WB3T - QRP
Bob Woish - Conshohocken, PA
QRP Since 1975 (Formerly WB3BBT / WR3K)
Rooster #1224 - Straight Key Century Club #2913
QRP Amateur Radio Club International #8090
East Coast Amateur Radio Club (ECARS) #30438
Flying Pigs QRP #2422
NAQCC Member #5365
G-QRP Club #14087
NorCal QRP Club
The classic Heath HW-8, one of my favorites. I restored this to almost like new, and it works like it too. Lots of QRP DX! I contacted 17 countries during a contest on 15 meters my first day with this radio in 2007 - near the bottom of the sunspot cycle. I was dumb enough to sell this and missed it, so bought and refurbished another one in July 2012. To this one I added dial and meter lights, and an S-Meter circuit. All mods are internal only - nothing shows from the outside to maintain the original appearance, and all mods are easily removable. Then I temperature compensated the VFO. It looks very close to factory new. Sold, 2015 when someone saw it here and begged... dummy me I sold it.
I built this HW-9 station in 1986, and it has been one of my best radios ever since. The receiver in this rig is hard to beat for listening pleasure by any other in any power or price class, in fact, until I got my Sierra it had never been matched even by "The Big Three." There's something to be said for an all-analog radio with zero digital hash, resulting in a pure CW note and low noise level. The radio has been kept in perfect operating, electrical, cosmetic, and mechanical condition.
Don't look for this one on eBay any time soon.
The setup includes the original matching power supply, speaker unit, main radio, SWR/Power meter, and antenna tuner - all mint condition. You can also see another one of my SW Plus rigs (for 30m) at the far left, under the Ramsey keyer and lamp. I've added a Timex Sinclair 1500 (top right) and TS-2068 (on the keyboard drawer) to complete an 80s vintage operating position. At one time, this was my state-of-the-art ham setup! Using this prized equipment, I can still drum up worldwide contacts at will with only 5 Watts out.
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Page Last Updated 2-14-2022
I enjoyed HW-8 II so much, I decided to do another one (HW-8 III). This one was a real clunker when I got it. The mixer amplifier FET was in backwards, as were the internal trimmers in the receive circuit, which "ungrounded" the ground end. Most components were standing a half-inch off the PC board, the panel meter was shot, and the soldering needed to be completely re-done. (Some people by law shouldn't be permitted within 100 yards of a soldering iron!) It looked as though several people had tried and failed to get this one going over the years.
The paint was a mess, and the bottom cover was dented in the front. The VFO coil was loose in its insulator, and the internal cabling had been inadvertantly melted with the side of a soldering iron. The dial scale was rubbing, and there were short circuits in several places on both the PC board and switch assemblies. It took five full days of my summer vacation to fix each and every one of these issues as I kept repeating to myself," One circuit at a time, Bob - one circuit at a time..." Once running, I discovered that the VFO was not turning on at the top of each band, so I slightly increased the feedback in the oscillator circuit. Sure enough, with determination that all would work properly and reliably, I got it going and ended up with a solid radio.
Only because God loves Bob did I happen to have on hand a replacement meter that (with just a tiny bit of filing) fit the meter window in the front face and sub-face. Then I replaced the VFO capacitors with silver mica types to improve VFO stability. Next, a complete alignment and a new baked-on enamel finish including sanding, steel wool, fine Scotch Brite, three coats of primer, more Scotch Brite, and three top coats of paint with speckle finish. I went a tad richer with the green on this one as I always thought Heath Green was a little pansy for me.
I had been sold a lemon (beware of eBay scams!) and made lemonade! This is now a sweet radio, and the best of the three HW-8 restorations I have done. I added switched lamps for the dial scale and meter, an S-Meter circuit, frequency counter (or Digital Dial) port, a low-impedance audio transformer for compatibility with modern earphones and speaker units, a reverse-polarity protection diode (shunt type to preserve full DC input voltage), an improved RF amp transistor (MPF102) for better reception, and an upgraded RF output transistor (2N3553) for a bit more QRP punch. More mods are planned as #2 above will be my collector quality HW-8 and this one (#3) will be my project QRP rig and workhorse. With the upgraded S/RF meter and slightly darker cabinet color, I prefer the appearance of this one. I get 2.5 Watts on 80/40/20 meters and 1.5 Watts on 15 meters, and the receiver sounds wonderful. I always did prefer the sound of a Direct Conversion receiver. No digital hash, and a smoother CW note. I can hear my homebrew 1 uV calibrated source on 20 meters so I know the sensitivity is excellent. I usually need to keep the RF Gain control rolled back quite a bit to prevent overload.
HW-8 III, The Heathkit "Super-Eight!"
