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 Post subject: What equipment do you guys use?
PostPosted: Sep Sat 25, 2010 2:33 pm 
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Joined: Nov Sun 16, 2008 2:40 am
Posts: 102
Location: Northern MI
I am new to the sport here and I was just curious what models of equipment you use.

Isolation Transformers
Variable Transformers
Multi-meters, etc...

Also, where do you think the best place to buy this stuff is. I am going to be in the market for some of this stuff soon, just looking to see what I can expect to pay for some of these items.

Just curious. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Sep Sat 25, 2010 6:29 pm 
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Hi there --

Good question overall ! I'm under the impression that you'll get lots of answers here to it. . .

Overall, there is a HUGE variety of stuff that is used. Chances are good that you won't get one standard brand used by everybody, but you might come close.

For me, I use a PowerStat variac, and have never had any problems at all with it.

I use several multimeters and VOM's, most of the VOM's are military, and work like champs.

I use Tektronix O-scopes, and with the exception of an OS-8/C military "pocket scope", I continue to use Tek gear. Why ? Hands down, it's the best made ! The stuff I use is older Tek gear, but works nonetheless for what I need. I use a Tek 515A scope from 40+ years ago, and it is a definite keeper ! Big and heavy yes, reliable, DEFINITELY YES !

For other stuff, it depends on what I'm doing. I use simple gear, ranging from my EICO 147 signal tracer, to more expensive stuff, like my URM-25/F signal gen. There is a place for most any kind of electronics equipment, it mainly is dependent on the restorer's tastes.

As to where to find equipment ? One of the biggest places these days is eBay, and other online sites. Chances are you're gonna run into some very high prices, but if you shop around, you might be able to get a very good deal overall.

Probably the best places to find gear is by going to hamfests, and or swapmeets. Usually you can find nice gear, that might need a little work, for not too much. I've been fortunate to find some test gear for very little. Chances are that the stuff you'll find, either online or elsewhere, will be in need of repair.

But, that's OK ! Because of the equipment's defects, that might lend to a very low price ! Besides, restoring electronic test gear is a superb way to increase your knowledge of circuits and how they work !!!

Best of luck !

Tom

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sat 25, 2010 7:05 pm 
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I know a lot people probably think it's crazy, but I use all Heathkit equipment. Voms, vtvms, rf gens, audio vtvms, oscilloscope, audio distortion meter, it's all Heathkit pretty much. BTW, that isn't half of what's used on my bench. Keep in mind, I collect test equipment too.

That's something you need to think about also. Do you want to just have a plug and play piece or are you willing to or wanting to have to fix equipment before you use it? the kit based stuff tend to need more work to get going than factory built gear. Some of it totally has to be redone. Just because it was assembled, doesn't mean it ever worked. Most did, but something to look out for though.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sat 25, 2010 8:58 pm 
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Location: Lehighton, PA.
Variac - Frankenvariac assembled from numerous parts
Isolation Transformer - Unknown Brand
VTVM - Heathkit V-7A
Multimeters- Simpson 260 Series 6, VIZ WV-547B, Ideal 61-312 DMM
Signal Generator - EICO 315
Signal Tracer - EICO 147A
Capacitor/Electrolytic Tester - Sprague TelOhmike Model 16
O'scope - Sencore PS-148
Tube Tester - Jackson 648

Larry

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 12:33 am 
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Interesting question and I'm sure you'll get a multitude of equally interesting (and confusing!) answers.

We need to know what you have now, and what you would like to do.

As you have already seen, most people have an isolation transformer and a variac. You will need an isolation transformer for safety on your US AC/DC sets (fortunately very rare here). A variac will allow you to bring up the voltage slowly so as not to let the smoke out too quickly.

A good multimeter - not necessarily digital - but eventually you'd like to have both.

A cheap and cheerful signal generator covering 100kHz to 30MHz and perhaps the FM 88 to 108MHz band.

Either a modern digitally tuned radio (Kaito 1103/Kenwood R2000) or a frequency counter - to set your signal generator on the correct frequency. Personally I have both, but more often than not I use the receiver as I can also check the superhet oscillator frequency and trace a signal from the antenna to the detector.

A very useful piece is an audio voltmeter - mine has an output too, which I feed into an audio amp or an oscilloscope - great for distortion tracking.

I get by on that lot at home. Fortunately I can go back to my old workplace to use some of their top line stuff if necessary.

An old hand told me a long time ago but it's still very relevant:

"It's better to know what your test gear cannot do, rather than not know what it can do..."

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 1:21 am 
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Joined: Nov Sun 16, 2008 2:40 am
Posts: 102
Location: Northern MI
well, to keep it simple. I have nothing but a run of the mill digital multi-meter.

