Tag Archives: Yaesu FT-818

How to assemble a narrow CW filter for your Yaesu FT-817/FT-818/FT-857/FT-897 (an affordable YF-122C equivalent)

QRPer.com readers know that I’m a big fan of the venerable Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceiver.  So much so, I own two FT-817NDs–I purchased a second unit last year primarily for full duplex satellite work.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the one gotcha with the FT-817 and FT-818 is narrow CW filter availability. The YF-122C 500 Hz and YF-122CF 300 Hz Collins filter boards are no longer produced. Neither are the Inrad equivalents.

With the renaissance of CW we’re experiencing along with the growth of POTA, WWFF and SOTA, narrow CW filters for the FT-817/818 are very difficult to find and come at a premium when you do find them. I saw one sell recently for $250 US–over double what I paid two years ago.

In addition, this same filter not only fits the FT-817/818, but I believe it also fits the popular FT-857 and FT-897 series transceivers (please correct me if I’m wrong about this).

The Problem: I wanted another narrow CW filter

One of my FT-817NDs is loaded with a Collins 500 Hz mechanical filter that I purchased from my buddy Steve (WG0AT) nearly two years ago.

The second FT-817ND had a narrow Inrad 2 kHz SSB filter that came with the radio when I purchased it used (see image above).  Initially, I had no intention of buying yet another narrow CW filter because I’d only planned to use the second unit for FM and SSB satellite work.

Then, during field day this year, I decided it might be fun to build a quick-to-deploy portable HF station with something like an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. That thought experiment made me realize that I should simply bite the bullet and get a narrow CW filter for the second FT-817ND.

I started searching in late June and was simply not willing to pay the price for the very few filters that have shown up on the the used market.

The Solution? Assemble one!

I owe QRPer reader, Petr (OK1RP), for this tip.  Thank you, Petr!

The process of assembling your own narrow filter is actually quite simple and affordable. If you have even the most basic soldering skills, you’ll be able to manage this easy project. If interested, keep reading and I’ll show you how you can assemble your own…

Continue reading How to assemble a narrow CW filter for your Yaesu FT-817/FT-818/FT-857/FT-897 (an affordable YF-122C equivalent)

The Yaesu FT-817/FT-818 and narrow filter availability

So I’m a big fan of the Yaesu FT-817/818 series radios. This general coverage QRP radio has had a longer market run than any other transceiver I can think of and for good reason.

While the 817/818 lacks some of the advanced features of more modern field rigs and have no internal tuner, it makes up for it by:

  • sporting multi-mode HF, VHF, and UHF coverage,
  • having two selectable antenna options (a front panel BNC and back panel SO-239),
  • being incredible durable/rugged,
  • featuring excellent QSK (albeit with a bit of relay clicking…which I actually like),
  • and  generally being very affordable (prices typically from $400 used to $650 new).

In addition, they tend to hold up well with time.

For the price? I feel like you get a lot of radio with the FT-817/818.

This is the reason why I often recommend the FT-817ND and FT-818ND if it sounds like a good match for the operator.

One gotcha though…

I’m starting to realize that there is one downside to this rig especially if you’re primarily a CW operator: optional narrow filter availability. Continue reading The Yaesu FT-817/FT-818 and narrow filter availability

Brent’s updated review of the CQHam TB Box

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hi Thomas, hope you’re well.

Just a short message to bring you up to date on the performance of the new equipment.

In a nutshell, it’s brought me back to my old faithful friend, the FT-817. I bought my FT-817 20 years ago and it’s served me flawlessly all these years. It’s not the best at everything but it’s a perfect QRP shack-in-the-box.

The TB Box makes the little Yaesu a pleasure to use. The tuner tunes my 43’ vertical and K6ARK end fed random wire from 80-10 for the vertical and 40-10 for the ef random wire.

The battery tray slips out to reveal 6 Panasonic 18650 cells. The battery life is exceptional even with the 817 set on 5 watts. I’m just now in the process of topping the batteries up.

Attached are a couple pics of my operating situation today….it was such a nice day out on the driveway. I have a telescopic pole attached to the RV and strung the 41’ of wire up. Also, a closeup of the battery tray and one of the cells.

I can whole heartedly recommend this piece of gear to supplement an FT-817/FT-817ND/FT-818ND.

