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Author Topic: Should I restore a Heathkit SB-102?  (Read 9227 times)
KJ6ZOL
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« on: January 06, 2013, 12:00:41 AM »

Ok, here's the deal. My Elmer gave me two radios, a Kenwood TS130 and a Heathkit SB-102. He was hoping for me to learn my chops on the Heathkit while using the Kenwood for everyday hamming. The problem is, I've been doing some math, and restoring and using this 40 year old radio would take around $200-300, IF nothing big goes wrong. I live on SSI and don't have access to that kind of cash. I was wondering if it wouldn't be better for me to buy unassembled kits off Ebay and assemble them to learn electronics, rather than messing around with this old radio. I live with my parents and my mom is skeptical too, she lives on Social Security and doesn't have lots of money either. My Elmer's ultimate goal is to get me to pass the Extra. If you had a protege you wanted to get to pass the Extra, would you give him something like this, or have him assemble kits off Ebay?
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G3RZP
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2013, 03:15:11 AM »

What parts require changing that will make it so expensive? Are all the tubes, crystals and filters there? Is there a power supply?
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AC2EU
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2013, 06:44:59 AM »

Wow. You are very lucky to have such a generous Elmer! The Kenwood is an early solid state rig which is more relevant to modern electronics ( and the Extra exam) than the all tube Heathkit ( I wouldn't put any money into a Heathkit anyway). If the Kenwood's finals are blown, they may be hard to find and expensive if you do find them. However, that's still a lot less expensive than buying a new 100W rig.  It's still a nice simple little radio which I wouldn't mind having myself for Field day.

Most of the inexpensive kits are going to be QRP. Even with QRP you can spend a bundle (Elecraft KX3)!!!
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KD4SBY
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2013, 07:05:08 AM »

It depends on what is wrong with the SB-102 and your skills in repairing old radios. If you know what you are doing, bringing a old radio in operating condition can be done with moderate expenses, depending what parts are needed. If you are not, and I get the impression you are not, don't bother. Parts for older radios are often difficult to get, and without a good supply of them in your parts box, you will have to buy some of it in quantities that you might not want. Unfortunately, the old standard parts supplier, Radio Shack, does not have the extensive parts selection it once had, and much of the parts needed might only be available from on-line sellers. Also, in general, unless you have all the necessary test equipment, it is not easy to repair electronic equipment.
So, in light of above, I would advice you to forget repairing the SB-102, and try to obtain your skills in an other way. There are several simple kits available for less than $50 that you might consider and will result in pretty nice working radios. You might put the Heathkit away until conditions for you improve and you are ready to tackle it once again. Although many present day Hams might not want it, a working SB-102 is a very nice radio for its age!
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AC5UP
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2013, 08:20:31 AM »

If you had a protege you wanted to get to pass the Extra, would you give him something like this, or have him assemble kits off Ebay?

1)  You don't need any technical skill or electronics experience to make Extra. Read the forums here and you'll see what I mean. In your case passing one written test is all you lack and there are plenty of study materials and practice tests to be found on the web. You have no excuse for not making Extra.

2)  While the repair & rebuilding of an older transceiver requires some comprehension of electrical theory, R & R of a distressed radio is not essential to learning theory. Depending on the issues with radio, it's entirely possible to troubleshoot with nothing more than a free downloaded schematic and a free multimeter from Harbor Freight. Then you'll have a better idea of what kind of money it will take to get it working, working well, or working better than new. Not every refurb needs to be a complete top-to-bottom exercise nor is every radio worth the time and expense of a workbench Full Monty.

It's like the old joke...

What do you call the person who graduates at the top of their class in med school? Magna Cum Laude.
What do you call the person who graduates at the bottom of their class in med school?

Doctor.

Either way they can spend the rest of their life asking people to take their clothes off and charging for it.

If you want to learn theory from square one here's a place to start  <=== [Note: This URL was selected as an example, not an endorsement]

Once you learn the concepts of energy flow and the function of various components, then you'll learn how a radio can have independent AC and DC circuit paths on the same wiring as determined by the placement of a blocking condenser or choke... DC can't flow through a condenser and RF might not flow thorough a coil if, like N4NYY, it's wound too tight. Then you learn the various sub-sections of a radio like amplifiers, mixers, detectors, etc. and how they work together.

There is more than one way to learn this stuff and just because an Elmer learned via junk radios and magazines doesn't mean everyone has to learn the same way. Do you realize you can pick up old clock radios & such at a thrift shop on the cheap and strip them for parts? Like, enough parts to build a crystal radio with a simple audio amplifier. In fact... If you want a first project, score an orphan clock radio that has a transformer power supply (a transformer means the chassis isn't hot relative to ground) then add a switch & phono plug so it can be used as a radio or test bench audio amplifier / signal tracer. Plus, you get a digital clock at no extra charge. Then learn how to build a demodulator probe so you can 'listen' to an IF strip.

It doesn't take much money to do this and a signal tracer is a useful tool......................
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K8AXW
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2013, 08:26:27 AM »

ZOL:  I'm in the same fix as you.  I was given an old National NC-173D receiver.  Right off I found that it needs $40 worth of filter caps.  That's just the start.  The tubes are OK, fortunately.  I simply can't afford to pour money into this old thing when I could use the same $40 for something I really need.

In a manner of speaking your Elmer did you a favor but at the same time a disservice considering your financial position. He apparently didn't consider that when he gave it to you, or he saw a way to get rid of some old stuff!  Roll Eyes

I can't much to what 5UP summed up because he pretty well covered it all.  I suggest you put the 102 on the shelf and again as 5UP suggested confine your efforts to a more productive and less expensive direction.

