Easy PCB Holder

Ken, WA4MNT, posted this to several QRP mailing lists and gave me permission to post it here….Dan

WA4MNT PCB HolderAre you ready for a useful tool that you can assemble with a hammer? I came up with this after I got tired of chasing around PCBs on the bench top during construction and testing. I have one of those gimbaled pcb vises, but it takes up too much room on the bench.

This is perfect for secure holding of PCBs during soldering, prototyping, and testing. A dovetail groove prevents any slipping of the board from the fixture, with minimal clamping pressure. The jaw opening will easily accommodate and securely hold boards from 1/4-in. to 5-in., easily extended with longer rods. The jaws are fabricated from UHMW, (ultra-high-molecular- weight polyethylene), rods are Nylon. Easily replaceable elastic band for many years of service.

All the details are here for anyone wanting to build one, or there is a complete kit of machined parts ready for assembly, now available. The kit costs $23.

Construction night a success

Back when I was ARROW president, I started a tradition of using one of our monthly meetings as a “construction night.” The first year we built a little keyer kit. In subsequent years, we built ladder-line J-poles, Arduino microcontrollers, and other little projects like that.

I’m happy to say that that tradition continues today. This month’s meeting, which took place on Wednesday evening, was the 2011 episode of construction night. This year, we built the Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit.

Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit

The Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply Kit isn't a complete power supply, but the addition of a cheap AC wall wart makes it one.

This kit met all my criteria for a club construction project:

  • It was inexpensive. PartExpress sold me 15 of them for $9 each.
  • It was easy to build. As you can see from the photo above, the kit has less than 20 parts. It took me less than a half hour to build, and most of the club members had theirs put together in less than 45 minutes.
  • Those that built it have something useful that they can actually use in their shacks.  I plan to use mine to power the little QRP radio kits that I’ve built over the years. This thing should easily supply an amp at 9 V or 12 V.

As I said, this was a real success. So much so, that several of our club members said that we should do this more often. We even discussed other projects that might we might want to tackle.

One final note: Only one of our kit builders had any problem with his kit. Despite pointing out that the electrolytic capacitor, full-wave bridge, and the LED were polarized and had to be inserted properly, this fellow managed to insert his electrolytic capacitor in backwards. It worked for about two minutes before the capacitor exploded with a loud bang. We all got a big kick out of this because this fellow happened to be one of most experienced hams. :)

Gear and Gadget Notes – 9/10/11

Here are some gear and gadget notes:

  1. Ed, WA3WSJ, has opened up the Hot Water Corner, a website devoted to Heathkit HW-xxx radios.  He says, “If you have any pictures of your Heathkit HW-xxx radios, please send then to me with a story about the rig(s). I’m sure others would like to read your story.” I need to dig out my HW-101 and take some pics of it.
  2. On the AMRAD mailing list, Terry, WB4JFI recommends the SDR Cube.  He says,

    I wanted to say how impressed that I am with George Heron’s (and OH2NLT) SDR Cube kit. I have an SDR Cube Development setup sent by George, as I am considering how to interface it to the Charleston SDR & Digilent FPGA boards. I have since ordered and received a complete SDR Cube kit, less the Softrock 6.3, which I already have. I anticipate cutting some traces, and soldering additional wires directly onto the dsPIC chip for the Charleston interfacing, so I needed my own boardset.

    The kit has excellent instructions, see the sdr-cube.com website. Each board comes prepackaged with its own parts, with SMT resistors and capacitors taped to a paper sheet, and ICs in a small anti-static bag. I have put together almost two boards so far, and everything went together very nicely. Almost Heathkit quality instructions and construction techniques.

    I normally don’t like to push a vendor, but this kit is very well done.

  3. Looking for a club construction project? Consider the Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC linear DC voltage power supply kit. I think this fits the bill perfectly for a club construction project. It’s inexpensive, relatively simple to build, and when it’s complete, the builder has something useful. As one of our club members pointed out, this isn’t actually a complete power supply—it’s missing a transformer and enclosure—but it costs less than $9 in quantity. Suitable wallwart transformers can be purchased for about $5 mail order, probably less if you snoop around the next hamfest.

