Tag Archives: TS-590SG

W9SIZ’s new radio

After quite a bit of consideration my great uncle Paul, W9SIZ decided he wanted to get a new radio. When he first told me he was thinking about this my response was “Are you sure? You’ve been a Collins man nearly all of my life.” There isn’t a time that I don’t remember Collins equipment sitting on W9SIZ’s radio desk. We talked about it on and off for over a year and he made a final decision to buy a new rig.

With the decision made the next stop was Ham Radio Outlet to pick up his new radio. He wanted to get a Kenwood TS-590SG like the one that I purchased. He’d visited my station a few times and really liked the radio. Now he wanted one for his own. Dave and Paul at HRO Milwaukee completed the sale.

New radio for W9SIZ

New radio for W9SIZ

On the drive down to HRO I asked him when the last time was that he bought a new in the box radio. He told me that his last brand new radio was a Hallicrafters HT-17. He said that he bought it new but that it wasn’t in a box. He bought it from a man named Wendell who ran Central States Radio in Milwaukee. He purchased the radio from Wendell sometime after he returned from Europe after WWII. He also worked for Wendell for a bit after the war selling Hallicrafters, National, Hammarlund, and other brands. So it’s been roughly 70 years since he bought a brand new radio and this may be the first one that was new in a box.

Hallicrafters HT-17

Hallicrafters HT-17

Once we got it home the work of unboxing and setting up his new radio began.

W9SIZ unboxing the new rig

W9SIZ unboxing the new rig

After connecting the rig to his power supply (a vintage 12 VDC power supply from an old aircraft), his vintage National NC-125TS speaker, and his Vibroplex bug for a nice mix of old and new, the new 590SG came alive in the space on his desk previously occupied by his Collins equipment for many years.

W9SIZ and his new TS-590SG

W9SIZ and his new TS-590SG

Thus far he’s very happy with his new radio though change doesn’t come easy at 92. Every once and awhile I’ll get a call from him asking how to undo something that he did. Thankfully the TS-590SG has a lot of knobs and buttons on it so you don’t need to use the menu system much at all, but there are quite a few more knobs and button than on the KWM-2.

And yes he still uses his Hallicrafters SX-100 with the 50’s vintage homebrew CW transmitter below it. Some old habits aren’t worth breaking.

 

KA9EAK QRO – Update

Back in October I purchased a Heathkit SB-200 amplifier. The pictures in the original post show that it was a bit dusty from sitting for quite some time but otherwise it was in good shape and best of all it was not modified through the years. I purchased the Harbach updates but they largely have sat waiting for time to build, install, and test them. With time off for the holidays I was finally able to complete the work and I got the amplifier on the air yesterday afternoon. All appears to be well. Voltages and currents are where they should be in addition to no smoke or loud noises.

SB-200 HV

SB-200 HV

With 55 W of drive from my TS-590SG I am seeing a peak of 500 W on 40m SSB which is just where I wanted to be. I’m not interested in pushing the amp to its limit. The first contact with the amplifier was Frank, WA3RSL on 40m SSB late in the afternoon. I started the contact with the amp off and finished with it on with a nice and noticeable signal improvement as reported by WA3RSL. Frank has the same radio and also an amplifier so it was nice to walk through bringing it up with someone with the same radio and experience with using an amplifier with it. Second contact was Scott, K3IVN with a good signal report as well on 40m SSB. Later in the evening I was able to contact ZS6CCY on 40m SSB with a 59 report after only a few calls in a messy pile-up with a fair amount of noise and QSB followed by YV5AL, HI7MC, and J6/NY3B all with relative ease and great signal reports. I was happy with the investment.

I had purchased the power supply board, soft start, keying interface, and cooling fan updates from Harbach Electronics. Once they were all built and installed I brought the amp up on my Variac and there were no surprises and the high voltage looked good at 2250 V. The last step was to build the interface cable for the TS-590SG. Thankfully Kenwood provides the DIN connector with the radio and JG1VGX provided a very nice explanation of all of the possible ways to connect the TS-590 and TS-990 radios to amplifiers.