Then, one day when you can afford it and have more technical expertise, get the 102 out and 'rebuild' it with the manual following the Heath troubleshooting procedures.  Heath was great when it came to providing voltage/resistance readings on their schematics.

I used to have the SB-102 and it gave me years of hamming pleasure.
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2013, 08:50:43 AM »

You can buy good Panasonic brand radial lead electrolytic caps from Mouser. I rebuild my old filter can type electrolytic caps. Or, you can add terminal strips below chassis to support and mount replacement caps. If you go the Hayseed route for almost exact replicas than the price will be commensurately higher.

I recently restored a SX-101A, and total parts ran well under 70 bucks, including all of the caps and to replace most of the old carbon comp resistors with metal oxide replacements.

How bad is the SB-102?  Besides the electrolytic filters and maybe the finals I'd suspect most of the other parts will still be good, and it is easy to check for resistors that have drifted in value?

Pete
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N4NYY
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2013, 08:54:06 AM »

The kits on ebay may run more than the cost of a new Kenwood TS-590. Aside from tubes, if you replaced every resistor and capacitor in that rig, the cost would likely be under $50.

If you do not want to do that, I will gladly buy it and take it off your hands.
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AC5UP
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2013, 09:42:03 AM »

........you'd think he'd have learned something about Heathshkits from the Iggy    Roll Eyes

PS: 80 through 10 Meters only, no WARC bands, no general coverage RX (which means you can't listen to Alex Jones or Dr. euGene Scott), transformer power supply, AND IT HAS MORE THAN FIVE TUBES !   Are you sure you can relate to an SB-102 ?
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AC2EU
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 10:00:51 AM »

The kits on ebay may run more than the cost of a new Kenwood TS-590. Aside from tubes, if you replaced every resistor and capacitor in that rig, the cost would likely be under $50.

If you do not want to do that, I will gladly buy it and take it off your hands.

Hey! I asked about the Kenwood first!!!  You can have the Heathkit  Grin
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N4NYY
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2013, 11:40:34 AM »

The kits on ebay may run more than the cost of a new Kenwood TS-590. Aside from tubes, if you replaced every resistor and capacitor in that rig, the cost would likely be under $50.

If you do not want to do that, I will gladly buy it and take it off your hands.

Hey! I asked about the Kenwood first!!!  You can have the Heathkit  Grin

That is cool! I was onlyl interested in the SB-102.
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KC8YHN
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« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2013, 12:45:30 PM »

Ok, here's the deal. My Elmer gave me two radios, a Kenwood TS130 and a Heathkit SB-102. He was hoping for me to learn my chops on the Heathkit while using the Kenwood for everyday hamming.

That's great, he's looking out for you which is what he should do.

The problem is, I've been doing some math, and restoring and using this 40 year old radio would take around $200-300, IF nothing big goes wrong. I live on SSI and don't have access to that kind of cash. I was wondering if it wouldn't be better for me to buy unassembled kits off Ebay and assemble them to learn electronics, rather than messing around with this old radio.

Well that's not what it cost me to get my hw-104 or my sb-301/401s up and running. I think I have a total of $70 into all three of them. I live on a tight budget too, been unemployed without any benefits since May, still I find ways to barter or trade for things I need. The thing that makes ham radio great is the networking that helps a lot.

To me, learning both theory and practical things may not be best served by building the kit but troubleshooting the problems with the radios. I learned more from repairing things than I did building them - I bought a lot of heathkit kits in the 70's and built them but never got to learn a lot from building them as much as maybe I should have.

I live with my parents and my mom is skeptical too, she lives on Social Security and doesn't have lots of money either. My Elmer's ultimate goal is to get me to pass the Extra. If you had a protege you wanted to get to pass the Extra, would you give him something like this, or have him assemble kits off Ebay?

IF I was going to be an elmer, I would do exactly what he did. I would not shy away from the kits on ebay but the 102 alone has a lot of stuff in it to teach you a lot, Applying that 102 technology to the kenwood or to something else is easy once you learn the basics.

By the way, I just got my extra ticket right after Christmas, I think if it wasn't for the repairing the radios I have, I would not have had an easy time passing.

Greg
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AA4PB
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« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2013, 01:12:53 PM »

Humm.... How can you estimate $200-300 to repair it if you don't know what's wrong with it?

I wouldn't repair it myself if it was really going to cost that kind of money. You can learn from figuring out what's wrong with it even if you don't spend the money on parts to repair it. If you are just starting out in electronics however, troubleshooting something like that can be a pretty big job plus you might not have the test equipment and tools to do the job. It would be better if you could find someone experienced to give you a hand and walk you through the process.

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KE3WD
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2013, 01:38:40 PM »

Nowadays you could probably go in there cold and pass the Extra by randomly selecting the lucky letters A, B, C, and D...

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KD0REQ
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 03:23:31 PM »

The SB102 was a good rig for its day, and working, is quite good enough today.  AC5UP is just color-blind, he thinks he is seeing red when he looks at Heathkit.  it's hard for me to see how you can sink $200 or up in one unless it's been thrown under a pavement roller.  the big thing with those rigs is badly out of spec resistors, anything with power across it will have gone double value or worse.  driver circuit, osc circuits, all the 22K plate dropper resistors are suspect.  the A4 oscillator and audio stages, assume you need to shotgun the resistors.

that's some good Elmer you have.

EXTRA:  get a good guide onine or in paper and spend an hour a night.  I like the method behind Ham Test Online, but there are several good guides in paper that have brought a ton of hams to the full band plan.  work the Kenwood without fear, have fun.  parts are availiable where they are needed, when they are needed, the unobtanium stuff is probably not going to fail.  and if it does, consider you got it for a handshake and a smile.
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