Thursday, August 2, 2018

Repositioning a Hustler 6BVT

Looking at my Hustler 6BVT antenna the other day got me thinking. After four years  everything has grown, the antenna is certainly being surrounded by nature.
While building a stone slab base for a  new shed near to the Hustler, I noticed the ground radials I laid out all that time ago have started to break up,  I have already noticed broken wires that seem to be appearing all over the place!  
 It’s now sitting surrounded by hawthorn and apple trees some as high as thirty feet which can’t be good, I’ve noticed reception has gone down since I first installed it and I think it’s time I found the antenna a new home.
The present position of the Hustler and the area of the new shed, I think I'll put the antenna on the other side of the trees in the paddock.

Two things immediately spring to mind, where to place the antenna and installing the ground radials. The recommended number of ground radials is around 32 but I like to have at least a minimum of 40 radials, all different lengths to cover the bands.

Ground radials can be a black art in themselves, you can get away with as little as about 12 but it not always recommended unless you have very wet soil. When I first installed the hustler there were about 60 and they seemed to take forever to lay out, but it was definitely worth it. The ground plate was a home brew  effort, basically a piece of aluminium bought off Ebay with the holes drilled and then small bolts place in every other hole, I could then attach each wire or a combinations of joined wires to each bolt with a small nut, fairly basic but worked well and saved me some money.

 when I removed the ground plate wires were everywhere!
 One difficulty is that I am limited by coax length, the present RG58 coax which is connected to the hustler is buried under a large part of my garden and unless I dig it up and totally start afresh, I will only have roughly 30 feet of coax to play with for re- positioning. So I have a number of factors to work out, but I’m sure it will come good in the end.
If I lay out the exposed coax around the paddock area to see what exact length I have to play with, I should be near enough in line with the mini Yagi, but obviously I don’t want to get too close.
Then I'll start  laying out the ground radials in the full 360 degrees circle and see how that goes. I will begin with 12 radials but hopefully ending up with at least double. As I lay each radial I intend to mow the grass fairly short so I can pin each one in to the ground and so in future it won’t get mixed up with the mower blades. Hopefully within a few weeks the radials will have disappeared from sight by the growing grass.  I'll then reconnect the radial plate with its new radial system and then install the newly positioned antenna and test for SWR!
The cleaned up radial plate.

So I've  disconnected the Hustler from the ground radial plate and disconnected the old wires and given the plate a good scrub and it's come up reasonably well. Next week if I get the chance I'll clean and then replace the antenna in its new home and then think about putting out the new ground radials!
What fun, the first spot I placed the hustler I raised it up I was touching a telephone wire a 1 in a 1000 chance, typical! so I had to move further than I liked,  the only issues was adding some extra 15 feet of coax.

The 2nd move of the antenna went according to plan with little fuss and no more telephone wires in the way. A tip worth remembering is to make sure everything is well greased up or lubricated in some way, it makes dismantling so much easier, I was very surprised how everything came apart so easily, but this was due to me lubricating when first assembled! I've added about 6 ground wires so far and a small amount of wire netting, I'm not going to rush just take my time and add more ground radials as I go along.


So far the SWR is a good 1:1 across all bands but the important thing is the resistance which ideally should read around 36 but at the moment is a 45. I suspect by adding more radials (about 7 more) it will come down to around 38/40 and then as you add more it will slowly reduce but not by any great amount. The average is about 12 to 15 but obviously if you can add more it will improve. A few years ago I would be going beserk adding as many as I can but now I'm a little slower and I'm getting reasonable results so I'm taking things slowly!

With 4/5 ground radials! I shall add more as I go along. 
More importantly results on the radio using the Hustler are good. Obviously conditions and solar flux are not at their best but testing between the Yagi and the 40/80 W3DZZ things are looking up. With some more ground radials to be added it's looking good for its new home!


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Kenwood TS 950 SD Has Gone!

Sadly I have let the old girl go as she wasn't being used regularly by me anymore simply because I was using the Yaesu FT1000 more and more. A chap down south has bought her and as far as I'm concerned got a great rig for a bargain price.

Before I let her go and when we were in negotiations I tested the radio one more time, just to see that she was running OK and to have one more little play and she didn't disappoint. Admittedly the receive is slightly down on the FT1000 but not by much, but every time I put out a CQ I got a reply back. These radios may now be old but they still pack a punch, I'll be sad top see her go!

Good bye old girl, I'll miss you!!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Yaesu FT1000

Browsing through a well known auction site I spied an FT1000. I've always hankered after one of these as my Brother in law has the FT1000d which is a very nice rig, I remember when first using it I said to myself that one day I would own something similar to that rig. Well, here we are a few years down the road and I'm looking at an FT1000 
The standard FT1000 is similar in build to a d version except no BPF-1 filter or TCXO or any CW/SSB filters.

