The Uranium One Deal – What nobody is talking about.

Every nation that has and refines uranium, whether for war or peace, has a “fingerprint” that is unique to that particular nation, and this print is also unique enough to be traced back to the very facility that refined it in the first place, as well as the mine it came from. There is a lot of paperwork involved in the use of uranium, but it is readily available to various government agencies.

Sooo….let us suppose that “our” uranium, now in the hands of Russia, somehow gets “misplaced” or “stolen” and is later used in a terrorist attack. Just exactly who’s signature is going to be all over that blast? Russia’s, or OURS…?For the first time, a situation exists where something we created can be used against absolutely anyone on the planet, and it will be traced right back to us. While the uranium used could eventually be traced to the shipments Hillary made possible to Russia, do you really thing the immediate response from our blame-crazy leftist media will be to “Wait and see the testing results”…? Or do you think that, given their propensity to blame conservatives or “vast right-wing conspiracies”, they’ll ignore common sense once again and go with their own narrative and blame whoever is their enemy-of-the-day until they’ve destroyed another innocent life or group?

I think Russia is up to something, and Hillary is in it up to her communist-colored eyeballs. I believe she is fully aware of what can be done with that uranium, and not only doesn’t care, but is hoping for it. After all, being a follower of Saul Alinsky from her misguided youth, she just can’t let a good tragedy go to waste. You’ve already seen how the left reacts every time there is a terrorist attack or shooting by some liberal nut-job who wasn’t supposed to be able to buy or posses firearms in the first place. What in the world do you thing her kind will say and do if our uranium is used for nefarious purposes? And just think – I haven’t even gotten around yet to discussing that $145 million dollars deposited into her “foundation” right after the Uranium One deal was concluded.

Am I the only person thinking of this, or is everyone else just punching their collective heads in the sand on this one?

One thing is certain: If you think we’ve heard the last of that uranium, you are sadly mistaken. There will be consequences, and heads are going to roll somewhere. Perhaps not the heads of those truly responsible, but there will be consequences, and they will be grave.

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Solar Charge Controllers

I’ve built a few charge controllers, half of them are built from scratch. All but one were placed in home-made aluminum clamshell cases, and two of them are shown here.

The first one is from an article in August 1980 QST Magazine, and was designed by Douglas A. Blakeslee, N1RM and shows up on page #12. This charger uses any large pass transistor in the 2N3055 family as a series switch to allow current to flow from the solar panels through to the batteries and rigs. I used a smaller 2N4912 unit which allows up to 7 amps of current to pass through, although I don’t plan on putting more than 50 watts through it. I wasn’t planning to use a 100-watt panel to supply this, as my battery was much smaller and I don’t have any hi-powered rigs to run. The front panel acts as a heat sink and is in contact on one side with top and bottom panels to dissipate excess heat. You can see the phono plugs I use to connect the input and outputs with, and the board was scratch-built with a dremel tool to cut the traces.

 The next charger is from the June 1994 edition of 73 Magazine and is called The MRP4  Solar Charge Controller by Mike Bryce, WB8VGE. It is an excellent charger for gell cells and, unlike the previous charger I built, uses a shunt configuration to turn on/off the charger. Here also I made my own board and, although I mostly stuck with the layout provided, I did make two minor changes by swapping the designer’s 3-amp blocking diode with a larger 6-amp diode and using an A/B mini-pot in place of the on-board trimmer the layout provided. I wanted to be able to adjust this from the panel, although I can’t recall why. I think it had to do with differences in various manufacturer’s specs regarding charge voltage. In any case where you need to know what voltage to charge your batteries up to, ALWAYS go with the manufacturer’s recommendations over any generalizations provided by other “experts”. The maker knows their batteries better than any outsiders. Since the original design called for a 3-amp blocking diode, I’m assuming this charger will handle 3 amps of current, which is plenty for my purposes, and using a larger diode ensures It won’t blow. I have no idea why I wrote “4” amps on it. The 30-40 watt panels I intend to use will send between 2-3 amps of current through these units, which is plenty for most QRP operations.

You’ll notice both of these chargers are housed in my typical clamshell cases. Here, I used a thinner sheet metal for them. I believe it’s 20ga for the tops and bottoms instead of the usual 16ga., and 18ga for the front/back panels. This is much lighter than my usual cases and still plenty rugged for field use. The completed chargers weigh almost nothing, although they do take up 15-20 cubic inches of space each.