Heathkit Getting Back into the Kit Biz

Larry, KD8MZM, recently pointed out on our club mailing list that Heathkit is getting back into the kit business. Their Web page says:

Heathkit News




In late August, Heathkit will debut their new line of Do-it-Yourself kits for common around-the-house items. The first kit will be a Garage Parking Assistant (GPA). The Garage Parking assistant kit lets you build your own system that uses ultrasonic sound waves to locate your car as it enters the garage. The system signals to the driver using LED lights mounted on the wall when the car is detected and in the perfect spot for parking.

The GPA-100 kit consists of two primary assemblies – The LED Display in kit form and the pre-assembled ultrasonic range module. the kit will include everything you need to complete the project except a soldering iron and hand tools.

Next on the market will be a Wireless Swimming Pool Monitor kit followed by many more. Heathkit wants to continue to bring to its customers interesting, unique Heathkit products. Heathkit is interested in learning what types of products kit builders would like to build. Kit builders can submit their suggestions through this website using the Contact Us email.

Make: Magazine Editor Looking for Heathkit Memories

Do you have fond–or even not so fond–memories of making Heathkits? If so, Make: magazine wants to hear from you. Editor Phillip Torrone is writing a Heathkit-related column and wants to include comments from folks who grew up making these or have/had interest in them!

My first Heathkit was a DX-60B transmitter that I bought when I got my Novice ticket. Unfortunately, it didn’t work correctly after I finished it, but after a trip to one of the local Heathkit stores (there were actually two of them in the Detroit area at the time), it worked like a champ until I sold it to help finance my HW-101. I can only imagine the number of wiring errors and/or cold solder joints that the technician found.

Touch Keyer Really Works

A couple of months ago, I realized that I hadn’t really built anything in a while. About that time, there was yet another discussion about whether to use a straight key or a paddle. The difference this time was that someone mentioned the Touch Paddle. These are devices that sense when someone touches a metal pad and electronically switches an output. There are two outputs, one for the dit and one for the dah.

The company that makes these devices, CW Touch Keyer, have a whole range of different products. Some have a built-in keyer. Some are just the paddles that you then have to connect to a keyer.

They even have a kit, the P3, which is what I opted to buy. At $20, it seemed a little steep, but what the heck. If it worked, it would be worth it.

What I received is different from the kit shown on their website. Mine uses surface-mount caps and resistors that were already soldered to the board. Assembly was really easy as I only had to solder in the two, eight-pin ICs; two transistors, a diode, an electrolytic cap, and a voltage regulator.

The hard part was figuring out how to make the dit and dah contacts. As shown in the photo above, I cut out a hunk of PC board material, and used a Dremel tool to file off some copper down the middle, creating two contacts. I hooked up 9 V from my bench power supply, and I had a working touch paddle.

Sort of, anyway. The problem with the setup as it is is that the touch pads are just floating. To work really well, I’m going to have to figure out some way to mount them somewhere, so that they don’t move around.

One funky thing about this kit is that the company has painted over the markings on the ICs. I guess he figured that since the circuit is so simple that someone would steal the design. I tried scraping the black paint off one of the ICs, but didn’t have any success with that.

A little Googling did the trick. I found the article, Touch Paddle Keyer, published in the March 2007 QST. The circuit shown in this article is almost identical to the circuit of my P3. The chip used in the article is the Atmel QT113-G, and while that part is no longer manufactured, DigiKey carries various types of the QT110, which would also work, if you wanted to roll your own.

I plan to figure out a good way to mount the paddles and then use this for the CW demo at the upcoming Mini-Maker Faire here in Ann Arbor. Kids should have fun playing with it.

Four State Kit Update

From Terry, WA0ITP via the qrp-l.org mailing list. I’m thinking about getting an HF Test Set myself:

With the Holiday season upon us, it seems appropriate to provide an update of the Four State’s kit status.

AAØZZ EZKeyer. These have been selling like Snow Cones in the Sahara. The first run sold out in less than a week and another run has been made. This is an ideal first time builder’s kit, and we have plenty on hand to fill your orders. Order from the EZKeyer Web page. They are being kitted and shipped by Rex Terry, N5KDO, Tulsa, OK. Thank you Rex!

VRX-1 DC Receiver. Another run was made recently so we have a substantial number of kits in inventory. This Manhattan kit builds quickly and performs very well. A Manhattan layout template is provided, insuring correct parts placement. This kit is an excellent first Manhattan project.

