Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Building a Delta Loop for 20 Meters

So far within my new paddock  I have installed my top band antenna, (which seems to work very well). However, I'm getting itchy feet to try another antenna. The one I've always wanted to try is a Delta Loop antenna, specifically for 20 meters.

The one advantage I have here is that my take off points around the house are pretty good especially towards Australia and opposite towards the Americas. I'm fairly high up at about 700 feet above sea level with no major obstacles apart from the odd tree dotted around the garden and they say from the Cotswolds east towards Russia the next high ground you hit are the Urals which are well over a thousand miles away, so you can see my take off points are pretty exceptional.

Reading the reports about the Delta Loop, they are a quiet on receive and with vertically polarized loops good on low angle radiation so I reckon they would work well around here for some serious dxing. I thought about which band I would set it up for and came to the decision of 20 meters simple because there would be a high amount of activity both in the Americas and Australia so I should have no problem with contacts especially in the part of the low activity cycle.

I'd like to use Plan D with the apex at the corner, to maximise a good low angle of take off. I have a spare 30 foot telescopic mast which I can lengthen a further 10 feet should I require it and tying off the bottom corners should not be a problem

Calculations for the antenna are fairly simple, to determine the length of wire needed for the desired band you simply divide the resonant frequency in Mhz into 1005 and because the impedance is normally 90 to 120 Ohms you can either use a quarter wave length of 75 ohm coax to match or a 4:1 balun (which I will be using). You need to have a triangular shape (or near as) for it to work properly and of course an ATU will be required. Better to cut slightly longer and use a good SWR analyser to tune the wire to your desired frequency.

I've had to order some more wire , but so far that's been the only expense. So hopefully this will work out as a fairly cheap project. More updates to follow!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Learning/Practising Morse Code

I received an interesting email the other day from a CW fan called Gerry. Back in the 60s he'd been in the Royal Navy serving as a Leading Radio Operator so was obviously proficient in the use of CW. His last live transmission on air was back in 1968 , he didn't become an amateur radio operator and stayed fairly quiet until about four years ago where he came across MorsePower/CW.Com.

He now uses it daily and has become very proficient at CW once again. He wrote to me to advertise and to say even if you are not licenced you can still chat in CW via the internet and of course it's an excellent way to learn Morse Code without the pressure of being on air so to speak!

You can send and receive  at your pace and have fun in the process. For my particular CW it's excellent because I can go at my speed and I can practise receiving without any pressure I always feel when transmitting on air (this is entirely down to my head and the stroke I had back in 2015!)
If you need to practise why not give it a try and see what you think .

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Yaesu FTDX9000MP Forum

I've started a Yahoo forum about the Yaesu FTDX9000MP or D because I can find little information regarding set ups and procedures coming from owners of the rig. It's not much yet but as the saying go's "from little seeds etc!"

I know through experience that it is the owners who have the knowledge about these rigs so I'm trying to bring some together so we can discus the pros and cons of owning this transceiver.
Or even if you don't own one but would like to be involved please join us!

Come to the FTDX9000 forum

73s - M0AUW

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Building a Simple Top Band/80/40 Meter Antenna

Having the FTDX9000D has made me want to experiment when it comes to antennas, I want to explore the possibilities of the radio and so to do this properly I need antenna coverage of all bands. I'm pretty well covered except I've never really had a top band antenna or a 80/160 mix because like many amateurs I'm too lazy when it comes to trying to fit the size of a 160 antenna in to the garden. I know you can reduce the size etc, but as I said sometimes you just can't be bothered!

A while back when feeling more adventurous, I had built one and tested it, but I couldn't keep it hoisted up together with the W3DZZ as members of the "family" were not amused!
But now having the extra land has opened up my selection and somewhere within our new paddock will be an area devoted to my antenna testing with I might add full approval!

Digging out the old antenna from my shed I realised and remembered I had literally only tested it for a few days and then put it away. So really it needed retesting again to make sure everything was working OK.

Consisting of 24.99 metres of wire with two traps, I seem to remember this was a reasonable antenna that was pretty well matching the W3DZZ, but for either sentimental reasons or something else I left the W3DZZ up rather than this antenna. I can't for the life of me remember where I got the original idea from, but it must have been from the web somewhere. So I will continue to search and maybe get lucky to show the original plans.

