Arduino Sketch (from Google Drive) Arduino Sketch V2 (from Google Drive) Arduino Sketch V3 (from Google Drive) V2 is a little easier to read, and I changed the functions. V3 is just a different animal to see if I could write the program to use less space. It is not easy to modify AT ALL! Have fun with them.
This won’t be one of those long winded posts. I hope that the picture is worth more than a thousand words. I’ve wanted to make an Arduino controlled fox transmitter for Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) that didn’t take an engineering degree to make. Yeah, the programming might have been a bit, but I’ve commented it enough that it shouldn’t be too difficult to see what is happening.
If you don’t already have it, download the Arduino IDE from arduino.cc and get a copy of my code from the top of this post. At minimum change the call sign in the Arduino sketch to your call then download it to the Arduino. Make the circuit as shown in the diagram. That’s really all.
Playing radio with the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) is fun, and I wanted to try out a new key so I went to Lowe’s and spent about $20 on some stuff to make a Cootie or Side Swiper.
4 – small brackets with screws 3 – #10-32 x 3/4″ screws 8 – #10-32 nuts 1 – hacksaw blade 2 – furniture slider felts – wood or some kind of base 1 – zip tie – a few feet of wire (2 or 3 conductor) 1 – mono or stereo plug that fits your rig
The first step was to sand the paint off of the saw blade. I used a wire wheel to make this easy. Then I cut a 4.5″ piece of the blade for the spring arm. I drilled the original hole in the end of the saw blade so the screws could pass through. Then I sandwiched the blade between two brackets and secured it with a screw and nut. I used a cutoff wheel to shorten the screw so I could reach the other hole in the bracket when I mount it to the base.
The next step was finding the center of the poplar board that I cut for the base to mount the parts onto. I found the center and mounted the spring arm and the pivot base first. Once it was centered I drilled two pilot holes in the poplar and then secured the spring arm and pivot base assembly to the base.
Once the pivot base was in place I started finding the locations for the left and right contacts. I could have moved them a little closer to the spring arm to allow for more adjustment, but if I need less spacing I could change the 3/4″ screw for a 1″ screw. After attaching the left and right contacts to the base, I threaded one nut onto each screw and then placed the screws (contacts) into the brackets and secured them with another nut. At this point the Cootie was almost ready. Now we need to wire it up.
To wire mine up I chose to use three wires. If I wanted to use it like a single lever paddle I could. You could use two wires and a jumper from the left and right contacts if you did not plan on using it as anything but a sideswiper. For the SKCC, all code must be sent manually so to make this Cootie compliant with the rules I chose to use gator clips to short the two contacts together (as shown in the image above). I wired mine with the dots on the right side and the dashes on the left and the ground/common on the pivot base. I used a USB cable for my wires and connected it to my Icom IC-7300 according to the owner’s manual (page 18-4). A true cootie would only need a mono plug, but I chose to make it where I could use it for Parks on the Air as either an electronic bug (using the IC-7300 settings) or as a single paddle (again with IC-7300 settings).
Edit 11-19-2021: After a long CW QSO with Rob, W2ITT, I decided that I should turn the screws around for the contacts and grind them to a point. I also mounted the wires under the bracket to eliminate two nuts. The contacts were developing some chatter or bounce, and I didn’t like it. I kept having to sand the heads of the screws, and I think this ultimately will solve the chatter issue.
See that plug on the front of my iPortable Pro 2? That is not a factory addition, but I think it should be standard. As a CW enthusiast, it became an annoyance to have to go to the back of the case to switch keys. I’ve been working on this idea in my head for quite some time, and I finally had a few minutes to make it happen.
The process is really simple. Using a 3 conductor wire is a plus, but I don’t have that so I used two sets of twisted pair and further twisted the two pair together using a drill. Then you just connect the Tip, Ring, and Sleeve together of the plug and jack. Drill a hole in the panel, and then attach the jack to the panel, and plug in the plug into your rig.
The parts I used: – about 2.5 feet of 3 conductor wire – one 1/4″ stereo jack – one 1/4″ stereo plug
3D print and a $3 buck converter! While I was printing 18650 battery cases for my Baofeng and my Yaesu HTs, I was wondering what would happen if I built a regulated linear power for my Baofeng so I could run it from 12 volts. (You can buy a battery eliminator for about $14, but you’ll still have to cut the cigarette lighter adapter off to use with some other connector.) Back to the DIY…I did some rough math in my head and decided that a linear supply would be a waste of energy in heat that I didn’t want. PLA melts at a low temperature AND I was wanting to use the radio in a battery powered ARDF fox box so power consumption conservation is paramount! I decided I’d look at building a switching DC-DC buck converter which is about 100% more efficient compared to a linear supply (about 90% efficient overall).