But reading through the information on this FT1000 I noted all filters had been fitted and a BPF-1, so the only missing part was the TCXO, so you could call it a d version of sorts and the guy only wanted £700 for it. Yep, I could live with that.

 I tracked down the owner via the site and made an offer of £600 minus the auction fees if he didn't sell from the auction site. Sure enough at the end of the auction no one had bid, so eventually he came back to my offer, I had an FT1000!

Within the week I had picked it up and returned it safely back to my QTH.
It turns out the previous owner got it from his father who had bought in the States 20 years ago used it once and given it to his son the present owner, he had used it only literally 5 times and all he had done was switch the voltage for UK use. He had then put it away for storage, presumably to use at some stage, but never did. The transceiver was immaculate not a scratch anywhere, pristine condition, brand new, it looked as if it had been stuck in time!
I took the cover off just to check all the filters were there, they were and on turning the radio over I looked at the TXCO it was the upgraded TXCO-1 !

Switching it on the receive, it was superb and on transmitting I was getting excellent reports, better than the 950SD, nearly as good as the 9000, I could hardly believe it, I'd been so lucky.

These transceivers in their day were the ones to own, but to pick one up at this sort of price even today was indeed a stroke of good luck, I now had this FT1000 the original grand father, as back up to an FTDX 9000, not bad!
To make the day I saw another FT1000 not in nearly as good condition on the same auction site for £1100, I couldn't believe it!

The decision to keep the Kenwood 950SD is down to am I going to use it now I have the FT1000?
Comparing both, I have to be honest there is probably not much in it but the FT1000 has 200w rather than the 150w of the 950SD. The receive capability is definitely towards the FT1000 but not by that far. Both are fabulous rigs,  I think I'll wait and see, if I do sell the 950SD it will be for a similar price I paid for the FT 1000, so someone will be getting a bargain!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The W3DZZ 40/80M Service

 Of all the antennas I have in my garden, the one I have always relied upon is the W3DZZ. It's a good design and an excellent antenna that over the years has brought me some good contacts on 40 and 80 meters.
Time has shot by and once again I find myself having to service the old W3DZZ! It was way back in Feb 2013 that I last took it down and did a proper service so I think it’s about time I did do it again.

The first thing to do is to actually get it off the 40ft mast, it’s in an inverted Vee shape so it’s pretty easy to remove off the mast especially now as the leaves are yet to grow back on the various trees in and around the antenna.

Once removed off the mast, I have to disconnect the two 40m traps these are attached by four simple old choc blocks and on un-screwing them, they show their age by literally falling apart in my hands, hmm, time to replace with some new ones!

Then it’s just a simple case of getting the old MFJ 259 out and seeing if the traps are still doing their job, the traps are showing a reading of 6.0881 & 6.0840 a little low as I want them both resonating at approx. 7.1 MHz, so I undo the waterproof tape and reset them by just gentle spacing the coax and taking readings from the MFJ. Eventually I get them both reading 7.1MHz and it just a matter of gently re taping checking as I go that both stay at the correct resonance.
The traps having been re-taped and cleaned are now ready to be put back with the antenna. The actual trap designs are from GM0ONX webpage and is very easy to construct, it's literally 11 turns of RG38 coax round a 40mm waste pipe 100mm in length. If you're starting out on trap building, his website is well worth a visit and he explains in very easy terms how to construct his take on the W3DZZ design. He uses these simple coax traps, so the winds are easy to do and it won't seem too fiddly! I think the original build took me a day or so to complete, so it wasn't long and it really is a great antenna.

Here's my MJF 259 with my homemade loop coupler for measuring the traps, loop couplers in the UK can be serious money!

Before I replace the choc blocks (I had to order some more), I’ll double check all the wire lengths again with the MFJ for SWR and I might lengthen the 80m portion a wee bit so that I’m not just tuned in on CW. Nowadays I’m finding I like to listen in on some local chat on LSB and I would like the ability to join a QSO.

Tuning the W3DZZ should always begin with the 40m working outwards, it's easier that way. Sure enough the maintenance work causes the SWR on 80m to be 1.0 at 3.600 so it has moved, I just needs to be trimmed a bit more, I'd like it around 3.7500. Typically as soon as you adjust 80m and get that right the 40m has moved and is reading a little high at 1.0 on 7.200, so I'll have to add a little more wire to drop the frequency down a bit.

