Ugly is Better

May 9, 2011 | Amateur Radio | By: Mark VandeWettering

So, over the weekend I assembled the HamCan, and got some pretty wonky performance. I’m going to go through it all again and see if I can figure out why the receive performance is so bizarre, (loose connection? poor adjustment?) but it got me thinking that part of the issue is that typical PCB construction doesn’t really offer much advantage for prototyping. The boards are small. They don’t allow much room for experimentation, substitution and even debugging. My early experiments with so-called “ugly construction” like what I used for the FM transmitter I built last month worked much better. The technique is not optimized for mass production, but for individual experimentation and easy substitution and testing. That seems to be a very good thing.

So, my intention is to start an “Ugly Weekender”: one of Wes Hayward’s classic QRP designs. I’ve got a box set aside where I can start putting out the components I need (I should have most of them already, some of the variable caps might require a bit of substitution or creativity). But rather than just diving in, I think I am going to try to plan out the layout of each of the two/three boards it will cover, and consider modeling portions of the design in LTSpice. I’ll try to cover each step of this construction with videos and additional files that might be of use for someone considering a similar homebrew project. I’m in no hurry to get this done: it’s a project which is designed to maximize my own learning and enjoyment, so be patient (and encouraging, it really does help).

In the mean time, here are a couple of YouTube videos that serve as inspiration for this project.

Addendum: The original Ugly Weekender transmitter appeared in the August 1981 issue of QST in an article by Roger Hayward and Wes Hayward. The receiver appeared in the June 1992 issue in an article by Roger Hayward. Both are available to ARRL members through their excellent online archive of QST backissues.


Comment from Pete
Time 5/31/2012 at 9:36 am

Hi Mark,

Any update on the UW? Would like to participate if it’s not too late.



Comment from Mark VandeWettering
Time 6/1/2012 at 8:03 am

It’s never too late! But I haven’t done anything at all with this idea: I’ve been remarkably busy, and homebrew electronics has been taking a back seat. This weekend I hope to get a kit wired up for a 30m beacon transmitter, but I should keep the Weekender in mind.