Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hawaii Calling!

Listening on 20 meters at 6.45 GMT this morning I hear the usual Europeans and Russians doing their morning rounds. Then quite by chance I hear at first what I think is an American station.

Tuning in further to investigate, I reckon its west coast, but then I hear the call KH6CW Hawaii! Coming in beautifully at 5/9, the operator was named Harry and was having great conversations with lots of EU stations. I thought about diving in for a QSO but having just risen out of bed and not yet had my breakfast and being half asleep, I wasn't in my QSO mode!

But it just goes to show when the bands seem dead up pops something interesting and out of the blue!

Distance 11,716 Km !

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The New Tilt Over Mast Arrives

Fresh from Scotland, MM0CUG Gary arrived with his brother and my tilt over mast. He does monthly deliveries all over the county including Northern Ireland, dropping different masts off from his trailer, quite a tiring task I suspect, but they seem to enjoy it. Like a typical cottage industry it has taken off as word has spread about the quality and workmanship of the masts or towers they provide.

When they arrived they couldn't have been more helpful in the setting up and positioning of the mast and can honestly say they were exceptional and went out of their way to help!

The mast in place at low level, it can raise up to 35 feet
You should be able to see a telephone line passing through the middle of the picture.
I found the first time when raising the 17 moxon that it was very close and looking from certain angles I thought it was going to touch. 
It turns out I have about 3" to clear from the tip of the moxon to the wire, bit close to say the least, but at least it does clear. That's the biggest antenna I have, so I should be OK for all the others. I wouldn't mind too much, but I don't even use the telephone wire, as it's all underground fibre optics now!! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rebuilding the Homebrew Hexbeam Antenna

So Clint's M0FHN Hexbeam antenna has arrived and at last I had some time to inspect it properly. It's very well built and interestingly he used an aluminium tube for a centre post, using extra coax as the ground. Because of this, the antenna is quite heavy, 15/16kg about 34lbs and that's not including the rotator, I'm not sure with the weight it will go on my new tilt over mast, it may be too heavy.

So what I thought I do is keep the aluminium centre post all in tact as it already has the element connected and is well weatherproofed, keep the reflector elements as well, store them all away. 
I'll remove the base plate, take the glass fibre spacer poles and the support cables which are all roughly measured out and I can adjust if needs be, use those in conjunction with a new lighter centre post made out of some thick fibre glass pole I had left over from making the 17 meter moxon.

I still have some 14 gauge wire left over from my Cobweb days and I'll use that for the new elements. This will give me valuable experience in building a Hexbeam and apart from the glass fibre spacer poles (which can easily be replaced) and I still have another spare Hex antenna.

I started on the centre pole yesterday and have been following K4KIO 's site on building the G3TXQ broadband hex, but adapting where I need to. The measurements for the centre post are the same and I have now drilled and fitted the wire terminals bolts. I've also fitted the top cap and a large bolt to take all the support cords.
The centre post
The wire terminals bolts are a little bit tricky to fit, but using a long piece of wire folded over attached to the bolt, you can fit them threw each drilled hole. These terminals will all need to be waterproofed with either hot glue or waterproof liquid tape. It's essential that everything is thoroughly protected from the weather or else the SWR can be effected.
The PVC cap is off another project and together with a bit of waterproof tape and glue it is wedged on to the top of the fibre glass pole. Again I will make sure it's tightly fitted by pouring some more hot glue underneath it. This has to be a good fit as it will hold all the support cords.
I've ordered some ring connectors for the elements and have completed measuring the 20m element directors and reflector, only six more bands to do! By the time I've done the measuring and cutting hopefully the ring connectors will have arrived and I can fit them.
 When weighing the original centre post which was 15lbs, the new centre post is coming in at 3lbs, but I've yet to add the coax connectors for each band. Fingers crossed it will be virtually half the weight of the original centre post, which would considerably lessen the weight of the whole antenna.
(A few days later):
Ok the base plate and spreader arms have been attached, they were all previously measured out so I had no real problems there. I've also added the support cords so the basic shape is now in place. I must admit it's bigger than I thought, so the idea of fitting in a small sized garden puzzles me slightly!
I've measured out the wire elements and as I only target 20, 17,15 and 12 meters at the moment, I'm just adding these I might add 10 and 6 later.
More to follow hopefully over the weekend.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning / Improving Your CW

I've been practising my CW again in the vain attempt to get back up to a reasonable speed of about 18 wpm. This was roughly the figure I was clawing up to when I had my stroke back in 2015.

Interestingly after two and a bit years I finally feel that I have got to the position that I have now recovered as much as I am going to. My memory is never likely to be the same as it was and certain things are a wee bit slower than they were, but you also have to take in to consideration that you are getting older so things will naturally slow anyway.

