Category Archives: Radio Modifications

Edward restores a Star-Lite Town & Country FM-820 portable receiver

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_2Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

This is a “mystery brand” radio that I picked up at a swapfest for a buck, I never heard of a Star-Lite Town & Country FM-820 by the HOKUYO MUSEN KOGYO CO in Japan. This portable behemoth is not “lite”, It is heavy (13 pounds).

The only thing I came up with is Sam’s photofact that refer to radio. (I am not about to buy a service manual for something that is not broken). There is a Chrysler Town & Country station wagon, which is also a behemoth that swamps out all Google searches. This set appears to be made in the mid sixties. I was told that is was on a fishing boat as evidenced by its condition it was very dirty with a lot of corrosion on the bezel and missing a tuning knob.

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_3

I fabricated a tuning knob on a lathe, which was a 2-piece affair. The outer knob is tuning and the inner knob is the fine tune. It cleaned up well and I had to repaint the bezel. The auto parts store said that the Chrysler of that area did not use metal flake paints but they matched a touch-up spray can of a Toyota millennium silver.

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_5Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_4
This radio has 8 push-button bands: long-wave, AM, short-wave 1.6 to 26 MHz, and FM along with tone controls. The sound is surprisingly good it is a 6-cell battery only (no AC). It has reasonably good short-wave drift-free performance. The paint job looks good, there is a rusty chrome bumper next to the push-buttons. I decided to to restore this part. It is ok for your 1960’s Town & Country to have rusty bumpers.

While you would not take your Panasonic RF9000 your Transoceanic or Grundig, This radio is my “beater” to take to the beach.

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_1

Does anyone know about the Star-Lite brand?

Thank you, Ed, for sharing this.  I am not at all familiar with this make and model of radio. I must say…I’m most impressed that you were able to fabricate a tuning knob! It would have been a challenge to find a replacement knob otherwise.

I bet she plays well, too–looks like a decent ferrite bar inside and a substantial telescoping antenna.

And you’re right, Edward, it is ok for your 1960’s Town & Country to have rusty bumper! Now take that girl to the beach! 🙂

Post readers: please comment if you’re familiar with the Star-Lite brand!

Colin’s Hammarlund HQ-120X restoration


Many thanks to Colin Snow for sharing the following photos and commenting on his Hammarlund HQ-120X restoration. I originally noticed his photos in the Extreme Shortwave Listening group on Facebook and he kindly wrote up descriptions for each image to be published here on the SWLing Post:

Hammarlund HQ-120X restoration

by Colin Snow

Hammarlund HQ-120X

Purchased on eBay March, 2016. Hammarlund HQ-120X (1939 restored) and PSC/10 speaker (1939 original). The radio was frist restored by KE7RD, the collector who owned this unit for years. This was a late production version. It has 6K7’s instead of 6S7’s (good). The O/P TRANS has been replaced and an SO-239 added. It was recapped and aligned both IF + RF and works well on all bands.”


I had the cabinet repainted locally at NRI Sandblasting and Coating with a black semi-gloss crinkle powder coat paint. I cleaned the chrome part of the handles with Quick Glo and stripped and painted the two shoulders with black gloss enamel.


I had the speaker enclosure stripped and painted at the same time as the cabinet with the same black semi-gloss crinkle powder coat.


The original 1939 speaker was a 10″ Jensen. It worked, but I wanted the best possible sound. This current production model Jensen fit exactly.

HAmmarlund-HQ120X 6

White lines for the knobs were done using white out. The lines are grooved so I just gobbed it on and wiped off the excess.


I had the faceplate rescreened by Adam’s Precision Screen Printing, Inc. San Leandro, CA. They created a film positive first, then a negative screen.


It was a perfect job. The color and sheen matched original. This should last longer because it is an epoxy ink that has been baked to harden.


The lettering came out clean. Even though they made a 1.5X negative they still had to create artwork for the fonts. The original letters were just etched into to aluminum. It looked like it was done by hand.


Funny how words change. We now say “megahertz”, not “megacycles.”


I refurbished the dial windows myself. They were easy to strip and I used a flat black enamel spray. The S-meter glass was dirty so I disassembled it and cleaned with Quick Glo.


Still works after all that!


Its final resting place is my office and looks pretty good next to an original Tiffany’s lamp. I have a second listening post.

Colin, I can see that you spared no expense to restore this Hammarlund HQ-120X and it has paid off–an absolutely gorgeous job! I love how its “final resting place” is in a part of your office that gives it an appropriate amount of space–a place to be admired and, more importantly, enjoyed.  I bet the 120 sounds simply amazing!

Thanks again for sharing these photos and your commentary, Colin!