I've been looking on the web and I think it was a 40/80/160 meter designed by G0ONX Len Paget.
Len is the same amateur who put together the W3DZZ 40/80 that I think is a brilliantly simple antenna that gives me great results. He uses coaxial traps that are very easy to construct and work extremely well.
Another amateur M0MTJ who altered Len's design states:
 " The Inverted L for 40m/80m is shown below is essentially one half of a W3DZZ dipole fed against ground using one 7.1 MHz trap. It's a very compact antenna and is simple to construct. It is most efficient, of course, on 80 metres and 40 metres, but can also be used, with an a.t.u., on 20m, 15m and 10m. "

(Click to enlarge)
Here's the basic 160 set up which is very easy to construct and looking at the picture above I realised why I chose this antenna as it fitted fairly well to the dimensions of my garden. The other reason was of course the simple trap design that I had used before on the W3DZZ so winding up some more coax was dead easy to do.
M0MTJ goes on to say:

"Adding 160m / Top Band to an Inverted L
The 160 metre Top Band can be added to this aerial by connecting a 3.5 MHz trap at the end of the 80 metre wire (where to monofilament joins the 6.55m section of wire in the picture above) with another length of wire on the other side, increasing the overall length of the antenna."

                        Find out how to do it here:

So in the next few days I will be raising the antenna back up on one of my scaffolding masts I have recently erected and see how the FTDX9000MP works on 160, I don't really want to do too much local stuff I would prefer a bit of DX, but we'll see!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Progress on the FTDX9000DX

I've sold the FT2000D to help in the purchase of my FTDX9000MP. I must admit I liked the 2000D, it was a good rig, a bit of power with 200 watts and a nice DSP set up and if I could I would have kept it but it just wasn't practical. So I was quite sad to let it go. A nice chap in Northern Ireland bought it for a reasonable price and  I'm sure he will enjoy using it and it will be well looked after.

All I have left now is my trusty K2, a Tokyo ATU and my OHR-100A QRP 5 watt transceiver together with 3 RockMites and the FTDX9000MP. All other bits and pieces are now going towards financing the Yaesu. Actually I need a good clear-out, so this is just the excuse I need.

I'm continuing to learn more about the FT9000, I've just ordered a 64Mb memory card for the recording of voice and CW. I'm also at the stage of working out what exactly I can get on the Monitor. Looking in more detail you can actually set up an internal log book with maps of contacts. You can set up times around the world and if you have one, set up a rotator with all directions of the compass! But as things progress I will no doubt begin to understand more that's available to me.

The FTDX9000MP takes up so much room!

Contact wise has been interesting, I tried my first SSB QSO the other day with a chat to a ham in Texas, who gave me a 59 at 300 watts which wasn't bad considering the conditions and with CW I had another QRP contact from a German station who was only using 0.5 watts from Leipzig. The receive capability is just amazing, you can pick out these QRP stations quite easily and no one else seems to be able to hear them!

M0AUW at the controls
It's not all plain sailing though, a classic mistake I did today was install the MD-1 mic I have in to the back of the rig (you have to, as the front is a special 3 point pin) and if not fitted correctly the rig will lock itself and you are unable to transmit. I spent a good hour looking for a reason why it wouldn't transmit finally got some info off the web which solved the problem! Still got loads to learn!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Begali Key

Being a CW fan I have a number of straight keys and one or two paddles. I have a Stillwell straight key which is a good handmade solid key and I have a couple of the Czech keys that are very good day to day keys .
I also have a bencher and a Kent paddle key that I try to use fairly often, but my paddle skills are still not the best and I seem to have good days and bad.

Another key I have is a Begali Spark straight key which is very nice (so it should be for the price)! Very smooth to operate and a nice light feel to it, although its quite heavy so there is no need to lock it down when in use, unlike the Czech keys.

I've been using this with the FTDX9000, the light touch with the ability to easily alter the spring or the gap is very useful when replying to different operators. I don't know if I'm the only one doing this, but  I adjust my keys, quite often depending on what mood I'm in, if I'm tired and want to key a slow QSO I open the gap and tighten the spring so I have to work a bit, or I go the other way if I'm with it and wide awake to speed things up. Does anybody else do this or is it just me?

My speed is still quite slow, around 14/15 words per minute, the other thing I find which maybe because I'm get older and hopefully wiser, is you don't have to speed along. A lot of CW operators tend to send faster than they can be understood, their spacing is wrong or each letter becomes one great long word. Simply because they are sending faster than they actually capable of.