Here are some before and after pictures of the amplifier:

SB-200 top view

SB-200 top view

SB-200 Bottom view

SB-200 bottom view

In addition to the JG1VGX site referenced above I also found the following three sites helpful for this project:

http://www.crompton.com/hamradio/heath/sb200/sb200.html

http://blog.kotarak.net/2008/03/sb-200-part-1.html

http://www.wlwaters.com/id37.html

While there is some more testing to be done across a few more bands I’m very happy with the results thus far for the amount of money invested. In 1964 an SB-200 went for $200 which inflating the dollars to today is about what I have in this amplifier. I essentially purchased approximately one S-unit which is all that I set out to do and I learned a lot along the way which is much more valuable than the S-unit.

1964 SB-200 ad

1964 SB-200 ad

 

K9AY Complete

Today I finished running the cables for the K9AY down to my shack so my station is now fully operational with a receive only antenna.

K9AY

K9AY antenna

K9AY wire highlight

K9AY antenna wires highlighted

The yellow dashed lines highlight the Northeast\Southwest loop and the red dashed lines highlight the Northwest\Southeast loop.

K9AY base detail

K9AY base detail

Operator actual size

Operator actual size

In the spring I’ll spray paint the arms some combination of brown and green so that they blend in better as opposed to the lovely gray that they are now. The arms are the only part that you can see from the house. Once they are painted the antenna will be reasonably stealthy, to the degree that an antenna comprising a 24 foot pole with two loops of 85 feet of wire supported by four 16 foot arms over a circular area 30 feet in diameter can be called stealthy.

You know what I’m going to be doing all winter.

 

K9AY Update

It’s been a busy few weeks of growing antennas before the onset of winter, which actually is officially antenna season. No one works on antennas when it’s warm and dry. Antenna work is supposed to be done when it’s cold, wet, and hopefully snowing. I admit to being non-compliant to this long standing tradition.

All of the mechanical and electrical work is complete for the antenna. In order to enable folding I elected to forego the multi-conductor connector for the antenna legs and borrowed an idea from Andrew, VK1AD and his linked dipole design and chose to use bullet connectors. a carabiner, and a slightly modified plastic electric fence egg insulator for each leg of the antenna. The carabiners and egg insulators aren’t as nice as Andrew’s sister clips but they’ll do for now.

Mechanical and electrical leg connections

Mechanical and electrical leg connections

Next was the task of getting the cables back to the house. It’s a run of about 250 feet which is way more than I was going to dig with a shovel. I rented a self-propelled bed edger that has an attachment for trenching dog fencing wire and ran a trench from the antenna location back to the house.  The trencher worked great and made a nice 5-6″ deep trench.

Trench

Trench

I laid the control cable and the feedline next to the trench and worked out all of the coils so that they both lay nice and flat in order to drop them cleanly into the trench. With the cables in the trench I completed the electrical connections at the antenna.

The cables for the antennas enter through a port on a workshop portion of our garage. From there they will make their way to my shack in the house. It was late in the day when all of this work was complete and I wasn’t going to have time to get the cables to the radio but I could get the radio to the cables. I hauled by TS-590SG up to the workshop, connected the K9AY control box to the control line and feedline from the antenna, and then connected the output to the radio, and lo and behold IT WORKS! I sat out in the workshop as the sun was setting and tested with stations on 40m, 80m, and 160m in addition to DX-ing AM broadcast stations from all across the country. The switching works fantastic! It’s really cool to be able to electrically rotate the antenna to hone in on a signal.

Thus far I am very pleased with the results but there’s still more work to do. I need to properly terminate the cables from the antenna in the workshop and make the runs to the shack. Once this is complete the K9AY will be a very useful tool as winter closes in and the low bands open up.

As I was DX-ing the AM broadcast stations I was reminded of Jean Shepherd and a few of the shows (for example, 1971 02 xx DX Ham Radio CW)  in which he talked about his dad and his old receiver. Imagine if he would have had a K9AY!

