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Author Topic: Poorman's(gal's) station set up?  (Read 762 times)
KD7WPU
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Posts: 1




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« on: June 26, 2003, 02:57:47 AM »

I would appreciate any advice setting up a REALLY cheap (under $350 total - disabled so my income is minuscule) station.

Currently hold a Tech license and will be taking the General in a few weeks.
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KB9YKY
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Posts: 1




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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2003, 07:28:49 AM »

A medium power CW only transceiver, a key, some feedline, and a dipole.
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K8AC
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Posts: 1465




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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2003, 01:45:32 PM »

Here's a very inexpensive antenna that I used when $350 seemed as far away from me as $1 million:  An end fed, random wire, up as high and far as you can get it.  One end comes into the shack or to a window sill, garage, etc. where the tuner will sit.  The tuner is an "L" network consisting of a coil in series with the antenna and a variable capacitor to ground from where the antenna connects to the coil.  You can wind the coil with bare wire that you might be able to get for free by checking with an electrician for his scrap.  For the 100 watt or less level, the capacitor can be a varible from an old broadcast receiver.  You can probably get one of those free by placing an ad here on the eHam classifieds.  You adjust the coil via a wire with an alligator clip attached to one end of the coil and you attach the clip to the proper place on the coil.  Any inexpensive SWR bridge is adequate for tuning up and you can probably find one for $5 or so.  You'll also need a ground rod near the tuner, and the end of the capacitor not connected to the coil attaches to the ground rod with a short wire.  You can assemble the tuner on a piece of pine board.  

Finding a rig with the remaining $345 or so can be a challenge.  There are a couple of Kenwood TS-830s on QTH.com classifieds right now for $350 asking price. One of them included a microphone and SWR bridge. If I were you, I'd look at something like the 830 at that price, and call the guy, explain your situation, and ask him if he can accept whatever you can afford.  You might have to make a few calls, but sooner or later someone will help you out with a price break.  If you're in an area where there's a local ham club, try to get hooked up with them.  You may be able to get a "loaner" rig for a while, and some help getting it installed!  Best of luck with this.  

Floyd Sense - K8AC in Angier, NC  
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AD6WL
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Posts: 181


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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2003, 02:16:38 PM »

QRP!  You can build your own Rockmite or  buy one.  Get a QRP antenna tuner, keyer and some wire.  You'll have enough money left over to have some QSL cards printed.
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N6AJR
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Posts: 9887




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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2003, 02:39:07 AM »

I'd find a solid state rig like a icom 720 or 730 will give you all the hf bands and run around $300 here or on ebay. easy to use, that leaves $50 for a chunk of coax and some wire for a "fan antenna"  ( do a search on fan dipole here on elmers search) and if you still need more save up for a 2 meter or dual band mobile ( under $100 all the time ) and a 12 volt power supply ( again on ebay, or ask some local hams if any one has any thing for sale cheep..) good luck and have fun.   tom N6AJR
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NZ5L
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Posts: 220




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« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2003, 03:14:39 PM »

All of the previous posts have offered good, usable suggestions, but I'd like to add a few more: Go to some Hamfests!  You can SEE what you're bargaining for, and you can ask the seller to demonstrate it (take a small coil of hook-up wire with a banana plug on one end to check for signals on receive).  If you aren't familiar with ham equipment, drag a trusted elmer along (they would probably be going anyway).  If you include a few famous old chestnuts, like the early Kenwood TS-520 or 820, there are many bargains to be had.  Dollar for dollar, these are fine radios with a reputation for reliability.  I personally have always liked the old Drake TR-4 line, but unless you live near a ham friend with a large tube collection, this may not be a good idea.  Ditto for "separates" rather than a transceiver - great for the experienced ham with an "electron thumb" but not the best route for the first-timer.  As for the antenna, most all MFJ and similar tuners have a built in balun to allow balanced line feeder to be used. Balanced line feeder is inexpensive, versatile, and efficient. My feedline is 300 ohm heavy-duty twin-lead (purchased at a yard sale for $2.00)and allows me to operate on all bands with an 80 Meter dipole.  QRP is great fun, and can be inexpensive, but is best left to the expert.  Also, SSB at the 10 Watt level is quite a challenge - and these days, a "Cadillac" QRP rig, such as an Argonaut V, An SGC-2020, or an Elecraft, will set you back some meaningful $$!  A last thought - if you can spare just $50-75 more, you can be looking at a used IC-718 or FT-840, both very capable all-band, all-mode radios with plenty of mileage left on the clock.  GL.
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NZ5L
Member

Posts: 220




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« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2003, 03:16:08 PM »

