This is not a fixed recipe for putting together a ham station on a budget
but mainly a collection of thoughts that I have used as a guide over the
years. I make no claim to be an expert on this subject ( but I have d
noticed some people following me around at hamfests as I scrounge...
er.. shop :-) ).
Hamming on a minimum budget usually means you'll be building
your own equipment or buying it used. Buyer Beware is the watchword
for used gear. If you require that a used piece of gear work, then
test it carefully before buying it. If you can't test it don't buy
it. I can tell you the story about the Ten Tec 509 that I bought for $50
and only had to re-string the dial or the one about the Ten Tec Triton
that I bought for $50 that was "only missing the top and bottom covers"
which actually had every active device in the transmit stages blown.
If you can only buy one piece of gear, then get the very best ham
band receiver that you can afford. It is usually beyond the reach of
a newcomer to build, test, and align a stable multi-band receiver.
While a consumer type general coverage receiver can be used, they
generally don't have good enough selectivity for serious ham band use
(just check 40 Meters during a contest).
However, with some help a simple transmitter can built and provide
many hours of use.
Antenna tuners can be built with hand wound inductors and tuning capacitors
liberated from old broadcast radios. These have been getting kind of
rare lately but I can usually find good capacitors at good prices by
hunting through the "junk" boxes at hamfests.
A power/SWR meter is the one piece of test gear that you may need to buy.
However an old CB type SWR meter will usually work with 100 watt HF rigs
and there are a couple of good meter kits that are easy to build and
Usually antennas and feedline can be easily constructed from scrounged..
er.. recycled wire. Insulators can be fabricated from several different
household sources. Any of the common wire antennas (dipoles, loops,
verticals, and long wires) can be built. Open wire transmission line can
be made from wire and insulators.
"Roll ends" of CATV coax can be gotten for free and makes good coax for
HF antennas. Most manufactors rate their radios to operate into a 50 -
75 ohm load so using 75 ohm coax is no problem.
So, based on these guidelines how much should it cost to get a Ham
HF station set up and running? Generally I say that depending on
what you know and what you have, expect to spend around $300 -
$500. Too expensive for a school student without a full time job
you say? Well, compared to other things like a video game with several
cartridges connected to a color TV, or a personal CD player with
deluxe headphones and a stack of CDs, or a boom box, or the super
deluxe sneakers with the gravity assisted air expansion system and
built in four way flashers which seem to be a necessary part of
today's culture maybe $300 - $500 is not all that much money.
The good part is that you don't have to buy everything at once. Start
with a good receiver and antenna to work on code practice. Then add
a transmitter, tuner, and power meter later as you need them. Sometimes
you can borrow equipment to use for a while.
Again, know your own skills, consult with your Elmer, and make your best
Above all this is a fun hobby, so have fun!
Dave Redfearn, SR PC LAN Analyst Northern Telecom RTP, NC.
ph.(919) 992-3925 email: email@example.com qrl? de N4ELM/qrp
All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of
my employer, co-workers or any other person, real or imaginary.
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