AR88LF Renovation (Part 1)

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For many years I have wanted to get hold of an AR88 Receiver. Last year I saw one at the Rochdale Rally and was very tempted to buy it, the only thing that stopped me was the size and weight of this beast! Weighing in at almost 100lb and not really having room in my shack I decided against it. When I got home I regretted not buying it. I always keep my eyes open on eBay for one, but they are always collect from buyer and usually many miles away.
A couple of weeks ago an AR88LF appeared on eBay which was quite local, I managed to win the AR88 at a good price, it was also delivered for me by the seller!
The receiver is in a sad condition having been on someone’s garage floor for over 30 years! It is covered in muck and the case is quite rusty.

Such a shame seeing one of these great receivers in this state, an ideal renovation project, but this is going to be a challenge particularly with the case and front panel.
I discovered that removing the case and front panel made it much lighter and easier to move and it just about fits on my bench. The inside of the AR88 is in good condition, everything looks intact and just needs a good clean. I spotted a couple of ‘mods’ that I will remove. The Noise Limiter has been replaced with a switched BFO frequency and the S Meter is a non-standard meter movement.

The AR88LF sitting on my bench
The upper chassis of the receiver.

Once on the bench I began to clean the chassis with worn emery cloth and wire brush. I removed most of the muck and grease with a rag and WD40 to get into the difficult areas I used cotton buds.
Next was to carry out some cold checks to make sure that the mains transformer was alright and that non of the smoothing and decoupling capacitors were leaky or short circuit. They all seem fine, most of the capacitors are in bath tubs filled with oil. Further checks through up a fault…one of the smoothing chokes is open circuit. This is a cylindrical container at the rear filled with bitumen, not much chance of repairing this, so I ordered a replacement. The replacement will fit nicely into the cylinder once I had removed the old choke and bitumen. I managed to do this by heating up the outside of the cylinder and carefully sliding out the old assembly.

The removed choke from it’s case.

The new choke was fitted and the cylinder cleaned,we are now ready to power up using my new variac.
Powering up was fine, a nice healthy HT, but no output at all from the speaker. Further investigation proved that the Audio Output Transformer was open circuit. I just happen to have a replacement transformer that came from a vintage speaker with the transformer still fitted. This worked a treat!

4m End Fed Half Wave Antenna

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There has been a lot of interest recently in End Fed Half Wave Antennas. At one time I was considering making my 60ft longwire into an EFHW by adding a 49:1 unun instead of the present 4:1. This would tune the 60ft wire to 80m as an EFHW and would probably tune on some of the other bands as well. Something to think about in the future.

A few weeks ago I bought myself a Tait 2015 Low Band PMR transceiver so that I could operate on 4m FM. The one I bought came already programmed for all the 4m FM channels with 25w output. Now all I need is a suitable 4m vertical antenna. I already have an HB9CV antenna that I use on SSB for contests, but this is usually set to horizontal polarisation. I tried making it vertical, but this looks a bit large when on it’s mast in the garden.
I came across a You Tube Video by Tim G5TM explaining how to build a 4m End Fed Half Wave Antenna with just a single length of coax cable. The antenna is easy to build and can be hung from a mast or drainpipe or used for portable operation.

Rough drawing of the antenna, I used Mini 8 coax instead of RG58.

The 4m EFHW antenna enclosed in a 2m plastic conduit tube with the choke mounted at the bottom.

The antenna works well, I have been able to take part in the 4m Coffee Morning Net on 4m FM working stations around the Manchester Area and Merseyside. At first the SWR caused a bit of concern when I had it hanging from the mast, but enclosing it in the plastic tube now gives a good SWR reading.


VHF NFD 1973

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I recently received some photos from Chris G4FZN of VHF NFD in or around 1973 on Rooly Moor near Rochdale with the Bolton and Bury Radio Clubs. In those days we used old valve equipment and had to be carried and set up on site. Just looking at the equipment that we used brings back many memories.

In this picture I am operating the 4m station along with Alban G8NVW and a SWL. Gosh, look at the equipment, we were using an Eddystone 640 receiver and Pye 4m PMR transmitter, crystal controlled running AM. In those days you put out a CQ call and tuned the band high to low to listen for any replies.

