using CW at 5wpm. I respect what you've done, I'm in awe, seriously, of your McGuiver like accomplishments.

This year, and in the years to come our new general class licenses are going to people that grew up with cellphones, texting, email (even that's old time to my grandkids) computers and tablets.

Can't someone write an article of HF on a budget that doesn't involve boat anchors over 15 years old that don't have even a serial interface (Paragon anyone?).
I've been looking for a year. In a world where $30-$50 will buy you an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, a low cost dual band, is it really so hard to put together a 20 watt HF transceiver that will do digital modes in conjunction with a home computer? I know that I haven't figured it out yet.

But then I've only had a single HF radio, a very kind Elmer loaned me a ft-857 for several months. I would have bought it if I could. But it's just not happening. So I've decided that I'm going to have to work with VHF packet. Because that's what I can afford to do for now. And someday Argonaut V's and IC-703/706s won't be selling for $600-800.

BTW: the cost of all band antenna's is not the issue here. I realize I'm lucky to have the space but while I had that loaner I put up a 255' 160M off center dipole for about $100.
 
HF On A Budget  
by KK6L on December 16, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My first radio was a Drake TR-4C that I bought for $200, which was a lot of money for a 16 year old in 1996. I probably shortened my lifespan running that 300 watt beast into a dipole less than 10 feet from my head, but I neither knew better nor cared. Now, I'm having some nostalgia about the good old days. It had a great receiver on it, and I surely miss it now.

However, with all the advances these days, I have to admit that that old Drake can't shake a stick at the newer rigs for efficiency, economy, and pure awesomeness. Rigs like the IC-7600, and the TS-590 just CRUSH these older rigs, particularly with regard to DSP, filters, and myriad other options, and with so many other rigs falling in line behind these "top of the line" rigs, it really doesn't make much sense to go with the absolute cheapest you can find. In fact, for $375, you can get a Kenwood TS-50S or another comparable radio to get on HF with and still take advantage of more modern technology. For another $100, you can get a SignaLink USB with cable and get on the digital bands too.

The real problem that I see is in the used radio market. In my opinion, too many hams cling doggedly to the MSRP and simply refuse to sell their equipment for any less than they paid for. That's when you find things on QRZ, QTH, eBay, and eHam worth $150 being listed for $200. They rationalize, "Hey, I don't smoke, and I only used this for 500 hours, which means it must be "pristine" and "like new", right." They forget that radios are like cars; they lose a portion of their value the minute you drive them off the lot. Good deals are few and far between.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KK6L....

I especially enjoyed reading your second paragraph above. COMPLETELY agree!

New folks....don't buy Heathkit (or similar) crap, thinking you're getting a bargain and an easy way to get on HF. They suck, and you know....they sucked back when we built them new. We just didn't have any other options, unlike today where gear is fabulous and affordable.



 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
@K9MHZ: I don't fully agree with your statement/advice. It depends on what a new ham is interested in.

If you know nothing technically and are not too interested in the technology and just want to get on the air, then yes, avoid old old radios.

However if you like the idea of tinkering and technical experimentation as opposed to just pressing a button and talking, than an old radio could be lots of fun.

Some of those old radios, while not as good as new ones, are decent performers. If you get one from a trusted fellow ham and you can try it out first, it could be a good deal.

There is a happy medium. You can find an older but not ancient radio that will work well, but even those are not nearly as good as today's equipment and are more likely to have problems and might be harder to repair than the Heathkit era radios. My first 'modern' radio, in 1983, was an Icom 730. It was a decent rig for it's time but nothing like new radios.

The thing is that you don't HAVE to spend a lot to get on the air.

Your point that the gear today is fabulous and affordable is right on, especially when compared to the Heathkit days. I don't think they sucked when they were new but even the state of the art radios back then were limited compared to current technology.

A Heathkit HW-101 cost $400 in 1970. That is over $2100 in today's dollars. It was a 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meter SSB/CW transceiver. Ham band only, no narrow IF filter, no notch filter, no IF shift, no noise reduction, no digital readout, no memories, no vox, no keyer, etc.

