This NiCd battery charger can charge up to 8 NiCd cells connected in series. This number can be increased if the power supply is increased by 1.65v for each additional cell. If the BD679 is mounted on a good heatsink, the input voltage can be increased to a maximum of 25v. The circuit does not discharge the battery if the charger is disconnected from the power supply.
Usually NiCd cells must be charged at the 14 hour rate. This is a charging current of 10% of the capacity of the cell for 14 hours. This applies to a nearly flat cell. For example, a 600 mAh cell is charged at 60mA for 14 hours. If the charging current is too high it will damage the cell. The level of charging current is controlled by the 1k pot from 0mA to 600mA. The BC557 is turned on when NiCd cells are connected with the right polarity. If you cannot obtain a BD679, replace it with any NPN medium power Darlington transistor having a minimum voltage of 30v and a current capability of 2A. By lowering the value of the 1 ohm resistor to 0.5 ohm, the maximum output current can be increased to 1A.