I definitely feel CW helped me in my aid to mental recovery and in a way continues to do so. That's one of the reasons why I've kept practising. I use a piece of software called Morsecat which uses the Farnsworth method. You can character set your preferences, speed up, change intervals and create your own QSO's.


I can safely do 14 wpm at the moment with no mistakes but as my old teacher used to say, "push yourself, if you can do a certain number safely your finding it too easy!" So I'm trying 16 and seeing how I go, should prove interesting!

One of my pet hates is operators trying to prove they can send fast when obviously can't. A good operator can make the key sound like a musical instrument and if you listen even at speeds you are not used to, you'll start to pick out certain tunes. Things like RST or QTH TNX TEMP all have their individual tunes which you can easily pick out.
But there's nothing worse than hearing someone sending at speed with incorrect spacing and not sending correct timings on their tones.

But the biggest success to learning good CW is without doubt practise. Can't say it enough, practise practise practise! Even after you pass your morse exams keep it up or just do loads of QSO's. Some old boy said to me a long time ago, "try and do at least 5 QSO's a day to start with and I guarantee you'll soon become an accomplished operator!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Hexbeam Antenna Arrives

It arrived this morning by courier, well packed by Clint M0FHN. Weighing at a good 16kg it's quite heavy and I'll probably have to make some adjustments as my old AR-40 light weight rotator might struggle, but we can wait and see.

As I thought the antenna has been well built and if Clint is right in length of time it has been up on a tower at his QTH, then it's in good condition for 2 years sitting on a pole out in the elements!

The first thing I have to do is reduce the size of the bottom pole, Clint had a cage and rotator, (I have no cage) so, I can reduce weight by shortening the lower pole. Then I must study G3TXQ website and see how easy it is to put together. But there is no rush, my tilt over mast won't be coming till at least next week so I can study at leisure! Better to take my time and get things right or rushing along and making mistakes!

Monday, May 1, 2017

KSB2 Upgrade for K2

I have finally got round to purchasing a KSB2 SSB upgrade for my K2! Since I bought and built it all those years ago now, I've been meaning to actually get an SSB option but just never got round to it. Maybe the pull of CW was just too strong, or maybe the hassle of buying from across the pond and having to pay out an extra £30 duty tax was putting me off.

I don't know, but finally I ordered the option 2 weeks ago and it turned up in the post on Saturday. Since it was the UK bank holiday weekend I figured I do the bulk of the building now and finish it over a couple of evening during the week.

So off I went forgetting that two years later after a stroke and the hands and eyes combination is not the same as it used to be.  So I was slowed down with that handicap but I did usual couple of an hours work, then have a rest for 20 minutes and carry on. Soldering is definitely an art which takes a while to master, but after a few hours practise I was back up and running.

By Monday evening I had soldered the bulk of the  capacitors, diodes, transistors and resistors. I was amazed that I only did two mistakes which thankfully I picked up on virtually straight away, I still have the toroid's to wind and a few components to add but the main work has been done.

Sitting on my old 1970s anti static disc, the bulk of the work has been done.

One thing which proved invaluable to me was my magnifying lenses headset which the XYL bought me as a Christmas present a few years ago!  It has without doubt proved its worth, so if your like me and the eyes are going and you like a bit of soldering, modelling, or another hobby where the eyes are needed, get a pair of these!

Hopefully I'll have the KSB2  installed and working by the end of the week and then my attention should be turning towards a service on the Hexbeam which should have arrived by then and preparing for the tilt over mast which should be appearing during the middle of the month.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Hexbeam Antenna

At last I found a reasonable priced Hexbeam antenna. Although a homebrew copy of the G3TXQ version, I checked out the pictures and could see that Clint M0FHN knows how to build a good antenna and I'm happy to have bought it. I'm picking it up next week and hopefully will have it already to be set up on the new tilt over mast.

Besides covering the usual 6, 10,12,15 and 20m, Clint cleverly put in a 40m rotated dipole which means if successful at my QTH I could remove the cobweb and the W3DZZ inverted which would please the XYL!

With all the reports and reviews from places like Eham, I've been hankering after one of these antennas for sometime, but the MW0JZE commercial Hexbeam has been inundated with orders and he has halted the ordering on his website due to such high demand.
The waiting time was just too long for me and I was actually thinking of ordering something else, like a small Yagi, but quite by chance came across Clint's homebrew Hexbeam advert.