This one is the 2m station with Keith G3ZGU operating (I think) with Neil G3ZPL (left) and Keith G8EAP (right). Using an Eddystone EC10 receiver and what looks like an old Heathkit Transmitter. I can see my old converted Pye Boot Mount Cambridge on the right with the curly lead.

It was pretty cold up there on Rooly Moor in September. In this photo is Julian G8GAJ (left) Jon G4BVE (centre) and what looks like me on the right, but i’m sure that it isn’t me. We had a campfire to keep us warm with wood brought up in the land rover. Fun Days!


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VHF NFD under lockdown is very different this year. Portable stations are banned and everyone has to operate from home. Each band is assigned a time slot to operate. I decided to operate on 50Mhz, 70Mhz and 144Mhz. Using my new Yaesu FT-991A this year!


VE Day 75th Anniversary

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To celebrate VE Day I took my R109 receiver out into the garden with all the celebrations going on. I listened to GB4VE quite strong on 80m.
I must admit that these celebrations were a breath of fresh air for everyone in the lockdown which is now in it’s 8th week. Beautiful weather all the way through, which made things easier and gave me chance to lots of jobs in the garden.


New roof and antennas

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At last after waiting 10 years we have finally managed to get the roof replaced along with my neighbour. This has given me the opportunity to take down the antennas and replace the mini 8 coax cable with f-Zero cable from Moonraker. This coax has very good specs and although the coax run is only about 8 meters it will make a big difference on 70cm, 23cm and now 13cm.  I decided to take down the 4m HB9CV on the stack and replace it with the 19 element 13cm yagi that Ross G6GVI has kindly let me have.

Before the roof replacement with the 4m HB9CV in the centre of the stack.

The new roof with new coax on the antennas and 13cm yagi in the centre of the stack.


Topband Regen Receiver

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Just completed a nice little project, a regen receiver for Topband. This started when I bought a pc board and circuit from G-QRP at a rally last year. The regen receiver is based on Rev. George Dobbs, which was in PW April 2013. The circuit was then improved by G4CFY of Spectrum Communications. A full kit is available including an additional board for switching bands up to 18Mhz. I may add one of these later.

At a later rally I came across an old Codar RQ10 Q multiplier. This was a valve circuit made to use with some of the other Codar receivers. I bought it to match my existing Codar equipment, but was not sure about actually using it as a Q-Multiplier for my CR70A. The regen receiver is really a Q-Multiplier working on a different frequency. Having given some thought, I decided to strip out the valve circuit and build up the regen receiver board and mount it into the case using the existing tuning capacitor and controls. The case was cleaned up and repainted.

The receiver works really well and the Codar slow motion drive is just the job for tuning.

Eddystone EC10

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I have never owned an Eddystone EC10 receiver, but I remember using one back in the 1970’s during VHF NFD Contests. I still have a photo of me operating the EC10.

The EC10 uses transistors that I am very familiar with, the OC71, OC81, AF114 Germanium Transistors. I built my very first projects in the late 60’s with these transistors. I would love to get hold of one of these receivers, but they are usually quite expensive when they come up for sale. After patiently waiting for one to come up on e-Bay, I stumbled on a very nice MKII EC10 and managed to get it at a good price. The receiver is in good condition cosmetically, but not sure whether it works or not. Seems to have the Power Supply Unit missing.

This looks like a very nice project, it is so nice to be able to work on the old transistors again, quite nostalgic!
When I powered up the receiver it worked, but seemed very deaf. My first reaction was that the RF Transistors, which are AF116, needed replacing with something more up to date, which is apparently a standard mod for this receiver. However, further investigation showed that there was in fact another fault. The RF Gain peaks in the middle of control for some reason and the AGC switch is not working correctly, very strange…
After taking measurements around the AGC circuit I diagnosed that one of the electrolytic capacitors needed replacing, after replacing the EC10 worked perfectly! I did consider changing all the electrolytics, but decided to leave it alone for the time being.
Now for the cosmetic restoration, lots of scratches on the case and front panel. I did not want to touch the calibrated tuning window, the paint on this is very delicate and even touching it will make the paint come away. A clean on the outside with soap and water was sufficient, the same with the front panel and knobs, they came up a treat! I covered the scratches on the black paint with a permanent marker, this always works well. The scratches on the silver case was covered up with Humbrol model paint. I finished off the front with a light rub with duraglit. Looks really nice.

