Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Brother-in-Law Gets a New Toy


My Brother-in-law is what I call an off on ham. He sometimes doesn’t touch the radio for months and then has a fling for a few weeks sort of catching up. He listens a lot, mainly on 14 meters and hates CW only uses SSB but sometimes he stretches to listening to Radio Ireland (IRE), going back to his roots. He has a very nice rig that I have already discussed about in this blog, a Yaesu FT 1000d, 200 watts, lovely receive, very smooth.
I came to his house last Friday, because my internet connection had gone down and I needed to work on my computer, typically we ended up playing radios on his 1000d and also looking at various websites for newer radios. We came across a well-known classifieds ads site with a particular ad I found, that was advertising an FT DX9000MP, something my Brother-In-Law had been wanting to purchase and own for some time, but thought the price for a new one was very steep. This was the 400 watts version, with every filter and button you could ever want, the flagship for Yaesu transceivers, basically the almighty god of radios.
The price was only £3750 something I personally would probably not consider for a radio as it’s out of my price league. But to the brother-in-law it was a bargain, he felt the 1000d although a good radio was getting a bit old!

He rang the advertised number with caution as sometime scams can happen, it was OK the guy was genuine. It turns out he was moving home and had no room for the 9000 so it had to go, he’d now set his sights on something new, a Flex radio.
Half an hour later after a good chat on the phone and with a bit of negotiation my brother-in-law was the new proud owner of an FT DX9000MP, the export packaging (which I'm told is very important)and a nice MD100 mic, a monitor and all the cables.

 
On Sunday the radio arrived, delivered in person by the old boy who was selling and his son who happened to be a ham as well.   Turns out his son had to help with 9000 as it was so big  and heavy, 26 kilos and that wasn’t the power supply and speaker or the monitor, they were all separate! He also had very good knowledge of how it was put together and more importantly how it operated.
I had never seen such a radio, it was massive. The instructions alone read like a thesis and would take at least a week to read through. I thought my 2000d was a little bit complicated with the menu but it was nothing to the 9000. I'm told If you want one off the shelf new it will cost you around a cool £7000, so no wonder my brother-in-law was like a kid in a candy shop.
Anyway long story short, we needed a full course in connecting and powering the thing up. But once up and running it was an absolute joy. Connected to a Hustler 6Btv antenna, 5/9s were constantly reported and operators were singing about the clarity. Then the ultimate test came a VK station with a big pile up. We wound up the beast to its full 400 watts and sent the call sign, Tim VK3TJK came back with a 5/6 report , not bad for a first QSO with Australia, I suspect there will be more of those to come!

A week later the Brother in Law is still working out what everything does and keeps ringing me to go on air so he can practise various filters positions and other settings, he's even thinking of taking up CW again!!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Indoor Antenna for 40 Meters

I'm going to try and set up an antenna for 40 meters in my attic as a small experiment. It was originally produced by F6CYV and I came across it on the web the other day whilst browsing. He reckons it pretty good having worked over 150 separate countries around Europe.

The actual antenna is made up of 2mm wire, the 2 coils are made up of 18 turns of 2mm wire and the distance of turns is also 2mm.
The diameter of the coils is 7/8 cm and the coax feed is comprised of 75 ohms, an old TV cable should do. But for a good feed from coax to the dipole a 1:1 Balun would help.





I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Working a Paddle Key

You are probably sick of hearing about my stroke recovery by now, I know I am!  But one interesting thing to come out of it is my return to using my Kent paddle key.

For the past few months I've been working away trying to practise my CW on a straight key because when I previously tried on the Kent I kept making very basic mistakes, irregular hand and finger movements caused me to make lots of errors I felt these problems were due to tiredness or lapse of concentration brought about by having this damn stroke all those months ago.

So I packed it away in January, thinking I would possibly get back to it at some stage, but no set date and really thinking in the back of my mind I'm never likely to get it back!

