The ‘bucket list’, a list of places to go, things to do and experiences to be had, originated in the 2007 movie of the same name in which two terminally ill characters (played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) play up while they still can. Since reaching mid-age, I can now look backward as well as forward, and there is likely more behind than in front.
Even before the days of digitisation, ultra-miniaturisation and surface mount, many old timers lamented the loss of sight and manual dexterity needed to build electronics. So it seems appropriate that a mid-age maker should keep a bucket list of homebrew radio and electronics projects. The list is non-binding, non-definitive and ever changing, of course. But keeping a list helps with the process of day-dreaming about what to build next.
So here’s mine. What’s on your Homebrew Bucket List?
- Wilderness SST 30. Wayne Burdick’s minimalist QRP CW transceiver from around 1998, many SSTs were built over the next few years, mostly by the US QRP crowd in the late nineties. 14.3MHz VXO and 4.9MHz IF, NE602 mixers, LM380 audio stage, 2N3553 final and not much else. Like Norcal Sierras, they were liked by their owners almost beyond their capabilities. I want to try out this design as a SOTA 30m rig and also as a motivation to get onto CW after 30 years. Update: This one is done!
- Norcal Sierra. Another Wayne Burdick design, Sierra is a QRP multi band CW transceiver that achieves band switching with pluggable band modules. A single-conversion superhet receiver of the NE602-MC1350-NE602-LM386 kind, and a 2 watt transmitter with full break in. There is a yahoo group where Sierra owners still sing the praises of this little rig today. The original free-running VFO, heterodyne crystal oscillators and mixer would be replaced by a DDS VFO (as done by W2EB). And I would put an IRF510 on the back end for 5 to 10 watts for more reliable contacts. Sierra offers US QRP pedigree and a lot of performance for not many parts or complexity.
- Progressive Receiver. Designed by Wes Hayward W7ZOI and John Lawson K5IRK way back in 1981 this is a classic multi-band dual-conversion superhet using all discrete components, SBL-1 mixers, and lots of filtering. The 5 bands are achieved by switching separate converters in front of a conventional 3.5-4MHz superhet with (9MHz IF and 5-5.5MHz VFO). Drew VK3XU published a similar receiver in one of his volumes, using a tuneable IF of 1.8-2MHz. Many Progressives have been built, and most builders are very happy with the results. One or more DDSs would replace the 3 oscillators (VFO, heterodyne and BFO). To build one seems like a rite of passage.
- VU2ESE’s uBITX. Hailed as the next generation after the venerable BITX, Farhan’s micro-BITX (a revision of his Minima and HF1 designs) imitates more modern receiver architectures by up-converting 1-30MHz signals to a first IF of 45MHz, a convenient frequency for crystal filtering, then down to 12MHz for a BITX-like back end, full of termination-insensitive bi-directional amplifiers and hand-wound double balanced mixers. On paper it’s a lot of transceiver for few parts. The proof will be in the making and trying of it.
- AM transmitter for 160 and/or 40 meters. In Melbourne Australia, the mid-morning 160m Coffee Break Net has been running for 40 years. I have listened to this net from my various houses all my life, but I have never called in. The day will come when I fix that! More recently AM activity on 7.125 and 7.146MHz is increasing. My solid state transmitter will reproduce Drew VK3XU’s design (Amateur Radio Jan-Feb 2017).
So many projects, so little time.
Here is a notebook of projects I’ve looked at and wondered about perhaps tackling. Maybe. Kept here to preserve the links and those to the most significant and potentially hard-to-find parts.
Simple Class E 15W AM Transmitter with PWM. From Rob Kalmeijer, only a video narrated in German with flashes of a hand drawn circuit to work from. Nothing large, bulky or heavy so it is a candidate for a small portable 160 AM tx. The DC rail at 70V is unusual but could be delivered via a 20V LiPo and buck converter with filtering. All the parts are junk box other than the PWM chip (TL494 available at Altronics and a lot of places) and the PWM modulator FET (IRF4905).