Heathkits and Vintage Gear

To satisfy a nostalgia bug, I enjoy restoring the famous old Heathkit "green boxes" from the 60's and 70's. Heathkit amateur radio equipment is perhaps the easiest to restore because there is good information available. Also, Ebay is an excellent source of "donor parts" radios and correct reproduction spray paints. Resistors and capacitors are readily available from a number of vintage restoration parts vendors. Here is  a nice Website about the history of Heathkits.    
For those who enjoy CW operation, the 1970's Heathkit HR-1680 receiver, HX-1681transmitter, and HS-1661 speaker make a nice vintage station.

The HR-1680 receiver was released in 1975, with the matching HX-1681 transmitter sold a few years later. The receiver is all solid-state, while the transmitter is a hybrid. It uses tubes for the driver and output sections. One sees the receiver up for sale quite often. The transmitter is not as common. Here is the the pair, along with the HM-2140 power meter and the HD-1410 electronic keyer. The pair offers lightning fast QSK keying.

 While not able to match modern equipment in sensitivity and selectivity, the narrow-band audio filter in the receiver does a good job of cutting through QRM. This station has no provisions for operating in the transceiver mode. The transmitter has a spot function for getting both units on the same frequency.

Pictured on the left is a restored SB-101 transceiver. This was really a sophisticated 20 tube kit to build. It is a beautiful piece of vintage equipment.

As usual, Heathkit did a grand job writing its assembly/operation manual for clarity. There are circuit checks along the way to insure correct wiring and clear alignment instructions.

The rig uses a pair of 6146 tubes and will put out over 100 watts. Heath sold many thousands the HW and SB series radio kits. These popular radios were know as a "poor man's Collins."

This SB-101 was almost a "barn find". While the exterior was in great shape, the interior was completely covered with dirt, dust, and grime. The rig was completely disassembled, and the PC boards, minus the inductors,and the wiring harness were sent through the dishwasher for cleaning. With the re-assembly, all the electrolytic capacitors were replaced, along the PC board mounting hardware.

This rig had a stubbornintermittent stability problem that took some time to run down. Finally, it was traced to bad grounding on HF crystal switch board. Now it is solid after around 30 minutes warm up.


I purchased this Heathkit DX-20 from the Shelby, NC, hamfest for $20.00. It was a true "barn" radio; the chassis topside was tarnished and covered in dust, grime, and insect poop. I forgot to take any "before" restoration pictures so you will just have to accept my word that is was in rough shape.

Heathkit introduced the DX-20 in 1957 as a replacement for the Heathkit AT-1 transmitter. It uses a 6DQ6 output tube with 50 watts input, will put out around 28 watts on 40 meters. Complete details can be found at this Website: http://www.heathkit-museum.com/ham/hvmdx-20.shtml

Since restoring the rig, I have had a number of enjoyable QSO's on 40 meters. Several fellow hams have told me they either built and/or used a DX-20 as one of their first rigs. Most hams had an enjoyable story to tell about their using this rig. If you have a story to tell about your DX-20, drop me an Email (good Email address located on QRZ.com Website).

Basically, I disassembled the transmitter, cleaned all the parts, and reassembled it using the Heathkit construction manual. The transmitter had defective electrolytic capacitors, a bad output and oscillator tube, and a cracked and shorted output loading capacitor. I was able to locate an OEM replacement capacitor from a fellow restorer.

The picture of the left is a front view of the restoration.



Here is the rear of the cabinet. Replacing all the hardware with new adds much to how a finished restoration looks. For safety, the power cord is now a modern 3-prong cord.

After a good bit to time and elbow grease, the rig cleaned up nicely. There are several small blemishes etched into the aluminum. Fortunately, both the filter choke and the power transformer still worked.







Here is view of the bottom. The new electrolytic capacitors are quite smaller than the originals. Really not much underneath to one of these early CW rigs!!

This was a simple, well performing transmitter for the first-time kit builder. At the time, it was an excellent low-cost way for a novice to get into the amateur radio hobby.



I purchased this Heathkit DX-60B tranmitter from a local "tailgater" hamfest in 2014. The cabinet was in great shape but the "insides" left much to be desired. Many years of storage had taken its tolll. I decided to completely disassemble the transmitter, clean the corroded chassis, and re-assemble using new components where required.

Original chassis bottom before disassembly.

After completely disassembling the transmitter and cleaning all the parts, I reassembled the transmitter using the original Heathkit construction manual and "before-hand" closeup photos.

Chassis top-side was in poor shape from years of improper storage..



It required quite a bit of time to clean the chassis but it turned out almost like new. I wet sanded the chassis starting with 400 grit, then 600 grit, 1000 grit, and finishing with metal polish. The DX-60B works great with the HG-10 matching VFO; clean CW signal with no chirping.


After much cleaning, the rig finished up nicely. There are several small blemishes that couldn't be removed. All electrolytic capacitors and diodes have been replaced with modern components. Fortunately, both the meter and the power transformer were in good shape. After this photo was taken, I added the relay mod. to keep high current switching off of the" unobtainium" wafer switch.



Pictured on the right is my collection of Astatic D-104 vintage microphones that I use with the Heathkits and Drake vintage gear.

From left to right they are the Golden Eagle, the Silver Eagle, and the Night Eagle. The Golden Eagle has a thin plating of 18K gold and only 10 thousand were manufactured, the Silver Eagle is actually chrome plated, and the Night Eagle is finished in satin black with gold accents. . Originally, I had modified all 3 of these vintage microphones to work with modern-day transceivers. (There is a very simple one transistor circuit to do so published on the Internet.).

One distinguishing feature of all 3 Eagle microphones is they have a beautiful eagle engraved on the backside.

Luckily, I carefully stored away all original parts and was able to restore them to original so they would again work with vintage equipment.