Monday, August 14, 2017

Cable Movement!

Nearing the retirement age does has it compensations, one being the pension money starts to come in! With that in mind the XYL and I have been planning on making the house that little bit more cosy for when we do eventually retire.

One of these plans involves the rear of the house where we plan to replace our present excuse for a conservatory with a proper one that we can actually use. Plans have been drawn up and paperwork has been signed and the removal and rebuilding begins at the end of this month.

Having a shack on the 1st floor of the house above the conservatory with a lot of the coax connections, cables for the rotator and earth wires either going down the side or above means they will probably have to be moved. Which will be a little annoying as I have recently got everything just right for the Yagi and Hustler but for the sake of a new conservatory which we have been waiting for nearly 10 years I suppose I can put up with the disturbance!

In fairness the builders have said that anything underground if pointed out to them they will not disturb, so most of the earth wire and  buried rotator cable should be OK. But I think the coax running just above the roof of the conservatory will be another matter though, well see. I suppose if any cables do need to be removed it will be a good time to service or replace some as they have been up for some time.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rotators and The FTDX 9000MP

The new mini Yagi has been working well and I'm very pleased with it. So much so that I have gone and bought the Mini WARC kit which arrived at the beginning of the week. Mosley have been very helpful with a quick turn round and delivery of the kit. The cobweb has now been brought down and I just have the hustler as a spare  antenna
Now that I have my rotator all set up I don't really need the spare Ham IV which was sitting in my shed doing nothing. So I decided to sell it and let some other Ham have the pleasure of servicing and cleaning it up. It had the manual with it and two control boxes, so I reckoned it should be pretty easy to clean up and would be a nice project for somebody. As soon as I advertised the rotator an amateur got in touch, would you believe it was Len Paggett GM0ONX whom I originally got the design of the W3DZZ trap 80/40m dipole which I still use to this day!

He is using it for spares for his own Ham IV rotator, so it's with a certain satisfaction that it's going to Len.

Having now owned the FTDX 9000MP for a number of months I can realistically give a review on the radio. I have owned a number of good rigs, from Kenwood 950 DX to an FT1000 MP Mk V and an FT2000d, but the 90000MP is without doubt an amazing radio in capability and size, it dwarfs most other rigs, 400 watts at your fingertips. The receive on both the A and B receivers is outstanding and mirrored, you can use the filters on both receivers this alone make it one exceptional radio.

Using the either receiver you are able to pick a faint station and narrow the signal right down. All the filters work exceptionally well. The SSB capability is truly amazing and I still have lots to learn as I'm more a CW man, but in SSB I still get genuinely surprised when I hear a station in a big pile up and by using the filters and narrowing the width I can get the station quite clear and then when turning the narrow and filters off I hear the wall of sound from the other stations. With CW it the same, I can literally call test or CQ, CQ QRP at a press of a button, what you hear you can work, all switches and buttons are easily and thoughtfully laid out so there is no reaching or stretching. I still have much to learn about this fine radio, but the manual alone is more like a book and takes a while to master. So it's best to read bits and understand that section before moving on!


However, retailing new in the shops at £8K is it worth it , no not £8k! That's the price of a small car for gods' sake. The only reason I managed to fulfil my dream of owning this radio was by chance and more importantly at the right price for a used radio. Although these are hand built  and I accept all that craftsmanship and skill has gone in to them, it's an awful lot of money and I couldn't justify buying new. Buying an FT5000 new would be my limit, but a used FTDX90000, that's different!

I was lucky and very much at the limit of what I would be willing to pay for such a high class radio. That said I have no regrets and all I would say if you ever get the chance, grab it with both hands.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Post hexbeam

At last a bit of good news, I managed to sell the Hexbeam antenna over the weekend for the same price I paid. So apart from a bit of naivety I haven’t lost out too much!
The Yagi is now fully tuned and working well, but the winds are still blowing hard so raising the tilt over mast has been a bit on and off and the forecast says it will be another two days before it calms down.

With the success of the 17m Moxon I am thinking about adding a 12m Moxon as well. It should be simple to build and if I can’t hang the 17m under the Yagi I can always try to add the 12m antenna which obviously will be lighter. My only extra cost will be adding another coax cable from the 12m antenna back to the shack via the tilt over mast, otherwise I have all the parts I need somewhere in my shed.

If this is all successful I can then take my old cobweb down from the side of the house and all antennas will be moved across in to my mini paddock, which will make the XYL and family happy!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Antenna Frustrations & a Mosley Mini 32-A Yagi

I've finally tracked down a Mosley Yagi 32 - A mini antenna . I've been searching for one of these lightweight antennas for a while. I hope to get it this week and if it's light enough, (the brochure says it's 4.31 kg around 9lbs) it should be able to fit above the 17m moxon.

My antenna collection is growing but not without frustration! Now that I've built and tested the Hexbeam which is without doubt a good antenna, there is a problem, it is just too big! 

No matter how I tried to place it the Hexbeam was just too large and these sales ads of "ideal for a small garden" are beyond me. Brilliant for a field day or some event where it was for temporary use or somewhere hidden away, but I happen to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty where the locals would run riot with an antenna that size near to the road. The first hint came when assembling the poles and my wife who is normally very tolerant with my antennas remarked about the width of the antenna!

At least the Moxon is disguised against my treeline and it seemed to be dwarfed by the hex and I suspect it will be the same for the mini Yagi.

So now doing all that work of having rebuilt the centre post so there are two sets, assembled it, tested it, I now have to sell it which is a real shame.

The Mosley Mini 32-A has now been assembled and tested and seems to be working well. The SWR readings are all good peaking at 1.0 to 1.3 on all parts of the three bands I'm interested in, tweaking the FB is a little more tricky which I am in the process of doing at the moment but its just a case of adjusting the reflector.

I am unable at present to have the Moxon below the Yagi as they both have different mast plates sizes, the Yagi being 1.5" and the Moxon is 2". So I'll need to get plates that match in size

Typically the WX has closed in for the next few days with gales forecast so all work has had to stop. Might as well start advertising the hex in one of the radio classifieds!

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.