Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Heathkit HW-8 Update

Heathkit HW-8 with Headphones and Code Key
The Heathkit HW-8 QRP Transceiver I bought on eBay arrived safe and sound. It was well packed with the original box inside. The radio is very clean and has had no modifications done to it. It seemed to be basically working out of the box. It included the original manual with fold out schematic and pictorial pages. It even came with one of the two original plastic alignment tools!

Original Box, Manual, and Alignment Tool

According to a hand written note in the manual some the front end toroid coils were assembled incorrectly (in the wrong locations). Looking at the manual and the radio confirmed it. It also appeared to be not as sensitive on the 3.5 and 7.0 MHz bands as it should be. I removed the toroids (which was quite a job as the PCB needed to be partially removed to get at them) and reinstalled the coils correctly. Someone had installed an extra capacitor on the bottom of the PCB across 40M trimmer cap to compensate for the inductance of the wrong coil; I removed that too.

Top Cover Removed Showing PCB
The mystery is, who figured out that the toroids were wrong - the original builder or someone later? Kudos to whoever figured it out, but why didn't they fix it? Anyway, after 30 plus years the radio is now working as it should.

Rear Panel
After the fixes and doing a full alignment it seems quite sensitive on all bands. It is quite selective when set to Narrow selectivity, good for situations when there are several nearby CW stations being received. It is simple to operate and while it isn't full break-in, it is pretty close.

Front Panel
As I speak, it is on the bench and receiving a very strong signal from W1AW's evening code practice on 40 meters. I'm looking forward to trying it out on the air and seeing if I can make some contacts. I'm also planning to do an in-depth YouTube video about the radio.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Unbuilt Heathkits on eBay

Heathkits, especially the amateur radio kits, are pretty popular items on eBay and typically sell for more than they did new back in the day when Heathkit was still in business.

I recently saw an unassembled HW-8 offered on Bay. As I write this, the auction still has four days to go and is up to US$455.
An Unbuilt Heathkit HW-8 Transceiver

Unassembled kits are the holy grail of Heathkit collectors. The opportunity to get your hands on an unbuilt kit is exciting. As you can imagine, these don't come up often as very few people would have purchased a kit years ago and never built it. There are likely some fakes out there as well, i.e. a unit that may have been all or partially assembled which is then disassembled and sold as an unbuilt kit.

I took a look at unbuilt Heathkits that have sold on eBay over the last few months to see what I could glean. Here are the items with the highest selling prices over the last few months that I found:

