Friday, September 9, 2016

Revamping the Carolina Windom 80 Special

A couple of years ago I had played about with my old Carolina Windom 80 special  by reducing its size to the 40 Windom, but I soon realised when testing that the balun was individually set for a Carolina 80 special and so I had to revert back to its original size to make it work. The problem was I originally reduced the size because I didn’t have the length of land required for it to fit! So the Carolina 40 was put away in the shed until I could find time to re-build and figure out a way for it to fit in my garden!

 
The 40 I had made from the original Carolina Windom 80 special
 
The length of antenna issue had been sorted by having the good fortune to purchase a bit more land off the farmer, as it had come up for sale just at the right time, not just for an antenna farm I hasten to add, but for increasing the size of our plot with a mini paddock to do with what we liked and it just happened that a Carolina Windom 80 special happened to fit snugly in the paddock!

The forty being 66 feet in length (41ft and 25ft split), needed to revert back to the original size of 133 feet, 83 feet on one side and 50 feet the other. All I did was increase the length of each side by soldering new pieces of 42 stranded cable wire, nothing else was touched. Now I had to hope that the balun and transformer (1:1 balun) would still be working even though I had been messing about with them and 22 foot coax was now totally new!

I took my old fibre glass 20 foot slotted mast and I increased it in size by 10 feet with some specially strengthened plumbing tubing slotted together so that the 22 foot coax cabling with transformer would hang freely.
I re-measured the actual antenna wire lengths to confirm I now had 83 and 50 feet, did some simple soldering to the 4:1 balun to strengthen and stiffen it and hoisted up to 30 odd feet to do SWR tests, thinking that it probably wouldn’t work but I had some fun doing the build process.

Initial tests were quite good except with the 40 meter band were the average SWR was about 2.0 but even so I could just about use with a tuner.

80 MHz                 1.4 – 1.8 across the band

40 MHz                 1.8 – 2.0 across the band

20 MHz                 1.3 – 1.5 across the band

15 MHz                 1.4 – 1.6 across the band

10 MHz                 1.7 – 1.9 across the band             

Being pleasantly surprised by the outcome and comparing against the Cobweb and Hustler it’s not a bad antenna for a multi bander and of course it does state that you have to use with a good tuner.
Over the next few weeks I will try to make a few improvements here and there. But all things considered I’m quite pleased with my semi homebrew antenna!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Building a Six Meter Dipole

 I have finally got round to building a six meter dipole. I searched the web for some ideas and came up with this simple dipole just to get me started.

At a later stage once I've got the idea of how the band works with its various different segments I'll build a small Yagi.

In the meantime, this is very simple , two approximate 5ft aluminium poles (to start before trimming) about 10 mm circumference screwed together on a piece of curved wood for support and strength. Then connected with some heavy duty electrical wire to an SO 239 female connector. The whole lot has then been attached via screw through the wood to some old plastic bread board I cut to size and then mounted on a fibre glass 20ft pole.





The basic layout of the 6 meter dipole



The SO 239 connector is used for the PL259 plus cable at the back

 
 

The whole antenna fixed to the fibreglass pole with a nice shot of the cobweb and other inverted V's in the background!
 
 
So far on receiving I am getting some good signals and the MFJ readings are indicating 1:1 over the CW portion of the band and 1:2/3 further up towards SSB. I'm yet to transmit as the band hasn't been open in time for me to get going.
 
But it's early days yet and I am sure I can improve things with this antenna or playing around with a more directional antenna, and I'll update as I go forward.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

M0AUW Goes SDR part 2

Well I've received the CAT connector and all it consists of is one cable a mini CD ! Presumably the mini CD is for the drivers but we'll see. First I have to load up the OmniRig application which is the software for connecting the HRSDR app to the rig. Once that installed I connect up the rig to the PC via the CAT and start calibrating the settings.

So I managed to successfully install OmniRig with the drivers from the mini CD.
Looking within HDSR at the OmniRig partition, I've got to work out what settings will be required to operate the Ft2000 with the PC. Unfortunately there's no set up instructions so I've been busy on the web trying to find some sort of help with regard to setup. The nearest thing I can find is set ups for other rigs but it gives me a general idea of what to do.

 

Clicking on Options in HDSDR you can discover the OmniRig setup, but I had no idea how to proceed, so a lot of it was trial and error till something happened. I had a particular problem with the Baud rate on the picture below, I just couldn't get the rig to connect to the OmniRig try as might it just didn't want to know. Then I set the Baud rate to 48000 and bingo it seemed to spring in to life and I suddenly found the volume had increased and strange things were happening when I moved the mouse!
 
I'm still trying to find my way round the application, but it does add some interest when you can see all these potential signals on the screen. So I'm just going to keep plugging away and see where I get to and hopefully by the rate I'm going, that should be by the end of the week!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

M0AUW Goes SDR!