The W3DZZ is mounted on the mast holding the cobweb in an inverted Vee format and one of the wires come towards about where the picture was taken, the other end would finish up hanging near the hustler antenna to the left. Interestingly after messing about with different positions around the garden I always end up mounting in this way

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The W3DZZ Inverted L Antenna with Top Band

Back in 2011 when I built the W3DZZ trap antenna for 40 and 30 meters Len Paget GM0ONX who originally came up this particular way the W3DZZ is designed also came up with an inverted L antenna based on another W3DZZ design, I described it earlier in my blog (see the "my Blog" link below).
Here's the general view of the antenna
The antenna had been lying dormant in my shack as I was using the original 80/40 meter W3DZZ and so had no use for it. But as the time has passed, last week I felt like a change so I dismantled the original W3DZZ for a serious service which it desperately needed and have replaced with this Inverted L W3DZZ.
The difference is that besides the 80 and 40 meter coverage I can get Top Band, which is quite fun as it’s still a fairly new band to me and I thought it’s about time I really started to get in to it, plus I could try my hand at doing some DX!
Basically Its just adding some more  wire to the end of the original inverted 80/40 L antenna, 8.54m to be exact! The length does vary slightly from location to location because not only is there a shortening effect caused by the inductance in the 3.5 trap, there will also be a significant capacitance effect on 1.8 MHz as the antenna is close to the ground. All the details regarding build can be found either on Len’s page GM0ONX or on my blog

The traps needed some checking and adjusting from sitting in the shack doing nothing and now I'm happy with the 80 meter trap it's 1.5 SWR at 3.600, but the 40 meter trap needs more work to get the SWR in the sweet spot, it's a little high at the moment. Once both traps are ok I can concentrate on the actual wire, it's 14 gauge and I need to make sure all the measurements are correct. The actual tuning is fairly easy but Len does state the 7Mhz will probably need rechecking and adjusting and on a quick test I've already seen its the 7MHz portion causing an issue.

The 40m Trap

The 80m Trap
The other bit I should mention is when first built the antenna I used a ground rod for the earth connection, but quickly found on testing that a series of ground radials were needed. Where it’s positioned at the back of my house I am limited in what radials I can put out, but I hope in the next few days to get at least 10 or 12 ½ wave lengths out.
The ground rod is very limited at the moment
First impressions are it's a pretty good antenna but obviously for its size it's never going to be the best Top Bander, the other limitation seems to be the width on Top Band, it's quite narrow, but with the help of an ATU it seems to be working OK and I will try to improve as I go along.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Weather Station

I’ve managed to purchase a weather station, I’ve been searching for a good one for the past 6 months mainly for reading the wind speed for my mast and antenna. As we sit in on a small raise in a valley the wind funnels through our area and can pick up speed fairly quickly, hence the nick name “windyville”! So I needed something just to warn me when it was getting too windy for the antenna and mast and when to take it down.

The other readings that came with the weather station are more of an interest than necessity, these are temperature indoor and outside, humidity, rainfall and wind direction. Now I find myself nipping to the shack seeing what the readings are and noting what’s changed, it can get quite addictive!

Of course the XYL whom actually bought it for me as a Christmas gift because my original gift a metal detector had unfortunately turned up broken, thinks I’ve gone a bit soft in the head cos all I talk about is the weather and reading off the station!

It’s only small and consists of two parts, the actual instruments which sit on a post in my paddock and the receiver which is in the shack. It was very easy to set up and should the need arise spare parts are easily available, (I know what the real winter storms are like round here)!

Now my Brother in Law a fellow ham has been round for a chat and seen the station and wants one for himself…….This is obviously catching!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bands Dead?

Who says the bands are dead?

It's Saturday morning the 23rd of Dec around 10.00 am and on 14.190 I'm hearing ZL3JAS Jason in Christchurch in conversation with Roy VK7ROY and a station in Chile CE3YG! God I love this FTDX 9000!
Once again, just being patient and quietly listening to what's about, you can hear some amazing stations.

The interesting thing is I've been playing around with the Kenwood 950SD for a few weeks, deliberately keeping away from the Yaesu. So after a few weeks I thought I'd give it a try today and boy what a difference!

The Kenwood is an extremely good radio, but it's a whole different ball game when listening with the Yaesu. The clarity is amazing, I'm using the same antennas, just changing the radio. You can hear stuff on the Yaesu that just wont come up on the Kenwood no matter how hard you try.
I must admit at one stage I had my doubts about keeping the FTDX9000 simply because of it's size and of course the cost. It would be easy just to let it go and have some spare room on the desk and pick up a load of cash.

But on hearing and reminding myself just how good it is, I find myself thinking I must be nuts! ...........Happy Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Kenwood TS-950SD

Well I've got the Kenwood TS 950SD, I had to drive down to Paignton in Devon for it which was a bit of a pain, especially when having to drive in a 1.2  Terios 4 wheel drive, buts that's another story.