I am new to the hobby and I would basically like to be able to take a non-functional radio and restore it electronically to functional condition. Safety is a pretty large concern because I don't particularly care for being electrocuted.

Cost is also somewhat of a concern. I don't feel that I can spend $500 dollars here and there on multiple pieces of test equipment. Maybe in the future, but I am all about function rather than fashion. Used is fine with me, I don't mind doing some repair, but again, I am new to the hobby therefore it might take some help from you guys to get things up and running.

I was just curious what you guys used and what the most valuable piece of test equipment is on your bench. I can't buy it all right now but I have to start somewhere. If I am going to make an investment I would like to make an educated investment and get something useful rather than something I don't particularly need more than something else. If that makes any sense....


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 1:22 am 
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my collection of gear is rather small compared to many of the ARF members. if i wont use it, i dont want it.

i have several (like 5 i think) Powerstat autotransformers (Variacs) lying around. 3 are type 10C and 2 are older 10B.

i have a Simpson 383a capacimeter/megohmeter/pulse tester and a 260-8P that i repaired. my digital meter is a sears something-or-other. 5M on all ranges, good enough for what I use it for. i also have a nice little hickok ac ammeter.

a hickok rd-10 resistor decade that i use to repair and cal ohmeters and play with transistor bias in some projects.

a B&K 970 transistor radio analyst. very handy but it needs a new meter movement.

and an EICO 666 tube tester with the safety mods and to allow current reading directly for plate, screen, and grid selected by a rotary swith.

i really need an isolation transformer.

as for where i got it, it was all given to me by my college instructor (except the 970). it had been stored in a little side-room of the class for decades. it was all in perfect working order when i got it (a huge bonus!). he gave me the 260 because it was totally broken, since it was school property when it worked.

my dad gave me the 970.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 1:32 am 
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Hi,

It doesn't take much test gear to get started in the hobby, a VOM and or DVM, a signal tracer, a simple signal generator, and a good soldering iron will get you going. If you are going to work on AC/DC radios, an isolation transformer is a must for your own safety.

Beyond that, the sky is the limit, and ultimately depends on what type of electronics you want to work on. Many here have gone through a progression of test equipment, starting with simple sevice grade pieces, and eventually winding up with primarily LAB grade equipment. Some found service grade equipment to be all they needed, while others became test equipment junkies (collectors) along the way.

To get an idea of what people use you might take a look at this thread from earlier this year.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 4:36 pm 
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Joined: Feb Tue 02, 2010 3:17 pm
Posts: 352
Location: Mississauga (Toronto) Canada
My stuff that spans 3 months to 40+ yrs ownership.

Variac - 4 amp Powerstat
Isolation Transformer - Hammond 300w
VTVM - Heathkit IM-18, HP 410B
Multimeters- B&K 277, Fluke 77
Signal Generator - Heathkit IG-42
Signal Tracer - NRI 34
Capacitor/Electrolytic Tester - Sprague TO-6
O'scope - Tek 466
Tube Tester - Precision 10-12
Freq Counter - Heathkit IM 2410

The best part - the most expensive piece was the Tek scope which cost me $200 including the Tek scope cart. Back in 1975 the company I worked for paid over 9,000 CDN for a similar model.

Bottom line, if you look around it isn't too hard to find decent equipment at very good prices. You'll likely need to clean it up, replace some caps/ resistors or tubes but that's half the fun anyway.

Frank

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 6:54 pm 
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Location: New Jersey
pardon the vagarity, I'm not in my shop at the moment

Variac - Superior Powerstat, believe its a 6 amp
Scope - BK 1540
freq counter - Matco something, some 1970s cb piece
sig gen - old military unit which has a missing nameplate
meters: Simpson 260 S5, cheap Wavetek DMM, RCA WV77 VTVM
Tube tester: Sencore Mighty-Mite II


The most expensive of that was the sig gen which cost me about 60 bucks, 30 of which was shipping. Its a heavy beast. Dead stable and with a pretty accurate analog dial. The scope I got in trade, variac was like 15 bucks at Kutztown, etc.