Since my Brother in Law bought his FT DX9000 MP, I've been going over to his house quite regularly to see the rig in action and I have to say I've been impressed especially with its panadaptor screen and how he can control the rig by computer and see all the potential QSOs on screen and instantly sweep across to call them. So I looked at the DMU 2000 for my FT 2000d and got a shock at the price, £1000 plus, too much for me!

 So I started reading up about SDR via the internet about how you can adapt various radios to SDR. Well this got me thinking can I set up SDR for my FT 2000d?  It turns out you can and once more its fairly cheap to get going. Since I work in the IT trade with knowledge of computers and software I thought this was too good an opportunity to miss so promptly started searching for what is about and what I can set up for my particular rig. 

I came across a webite called HDSR (High Definition Software Defined Radio) with a package that can be downloaded and begin your adventures with SDR. It explains about SDR and various packages you can download and use, but obviously they are promoting the HDSR package.

Turning to hardware I wasn't sure where to start, but I figured the web must hold some information regarding hardware and what to use.
Eventually after much searching I came across an American site off eBay titled RTL SDR Panadapter/Spectrum Scope for Yaesu FT-2000, consisting of: A Newsky USB RTL SDR Digital Tuner/Receiver.A RG-174 cable to connect the radio's IF to the Tuner/Receiver An adapter to simplify the cable install.3 foot long USB Extension Cable to get the Tuner/Receiver away from the computer (Computers make a lot of noise).With the complete instructions and links to the correct software and drivers. I thought this is just what I need but it's in the US so postage costs would be high. Surely someone in the UK is doing something similar?



 First Results were promising


Sure enough I found a page off the UK portion of eBay that had the hardware I needed, The site consisted of similar items like the American site, a dongle, some length of RG 174 and a USB extension cable, the tools to get you up and running. You have to download the software on to the PC and basically add the drivers. The Hardware then has to be installed which is the dongle connected up to the RG174 which in turn is connected to the scope socket within the rig, which incorporates removing top and bottom lids of the rig (easy to do). Then the other end of the dongle connects to the PC via the USB extension cable. Using a nice large monitor on your PC and bingo your away!





The newly installed panadapter in the shack.

I've still got loads to learn and I haven't got the CAT yet for controlling the RIG but I've ordered one and it's coming next week. I have to say it's great fun and if you can do take a look at whats about for your radio, it's the future and it's fun, so it's definitly worth getting in to !

Monday, June 6, 2016

The CARA ,(Cheltenham Amateur Radio) Field Day 2016


The Cara ,(Cheltenham Amateur Radio)club field day took place this weekend it's literally just down the road from me(about 500 yards). Tents were set up, camper vans parked up and  antennas of all sorts sprouted out of the ground and there were transceivers and receivers from modern to old military. An excellent barbeque was laid on for Saturday evening and there was some six meter and HF contesting going on throughout the w/e 


Antennas, tents, camper vans and car parks!

The weather was brilliant for the weekend. Warm temperatures and dry conditions has made it exceptionally good this year and there was a large number of club members who have been out and about. It was nice to catch up with fellow members all addicted to the same hobby as me, sometimes a good chat and a drink boosts the radio morale.

The six meter DX competition was a bit disappointing with only 62 contacts throughout the two days and you have to admire the perseverance and patience of those guys.
But across the way from them the HF field day competition (24hours non stop)made some excellent contacts with some 800 stations.


The HF contest tent

The Contest competitions are not what I remember from the old days. Computers seem to rule the roost and are used on a regular basis for logging and for tuning up and down the bands. I've never been in to contesting much but from what I saw they can be quite exciting, 24hrs of split shifts with lots of go getting without much of a break, even so, I still have to say not for me! However, one interesting thing came up especially for me was that the HF boys were using a K3 transceiver for their contest and it was nice to see it there for the first time and put through its paces. Comments about the radio were good but not good enough for me to decide  to move from the FT2000d to a K3!


The six meter contest tent

I t was nice to see some old military radios in serious action and I must admit I'm tempted by a small purchase in the near future of something like a Clansman radio. I saw two old versions, one for the mobile (Land Rover ops) and one for the standard infantryman, both nice radios, but if I had to choose I'd probably go with the mobile version.




G0NXA at the two meter DX Rig

There were a couple of radios put aside for the ordinary amateurs just wanting a tune and play and we made some good contacts throughout Europe and the UK. The weather definitely played its part in getting everyone out and it was nice to catch up with some of the club members I rarely see.


There were some brave souls camping in the field, but I must admit it wasn't for me but as I live literally just up the road it was a no brainer!! In fact I had one visitor at the house who thought I was the field day!
One chap (Chris) had brought his one man tent and set it up without much fuss in a quiet corner and he was busy all day chatting on forty to various amateurs across Europe, sounds like a well spent weekends radio work!

 
Chris a the controls of his rig without a blissful care!

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!