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Author Topic: HF station for $150??  (Read 4487 times)

Posts: 12

« on: December 03, 2006, 11:29:16 AM »

Alright, I know I'm putting myself up for a nice bashing about how impossible the task I am trying to accomplish is, but is it even possible?

First off, let me explain my situation.  I recently passed my General exam, and am looking to get on the air fast.  My problem is I am on a very limited budget, being  in High School and all.  When I say limited, I mean as little as $150 for the whole shibang.  I know this is limiting me to used rigs, and I can live with that.  

So, am I out to accomplish the impossible?  Or is this an acheivable feat?  Also, is it is possible, what rigs should I be keeping an eye open for?

Thanks and 73
Steven KI4OGD/AG

Posts: 4283


« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2006, 12:15:26 PM »

Use that money at the nearest gas station to buy gas for the car that will take you to the nearest Elmer's station and a contest station.  That'll get you some experience.  Then in your spare time keep studying your school work so you can get good grades and then further with a good paying job.

All kidding aside, you may be able to borrow a spare rig from someone and put up some wire antennas.


Posts: 380

« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2006, 01:42:19 PM »

1) Go to and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the CW QRP transceiver kits. Cost, $99 each.

2) Head down to Radio Shack and pick up a cheap 12v power supply. Make sure it's not a switched mode unit or you might have QRM problems. Cost, not a lot.

3) Spend the change on some wire for an antenna and a length of coax.

Welcome to ham radio <g>.


Posts: 14491

« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2006, 02:29:45 PM »

Yes, it is acheivable. Allow about $25 for a wire dipole antenna and you have $125 for the transceiver. If you want 100W SSB you'll probably have to find and older tube type transceiver. Check out places on line like Amateur Electronic Supply and look at the classifieds on e-ham and the ARRL site.

If you are willing to go for a 5W CW only transceiver you can purchase new as indicated previously. Try a google search on "qrp", "qrp kits", "qrp radios", etc. to find links to sites.

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 5639

« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2006, 03:55:56 PM »

Join your nearest club and inquire if they have a loaner program; many do.

If the club doesn't, I'll bet there are at least two or three of the members who will have a spare rig they would be willing to loan you to get started.

Congratulations on the upgrade!


Lon - W3LK
Baltimore, Maryland

A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.

Posts: 173

« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2006, 05:58:24 AM »

Too bad you're not here in Chicago -- many of us have "extra" rigs that are just gathering dust.

Seriously, the suggestion to try the local clubs may get you the best opportunities for either inexpensive rigs or loaners.

73 es welcome to HF!
Steve  WA9FZB

Posts: 1190

« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2006, 01:27:56 PM »

If you dig around you should be able to find an "ugly" TS 520 or 520s. Rigs run direct from AC mains and a parallel "fan" dipole can be made for nothing except for cost of coax. Once you know which way you wish to go you may sell the 520 at zero or no loss and invest in gear more specific to your desire.

Posts: 352

« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2006, 09:55:53 AM »

I also recommend finding a local club.  Lots of old stuff available and the Elmers who know how to hook it up and make it work.

My 2 cents.

73, JP, K8AG

Posts: 44

« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2006, 06:39:28 AM »

If I were in ur situation,
I would look for an HW 101.
They often sell with power supply and speaker for $150 or less.  They are good SSB/CW rigs for all pre-wark HF bands.  Build a dipole.


Posts: 1146

« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2006, 08:17:02 AM »

Aside from borrowing a rig from a club, if you are not currently working and saving for something else (college) then get a job and earn the extra needed.  It shouldn't take too long flipping "ham"burgers for you to earn the cash needed for a very nice starter rig such as a brand new Icom 718.

Posts: 168

« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2006, 06:27:13 AM »

Try to find a TS-520 kenwood for $150.00.  It is a great first radio.

Posts: 1

« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2006, 11:47:36 AM »


Sometimes the family of a silent key is willing to give away the ham's gear to a poor, young beginner. I think I know of such a situation. Send me an e-mail at if you are interested. (I tried to e-mail you directly at your QRZ e-mail address, but it bounced back.) The gear would be from the 1980's era which means you'd have to learn to tune the transmitter.