I recently picked up this HW-9 strictly for the WARC Band Pack, which my original never had. This was a "Parts or Repair" unit listed on eBay, but as it turned out it only needed a very thorough alignment and a bit of work on the vernier assembly. Dial slippage was a common problem on the HW-9, but the fix is easy - just re-assemble and move one lock washer to relieve the strain on the vernier and it tunes nice and smooth. I was able to pick up a new HW-9 Vernier assembly from Dan's Small Parts and Kits,(where else would you find a rare item like that?) so while I was in the radio that deep anyway, why not? The face and rear apron had arrived in beautiful condition, but the top and bottom shells were a mess, in one spot on top about the size of a silver dollar, all of the paint had been removed down to the bare aluminum. A couple of coats of primer and a couple of coats of Rustoleum "Anodized Bronze" baked on brought this one back to like-new condition. I also had to straighten out a dent in the upper-right hand corner of the front of the top cover, just above and right of the "Heathkit HW-9" label. See it? No? Good! After many "oopses" over the years, I think I have finally gotten the hang of metal working. It makes it very gratifying to see the Hot Watters looking and working like they just arrived from Benton Harbor.
Instead of my original plan of cannibalizing the WARC Pack for my original HW-9 and re-selling this "parts unit" on eBay with just the original four bands, this became my user, ready for all the mods I like, while the old one remains in original collectible condition. Like my HW-8s, it's the best of both worlds! I installed dial lights and a Digital Dial output. In the first few weekends I worked Norway, Italy, France, Poland, Hungary, England, The Netherlands, Argentina, and several Caribbean islands, and as far west as Hawaii with "HW-9 II" running 4 Watts.
The Heathkit Hot Watter Series
The One That Started The Hot Watter Craze
The Heathkit HW-7
I scored an HW-7 on eBay and spent a few days fixing it up. Below is a list of fixes, mods, and improvements:
Scanned, repaired (using Paint Shop Pro), and printed out a new dial scale on laser decal paper and applied it to the dial scale, with an overcoat of clear acryllic spray. The old one was scraped away on about 40% of the scale due to a poorly mounted front panel. Cut a new faceplate window out of plastic material and made a black indicator line with laser decal sheet.
Removed R1 and changed C6 to .1 uF to improve sensitivity. That way you increase RF coupling into the receiver and maintain DC blocking in from the antenna.
Cleared out and re-soldered all connections on the PC Board near the area where the VFO tuning cap wires to the board. Also re-soldered the wires on the cap itself. The original builder had cut the wires so short the only contact was through solder, no “foldover” on the wire leads so not a reliable physical connection. I bent the tabs on the cap downward toward the board a bit to allow for foldover. All of this resoldering fixed a frequency shift that was happening when the radio was touched, bumped, or tuned and often without anything at all. It also cured static/scratchiness in the front end when tuning any of the controls. Apparently there was an intermittent somewhere – I think at the cap or its wires or the PCB at those connections. Before that I had tried to loosen and re-tighten all of the hardware in the radio, minus the three screws that hold the cap onto the Vernier assembly. That seemed to help at times but the problem always came back, until I resoldered everything in that neighborhood on the PCB. Thanks to AE4GM for alerting me to this problem!.
To reduce the very loud side tone, I added a 1K trim pot to the side tone feed to the AF amp.
Added meter and dial lights – white LEDs with 3.9k current control resistors on each. Only a handful of milliamps but a nice glow.
Reversed the key jack wires and changed R39 to 10k to make the HW-7 compatible with electronic keyers.
As designed, there is no TX offset in the HW7! I added a 1N914 diode in series with a 100k resistor from the key line to pin 24 on the 40 meter band switch - electrically this is the resonant tank for the 40 meter doubler circuit. This adds a tiny bit of capacitive reactance to the tank in TX mode only, and gives about 600 Hz of TX offset on 40 meters. 15 and 20 were already OK.
Added a 3 Amp diode reverse biased at the DC input line, before the power switch to blow the fuse if reverse polarity is introduced on the power connector. BE SURE TO USE A 1 AMP FUSE! Any higher and the fuse won't blow reliably. If the diode you use is rated lower than the fuse, it may burn out, open up, and allow reverse-polarity into the radio.
Gave the whole radio a good cleaning with antibacterial hand soap and a scrub brush, knobs and all.