Video: Yaesu FT-1000MP Repair


Remember Mr. Carlson’s excellent video of the Sony CRF-320 restoration? Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ken McKenzie, who shares a link to the latest Mr. Carlson video–a Yaesu FT-1000MP repair:

Guest Post: Communications Service Monitors – A Radio Hobbyist’s Perspective


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN) for the following guest post:

Communications Service Monitors – A Radio Hobbyist’s Perspective

Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos courtesy of author)

Over the past few decades I lusted after a communications service monitor for my radio hobby but prices were always prohibitive; several thousands of dollars for a new model and tens of thousands for high-end ones. Not being a working professional in the communications field made it difficult to justify purchasing a piece of equipment whose price tag rivaled a down payment on a house. So, fast forward a few decades later and now life and times have fortunately changed for the better; the house is paid for, the job is secure, the income is finally steady, life is good financially, and to boot many of these older service monitors manufactured by Ramsey, Motorola, Wavetek, IFR/Aerotek, Cushman etc., are currently being sold on the pre-owned market at a fraction of their original decades-ago hefty prices. These service monitors are finally in financial reach of electronics hobbyists who will find many uses for these former electronic workhorses that toiled many years in the industry and now, in their golden years are being retired and becoming available for a second life via reuse/reincarnation/repurposing/reinvention.

Work of Art: Author’s Ramsey COM3 Service Monitor

Work of Art: Author’s Ramsey COM3 Service Monitor

So what exactly is a communications service monitor, or “service monitor” as the folks in the trade refer to? Well it is an instrument for servicing AM and FM radio equipment, although some units also have the ability to service SSB equipment. The service monitor is basically a highly accurate and precise receiver and low-power signal generator all in one allowing a technician (or electronics hobbyist) to perform service, repair, or alignment of radio equipment. Most of us have had the experience of owning a malfunctioning radio whether it is an AM or FM broadcast radio, two-way radio such as a CB (Citizen’s Band) radio, pager, or a ham radio transceiver, and that is where a service monitor proves its value and utility because now you, the hobbyist, can perform the work yourself.

My Friend’s Ramsey COM3010 Service Monitor, Big Brother of the COM3

My Friend’s Ramsey COM3010 Service Monitor, Big Brother of the COM3

As a radio enthusiast (shortwave, ham radio, satellite communications) for over half a century, I’ve definitely owned more radios than shoes; everything from AM, FM, shortwave receivers to CB radios to ham transceivers, all in different stages of health and vintage. For years I relied on standalone RF signal generators, audio generators, frequency counters, and CTCSS decoders to aid in rehabbing, troubleshooting, and aligning each of the many units that paraded past my radio shack. Then one day a friend showed me his service monitor, the Ramsey COM3010, another venerable workhorse still in production, and it was a defining moment; the time had come to invest in one.

Aligning a Uniden President Washington CB Radio Prior to Owning a Service Monitor

Aligning a Uniden President Washington CB Radio Prior to Owning a Service Monitor

My Ramsey COM3, purchased second-hand from an Internet auction site for $400.00 is a no frills, basic unit without the features found in more sophisticated service monitors having built-in oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, frequency sweeping ability, and frequency scanning ability. The COM3 was in production from the late 1980’s to around 2003 at a price of around $2500 (ca. 1989) and was considered a workhorse in its time, weighed 13 pounds with the internal battery, and was easily luggable from site to site. It covers from 100 KHz to 999.999 MHz and has become an invaluable tool in my radio shack for measuring a transmitter’s operating frequency and deviation, measuring receiver sensitivity, S meter calibration, and checking CTCSS tones on my two way VHF/UHF radios. My unit evidently had an easy former life as the only needs were to replace the internal battery, perform an external cleaning, check transmitter and receiver accuracy and check accuracy of the internal audio generator. Interestingly, Ramsey Electronics ( still services and calibrates COM3s.

Vintage Tempo One Transceiver Restoration Was Made Easier with the COM3 on the Bench

Vintage Tempo One Transceiver Restoration Was Made Easier with the COM3 on the Bench

So, if you’ve been dreaming of owning your own communications service monitor either as a hobbyist or small repair radio shop proprietor then start looking as there are plenty of used units out there; you’ll pay top dollar when buying from a commercial vendor but at least you’ll get some form of warranty. If instead you travel the same road I did, via an Internet auction site, there’s lots more risk involved, but the plus is you’ll save big if you do your homework by checking past auctions, seller feedback scores, and determining what price the market is bearing by looking at the winning bids. In closing, the COM3 owner’s manual is available on line by doing a simple search, and a review of the Ramsey COM3 by Larry Antonuk which appeared in the August 1989 issue of 73 Amateur Radio Magazine is also available as a free download.

Mario, thank you for another brilliant guest post! I always learn something new from your articles. By the way: I have that same Nye Viking straight key–it obviously pairs beautifully with the Tempo One!

Hammarlund HQ series: A digital display modification

HQ-DisplayMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jeff (KB7AIL), who shares the following:

Saw the article on the DC meter in a Hammerlund HQ180.

Another mod I have seen is replacing the meter with a digital display.

It integrates with the HQ180 nicely.

They also have digi-displays in cases or use with other receivers/transceivers.

Very cool, Jeff. While I know a digital display might kill the vintage look for some enthusiasts, I have to admire such a useful modification to replace a broken Hammarlund clock/meter.

As Jeff mentions, Electronic Specialty Products has a number of external digital display boxes as well. Check out their full line of products on the ESP website.