Loving it!

72/73,
Brent VA3YG

Very cool! Thank you for sharing the update, Brent! I’ll admit that I like the “old school” simplicity of this power and trans match system.

Click here to check out the CQHam TB Box on eBay. (partner link)

Brent’s initial impressions of the CQHAM TB-BOX

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

The Fedex courier just left my driveway. I ordered the CQHam TB box on Feb 29 and paid the $39 US for Expedited International shipping vs the Free Speedpack shipping from Hong Kong that promised it by June 1.  I really don’t like waiting for a parcel to arrive! Lol

I know there was some interest on your site about this product, so I thought I would write and give you some brief, first impressions.  Sadly,  I don’t have any more time to play with it until next week as I’m about to leave now to visit friends.

It arrived in 10 calendar days, well packed and everything inside survived the Fedex journey from Hong Kong to Southampton ON via Anchorage AK and Memphis TN.

No one would ever mistaken this equipment for gear made by Elecraft or Icom but it appears to work just fine. The variable capacitors are not smooth and the fit and finish is okay at best but I think, if you’re careful with it, and do your adjusting carefully, it should last you some time.

The “faux” leather case is actually quite nice and reminds me of the Yaesu FT-817 case.  As a bonus, a telescopic whip was included.

The batteries came charged and the rig showed 11.3vdc. I didn’t remove the battery tray as it didn’t want to slide out willingly and I didn’t want to force it. I’ll try that later when I have more time….

I connected my 43’ ZeroFive vertical with 30 radials to it and was able to tune from 80m right up to 10 meters with no problem.

I made a nice contact (my first phone contact in about 8 yrs) on 17 meters with a station in Biloxi.

It should be fun and it’ll give me an excuse to work the 817 again.

73 fer nw,
de Brent VA3YG

Thank you for sharing your initial impressions and the inside shots of the matching unit, Brent. We look forward to any updates you might provide as you spend more time with this field kit!

Two of the toughest QRP transceivers on the market

The Yaesu FT-817/818 (left) and lab599 Discovery TX-500 (right)

A reader asked this morning:

“[W]hat’s the toughest HF QRP transceiver on the market? I want a rig with good field performance and features, but I what I really want is something rugged…something that might survive falling off a rock or log while I’m doing a little SOTA.”

It was a no-brainer to me: either the lab599 Discovery TX-500 or Yaesu FT-818/817.

I feel lucky in that I’ve acquired a number of excellent QRP transceivers over the years. Most of my field-worthy radios are acceptably rugged, but the TX-500 and the FT-818/817 really stand out.

The Discovery TX-500

The Discovery TX-500 was designed from the ground up to be a rugged, weather-resistant portable radio that could operate in challenging environments (think the extremes of Russia where it’s manufactured).

If I’m heading outdoors and it could rain or snow? I’ll be grabbing the TX-500 for sure. It’s a brilliant portable radio

Yaesu FT-818 or FT-817

My Yaesu FT-817ND paired with the Elecraft T1 ATU

While the Yaesu FT-818/817 has no serious weather-proofing, it does have an incredible study chassis like the TX-500 and was obviously designed for outdoor use. Both of my FT-817NDs have side rails and with those in place, I really feel like it would easily survive falling off a rock or log. In addition, I’ve heard stories of the FT-817 surviving some hard falls–that goes a long way for me. No doubt, it’s a study little rig!

The X5105: A close runner up?

I’ll admit that the Xiegu X5105 feels like a very study radio as well. The chassis is made of an aluminum alloy and feels rigid. Mine has a polycarbonate screen protector.  I also like the fact that its buttons and the main encoder are all low-profile. It’s still pretty new to me, but it’s obvious Xiegu designed the X5105 to be rugged. If it fell off a rock during a SOTA activation, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Admittedly, I feel like the X5105 wouldn’t be terribly weather-resistant–the buttons are somewhat recessed and the button openings are quite large, likely allowing water intrusion. Of course, I haven’t cracked mine open yet (it’s still under warranty and is sealed), so I’m assuming there’s no effort to stop water intrusion internally.

Do you need a “rugged” transceiver?

That’s up to you.

