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 Post subject: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 2:46 am 
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Location: Columbus, IN
Made a very long trip yesterday, a total of 417 miles to be exact, to pick up a couple items I had purchased from our fellow ARF member Barry Bennett. It poured the rain a good chunk of the day, both going and coming home. But outside of the weather, and dealing with the God-awful construction around Columbus, Ohio, the trip wasn't too terrible. Just pretty tiring. The high point was, of course, picking up my purchases. Besides being excited with the electronic "loot" I was collecting, I was very pleased to make Mr. Bennett's acquaintance. Barry is a knowledgeable, pleasant, and interesting fellow. For the short time I and my wife were there, he was a great host, and gave us a tour of his vast collection. Thank you Barry!

I deviated from my normal electronics purchasing habits in that what I bought was NOT Tektronix or Clough-Brengle related, but was what I thought is an interesting radio, a Philco 38-40K farm model. Outside of the butcher-block appearance of the veneer (which I very much like), the dual power supply is very interesting. It employs both a vibrator power supply such as found in automobiles of the day, plus a basic AC/DC supply for powering with the house mains. You can either chuck the 6 volt battery from the grain truck into it to listen to "The Shadow", or when REMC finally comes to your area, plug it into the wall. Pretty cool.

The second item was the legendary Hewlett-Packard 606A signal generator. I have wanted to get a good lab-grade sig. gen. for many years, but have never been at the right place at the right time. This one looked to be in outstanding condition, the seller is one of our own, and the price was very good. Upon arriving at Barry's place, I found the HP and Philco both to be in better condition than the photos showed. So much so that upon returning home, the Philco was cleaned up and placed into the living room for display, and to await my checking it thoroughly prior to eventual repair or restoration.

The 606A was cleaned up a bit and placed on the bench for further evaluation. Other than the normal light scuffing and scratches one finds, the appearance was excellent. All the knobs are correct, the dial lens is clean and clear, power cord appears in good condition and original, and the switches and dials moved effortlessly.

That is with the exception of the band switch control. It was so stiff as to almost require vise grips to turn it. In order to address the stiff band-switch, and visually check for anything obviously awry internally, I removed the case. Outside of some dust and dirt build-up, the unit is pretty clean internally. There is evidence that someone has been inside in the past as there were a couple screws missing from the shield that covers the band turrets. That said, I could find no obvious repairs or hacks.

Freeing up the the shafts that comprise the turret tuning mechanism proved to be a bear. The grease/oil had so solidified as to be almost impenetrable to penetrating oil. It took all of 2 hours of soaking and twisting the control to finally free things up. After cleaning up the oil drool and inspecting the innards, I replaced the missing screws, along with three of the four back cover screws, and reassembled the generator. Slowly bringing it up to power on my Iso-Tap transformer was uneventful. At around 90 volts, the oscillators sprang to life. Close observance indicated nothing untoward, so I eventually gave it full line power. In short, it performs well. The signal in all bands is clean, and crisp. After a couple hours, there was only a very slight drift. I am quite pleased with this unit, and it speaks to the outstanding quality HP put into their early gear. The only obvious faults, are that the modulation signal in both 400 and 1000 KHz positions is somewhat distorted. Too, I am sure a good calibration needs to be performed and the electrolytics need checking and/or replacement. A leaky electrolytic cap. is the likely reason for the distorted audio tones.

In spite of the HP's outstanding quality, and that I could make use of it as it is, I don't intend to put it on the bench. For the foreseeable future, I will continue to use my Clough-Brengle 299A. Why? The reason is a big one....The HP simply will not fit. I really wasn't aware of the sheer size of this beast. It fairly competes in volume with a 500 Series Tektronix scope, if not with the weight. Only major changes in my work area size and arrangement will allow accommodation of the 606A. This thing is truly a boat anchor.

Still, I am both thrilled and feel lucky to have gotten an example of one of the finest tube-based signal generators ever made. Some day it will reside with the rest of my treasured test equipment. Until then, it will have to be set aside.

Thank you Barry!


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Philco3840KHP606A.jpg
Philco3840KHP606A.jpg [ 3.42 MiB | Viewed 1142 times ]
HP606AWorks.jpg
HP606AWorks.jpg [ 3.4 MiB | Viewed 1142 times ]

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Last edited by jdleach on May Sun 29, 2022 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 4:20 am 
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Location: Liberty, Missouri 64068
Nice score JD! The 606 is a very nice OLD generator, and if you are working only on AM/CW radios it is a nice tool to have. After a half hour or so of warm up they are stable as a rock, and a very clean, low noise CW signal. Don't know which version you have but as I remember some of the later versions had some FM capability and provisions for using a counter.


