Category Archives: Projects

Power Management Unit – Build Part 3

Part 3 of our Power Management Unit Build covers mounting the switching power supply, circuit boards, Arduino and cutting some more holes in the back panel.

First I mask off the back panel and measure the holes for the USB port and Ethernet port.  Then I use a Dremel tool to cut the holes out.  It takes a while to cut the holes, so I need to investigate alternate ways to do this.

After that is done, I lay out the components in the chassis and drill the holes for mounting.  I am careful to use screws that don’t protrude too far below the bottom of the chassis so that they don’t catch on any other equipment when I slide the unit into the rack for mounting.

I also use nylon washers on the project boards when mounting them using metal stand offs.  I am hoping to avoid shorting issues by doing this.  I mount the switching power supply using some “L” brackets that I have made with a 3D printer.

In part 4 we will start to wire the components together.

Power Management Unit – Build Part 2

In part two of our Power Management Unit Build we are going to start constructing the front and back panels of the case.

To start I apply painters tape to the front and back panel in a semi successful attempt to prevent marring of the panels.

Then I use product spec sheets and a caliper to layout the component placement on the panels.

Finally I use a drill press, air hack saw and a Dremel tool to cut out and finish the panels.

In working on the panels I learned a couple of things.

1.  I need to be more precise when cutting out holes with the air hack saw.  I spent a lot of time with the Dremel tool making the cutouts larger.

2.  I will probably need to put two layers of painters tape on the panels.  The air hack saw bounced around a lot and marred the panels.

3.  When drilling the holes, I need to stop and remove the shavings as I go along.  In some areas, the shavings scratched the panels as they turned on the drill bit.

I would really appreciate it if anyone has any suggestions on how to do a more professional job on this process.  It looks ok, but I would like to have a cleaner more finished look as I move forward.

In part 3 we will mount some of the boards and install the components in the front and back panels.  I also still need to cut holes in the back panel for the Arduino USB connection and the Ethernet port.

Great Drawing Program – Fritzing

In working on some of our projects, it became apparent that I needed to have some form of drawing program to document the interconnections of my components.  I searched the internet and I mostly found schematic programs like KiCAD and PCB layout programs like PCB Express.

While those programs are great, the learning curve on them was more than I wanted to tackle at this point.  I just need something that I could drop some objects on and then draw the interconnect wires for each board.  Then I could take the boards off my breadboard and put them in the chassis and reconnect them.


I also really didn’t want to have to create the Arduino boards from scratch.  Well after a short internet search, I came a crossed fritzing.  So far it has meet all the requirements I had and more.

You can layout your project in breadboard mode and then convert it to a schematic and even produce a template to make your own boards.  They also have a FAB option to have professional PCBs made for you.

You can also share your projects with other users.

The library they have has many of the popular maker boards already in the collection.  They have all the Arduino boards and shields and many popular third party boards.  You can also make your own custom parts.

I just started working with it, so as I go forward I will update my findings.  It is getting easier and easier to build your own project.

Power Management Unit Build Part 1

This is the part 1 of my Power Management Unit Build.  The purpose of this project is to create a power center for my homebrew Amateur Radio station so that I can control and monitor it directly from the unit or over an IP based network remotely.

I will accomplish this by employing an Arduino micro controller board that we sell at  The components in the PMU are as follows:

A 40 amp switching power supply purchased off the internet.  It features adjustable voltage from 10 – 13.8V, line and load regulation and Hiccup mode (recovers automatically after fault conditions).

I looked at building the power supply myself as I wanted a switching power supply due to is size and weight.  I found some plans on the internet.  The closest was a design by Manfred Mornhinweg XQ2FOD published in QST in the December 1998 issue.  It looked like what I wanted, but you had to wind the transformer yourself, and I didn’t feel that I wanted to tackle that at this time.  This project is modular in it’s design, so if I decide I want to build the power supply myself at a later date, I can then just drop it in place of the current supply.

The next major part of the unit is the Arduino Mega 2560 board.  I will be using it to control the other components in the PMU.  I have written most of the code and will post it as soon as I have finished it.  There is also a Ethernet shield.

Then we will have a 5v power supply to drive the Arduino, 5v relay board and the back light of the LCD.  There will also be a voltage divider to measure the output of the main power supply.

The front panel will consist of an on/off switch, LCD display, 4 momentary switches to turn the ports on and off and 4 leds to indicate the status of the ports.

The back panel will consist of a power cord receptacle, a fuse block and a set of power pole connectors for each port.

In the video I will show the panel parts and the bread board setup that has been completed so far.

In the next edition of this series I will actually cut out the front and back panels to start construction.

Pic-A-Star Build Part 1

As part of my new Ham Shack build I am going to put together a new Transceiver.

The Pic-A-Star – Software Transmitter And Receiver was originally designed by Peter Rhodes G3XJP and first published in RADCOM starting in the August 2002 issue.

The design has been updated by several people over the years and is still very modern in it’s operation.

The original design included homebrew PCB boards.  One of Peter’s goals was that the builder do as much of the building themselves to learn as much about the design as possible.

Since then it has become easier to have PCBs designed and produced.  So now they can be found on the internet from time to time.

Peter designed the transceiver in modules so that it would be easy to build and test.  Each module was a separate PCB board.  If you want to build one, you can still download the templates and make your own PCBs.