For slightly over 1/4 of that $2100, you can now get a brand new radio that has way more performance, capabilities, and features. 160-10 all mode, general coverage RX, PLL/digital, 100 memories, DSP noise reduction, etc. For under 1/2, you can get one that covers all bands all modes 160m - 70cm.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K8QV on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Every hobby requires an investment of time and money. Compare ham radio to golf, hunting, boating, or even bowling. Buy the needed equipment, new or used, stop whining about how "expensive" ham radio is, or take up reading free library books by candlelight as a hobby. Everything else costs money.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by JOHNZ on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
@K8QV
You are correct, and you have said it in a few words. Look at it this way, today's new ham comes from world where a new Bearcat or Uniden deluxe 40 channel radio might cost $175, brand new. Now, with his freshly printed no code ham license, he is looking at laying out what, a minimum of one-grand for a brand new very basic HF ham radio? Sticker shock! He thought it would be as easy as the ten answers he had to memorize to get his ham license.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
QV...that was great!

73, and chuckling!
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by N3MDG on December 17, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Let's go back to the beginning. On the eHam home page it showed
"HF On A Budget
KE7WAV shows you how to get on the air affordably[sic]"

Did this article actually show how to get on the air affordably today? The advice he gave was to get a loaner. That's it. Well that's certainly affordable.
I'm sorry if it bothers you that someone could be disappointed with the article. And that I would dare to speak up and write about it. But I'm not going to apologize for pointing out that based on the title and subtitle I found the content lacking in practical application.
I found KK6L's comments very on the mark.
Though I will point out that there is one TS-50 setup on ehams classified currently. He's asking $800. Over on qth there's a pair for $625 and a more reasonable $450. In point of fact, I'm betting you can shake a stick at the number of used HF rigs on the 3 main classified listings that are under $500. Do you think that I'm the only one who looks at a $600 used TS-50 and then a new IC-718 and think "VHF packet until I save up a little more". So I don't know why experienced people are surprised that new hams, even ones with general tickets, are getting a $30 Chi HT and not going farther for years. Maybe some of the under $300 HF radios starting to show up on AliExpress is going to change that. Those and the $500, and occasionally under that, IC-718/FT-817 radios that are starting to show up in the classified.

Those lower cost radios combined with Elmers that help with some antenna parts and tuners are what new general licensed operators that are on tight budgets are going to need.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by W3TTT on December 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, the author did tell us that he bought his first rig very cheap. "...When the day came I could afford a rig of my own it was a used HW-8 for a grand total of about $100. .."

And the implication is that you can still do the same today. Which is true.

The author's point is that a newbie (knovice) can get on the air on the cheap. Good point, well taken.

In fact, until a few years ago, I did just that. Then I sold all the boat anchors and bought a Icom 718. But, that is me. Your milage may vary. Batteries not included.

Is knovice spelled with a "K"? Novice or Knovice? In any case, the K is silent.

Which reminds me of a girl in the first grade. Her mother was angry at the teacher. She said "Her name is spelled 'a-sha' and you pronounce it 'adasha'. The dash ain't silent!!!!"
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K9MHZ on December 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KC2WI.... I get your "happy medium" point, and do agree. I'm probably more guilty than most of letting the intensities of the thread overshadow the main points. I just hate seeing new guys getting suckered into buying junk because hey... "We're hams, we dig into things and learn, etc." Nothing's more discouraging for a newbie than being forced into a very steep learning curve because he's got a pile of crap staring at him on his desk.

You're right, a balanced approach can inexpensively get that same guy on the air, and then if HE decides to get into boat anchors, God bless him. I just don't think entry into the hobby necessarily means acquiring the dregs that the rest of us long ago got rid of.

Excellent points you make!
 
