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 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 indeed correct at around the 7.000MHz.
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. 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 coax traps, so the winds are easy to do and don't seem too fiddly!

The 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 trim on the 80 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 which should be a bit of fun.

The W3DZZ is mounted on the mast holding the cobweb(which has been taken down now)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!

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!