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 Small Wonder SW Plus PC Board.
This took about four hours to build. For my money, this is the best monoband superhet QRP CW kit available, so I have built SW Plusses for 20, 30, and 40 and have just completed the 80 meter version to make up for shortcomings with the Elecraft K1, which will not cover 80 meters without either giving up three of its other bands, or performing considerable surgery in the field to change filter boards every time you want to QSY to 80m.
The SW Plus is known for its solid frequency stability, an area in which many small radios suffer. My tests show 40 Hz/hour drift in the SW Plus vs. 1100 Hz/hour in the K1 from a cold start. I have received lots of positive comments on the nice keying characteristics and stability of my SW Plus rigs, in fact, I hear about that typically once or twice a week, sometimes more, from stations I work. 2 - 4 Watts out depending on input voltage.
The builder has the flexibility to design whatever enclosure is desired. I have had a lot of fun with these as you can see from the other photos on this page. The 80 meter version wears an interesting disguise - see below! The manual, like Small Wonder Labs' customer support, is without flaw, making the build process easy, relaxing, and fun. This is a thoroughly and properly thought-out design, recommended for beginners or advanced builders desiring a solid radio with tons of upgrade potential.
UPDATE - January 2013: The SW Plus Kit is Not Currently Available. Dave has retired and Small Wonder Labs has closed. Thanks for everything Dave!
Need a Resume? Click on the Banner - Special Discount for Hams, Call Sign Required.
Page Last Updated 3/28/15
I liked the idea of these new "field radios" designed for ultra portability and all-in-one functionality. So I bought a 40 meter SW Plus kit with Freq Mite from Small Wonder Labs, memory keyer, SWR indicator from qrpkits.com, and the usual Radio Shack case and hardware. With a 900 mAH 12.6-Volt internal Lithium Ion battery pack ($7.50 from All Electronics), it puts out 2.5 Watts with nothing more than an antenna and earbuds, like some of my other "Go Radios." But this one can stand up or lay flat, or simply be hand-held with the dot and dash buttons placed for comfort. Holding the radio in my hands in a normal fashion places my index fingers on the buttons. (KX-1 ergonomics are a bit cumbersome at times, so I made this a priority while laying out the controls.) The VFO covers 7.000 - 7.070. There are also jacks for a straight key and external paddle. The Li-Ion pack keeps the radio humming for about three hours between charges.
I had this out at the park shortly after finishing the project (Spring 2010) and worked into Ontario, West Virginia, and Georgia while watching a softball game and getting a head start on my tan. A lawn chair and nearby tree for antenna support were all I needed.
Ten Tec 1380??? NOT!
The SW Plus 80 in Disguise
If you read this far, you may remember me saying the Ten Tec is a tough-built radio, but the SW Plus as I have said before is my monobander of choice, and the tough Ten Tec case makes a good home for it. This rig is the best of both worlds. Just like my other SW Plusses, this one is armed with a Freq Mite, scratch RIT circuit, and keyer. No SWR indicator is needed as I use this with a resonant 80 meter dipole and I do not plan to operate 80 meters in the field. Since this photo, I have also added an LM386 audio amp output circuit board to drive the internal speaker. I LOVE THIS RADIO! For a total of $137 including case and hardware, this rig will provide the 80 meter coverage lacking in the four-band K1, and do it rather nicely. On the first day it was finished, KK4RF in VA commented on the excellent keying, just as I have heard about my other SWPs. Take a peek under the hood:
Small Wonder Labs - Ten Tec - MFJ
The Small Wonder Labs SW Plus-30 in a resurrected Radio Shack shortwave receiver kit housing. Eastern Europe is easy with 2 Watts!
The Ten Tec 1340 - a Tough Build but a Tough Radio
I've added an internal memory keyer, LED SWR indicator, and Small Wonder Labs Freq Mite - push a button and you get your frequency reported in the headphones in Morse Code. This makes a nice 3-Watt portable radio for Field Day and QRP contests. After building more than 100 radio kits over the last 48 years, this one was the most difficult, owing to the poor assembly manual. It took several hours to sort out and work all the addendums into the manual. Some of the pages were out of order, and not numbered, so it's up to the builder to read through, figure out which pages go where, remove the staples, and in some cases photocopy pages and paste them on the correct "half page," then re-assemble the manual in proper order, with changes. Hmmm... a manual kit along with the radio kit! Frequency stability is excellent for an analog VFO - in fact it rivals a DDS VFO.