HF On A Budget  
by JOHNZ on December 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
An entertaining and sad part of most hamfests is walking through the bone yard and seeing the same guys who cart the same 1950s & 1960s junk radios from hamfest to hamfest and still demanding the same top dollar for said junk. I am not talking about the dedicated craftsmen who spend hours restoring old boat anchors to their original working condition. I am talking about the unshaven alcohol smelling cigarette smoking obese scum bag driving the beat up vehicle who hauls the exact same non working junk from hamfest to hamfest, then gets ticked off when you offer him a fair price for his junk.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by K8QV on December 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
HF on a budget? In the ninth grade I didn't even have a budget. I got on HF by building a CW transmitter from junk and mounted the components on a home made chassis. I got a broken Hammarlund receiver from a local ham and I fixed it.

I guess I was just a dumb kid so anxious to "talk" to all the exotic places my crystals could take me that I didn't ever consider that it was impossible.
 
HF On A Budget  
by N5HNY on December 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As far back as the late 80's, I was astounded at the hams that couldn't read an analoge dial. I was selling some older gear at a hamfest and there were a lot of new hams due to the volunteer examinations. They all wanted digital readout HF radios and two meter HTs. If you think about it, most hams today use HF and very little two meters. The primary mode is SSB and a bit of CW once in awhile. Any older radio like an Icom IC-730 or a new Icom IC-718 would fill the bill nicely. I currently use a Kenwood TS-950S and it's really more radio than I need. I still have a Yaesu FT-901DM and FT-102. Either of these would work just great. A ham remarked to me recently that the older radios don't have an internal tuner. I had to point out that they do. They are called a plate and tune control. Everybody likes bells and whistles, but how many do you need to check into a few nets and rag chew on 80 or 40 meters ?
 
HF On A Budget  
by W5EN on December 30, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There are good deals out there on affordable and quite useable HF gear, but perhaps the best Elmering we can do for new hams is knowing where to look for good deals and pointing other hams in that direction?
Just this week I purchased an older Icom 725 for under $200 that just needed some cleaning and bang I was on the air making contacts in the RAC operating event. I was able to use the little radio almost right away on both CW and SSB. Actually I was kind of impressed with the receiver in the old little radio. Sure I don't have 2 roofing filters, IF DSP, or passband tuning, yes the internal speaker sounded horrible. However, with the radio connected to an external speaker the 725 performed well and I made a bunch of contacts. I've also seen FT-840s at decent prices, and a slew of Kenwood TS-120s, 130s, and 140s at budget prices. For not a bunch more money the Icom 718 shows up frequently in the used market.
Some of the hybrid rigs like the TS 520 and 820 also often show up at decent prices I'm not sure they make a good starter radio for new hams. With the way most prepare for and pass the tests today it might be tough getting newer hams up and running with a radio with a tube driver and finals. I'm not being critical, just realistic. However, now that I think about it, a previous poster might be on the right track. Rather than trying to explain resonating a plate tank circuit, it might make more sense to teach first time users that the plate and load controls are actually a form of built in antenna tuner that can not be bypassed.

Perhaps I'll work some of you in the SKN event. 73 de W5EN Steve
 
HF On A Budget  
by KI6PYQ on January 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I became a Ham relatively late in life at the age of 49 in 2008. I upgraded to a General in January of 2010 and began the search for a cheap way to get into HF. I am so thankful for local Elmer's and the Internet. My advice to new hams is NEVER listen too anyone who says you HAVE to have this or that radio, antenna, or whatever. DO listen to the old timers who have been Hams for a long time, and don't be paralyzed with indecision, get started as simply as you can.
My first HF rig which is still my main radio was a Kenwood TS-430s which I purchased from a local ham for $165.00. I have never purchased an HF antenna. I made my first HF antenna from scrap wire, plexiglass and 300 ohm TV twinlead. I used an old MFJ 941C tuner I bought used and was able to work DX on 80-10 meters. You will be surprised at what you can do with very modest equipment. Jump in and just do it. Here's a good start for your first antenna.

http://www.hamuniverse.com/fourdollarspecialw1gfh.html
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KI6PYQ on January 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Steve, you are so right about the deals on used HF rigs. I mentioned in my post that my first HF rig was a TS-430 that I paid $165.00 for. My second HF rig for field use is an IC-718 that I paid $325.00 for used. As for antennas, build your own dipole. A roll of cheap speaker wire from RS, a precut 2ft length of PVC pipe for insulators from Home Depot and some small rope and you can be on the air for less than $20.00. My local library has several ARRL antenna books which are a wealth of info for new and old hams alike.

