My repair BENCH

Gear I use, and a bit about why I like each item

Essentials: (in my opinion!)


- Weller WES51 soldering station, with a stand for the iron and a sponge. Actually, I use the newer metal "scrubbie" type, to clean the tip. A fine pointed tip, and another that's fatter for big heavy components. Adjustable temperature is critical. $150 or so. And some good fine rosin-core solder. I use the 63/37 mix. And I keep two rolls - 0.5mm for finer work, and 0.032" (22 gage) for larger items.


- Keysight DSOX1102 two-channel oscilloscope. Upgraded to the full 100 MHz bandwidth, it does very well for HF work. A 70 MHz scope would be fine for HF rigs, but if working up at 50+ MHz the accuracy falls off with a 70 MHz scope. You can find a Siglent or Rigol that's less expensive, but I like the quality of Keysight and I got a fairly decent deal. Still, it's about $1135 these days for 70 MHz, and another couple hundred to upgrade to 100 MHz. If budget doesn't allow, you can find another decent 70-100 MHz scope for $600-$800.


- Wavetek BDM40 bench multi-meter. This is an older meter that's rock-solid. You can find one on eBay or similar fairly cheaply. Your meter needs to include an AC RMS volts capability. I almost bought an older HP meter, but most of them have too many features and are too "fussy" Used gear can be great if you do a bit of research and take your time. $150-$200 used. A bit more for an HP with more features, up to $300 shipped.


- Brymen BM235 handheld multi-meter. I often need to measure two voltages, or voltage and current, at the same time. Or want to carry a meter around the house. There are lots of decent meters in the $100-$150 range. Look for one that includes a capacitance test feature. This one came from the EEVBlog website. Dave Jones, who does the EEVBlog (Electronics Engineering Videos), is amazing, full of great tips. He has over 1000 videos on YouTube so far. You don't need to watch them all - there's a list on his site so I pick interesting ones.


- Siglent SDG 2042X waveform generator.  It has two outputs, so sometimes I'm generating RF on one and audio on the other. Thanks to the EEVBlog forum, I've upgraded it FREE to 120 MHz!! Only down-side is that its output doesn't go below -50 dBm, so I need to use an old Texscan step attenuator with it. Main deal for whatever generator you get is that it needs the ability to set reasonably accurate signal levels and good frequency accuracy. My 10 MHz reference oscillator - see below - helps with accuracy, but is not essential. A used generator (if in good shape) might be less money, but don't buy anything too old, as they become very difficult to maintain. Ideally if you get a good used generator with a reliable step attenuator that goes down to around -110 dBm, you won't need the next item...


- Texscan Step Attenuator. Thiscan be adjusted in both 10 dB and 1 dB steps, and can go all the way down to -110 dB. If you're going to do serious sensitivity testing of a receiver you'll also need double-shielded coaxial cables, from the signal generator to the attenuator, and from the attenuator to the radio. Normal coax can leak a bit of signal and mess with your tests. You can find these used on eBay, or new ones such as the JFW 80 dB unit going for around $200-$300 new. Or a ham-grade unit can be purchased from various sources with slide or toggle switches in the $100 range.


- HP 5385A frequency counter. Good up to over 1 GHz. Some patient searching on eBay got this counter in pretty good shape from Israel.  Shipping costs a lot but if you can't get one locally it's worth it. Probably around $250 - $300. There are lots of cheap new Chinese units that have lots of features, but in my own experience they can be flaky. (and may not have a 10 MHz reference input) A 30 year old HP is a better investment, as long as it's in good shape.


- National VP-9602A RF millivoltmeter. Just found a heck of a deal on eBay, with probe!  You can use your scope, but then need to calculate the RMS value from peak-peak. Plus, RF millivoltmeters are good at measuring very small signals which most scopes don't have the sensitivity for, eg in the guts of a transmitter or receiver. (down to about -50 dBm, not for measuring off- air signals) Probably $250-$400 for a decent used one with probe eg a Boonton 92E. Make sure it comes with the probe as those are impossible to find separately, and building your own is never going to result in good accuracy.