I've had a couple 606s over the years and even used them as a transmitter exciter and for VFO duty. Here I'm using it along with a old SS mobile RF amplifier and stereo amplifier/mic amp, on the old, early morning, 80 meter "Peanut Whistle" A.M. net. There were a lot of not so typical transmitter and receiver solutions, which made for a lot of fun experimental "Rube Goldberg" stations on Wednesday mornings.
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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 7:33 am 
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Location: Columbus, IN
Thanks Mike. I think I'm going to like it a lot. I have also found out unfortunately that it is missing one of the band switch detent spring/arms and roller (looked at an online manual). The top one. Noticed that it appeared that something was missing when I was trying to free up the control, as the u-shaped bracket that holds the springs has an empty threaded hole. The lower spring and roller are there, just not the upper one. Both roll pins are there, and fortunately have not come loose. The spring may have broke in the distant past, and some tech just removed the remains and never replaced it. Detent works with one spring, but it isn't very positive.

Will have to find or print out a manual for the unit so as to acquaint myself with it's construction. The prefix is 644, so this one is a mid to later version. In my searches I have seen prefixes up to the 0960A range. Not sure what the lower prefixes were. Therefore, I don't know what this unit's capabilities are yet.

There are a couple things that I'm not very keen on with it though. One is the "tinny" sound from all that sheet metal when you flip switches. I have grown so accustomed to the Tek stuff that it is kind of jarring. Tektronix of course used aluminum extensively from the beginning, and aluminum being softer than steel, is naturally quieter. Too, there is just a lot more unsupported sheet metal acreage on this thing than most of my Tek gear. The other thing that irked me last night was having to take out a pile of screws (and two brackets) to get to the oiling holes for the turret shafts. It can be argued that that many screws are necessary for proper sealing and securely mounting of the shield, but it sure made it more trouble to service. I noticed that HP has placed several plugs in the shield that can be popped out to adjust various things. My thoughts were that they could have put in a few more to access the oil holes.

The above said, I like that they included a long Allen wrench to take out the socket head cap screws in the narrow space between the oscillator and amplifier sections. Fastening the Allen wrench with Fahnestock clips was novel. I was also very impressed with the aluminum casting the turrets were mounted on.

Again, I just can't get over how big this thing is. It literally dwarfs my 561A scope. Despite it's size, if I ever put together a new, larger bench and shelf system, it will be on it.

Your rig in the photo was quite interesting. When it comes to amateur radio, I'm pretty well lost. I have recently inherited a National NC-46 receiver that has piqued my interest a bit though. I am thinking about trying to locate a matching speaker and see about getting it working. It appears in great shape internally, and just looks grubby on the outside. I have read that it was a "value" receiver in the day, and was of the transformer-less type, and thus one needs to be careful of the hot chassis. Would be nice though to get a speaker, put up an antenna, and try the "DXing" thing. Might even get my license some day if I live long enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 2:54 pm 
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Location: Hutchinson,Kansas
I love my 606B. Its a great unit and stable. Yes you do have to oil them! Mine was hard to turn like yours. I cleaned it and put some light oil in it and let it sit over nite and it turns ez and smooth now!

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 6:49 pm 
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Location: Columbus, IN
Wanted to ask you Mike. Where did you get those small diameter coax cables? They look like the ticket. I am tired as hell of dealing with the thick, stiff ones I have. Want something smaller in diameter and MUCH more flexible. BNC of course.

Thanks for the comment Wasp. You are just one of thousands (millions?) of folks who have sang the praises of the HP 606 series of signal generators, and the reason I bought this one. Because of the legendary reputation of HP gear, and the person I was getting the unit from, I figured I couldn't go wrong. My supposition proved absolutely correct.

I thought about springing for one of the 606B units Barry Bennett had for sale but, although it isn't an aversion, I really prefer all tube if possible. I find I am warming to transistors though, as usually when I am working on a Tek piece that has them, they are pretty rarely bad. The tubes are a different matter. I have had numerous tubes in a plugin or a scope that test out fine, but just won't work in a particular circuit. Too, checking the transistors are bloody easy and quick. Dragging out my Philco 7052 tube tester is rather daunting. Not only is it massive, it's heavy, and has all those switches that need to be set. Isn't enough room on my bench for when I am testing tubes, so I have to stack up cardboard boxes to set it on. Of course as luck would have it, the boxes contain my spare tubes. Therefore when I find a questionable tube, I have to set the tester on the floor, root around in one of the boxes for a replacement(s), then put the box/tester stack back together. What a pain. Testing the transistors are a breeze. Generally I just put my tiny Micronta by the 561B, hook it to the scope, and begin checking. Usually they either work, or not. Questionable transistors put out screwy waveforms.