One of my favorite portable transceivers is the Elecraft KX2. I’ve taken it everywhere. I’ve dropped it, it’s rolled off my clipboard, I’ve got caught in the rain with it, and I’ve even slid and fallen on my backpack when it was stored inside. I wouldn’t classify the KX2 as a “rugged” transceiver, yet it’s survived all of this without even sporting side rails (like its bigger brother, the KX3).

You can add after-market side rails to the Elecraft KX3–and to most field radios–which will protect the encoder and front panel buttons/knobs.

At the end of the day, if you like to operate in extreme conditions, put ruggedness at the top of your priority list. Otherwise, simply protect your transceiver in transport with a good waterproof case or padded/waterproof pack. If you’re worried about rain or water, bring a rain jacket or portable fly/canopy to protect you and your rig during operation.

Did I miss something?

What radios do you consider to be some of the most rugged on the market? I’m certain I’m overlooking some. First hand experience would be most welcome! Please comment!

Phillip discovers the TPA-817 B pack frame

Many thanks to Phillip (VE3OMI) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

[…]I came upon this interesting mount setup for the Yaesu FT-818 via Armando – KP4YO. I saw his setup on his QRZ page and was intrigued, as the rig seems to be able to stand up on its back side even with a pretty large whip installed.

(via KP4YO on QRZ.com)

Seems the gist of it is to bring all of the rear mounts and connections to the front.

Quite interesting and certainly looks “beefy”!

Product description from Armoloq:

The TPA pack frame provides a modular platform for configuring your Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 into a quickly deployable base, mobile, field or mil style man pack configuration.

The concept was to design an effective, small form factor frame that when installed, would allow relocation of all rear inputs, minus power and ACC connection, to the front of the radio, provide standoff at the rear of the radio for permanent cable attachment, and also provide protection when used in the field.

The relocation platforms provide a sturdy mounting point for attaching commercial or mil type VHF/UHF whip antennas. All accessory mounts are interchangeable and can be oriented to suit your operating situation.

The TPA pack frame is a 2 piece frame that is secured to the radio via 8, side chassis mounts. The frame is CNC laser cut from 5052 aluminum and powder coated with a matte black finish. The TPA provides protection to the radio body and control head with a wrap around design while allowing access to the top oriented MODE and BAND buttons, as well as the battery compartment.

Click here for full details and photos.

Thank you for sharing this, Phillip! I’ve never seen this pack frame/cage before and I’m not even sure how I’d use it for the type of field work I do, but I’m willing to bet that it’s the perfect solution for those wanting an uber-rugged cage for Emcomm and/or as a manpack. I love products like this that transform gear into military-grade kit!

Anyone out there use the TPA-817 B? Please comment!

POTA Field Report: Activating Lake James State Park (K-2739) with the Yaesu FT-817ND

One question that often faces newcomers to the hobby is: “Should I buy a QRP or a 100W transceiver as my first rig?

That is a very deep topic, actually, and one to explore in a future post. A 100 watt transceiver will certainly give you more options as they can often pump out 100W or be turned down to 1 watt. If you’re a phone operator only, that’s got some serious appeal. Then again, if you’re operating POTA or SOTA where you are the DX, power–while still important–is much less so than, say, if you were at home trying to work DX.

Again, a deep topic for another post because there is no right or wrong answer.

One of our readers (Phillip) reached out to me a couple weeks ago and asked if the Yaesu FT-818 would make for a good first HF rig. He liked the portability factor, the build quality, the HF/VHF/UHF multi-mode coverage, and the overall flexibility of the rig as a field radio. His goal was to do POTA activations.

We had quite a few emails back and forth about the pros and cons and I decided it might make more sense to simply take my Yaesu FT-817ND (which is nearly identical to the FT-818) to the field and activate a park in both SSB and CW. Since I knew he wouldn’t necessarily have an external antenna tuner from day one, I paired the FT-817 with my resonant 40/20/10 meter end-fed antenna.

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

On January 17, 2021, I pulled into my favorite part of Lake James State park and quickly set up my station. I only had about one hour to complete my activation, so knew this would be a very brief excursion. Since I actually had a minimal amount of gear, it was a quick setup.

Gear:

Since I deployed a resonant antenna, there was no tuning or matching involved which not only makes the most of your 5 watts (in that it’s more efficient), but also saves a bit of time in set up and tuning up.