Bill, N2CF

Posts: 18

« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2006, 04:19:59 PM »

"Ugly" Kenwood 520?  I should have never sold mine!  Great receiver, nice transmitter, built-in supply.....lots to love!  You just have to know how to adjust tube finals, which takes all of 5 minutes to learn.  

Add an inexpensive tuner, a bit of wire for an antenna, some coax or open feeders, and you're in business.

Just get yourself set with a club, and don't be afraid to help out.  (Yes, it DOES get noticed....)  Everyone either has or knows someone who has some bits and pieces lying around.  Add them together, and you have a station.


Posts: 35


« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2007, 06:39:08 PM »

Yes it is possible, especially if you can do a little fixing and don't care about appearance.

The radio will almost certainly be a tube rig with no bells and whistles. Real (analog) VFO, no digital readout, no memories, no general coverage receive, no WARC bands, etc.

I've seen Heathkit HW-101's in nice working condition with power supply for under $100. If you have a knowledgeable elmer that can help you troubleshoot, you might get something decent for even less. The advantage of Heathkits is that they are designed to be worked on by the average ham. The documentation is available and the circuits are not too complicated.

The Kenwood TS-520 previously mentioned is also a nice radio. If you can come up with a little more cash, so is the 530.

Whatever radio you get make sure it either has a built-in power supply or you can get one. If you do get a 100% solid state radio, you'll need a 20A 12V (13.8V) supply. A low amperage supply and a battery (or large capacitor bank) will do as long as you observe certain precautions.

Especially if you are going to do SSB, I would shoot for a decent 100W tube radio over a newer QRP radio with more "features." Even if it is only 50-75W this is a big difference over a real QRP (<10W) radio. Besides, any decent newer QRP radio will probably be outside your budget. QRP might be OK if you like a challenge and are only going to do CW.

Go for a multi-band radio if you can. Although you might get a good deal on an old (or newer QRP) single-bander, this really limits your possibilities. But if you can pick up an old 80, 40, or 20M single-bander with a VFO for $30, it might be worth it. Then at least you don’t have to worry about a multi-band antanna. In any event, don’t get a radio limited to above 20M because all the higher bands are pretty quiet these days.

One advantage to a newer radio might be better receive sensitivity/ selectivity. But overall I think you would be less frustrated with more TX power, and I doubt you'll find a newer radio for under $100 unless it has major problems.

Running an old radio can be a challenge, especially with a not-too-selective receiver. But the advantage of starting this route is that it will be an adventure and you will get to experience some of what ham radio was like in the old days.

For an antenna, you can make a simple dipole very inexpensively. Although RG-58 is not the lowest loss, it is realtively cheap and at HF it is OK. Especially if you use a tube-output radio, you can use RG-59 TV coax (75 ohm) without a problem and it is fairly easy to come across for free or almost nothing at a garage sale.

You can also make you own open wire line but then you'll almost definitely need an antenna coupler of some sort and it is much harder to feed in to the house.

Your best bands at the low of the sunspot cycle are 80, 40, and 20M. A 40M dipole should work on 15M with a tube output rig but other than that you'll need either tuned dipoles for each band, multiple dipoles on a common feed, or some kind of "antenna tuner." Matching circuits can also be built fairly easily, although they won't be as slick as a commercial antenna tuner.

An SWR meter will come in handy. Again, these are really easy to come by for next to nothing if you don't want anything fancy. Any old CB meter will do and you can pick these up at hamfests or garage sales for under $10.

Oh, yes, and one other thing. Get a copy of the ARRL handbook. Pick up an old one for a few dollars or as a donation from someone. All the basic theory is the same as it was 50 years ago. If you are going to be working on a tube rig, a handbook from the late 60's or early 70's is probably a good choice.

The real benefit of doing things this way is that you'll get some hands-on learning to go with your operating.

And then, there's always the possibility of loaner gear, as other posters have mentioned.

Posts: 9930

« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2007, 08:05:16 PM »

some one may have a triton IV around I heard one on the swap net today for $150 with power supply. or a swan three drifty (350) can be had for a hundred bucks, or find a local ham club and put out the question there.

go to  ARRL.ORG and in the upper left click on exams, type in your zip code and hit enter. this will bring up a list of ham tests in your local area.  most of these are sponsered by a ham club. they all have a contact person and phone number. call and ask about  the next meeting, for an elmer , how do I ....
some one will take you under their wing.
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