Joshua acquires an Argonaut 509

Many thanks to Joshua (KO4AWH) who shares the following guest post:

Ten-Tec Argonaut 509 Acquisition

by Joshua (KO4AWH)

My club president sent me a text on Sunday before our Monday club meeting. He wanted to know if I was interested in a Vintage 80s QRP Radio. He knows I have an affinity for QRP. Honestly, I think he is still amazed at how I managed to get through piles ups on his hexbeam during summer field day with my TX-500. Boy was that fun.

The deal was a Ten-Tec 509 with the microphone and CW filter, the matching 251 power supply with meter, and the 504 matching 50W amplifier. He sent me a photo, I had to look it up. I have heard of Ten-Tec, thanks to Thomas K4SWL, but certainly was not familiar with their Argonaut 509. I was intrigued. I don’t have a single vintage piece of equipment. I have only been a Ham for less than 3 years.

We had some equipment from a club member SK donated for auction to raise funds for some club repeater upgrades. This was a good excuse to purchase an old piece of equipment that I likely would not have purchased otherwise. After looking over the 509 and accessories, all of which were in great condition, I brought them home. Of course I couldn’t help but hook everything up and turn on power. Everything powered up but no movement of the frequency indicator, not a great sign, and no audible hint of changing reception frequency. After further inspection it seemed the dial tuning mechanism was seized up. Looks like another project.

The next morning, as I had a few minutes to spare I started taking things apart. I have never pulled apart an old transmitter before so I took my time as I studied all the components and marveled at the simplistic yet complex circuitry found under the covers. Once I was down to the tuning mechanism, a few desoldered wires later, it was removed and ready for cleaning. I don’t know if the grease was original, but it sure was hard. After carefully cleaning, greasing, and reassembling all the components, soldering a couple wires back, and reassembling the housing, I was ready to power it back up. I don’t want to understate the work involved, it can be quite tricky, but I really enjoy this type of thing.

After tuning around a bit and working with the controls on the Radio, I found a POTA operator to zero beat. I needed something to reference in order to adjust my knob indicator so I would know what frequency the radio is on. I actually received the manual for the radio and each of the components. Reading through a few key points the night before really helped out when I was ready to start tuning in and transmitting.

I had the amplifier on, I set the DRIVE to about half way guessing that was okay and called back to the Activator. First call, he called me back with a 59! WOW, I was excited. I let him know I was on an old Ten-Tec that I had just repaired and he came back and said the audio and signal were great. How exciting! So, naturally, I hunted a few more stations and then listened to a few rag chews as I got familiar with the Radio.

Not only was I excited to have repaired my first radio, I am also amazed at the capability of this Radio originally released in 1973. I am not a long time SWL or radio operator but there is certainly something very appealing to me about the audio this Rig produces. I wasn’t certain what I was getting into with this rig, but I sure am happy how it worked out! I may just be on the hunt for another Ten-Tec. I even plan to take this to my local park and do at least one activation with it.

Here is a quick excerpt from the introduction in the operating manual.

“The Argonaut opens a whole new world of excitement and fun in Amateur Radio. We think you will find QRP a welcome change. Five watts are only 2-1/2 S-units below 150 watts for the same conditions. When skip is favorable and QRM light, you will not be conscious of using low power.”




13 thoughts on “Joshua acquires an Argonaut 509”

  1. I enjoy reports like this. I have two Argonaut 515s and may be willing to sell one. A fun radio. I bought the first one back when they first came out in the late 1970s. Had a 509 to start with but it was stolen so I replaced it with the 515. Ran it in my car with a 405 amplifier and a Hustler mobile antenna (on a 1968 Mustang).

    Dave K8WPE since 1960

  2. Joshua, congrats on getting the Argonut 509 in working order and making the contact. The 509 is a great radio. I should know because in 1974 I bought my Argonaut 509. With the help of my 3 element beam I worked the world. I remember working France and was blown out of my chair. I couldn’t believe I could work Europe with 2 watts but I did. The 509 I’d still part of my collection of radios. Ron WB4OQL

  3. Congrats on bringing an old rig into use again, it is really satisfying. I hanker after my old TenTec Century 21 that I had for many years and that travelled with me as a GM, G and VP8. I always regret selling it!

    Lovely story, cherish the moments driving it, the skills you develop will only enhance your operating capability.

    73 (72)

    Richard M0RGM

  4. I have had an almost obsessive attraction to the TenTec Argonaut series since I was first licensed in 1981 and purchased my first HF rig, a TT Argonaut 515. I still have my original rig and have owned many 505, 509 and 515s over the years. I have a slideshow presentation on “The Oddessey of The Argonauts”- and a recorded video

  5. Minus the amp, this was my rig throughout the 80s. Got way more challenging toward the mid to late years of the decade as the sunspot cycle waned, but I still remember waking up early before school… having a ball working that “rare, Slobovian DX” on just a few watts and a dipole. 10 meters was very hot for awhile there.

  6. Ten Tec started about 1968, big news because one of the founders had started Electrovoice.

    They started with CW modules, you had to put them in a box yourself. I’m not sure when they transitioned to full rigs, but by 1971, they sold a 4 band direct conversion receiver.

    A search says this was their second SSB rig. It almost came as a shock, since they’d been doing CW.

    1. Have an Argonaut V. My favorite radio. Though I have been spoiled by the newer rigs, the argonaut fun factor is pretty high. Love to hear about them.

  7. I am reminded of one of my my experiences with a 509. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, and it was a very cold night in February of 1977, shortly after getting my Extra, and there was no static on 80 meters. I wanted to try out the Extra portion of the band, so tuned to 3.508 MHz. An Italian station was calling CQ, with no response. My thought was nothing ventured nothing gained, so I gave him a call. He came right back to me with a nice signal report and we had a 15 minute QSO. I told him about the radio I was using with 2 watts output. After we signed, a Russian station began to call me. Now I had friends who loved to play jokes on each other, and I assumed one of them was trying to get me. I finally replied to him. He came back with a nice signal report and said he wanted to tell me he heard my 2 watts, and gave a town name, which did not help me to know where he was located.

    Wait, there is more to this story, his QSL card came through that summer. I was so proud of it I posted it on the wall beside my rig. Later, we were entertaining several Russian young men with their interpreter in our home over Labor Day, They were curious about my radio operations, so I showed them my station and while I was explaining the equipment, to them, one of them said “that is close to my home”. I asked him to give me a clue about where it is. It ended up that he lived near the Russia/China border.

    QRP is sometimes extremely exciting!

    Russell K3NLT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.