As a retiree on a military pension, I can certainly empathize with your situation.  All of the previous posts have offered good, usable suggestions, but I'd like to add a few more: Go to some Hamfests!  You can SEE what you're bargaining for, and you can ask the seller to demonstrate it (take a small coil of hook-up wire with a banana plug on one end to check for signals on receive).  If you aren't familiar with ham equipment, drag a trusted elmer along (they would probably be going anyway).  If you include a few famous old chestnuts, like the early Kenwood TS-520 or 820, there are many bargains to be had.  Dollar for dollar, these are fine radios with a reputation for reliability.  I personally have always liked the old Drake TR-4 line, but unless you live near a ham friend with a large tube collection, this may not be a good idea.  Ditto for "separates" rather than a transceiver - great for the experienced ham with an "electron thumb" but not the best route for the first-timer.  As for the antenna, most all MFJ and similar tuners have a built in balun to allow balanced line feeder to be used. Balanced line feeder is inexpensive, versatile, and efficient. My feedline is 300 ohm heavy-duty twin-lead (purchased at a yard sale for $2.00)and allows me to operate on all bands with an 80 Meter dipole.  QRP is great fun, and can be inexpensive, but is best left to the expert.  Also, SSB at the 10 Watt level is quite a challenge - and these days, a "Cadillac" QRP rig, such as an Argonaut V, An SGC-2020, or an Elecraft, will set you back some meaningful $$!  A last thought - if you can spare just $50-75 more, you can be looking at a used IC-718 or FT-840, both very capable all-band, all-mode radios with plenty of mileage left on the clock.  GL.
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KT8K
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Posts: 1490




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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2003, 02:52:44 PM »

A resonant dipole (a "fan" type will provide multiple bands) will be cheap and avoid needing a tuner, which can be moderately expensive (plus I like to change bands without having to fiddle with things).

Tube rigs are pretty cheap, and older QRP rigs are, too.  If you can get the antenna up at least 20 or 30 feet you will be making QSOs in no time, and having a lot of fun.

Good luck, and I hope to catch you on the air soon.
73 de kt8k - Tim

PS: in my first 20 years as a ham I spent a *total* of perhaps $1200 for everything, which averages $60 per year.  I will admit that I invested about $300 in my first rig - a 5 watt TenTec Argonaut 509 - but I homebrewed a dipole to hang over the curtain rods and worked about 12 countries and 35 states in the next 6 months, all on the novice bands.  I think you'll beat that all hollow.

Get in with the local ham club, too - there has to be one around somewhere - and you'll find more good suggestions and maybe some help.
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K7VO
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Posts: 1010




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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2003, 04:10:04 PM »

I recently severely downgraded my station due to a combination of unemployment and medical problems.  I understand about tight budgets.  I ended up putting together a very nice late '70s Icom station for HF, 6m, and 2m for just over what you have budgeted.  The HF portion was considerably less than $350 Smiley

I picked up an Icom IC-701 with the matching power supply and desk mic.  This rig (along with the IC-720 and IC-720A) has a very poor reputation so it is available very cheaply.  I am learning rapidly that the reputation is undeserved and that the rig is a pleasure to operate.

There were three knocks on this radio:  1) bandswitch stepper motor failures, 2) plated eyelets on the two sided boards that cause intermittent problems, and 3) a noisy synthesizer and audio hiss combining to make a poor receiver.  #1 and #3 are common to all three radios, while #2 is unique to the IC-701.

1) The bandswitch drives a Ledex rotary stepper motor, and they are prone to failure.  When my IC-720A died years ago I was told they were unrepairable and irreplaceable.  I wrote a scathing eHam review some time back.  The fact is my review is wrong:  the stepper motor generally IS repairable with a fairly simple and well documented mod, and a replacement in the rare event that one really dies is available, though it is not quite the same as the one in the rig and requires some modification to the radio to install.   The radios are every bit as serviceable as any other 20-25 year old rigs.

2) They eyelet issue is real, and I experienced what a pain they are to hard wire with an old Icom IC-245/SSB 2m all mode mobile.  The thing is, 20-25 years on, any rig that did not have this repair done would likely have failed long ago.  Any good working IC-701 (or IC-211, IC-245, IC-280, or IC-22S) likely is not going to fail again due to this problem.

3) The noisy synthesizer is on a par with many 1980s synthesizers from all the major manufacturers.  The audio hiss is minor, and the audio is no worse than radios which have similar issues and yet are well respected, such as the Ten Tec Scout and the Icom IC-725/726.  Overall, the original IC-706 probably had a higher noise floor than the IC-701.

My point in posting this is to show that many older rigs have not maintained their resale value, or are looked down upon, based on myths and misconceptions.  An IC-701 doesn't have the WARC bands, so the IC-720A is a better choice.  (The original IC-720 is less reliable than the IC-720A.)  OTOH, my rig is nearly mint and was available locally, so I figured it was better than taking a chance on buying one sight unseen online.

There are a lot of good, inexpensive rigs out there.  Look around and see what catches your fancy.

Oh, and I am using fanned dipoles, and they work brilliantly for a low budget station.  The cost of the balun, wire, dog bone insulators, and nylon rope was miniscule.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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