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Last edited by jdleach on May Mon 30, 2022 1:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 9:18 pm 
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Location: Ventura, CA
Congrats on the 606A! I bought might about a year ago from a thrift store. Belonged to one of the local government contractors in the area and was well taken care of.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Sun 29, 2022 11:55 pm 
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Location: Manchester, MI
I bet Mike's cables are RG178. Really nice to use for patching gear together.

If you need some, drop me a PM. You can find BNCs on ebay. I use ones with solder pins and crimps for the braid and they seem to hold up reasonably well.


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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 3:11 am 
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Another satisfied customer of Barry! I got my 606B from him, a couple of years ago. My turret was very stiff, but I was able to free it up. Mine is a later production model, from 1977; it needed some power supply work, a few tubes, and a little tweaking. It now performs well, and makes radio alignment easy. Being too big for the bench, it's on a table; the HP 206A audio generator, the HP 330 distortion analyzer, and the B&K 415 sweep generator make up the rest of the stack.

One thing that I built for it is a .047 mfd isolation capacitor, in a little box with BNC connectors; it stays hooked up in series with the output cable. The uncalibrated RF output drives my Heathkit IB-1103 frequency counter.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 11:23 am 
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I am always amazed by the mechanical structures these types of instruments have. What would it take to manufacture something like that today? The tuning drive alone would probably push the cost of such a device to several thousand $$.

The most extreme example of this I can recall is the tuning section from a Collins 390 receiver .. a work of art and more gears than the finest clock lol.

JD, good to hear that yours works, and if you need to locate those missing parts let me know and I'll see what I can turn up here.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 2:04 pm 
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Hi JD, the vast majority of my test cables are RG-174.

My friend, Terry K0LSW now a SK, gave me about a mile of it a few years ago and I've used it for just about everything except transmitters over 50 Watts out, or so. RG-174 test leads are fairly delicate though and can't take much abuse, so I make them fairly long to avoid accidental tug or yank damage. If you want tougher small diameter leads then Teflon insulated RG-316 would be my choice. RG-316 is great stuff for bread boarding because you don't have to worry about soldering it, destroying the stuff. I have a few 316 leads.

I also use RG-58CU, for a few test leads, and it's the most flexible of all the RG58 variants. I use Crimp connectors off of ebay for virtually all my coax leads. I have a few RG58 and RG213 runs for higher power transmitters and antenna feed lines.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 8:04 pm 
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Joined: Feb Tue 11, 2020 11:43 pm
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Location: Mechanicville NY 12118 USA
jdleach wrote:
Freeing up the the shafts that comprise the turret tuning mechanism proved to be a bear. The grease/oil had so solidified as to be almost impenetrable to penetrating oil. It took all of 2 hours of soaking and twisting the control to finally free things up.


Reminds me of rebuilding the suspension on my '78 Eldorado - but at least I could use a torch :)

Art


Last edited by ArtFromNY on Jun Sat 18, 2022 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 8:55 pm 
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Mikeinkcmo wrote:
Hi JD, the vast majority of my test cables are RG-174.

My friend, Terry K0LSW now a SK, gave me about a mile of it a few years ago and I've used it for just about everything except transmitters over 50 Watts out, or so. RG-174 test leads are fairly delicate though and can't take much abuse, so I make them fairly long to avoid accidental tug or yank damage. If you want tougher small diameter leads then Teflon insulated RG-316 would be my choice. RG-316 is great stuff for bread boarding because you don't have to worry about soldering it, destroying the stuff. I have a few 316 leads.

I also use RG-58CU, for a few test leads, and it's the most flexible of all the RG58 variants. I use Crimp connectors off of ebay for virtually all my coax leads. I have a few RG58 and RG213 runs for higher power transmitters and antenna feed lines.


Thanks Mike, you have once again came through with information I can use. The coax cords I have now are pre-made and work well enough, but are stiff and unwieldy. I will start "rolling my own" going forward. There are many times when I only need perhaps a foot of coax, and others when three or more feet are needed.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 9:08 pm 
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Tim Tress wrote:
Another satisfied customer of Barry! I got my 606B from him, a couple of years ago. My turret was very stiff, but I was able to free it up. Mine is a later production model, from 1977; it needed some power supply work, a few tubes, and a little tweaking. It now performs well, and makes radio alignment easy. Being too big for the bench, it's on a table; the HP 206A audio generator, the HP 330 distortion analyzer, and the B&K 415 sweep generator make up the rest of the stack.