Built like a tank. I think this rig would survive mortar fire. I may even stash the deed to my house and some trail mix inside the cabinet, in case of an asteroid strike. Although too heavy to be trail friendly, a good solid, stable, and reliable travel radio that should stand up to a lifetime or two of indoor and outdoor use was the end result. There are many mods and lots of information available on the Internet, and there is plenty of room inside to accomodate upgrades. A revised manual would make this a good choice.
And finally, my latest project. This is the Ten Tec 1056 Direct Conversion "Any Band Receiver." For $50 plus shipping, which includes the optional case, you get a stable receiver that comes with all parts required to build the radio for any band, 160 - 10 meters. It is sensitive, frequency stable (after about a 20-minute warmup), and has a nice CW note. The built-in audio filter has an adjustable center frequency to help control QRM. Even better, I like to use mine with the NEScaf filter - by doing so this receiver is an outstanding performer. On the bands I have tried - 40, 30, and 20 - BCI is virtually absent, a rarity in the world of DC receivers. I am currently building a VFO buffer amp so I can connect my Oak Hills DD-1 digital display. I am also building the Four State QRP "Magic Box" to interface the receiver with any stand-alone transmitter. My own creation, the TechSonic Milliwatter is shown. I also have a Ramsey QRP-40 with two crystals installed that will cover 7.028 - 7.044 MHz using VXO control, but it just doesn't look as nice with the 1056 as the Milliwatter. The Magic Box includes TX/RX switching, sidetone, and receiver muting, Photos to come when I have this all together and on the air.
I also have Milliwatters for 80, 30, and 20 meters and when time allows will be putting one together for 10 meters. Aside from performance, another advantage of the 1056 is its ability to be easily converted to other bands by swapping out a few parts. Another is the all-metal case, which adds to sturdiness and frequency stability. The Ramsey HR-40, for example, comes in a plastic case that allows proximity effect - simply reaching your hand toward the radio pulls the radio off frequency making it a pain to tune. Another issue with the HR-40 is that due to mechanical instability in the VFO coil, the frequency drifts incessantly and by large amounts, even when the radio is off! I think that is one of the reasons the 1056 can be considered a great candidate for on-the-air QSOs where so many of the other DC receiver kits fail.
This radio falls under the category of "I wish they had these when I was young and broke, and needed an affordable way to listen in on the ham bands." Back in the 70's as a young dad struggling to make the rent and dying to get on the air, I suffered through a $30 Radio Shack regenerative receiver that squaked and squealed and drifted and had awful BCI problems, it was basically a useless toy. The 1056 is just the ticket for new hams on a budget, or those wanting to listen in to see if there is any interest. I'd bet this radio will whet the appetite for any ham newbie. It'll cover entire bands, both CW and phone portions, but I have mine currently set up for 40 meter CW only (7.000 - 7.135), making tuning easy. A few SSB stations can still be found at the top end of this band segment when I feel like kicking back. I have listened in for over an hour without having to retune.
Curiosity finally got to me, and despite reports that the MFJ cub has drift issues, I decided to try the 40 meter version.
I was pleasantly surprised...
Pros - Excellent sounding audio, both in receive and transmit (sidetone). A very nice looking, lightweight, portable 2-Watt Class QRP rig that gets good reports with a simple antenna. Rugged - ready for trail action with only a roll-up antenna, small key, battery pack, and headphones.
Cons - one missing part, one wrong sized hex nut. Frequency continues to drift by 450 Hz/hour even after three hours. Top cover edges were not painted as received.
Overall - I'm having a great time with mine! 11 states covered on the first day with excellent reports and a few ragchews across many hundreds of miles with solid copy!
The SW Plus 30 in its Present Form
As I mentioned, I like to play with different housings and configurations of my SW Plusses. This is the third incarnation for my 30 meter board. The case came from Ten Tec. I sprayed the chassis orange for the upcoming Fall Season (been on an orange binge lately!) and used laser printed water-slide decals for a professional look. It tunes from 10.100 - 10.135 and has a Freqmite, Memory Keyer, LED SWR indicator, and added AF Gain control. I'm putting together a 30 meter dipole for portable use, just for fun. Now bring on that perfect October weather! You'll find me outdoors working the 30 meter QRP frequencies this Fall - 10.106 and 10.116. Iisten for my 2-3 Watt signal!
Update, Aug 26, 2014
Just worked LY5O in Lithuania, ES3AX in Estonia, and BZ4DHI in China with 2.75 Watts out to an attic dipole with this radio. QRP ROCKS!!!