3 MHz VFO for 40M Popcorn Superhet Receivers



This VFO was first popularized by Roy Lewallen, W7EL and has been used in countless homebrew and commercially sold QRP rigs. For the 40 meter ugly superhets, you have a choice of a VFO frequency of 3 MHz or 11 MHz and I chose the former for this website. For L1, you can use the T68-6 as shown or redesign your own inductor using a T50-6 core. The T68-6 core allows the builder to wind the coil using # 24 AWG wire for enhanced Q and stability. The main tuning capacitor, C1 that was used had a built in reduction drive and went from 4 - 19 pF. If you use a tuning capacitor with a greater capacitance swing, you may have to connect it to the top of L1 via a small-value NP0 capacitor to reduce the tuning frequency range. This can be done using math or by just plain experimentation. C2 is a small ceramic air-variable trimmer from my junk box used to set the lower band edge of the VFO. It can be omitted if the user wants to go frugal and experimentally set the lowest frequency of the VFO using small-value ceramic NP0 caps. Air variable caps for C1 and C2 are mandatory for minimal drift VFO operation. C3 actually refers to 4 NP0 ceramic caps which were used to place the VFO on the correct frequency. Four caps were used to minimize heating and thus drift in the VFO. For the prototype VFO which tunes something ~ 3.00 to 3.67 MHz , I used the mentioned air-variable, four NP0 ceramic caps (20pF,100pF,5pF,100pF) and C2 the trimmer cap that went from 2 - 50 pF. These values should be used only as a guide for prospective builders as there are many variables at play. Following a 10 minute warm up period, the VF0 frequency stability is excellent. Again, keeps all component leads as short as possible. T1 is a broadband transformer wound by using 20 turns of # 26 AWG over a FT37-43 toroid core and then distributing 5 secondary turns spaced evenly over the primary windings. Do not omit the 33 ohm load resistor. The 2.7 to 3.0 pF coupling cap should also be of the NP0 ceramic type. Q1 can be the J310 (my favorite) , 2N4416 , MPF102 or other correct substitutes.
This VFO should be in a seperate sealed, shielded box from the rest of the receiver.

VFO Stability Hints

Numerous tips for enhancing VFO stability have been generated from Wes Hayward, W7ZOI, Roy Lewallen, W7EL, Doug DeMaw, W1FB and others. Here are a few summarized:

1/ Use air wound or powdered-iron toroidal inductors made from number 6 material.
2/ Use the heaviest guage of wire possible to wind your inductor.
3/ Anneal the inductor by boiling it in water for around 5 minutes after winding.
4/ Use ugly construction above a SINGLE-SIDED copper side up ground plane.
5/ Capacitors in the L-C circuit should be NP0 ceramic type.
6/ Use air variable capacitors for tuning that have double bearings and no backlash.
7/ The VFO should be operated at a lower regulated voltage.
8/ Do not use cheap low-Q trimmer caps.
9/ Completely encase the VFO to prevent RF leakage and to minimize environmental temperature changes.