One thing that I built for it is a .047 mfd isolation capacitor, in a little box with BNC connectors; it stays hooked up in series with the output cable. The uncalibrated RF output drives my Heathkit IB-1103 frequency counter.


You better believe I am satisfied!

One of the things that occurred to me when I was at Mr. Bennett's place was that here was a fellow who truly cares about preserving our industrial/electronic/technological past. There are shelves after shelves, stacked almost to the roof with Hickok, Tektronix, HP, General Radio, and everyone else. All very neat and orderly, climate controlled, clean, with just a bit of dust. Cabinets and shelves lined up with all manner of parts and pieces. Nothing jumbled or tossed about or in disarray. Equipment is not stacked on top of other equipment, but side by side.

The only unfortunate thing was that he only has three Clough-Brengle pieces. One, a model 411 audio generator I own a copy of. The other two units, a signal generator and RCL bridge, are pieces I don't have. Both are in great shape. I made it clear to him that I intend to pester and wheedle until he decides he has had enough and sells them to me.

This chap is one helluva valuable resource to our community.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Mon 30, 2022 11:01 pm 
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I freed one up a few months ago - some isopropyl in the bushings and gentle prying of the turret gears got it moving a bit, then a bit of oil in the bushings to finish the job. Went from stuck solid to moving pretty easily after some soak time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frdpAhNkH5o&t=2s

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Tue 31, 2022 2:35 am 
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I fell in love with my HP-606A so much that I bought a second one. Actually there was method to my
madness. First, I do a lot of RF alignment on general coverage receivers and they invariably require
peaking the receiver on each end of each band. I got tired of spinning that knob back and forth and back and forth
(as the manuals always says), " until no further improvement can be observed." So when the opportunity arose for me to
buy a second HP-606A I did and made a switch to select between the HP-606As. I set one on the low end and the other on the high end and just flip the switch until I am satisfied with the tracking of the band.

The second reason I bought a second HP-606A (and this may be of special interest to THE WASP as it appears he's as much of a Hallicrafters fan as I am), the second one came from the Hallicrafters service lab. It's like owning a piece of history.

J.D. I hope you got a good one because you'll love it if you did. Pay attention to the warning on the 3 volt attenuator position and never leave it in that spot for very long (a few minutes at the most). The 6CL6s (two of 'em) will fry. I actually pasted a tiny skull and cross bones next to that setting.

Congratulations on your HP-606A.
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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Tue 31, 2022 2:38 am 
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Thats cool it came from Hallicrafters!



Todd


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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Tue 31, 2022 3:03 am 
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Location: Melbourne, Florida
What brand of forklift do you guys use?

RRM


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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: May Tue 31, 2022 2:56 pm 
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A bit off topic here, but Todd your mention of using two generators for tuning both ends of the band, is why I like my HP8660. It has a "STEP" function that allows you to enter ANY frequency step (JUMP) you want.

You simply enter the frequency of one end of the receiver's tuning band, and if the other end is 13.678 Megacycles away, that's what you enter for your step. then it's just one button to "STEP" up or down, from one end of the band, to the other.

There may well be others, but I don't know of any other generator that has that function.

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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: Jun Wed 01, 2022 6:55 am 
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Location: Corinth, TX
I first used two RF signal generators back in the '60s when I was in the Marines stationed in Barstow. They gave me a pallet of seven clapped out R-390As and told me to make at least three good ones using as few repair parts as possible. I was about halfway through aligning the variable IF with a URM-25: Tune the slugs, crank the radio, crank the -25, tune the caps on the high end. Crank everything back and repeat. After the first cycle, I looked at the six front end slug banks and said, "There has to be a better way."

There was. I went back to the tool room and checked out a second URM-25. Tuned each one to high and low freqs as needed, then swapped cables as needed. All I heard from spectators was, "I never thought of that."

Know what I miss from those days? Being young enough that all that horse dung was fun. :)

OTOH, that was also when I fell in love with an HP 606B.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Newly Acquired-HP 606A
PostPosted: Jun Thu 02, 2022 1:00 am 
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I moved up from a Heathkit generator that I built as a high school student, to a URM-25F. That was better, but I still wanted to move up to the HP.

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