Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Vibroplex restoration project

1944 Vibroplex Champion
The idea of hand crafting my dots and dashes the old way sometimes sneaks up on me - until I check the prices on a shiny new Vibroplex. I used a bug long ago when I was licensed as VQ9BL. But not by choice...

We'd pulled into Diego Garcia for a 2-week repair on our water distilling plant with most of that time being spent waiting on parts being shipped from Stateside. As a result, we had plenty of downtime for fishing, chasing the few women on the island and, if you were so licensed, ham radio.

There was a ham station on VQ9 at the time and it included everything but the rig - a great building, excellent antennas for 10-160m, power supplies, antenna tuners and even an SB-220. I didn't have a rig with me but an Exxon tanker was in port with us and the RO graciously allowed me to use his Icom 735. And the only key he used - a bug.

I'd never used a bug before and I'd never had a rare DX callsign. Calling CQ with this mechanical contraption and then signing as VQ9BL resulted in a comedy of telegraphic errors. I wish I could go back in time and see myself trying to cope with the wall of calling JA's, and the mis-shaped dashes and runaway dots. I did eventually become comfortable with the bug and then, I like to think, competent.

That was all many years ago.

As of yesterday I am the new owner of an old Vibroplex built in 1944. I bought it for $50 with the idea of trying my hand at restoring it. Lots of info is available online for such projects. The best at this was W4PAL who unfortunately passed away earlier this year. The results of Bill's restorations can be seen here (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page).

Lucky for me, Bill wrote a book, heavily illustrated and full of details, on Vibroplex restorations and,
Bill W4PAL (SK)
after speaking with his wife on the phone, a copy of this book is now on its way to me.

I'm under no illusion that I'll end up with a finished product that will look anything like one of Bill's but I am looking forward to the process. It will be new ground for me and a way to put life back into a WW2-era bug. Who knows what messages this thing sent out back then?!

I'll detail the process, warts and all, here on the blog.



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Kirby - the Champion is not the flashiest from Vibroplex but was considered the economical everyman's bug. A good candidate for a beginner at restoration I think.