The W3HM Collins Gold Dust Twins T-R Switch

The custom made W3HM T-R switch and wiring harness that makes the Gold Dust Twins “plug and play”

While I could have built this myself, I am very glad that I purchased this made by Howard, W3HM. It handles all of the interconnections between the KWS-1 and 75A-4, and besides being perfect as far as how it “packages” all of the connections that I need – it also looks beautiful. At first I thought it was a bit excessive that he wanted to powder coat it – but the minute I opened the box I knew why he insisted on it.

I had a small scare in that it didn’t seem to work. I opened it up and found that the relay – that has a socket had been jarred loose. I plugged it in and it works like a champ.

I’ve now turned the KWS-1 on several times and double checked the Power Supply restore that I did – and so far, so good. Today I will put the MFJ-267 Dummy Load / Wattmeter in line and practice tuning up. I hope to get it right on 40M and have my first SSB QSO with the rig. I will have the Speed-X bug and D-104 set up for this tuning and first QSO.

More news to follow.

KWS-1 Power ON!

The KWS-1 Power Supply restore that I did is delivering the right Filament and High Voltage

The filaments are lit with 6 volts, and the high voltage is 2100 volts. Today I just wanted to make sure that my power supply restore (electrical, not cosmetics) was right. I had checked, rechecked and was very careful and methodical about it – and so that paid off.

Tomorrow will be the really big test – I will transmit with it on 40M for the first time. I have just a few more wires to connect – to mute the receiver and speaker when I transmit. The T-R switch that Howard, W3HM made is great – and he also created the perfect accessory wiring harness. I also have to wire up the CW line and add a mic connector to the D-104.

It turns out – this bug is perfect for tuning up the KWS-1, because it requires two hands on the knobs for part of the tuning

I’m reading and re-reading the tuning procedure in the manual. Tomorrow will be Part II of My Big KWS-1 Weekend!


1355 Market and Speed-X in San Francisco

In the 1930’s, the Western Exchange Mart in San Francisco was a copy of a mart and building in Chicago. Twitter occupies this grand old building now, and 20 9th Street would have been on the left of this building – where it says 1947. This means they would have been in some other structure that used to be next to the San Francisco Mart.

Two significant things happened on this block – Speed-X was located here, as was radio station KSAN.

The entrance to the “Twitter Building” where I am working on contract

The radio tower of KSAN – 1450 kc seen from the back of the building – before it moved and became “The Jive 95” on FM

The serendipity is really cool – I like such little surprises – it makes the daily grind all that more interesting. I know my time is short at this location – but while I was there a few historical things seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

Speed-X Bug – possibly made at 20 9th Street in 1934 . . . photo by Bill, W2CQ

It looks like in the late 30’s they moved to Jessie Street – about 3 blocks away.


Big fun on a Friday night – HA8RM solid 579 this late in the “DX Season”. . . .

100 watts on my end to a pair of phased verticals

Stewart Johnson (Pre – Speed-X Les Logan) 1930’s Bug

Photo by Bill, W2CQ

The Les Logan 510 Speed-X Bug prototype (actually a Stewart Johnson Bug)

These were made in either Fresno or San Francisco in the 1930’s not long after the Great Depression – and they did not have plates on them. This one has wiring on the base – not the usual metal strap connectors that were put on the “commercial” versions that did have the plate attached – so this one was an earlier model – possibly made in Fresno and just before Stewart Johnson moved the company to San Francisco in 1934 – and perhaps could have been one of the very first one’s made in San Francisco!

The minute I took it out of the box – I fell in love with it. It is smaller and narrower than the Vibroplex bugs – I’ve read it was considered a “Vibroplex Blue Racer Knockoff”. I found this history, and it is so cool because I work in the building where this might have been made on 9th Street and Market in San Francisco. I did find this history on the InterWebs:

Electro Manufacturing Company – Speed-X (1920s-1934)
The Speed-X name (and trademark) is first associated with Electro Manufacturing Co. located in Fresno, California.

Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company – Stewart Johnson Era (1934-1937)
In 1934, Stewart Johnson bought the Speed-X name and relocated the company to San Francisco.
Johnson changed the name of the company to Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company and the address was 30 Ninth St. in San Francisco. Johnson built Speed-X keys from 1934 until he sold the company to Les Logan in 1937. Earlier Speed-X bugs have the combination of knob and paddle, but the later Speed-X bugs use two paddles instead. Many parts used are identical to later Speed-X parts, e.g., the damper, the posts and the knurls used on the hardware are all typical of later Les Logan Speed-X keys.