Well it turns out that subconsciously I'm obviously still recovering because today I tried the Kent key again and blow me I sent a QSO without making one mistake. That's the first time I've used it since January when it felt rather alien and not quite right, but today it felt good and natural.

The rhythm was back and although a slow with a speed of roughly 12 wpm, my wrist and hand weren't jerking or the fingers twitching and I actually felt confident.

That's not say I still wont be using my good old Czech straight key which is an excellent piece of kit all for the princely sum of £25 off eBay. It was an absolute bargain!

 
The Czech key


The Kent paddle

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Restart!

So in the UK the clocks go back this weekend and British Summer time starts. Time to start some serious radio work, have a Summer restart! For too long I feel I've been under some kind of cloud ever since last year. Well last year didn't really happen for me, so I think it's officially done and dusted, I need to put it down as a bad experience and start reliving.

The other thing that has been the winter, I hate it, you can't get outside experiment and play antennas, it's very annoying. But now the weather changing, clocks are springing forward and hopefully there's a definite buzz in the air!

To celebrate I've raised the cobweb antenna from its winter position of about 30' to about 40', not much, but it does make some difference and at full height its a bit precarious for winter. I'm going to try and do at least one QSO everyday for the next month, especially in CW just to hone my skills and up a bit of speed. Also my SSB capabilities have been somewhat lacking for the past six months having concentrated on CW after the stroke to get myself back up. I'm going to try and get outside Europe with the QSO's, again the last six months have been mostly local chit chat, time for a change and a bit of a challenge.

The QRP side of the hobby is taking a back seat for a while whilst I concentrate on these tasks. I don't think it will suffer too much but I'll do the odd QSO in QRP now and again. Which reminds me of another task I have which is to purchase the USB kit for the K2 something I've been meaning to do for ages but just not got round to it!

I'd like to get in to the magic band a bit more. Six meters is new to me and of course it's now available since I got the FT2000 D, so I'd like to experiment with some antennas and see how I get on I think it might be some fun. Some kind of directional antenna might be good but I think I will have to search the web first to find a good example.

Monday, March 14, 2016

QRP


As you no doubt have read in previous posts I like to try to and do as much QRP as possible, especially on CW. I have a number of QRP rigs, 3 Rock Mites, an OHR 100A and a K2, all these I consider reasonably good little radios for me especially with the added bonus of having built them myself.

QRP is not just the Radios though, much is to do with the station set-up, I have a good area as a take-off point no hills or trees are in the way and my antenna system is either the Cobweb up forty feet or a Hustler 6B vertical. I live in an area of outstanding natural beauty so I can’t have a rotatable Yagi or some wonderful antenna system, but hey the Cobweb does well considering. I'm not in a built up area I don't have any serious interference and I have two neighbours; one right next door who’s hardly ever at home, the other is five hundred yards down the road.

One major gripe though, the Yaesu FT 2000D minimum power is 10 watts. Why would Yaesu build a rig with a minimum power of 10 watts why not start at 5 for QRP work , just seems stupid or is it me? I use the FT 2000D quite a lot and I’m stuck on ten watts, surely it would have been fairly simple to have this wonderful rig set at five, I just don’t  understand this, such a missed opportunity with semi QRPers.

So far my record is 1464 miles using a Rock Mite on 0.5 watts this was to Finland, but I have to stress radio conditions were good. The other record I had was reaching Japan on 5 watts with the K2 using CW. I'd contacted the JA station on the FT 2000D using about one hundred and fifty watts and was busy telling him about my K2, after the QSO had finished I decided to try and contact him with the K2 with a "what the hell" attitude as I thought "he'll never hear me", but he came straight back with a 559 report, I couldn't believe it one of my highlights in amateur radio!
But I don't count that as a real QRP session because initially I was on the higher power.

If you never tried QRP I'd recommend you give it a try and see how far you can get out on the lowest power, it's definitely an addictive part of the hobby!