73 KI6PYQ, Steve.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on January 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I wouldn't discount hybrid rigs like the TS-520/530. It depends on the individual. Someone who wants 'plug and play' or doesn't really want to understand anything about the technology or has no patience won't like them and may have difficulty, but a 'real ham' shouldn't have much problem.

You can find a decent TS-520 for about $150. It won't be in pristine cosmetic condition but it may work just fine.

I've used the 520 and the 530 and I find them relatively easy to tune once you get the procedure down. If the new ham can be shown the procedure by an Elmer then it should not be a problem. I actually made up a little cheat sheet for mine. There is only about 5 steps.

Once you know the settings for your radio and antenna setup, you can make a chart, same as for your transmatch if you use one. According to the manual, the 520/530 was designed to work in to a 50 ohm load. The final tuning circuit won't compensate for anything too far off but there is some leeway (more than with the current crop of radios that are not happy with anything over 1.5:1).

It is a pain to have to retune when you make a large change in frequency or change bands, but the radio will get you on the air and won't sound much different than the average newer solid state rig.
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by N3MDG on January 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I challenge you to find a TS-520, a 30 year old rig that originally listed for $600 for "about $150" that you think a new ham should purchase.
I did a search in the eham classified and found one!
Oh, but it was listed as 'no output'. Another is a
'tech special'. Below is a dozen listings over the last 6 months that had prices.

1/1/14 TS-520S. $310+ship. "great condition"
12/29/13 TS-520. $275+ship. "great condition"
12/20/13 TS-520. $250+ship. "8+/10 condition"
12/18/13 TS-520. $250+ship. "~70W on CW"
12/14/13 TS-520. $315+ship. "great condition"
11/22/13 TS-520S. $325+ship. "great condition"
11/17/13 TS-520S. $175+ship. "Tech Special"
11/17/13 TS-520S. $375+ship. "outstanding condition"
8/25/13 TS-520S. $475+ship. "very clean"
8/10/13 TS-520S. $350+ship. "beautiful vintage"
7/19/13 TS-520SE. $300. "full output transmit"
6/29/13 TS-520SE. $300+ship. "excellent condition"
6/28/13 TS-520S. $150. "looks great but has no output"
 
RE: HF On A Budget  
by KC2WI on January 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I bought a TS-520 in working condition for $150 a few years ago. It probably needed a good alignment to restore to best performance, but it worked. Also saw a couple a few years back at a local hamfest. They had some scratches, maybe a missing or non-matching knob, broken switch lever, or something like that, but at least according to the seller they worked.

I would definitely not advise a new non-technical ham to buy something like this from an unknown seller or without some advice from a technically astute Elmer, but under the right conditions it is a way to get on HF cheap.
 
HF On A Budget  
by G0UCH on January 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
My first access to HF was a Howes 80 Metre transverter.
I drove it with the Yaesu FT290R I bought from a bloke I knew from CB. The Howes, did not so much drift as "gallop" up the band. It was best to leave it on for about half an hour. It was great fun.
I then acquired a Tokyo Hi Power Transverter and had fun on five bands.It sounded rough on 40 metres though.
Then I got my first "proper" HF Rig. A Sommerkamp FT277B This was a re badged FT101B. It had the original six HF bands, and no FM. Occasionally it got stuck between transmit and recieve and it also suffered from broadcast QRM on 40 at night. But I had a great time with it.
I reached the WARC bands with an FT101Z that I bought off a retired government scientist at a price I had thought was a misprint.A second hand CW filter added whilst half drunk in Millenium Eve made the rig "perfect".
It was more fun then than it is now, to be honest
 
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