Glen VK3PE has designed several versions of the Pic-A-Star combo boards.  Instead of an individual board for each module, he has condensed them into 1 or 2 main boards and a board for the LBF and power amps.

I will be using a combo P1 board set that I was able to get from Harold W4ZCB that he had not used.  I want to thank Harold for getting out in the snow in Februray to get them shipped to me.

One of the updates that have been done to the Pic-A-Star is that the original Pic-n-mix controller has been replaced with a more powerful controller.  The new controller is the TrxAVR.  In it’s original incarnation, the Star had only a LCD display.  The new controller adds the ability to use a TFT display.  I will be using a 5” display on this build.

There are 4 Yahoo Groups and a couple of websites that you need to join or visit if you want to build one of these transceivers.

First the Yahoo Groups:

The first is picaproject – This is Peter’s group where he has stored the original RADCOM articles about the project and the other support files needed to build the original design.

The second group is the Picastar-users group – This is the group where you will find current discussions on current and past builds.  You might also find someone who has a set of boards they would like to sell.

The third is homebrew-radios – In this group you will find discussions about the power amps and the TrxAVR projects amoung other homebrew topics.

The final group is the TFTa_Central group – This group supports the color display subsystem for the TrxAVR board.

A must visit website is Glenn’s – Glenn is the designer of the “Combo” Pic-A-Star boards and he keeps all of the documentation there.  He is currently out of boards, but if enough people show interest, maybe we can talk him into making more.

Finally you will want to visit – this site has information on the TrxAVR project and the Encoder8 board.

In the following video, I cover this, plus I show you how I am trying to document the build and the case that I plan to put it in.

The next installment I will show you some of the parts I have sourced so far and we may start load some components on the the first board.

Couple of new Projects–Network Controlled PS and a PicaStar

In an effort to more fully understand the technical aspects of Amateur Radio I have decided to build a complete station more or less on my own.  I won’t be designing all of the components, only some of them.  I do however plan on assembling most of them myself.  I am going to put them in rack mount cases, so I will also be building the rack mount myself.

I have started a couple of the projects and we will be chronicling them here.  First I have started a Network Controlled Power Supply.  We will be using a 40 amp Switching Power Supply that will be monitored with a Arduino and it will have four network controlled ports.

The other project will be a PicaStar DSP transceiver.  More on it later.

So follow along, and I will welcome any suggestions.

Genesis G59 and Hardrock-50

Just finally finished up my Genesis G59 and Hardrock-50 amp.

Been a long time in the making.  I started the G59 over 3 years ago and the Hardrock-50 last year.  The G59 was the most work of the two,  it is not a beginner’s kit, but with some experience and patience you can get it done.  They just kitted up another 100 kits, so if you want to get into SDR and want an all band radio with a 10w amp, go to and order one while the supply lasts.  I will post some reflections on operating the unit as I go along.

rsz_g59andhardrock50The Hardrock-50 is a great little kit that is as high quality as anything I have built, including Heathits.  The amp goes together in a few hours and just works.  The quality of the components are second to none.  It takes 5w and puts out 50w, great for people experimenting with SDR kits like myself.  Wander over to and order one today.

Ham Shack Re-Engineer Final Post

We are finally to the ending phase of the Ham Shack Remodel/Re-engineering.  As you can see from the enclosed pictures, it was a pretty major overhaul.

The first picture shows the overall layout of the shack.  I spent less than $100.00 and build a table/desk out of 2×4’s and 24″ shelving.  It is all screwed together so that I can knock it down and move it to a new location.  All the wires where hung up underneath the desk so that I can clean under it easily.

Ham Shack Picture 1

Equipment additions included a Kenwood TS-590s, TS790a, Uniden Trunk Tracker III scanner,  wireless wx station and a dual rack mount 25amp Powerwerx switching power supplies, and a Fujitsu PC with dual wall mounted 24″ LCD displays.





Read more »

Ham Shack Upgrade II

Some more upgrades to the shack.  I picked up a 8 month old Kenwood TS-590s a couple of weeks Kenwood TS-590sago.  It matches the TS-790 and I have always been a big fan of Kenwood.  So now I finally have my all Kenwood Shack.

First impression of the Kenwood are “Wow”.  The setup was easy, just a single USB cable and I have the Cat control and USB sound card setup for digital.  I seem to be able to hear and get into QSO’s with less power.

I will post more impressions as I go along, plus some pictures of the rebuilt ham shack when I have time.

Ham Shack Upgrade

I am in the process of upgrading the ham shack.  I collected a variety of different rigs over the years, most of them vintage.  A few months back, I was looking around the Office/Shack and realized they took up a lot of room and I hadn’t turned most of them on in over a year.Kenwood TS-790

So I started to sell off most of the vintage stuff.  I got rid of my Heathkit SB-104, and my SB-200 amp.  I have couple of  old Kenwood Hybrids left to go and a couple of HW-101’s that I plan to sell yet.

Then the other day I realized that I always wanted some modern Kenwood equipment.  So I found a TS-790A on ebay and I just got a TS-590S.  So as soon as I get them setup, I will have my Kenwood shack.  Now I need to sell my Icom 746pro.  The Motorola Spectras that I have been using for UHF and VHF will get put in my Scout that I am restoring.

Now I need to redesign the shack so that it is not so cramped and I have a bench area.  I think that is what I will do for Father’s Day.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »