Amateur Radio Station



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No. 5

Fresno California USA
My (former) CW station

K2VCO shack

Equipment shown includes an Elecraft K3/100 transceiver and P3 Panadptor. There's also a DX Engineering NCC-1 Receive Antenna Variable Phasing Controller next to the old E. F. Johnson Matchbox antenna tuner. The NCC-1 connects to two DXE active vertical receiving antennas, about 100' (30.5m) apart. They can be used together as an auxilliary receiving antenna with noise reduction capability or as a second antenna for diversity reception. Out of sight to the left are two amplifiers: a Kenwood TL-922 and my homebrew pair of 813's (see below). This photo was taken in 2011; since then, there have been numerous changes including a larger monitor for logging, etc., which freed up the one shown for a fullscreen panadaptor display.

This station is now history! I have relocated to Rehovot, Israel, where I am operating with the call 4X6GP. My station is similar, and as soon as I can take a good picture of the shack I'll upload it.

813 amplifier
Here I am with my homebrew 2 x 813 amplifier. You can read about what prompted me to build it in "813 fever," which appeared in "Solid Copy," the CWops newsletter. The amplifier operates class C, so it is usable on CW only. But I've incorporated circuitry to keep it from sharpening the keying envelope, in order to not introduce key clicks. The amplifier is capable of full QSK, of course, and will put out 800 watts from 160-15 meters and 700 on 10.

More amplifier pictures! Here are some pictures of the innards of the 813 amplifier, plus some of the components and assemblies that went into it. And here are some pictures of my latest project, a 4CX1000A amplifier with a separate power supply. This amplifier is intended to be a brick-on-the key 1500 watt output unit. My amplifier projects have been helped -- I might even say made possible -- by the friendly (usually) folks on's Amplifiers Reflector.
4CX1000A Amplifier
My new 4CX1000A amplifier. Click title or image for more photos.

Why use CW?  Morse code was historically the first method of transmitting information by radio.  Throughout the 20th century,  even after the development of voice communications, Morse was used when there was a need to get a radio message through at great distances or under difficult conditions, such as to ships, aircraft, etc.  CW transmission (Morse sent by simply turning a carrier on and off) is the most economical and efficient way to transmit information.  Although anyone can learn Morse code on a basic level, it's possible with practice to develop a high degree of skill in sending and receiving it.  Using this ability, contending with the vagaries of short-wave radio propagation, and connecting oneself with the tradition established by several generations of radio operators is a highly satisfying hobby.  The Morse requirement for an amateur license has now been eliminated; but many amateurs continue to use it -- indeed, to love it.

My QSL policy: At present, I can confirm QSOs with K2VCO and 4X6GP only via LOTW. Join it! Note that I do not respond to QSLs sent through bureaus.

CWops The goal of CWops is to bring together Amateur Radio operators who enjoy communicating by Morse Code (CW).  CWops encourages the use of CW in Amateur communications, and it supports CW activity through planned events.  CWops promotes goodwill among Amateurs throughout the world, and it fosters the education of young people and others in matters related to Amateur Radio.
CWops is international in scope, membership and management.  Its focus is the use of CW, whether for contesting, DXing or ragchewing.  Moreover, it supports every form of sending -- if it's CW, CWops supports it!

Here are the Morse keys that I use regularly.  Click on the small pictures or the links to see a larger picture.  A semi-automatic key, or bug, is a wholly mechanical device in which the dots are made by spring action.  A paddle is just two switches; the dots and dashes being made electronically by an external device called a keyer. 

SpeedX Bug

This is a very early SpeedX bug.  I am its second owner!  The first was Ralph,W6JPU (SK), who bought it new in San Francisco for $8.00 in 1936 or 37.  It is tiny for a bug; the base is only 2-1/2" (6.35 cm) wide.  It has a very light touch, so it stays put on the table while sending despite its small base.


Here's a Signal Corps J-36.  This one was made by Vibroplex in 1942.  It's a solid, well-made, smooth-working bug.  Similar to the Vibroplex Lightning Bug, the J-36 was made by several manufacturers, including model train maker Lionel.