After the mod in the receiver front end, sensitivity is far better than other HW-7s I have seen, almost as good as an HW-8. Listening in on a contest weekend, all bands are alive and loud, leaving me wishing for an RF Gain control (although the AF Gain control is sufficient in 99% of all cases). I’ve made quite a few DX contacts on 40m, 20m, and 15m with the HW-7 so far. It's tiny signal has made the trip as far south as Colombia, Brazil, and Chile, many Caribbean Islands, and across the pond to France using only 650 mW. That qualifies me for another QRP ARCI Thousand-Miles-Per-Watt Award, this time for 15 meters. How cool to get some wallpaper with this classic little rig! I'd say the Heathkit HW-7, with just a little TLC, has earned its place in QRP history, and in my shack.
Here's a video of the HW-7 listening in on a DX contest:
A Computer Generated Replacement
HW-7 Dial Scale. Click here to download the full-size image.
Before we get into anything, let me show you two awesome vintage setups...
The Ultimate HW-8 Setup!
I haven't seen an all Heath Green HW-8 setup like this in years! If anyone knows of another one, I'd love to see it.
The HW-9 Project, January 2013
My QRP life changed with the discovery of the New England QRP Switched Capacitor Audio Filter (NEScaf) seen just to the left of the HW-8 on top of the power supply. This is a continuously variable center frequency and bandwidth controlled audio filter. I have used several other similar analog filters in the past, including one of my own design (741-based) that I used for years, and two different audio DSP filters. This small, portable, easy-to-build filter outperforms any analog filter I have ever seen in 39 years of QRP operation, and comes very close to DSP performance. My HW-8 now has all the selectivity I could ask for, and equipped with the NEScaf, any vintage radio can be every bit as capable on crowded bands as a high-priced modern rig. Audio tone is full, smooth and pleasant and there is now NO QRM in the HW-8. Of course, I built a "Heath Green" cabinet for it with internal 2" speaker for field use, and an audio output jack for in-shack use with a (green) station speaker.
This is the one in the station pic higher up the page.
I added the red knobs seen in that photo, and a few "green" accessories.
And once again, sold it. After this I was contacted by a ham in North Jersy who saw this page and asked if I'd align and mod his HW-8, so that one was #4. I spent a weekend on it and it came out very nicely. That was Spring 2015 and a year later he sold it on eBay. Anyway I've gotten pretty confident about restoring HW-8's off of Death Row, and for some reason I keep selling my nice ones - so you guessed it, I just got #5...
June 2016 - Well here's the next patient off the euthanasia list. Another eBay deal, listed in "excellent physical and working condition." Well, not quite. OK, not nearly. Another eBay scam. There was no receive on 15 meters due to a solder bridge and the associated transformer had been beaten up pretty bad from all the troubleshooting, barking up the wrong tree. The transformer had also been installed backwards (or re-installed backwards after being removed for testing). The seller tells me he used it on 80 and 40 and made plenty of contacts with it - yeah bull. The front end coils for 80 and 40 were swapped, so this radio received 40 meters when 80 was selected. You're sure not going to make many contacts transmitting on one band and receiving on another! I despise dishonesty. It took three evenings just to dismantle the front panel and all controls to get to those coils and fix the problem, then put it all back together. Cleaned up quite a bit of poor soldering while I was in there that deep. As I've said before, some people just shouldn't be allowed within 100 yards of a soldering iron. In the case of this builder, let's make it 150.
The output connector had oxidized and was intermittent. The preselector wasn't doing beans on any band. Spurs were extremely high on 15 and 20. So more troubleshooting - the HFO on 15 meters was tuned to the wrong signal. Ugh - "excellent working condition" my left knuckle. Part way through the process I muttered "this thing is a basket case and should go in the dumpster." But I remembered lessons learned from #3 - one circuit at a time. Well here we go, another winner. Looks and plays great! If I didn't love working on radios so much it would not have been worth the effort. Taking into account the time I spent and the money I saved over a radio in the condition it ended up in, and considering I worked about 6 hours a day for eight days to save around $75... I worked for $1.56/hour. Good thing it's a labor of love! Now that it's working, I'll gradually re-mount most of the PCB components, which like #3 are mounted too high off the board. There's plenty of old flux to be cleaned off as well. I'm about 50% of the way through that project. And the re-paint job on this one is too light. But it works meanwhile.
The question is - will I be dumb enough to sell this one? NO WAY JOSE!!! Nobody's stupid enough to make the same mistake four times! <g> (Although I wouldn't mind another HW-8 to fix!)
Update June 30 - Just got one. Fried. Looks like one of the the previous owners connected the supply voltage backwards. There's strong smoke smell, and the power transistor has been replaced. To no avail as there is also a burned out circuit trace in the +14V supply line. I'm betting every semiconductor device in this one is fried. But at least the seller was honest about it - so I knew this was going to be my biggest challenge. But, I AM THE HW-8 MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE AND I SHALL PREVAIL!!! I've already put together a kit of replacement transistors, diodes, and ICs so I'm ready for anything!