The FT-897 Bob-O-Meter

(one of the perks of building something is you get to call it whatever you want)

Last year I picked up my first new HF radio, the Yaesu FT-897D. I wanted a radio that would work well as a base, and in a field situation. Being a new ham, I didn’t want to close any doors early on by getting something too big.

I’ve really been pleased with the radio, it’s done everything I’ve asked, and i’ve yet to find a situation where I say ‘Oh if only it would do _____’.. I work all modes, digital modes and it’s just great. A year later, I’m still very happy with my choice.

BUT, the price to pay to have a small-ish all in one radio is the screen size. The meter, while there, does’t give the level of detail I like to see. So when I read that the radio has a port to connect to an external meter, I set about digging through the junkbox (and google) to see what I could do.

I found a nice writeup by M0MTJ on his meter, and saw how quick this would be to put together. He even includes a meter scale to print and insert into the meter.

Turns out I had everything I needed in the junkbox, but only a 1-inch meter that would do the job. I tried this for a while, then splurged a big $7 on ebay and bought a 4-inch meter. The 897 also has a jack in back that lets you put a ‘tune’ button (sends out a carrier so you can tune your antenna).. So since I was building anyway, I added a tune button on top of the meter housing. What I came up with is this :



And here on the back, the meter and tune jacks, and the potentiometer to adjust the meter :



In terms of complexity, the project rates about 2 on 10, the toughest part was probably making the opening for the meter in the metal box. In terms of usage and satisfaction though, it’s 10 on 10, and I can’t see myself using the radio without it.

To renew or not renew

Got this email recently –

Dear Robert,

Your membership in Radio Amateurs of Canada will expire on 2012-09-08.  We look forward to having you join us for another year.  You can go to to renew your membership now and avoid receiving further notices.

If you would prefer to renew by telephone please call the RAC office at 877-273-8304.  If you prefer to send a cheque we will be sending you a form in the mail in approximately a month with the correct amount.

Radio Amateurs of Canada


Ok, no mention of the cost/benefits.. Seems the only benefit to renewing is avoidance of further notifications. Stop it, you’re over-motivating me and flooding me with information. In fact, the way to find out what the cost of renewal, is to click through and stop just before the payment screen, and you find out it’s $54.

What do I get for that $54? What did it get me last year?

I got a nice certificate saying I was a member. And 6 issues of “The Canadian Amateur”, which in all honesty I find to be a good magazine and a fun read, even if it’s been a little light sometimes.

Somehow, I was expecting more from RAC. I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest, after all, I am a new ham, but I find I get much more out of sites like eham or QRZ than I do from RAC. I also joined RAQI last year (the Quebec provincial club), and I get more out of that then my RAC investment.

So what’s a 2nd year Canadian Ham to do? I don’t see a return on my membership dollar. I won’t bash RAC, I’m sure they are nice folks with good intentions, and I may come back at some point. If they offered a magazine-only subscription for a more reasonable price I’d look into it, but $54 didn’t get me much this year.

For year 2 of my Ham-life though, I think I’ll try an ARRL membership,