Friday, January 15, 2016

Weekend Project - 30 meter Loop

Here's a nice little project which should only take about a day to complete. I found it while trawling the net a few weeks back. It's for a 30 meter loop antenna, very easy to build and so far seems to work well. I've got it strung across a couple of trees, unfortunately not very high about 20 feet but it works reasonable well and is a bit of fun for a weekend project. Have a go and see how you get on.

This antenna is an easy construction project.  It was made out of common number 12 stranded electrical wire.  The side and top attachment points are made by removing two inches of insulation and wrapping and soldiering in short lengths of wire to create small loops. Non-electrical rope should be used for the support line and side pull out lines.  The bottom insulator should be about 3 by 5 inches in size and trimming the antenna to resonance was done at the bottom.

Start with the formula of 1032/Mhz to determine the total length.  I ended up pruning about a foot off of each side to achieve resonance at 10.125Mhz.  I used 72 ohm RG59 for the matching section.  Make sure you take into account the velocity factor of the coax when cutting it to length.  One method is to place a 100 ohm resistor at the end and use an antenna analyser designed for 50 ohms to measure for zero reactance (and SWR) while trimming the section to the correct length.
 
At 10.125Mhz, the SWR is 1.1/2 : 1, R is good at 50 ohms  (When I got these results, I decided not to build a balun).

Within a couple of hours of putting up the antenna I had made five DX QSO's.  It has performed well ever since.  The antenna is not overly directional probably due to the wire sections all being 45 degrees with respect to ground.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sending CW with confidence and QRP Work With the OHR 100A

I'm still having some minor trouble with my CW sending in only that I have this fear of sending, it's all due to confidence from post stroke, I'm rectifying by deliberately sending a QSO everyday trying to gain confidence and thankfully it does seem to be working, although local chit chat on CW is rather monotonous!

It's similar to my speech which in all fairness you wouldn't really notice, but I'm a bit self conscious and know that I'm a bit quieter than normal. Hopefully I can gain some voice experience on Sideband, deliberately talking to all manner of Amateurs, eventually I'm sure I will lose the nerves!!

Radio wise its fairly quiet at the moment with just European stations popping up I haven't heard many US or Canadian or for that matter DX in general, I think its just fairly slack but occasionally you do hear the odd station from some distance.

So I'm mainly doing QRP work with local stuff using the Ft2000D on low power or the OHR 100A at 5 watts. This is a pretty neat QRP rig that the XYL bought a few years back as a prelude to me building the K2. I really like it, probably use it as much as the K2  because its so easy to set up and use. The receive capability is very good for such a small kit and the only pain is it tends to drift on warm up, but that is on for the first ten minutes and then it's fine for operating.

The  OHR 100A kit was fairly easy to build, the only practise I'd had beforehand in kit building were the Rock Mites, so I was really starting from a early building position and I found little problems with the OHR 100A.
It's set for 20 meters and does a good job and banging out CW at 14.060 I can guarantee in good conditions I'll get an answer with nice RST reports. If you are thinking of a 20 or 30 meter kit I'd certainly recommend the OHR 100A and its not that expensive either! The only pain when purchasing for UK buyers is it comes from the USA so you have to pay £30 import duty.
Here's the site:  http://www.ohr.com/ohr100a.htm


 
The OHR 100A
The box on top is a home brew frequency counter, very useful.
 
 
 
Very easy to build and produce good results.

Monday, December 28, 2015

When something goes wrong!

I had a great pre Christmas plan to sell some stuff on eBay and then with the money provided I could buy  some new toy to play with after Christmas.
All was going well and according to plan, I'd sold a Microreader, a datong morse tutor and another few bits and pieces. Then it began to go wrong the micro reader didn't arrive at the buyers address and now we are in the process of claiming from the great British postal emporium and me having to refurbish the buyer.

Not the best of outcomes but I've heard of the things happening before and unfortunately it's now happened to me! No doubt I'll pay the money and then all of a sudden it will be returned to me, or turn up at the buyers postal address...typical!