After looking at the easy schematic, I quickly realized I could probably get one cheaper than the sum of the parts and shipping. Off to eBay I went. I was not disappointed. You can either buy them in bulk from China for about $5 or you can buy one from a guy in Georgia for $2.75. I’ve included the edited screen shot from eBay. Shipping is fast, and I am very pleased. I’ve bought two from the seller because I reversed the leads on the first one and burned it up. Hint: WATCH YOUR POLARITY! These are not forgiving.
All I had to do then was connect the wires! I chose to use a barrel connector on the back because of the power splitter I’m using in the fox box. I’m usually a fan of Anderson Powerpole connectors, but this time around I chose something different. The input and output polarities are clearly labeled on the circuit board. You need almost no electronics knowledge to make this work! Just watch your polarities.
Finally, you hook it up to a 12v supply and turn the little potentiometer until the voltage is where you want it. I chose 7.4 volts which is the nominal Li-ion battery voltage.
Lately I have been reading about Amateur Radio fox hunting, and I wanted to make my very own fox. I saw some cool transmitters that are very small, and I have seen transmitters in ammo cans, and I really like the look of the ones in the ammo cans. I also set out to spend as little money as possible, so buying a small transmitter (around $100), was out of the question. I needed to use as much as I had at home.
The first thing to do was to acquire an ammo can from the Army Navy Surplus Store. This set me back $10 cash. I had some at home, but I didn’t want to empty them. Now, it’s time to get to the fun part.
Some people used Arduino microcontrollers to do the PTT and audio. I have an Arduino, but I really didn’t want to be limited to the audio created by software; I wanted to be able to use actual audio files right out of the box. This was what drove me to use a Raspberry Pi. Someone else used a Model B Pi as a transmitter. I didn’t want to go that route, but it looks really cool, and it was really small! I have more of the first rev B models than I do Arduinos anyways, and I’m always wondering what I could do with them since they pale in comparison to their newer model 3! The trade off is power consumption. The model B Raspi uses about 400mA. Using a newer model would improve this, but I’m using what I have in abundance.
The biggest part of this project is the Python program that I wrote. I am using an audio file from a text-to-morse audio converting website to create .wav files. Using the Raspi gives me the flexibility to play any type of audio file, and I can also access the GPIO port to control the radio or read switches. (For later revisions of the project…I’m thinking switches for different messages or a battery monitor to alert users the system is running low!)
Without going into step-by-step instructions on how I built it, the pictures should show a good representation of how this ammo can fox came to fruition. As of this writing I do not have the power supply in the box yet. Santa Claus is supposed to bring me that. I’m opting for a 12v/5v “security camera” power supply. The 5v will power the Pi, and the rest will run off the 12v side.
The Dummy Load
I built a 2.5 watt dummy load from ten 1/4 watt 510 ohm resistors soldered in parallel. The case to hold the dummy load was 3D printed and has vents to allow heat to escape. While it’s just a theory, I am hoping that having the radio transmit into the dummy load might make it harder to find. I won’t be able to test this out in the field until I have the portable power supply. Carrying around the deep cycle marine battery isn’t any fun, and certainly expands the level of suspicion of a box with an antenna on it.
I had to look at a diagram for how the PTT and mic for the FT-60 worked. The system I devised might work for other radios if the jack is adapted for the other radios. I have a Baofeng that I would like to use, but the 3.5mm jack is wired differently AND I do not have a way to power it externally, yet. A battery eliminator is about $3 on eBay. A work around would be to use your radio’s VOX setting. In this case, you could EASILY omit this circuit altogether and just run an audio cable to a Baofeng (cheap).
I wired the circuit for my FT-60 on a “surface mount style” board. I used a Dremel tool to etch a few pads. I’m really liking how fast I can throw together a working prototype using this method. I used a 2-pin header to connect the interface to the Raspberry Pi GPIO using jumper wires. (Hint: The schematic/wiring diagram is near the beginning of this long article.)
