Ham Shack Constraints

Surly Pack Rat Bike

I don’t like rats, so I was glad when I saw that there is a bike called the Packrat. But this post is not about bikes – but about pack rats. I am not one – and after my divorce – when I learned its best to travel as lite as you can in life and keep only the things you use – that I would “have” only what I need and use regularly.

The uncluttered KY6R Ham Shack

While I was waiting for my KWS-1 to be restored, I re-arranged my shack – and it can fit only what you see here. This has a limiting effect on what I can keep. Recently I did purchase a few cool things – only because they became available for a great price – such as the Hallicrafters TO Keyer and the Multiphase RF Analyzer. The problem? There just isn’t enough room. The best thing about this – what fits in my shack is exactly what I need – and nothing more.

There are a few things I will be selling soon – the “overage”. This time around I will make a couple hundred since the items I am selling I got at “steal” prices, and there are a few sought after items.

Brave New World: a 1931 and 1958 Coincidence

Brave New World Revisited, 1958

A very cool coincidence is Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931 (same year the National SW-3 was first sold) and Brave New World Revisited was written in 1958, (the year my Collins KWS-1 was sold). The reason that this is important to me is because Huxley was a “channel-er” and “chronicler” of his time. I have read some reviews of Brave New World where they thought Huxley disapproved of this or that and that is why he wrote the book – but what I am learning is that there were technological advances as early as 1929 nuclear fusion and fission were being discussed, to be figured out in detail in the 1930’s. There were so many things changing – in some ways it makes our world today look relatively tame – because while we have technological innovation and innovation in the arts as well – today it could be argued that our problems (i.e. Trumpism and Brexit) are self inflicted local / moronic wounds – where back then the world was in between WWI and WWII – with things building and leading up to WWII – where the entire world would become very volatile and unstable.

In this book, Huxley explains that he is mostly an observer who took in all that was going on at the time:

  1. Great Depression
  2. Population growth
  3. Assembly line process
  4. Fascism, totalitarianism, isolationism, fanaticism and other forms of political control
  5. Rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, Stalin, etc
  6. Personal freedoms as exhibited in various countries – sex being mostly a metaphor for personal freedom
  7. Many technological innovations in many different scientific areas
  8. The institution of marriage – he seemed to be touched by what seemed like a high divorce rate
  9. Stability – politically and socially

To me, Huxley’s main tenet was that man has choices, and that some countries oppressed their people overtly, but others may not have been that much better – it seems the automation and assembly line and working conditions might have come across to Huxley as a corporate control mechanism – he talks about how people who work would work hard and have incentives to work even harder – sort of like “being on a treadmill” or being a “wage slave”. “Our Year of The Ford” instead of “Our Year of The Lord” is telling in many ways.

In fact, he was saying “Beware the industrial-military complex” 20 years before that phrase was coined by Eisenhower. AHA – Googling this pops up exactly the same conclusion I have reached – this is excellent:

America the Brave New World: The United States Is Realizing the Dystopian Nightmares of Our Best Science Fiction


I see Huxley as an observer and a philosopher who used a touch of science fiction to describe aspects of many different societies in the world – including what must have been a visit to New Mexico and even to Chimayo and the “penitente’s” – who are a New Mexico (and no doubt other areas) Spanish Christian group who make the march during the Easter time liturgy and where they act out Jesus carrying his cross and later being crucified – and who act out the struggle even to the point where they self flagellate as Jesus suffered the whip on his final march. This was the “Savage” aspect of the story. This aspect of the story seems the most odd to me – but it surely shows that he came to America, toured New Mexico – which would have been a pretty remote place at the time – maybe he was visiting Santa Fe (?). Later he would settle in Los Angeles. Coming from Britain – that must have had a real strong effect on him. I can only imagine that the “New World Order” in Europe was far different than visiting New Mexico at the time – night and day.

What is most attractive to me is that he gives a good idea of what times were like back then. Even though there were lots of challenges in the 30’s – I also think it was one of the best decades in terms of innovation – both in science and in the arts.

These books are great ways to “get inside of someone’s mind” who really studied what was going on as it happened.


1930’s Transmitter Project?

1930’s AM Transmitter – using SW-3 Style National “Velvet Vernier” dials

This transmitter was featured in this blog:

Showcase: Homemade 1930s-Style AM Radio Transmitter

WOW – what a beauty. I met with my friend Doc, K7SO yesterday, and he suggested I get a matching transmitter for my 1931 National SW-3 – so I can experience Ham Radio circa 1931. I love the idea, but not finding any 1930’s transmitters for sale – it turns out that this is a popular project for those who want to build tube gear – and the parts are available – with just a little searching. In fact, there are tons of old non working gear to be had on the cheap – and I already know I can get NOS tubes – since I did that with my SW-3 – I have three replacement tubes for it.

The Utah 1930’s Beginners Transmitter

Making a simple CW transmitter 1930’s style turns out to be a much easier affair than one that has AM. I will check out something on my SW-3 that I haven’t done yet – put in the coils for the 40M band and see what the CW band sounds like. I’ve got a backlog of projects now – but building a 1930’s one tube CW transmitter would be a really cool project indeed.

My New Favorite Key: The Begali Intrepid

The Begali Intrepid Bug / Paddle – absolute genius!

