Monthly Archives: October 2017

FT-221

A few months ago I obtained a nice old Yaesu FT-221 with the original Yaesu mic and a CommSpec TE-32 that was added in order to use it with repeaters. The FT-221 is a 2 meter all-mode radio that was produced in the mid-1970’s. I got it from a friend and fellow operator, Tom, W9IPR. It was his, then it was his mom’s, and then it was his again. Tom was selling it and I have a soft spot for radios of the 1970’s. The price was right so it followed me home.

FT-221

While I know the Kenwood 2 meter all modes of that time (700A and 700SP) the first I’d heard of the FT-221 was the day that I bought it. It reminds me of the Kenwood’s.

It was cold and rainy today and while there were things that I needed to do what I wanted to do was to check out this radio after it had been sitting on my bench for a bit.

It’s a very nice radio that is really well built. Each subsystem is on its own board which plugs into what is essentially a backplane on the bottom of the chassis.

FT-221 inside

Being an old radio I searched for and quickly found the service manual. It is highly detailed and very well written, going through each board and its interactions with the overall. The service manual mentioned extender boards for service. It seemed like a good item to have on hand but I figured that it would be unobtainium but John, WA1ESO builds them along with a number of other similar boards. The extender board essentially moves the edge connector up from the backplane so that you can plug a board in and access signals and components for troubleshooting.

FT-221 with extender board

After a bit of research I found that Yaesu produced an FT-221R sometime after the FT-221 that apparently allowed for other than 600 kHz repeater offsets. The FT-221’s were replaced by the FT-225 which among other things added a digital display. A digital display was an option for the FT-221’s, the YC-221. A bit of searching shows that this may indeed be unobtainium but maybe one will show up some day.

I don’t operate 2m SSB all that often but it is fun when I do. I have an old Kenwood TR-9000 and a TR-9130 that I use with my Elk Antennas 2M/440L5. It’s not a great VHF station but I can make contacts with it.

2 meter all-mode radios

I like the old dedicated VHF\UHF all-mode radios of the past. I don’t believe that anyone makes one today. I realize that there are a few radios (IC-9100, TS-2000, IC-7100, FT-857, FT-817) that have VHF\UHF support but they are shack-in-the-box radios with HF capabilities as well. Nothing wrong with that. I have some of these radios and like them just fine. There’s just something neat about the old dedicated radios like the TS-700A\700SP, TS-600, FT-847, IC-290, TM-255, TS-60, TR-751, TS-711, IC-211, IC-271, IC-275, etc. At one time there were quite a few of them. Now you’re shopping the used market to find one.

I’m glad to add the FT-221 to my station and pleased that it came from W9IPR. Now I’m almost going to have to add a Kenwood TS-700A\700SP to balance the FT-221.

I told you that I have a thing for radios of the 1970’s.

 

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W0AIH Antenna Farm

My wife and I just returned from a long weekend visiting family in Minneapolis. On the drive up Friday we went past W0AIH’s antenna farm. When I pointed it out to my wife she made a somewhat emphatic statement regarding how many towers she’d like to see at our QTH. I can tell you that it was a number much lower than that of W0AIH’s count!

As we were preparing to leave this morning I pinged Paul, W0AIH via his website contact form and asked if it would be possible to stop for a quick visit to see his antenna farm. It was early Sunday morning and I figured that it was a long shot and that I should have planned this well in advance. About an hour later as we were at breakfast with my wife’s family my phone rang and it was Paul! He said it would be fine to stop over!

After breakfast we plotted a course for W0AIH’s QTH. We were a bit over two hours away. Paul lives on a 120 acre farm whose primary crop is towers and antennas. He told me that if I was within a mile of his home and couldn’t see his farm that I didn’t belong on the road! : ) He was right! Driving up the long driveway, before you is a scene that you imagine would have been in one of Jeeves’ dreams (W1CJD, Gil) and would cause the average HOA busy body a terminal case of the vapors. There is a lot of steel and aluminum sticking out of the ground!

W0AIH Antenna Farm

Paul is 84 years old and a retired Lutheran minister. He was outside working on his Beverage antennas (he has seven of them) as we drove up and was very welcoming. After introductions he started his tour. He said that he honestly doesn’t know how many towers he has but every one of them has a story. He has obtained most of them from decommissioned commercial radio and TV stations combined with being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. This coupled with being exceptionally skilled with all things electrical and mechanical has resulted in a lot of amazing towers and antennas.

More of the farm

How about a homebrew three elements on 80 meters?

Three elements on 80m @ 140 feet

3 on 80 @ 140

And of course it rotates!

Not all of the antennas are on a tower. In addition to the seven Beverages there are a lot of wire antennas strung between the towers.

Beverage antenna

Paul and his fellow operators run a big contest station in contests like CQ WW, the CW contest being his favorite. You can read a lot more about Paul’s station on his website here and watch a drone video of the 80m Yagi here.

W0AIH and KA9EAK

We had a great visit with Paul and his wife Mary, WB0PXM. They were very gracious hosts. Superb examples of the fellowship of Amateur Radio operators. They even sent us home with a box of apples from their orchard.

One of Paul and his wife’s cats sat staring out the window, front paws resting on the back of a kitchen chair, as we stood in their kitchen talking. I guess after all these years it’s not that interested in talk of towers and antennas or perhaps it’s thinking, hmm…two elements on 160m, why not?

Cat rest

If I visit Paul’s station again I’ll bring my KX2 and try it out on the three element 80 meter Yagi or 4 over 4 for 20 meters on the 180 foot rotating tower. That would give a whole new meaning to QRP!

As we drove away I assured my lovely wife that I would never go that far while at the same time thinking, it all started with one…