The way the antenna has been made shows me Clint has done a professional job especially the using the strong flex weave wire and the insulation for the centre pole. He was telling me he followed the G3TXQ instructions and since he built it he's been having good results and reports. The antenna is only a couple of years old, so I reckon with a bit of TLC its got a few years yet!
He's only selling because he got an offer to buy a new antenna which was just too good to miss out on.
 Writing about G3TXQ Steve Hunt, I've just heard he's in hospital with a tumour in his back. Poor old Steve , what rotten luck, here's hoping he recovers quickly! Although we have never met I have chatted via forums and of course built his version of the Cobweb antenna and am hoping to have some excellent times with this his version of the Hexbeam.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

First Part of the Tilt Over Mast Arrives

Typical, I seem to be going through a patch of bad luck! the TGM MQ-2 antenna deal has fallen through. The seller had a local buyer and obviously went with him as packing and preparing from Scotland down south would have cost him time and money, so I can sort of understand that.

So I'm on the lookout for either a mini beam or light weight Yagi. But I can wait, I've said to myself there's no rush, take your time, see what deals are about or come up, something is eventually bound to happen.

The base sleeve for my new tilt over mast has arrived and I can now go ahead and prepare by finishing off the 1 metre square hole. Talk about hard ground in my paddock, all rocks hardly any soil, so digging is a case of using a sharp metal pole about 5 foot long and a pick and shovel! After that it should become a little easier with just keeping the sleeve upright and true, then just cementing in, ready for when the main mast arrives.

This is what the finished product should look like

and this is where I am in the process of laying in the sleeve!

If I get the cement finished like the top picture it will be a miracle, but hopefully it will be near as damn it! The good thing is as the ground is like rock I don't have to be too accurate, its bedded in a good 450mm so far and I reckon with a top up it will be fine. I'll then cover it over with some top soil so the XYL won't complain too much and we should be OK. Hopefully it will make a big difference to raising and lowering antennas.
The finished product!

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Dual Beam Pro Antenna and New MQ-2 Antenna

I purchased the Dual Beam Pro antenna and set it up on my temporary 20 foot mast. It took me only an hour to build and I was quickly checking the SWR. However you really have to use an internal or external ATU for all bands (certainly for 40m).
Living out in the middle of nowhere I’m at an advantage that I don’t have any built up areas nearby to obscure the antenna and I get a good take off point for 360 degrees. That said, you tend to forget that my other antennas like the cobweb and the Hustler 6BTV are in an ideal location and behave accordingly, so when you put up something like a pro beam antenna it’s up against stiff competition
It’s quiet and certainly you get good reception on all bands, tuning up was OK except for 40 meters where you need to manually tune but then it did work. Signal reports in to Europe where good and I was regularly getting 5/7 to 5/9.
But when comparing with the cobweb or Hustler it was roughly similar or slightly down. £250 is a lot of money for this antenna but I can see why someone would be happy with it living in a built up area where conditions were not ideal, but if you are living in an area where you’re already getting a good signal, this does not boost like a Yagi or a proper beam antenna like the Moxon.
So after having it up on my temporary mast for most of one day I decided to take it down and sell it. Not because I don’t like it, but simply because it was not what I was expecting, maybe I was a little naive, but that’s the lesson learnt. I’m definitely going for a mini beam antenna, which I should have done before, but sometimes you have to go through hoops and jumps before you get to your end target!
So a few days later I find what I'm looking for a TGM MQ-2 antenna, similar to the MQ-1 but with the WARC bands. These are pretty much the main bands I use so I'm fairly happy with the result. The only issue is the antenna is presently up in Scotland so I'm having to wait while the seller packs it all up and I can go ahead and arrange collection. But my mast has still not arrived yet so I'm happy to wait for the moment.


The TGM MQ-2 Antenna
On another matter, looking at my stats for this Blog I see I've reached the 100,000 lookups! I like to say a big thanks to all my readers from literally all over the World, I hope that you've enjoyed the read and in some cases it has either been useful or helpful towards this great hobby of ours!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Winch Update

Well I tested the winch over the weekend and things were not so good. I could raise fairly well but the pole was always lifting and swaying at a horizontal angle, plus the bottom attachment of the pole was getting caught.

I tried various ways to fix it, but unfortunately it proved too difficult. In the end I gave up, I was just about to concrete in when I thought this is pointless it's just not working properly and in future years, I would be raising up and down sometimes on a regular basis for testing antennas. If it wasn't working correctly now, what would it be like in a few months time?

I really needed something more solid, so in the end after much thought I gave it up. It was annoying as I rarely give in, I like to work things out and repair, but something as important as this has to be right. When I retire in the next few years, this will be my main hobby and I will be experimenting with different homebrew antennas, so I want to have a mast that raises and lowers easily which is permanent and more importantly will last.

So reluctantly, I have now ordered a 35 foot professional built mast with two winches one for lifting the mast upright the other to raise. I've already dug out the hole for its sleeve which is 500mm deep and 1m square. The sleeve is coming sometime next week and I can go ahead and get it concreted in ready for the full mast which will be arriving sometime in late April.

Something's you win and something's you lose!