Ten Tec Century 21 or other Vintage CW Transceivers

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KI4ODO, Apr 16, 2016.

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  1. K7JOE

    K7JOE Ham Member QRZ Page

    was my dream rig in 1979.... have had a few over the years. With a PTO rebuild and recapping the PS, it's a super simple and reliable cw-only rig. One step up from a heathkit HW-16
  2. KI4ODO

    KI4ODO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    [​IMG] New to me Century 21 in it's new home. Love the receiver on this rig,, what a cool sound. Worked the SKCC WES this weekend with it, what fun :)

    Attached Files:

    W1BV and N2IIE like this.
  3. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, the deed is done. I had a thought that I wanted to convey before you finalized your decision, not that it would make the Ten Tec less desirable than other similar radios. It is good advice, so I will complete the thought here...

    The antenna system (one or more) is the most important part of a radio station. Make sure your antennas are the best you can afford (in terms of money and/or DIY effort) before you blow the budget on a radio.

    A radio station with a premier radio and a run-of-the-mill antenna is a second class radio station. A radio station with an average radio and a premier antenna is a first class radio station.

    Fortunately, antennas need not be a big cash expenditure to be premier antennas. Antennas are great DIY projects. Congratulations on your Ten Tec acquisition; now, give it what it needs to reach its potential--a set of premier antennas. You can start with just one.
  4. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Congrats and enjoy!
  5. KI4ODO

    KI4ODO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you and I agree 100%. This radio was not an effort seeking to improve performance. It was more of the novelty of having a cool, somewhat vintage rig that works well. My Delta 2 is performing quite well, and even though the antenna could be improved (and that is my next project) it has worked very well on CW. The Century 21 was simply me getting it for the fun, cool factor. I love it, but It obviously isn't the Delta 2 . Later I will likely keep my eyes peeled for more older Ten Tec rigs like an Omni D or Corsair if I find one for a great price that works well. but for now I'm good with this. I'm getting some broadcast signal interference as I stated in another thread, so I'll address that first. Which ultimately I may knock out two birds with one stone when upgrading my antenna. But again, I agree 100%. Antenna is the first and foremost (and often least expensive) way to make a station go from mediocre to awesome.

    Here in about another month, yard work and typical summer chores will be wrapped up for the year and I'll have the time I need to really re-do my antenna configuration. It's really more about the time and effort I need to do it right. I kinda have it planned out in my head, but it's gonna take a little work relocating the inverted V supports and such. But I love doing that, and would much rather do it in the fall.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
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  6. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well....that all depends on how "performance" is defined, doesn't it?

    I mean, numbers and lab tests are great, and should be taken seriously. But there's also the "fun factor" of any rig. How easy is it to use? How tiring is it to listen to? How does it "feel"? Stuff the numbers don't always tell you.

    IOW, a rig can have great "numbers", but if it's not fun, for you, its performance isn't really that great.
    KC2SIZ, K8AI and KI4ODO like this.
  7. KI4ODO

    KI4ODO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well the fun factor sure is there :D And as for performance, I'm getting great signal reports, having fun rag chews, even working a little DX and DX light (Hawaii). And this rig is a joy to listen to when the broadcast signal interference is not happening. So far only two times have I not been able to make the contact I was seeking. Once was a DX pileup from a European station, the other was New Zealand on 20 meters. He sent KI?? Then sent OD?? several times. He gave it his best to pull me out of the noise,but finally he said "sri no cpy". But I was close :) The guy in Europe never heard me, and the guy in New Zealand was calling CQ about 12:30am my time with no pile up.
    N2EY likes this.
  8. K5UJ

    K5UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The old Ten Tec rigs are great if they are in good working order but I wouldn't think of them as vintage. To me that term is reserved for class C vacuum tube rigs either grid or cathode keyed. Why not get your feet wet with a DX40 or some other vintage novice rig that runs an 807 or 6146. These rigs are all over the place at hamfests. Replace a few capacitors and you are probably ready to connect a straight key (for testing only if you wish), crystal and a dummy load made by clustering a bunch of carbon resistors to get the dissipation needed or a light bulb and light it up. Later you can run an outboard VFO like a HG10 or HA-5 or Glove V10. If you want to tap the VFO with a T to the rig and a frequency counter I won't tell. For cathode keyed rigs a vintage Hallicrafters HA-1 TO keyer paired with a Vibrokey paddle would be the cat's meow. For the complete experience pick up a classic receiver like a Hammarlund HQ180 or National NC303 (or 300) and connect it to a separate random wire antenna for full QSK. The great news is that unlike modern plastic box rigs, none of this will bankrupt you and you won't believe how much more fun CW is with a vintage tube station. Your modern gear will seem amazingly dull and boring as you become accustomed to firing up the old gear to search for a ragchew QSO. Other ops running vintage gear will hear your slight class C choke filter ring on your beat note and give you a call. If you take a fancy to operating with a bug, (my preference is the Vibroplex Original Deluxe) that bug swing with that class C rig will be music to the ears of like minded ops.

    Of course "vintage" is in the eye of the beholder. Go back to QSTs from the early '30s to read The Old Man's fulminations on this "newfangled CW" stuff. Yep, the first president and founder of the ARRL preferred spark, at least for a while. There was indeed a time with the continuous wave from a vacuum tube was a new thing.

    If you really want to get retro, you can ditch the 1950s equipment and get into the TNT and TPTG rigs built on varnished wood, in which you have to make your own coils from copper tubing. That is an art unto itself. Here's an example: http://members.shaw.ca/ve7sl/tntarrl.jpg


    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  9. KI4ODO

    KI4ODO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well since this thread was started a while back, I have upgraded my antenna. I'm still only using one antenna for HF, but it's better and a little higher. I put up a classic windom (off center fed dipole) and love it. No tuner needed on most bands I work, and it has really improved my overall on air experience. The 25-35 watts from the C21 has much more punch with a decent antenna under less than ideal band conditions, as well as my main HF rig. I'm hearing much more now, and the noise level is noticeably lower than with the G5RV.

    The antenna system will always be a work in process, but it's much improved now.
    AA4OO likes this.
  10. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The C21 is a great radio, as is the C22. So much fun to operate.

    I emailed Ten Tec a while back to see if they could still sell a PTO rebuild kit to me for one of these rigs. I have not received a reply, but I hope I will at some point.

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