The 3D Printed Objects
The next thing I wanted to do was 3D print the other parts that I needed to mount the radio controlling circuit, the Raspberry Pi, and the radio into the ammo can. I haven’t had my 3D printer long, but I figured out how to use Tinkercad to create custom parts and learned how to download pre-designed stuff from Thingiverse. Piece of cake!
I printed four parts for the fox box: the dummy load housing, the Raspberry Pi case, the radio clip mount, and the interface box. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a 3D printer. Having custom parts has never been so easy. All you have to do is design it or find it and print it. Boom!
The Power Supply
The supply I chose for this project isn’t a gel cell like most use. I had a choice to make; I could use the 12v gel cell and make a 5v linear regulator or I could just buy a supply that had both power supplies already built. This one is by TalentCell on Amazon and sells for about $34. It is marketed towards LED strip lighting and CCTV cameras. It should fit perfectly in the fox box based on the dimensions. At 12V 6Ah, it should be able to power the fox long enough for simple hunts. Later on it might be cool to add a power connector to the outside of the fox so it can be charged without opening the ammo can. I probably have the parts for this is the garage. I’m leaving room for improvement.
The Working Prototype
I want to share the working prototype as a conclusion. This was my test program to see how things would work before actually putting the parts in an ammo can. I was using a big screen TV as my monitor so I could type the program. Proof of concept! Are you planning on making a fox box? Share your stuff in the comments below.
I’ve been watching videos of guys on ham radio operating (especially some of the guys on the 3.916 nets), and I’ve been wondering how to hook a “regular” microphone through a mixer to my radio. I watched a video by Bob Heil that did a good job of explaining how to do it (LINK). Then I watched a video of why you would want to do it (LINK). I had all of the parts to build a solution in my junk bin!
The first thing I learned was something I basically already knew; I needed to isolate the mixer from the radio using an isolation transformer. I prefer this method so that there are not any ground loops. Back when Radio Shack was alive I purchased two of them to use as a digital interface for my 10m rig. I since upgraded to a SignLink to do that work so the DIY interface went into my parts bin.
I started my research by looking at some available interface schematics on the web. There were several designs that used chokes, but I decided that I didn’t want to do that. I drew up a schematic in my engineering notebook with a circuit board and box idea. The circuit is quite simple. The 600:600 transformer connects one side to the input jack that comes from the mixer. The other side of the transformer connects to a potentiometer and two resistors. Then the output is fed through another audio jack to the radio. Another momentary switch is used as the PTT. Look at the picture of this switch! It’s from another man’s junk bin. Free and awesome looking.
I designed a box to house it in using Tinkercad.com and used my 3D printer to create the box and switch case. Wiring it up was easy. I tested it out on a net the other night before it was put in the box, and audio reports came back good. It works. I don’t have another receiver to listen to it, so I cannot give any info as to how my actual sound “sounds”, but I know that the interface works!
Getting the audio and the PTT to the radio was a different story. Like the SignaLink and other interfaces, there is usually a modular plug that breaks out into a radio’s specific plug so I tried to make my interface similar. I broke the rules just a little
with the PTT switch since I wired it straight to the radio. There’s no picture of the plug to the radio. If you’ve seen one you’ve almost seen them all. What sets my kit apart is this switch. Good night! I love how it looks. I’m pretty sure that is an aircraft switch. I threw most of the crap that I inherited from a guy, but these switches looked too cool to toss. I have more, and I’ll probably do this again for something else!
I’ll leave you with an image of the inside of the box, and an image of the schematic. This was a fun build, and I look forward to using it on the air. The Santa net on 3.916MHz starts tomorrow, so I know the kids and I will be using it. Some upgrades in the future will be a mixer that actually has the right EQ as mentioned in the videos. My main goal was the get where I could actually use my Shure SM-58 and the mixer. Now I can look to upgrade. Perhaps I’ll own a Heil in the future!!!
Earlier this year (2016) I was on the radio on SSB, and I received an audio report during a longer conversation that described my audio as nasally and difficult to listen to. I did some research on the Astatic D-104, and there was a modification that was supposed to change the characteristics of the mic. I attempted this mod by following a step-by-step PDF which involved using a JFET, but for some strange reason it didn’t work well with my radio. It didn’t have enough audio output to push the finals of my radio! Time to put it back to how it was… The problem is that I don’t remember, and I didn’t document it before tearing it apart the first time. Continue reading Astatic D-104 Lollipop Mic Restoration→