The 2017 Novice Rig Round-Up!

VE7AIJ's Original Setup

There's a relatively 'new' contest in town that seems to be gathering a lot of growing interest. I'm talking about the 'NRR' or "Novice Rig Round-Up".

Harry, VE7AIJ, recently sent me a wonderful picture of his original station reproduction as used back in 1956. Hopefully Harry will be able to activate it along with countless others in the upcoming NRR.

The NRR is the brainchild of Bryan, AF4K, and Gary Johanson, WD4NKA, who developed the idea through chat on the Boatanchor and Glowbugs reflectors. They put the concept to the test in 2015 with the initial running of the NRR. Station pictures and soapbox comments from the last two runnings may be viewed here and here ... and they are truly inspirational.

With so many retired or soon to be retired 'baby boomers', there are a lot of guys out there that really enjoy recreating their original station setup, which for most U.S. hams, would have been their Novice station. There is also a huge group of 'not so old' hams that just enjoy refurbishing or homebrewing rigs from the 50's and putting them on the air ... the NRR will present another great opportunity to get on-the-air and light up those filaments once again.

As indicated on the NRR website, this is "more of an EVENT than just a typical contest ... once again taking our OLD ham radios off the shelf and putting them to use again! "

Although the NRR strongly encourages participants to use era-appropriate 'Novice type gear', using a modern rig will not prohibit you from joining in on the fun ... as well as give you a chance to hear how some of these old classics sound on CW.

The full rules are available on the dedicated NRR webpage. You will also find information there for Yahoo's NRR Group as well as the Facebook link. An excellent FAQ page also makes for valuable reading.

Many of the contest stations will be crystal controlled, just as they were back in the Novice days and a list of individual rockbound frequencies can be downloaded for your reference here ... those using crystal control will also tune well above and below their own frequencies for callers, a long-lost technique once required, when all Novice stations were using crystal controlled rigs ... tuning high and low should give rockbound stations better chances of success.

The NRR takes place from 0000 UTC February 18 through 2359 UTC February 26 - 9 full days, covering two full weekends.

Suggested HF frequencies are: 3550 - 3650 kHz, 3579, 7055, 7060, 7080, 7100 -7125 kHz, 21.114, 21.120, 21.150 MHz, 28.114, 28.120 MHz.

An automatic logger page has been set up for log handling as well as a 'live skeds' page to announce your frequency or to chat. Clearly, a lot of effort by the organizers has gone into this event!

Hopefully you can participate and make the 3rd annual NRR an even more enjoyable event than the first two. I know of several VE7's, including myself, that will be operating.

Harry's homebrew 6AQ5 crystal oscillator (Feb '55 Popular Electronics) and Hallicrafters S-53, pictured above, allowed him to work the world back in the amazing radio days of Cycle 19. Let's relive some of that excitement in the closing days of Cycle 24 ... in the NRR!
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “The 2017 Novice Rig Round-Up!”

  • Bob Macklin K5MYJ:

    I started in 1957 with an original S-38 (the one with a real BFO0. I built my transmitter from an early 1950’s ARRL handbook.

    I have been thinking about recreating this station but I don’t think I would use a S-38. Maybe a Lafeyette HE-10 that looks like a S-38

    Bob Macklin
    “Real Radios Glow in the Dark”

  • Lowell Haney KM4QEG:

    I guess about 1974, as a new Novice I had a station of a Heath Apache and a WWII surplus receiver of unremembered lineage. It was bigger and heavier (if that is even possible) than the Heathkit. The Apache came cheap as the main tuning ‘belt’ was broken. I replaced it with a piece of fiberglass strapping from a pallet found behind a hardware store. It worked great! The 6146 finals were soft so it only produced ~40 watts or so.

    My Elmer at the time Bernard (Hap) Shahan (SK) taught me the,today, esoteric slight of hand to load and tune a tube final PA stage, looking for that dip in plate current that corresponded with max power out. It’s wonderful today to see a younger ham just flip out when they see that done on a rig with tube finals. “You made that look so easy!”, they say. It is easy, come over here and I’ll show you how.

    Today I’m wrestling with a Raspberry Pi3 and an SDRPlay 2 and software integration. I’ll get there and perhaps help some others with what I learn along the way.

    But radios that “glow in the dark” will always have a place in my heart.



  • Bry WN4NRR:

    Great web page! I started out as G3XLQ. We had no Novice ticket in those days.
    One of the first rigs was a home brew with 6AG7 and 5B254M
    (British loctal equivalent if 807.) it was built according to 1957 ARRL Handbook I think.

    Tge NRR 2017 has been great fun so far. I made 28 contacts the
    First evening, operating as club station WN4NRR.

    73 – Bry, AF4K

    [email protected]

  • Ron AF7H:

    Really love the simplicity of the novice station. It would be fun the operate it.

    Thanks Ron AF7H

  • VE3LYX Don:

    Used a lot of rigs this week. ARC5, No 19, Bare Essentials using 50c6, 1943 Handbook Breadboard (complete station) tX and regen, five x 25l6 longfeller and 5x 6aq5 longfeller. Favourite was working Mark, K3MSB on the BE and listening on the Hali 19R. It was 1938 again. Love the event and the sked board is brilliant.

  • Frank Traynor, K3RQH:

    NRR? I’m in!
    Also, we have a straight key night, how about a glow night (tube rigs only)?

  • Frank Traynor, K3RQH:

    If you want to duplicate the homebrew Novice CW rig in the photo above,

    1. go here for the transmitter article & schematic. Scroll down to page 26.

    2. for the power supply article & schematic (in the following month’s issue of PE), go here and scroll down to page 71.

    NOTE! The website is full of copies of electronic magazines, vintage and otherwise over the last 50 years, or so. In the “Consumer Electronics-Modern Era”, you find tons of tube-based and solid state construction projects. Transmitters, receivers, T/R switches, speech processors…all of which you can make. If you’re a builder, this site is heaven. To start your search, you’ll want to look at the table of contents of every magazine in the “Consumer Electronics-Modern Era”. Then check other magazine categories. So far, I’ve saved and printed 87 ham radio construction projects. I’ll never get to all of them, but I’ll try. Blessings, Frank Traynor, Tulsa, OK K3RQH

  • Frank Traynor, K3RQH:

    I forgot: here is the Popular Electronics URL for a project to boost the power of the Novice rig pictured above (it’s not by the original author): It involves modifying the original schematic and adding a 6L6 plus a few other parts.

    And…here’s another URL for this same rig above, but with a slightly different circuit (I have built this one and its power supply), and have wound additional coils to get it to oscillate on 40, 20, and 15 meters:
    Scroll to the bottom to see the power supply circuit and many other homebrew builds perfect for NRR. Enjoy!

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