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Air Variable Capacitor Calculator

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KC9KXW, Mar 14, 2010.

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  1. KC9KXW

    KC9KXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello Everone,

    Does anyone know of a "Air Variable Capacitor Calculator Download" that gives the size of plates, number of plates, space between each plate, what metal to use for the project at hand, and if you should use a dielectric of some sort between the plates, and the "END CAPACITANCE VALUE" of said capacitor.

    Thanks in advance for any answers and information.

    73 Jim
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The ARRL Handbook has some good data on this.

    But if you use a dielectric other than air between the plates, it's no longer an "air variable capacitor.":p

    And as long as the stators and rotors are metal, it doesn't matter what they're made of. Most are aluminum or plated brass. Capacitance doesn't change with material. If you could deposit a thin film of metal on balsa wood, that would work just as well.;)
  3. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

  4. AE1PT

    AE1PT Ham Member QRZ Page

    A great item for analyzing unknown components that you have is an old Heathkit Impedance Bridge, such as the IB-2 or 2A. You can find the range of the capacitor relatively quickly--and these items can be had for under $30.
  5. KC9KXW

    KC9KXW Ham Member QRZ Page



    Thanks for the bit of info on the dielectric, so if that's the case then what kind of variable capacitor is used in something like a transister radio (the ones that are in the little plastic ---> cube)?


    Thanks for the links, I will be looking at them here shortly.


    Moneys tight right now, can you find those impedance bridges on ebay?

    Thanks again Guys.

    73 Jim
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2010
  6. VK2TIL

    VK2TIL Ham Member QRZ Page

    The calculator that 'GB gave (the Plate Capacitor one) is a good one.

    The rest is design that requires the designer to make decisions; not really a subject for a calculator.

    Home-building variable capacitors is not for the faint-hearted but there are quite a few examples on the 'net: Google will find them.

    What 'WIK was saying is that, if you use a dielectric other than air, it's not an air-spaced capacitor.

    The dielectric in the small caps often called Polyvaricons is plastic; its dielectric constant is greater than that of air and smaller plates can be used.

    What is the intended purpose of the capacitors you want to build?
  7. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    That is a Polyvaricon Capacitor, photo of one used in the QRP Kits Bitx20 transceiver!
    LG Electronics and Mitsumi were 2 large mfg. but these specific parts are on backorder in USA.

  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The Polyvaricon answer's already been given before I got back!

    Those might be suitable for QRPp rigs, but would not normally be used for real transmitters. Nothing's quite as stable as a vacuum or dry gas, but next best dielectric is air. It's very low loss, stable, and has great withstanding voltage. Most all variable capacitors used in transmitters are air dielectric, although some high powered ones use vacuum dielectric (those are sealed in glass or ceramic).

    What are you building??
  9. KC9KXW

    KC9KXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Variable Capacitor Fun

    There is no real "intended purpose" for the build other than just (GOOD OLD FASHIONED) "Ham Radio Experimentation", but maybe for a QRP CW Rig to take camping or hiking to toss a resonent dipole in the trees and have some fun. :D

    I like to learn about OLD RADIO and how guys way back when used to experiment with what they had (and nothing more), and "MAKE IT WORK".

    That's all, It can give you great satisfaction to build something with your own hands and it works. I do have a Yaesu FT-857D, but I don't want to be just another "APPLIANCE OPERATOR". Hey at least give me an ('E' FOR EFFORT). HIHI

    73 Jim
  10. VK2TIL

    VK2TIL Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's great! we need more amateurs who want to dig-down into "real" radio & electronics.

    The question that I and others asked was directed towards finding-out just what you want; there's a lot of difference between a 1000pF/20kV unit and a tiny receiving capacitor.

    Most homebuilders of variable caps seem to do it because they require something special and/or expensive such as a tuner for a magnetic loop.

    Whilst I make many items myself, I would not make a variable capacitor; there are many more-interesting things to design & build.

    I think that you will expend much energy in trying to build an effective small (say 100pF) variable capacitor but, if you really want to do it, start by searching something like "homebrew variable capacitor"; that gets 12 400 hits with Google.

    One interesting one is this;

    It discusses the use of simple PN junctions (diode or transistor) as VVCs (Varicaps).

    Cheap and interesting.
  11. PD7MAA

    PD7MAA Ham Member QRZ Page


    Hello !

    Here is a German Prog .

    Works fine

    73 John
  12. KC9KXW

    KC9KXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    More Information, Thanks John.

    Hey John,

    I looked at that kondensator (Capacitor) program and it looks great and simple to use also.

    Thank You John.

    73 Jim
  13. AE1PT

    AE1PT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, they periodically show up there for that sort of price. There is usually one or two at a hamfest that can be dickered down a little.

    These things really shine for finding unknown part values, and for experimenting with various coil configurations.
  14. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Aside from air, vacuum, and poly dielectric variables, there are also types that use mica as a dielectric. You can find mica types with voltage ratings into the lower kilovolt range. I've seen them in only compression types. Also, FaradNet is a good resource for all things of a capacitive nature.

    Bryan WA7PRC
  15. KC9KXW

    KC9KXW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the weblink.

    Thanks Bryan,

    All I'm looking for is just something for like a Regenerative-Reicever and then in the future a single band QRP transmitter for camping and hiking. I don't need anything "HIGH-VOLTAGE". :cool:

    Thanks for the information and the link.

    73 Jim
  16. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yep...the RCA Radiotron Engineer's Handbook.

  17. AC0YW

    AC0YW Ham Member QRZ Page

  18. W4HAY

    W4HAY Ham Member QRZ Page

    For measuring capacitance, many mid-priced multimeters (example) will do it. They're much easier to use than bridges, and some even will "zero out" lead capacitance for increased accuracy at low values.
  19. K8ERV

    K8ERV Ham Member QRZ Page

    You can salvage the small plastic caps from transistor radios.

    TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo
  20. VK6ZGO

    VK6ZGO Ham Member QRZ Page

    One advantage of knowing how to calculate the capacitance of an air

    dielectric capacitor is being able to "work backwards" to determine the value

    of an existing cap when you don't have access to an LCR bridge or similar.

    All you need are a few measuring implements,such as a rule & vernier calipers.

    Add a Scientific calculator & you're good to go!

    You probably won't get it exact,but it will be fairly close to a standard value

    for the max figure---min is a little harder to figure,but whatever is the min on

    the closest standard should be fairly correct.

    73, VK6ZGO
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