Thursday, January 29, 2015


     Some time ago, I chanced on a nice Yankee No. 100 tool set.  Readers suggested I keep watch for a No. 106 boxed set of "radio tools," which, other than a soldering iron or copper, contains about everything you'd need to build a 1920s-type radio -- and is plenty useful on later equipment.
     I have seen a few come and go at princely prices, including a lovely store display version.  They are fine tools but not on my budget.  Or not until some months ago, when a slightly-grubby one showed up on a well-known auction site.  The serious collectors weren't after it but many of the tools were there; it was hard to figure out what was going on with the little drill, which appeared to have been taken apart.  The wooden case is the most difficult part to find -- the No. 105 kit offered all the tools except the drill, at half the price and in a cardboard box -- and the case was certainly there.
     It arrived in disappointingly worse shape than the original listing showed, due to a poor packing job.  Adjustments, as they say, were made.
     The mystery of the disassembled drill was simple enough: it was the wrong drill.  This proved no hardship; the little Yankee "Radio Drill," No. 1431, is commonly found and inexpensive.

     At present, I am repairing the case, starting with the badly cracked bit holder.  The two long screwdriver blades are missing, as is the uncommon Ratchet Tool Holder No. 230.  They may be a very long while in the finding.
     The incorrect drill is nevertheless a treat: a No. 1530 Ratchet Drill, which can be set to operate in five different modes: plain, left-handed ratchet, right handed ratchet, right-hand double, or locked.  The last is handy when tightening or loosening the chuck, the simple ratchet modes only respond to one direction of turning the crank -- but "double" turns the chuck clockwise no matter which way the crank is turned! 


  1. Pretty spiffy!

    I've had receivers that were nice when shipped arrive destroyed because of incompetent packing.

  2. A bit off topic

    I need some help,in the book i'm working on I mention a couple of tube based transceivers - going back over it, I figured I'd like to be as factual as possible - with that in mind, I'm looking for brands or designs from the 40's-50's but I'm not sure of any of the following
    Brands available,
    were transmitter and receiver separate or did they build transceivers?
    What ham bands were available
    were any of the radios multi band or do I need a separate transmitter (I'm assuming the receivers can cover multiple bands -but then maybe I shouldn't?)
    How far back.

    I know you're kind of busy, but if you find a few minutes drop me a line.

    BTW - cool tool kit - you might find this interesting - New vintage wood working kids/beginners set.

  3. Hi, Richard!

    40s - 50s is mostly separates and from around '41 through '46, civilian stuff would have mostly been used gear -- and largely off the air unless used in an industry that contributed to the war effort. Hams were off for the duration except for tightly controlled War Emergency Radio Service, operating in VHF, 2.5 and 1.25 meter ham bands. See Commercial gear was made in the 1930s for 5 meters, and widely bootlegged by the unlicensed -- these were "portable" transceivers in the shoebox-and-up size range. They took fairly heavy batteries, which could be internal. This is non-channelized equipment with poorly-calibrated dials, not at all like a modern HT. Police used fix-frequency gear; many police forces still transmitted to car just above the broadcast band, with 1 kW or smaller transmitters but had started to add 9-meter band fixed-frequency transmitters to cars and motorcycles --WW II saw the emergence of the "walkie-talkie," still very large by modern standards and IIRC, often operating in the HF rather than VHF band. The war also brought about FM communication radios -- fixed tuned, sometimes with more than one channel. The postwar years saw this spread to police and fire use, still "lowband" FM, around 40 mc/s. And "spy radios: in the HF range are common through this time, starting with suitcase-sized setups in the late 1930s and shrinking to 2 or 3 pocketfuls of radio (usually power supply, transmiter and receiver, with interconnecting cables) by the Cold War. Outside of the war years, Hams mostly used commercial receivers and home-brew transmitters -- for HF, receivers from Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, National, RME, Howard,etc. Prewar commercial transmitters were not unknown, with the Harvey-wells UHX-10 one example (; National offered a tabletop rig, Hallicrafters had both table-top and high-power floor-model transmitters, and many of the transformer companies (Utah, Stancor, Thordtrson) sold transmitter kits as well. Postwar, it blossomed, with a long and growing list. Timing is tricky on these and you'd want to check back issues of QST.

    How's that for a start?

  4. Let's see, first large-scale commercial use of two-way radio would be at the Golden Gate Bridge construction project, under direction of Frank C. Jones and (I believe) on frequencies hear the old ham 5 meter band, 56-60 Mc/s. All of the VHF freqs mentioned are short-range. Even 9 meters was pretty much limited. HF (3 to 30 MHz) is better for distance, but needs are large antenna and the choie of frequency is dependent on time of day, distance to be covered, and a degree of luck.

  5. Here's some fascinating -- and incredibly detailed -- geeking-out over Finnish radios during the Winter War, on a site doing some alternate history about how things might have gone if the Finns had been better prepared. (They managed to fight the Russians to a standstill using what they had in their pockets or could scrounge -- its a little duanting to consider how far they might have gone with a little advance warning!) This covers the time period you're interested in, plus a little earlier.

  6. Oh dear God, I've fallen down the rabbit hole! I think I found something that will do the trick, the Harvey-Wells UHX-10 seems to cover 160 to almost 40 meter. That will cover the NVIS Xmit needs for night time, (160 & 80 meter) and one of the other guys has a Heathkit AT-1 that does 80-40-20-15-11&10 meter bands. I was surprised to find a heath kit from 1956 that covered that many bands. Now if I can just drag myself away from thinking about tubes and back to writing.

    Thanks for the help.