Preserving Amateur Radio Equipment
by Ron Chester ★ Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Investing in amateur radio equipment is an extremely safe investment because there is such a large market of used radio gear available for buying, selling & trading. Before the virus pandemic hit, there were regular flea markets occurring all over the US with a huge variety of equipment for sale. Even during the pandemic, used equipment could be bought and sold on websites every day. The one I like to use is, but there are many others as well.   

There is a very long tradition of helping widows to sell the gear of their recently deceased husbands (silent keys or SKs) when they pass on. I think most hams value their own equipment a lot, perhaps because they have such fun using their equipment over many years. They become like good friends to us. None of us can bear the thought of our gear going into the trash when we are gone. And there is a long tradition of ham gear being used for emergency services after storms or other natural disasters in our communities. In fact this service is one of the main reasons we have been assigned the radio spectrum that we all share as hams.  

Of course there are many hams who become collectors of ham equipment, with some becoming quite expert about specific equipment and ham radio brands. This is a very popular niche activity in ham radio.  The annual Novice Rig Roundup is an event on the HF bands that runs for a full week and two weekends and features hams contacting each other with vintage rigs, often their Novice rigs, sometimes more than 50 years old. See my link to the 2021 announcement of that event for examples of the rigs commonly appearing in this event. These are simple CW rigs, usually separate transmitters and receivers, but lots of fun to operate. They are generally quite available on used equipment sites, like mentioned above.   

My favorite websites are those that feature the work of the masters of restoring this older equipment. My favorite example of this is the website of Dale Parfitt, W4OP, from North Carolina who does amazing work to restore unusual, sometimes unique, equipment to a very high standard of excellence. This site is a museum of a huge variety of radios, all restored to beauty, as well as brought to life again as fully working equipment.  Some are very expensive rarities, but some others were originally quite affordable equipment, such as my first shortwave receiver, the Knight Ocean Hopper.  Click on the image of each one to drill down to many other pictures of the restoration process for that equipment. I find his work very inspiring. I own my own examples of several of these radios from own lifetime in ham radio. I find his work in preserving fine examples of the history of ham technology to be very important for the preservation of our culture in ham radio over a very long time.   

A huge variety of QRP projects can be found on the website of Monty, N5ESE. That's a vanity call he selected entirely based upon the sound of the ESE suffix on CW, "shave and a haircut."  When I was a novice in 1960, some people would sometimes use that ESE as a sort of quick CQ call. There are some other hams in other call districts who have now adopted the ESE suffix with their own vanity callsigns.  Anyway, poke around his website and I think you'll find a nice variety of homebrew projects. They don't approach the level of expertise of W4OP, but they all look to be a lot of fun. 

I've decided to add a paragraph to this posting, even though I already published it last night. I had been looking for another blog I had been wanting to feature and I finally found it this morning. It is the blog of another master builder, Dave Richards, AA7EE. I am pointing to the article he wrote about his build of a 20m SST by Manhattan construction. This was a very popular design of Wayne Burdick, N6KR [manual] before he went on to start the super successful Elecraft amateur radio company. It was originally produced as a kit by the Norcal QRP Club and then as a kit for many years by Wilderness Radio. It was only after the kit went out of production that Dave decided he wanted to build one for 20m. As a result he had to build his from scratch using Manhattan construction, which is quite magnificant, an inspiring example of homebrew excellence, a functional work of art!   

Of course the Internet is vast and I could go on and on, but this will at least get you started. Good luck and have some fun!