I'm a bit stuck antenna wise at the moment because my MFJ 359 has been borrowed by a friend so I am at a loss without it and cannot design, fix or play antennas at the moment which is rather frustrating. I'd like to do some checks on my latest 30 meter offering at the moment because the SWR is not quite 1:1 its  more like 1:5/1:9 and rising probably because of all the gales we've been having but it could definitely do with a service and a quick check more for my sake and sanity.

I hope you all had a good Christmas and Santa provided some good radio equipment for you all, I did rather well especially with a new fire extinguisher for my shack which hopefully I'll never have to use in anger!
I also had a rather nice morse key arrive which is taking a bit of time to get used to but with a little practise I should get there. It's an old Murphy admiralty key which presumably must have some history, but searching via Google I haven't had much luck.

 
Especially as it has the old call sign of a previous owner. But I will do some more searching and no doubt some information will appear.

Some of you will notice I've changed the layout and design of the Blog, simply because it's the start of the new year and I definitely wish to start 2016 with a brand new attitude and purpose. 2015 was a ghastly year with bad health for me and others in my family. Bring 2016 let's have a nice new start!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Another QRP Kit

I'm beginning to think about building another kit, although what to build is the question, I'm getting the itchy feet syndrome!
I fancy something small like 3/7 watts of power but with a bit of intrigue in the building process to keep me interested. I'm looking at Pacific Antenna they have a nice tri-bander the KD1JV which looks pretty neat and I could set it up for 40, 20 and 30 meters band.

It doesn't look too difficult to build after all I have built a K2! So  it shouldn't be too bad the only problem I have is alignment but I'd cross that bridge when I come to it.
That would certainly keep me busy for a while and use my brain a bit which would make a nice change!

The QRP kits are becoming more and more popular now, especially on sites like eBay I noticed Hong Kong and China are selling lots of cheap 40m kits but only 40m, can't understand why surely there's a call for the other bands.

I 'm a bit suspicious about the 40m instructions, which tends to put me off, if they supplied more details in their adverts I would be more confident in purchasing them.
I find the instructions can definitely make or break a kit and the satisfaction you have in building, if you go through a difficult process it's not much fun. So I've been checking their reviews to see what others buyers have said but it only seems to be for other items not 40m kits!

To all my readers have a happy Christmas and New Year and lets hope 2016 is a good year for Radio!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Back at the Helm

Well it’s now nearly 8 months since my unlucky experience and I have to say at last I’m beginning to feel fully back to normal.
The tiredness has gone and my brain seems to be reasonably engaged (the XYL would probably disagree with that!) and the CW seems to be coming back although I am suffering with what I would call CW block which is a more common problem of fear of sending. I just force myself on air and once I’m actually sending the fear goes away. The other problem I have is when I'm tired things seem to go backwards in the CW dept and I have to learn to be very patient, sometimes I have good days and sometimes bad.

The bands are not that good at the moment and I’m limited to the European stations, I haven’t heard the States for a while now which is rather disappointing. But I 've kept on the low bands for most of the time trying to build up speed with the local community.

Sometimes I look at the kit I have and feel I really do have too much, especially in the transceiver department! Kenwood TS 570 with SP23 speaker, Elecraft K2 and various kits all lie about used every so often but not nearly enough. Then there’s what I call the battleship, the Yaesu FT2000D which now I have got used to, a fine radio with excellent DSP capabilities and is a good rig for my CW antics and a lovely speaker, the Palstar SP30H. I must admit when I bought it I was going for its little sister the SP30, but the shop offered a large discount if I paid a little extra for the 30H and I’m very pleased I did, such a bass sounding speaker SSB sounds like FM radio all the time, brilliant!

I’m not a contester more quick CW contact, chat and move on, exploring the bands and seeing what’s about each day. I like to spread across the bands in my search even doing a bit of short wave listening, if you never tried its great fun.

Unfortunately with the recovery  I have had to return to work and am now back full time which is creating less time for the radio work. But I must be grateful for my health and do the Radio hobby when the time is right.