I should point out that Mike Bryce also made another charger called “The Micro-M”, and I have one of these I installed in a plastic case I got from the now-defunct Radio Shack. It is also an excellent unit and quite perfect for backpacking with most QRP-related gear. You can look it up in September 1996 issue of QST. I got my board and kit from Mike, but I don’t know if he is still selling any of these units, or if the boards are available from FAR Circuits. It’s been a number of years, and he may have moved on to other products.

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My NN1G 30mtr QRP Rig

Back when Dave Benson’s Small Wonder Labs was still in business, I purchased one of his kits and later assembled it and put it in one of my home-built clamshell cases. Like everything else I built, little was done to hide the home-brew aspect of the rig, even if it wasn’t a scratch-built project. It’s an excellent rig for 30mtrs, and worth having if you find one in any band available.

Click on the following images to expand them.

I’ve been asked about the clamshell cases I use, and thought I’d give some ideas I use in making them. First, ANY sheet metal brake will bend aluminum, and the only restriction you have is to ensure your brake is wider than the sheet you wish to bend. Adjusting the brake is the next step, if possible. For those who either can’t buy or otherwise get access to a brake, all is not lost. In nearly every home-improvement store, you’ll find hand tools called SHEET METAL TONGS or HAND-BRAKES. You may find these in either the HVAC ductwork or siding departments, and sometimes where the rest of the hand tools are. The best are made by MALCO, and are usually recognized by their distinctive chrome color with black rubber handle coverings, and cost around $50 for the smaller version, or $80-90 for the larger version. You’ll notice the edges of these line up nice and accurately, ensuring a clean, accurate bend in your metal. It can take a bit of practice to get used to doing this, so don’t practice on your rig material….get some scrap and try them out first to get a feel for how to use them. I generally use these on small project boxes, and usually with lighter material for the tops and bottoms. I nearly always use 16ga material for the front and back, as that makes things more rigid. I should point out that you can also procure these in many flea markets for less than $10, which is downright cheap! I’ve bought several this way. You can also try the hand tongs sold at Harbor Freight, but you might have to use lighter sheet metal if you do. I haven’t tried these, but they remind me of the old PEXTO brand, and may not handle heavier metal unless you have the “kung-fu-grip”. Just a thought.

Another handy tool to have is the #5 Whitney Punch. These are standard tools for almost every sheet metal worker or HVAC technician, but they can be expensive at around $100-120, depending on who is selling them. I hear that Harbor Freight has them for much less, and this is worth looking into for the home constructor. A Whitney Punch cuts a nice hole and doesn’t drift like a drill bit, but at this price range, some folks may decide to just stick to drill bits. I’ve only seen one at a flea market, and some fool painted it with black stove paint and tried to tell me “That’s the natural finish!”  I told him I already had one and had seen hundreds over my career, and none of them were black. I got it for $3, but it took a long soak in a small bucket of Acetone to remove the crappy “finish” he’d installed, and it still barely functioned.

If you look at a blowup of the internal view, you can see the self-tapping sheet metal screws I used to hold the clamshell case together. These are #4 x 1/2″ long flat pan head screws. You can pre-drill the holes if you clamp the front/rear panel in place with a Vise-Grip plier and drill them, but I hold them by hand and use the smallest punch in my Whitney. Remember I said the punch doesn’t drift? I can punch the hole where I want on the bottom/top, and use that hole as a guide to punch the front/rear panels. Now you know why I love this tool.

One more thing: See those nice tiny pots in the front panel? Those are Clarostat and Allen-Bradly pots, and they are prohibitively expensive to purchase new these days. I’m likely to replace them with more common pots and save them for my smaller builds, as they’re also hard to come by.  Next to the main tuning knob is the RIT control, which was purchased from Dan’s Small Parts And Kits, and to the left of that is a transformer mounted on the filter “Q” pot, for adjusting the filter bandwidth. I haven’t hooked up the filter yet, and may decide to install one of those cute little 2-pole filters and a small switch from Dan’s as well. They’re small, work beautifully and are a real nice bargain.

I hope this gives others some ideas about packaging their pet projects. I tend to not go for the “professionally-manufactured” look, as I prefer others to know that home-brew can be just as good looking as it is functional. Besides, aluminum doesn’t rust, and scratches really don’t bother me.