That's quite a statement I know, but I think its true. Just because you can understand 18/20 wpm doesn't mean you can send correctly at 18/20 wpm and boy can you hear it sometimes. 
But other skilled operators, it is true music to your ears, precise timing, the right spacing, makes all the difference.

Of course you get used to different types of code being sent, but you know when you can hear good CW. It can be fast, but you can understand it and it makes all the difference.

It's interesting that I used to be around 18, but I've slowed since my stroke, I've lost the capability to memorize the conversation so I have to write most of it down. BNC,  Brain Not Correlated any more! Still the old adage is practise practise and I certainly intend to do as much as I can so the speed should eventually pick back up!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Follow up on 2 Meter Yagi and Rotator

I have finally put the two meter yagi in the attic together with the completed and refurbish rotator. So far so good, the alignment is correct and I have been listening in on my local club net with most members due north of my positition.

Fitting it all in the attic proved a little more difficult having to resize the height and obviously fit the wiring from the attic floor to below in to the shack, but eventually I got there and completed it without bringing the roof down!

 The cleaned up rotator set up in the attic

The yagi facing north fits snugly, especially where at first it was limited with turning 360 degrees because of height but with a quick alteration all was well.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

FTDX9000MP The Ultimate!

The FTDX9000MP is probably the ultimate rig for me. I think for the last few years I have been pandering after one but the thought of spending around £8000 for a new one filled me with dread and there was no way I could afford that kind of money for a rig.

Then by chance my Brother in law bought a used one for just under £4000. Naturally I was over at his place to see this extraordinary rig in action and I wasn't disappointed! What a rig, it's massive, dwarfing my FT2000d . With all its bell and whistles I wondered what it would be like to use in anger. I had a small play, but to be honest I couldn't really sit there and do the things I wanted to do simply because I'm more a CW man and he is more an SSB so it was completely different set ups.

Then my brother in law who is a finicky sort of bloke , who likes his equipment to be spotless and clean, free of marks of any kind and this used machine had a few marks here and there, nothing terrible but the previous owner had been a smoker and the radio stank of tobacco. The owner had realised it was in need of a bit of a clean up and had ordered a new PSU cover from Yaesu but that was about it.  My brother in law had obviously given it a think and rang a certain dealer looking for bits to replace his beloved FTDX9000MP, things like covers and cable ETC.

 The dealer was sympathetic but started chatting to him about the possibility of buying a new rig altogether on a special deal rather than trying to build up the older rig. Somehow as he does, my brother in law came out smiling with a new rig, he now owned two FTDX9000MP's.

The brother in Law was over the moon having done a decent deal and suggested we go up to London together to pick up his brand new and spotless FTDX9000MP.
Well you know what's coming next?
So there we were in the car travelling up to London and he casually mentions on the way , "how would you fancy owning an FTDX9000MP"?

I was flabbergasted, my ultimate rig had arrived it was just there for me to say....... yes!
It took me all of a couple of seconds, I'd sell the FT2000d give my brother law a deposit and pay him on a monthly basis with no interest what could be better? He was happy, he had his new rig for a special deal plus he had sold the older rig to me and I was delighted.

By the weekend we had brought the FTDX9000MP over to my house set it up. But because of all the old kit in the way we just had to let it sit in my shack till I could clear some space.

 Monday morning comes and I 've cleared enough space for the beast to sit comfortably with its monitor and PSU. It wasn't till the evening I managed to actually connect up, give it clean and a polish, (it really didn't need much work), switch it on and have a play, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

Twenty meters I hear a QRP station RA7RA, he calls CQ a few times, I'm on ten watts, what the hell lets try!
First time he comes straight back, name is Pavel, RST 599, QTH Savastapol that's 2500 km or 1500 miles he putting out 150 milliwatt of power, no else can hear him yet I can , that's a Cobweb antenna and an FTDX9000MP for you!

I kid you not, once you've tried the rig there's no going back and I thought the FT2000D was a good rig.

The receive capability is just something else, I could go on and on, it's just an amazing rig, it's rather like you've been driving a reasonable car then you jump in to a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari.