Clear Top Tins. Another large quantity has been purchased, so these are still available. Larger than an Aloids tin, they showcase your projects nicely, and they are a bargain priced. They are being shipped by Dennis Smith, W5VAF, Jonesboro, AR. Thank you Dennis!

Enhanced Manhattan Audio Amp. This is the ideal first Manhattan kit.We still have some of these left, and may make a 3rd run if demand. is sufficient.

SMT Dummy Load. This is the ideal first SMT kit. We still have some of these left, and may make a 2nd run if demand continues. These are being shipped by Dennis Smith, W5VAF, Jonesboro, AR. Thank you Dennis!

NS-40 Class E Transmitter. Our best selling kit to date. The 4th run has just been completed so we have plenty on hand. This is a perfect first kit. Low parts count, a very easy build, and works on power up.

HF Test Set. Many on hand and more are being kitted at the regional meetings in Seneca, MO. Many thanx to the Barney’s gang and Dave Bixler, WØCH, for handling the shipping.

More kits are in the planning stage, and will be announced asap.

As always all profit is applied to funding OzarkCon. Thank you all for supporting The Four State QRP Group, it is greatly appreciated.

New Kit from 4SQRP

Terry, WA0ITP, reports:

The Four State QRP Group is very pleased to announce the availability of our new AAØZZ EZKeyer kit.

This full featured PIC-based iambic keyer features 3 memories, 12 direct entry commands, and is very user friendly. It has many of the features of the high end keyers while maintaining ease of use. The PIC chips have been programmed by
Craig Johnson, AAØZZ, of PIC-EL fame.

There are only 10 parts to install on the quick build pc board, and the extensive manual features an Altoids installation tutorial.

The kit is is reasonably priced at only $17.

Please check out the details and order information at http://www.wa0itp.com/aa0zzkeyer.html

Thank you for supporting the Four State QRP Group and OzarkCon.

Stuart’s First Kit

Many of you are familiar with Stuart, KD8LWR, my newest Elmeree. Since visiting us at Field Day, he’s gotten his ticket and made many contacts on 2m FM and EchoLink, and we’re working on how to get him on HF CW.

Well, yesterday was another milestone. He attended his first ham club meeting and built his first kit. Yesterday, we built things at the ARROW meeting.

We started Stuart out with a Wee Blinky kit from DaleWheat.Com. This is a great little kit for beginners. It consists of 11 components—two LEDs, four resistors, two capacitors, two transistors, and a 9-V battery snap. There are only 24 solder joints to make.

I had to show Stuart how to form the leads and insert the components, and I also showed him how to solder them to the board. These steps were a bit awkward because I didn’t think about providing some kind of fixture for holding the board. That really would have been a help for someone building his first kit.

Even so, Stuart did a great job, and when we connected the battery, it worked! That’s more then I can say about the first kit I built.

Plug for Dale Wheat
Since Dale Wheat donated a bunch of the Wee Blinky kits to the recently-held A2 MiniMaker Faire, and ARROW benefited by getting passed a few of the extra kits, I thought I’d give Dale a plug here. Thanks, Dale!

Dale has another kit that may be of interest to radio amateurs. His Smart Battery Meter “measures the ‘state of charge’ of a 12 volt or 24 volt sealed, lead-acid battery system. It uses a multi-color array of LEDs to give an instant visual indicator of the remaining charge, sort of like a gas gauge.”

Cheap Sig Gen Kits

On the qrp-l.org mailing list, someone asked about signal generator/function generator kits. Ken, N9VV, came up with the following list:

As always, there was a lot of back and forth on the topic. One guy noted that none of these were really “good” function generators. My comment was that for such low prices, they might be fun to play with.

A third commented that by looking around at hamfests one could probably purchase something much better for just a little more. He’s right about that. A couple of years ago, I scored a 2 MHz B+K generator for about $120. It even does amplitude modulation.

Of course, another approach is to use your PC’s sound card as a signal generator. This works fine if all you need is audio signals. You could even get fancy and do modulation or other types of arbitrary waveforms. Two software packages that will allow you to do this are Marchand Function Generator Lite (free) and NCH Tone Generator ($20).

Finally, someone suggested using an iPod for audio test waveforms. Using a computer’s sound card, you can generate all kinds of test waveforms, record them on the iPod, then just select the tracks you want when you want them. That’s a neat idea. Someone should prerecord a bunch of commonly used waveforms and make them available on a website somewhere.