I now need to fill that huge hole in the back where the Power Supply Unit was fitted. I decided not to make a mains power supply, but instead to make a battery unit with a socket so that a wall mounted PSU could be plugged in.

This has been a very enjoyable project, I use it with the batteries at the moment, a nice receiver.


ISS flyby

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Caught some nice photos last night of the International Space Station over my antennas.

The ISS fades as it enters shadow and disappears.


BC348 Renovation

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My latest ‘Repair Shop’ project has been an old BC348 receiver.  The BC348 was used during the war in the American B17 bombers, after the war thousands of the receivers were released and bought by Radio Amateurs. Several versions were made, mine is a BC348L and it had obviously been modified and hacked in the past. Although the receiver looks to be in good condition, closer inspection showed that wires had been cut and other components added including an additional audio pre-amp using an ECC83 valve.  I must admit that I was a bit reluctant to attempt renovating this receiver, it was going to be a challenge!

There is plenty of information on the internet about the BC348 including all the manuals. So where do I start with this beast?
First of all I needed to digest the circuit for my model. Originally, it had a dynamotor to supply the HT voltage, also the valve heaters were wired in series. There are seven huge oil filled capacitors on chassis which I assume are all decoupling capacitors. On the circuit they are 0.5uf capacitors and they all need replacing along with the other capacitors that are called ‘micamould’, they look like mica capacitors, but are in fact paper. Once I had a better understanding of the circuit and wiring layout I started to simplify things by removing the modifications and try to bring the receiver back to it’s original state. I removed all the string lashing that holds the wiring looms so that I could trace wires easier. I also removed the large Jones Plug as this is no longer necessary.
Now it is time to replace the ancient resistors and capacitors. Most of the components are mounted on tagboards, four in all. The RF and Mixer stages are inside the tin boxes.  I started with the oil filled capacitors and replaced them with modern ones and mounted them on an additional tagboard. This gave a lot more room on the chassis to work on the other boards.

New tagboard of decoupling capacitors to replace oil filled ones. Note the ‘micamould’ capacitors on the rear board that still need replacing.

Chassis after replacing all the resistors and capacitors. Looms have been undone so that wiring can be traced.

Tracing the wires from the circuit was very time consuming. Some wires had been cut or disconnected and others had been soldered into the wrong places. I just had to take my time and work my way through it logically so as not to make mistakes. The big switch at the back was another challenge, again, wires disconnected and some soldered in the wrong part of the switch. I had to draw diagrams of the switch and it’s wiring to be able to work it all out.

The heater wiring had already been changed for 6.3v parallel wiring, so I left this as it was.
At this stage I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I now need a power supply in order to finally test this receiver.  There is a space on the top chassis for a power supply (where the dynamotor was) so I set about building one onto a piece of aluminium that was the right size.

The new power supply fitted into the receiver. I later added another piece of aluminium to mount the audio output transformer on the right.

All ready for testing now….I nervously switched on the power supply and to my amazement the BC348 sprang to life! I could hear broadcast stations, but not very loud. Further investigation told me that something was wrong with dual volume / RF Gain control, they were wired wrong. I managed to solve the problem and rewired the controls, switched on and it worked perfectly!  I was so pleased to hear this receiver working again after all the hard work. Still a few things to iron out, the bandswitch is very dirty and needs a good clean, the BFO is not working and needs looking at and the receiver needs aligning. No real problems solving these, the BFO was working, but has a very low output injection, I solved this by running a wire from the BFO output and wrapped it around the grid of the IF valve top cap. Now there is ample injection. Had to open up all the RF, Detector and Mixer cans to get to the bandswitch and give it a good clean. Alignment was quite easy with the BC348, all the trimmers are clearly marked.  The receiver works really well on the lower bands, but is a bit deaf on the higher bands, even after re-alignment. I will come back to that at a later date.

To finish off it just needs a bit of cosmetic attention. I cleaned the chassis with wire wool and metal polish. Cleaned and lubricated the drive mechanism. The front panel and case is in really good condition and just needed a good clean with water and detergent followed by a wipe over with WD40 which really brings up the black wrinkle finish. I used a black marker to cover up scratches.  A couple of holes in the front panel made by a previous owner needed filling, so I put an on / off switch in one hole and found a suitable lamp to fill the other.

The finished BC348 receiver. Very challenging, but this is one of the best renovation projects I have done.