It's early days yet but I've had more QSO's since getting the rig than I have in the past 3 months!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Continuation of the Rotators Builds

I've polished up the bell of the CDR HAM-M and I must admit it looks pretty good. All the ball bearings have now arrived and I have started fitting them back into their prospective collars, now I find out when I fit them back in to the rotator if I have them the right way round!

Checking that the collar is still good for fitting after cleaning is essential as they are reasonably delicate, plus you can test out your theory of which way up they fit if you don't know. All the websites I've looked at regarding rotator servicing just mention about noting which way the ball bearing face in their collar rather than pictures, which I would obviously prefer so mistakes are not made. Sorry the picture below is a bit fuzzy but hopefully you get the idea!

Below is one collar I have refitted with new ball bearings, if when first dismantling you notice any ball bearings rusted or pitted, I would definitely replace, the bearings are cheap and it's definitely worth doing a replacement rather than the pain of them jamming once put back together.

The ring gear has also had a clean but looks pretty sound, no need to replace thank fully,  so I will go ahead with a light greasing and refit. 

I'm just waiting on the terminal strip now , I will then need to take out the old one, clean up the connections and resolder to the new terminal and then will give it a smoke test and see how it goes!

The smoke test proved interesting.... Nothing happened so I had to recheck everything. Turned out the wiring within the rotator was faulty and I've yet to find the fault. So I turned to the CDE AR-40, this is a different set up that uses far less ball bearings, they are only a handful evenly spaced within the rotator bell. Easier to clean up and re-grease so I'm not complaining!

An afternoon later, after working out how to reset in the right direction with the help of a Utube video, I had got it back together and because I hadn't been able to get the CDR HAM-M working I pinched the terminal plate (cos it was the new one), I connected all up for the smoke test and it started whizzing around no problem.
I decided to call it a day, as I had two out of the four now working correctly.

I will work on the other two to see if they are repairable or use them for spares, either way for the price I think I did reasonable well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rebuilding a CDR Ham Rotator Model HAM - M

Well I tested the two Ham IV rotators and one definitely works and the other I will use for spares, but I was told by the seller that both were working. One of these rotators I plan to use for my main HF antenna system when I get it up and running. All I'm going to do now is buy some cable and get things ready.

The only problem I came across with the Ham IV rotators were there size and weight they were just too big for my simple scaffold pole with my VHF set up. What I needed was a smaller style TV antenna that would be light enough for the scaffold pole or up in the attic.

The same chap who I had originally bought the rotators off also had a lighter CDR Ham Rotor rotator. He wanted £40 for it and would also supply a spare AR-40 and the control box, the problem was they were not in pristine condition and needed a good service, I'd never attempted servicing a rotator before, but I had the manual and Utube so I thought what the hell , let's give it a go.

Looking at the two rotators I had previously bought, one was just filthy and full of grease and opened up ( by the previous owner) but the bits were all there in a box. The other was together but the cable connections and terminal strip were shot and stuck with rust from being in the outdoors, they needed a good soak in penetration fluid to free them up. The idea being to then test it to see if anything major was needed to be done.

In the meantime I would start on the dismantled AR- 40 rotator and start cleaning it, degreasing and see if I could put it together. Cleaning took me a day of just removing the old grease and polishing it up. The two ball bearing holders were cleaned but it was obvious I would need 50 new ball bearings as the old were pitted and badly rusted.

I decided the terminal strip had really seen better days. I'd tried to fix it with a simple choc block but there was no way the choc bloc was going to sit where the strip was. So I've went on line and found a UK supplier of rotator parts and ordered a new strip which should be with me in the next few days.

You can see in the pictures how bad it is and no wonder some of the screws were not moving, they were so rusted up! But apart from that, everything else just needed a good clean and degrease and I don't think I'll need to replace anything else. The new ball bearings arrived the other day so I've fitted them in their collar and they are sitting ready to be refitted, typically I needed a further 50 ball bearings for the other collar so I had to re-order and am still awaiting there arrival.
The only other problem I have thinking forward is which way up do I fit the collars with the ball bearings, smooth or the marked side? I think the smooth side should be facing up when located back in the bell end of the rotator like this picture which I found on the web, and if logic dictates this feels right.
Which would then mean they end up like the next picture and although it isn't a CDR Ham, I think most designs would be similar. So the higher facing part of the bearings in the collar actually face downwards.
Until I get the rest of the parts I can't really continue with the restoration so for the moment I'll just have to wait till all parts have arrived. Further updates in my next post!