When I purchased this key used, I did not really understand it – I thought it was a Bug, and a weird one at that. Its actually two keys in one – a single lever sideswiper paddle and a bug.

Another genius Begali Swedish Pump Key – “only” a straight key – but the feel of it is amazing . . .

I made my first QSO with the Collins KWS-1 using the Begali straight key

I learned how great the Intrepid was only because I needed a Bug AND a paddle – the Bug for the KWS-1 and the paddle for my IC-7300 or – when I use the Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”:

The Hallicrafters TA-1 “T.O Keyer” . . .

The Begali Intrepid works perfectly with the IC-7300 and the KWS-1 – and can be a paddle or a bug on the 7300 – and with the TO Keyer – the same thing with the KWS-1.

The winners are in the upper left – the losers are along the bottom . . .

The Begali Intrepid is way more adjustable than any Vibroplex, SpeedX or even McElroy bug.

The other thing I learned is that the single lever “sideswiper” actually is much better for me – because I NEVER learned Iambic “squeeze” keying – I always have used a paddle as a bug – which is a total bastardization.

N3ZN Dual Lever Paddle – my favorite dual lever paddle

Dont get me wrong – my favorite dual lever paddles re still Tony Beleno’s – N3ZN – even over the Begali offerings, but wow – do I have a new (renewed) love affair with Begali Keys.

First Gold Dust Twins QSO!

My first QSO with the Gold Dust Twins was with Wayne, N7NG

FINALLY – it was so ironic today – skip was longer than expected, and the RBN reverse beacon stations heard me – as far away as Uruguay, and very strong into the PNW, but I couldn’t get an answer.

Luckily, my DX buddy Wayne, N7NG responded to a pleas I made on the NCDXC email chat – and voila – QSO done.

I used the Begali straight key and my DX Engineering DV-40-P phased vertical array. There was a solar disturbance, and the band sure seemed affected by it – even though the CME missed earth. It still seemed to render the band almost useless.

Another factor is – no one seems to want to just answer CQ’s, Sure – my straight key sending is old and rickety, but good enough for the beacons to recognize my 15 – 18 wpm sending.

Wayne gave me a 599+ and said I had a great signal – so there must be spotlight propagation – it seems the signal strength to the PNW RBN stations were all by far the highest readings of any direction.

OK – this is a really big deal for me. Tomorrow I will replace the temporary plastic shim that I used to prop up the “slug rack” that has a broken brass tape at one end and then I can use it as intended. But my silly plastic shim did the trick!


KWS-1 On The Air!

Calling CQ on 7022.6

I was heard today, but it seems few people are interested in CW rag chew QSOs these days.

But at least good old RBN showed my success with strong signals in Portland and a few other places. I was heard as far away as Utah and British Columbia, which is normal for the time of day and where we are in the season and sunspot cycle.

Anyway, this success deserves a celebration!

The Gretsch Bohemium Love Jones

Gretsch Guitars G2420 Streamliner Hollow Body with Chromatic II Electric Guitar Aged Brooklyn Burst

I’ve got the Bohemium Love Jones for this guitar. The features are phenomenal for the price. I couldn’t believe that for $150 more than what I paid for a lawnmower that I could get this guitar. Even 10 years ago – when I had other guitars – Fender or Rickenbacher – they were almost 3 times as much. This guitar has all of the same high quality features for a song (bad pun intended).

A few weekends ago, I visited my friends in Petaluma and we stopped into a local music store and the minute I saw this guitar I fell in love with it. The price at that store was $600, so when I saw the price at Guitar Center, I couldn’t believe it. I also cross checked the price on Amazon – which usually does have the lowest prices on stuff, and sure enough, its for real, and Guitar Centers price is as low as several vendors selling on Amazon.

I will go play it today and see what I think.

KY6R more than 30 years ago – at the Hotel Utah with a Rickenbacher 12 string

Its funny, in the past my “hobby time” was 100% Ham Radio, but for a while now I have been pining for something new. Getting back together with two best friends lately got me back into playing and song writing, and while I’m 30+ years older than when I played in nightclubs – my love was always song writing, not playing live. Instead of being driven by some need to play in a band live, I now am doing it purely for the fun of it. My Epiphone archtop is a “parlor guitar”, meaning its a bit smaller than the Gretsch, so I can sit in my beloved green chair and play it. I also really love my tube – wooden Regal amplifier – just like I love my SW-3 and Gold Dust Twins. Now I totally understand the antique and vintage radio fanatics and their saying “keep your filaments lit”. Tubes most definitely rock – for music and Ham Radio.

The Fox Theatre, Oakland

I now work one block away from my all time favorite (large) music venue – the Fab Oakland Fox Theatre. I saw Cake, The Decemberists, Sonic Youth and The Pixies there, and I just love this venue. My wife Kat and I will most likely move to our Oakland house – and I will be able to ride my bike to work. I really, really don’t want to work in San Francisco again – and I really, really love working in downtown Oakland these days – and will do everything I can to stay in the East Bay. The way Oakland is coming alive is very exciting, and the city is much cleaner, more accessible, less crowded and has spotless BART stations as compared to San Francisco. Oh – and the weather is pretty much the best in the San Francisco Bay Area.