This is a 1960 model Vibroplex Original Deluxe Bug.  In the early '60's, Vibroplex used an especially thin piece of steel for the mainspring.  That makes these bugs capable of slower speeds -- and in my opinion, smoother operation -- than the ones with thick springs.  The little circuit board on the back contains a reed relay with a large capacitor and diode across the coil.  This eliminates the slight contact bounce from the mechanical key contacts and provides clean keying for modern transceivers.


This is a WBL model V22 paddle for an electronic keyer.  This paddle was made by Stan Hails, W9WBL.  As far as I know, only about 150 of this model were made.  The paddle is very smooth, stable, and adjustable in numerous ways to fit the operator's preferences. I no longer own it, and I'm sorry!


This is a Begali Magnetic Professional paddle, serial no. 40.  In my opinion, it is one of the best operating paddles of any that I've ever used.  It has an extremely crisp feel.  It is made by I2RTF in Italy.  His products can be seen on the Begali Keys Web siteRead my review (and some others) of it on

90-degree VizBug This is a 90-degree VizBug, made by Tom Desaulniers, K4VIZ. It is smaller than the usual Vibroplex, weighs almost 3 pounds, and -- because of the geometry -- does not move on the desk. It has a smooth, tight, feel. It can key my K3 cleanly without any debouncing devices. It's my favorite bug.
ZN5A This is an N3ZN model ZN-5A. It's smooth and positive, and also features extremely low mass moving parts and a heavy base. This is serial no. 39. The key was made by Tony Baleno, N3ZN.


Here is my National NC101X receiver.  It was made in 1942.  In 1955, just before I became licensed, I bought a receiver almost exactly like this one from David Becker, W2MZX.  David and others were engineering students at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, and they had aligned and calibrated this receiver as a project.   Recently I had an opportunity to buy another one, so I did.  I replaced a few capacitors and it works perfectly.

National SW3

This is a classic National SW-3 3-tube regenerative receiver.  National made thousands of these, from 1931 through the war years.  Mine was built in the early '30s and uses a pair of '36s for the RF and detector stages, and a '37 audio amplifier.  It uses plug-in coils, and can theoretically cover 40 KHz to 35 MHz (!) with the appropriate coils.  It is remarkably sensitive, and works well on CW and even SSB! 


Here's my new (for me) National HRO-5TA1.  Built around 1945-6, this HRO came with an additional stage of audio amplification and a limiter that worked on CW as well as AM.  Unfortunately a previous owner had removed the extra audio stage and used the socket to install a VR tube!  I rewired it as it should be.  It was in good mechanical shape except for the dial which I refinished.

Cat 3

cat 2

cat 1

Not all the equipment is inanimate.  At least one of the cats shown is on duty in the radio room at all times.  If I make an error sending CW, they are probably sitting on my right arm.  On the other hand, there's no rodent problem.

Historical Pictures of K2VCO

K2VCO 1977

Here I am with a Viking Ranger, Heathkit SB-301 and homebrew 300w amplifier in New Jersey circa 1977. K2VUI lent me the Ranger so I could get back on the air after a period of inactivity.  Look at the QSL's on the wall!  Also note the home made open-wire line using hair curlers for insulators.


I also used the call 4X6GP in Israel from 1980-88.  Click the link to see a picture of my station at Kibbutz Glil Yam in the early '80's (visitor G4UZN took the picture).  The rig was a Kenwood TS930S and SB-200 amplifier.  I had a 3-element tribander at 50 feet, about a mile and a half from the Mediterranean.  A super QTH! I'm back in Israel now, at a different QTH in Rehovot.


UTC is a tiny program I wrote which displays the UTC time and date on your Windows desktop (it works on Windows 98 through 8).  It gets the time zone information from Windows, so you don't need to reset your system clock.  It has lots of neat features, and it's freeware!  Click here to download

Recent Projects: an RF sniffer. And don't forget the latest work in progress, the 4CX1000A amplifier!


I was first licensed in 1956 as KN2VCO, Hicksville NY.   I'm a member of ARRL (click here to read why), CWops,  QCWA (Fresno Chapter 213), OOTC, Central California DX Club, Northern California Contest Club, DXCC, and the A1 Operators' Club.

If you want to get in touch with me, use the information at the listing for 4X6GP.


Thanks to Al Waller, K3TKJ, of QSL.Net for this free Ham Radio Web Page!

This page was last updated in December, 2013.