24 September 2023

Crick Mint 20 a Homebrew Minimalist 20 Meter Transceiver Part I

 As I have said before in previous posts, I'm net to homebrewing. I have started working towards a homebrew sBITX but I feel that radio is much more advanced at what my skill level is. So to build up more experience, and to get a cheap pretty sweet transceiver to boot, I have decided to build a 4SQRP Cricket 20 designed by David Cripe NM0S and Virginia Smith NV5F

This transceiver was inspired by the infamous Pixie QRPp minimalist transceiver. (QRP in amateur radio terminology is generally considered to be a radio that is transmitting 10 watts of power for phone modes and 5 watts for CW and digital modes. QRPp is transmitting a power levels that are below 1 watt.) Even though there have been thousands of Pixie's made around the world, a probably logged dozens of contacts. It just did not have that special something to make it worthy enough for the prestigious 4SQRP name. So David NM0S and Virginia NV5F got together and came up with a design that is greatly improved over the humble and overrated Pixie. 

As you can see in the piciture above, the Cricket kits from 4SQRP doesn't have toroids to wind, This is a design feature by David NM0S thus eliminating the need for winding toroids. Another feature with the Cricket kits are  the on board straight key it is all powered by a 9 volt battery. Get a 49:1 UNUN and a 34 foot wire that is tuned to the frequency of your Crickets crystals (14.030 MHz and 14.060 MHz) and you can have a complete station that will easily fit in a pencil box. 

Please visit the 4SQRP Cricket 20 for more information about this wonderful little transceiver. A great read is the Introduction to the Cricket by David NM0S. 

My mission with the 20 Meter Cricket is to homebrew it and also have it fit in an Altoids tin if possible. There are some other changes that I would like to make if possible:
  • Remove the on board key. This will save a lot of space in the Altoids tin. Also I prefer to just add a key jack. I have to send CW with a keyboard and I need a jack to plug my keyer in. 
  • Increase the transmit power from 0.7 watts to 1 watt,
  • Possibly add a small speaker onboard
  • Get rid of the 9 volt battery. I would rather set it up to power it with a 12 volt battery so that it is standard across all of my radios. 
  • Add transmit and receive LED. Lights are cool. 
One feature that I would like to explore and see if it can be done with my Crick Mint 20. QRPGuys AFP-FSK Digital Transceiver III has an interesting way to make a small QRP radio multi-band. 

They have different modules that plug into the transceiver. Each module has all of the band specific components for each band. You could make a module for each HF band and to change bands you remove the current band module and plug in the band module that you want. This is something that I really would need help with but it would be pretty cool to have a multi-band Cricket.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below. 

That is about all for now. You can follow along this build by following this blog. Another place to follow along is the Crick Mint 20 Thread On the 4SQRP Group thread I will have discussions from other amateur radio operators about any problems or modifications that I make. 

Again if you want to follow this build or any future builds hit the subscribe button. Feel free to leave any comments in the comments section below. If you wish you may email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

Aaron K5ATG 

09 September 2023

Big Brutus Bash 2023


Each year in September members of the Four State QRP Group gather near the small town of West Mineral in southeast Kansas. The place of the gathering is the Big Brutus Electric Shovel and Rustic Museum. I can go on and tell you all about Big Brutus but I do not think that I could do a description any better than the Big Brutus website. So through the magic of copy and paste here you go:


Constructed in 1962 by the Bucyrus Erie Company for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company, Big Brutus served as a testament to human ingenuity and hard work. This colossal machine operated for over a decade, dramatically increasing the efficiency of coal mining in the region before retiring in 1974. However, its retirement marked a new beginning. In 1985, it was dedicated as a museum and memorial, signifying its enduring legacy. This dedication recognized Big Brutus as not just a symbol of the past, but as an eternal tribute to the mining heritage of southeast Kansas and to the minors across the nation who toiled to support their families. In September 1987, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Big Brutus a regional historic mechanical engineering landmark, the tenth such designation since 1971. Adding to its accolades, Big Brutus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, further cementing its significance in American Industrial History. 

This was the very first time that I was able to visit Big Brutus. I would not have been able to go this time if it wasn't for my friend Tim Harpor W5TAH taking me. The drive from McLoud to the Big Brutus site took us about four hours. I wasn't really sure what to expect until we got there and I saw Big Brutus rising 160 feet (48 Meters) above the beautiful southeast Kansas landscape. To say that this electric shovel is big is really just a big understatement.

For scale look to the right of the picture and between the shadow and the digger in the distance. That silhouette that you see is a 6 foot (1.8 meters) tall man. 

The 4 State QRP Group was located under a very nice pavilion not far from the museum or Big Brutus.  There were around 20 people there for the event. Radios that i saw there were the Elecraft KX3, Elecraft K2, uBITX. I saw a 4SQRP radio there but I can't recall which one it was and I forgot to take any pics. My setup was my Elecraft K2 with my homebrew end-fed random wire. 

For me the main attraction was the people. I got to meet people from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas. Basically all of  the 4 states that originally made up the 4 State QRP Group plus Nebraska. In the afternoon we were all spoiled by some wonderful bar-b-que. 

This warehouse size room in the picture above is actually inside Big Brutus. In the picture above of the exterior of Big Brutus this area is located in the right side of Big Brutus. Instead of being a factory or warehouse this is inside of a mobile machine that can move under its own power. 

This picture shows Tim W5TAH underneath Big Brutus. On the left side are the tracks. The entire machine has a total of 16 tracks. From looking at them it looks like just one link would be close to a ton. 

This is yours truly setting at the controls. Just the controls at my hands were enough to operate this Latvian. Behind this control room is a break room that is about 15X30. 

Well that is all for now. Please help me support this blog by subscribing to it and sharing. If you have any comments please leave them in the comments section below. You can reach me at Aaron@K5ATG.com


Aaron K5ATG

New Desk

 I finally got my new homemade desk in. There is still a lot of organising and getting used to it but after a few weeks I really love it.