- RSP-2 SDR receiver.  If your budget allows, get one with two or 3 antenna ports. These are nice little receivers, providing a spectrum analyzer display on your computer. The RSP-2 isn't available anymore, but you can buy the less-expensive RSP-1 ($150 at Radioworld) Or one of the more expensive ones with 2 or 3 antenna ports for $250-$360. You can use one antenna port for listening to HF signals, including when you want to hear yourself on a rig you're testing, and watch the waveform on the spectrum analyzer when zoomed in. On the second port I hook up a scope probe or a bit of wire and can view signals from the guts of a radio I'm repairing.


- Diamond SX-600 SWR/power meter. This is a pretty good meter, and has been reliable for me. Does HF/VHF/UHF with 2 sensors. It also does peak power readings, if you apply power to the meter. Around $300 at Radioworld. Good enough for ham purposes. I also have an industrial-grade Bird model 43 with various slugs (insert the right one for desired combination of frequency and power range), but for typical work it's not really needed. 


- Audio Isolation transformer. I built a little audio transformer into a metal box, with 5-way binding posts on both ends. If your audio generator has a 600 ohm output and all the rigs you'll work on are relatively modern, a 1:1 transformer will be fine. I added a high/low impedance transformation capability too, for when I'm working on old rigs with high impedance microphone inputs. (or to go from a high impedance audio generator to a 600 ohm rig) This gadget helped tame problems I was having with distorted transmit audio when using an audio generator. With box and connectors, under $50.


Nice to have optional items: (really this all depends on your own needs)


- Elecraft XG3 RF signal generator. This is a really handy little gadget for checking RX sensitivity. Frequency accuracy isn't as good as the Siglent (though it can be calibrated), but level accuracy is good enough for a sensitivity check, or setting the S meter. Around $350 imported from Elecraft. If whatever signal generator you choose has an attenuator that can go down to -110 dBm or so, or you add a step attenuator, you won't need one of these. Nice though for quick testing on the bench or in the field.


- BK Precision 1670A bench power supply. Puts out fixed 5v and 12v at low current, and a variable 0-30 V at up to 3 amps.The variable output has a current limiting capability which really comes in handy for testing unknown circuits. I use this a lot for various tests & gadgets. You can get smaller, less expensive ones, but probably in the $300 range for something decent.


- Leader LMV-181A AC millivoltmeter. I bought this before my Wavetek meter. The Wavetek will do RMS AC measurements pretty much as well as this will. But I like the big analog meter, which is really useful at times for indication of audio level. These go for around $150-$200 with shipping on eBay.


- Kenwood AG-203 audio generator. Not essential, as my Siglent generator can also do audio, but sometimes it's just easier to use eg for rapid frequency changes. Don't get anything too old (eg tubes) unless you want to fix it as well as your radios!


- 10 MHz OCXO. This feeds the Siglent generator and the HP counter to give excellent accuracy. I got one on eBay with 2 outputs. Built it into a small box, and stays powered 24/7. And to make sure it really IS accurate, I built a little 10 MHz tuned filter "TRF Receiver" that I saw in QST by WD8DSB, which is really just a crystal filter & amplifier for exactly 10 MHz. When it can hear WWV, I put its signal on one channel of my scope and the OCXO on the other, then adjust the OCXO until the sine waves exactly match. Gets the 10 MHz reference oscillator within 1 Hz of WWV, which is an international standard.  The oscillator, housing and connectors were probably only about $70-$80. If you want one of the 10 MHz "receivers" I bought enough parts for two more, would sell one to you for $50. (add your own box) 


- TC1 Multi-function tester, for semiconductors. Lots of these are available on eBay, from China or Hong Kong usually. Not highly accurate, but they can quickly tell you the approximate gain and type of a transistor, check a diode, and identify various other 2 or 3 conductor semiconductors. Eg search for "TC1 multi function tester" No more than about $30, with a case!! 


- Kenwood SP-120 speaker. When your rig's cover is off there may be no speaker, so I keep one on the shelf. This one has spade terminals on the back, so I leave it turned backwards & can easily clip test leads from my AC voltmeter to it when a test calls for that. Wait for a bargain at a flea market.


- Hakko FR-300 de-soldering gun. Handy if you're going to be replacing a lot of through-hole components. The FR-301 is the current model. You can find it on Amazon from about $375 and up, depending on accessories. I bought a kit including spare nozzles, and a little hand-drill & spare bits because sometimes the nozzle gets clogged up. With a bunch of accessories it's closer to $500. 

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