The Scrounger 6V6 Transmitter

This has nothing to do with radio astronomy.  I have been a ham radio operator for many years. I have never owned a nice new expensive piece of ham gear.  Throughout the years I have built my own radios or fixed up old used equipment.  One of my first transmitters was built from a article that appeared in September 1964 Electronics Illustrated. The article was titled The Scrounger.  The premise was that you could build this Morse code 10 watt transmitter for $5 or less depending on what parts you could "scrounge" from you "junk box".  This page presents the original article that I scanned from a recently acquired copy of the old magazine. There are also a couple of pictures of my Scrounger as it exists today.

Click the magazine picture below for the article in pdf form.

I somehow managed to hold on to my Scrounger over the years, though the power supply did not make the trip through time. I built my Scrounger many years after the article appeared, probably about 1972.  My original version looked something like the one in Electronics Illustrated. It was built on an inverted square pie tin. At some point I must have decided I wanted something "fancy" so I transferred the electronics to an old TV UHF converter box. I kept the separate power supply on a pie tin. I don't know why I did this. It was dangerous to have the high voltage connected from one chassis to the other, especially the way I did it with a used octal socket. It is really a wonder that I survived those high voltage years. I received many high voltage shocks! 

Below are pictures of what has survived all these years and a move to Hawaii. The original 6V6GT is gone.  I hope I find in one of my junk boxes some day, but I can probably get another on ebay. I no longer have the KE4Y call. I am now KH6SKY.  That toilet paper tube really hasn't held up well after 35 years. I upgraded to a used a surplus meter military from Olson electronics (remember them?), instead of the neon bulb.

update 2011:  I have acquired a NOS 6V6GT and a few parts for a power supply.  Will I ever do anything with them? Nobody knows.

The inside view is a bit scary. Behind the meter is a homemade shunt so that the meter would indicate plate current. It was wound from enameled wire stolen from an old transformer.


Comments and Photos Received from Viewers:

Every now and then, I Google "Electronics Illustrated September 1964" thinking someone might have it on Ebay.  Today I hit the jackpot when your website popped up.  Thank you so much for posting the .pdf of the September  1964 Electronics Illustrated article. My copy of that issue was tossed out ages ago.

 I was 11 when I badgered my mom to let me buy that issue, because of the picture on cover and the come-on about building scrounger for $5. I saw it in the rack at the grocery store while she was shopping. Within a few months I built my scrounger and the external CW monitor. I ordered the power transformer from Allied (I spent more than $5, thanks to my dad as my 'venture capitalist').

My very first ham radio contact, WN5NAZ, was on 40 meter band using my scrounger.  I still have my scrounger and the QSL cards I collected from using it. This is first time I have ever seen anything about it from someone else.  I recently retired (early) after 31 years as communications satellite engineer for major defense contractor.

The hole on scrounger's rear panel is left over from a modification that I made a couple of years after I built scrounger. I used scrounger's power supply to power an audio amplifier that I made on yet another cake pan (one 12AX7 and one 6V6). I put a loudspeaker in the large magnolia tree in our front yard and fed it with the amplifier. Then, from inside the house, I made spooky noises to scare trick-or-treaters on Halloween. I must have been about 15 then. My mom was not so happy about it, but my dad thought it was so great that he wanted me to do it again the next year, and he took over the microphone. Nowadays it seems almost everyone has the 'sound effects" in their yards for Halloween.

I probably will not try to fire up my scrounger until I check the dual section filter cap. I suspect it will have gone bad after all these years. Other than that, I expect that it should still work just fine.

Thank you again, and best of73's,
 Don, WB4CKM

Below are some great photos of Don's scrounger.  

Below are some scrounger QSLs from when Don was WN4CKM.  Even the stamps elicit nostalgia.


Read with interest your scan of "The Scrounger 6V6 xmtr".  I remember seeing that article lo so many years ago.  Man, how time flies when we are "having fun".  I built a xmtr, I think from Poptronics in the early sixties, using a 50L6 and 35Z5 rectifier.  All line powered, with NO xfmr!  The power cord only had one wire, an earth ground was the power return.  If it didn't work, the ac power plug had to be reversed.  It was built on an aluminum plate, which sat on the bottom of an old cigar box.  My first contact with it was on 40m and I received a 599 report!  That one contact got me hooked on QRP.  I later replaced the tubes with a 6AQ5 and a separate xfmr p.s.  I worked both coasts with ease using a Mosely V40 trap vertical. Remember those?  I still have the xmtr and it still works fb!  I'll send you a pic. if you are interested.   One comment about "The Scrounger" article. One part of the construction was BAD!  The coil should have been mounted at least one coil diameter away from the chassis!  A great deal of r.f. energy was coupled into the chassis.  It is a wonder that it worked at all!  The coil should have been mounted vertically so that it was well away from the chassis.  I used the coil form from an old radio i.f. xfmr.  Yeah, those old radios had huge i.f. xfmrs!

Thanks for the "trip down memory lane"!
Keep those dots and dashes going!
73, Ron, K5DUZ, Houston TX

Thank You so much for posting the 6V6 transmitter article. This was my first novice transmitter, and worked great. My cost was zero, since I used my dad's junk box.  
 - 73 Diane WB1ALL