I must admit when I'd got home and set the radio up I was pleasantly surprised, the condition of the bodywork was exceptional, not a scratch anywhere, which you would have thought for its age there would be something and when I switched on the receive was very clear and quiet and by adding the filtering I could zero any CW signal right down. Which when you think about it is not strange, after all at one time this was along with the SDX and the S was Kenwood's Flagship Transceiver.

The difference with the SDX is there is no menu so you cannot alter the DSP, the SDX also had different types of final transistors and additional memory functions but the SD all the same filtering installed so I think I can live with that. Some Operators say the SDX is the bee all and end all of transceivers with totally different circuitry and I've seen one presently retail at £2295...Wow, think what new transceiver I could buy with that? There is no doubt the SDX is a better transceiver but you cannot knock the S or the SD.
My first QSO with the SD was with a German station who gave me a good 589 with just 20 watts, I knew straight away this radio was a winner. I've got to now try and find a few accessories like the speaker and a nice desk mike but I don't think that should cause too much of a problem.

A further update is I've managed to track down an SP-950 so all I need now is a decent desk mic and I should be OK.

Recently I've been playing with the Rockmites, digging them out from the back of the shelf in the shack, dusting them off and checking they are all working correctly. I'm always amazed at the fact that I have the FTDX 9000MP which can produce 400 watts of power and retails now at £8000 and yet at the other end of the scale I have three Rockmites, built by myself that produce 1.5/2 watts, and cost around £30 each. I can contact locals in the UK or Europe and have a good CW QSO, it does make you think.

I have three Rockmites, 20,30 and 40 meters
 If you ever want to have some cheap and cheerful fun with QRP, build a Rockmite! It's easy, it doesn't take long to assemble and with the right conditions you'll be amazed at what you distance you can achieve.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pleasant Surprise!

Sunday late afternoon, I was trawling over 20 meters listening to what was about and amongst the usual suspects of European stations I heard an American calling, K1NTW somewhere on the East coast nr Boston which got my interest.

He was calling a QRP station in Wisconsin, Mike AA9AA from Manitowoc. I could hear a very faint sound of CW that was very QSB but just readable. I was wondering what his power output was, when I heard K1NTW come back to Mike with "FB wid ur 2 wtts"! I couldn't believe it I was hearing a Wisconsin station putting out just 2 watts of power.

I checked my logbook for his call sign as AA9AA is kind of hard to forget and I knew we had spoken at some stage before but it turned out it was way back in 2014 when conditions were a little better. I thought I would try a QSO and tuned up the FTDX 9000 and called him.

He came straight back with a 559 and we had a little chat. Admittedly there was a lot of QSB but I had got through and was very pleased especially with the current conditions. But it just goes to show there is good stuff out there and with a little patience and tuning you can find it! It does just show what a great hobby this is.

Some of you may have read my previous post about my Brother in Law finding and purchasing a very nice Kenwood 950SDX, I did say it had got me hankering after one as it would make a great spare rig with the FTDX 9000 MP.

Well of I started hunting around but the 950 SDX is bit like searching for hens teeth.
Eventually I spotted a very nice 950 SD which was in mint condition for its age at a reasonable price. Obviously similar to the SDX, I snapped it up and am due to collect in a week or two. I can't wait to pick it up, it should prove a great addition to the shack.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Experimenting with 2 Meter Yagis

The summer has past in the blink of an eye and we are starting to see the leaves drop as well as the temperature!
 Tuning the 9000 around 20 and 17 meters yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to hear some US and Canadian stations booming in which I hadn't heard for a while especially as the majority seemed to be from the east coast!
The signals lately have been all European with the odd DX which can get pretty monotonous after while. Lets hope with the onset of winter signals start booming in again form all over the world.

Since the bands have been so quiet I have been playing around with my 2 meter antenna set up which consists of a 9 element Yagi and my home made 3 element. Obviously there is a big difference, with the 9 element pointing up north I have got as far as Yorkshire, whereas with the 3 element I'm closer to Birmingham which is about 50 miles from the QTH, but its good fun experimenting, made a lot easier by having the tilt over mast and winch!

Having to swap antennas is part of the fun and seeing and comparing the difference can be very interesting. The only downside is that 2 meters seems to be so quiet these days. The 9 element Yagi worked very well but I found was quite narrow transmitting and receiving, if you moved the rotator slightly right or left you occasionally lost the signal. So being a bit of a learner it was a lot of trial and error but great fun when you managed to get a good DX signal. The homebrew 3 element Yagi was much easier and wider so I think I will use that  as my main 2 meter antenna rather than my collinear I have in my attic for the next week or so to see what improvements if any are available.

My Brother in law has once again grabbed another bargain, this time a very nice Kenwood 950 SDX. I'd forgotten had good these transceivers were and I might add still are. Of course now I've seen one in action again, I've had the usual hankering of wanting to get one for myself, but I think the XYL may have something to say about that!