 

K9AY progress

This all started back in June when Gary, W9XT (Unified Microsystems) gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Amateur Radio club meeting about some updates that he recently made to his K9AY antenna . At the time I didn’t have a radio with a separate receive antenna input so while interesting I filed it away as something to build at another time. But that changed in July when I obtained my TS-590SG. Now my gears starting whirring.  The planning started in earnest. The first problem to solve was location. Where could I put a K9AY antenna such that it wouldn’t be bothered? While we have enough room it’s still a 30 foot diameter circle of antenna space and I didn’t want it to be disturbed by lawn tractors, ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, etc. Was there some means by which to create a smaller footprint?

As I was reading the original K9AY article in the September 1997 issue of QST the part that added to the footprint problem for an original\standard implementation were the support ropes that essentially create the loops. These two supports make a 30 foot diameter circle more like 40 feet in reality. That’s moving the footprint in the wrong direction. What if the supports could be moved to the inside of the circle? As I was doodling the shape of the loop, dividing it into the four right triangles that comprise it, and working out the lengths of the legs and the angles the shared leg of the bottom and top triangles emerged. (Sorry, I’m an engineer…I figure if Pythagoras went through the trouble to sort out the math the least we can do is use it whenever possible if for no other reason than to check his work.) What if the shared leg could be a support of some kind? This would certainly help to solve the footprint problem.

The shared leg

The shared leg

This led to some more conceptual drawings ultimately resulting in this design:

K9AY design

K9AY design

And once the supports were on the inside of the circle the next logical improvement was to hinge them in some manner such that they could be moved upward out of the way of any number of wheeled conveyances if needed.

K9AY support arms detail

K9AY support arms detail

With this design the diameter of the antenna circle was 30 feet, not more and could be substantially reduced if necessary to a few feet.

With the design in hand the next step was a design review and site choice meeting with my XYL. After some hemming and hawing a suitable location was agreed upon and construction began. Thankfully I have two strong sons, my youngest, Ben, manning the post hole digger to make the hole for the 4×4 post that would form the base of the antenna.

Ben

Ben and the base

The base was placed in the hole accompanied by a bag of Quikrete. The next step was to build the arm holders which were constructed from 2×8 treated lumber.

Arm supports

Arm supports

The next step was to bolt in the arm supports, constructed of 2×4 treated lumber.

Base complete

Base complete

I considered a few different materials for the support arms including Crappie fishing poles but in the end settled on schedule 40 PVC conduit mostly because it’s readily available and very inexpensive. If it doesn’t work for some reason I’ll update the arms to some other (better?) material.

Support arms attached

Support arms attached

I did not want the antenna wire to bear all of the weight of the arms so support ropes were needed. I constructed an attachment plate out of Kydex to fit at the joint of the mast pieces to provide a place to attach the support ropes to the mast.

Arm support rope attachment plate

Arm support rope attachment plate

And likewise another Kydex plate was constructed for the top to provide a place to attach guy ropes and the top supports for the antenna wires.

Top support

Top support

Given that the support mast is 24 feet tall all of the arm support ropes, guy ropes, and antenna wires had to be assembled and attached before erecting the mast. This creates a considerable amount of spaghetti on the ground but with some proper management and the help of my older son, Dominic (W9KKX) the mast was erected. The mast guy ropes are attached to some nearby trees in locations high enough such that they don’t reach the ground and allow the antenna support arms to fold inward unobstructed.

Obviously to support folding, either the antenna wire has to move along the ends of the arms or I have to detach the antenna wire from the base. I’ve chosen to use a waterproof multiconductor plug to enable quick detachment of the antenna wires from the K9AY control box that will be located at the base of the antenna.

K9AY

K9AY

The day was drawing to a close. As I was orienting the antenna wires and attaching the arm support ropes and the guy ropes the first owl of the evening started to hoot, sounding the end of the work day. The majority of the mechanical work is complete. I need to place the antenna wires in the ends of the arms and then begin the electrical work. Thus far the design seems to be working out largely as planned. We’ll see how it holds up through the Winter. I can’t wait to “hear” this new antenna.