The single most used item on that bench though are the meters. Lately its been the Simpson but before I owned it, I got extensive usage from the DMM. The signal generator comes a close second, the rest I can get by without but its very handy to have.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Sun 26, 2010 8:26 pm 
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Location: Beaver Falls, PA. USA
Here's what is on my bench:

Variable transformer: Ohmite
Tube tester: Hickok 600A and 6000A
Signal generator: Military URM-25F
Capacitor checker: Sprague Tel-Ohmike TO-6
VTVM: Eico 232
Digital meter: Sencore DVM38
Frequency counter: Heathkit IB-1103
Signal tracer: Heathkit IT-12
Oscilloscope: Lavoie LA-265 (military copy of Tektronix 545A)
Audio generator: HP 206A, and a Heathkit portable unit.
Audio analyzers: HP 330, and Heathkit AA-1
Transistor tester: Sencore TF-166
VOM: Simpson 260 and Triplett 630


Plus, other test gear for TV repair, audio and RF, as well as power supplies, a capacitor reformer and leakage tester, and a battery eliminator for checking old car radios.


Much of this equipment has come from hamfests and estate sales; the TO-6 and URM-25F replaced old Heathkit equipment that I used for years. My extra capacitor checker, DMM, RF generator, and frequency counter are packed into a box to set up at club meets, when they do "radio clinics".

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Mon 27, 2010 12:31 am 
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If you want to start working on radios and to minimize initial investment, the most useful pieces of test equipment to have in addition to a run-of the-mill digital multi-meter would be:

1) a dim bulb tester. This prevents radios that have shorts and or faulty components from drawing enough power for the components (e.g., capacitors to explode) when the radio is powered on. These are normally made of AC sockets, a light bulb and zip cord. Plans are available on this site to make one.

2) an isolation transformer. This prevents someone in contact with an external ground (e.g., a sink) from being electrocuted when he touches the chasis of a radio with a non-polarized AC input. It still will be possible to receive a shock if an AC ground and AC hot is simultaneously touched in the radio.

3) a signal tracer which can be used to locate a faulty stage in the radio.

A signal generator would be nice to have, but is not absolutely essential. However there are some signal generators that also have a built-in signal tracer that can usually obtained at low cost on ebay. Some examples include the Accurate Model 153 and the Lafayette Model KT-208.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Mon 27, 2010 1:38 am 
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http://antiqueradios.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=147008

Walt has a Variac cheap, if you're interested.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sep Mon 27, 2010 3:56 am 
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Location: Long Island
With only two pieces of equipment, you can fix just about anything that can go wrong with basic AM broadcast band radios. The two pieces are a 20,000 Ohms/Volt VOM, and an AM/CW signal generator.

Of course, as you move up the food chain and work on more advanced radios, your test equipment has to get more sophisticated as well. You can't do credible work on complex communications receivers, TV sets, or high fidelity FM tuners using equipment suitable for AM clock radios!

With regards to isolation transformers and variable autotransformers (variacs), there's a deep, dirty secret about them. They are not classic radio repair tools. They were few and far between in the repair business, until the mid-1970s. And when they were introduced, it was for repair of solid state products, not for old tube gear! The variacs were used with TVs that had high voltage shut-down problems, and with DC coupled audio power amps. In both cases, troubleshooting was often impossible if the equipment was operated at full line voltage, because it either shut down or blew up instantly! Isolation transformers were used with solid state color TVs that had "commutating" type power supplies. The chassis commons on those were at 70 volts with respect to ground, and it didn't make any difference which way you plugged them in. The only way to troubleshoot them without damaging them further was to plug them into an isolation transformer.

This is not to say that variacs and isolation transformers are not useful for fixing antique radios; they certainly are. How essential they are is another story.

Many vintage tubes and transformers are getting expensive, if you can find them at all. Bringing equipment containing such parts up slowly on a variac, at least until you feel you can trust it, can avoid tragic consequences if something shorts out unexpectedly. But not every radio repair project needs this level of precaution, so you could probably hold off on a variac for a while.

With respect to isolation transformers, it is important to understand that they only protect you from one kind of problem, namely accidental contact between parts carrying house AC power, and ground. There are still many other ways to get shocked while working on radios, even with an isolation transformer. A GFCI outlet at your repair bench for the radio being worked on would actually be a better investment, from a safety perspective, but there are other reasons why an isolation transformer may still be desirable. The above-mentioned need to use grounded test equipment with "hot chassis" radios and TVs is a good example.

In any case, safety when working on electronics comes from understanding and thinking about what you are doing. You have to know what a circuit is, and keep yourself from becoming part of one. Many radio repair textbooks go into the subject at length, or you can consult the ARRL "Radio Amateur's Handbook."

What do I use personally? The VOM on my bench now is a like-new Triplett 630 that I bought at a local radio swap meet for $10.00. The signal generator I use most of the time is a HP 606B which I purchased at a hamfest for $15.00. It was set up for rack mounting when I got it; a friend gave me a junker piece of HP gear I was able to salvage an original cabinet from. The isolation transformer and variac are combined in a single unit, an ex-US Navy "Volt Box" made by Superior Electric. I paid $30.00 for it at a different radio swap meet because it matches the "Frankenstein's Lab" decor of my shop.