73 de Mike, KC8LCY

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MicroShack-40/Exp Rig

Back in the early 90’s, and years before I got my amateur license, I loved building electronic devices. A lot. One day, after seeing Roy Lewallen’s article, An Optimized Transceiver, I got the bright idea to build a complete ham shack in a small Bud Diecast Box and it turned out to be a pretty nice experiment. This is where the name for it came from. A micro-sized shack containing everything but the earphone, key, antenna, and power supply. While I originally used a receiver similar to The Neophyte, I eventually changed it to a dual-gate MOSFET design. I may, in the future, build another similar rig based more along the lines of the Optimized rig, or it’s successor, the Ugly Weekender.  Both of these are excellent rigs, and the standard by which others should be judged, in my opinion. Many fine rigs have been inspired by them, and builders are hard-pressed to build something better even now all these years later. Also, I eventually did try this rig out on the air with limited success. It needs some tweaking. I wasn’t satisfied with the initial performance but then, it was just an experiment, hence the “Exp” designation at the end of the rig’s name.

With that in mind, I present my own experiment in compact design. It is somewhat of a cut & paste design, with ideas and parts from several rigs. The VFO is from the Optimized rig, the transmitter is the 40mtr DB-25 rig, while the receiver is a dual-gate MOSFET design with a two-transistor audio amp made for feeding a hi-impedance earphone. Immediately following these are a resistive bridge and standard C/L/C hi-pass transmatch.

These images are hi-resolution so you can click on them to blow them up.

The controls, clockwise from bottom left, are TUNE, SWR MTR Adjust, Cal/Tune/Operate Switch, Tuner Input Cap, Inductance Switch, Tuner Output Cap, Antenna Jack, Volume, and the bottom has a power jack and switch. The key and earphone jacks are between the volume and Ant jack on the right.

On the right is the view inside the rig, with VFO, XMTR, & RCVR from left to right, and the SWR bridge & T-Match on the right side. Builders today will have to locate their own sources for some of the parts in this rig, as many are either no longer made, or prohibitively expensive unless procurred at hamfests, surplus outlets, or flea markets. I will likely re-use parts from this to build another version, and this has been standard procedure for me regarding all switches, pots, meters, and jacks.

I feel the T-Match is only good if used with a half-wave antenna coax lead, as that matches the antenna much better. My next rig will use a link-fed transformer match with a parallel varicap to provide finer tuning to a half-wave wire, while the jacks for this will be separate antenna & ground posts.

I have a number of other experiments to share in the future, including a well-known 30 meter transceiver kit I built into a case of my own design and construction. Not everything here is built entirely from scratch, and some of these rigs will see more use in the future when I get back on the bands again.

73 de Mike, KC8LCY


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Cute Little Step Attenuators & an L/C Antenna Tuner

After sharing my SWR meters with the world I decided to share some other items I made to go along with it. Here is are a pair of step attenuators and an L/C  Tuner for QRP operations I built into another set of Pamona boxes. The SMA connectors are hamfest finds.

The top attenuator is made up of odd values that add up to about 85db total. If I had this to do over again, I’d make the first leg 10db, the second 20db, and the last three would be 40db each, providing a total of 150db of attenuation.

The second attenuator is made up of 5 legs, each at 3db, and adds up to 15db total. This is likely enough attenuation for all but the most masochistic QRP operator. The slide switches used here are from Radio shack.

The L/C tuning network below them was made just for fun. The tuning cap is a dual-335uF polyester unit I got on closeout special for a quarter at Radio Shack, while the small rotary switch is another hamfest find. I seldom find any of these any more, but they still turn up from time to time. The inductor is an iron-powdered T-50-2 filled with as many turns of (I think) 24ga wire as possible, and tapped every few turns or so. The coil is grounded at one end. It was not an exact science, but an experiment in packaging I was after here, and one would likely be better served with a link-fed tuner instead of a tapped coil, although I’ll have to compare the two to see how this turns out.

As a rule, the more you tap a toroid coil like this, the more the circuit Q drops, so you must consider that if you package something similar to this. A slightly bigger packaging scheme would allow for not only a link-fed system, but also a tapped inductor. If I did this, I’d consider one of those ferrite bars, cut to size, for the coil form, and tap it. This would retain circuit Q while reducing the turns ratio. The link could be would over the ground end of the inductor.

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