 

KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

My uncle (actually great uncle) Paul, W9SIZ brought his Collins KWM-2 to my station to try it on my Hustler 4-BTV. He lives in the small town in which I grew up and has used wire antennas on his city lot for many years. He’s 91 years old and has had the KWM-2 station since sometime in the early 60’s. He operates everyday (mostly CW) and is interested in potentially adding a 4-BTV to his station.

W9SIZ

W9SIZ

We set the two rigs side-by-side and did a bunch of A\B testing with the 4-BTV (and my Cobra UltraLite Senior wire antenna) between the two radios. It was very interesting to hear two radios that are well regarded, though separated in time, operating together.

KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

This was not a highly scientific test. No Sherwood Engineering was involved. What was interesting is that in all but a few cases the Collins could hear about as well as the Kenwood, again no science involved. The Kenwood heard weaker stations consistently better for the most part but that’s not all that surprising as the Collins is 57 years old. Does the Kenwood have more features? Obviously yes, but the Collins stayed with it to large extent in normal operating conditions. One thing that the Collins has that the Kenwood doesn’t is this:

The warm glow of valves

The warm glow of valves

W9SIZ was happy with the test and is more seriously thinking about adding the 4-BTV. He thought his old Collins was hearing better than on his wire antennas at home (given band conditions) and his ears are pretty well calibrated after operating for over 70 years. (Note: the case is off the KWM-2 as he just replaced some capacitors in the power supply and decided to bring it over without the case.)

When we were done with the testing we made a trip to HRO Milwaukee. W9SIZ hasn’t been there since they opened. We’ve made many trips together to AES in the past and this was our first trip to HRO together.

KA9EAK, W9KHO, W9SIZ

KA9EAK, W9KHO, W9SIZ

Greeting us as we walked in was Paul. W9KHO. The two Paul’s greeted each other as they’ve known each other for a very long time. It’s my understanding that W9KHO has been at AES and now HRO for 49 years. W9SIZ was impressed with the new store and is glad that we still have an Amateur Radio shop in our area. He was tempted by some of the new rigs but he’s been a Collins man for a very long time and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What did we conclude? Not a lot. It’s better to have more antenna options rather than less and a well-functioning radio is better than no radio at all regardless of its age. I don’t think we can say anything more firm than that. It was simply a fun thing to do with my great uncle and two nice radios and that’s what Amateur Radio is all about.

 

Radio Dust Covers review

In today’s mail I received the covers that I ordered from Stan, W6ON of RadioDustCovers.com and they are perfect!

New covers

New covers

They both are his elite version. The 590SG is a standard cover that he produces and the cover for the VibroCube is a custom version. Did I have to cover the VibroCube? Maybe not but it wasn’t that much for a custom cover for it and it looks nice with the rig cover. Total time from order to delivery was 7 days. That’s fast considering that every cover is handmade to order and one of mine was custom. Yes, I spent the extra money for my callsign. When you’re going this far what’s another few inches.

The outside of the elite covers is very nice nylon and the inside is a medium weight felt material. The rear portion of the cover is left unattached to the sides  so you can leave cables connected as you see fit or even fold it under and slide it over a rig that is in a shelf.

Elite cover rear flap

Elite cover rear flap

Like many, my shack is in the basement as is my woodshop. Though I have half-decent dust collection and air handling, dust from woodworking still finds its way to the shack. The new radio is too nice to slowly get covered in layers of dust so a cover was in order. I considered a homemade version and some other commercial versions but then ran across these covers while perusing the web. Most all of my other radios have built-in dust covers by virtue of the fact they that they are in racks\shelfs with other stuff including radios on top of them. Not so with the new Kenwood. Nothing is stacked on top the 590SG. I like it at my right hand and since I’ve added a boom mic (Shure SM-58 that was laying around looking for something to do from past music endeavors) my right hand is now free to run the radio while my foot keys the mic which is supported by a Heil HB-1 boom.

If you are in the market for a very well-made cover that is as nice as the equipment it protects I highly recommend contacting Stan. His workmanship is superb and his customer service is excellent.