My second homebrew Arduino/si5351 Digital VFO-Controller

Back in February 2017 I scratch-built my first Arduino and si5351 VFO. Here’s my second one.  It is a generic Nano/si5351 module wired up to Farhan’s Raduino circuit. The si5351 is on an Adafruit breakout which includes a 3.3v regulator and crystal.  Everything else is as per Raduino other than the presence of a second 7805 regulator for the LCD (and a 1000uF electrolytic storage capacitor) which will allow testing of Pavel CO7WT’s scheme for saving the VFO frequency to the Arduino’s EEPROM when the power drops.

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Three Summits in the Yarra Ranges: Federation Range, Mt Strickland and Mt Donna Buang

Activators have been bemoaning the poor state of HF propagation recently. But when planning an August SOTA activation in Melbourne, the propagation forecast runs a distant second to the weather forecast. If the HF propagation is bad you might not get the 4 contacts, but if the weather is bad you might get seriously bogged or snowed in.  If nothing else you’ll come home wet and miserable.  So I studied the weather report carefully for Friday the 4th of August. A series of three low pressure systems of varying strength were on the weather map bringing low temperatures, strong winds, rain and snow down to 900 meters. Friday morning looked to afford a break. I considered Mt Matlock (VK3/VC-001) but when the morning came after an evening of steady rain I opted for Federation Range (VK3/VN-029) near Lake Mountain, figuring that walking 5km each way through slushy snow would be better than driving 50km each way along the pot-holed water-logged C511. As it happened, it was the right choice.

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DIYODE Issue 1 July 2017

DIYode, a new Australian DIY electronics magazine has just launched. I picked up my first edition from the Jaycar counter. It’s thick, glossy and oozes high production values. There’s an nostalgia in having a current electronics magazine on the coffee table. It takes me back to the 1980s when Electronics Australia, Silicon Chip and Electronics Today International bought circuits, components, kits and articles, not to mention ads and specials from hobbyist-focused advertisers like Dick Smith into our lives every few weeks.  Those days are gone forever.  Smartphones and the internet have put every circuit diagram and datasheet at our fingertips, and have spawned global communities which put world experts just minutes or hours away.  So in July 2017, where does a glossy DIY electronics magazine fit in this smorgasbord of information and community?

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1977 digital clock kit retrospective 

I recently came across a small electronic treasure from my youth. It is a digital clock kit, circa 1977. This was the first electronics kit I ever bought and built. It might have been bought from Dick Smith Electronics although there is no DSE branding — that may have come later.  I think it cost in the order of $25. I remember it being pricey enough that I had to put a few dollars aside for a while until I had enough.

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Homebrew 40m SSB rig gets CW, keyer, break-in, AGC and metering

A couple of ‘solder sessions’ finished all the wiring, debugging and testing required to deploy my Arduino Nano keyer and SWR/power meter, and the LED LDR AGC and S-meter modules into my homebrew 40 meter SSB rig (MST Mk1 from OzQrp).  Before reassembly I sprayed the front and rear panels, and added my preferred DecaDry white lettering and a protective coat of  clear satin sealer. It’s now resplendent with all the expected features of a SSB/CW monoband portable rig.

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VK3YE’s ‘non-invasive’ LED-LDR AGC add-on

When I saw the AGC circuit by Peter Parker VK3YE, I realised it solved a problem common to many simple homebrew receivers.  You cannot automatically control the gain of a receiver with fixed gain stages. Most simple receivers do not have IF stages, let alone variable gain IFs. And the LM386 has no gain control. So it’s easy enough to sample the audio at the volume potentiometer, amplify it, rectify it for a source of AGC. But then you need a voltage controlled gain stage ( a Voltage Controlled Amplifier  or VCA).  If your receiver doesn’t have one, AGC won’t work, and you with have to either add a VCA in the receiver somewhere or replace one of the fixed gain stages with a VCA.  Until now.

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Arduino CW keyer for a BiTx or other homebrew rig

It’s been 3 years since I got my MST400 Mk 1 40 meter SSB transceiver going and started using it for SOTA activations. For those not familiar with it, it’s like a kit version of the BiTx40 from 2013. It has a similarly spec’d monoband superhet receiver, 10MHz IF, and IRF510 5 watt power stage. The circuit on a page is here. It’s been with me for nearly all of my 65 activations (over 400 SOTA activation points) around VK3. Now, with HF propagation approaching cycle lows, it is time to do what I should have done ages ago… add CW.

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Homebrew 160 meter AM/CW transmitter receiver

The VK 160 and AM SOTA event (1st April 2017) provided the deadline pressure needed to complete this build. The rig is a separate transmitter and receiver, so seeing as there are no shared modules, I shall call it a trans-receiver rather than transceiver. The designs for both transmitter and receiver are by Drew Diamond VK3XU. See Drew’s Projects Volume 3  book for full details, available from the WIA or RSGB. I posted details of the 160m AM receiver when I first built it, a year ago. At that time I also built the transmitter and power supply. I got the transmitter going but blew up the PA FET (BUZ90). During the long wait for replacements, I shelved the build and moved onto something else. Now, thanks to SOTA, it is finished.


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160m SOTA VK Challenge, 1st April 2017 (Mt Gordon VN-027)

The VK SOTA 160m and AM Day event provided the motivation I needed to finish off my VK3XU 160m trans-receiver. It is a separate crystal controlled  transmitter and receiver in the same box. The transmitter is a 30 watt class E transmitter with crystal oscillator, CMOS logic gate driver and BUZ90 FET PA. The receiver is a superhet with SA612 mixer and VFO, 455khz IF, MK484 AM detector, and TDA7052A audio stage. Further details in an earlier post. The modulator is an LM3876 that drives a backwards power transformer as the modulation transformer. Both transmitter and receiver have previously been tested, however, I blew the FET and had to wait what seemed like several months for an eBay replacement. In the mean time the project got shelved, until last week.

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On repair

My mower broke last time I used it. Payback for all the times I have mistreated it, yanked its handle, tilted it on 2 wheels over a gutter, or banged it roughly into a tree stump. The chassis rusted out where the handle attaches, so much so that the handle on the left side pulled off, taking with it a nicely rectangular chunk of rusted mower.  So I did what any self respecting man would do. I left it in the shed and ignored it.

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