My best leads for finding stuff are radio swap meets and hamfests, clubs, and word-of-mouth networking with other hobbyists and collectors. Industrial electronics surplus "junk shops" are good too if you are lucky enough to have one close by. eBay is okay for things that are so esoteric that you can't find them anywhere else, or too valuable commercially to turn up in flea markets yet. But then you have to compete with the rest of the world, and usually pay the shipping, so it's a lot harder to get any bargains.

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 Post subject: Re: What equipment do you guys use?
PostPosted: Oct Fri 01, 2010 6:42 pm 
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sta500rdr wrote:
I am new to the sport here and I was just curious what models of equipment you use.

Isolation Transformers
Variable Transformers
Multi-meters, etc...

Just curious. Thanks!

Yes yes and yes. It really depends. Sounds like you already did some reading. There are some great recommendations. You can get started with a DMM, wire cutters, soldering iron. Yes an Isolation transformer and variac are important safety items.
    -Signal Gen (trouble shooting, alignment)

    -Tube tester (trouble shooting, alternative is buy tubes and swap them. However buying used tubes it's nice to test them. Usually they are good but a few times you get bad ones that don't make the shipping.)

    -Capacitor meter (Just value not leakage. Often this function is now included with a good DMM, even cheaper DMM's have a capacitance meter. Stand alone capacitor meters are not expensive. Leak tester is nice but not needed and more expensive. Classic testers are not cheap and modern gear every expensive. In general you just replace all E-caps and paper/wax caps. There is no need to test. However it's another tool. If you do solid state work, an ESR meter is a must have.)

    -VTVM (high input impedance, analog display for levels, resistant to
    high voltage screw ups. A modern high quality DMM would be my
    first choice however, but a VTVM is a good to have as well
    choice.)

    -Signal Tracer (or Oscilloscope)

    -Computer and Web - last not least tons of info and ARF

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Last edited by gmcjetpilot on Oct Fri 01, 2010 10:58 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Oct Fri 01, 2010 7:52 pm 
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Posts: 6006
Location: Evanston, IL
RCA Senior VoltOhmyst WV-98C VTVM
Tektronix 2445, 4-chan., 150mHz scope
Fluke 8060A digital multimeter (has true RMS and frequency)
Simpson 260, Series 7 VOM (20,000 ohms per volt)
Eico 325 RF signal gen.
Homemade 5 amp Isolation+variac combo

Chuck

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Oct Fri 01, 2010 8:45 pm 
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Posts: 278
Location: Oregon
The Tektronix 500 modular series are very useful on my bench. You can get the TM506 pwr chassis and add the various modules such as the freq counter, DMM, signal gen as your need or can afford them. Makes a neat, compact addition to the work bench. Lots of them on ebay. Bill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Oct Fri 01, 2010 9:37 pm 
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Location: Seymour, Tennessee
Since everyone is posting models of what they use, I felt like I should post again and list mine.

RCA Master VoltOhmyst WV-87A
Leader oscilloscopes (2) model LBO-513A
General Electronics Dist. Co. RF generator model 200
Heathkit capacitor checker model IT-11
Heathkit VOM model MM1
Heathkit VTVM model IM-18
Heathkit distortion meter model IM-58
Heathkit audio VTVM model AV-3
Heathkit RF generator model SG-8
Sencore color bar generator model CG18
Simpson tube tester model 1000

There are other misc. tools I use, but those are the main ones right now. But getting started, all I had was a Fluke digital multimeter (still have somewhere) and a Weller "Universal" soldering gun. Those 2 things did well enough to start with.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Oct Sat 02, 2010 12:06 am 
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Location: Latham NY
I totally agree with Chris on this statement "With only two pieces of equipment, you can fix just about anything that can go wrong with basic AM broadcast band radios. The two pieces are a 20,000 Ohms/Volt VOM, and an AM/CW signal generator. " A $20 digital meter would also work just fine. My next most often used is a variable DC power supply like the Heathkit IP-32. The best tool is books, knowing how the circuits work is the best tool. Elements of Radio is one of the best and there are many others. All the equipment in the world can't sub for a basic understanding of how a typical 5 tube set works. You take it stage by stage and know what each does. When you can look a schematic and know what each part's job is then you fix any problem.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Oct Sat 02, 2010 2:24 am 
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Location: Upstate NY, USA
I second Lou's VOM and a signal generator. I would add an isolation transformer and a variac (or build a dim bulb tester) to the bench.

Just don't start collecting the stuff. You'll run out of room for radios.

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