You might note in the video below that my FT-817 has an accessory board attached to the top: G7UHN’s 817 Buddy Board prototype.

I’m testing this prototype at the moment, but didn’t need to employ it at Lake James since it’s really useful when the rig is on your lap or on on the ground. It essentially gives you top-mounted controls and a larger display to read front panel information from above–incredibly useful for SOTA and proper in-the-field activations. Andy’s v3 board will include a memory keyer–I can’t wait for that one!

Since I had Internet access at this park, I used my Microsoft Surface Go logging tablet to spot myself to the POTA network. I started calling CQ on 40 meters phone (SSB) and within six minutes logged eight stations. Not bad for 5 watts and a wire!

Next, I moved to CW on 40 meters and started calling CQ POTA. The POTA spots page auto-spotted me via the Reverse Beacon Network in short order. In eight minutes, I worked six more stations.

I then moved to twenty meters which was essentially dead, so I called it quits a bit early. I needed to pack up and head to my next destination.

Here’s a QSOMap of this short activation (red polylines are SSB and green CW):

I also made one of my real-time real-life no edit videos during this activation if you’re interested:

Truth is, each time I use the FT-817, I love it more. Sure it’s only 5 watts, has no ATU, has a small display, a clicky T/R relay, and questionable ergonomics, but it is a keeper for sure. Even after 20 years of being in production, it still holds its own and is an incredibly popular radio for good reason.

As I told Phillip, the 817/818 is the Toyota Corolla of the QRP radio world.

Upgrading my Yaesu FT-817 with G7UHN’s rev2 Buddy board

This article was originally published on the  SWLing Post.
Last August, SWLing Post contributor, Andy (G7UHN), shared his homebrew project with us: a genius companion control display for the venerable Yaesu FT-817 general coverage QRP transceiver.

Andy’s article caused me (yes, I blame him) to wax nostalgic about the popular FT-817 transceiver. You see, I owned one of the first production models of the FT-817 in 2001 when I lived in the UK.

At the time, there was nothing like it on the market: a very portable and efficient HF, VHF, UHF, multi-mode general coverage QRP transceiver…all for $670 US.

In 2001? Yeah, Yaesu knocked it out of the ballpark!

In fact, they knocked it out of the ballpark so hard, the radio is still in production two decades later and in demand under the model FT-818.

I sold my FT-817 in 2008 to raise funds for the purchase of an Elecraft KX1, if memory serves. My reasoning? The one thing I disliked about my FT-817 was its tiny front-facing display. When combined with the embedded menus and lack of controls, it could get frustrating at home and in the field.

I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a used FT-817ND from my buddy, Don, in October, 2020. I do blame Andy for this purchase. Indeed, I hereby declare him an FT-817 enabler!

FT-817 Buddy board

When I told Andy about my ‘817ND purchase, he asked if I’d like to help him test the FT-817 Buddy board versions. How could I refuse?

Andy sent me a prototype of his Version 2 Buddy board which arrived in late November. I had to source out a few bits (an Arduino board, Nokia display, and multi-conductor CAT cable). Andy kindly pre-populated all of the SMD components so I only needed to solder the Arduino board and configure/solder the cable. I did take a lot of care preparing and soldering the cable, making sure there was no unintentional short between the voltage and ground conductors.

Overall, I found the construction and programming pretty straight-forward. It helped that Andy did a remote session with me during the programming process (thanks, OM!). Andy is doing an amazing job with the documentation.

I do love how the board makes it easier to read the frequency and have direct access to important functions without digging through embedded menus. While there’s nothing stopping you from changing the program to suit you, Andy’s done a brilliant job with this since he’s an experienced FT-817 user.

The Nokia display is very well backlit, high contrast, and easy very to read.

“Resistance is futile”

I mentioned on Twitter that, with the backlight on, the FT-817 Buddy makes my ‘817ND look like it was recently assimilated by The Borg.

Don’t tell any Star Trek captains, but I’m good with that.

Andy has a rev3 board in the works and it sports something that will be a game-changer for me in the field: K1EL’s keyer chip!

For more information about the FT-817 Buddy, check out Andy’s website.

Of course, we’ll keep you updated here as well. Many thanks to Andy for taking this project to the next level. No doubt a lot of FT-817 users will benefit from this brilliant project!