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David's Dual Dial Delight Radio #74

Dave's Crystal Radio #74

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I sure love the smell of cut Garolite® in my kitchen shop. Welcome to my #74 radio page. This is a medium difficulty project only because of the complexities surrounding the wiring of the contra coil and switch. The rest is smooth sailing!

The Idea

The idea behind this set is for a fairly inexpensive and easy radio to build that will work with a wide range of antennas. This is accomplished by having a dual coil inductance radio. By using standard quality 410 pF variable capacitors and a medium strand count litz wire, a very nice radio can be constructed. I hope this project gives you some good ideas for making your own crystal set. Feel free to change the design to suit your tastes and budget.

Circuit Description

This radio operates as a single coil radio. There is a single capacitor in series with the antenna to the top of the tank, and another variable capacitor across the tank and then to ground. This has been my favorite radio tuning circuit for single coils and my favorite ATU or antenna tuning unit on dual tuned circuit radios.

With the adjustment of the series and parallel capacitors you can tune your radio so there is the best balance between sensitivity and selectivity. This is my no free lunch crystal radio theory: It seems that if you go for maximum sensitivity, the selectivity suffers and vice versa. By having the adjustable antenna coupling with the series capacitor and the parallel capacitor to bring the tank back into resonance, it is easy to adjust for the best receiving conditions.

The coil is the "contra style" with the best technical description by it's inventor, Ben Tongue. It is a good way to make an efficient dual inductance value coil. Not only there are no loose coil ends ever, but in the high range you have double the litz strands working for you. It is truly a free lunch scenario. The inductance change is 4:1. In this case from 240 to 60 µH. Coil taps to change the frequency range is so old school!

I decided that following Ben's example, that I would put a tap on the coil to provide a means for a little extra selectivity (at the price of less sensitivity). So I tapped the top coil (when operated in series for the low band) at about 2/3 the way up. This gives that extra bit of control to this radio. The tap goes to the diode.

This frequency range selection and selectivity adjustment is handled by a 3 pole, 4 position ceramic wafer rotary switch. Two of the poles switch the windings in a series or parallel configuration, while the other pole is used to switch the diode connection to the coil tap or top of the tank. I could have used two switches to do this, but this gave me the maximum benefit from the switch I had. My switch is a 4 pole, 5 position, but I used what I needed.

The first two postions are the low range, sharp or broad. The last two positions are the high frequency range, sharp or broad.

After the diode, it is only a matter of follow through. The resistance - impedance equalization, or Benny consists of a 180k ohm resistor with a .1uµF capacitor in parallel. This goes to the top of the impedance matching autotransformer, that I call an Überformer. This provides a much better impedance match to the tank circuit than connecting headphones directly to the diode output.

The Coil

Now some of you are saying, "What? Dave, the king of the spider coil is using a cylinder coil?". Let me explain. This is the coil that I made to test the contra coil principles. It is the first contra coil that I made. It has been sitting on top of my computer ever since I was finished testing it. So why not honor it by putting it in a radio?

The coil form is made from ABS plastic and is available at your local, friendly Home Depot store. If you can, avoid the PVC type. This coil form, or I mean sewer pipe coupling had ABS written on the tag. The diameter of this form is 4-½ inches or about 11,5 cm.

There is a ¼ inch gap (6 mm) between the coils. I drilled 8 small holes to feed the wires through. The picture below shows how the holes are cut. See, I saved 1000 words. :)

Each coil is 22 turns of 165/46 litz wire. Make sure that the coils are wound in opposite directions. I started each coil in the center and wound the coils in the same direction around the form. Look closely at how the coil winding starts at the center of the form.

Label one coil L1 and the other L2. The wires in the center are the "start" wires and the outside wires are the coil "finish" wires. It is important to know one from the other.

The coil tap for the diode is 15 turns out from the center on L2. If you make yours the same way as I did, then wiring according to my pictorial diagram makes it easier.


I used a piece of 3/16 inch (4,5 mm) thick Garolite® as the base and a 1/8 inch thick (3 mm) for the panel. I like using the thicker material for a base, especially for a larger radio. It gives the radio good perspective (art lingo). The width of the radio is 12 inches (30 cm). The height of the front panel is just under 6 inches. I sometimes make the measurements just under 6 inches as the material is 24 inches long. Taking a little for the scroll saw blade, I can get 4 pieces from the material that way. No one would care if the panel was 5-7/8 inches instead of 6, now would they? The front panel is held to the base by three small metal angle brackets. I used flat head screws with countersunk holes. All the screws on the base are flat headed types with countersink holes

There is a 6:1 vernier in front of each variable capacitor. To support the capacitor behind the vernier, I made a bracket from plastic. This piece is held down by two angle brackets.

The coil is mounted with two 2 inch (50 mm) plastic stand offs.

I wired the switch to the coil while the pieces were outside the radio. It made it easier to wire.


The frequency range switch splits the band at around 1000 kHz. There is overlap in the bands. This can be used to your advantage, depending on if the signal is weak or you need more selectivity. There are several ways to get to this magic balance point. You might switch the frequency range and retune if you are near the middle of the band. You can set the two capacitors to achieve the best balance and there is always the broad - sharp selectivity positions on the main switch.


Once you figure how to wire the main switch, the rest of the radio is easy. The contra coil lends itself to a fine working radio so long as the two variable capacitors are separate and not ganged. I am working on a single dial version of this set. It will require some additional circuitry to make it work right. Keep watching my web site for further developments.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit. 73 and good crystal DX. Dave - N2DS

Dave's Crystal Radio #74, Panel Close-Up View

Close-up view of the switch labels.

Dave's Crystal Radio #74, Contra Coil

View of the cylinder contra coil.

Dave's Crystal Radio #74, Top View

Dave's Crystal Radio #74, Side View

Top Down Views

Pictoral Switch Schematic of the Schmarder #71 Crystal Radio

Crystal Radio #74 Schematic, Pictorial View

Wiring Schematic of the Schmarder #71 Crystal Radio

Crystal Radio #74 Schematic

Closeout Radio Parts Available