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Boat Anchors: One of my first was the Hammarlund HQ-120X   Short Wave Receiver

Recently I re-acquired a taste for the smell and feel of what is commonly referred to in Ham Radio circles as Boat Anchors, old tube radio's. In the Menu bar above you will notice a selection of BoartAnchor pages. In these pages I will describe some of my adventures describing how I brought back to life a few of my old favorites that take a minute to warm up and emit warm incandescent light instead of cold monochromatic, either blinding or difficult to see, LEDs.

During December 2011 my XYL and I were touring the Tacoma, WA Zoo with our daughter and three grandsons. We were walking through an explores mock-up cabin and in the corner was an old Boat Anchour, a tube shortwave radio similar to the one a friend owned when we were first licences. My daughter said "Dad, let me take a picture of you by that old radio", so I obliged.

An Old Radio


During a return trip in March 2012 to visit our daughter and family my three grand-sons excitedly ushered me into the living room where there was a blanket covering a box. The boys said "Papa, close your eyes". When told to open my eyes what was under the blanket was not a box but the old radio that we had seen at the Tacoma Zoo. On closer scrutiny we saw that it was a WWII Hammarlund HQ120X Short Wave Receiver. When we left after Christmas holidays, my daugher phoned the Zoo and told them she had a home for that old radio if they decided they didn't neet it any longer. It turned out that they were in the process of changing the theme of the explorers cabin and in fact they didn't have a home for the old radio. Shortly after our daughter received a call from the Zoo and was told if she still had a home for it that she could come and pick it up. Since I had recently retired my daughter must have thought I needed a project to keep me out of mischief.

Hammarlund HQ120X Receiver


The boys enjoyed helping to vacumn the inside and take the radio out of the cabinet. We found the radio had been modified considerably, subsituting some miniture tubes for the old orginial metal can tubes plus there were other non Hammarlund components added.

My Helpers


The poor old receiver had seen better days. It was filthy, grimy, there were buned out reistors, it was rusty and a few knobs and all the tubes but one were missing. The dials turned though rather stiffly and as you can see it looked in really tough shape.

The inside


I took the radio home and put it on a bench in the garage. As I came and went I would walk in front of the old receiver and wondered who previoulsy owned it, how many countries did they work and what was I to do with it. There were periods in my past when I owned and repaired/restored a few old ham radios like a Heathkit SB300 receiver and Heathkit AT-1 transmitter. However my main interest over the previous 10 years was developing my homebrew full featured transceiver, the HBR-2000. Checking the serial number I determined that it was built in 1941. Therefore it likely was used during WWII in military service. After it would have been sold as surplus to most likely a ham operator after they were allowed to operate once again. Who ever the owner('s) were it had been modified and probably used for years in somebody's hams shack as a faithful DX Chaser. I could not see myself junking this beautiful piece of history. After all my daughter had found it for me.

One day I began thinking maybe I should convert the old boat anchour to a totally solid-state receiver. What ham can not use a general coverage reciever to check WWV and a few Short Wave Broadcast stations from time to time. Oh yes, keep the front panel, knobs, tuning dials and S meter.

I had a number of receiver modules that I had used when developing the HBR-2000 that I replaced with newer versions. I began counting them up in my head and thought I may have enought to build a complete receiver. I rummaged around my electronic work shop and came up with the following modules:

A. Audio Output module.
B. AM and CW/SSB demodulator.
C. Front end mixer, diplexer and post amplifier.
D. 3.0 KHz and 9 KHz Band Width 455 KHz ceramic filters.

I had no excuse. The first step was to dismantle the whole receiver. I removed all the transformers, tube sockets, knobs, crystal filter unit, BFO coil box, front panel controls, S meter, front panel and then the two frequency dials. Surprisingly the dials looked in good shape. The most difficult items to remove were the knobs. They were frozen to the shafts. I was only able to loosen two knobs. I tried every thing I could think of to remove the knobs including de-rusting oil, etc etc. So out with the Dremel-Saw and I cut into the set screw holes and pried them off the shaft.

All that was left on the chassic was the large Hammarlund double section variable tuning capacitor on the top and the bandswitch and associated band coils and capacitors in the bottom. This then went into our kitchen dish washer with a very small amount of soap followed by a heavy duty hot water rise cycle. Amazing what a little soap and hot water can do to a filthy radio.

The following picture is the IF box. This is a direct copy of W7ZOI/WA7MLH Hybrid Cascode General Purpose AGC IF Amplifier found in the December 2007 issue of QST. The only changes to the circuit was increasing all bypass capacitors to 0.2uF as the HQ120X uses an IF frequency of 455 KHz. This was a simple choise as I was familiar with this circuit and I did not have to use the HQ120X IF cans with separate IF circuits.

The cascade hybride IF.


The second box from the left contains the double balanced diode mixer, post mixer pre-amp and two ceramic IF filters. The box on the right hand side of the chassic is the combined CW/SSB and AM product detectors and audio amplifier circuits.

New Modules installed


The BFO and VFO circuits employee FET's. I used the existing BFO coil and band switched coil/capacitors for the VFO. The cover over the large two section variable capacitor set was rusted and a friend offered to sand-blast it and prime it for me. Here is a picture of the finished cover. I have yet to spray paint it with aluminum paint. The cabinet is also being sand-blasted and painted.

Ganged Variable Capacitor Shield sanded and primed.


The front panel and knobs were cleaned with soap, water and elbo grease. I waxed the front panel with car wax and it looks not bad though you can tell it has been well used. The cabinet was sanded and then sprayed with anti-rust prime. I found a grey spray paint at an automotive retail store that waa similar to the orginal grey used by Hammarlund for the cabinet of the HQ-120x.

I am very pleased with the outcome. The Hammarlund dials are beautifully smooth to turn so I can quickly check band conditions across a wide spectrum. The 9 KHZ Bandwidth AM IF filter sounds great on AM and the 3 KHz BW filter provides single-signal reception for both SSB and CW signals. The solid state HQ-120X now sits in a prominent place on the top shelf of my operating desk. I am surprised how often I use it to listen to a favorite broadcast station, cruise the short wave broadcast bands and check the time on CHU and WWV/WWVH. My daughter and grand-sons think it is rather cool as well.

Finished. Even the dial and S meter lights are LED's.


The only thing it lacks is the smell of tubes warming up when I turn it on. You old timers know what I mean.