Speed-X Manufacturing Company – Les Logan Era (1937-1946)
Les Logan purchased Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Co. from Stewart Johnson in 1937.
Logan dropped “Radio” from the name, changing it to Speed-X Manufacturing Company and the location was moved to 646 Jessie St. in San Francisco. Les Logan’s name is usually associated with Speed-X from 1937 up to 1947.
Logan changed a few things on his keys compared to those of his predecessor (Stewart Johnson.) Logan finally added an identification tag to his keys along with a model number. Logan’s bugs use two paddles rather than a knob and paddle combination. He also offered a couple of different types of bearing support frames on his different models. The “T” handle was available on the larger Logan bugs and allowed the user to set the bug on its side and use the dash paddle as a straight key. Les Logan’s bugs were well-built and quite popular.

E.F. Johnson Company – post-WW2 era (1946 – 1972)
Les Logan sold the Speed-X line to E.F. Johnson Co. of Waseca, Minnesota in 1947.
Johnson did modernize their versions of the Speed-X bug and later versions used plastic paddles, more modern tags, larger weights and chrome plating rather than nickel plating.
Near the end of this period the semi-automatic “bugs” were discontinued. The market focus was on straight keys and a new dual paddle design for electronic keyers.

William M. Nye Company era (1972-present)
In 1972, Wm. M. Nye, Sr. acquired the amateur radio line of E.F. Johnson Company and formed the WM.M.NYE CO., INC., which has catered to amateur radio buffs for over 35 years. Their commercial market was O.E.M.’s for commercial radio applications in the U.S. and overseas market. They did not revive the Les Logan “bug” designs, as the commercial marine radio/military/line-land telegraph markets were disappearing.
In the late 1990s, Wm. Nye Jr. moved the manufacturing plant to Northern Idaho. They still produce CW keys today.

While the Speed-X bug was no longer made when the company was moved to Priest River, Idaho, its interesting that Nye still makes straight keys – not far from where my brother in law Jim lives. Kat and I drove through Priest River on our way from Sand Point through Priest River and Newport and then to my brother in law’s place just south of there.

The National SW-3 1930’s Regenerative Receiver

There is something about the 1930’s that just hits me. Its the decade that I never knew – but that I am learning about and loving. The world was not in great shape in many ways – but when you see these products that people were trying to manufacture and sell – you can see a sort of “Spartan Pride” – keep it simple, make products that people just after the Great Recession could afford – but also make these products with high quality. Inexpensive did not mean cheap – as was the case in later years.

Now – here is the “Twilight Zone” part of this Blog Post – for the last 6 weeks I have worked on a short contract at Twitter. They are located in the old San Francisco Furniture Mart building, right on the same block that Speed-X would have made my bug – if it was made in San Francisco and not Fresno.

Early 510 – this is exactly what I have, but mine has been restored beautifully . . .

The San Francisco Western Mart (now Twitter) in 1937 – where the Speed-X company was located

The same building in 1955 – and 9th street and Speed-X would have been one of the shops in the shaded part of the building

I will have to take a picture of a picture hanging in the lobby. It says that the radio station there was KSAN – which has a rich history of its own.

So – now you can see why I get excited about “living history” – and I am learning just how much Radio had an influence in the San Francisco Bay Area. Soon I will talk about Oakland – it has a richer history in radio parts manufacturing than I never knew. In fact, the massive and most beautiful transformer in my Collins KWS-1 Power Supply was made in Oakland – and has a great plate on it.

But that is an another era – another place, and another post . . . stay tuned . . .

I2VRN on 40M – S9

One of the 40M beacons on the band is Roberto – with a 2 element yagi up 100′ – and an S9 signal

The sunspot number is up to 24 – and growing, and its really great to hear the band open. I do hear a ton of atmospheric noise that I did not hear as much in the Winter.

This might have something to do with the noise!

OK – its great to hear 40M open – and I think I like this band more every day – because when the sunspot cycle is in the basement – 40M will come through.

4 Element 40M Bruce – YES!

The more I think about the 4 element Bruce, the more I realize that its the right antenna . . .

I re-read Rudy’s article and he says that the Bruce is more broad banded – that the Bobtail and Half Square have a very sharp SWR curve. The last thing I need to consider is that the third element comes within 10′ of my shack:

The RF “drop off” from the center vertical at 500 watts is just in the safe range. Its funny, but the .5 or so drop in gain from the Bobtail actually is a good thing – it means at 500 watts there shouldn’t be any RF in the shack. At 100 watts – its no problem whatsoever.

I will have to take the three aluminum masts that I have and use them – trying to hang a 100% wire antenna would get way too tangled up in the trees and branches. In fact, I am quite sure that I have a fence post that is right about where that 4th element would be located – or at least close enough to improvise.