Complete Heathkit HW9 QRP Station – UNBUILT Unassembled Kits $1,958.56
Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-104A Ham Transceiver $1,720.74
RARE UNBUILT Unassembled Heathkit 200 Watt Amplifier KIT AA-2010/2004 4 Channel $1,701.65
NIB Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-104A Ham Transceiver unopened boxes $1,500.00
Heathkit HW-101 Radio Transceiver, unbuilt, rare $1,450.00
Heathkit SB-230 HF amplifier kit, unbuilt, unopened $1,325.00
Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit HW-101 Amateur / Ham HF SSB Transceiver Kit $1,300.00
Unbuilt Heathkit SW-7800 Receiver $1,111.00
Unbuilt BELL HOWELL Heathkit Oscilloscope TVM Sine/Square Generator/Power Supply $813.20 (no bids)
Heathkit rare unbuilt Vacuum Tube Voltmeter IM-18 $711.00
Vintage Heath Heathkit TA-16 Combo Guitar Amp Unassembled Unbuilt NOS Rare $700.00
Heathkit rare unbuilt Vacuum Tube Voltmeter IM-28 VTVM Unassembled FREE SHIPPING $695.00
Unbuilt Heathkit AR-1219 AM/FM Stereo Receiver Complete Unassembled Kit $688.90
Unbuilt Heathkit HW-9 HF Multi-Band QRP Transceiver $608.00
Heathkit SP-2 Stereo/Mono Tube Preamp Kit unbuilt Preamplifier SP2 $599.00
NEW! Unbuilt / Unassembled Heathkit HW-9 Deluxe QRP Transceiver Kit $595.00
New Unassembled / Unbuilt! Heathkit HX-1681 CW Amateur / Ham Transmitter Kit $587.83
Heathkit PS-23 Power supply, unbuilt, rare $500.00
heathkit Unbuilt IG 102 RF Signal Generator $500.00 (no bids)
Unbuilt Heathkit SA-2060A High Power Roller Inductor Antenna Tuner $500.00 (no bids)
UNBUILT . . Vintage1970s Heathkit ID-4001 Weather Station Kit . . UNASSEMBLED $431.00
UNBUILT . . . 1970s Heathkit SB-650 Digital Display Kit . . . UNASSEMBLED $417.93
New Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit GW-32D CB Citizens Band Transceiver Kit $379.95
Huge Lot of Unbuilt Heathkit SB-104 Parts $378.50
Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit GW-32A Citizens Band CB Transceiver Kit $355.00
NEW Unbuilt / Unassembled! Heathkit GR-740 40-Channel Scanner Kit $348.93
Unbuilt HEATHKIT IG-5280 RF Signal Generator Unassembled+EICO Knight-Kit Surveys $331.20
 Unbuilt Heathkit ETA-3400 Memory I/O option for ET-3400 - Unassembled in BOX $310.00
Unbuilt Heathkit ETA-3400 Microprocessor Expansion Accessory Unit For ET-3400 $300.00
 Heathkit ET-3400 Microprocessor Trainer UNBUILT $295.00
Unbuilt Heathkit - IT-5283 signal tracer- new in box - unassembled $268.00
Heathkit kit Digital Alarm Clock (Unbuilt kit from 1977 - in the original box) $264.00
Unbuilt Kit Eico 635 Tube Tester Vintage NOS partial build Heathkit $256.56
Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-634 Station Console UnBuilt Heathkit !! L@@K !! $255.00
Heathkit kit Digital Alarm Clock (Unbuilt kit from 1977 - in the original box) $255.00
Heathkit ET-4200 Laser Trainer Unopened, Unbuilt $250.00
Heathkit IM-4100 Frequency Counter Unbuilt Kit $235.50
1 Vintage HEATHKIT Unbuilt Model IM-2420 512 MHZ Frequency Counter Kit $233.01
Heathkit Gc-1108 Digital Alarm Clock- Opened, Never Taken Out Of Box, Unbuilt $230.00
NEW! Unbuilt / Unassembled Heathkit HWA-9 Band Pack Kit for HW-9 QRP Transceiver $227.50
Heathkit Gc-1107, Digital Alarm Clock, Unopened, Unbuilt, Sealed $225.00
New Unassembled / Unbuilt! Heathkit HP-23A Power Supply Kit $213.51
Automotive-Heathkit Exhaust Gas Analyzer Model CI-1080 (UNBUILT!!!) $212.50

From this data I can make a few observations. Amateur radio equipment seems to be the most popular, followed by test equipment. No surprises here -- these were Heathkit's bread and butter. These units are still useful for what they were originally intended for. By contrast, a Heathkit computer from the 1970s or 1980s, for example, is not very useful as a computer and only appeals to retrocomputing nostalgia buffs, so these typically don't have as high a value.

Probably the HW QRP series (HW-7, HW-8, HW-9) are selling for the most relative to their original selling price, although the sample size here may be too low to be significant.

The third most popular category appears to be general items like clocks and weather stations which are still useful today and have a big nostalgia value.

The real question that comes to mind when one imagines buying one of these, is whether you would actually build the kit, or keep it as an investment to sell in the future. Or (perish the thought) part it out as separate pieces to sell individually. Personally I don't plan to spend my money at the prices these are going for but it's fun to think about it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Scored a Heathkit HW-8

I have been looking for a transceiver in Heathkit HW QRP series to round out my collection of Heathkit amateur radio equipment. I settled on looking for an HW-8.
The Heathkit HW-8
The HW-7, first in the series, had a number of issues and limitations. The HW-8 was a much improved design.
The Heathkit HW-7
The HW-9, which came later, is much rarer, and had the brown color scheme of the last generation of Heathkits with I don't find attractive. There is an HW-99 which is even rarer, is in the brown scheme, and is said to suffer from some serious drift problems. It is also not a QRP transceiver.
The Heathkit HW-9
I scored an HW-8 on eBay which was in great condition. It came with the original manual and even the original box! Interestingly, while it came from Phoenix, Arizona, the box indicated it was from the Heath Company store in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. That is where I grew up and got my ham radio license - I made many visits to that Heathkit store admiring the ham radio, computer, and other kits.
Heathkit HW-8 with original box and manual
I also ordered a CD version of The HW-8 Handbook from QRPARCI, which has a collection of articles on HW-7, HW-8, and HW-9 that were published over the years.

The major features of this rig include:

  • 4 band operation (80, 40, 20, 15) on the low end (CW portion) of each band
  • about 3 watts of output power
  • VFO controlled
  • solid state
  • direct conversion
  • CW only
  • requires an external 12V power supply

I'm looking forward to the unit arriving, doing any needed restoration, and getting it on the air. Because it is solid state, it will make a good candidate for trying out some portable operation using battery power. I hope to give that a try at some point this summer.