Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Repairs to the Mast

The autumn gales have now arrived and after a good summer you sometimes forget how bad the winds can blow round the Cotswold’s. When these gales appear I regularly lower the mast, the cobweb can easily be damaged in the strong wind, so I don’t take the risk and besides it’s fairly easy to drop the mast height and tie everything down.  

Last week we had a really big storm with wind speeds up to 80mph. Thankfully there was no real damage but when lowering the mast in preparation for the storm I noticed one of the collars looked a bit suspect and unfortunately when raising it back up the collar gave way and screw lever broke off. You can see in the pictures where it broke, the rust is a bit of a giveaway!

The broken collar

This particular mast is from a company called Radioizing, it’s 40ft in length and fully retractable, with an all metal design it’s quite sturdy and for the price was a good deal when I bought it some years ago. 

Wear and tear is beginning to take its toll and there looks to be a design weakness in the collars. To replace the broken collar all accessories have to be taken off so I have brought the mast down and obviously removed the cobweb at the same time.

The next collar up (as it should be) but look at the rust!

I’ve ordered a new collar so will have to wait for the replacement before rebuilding and then erecting it back up. But this will also give me a chance to do a quick service of the cobweb. 

The mast laid full stretch but collarless!

The other possibility is to switch cobwebs, by taking the G3TXQ from the attic and see how it performs, it’s also a much lighter antenna so it would be easier to place on top of the mast. I'm not sure how much power the G3TXQ can take compared to the G3TWP, I've easily had 400 watts out, which is useful for the DX, I've got a feeling the G3TXQ is limited to about 200 watts but I'll do some checks. 

 The G3TWP looking a bit lost!

The G3TWP could then be placed back in the attic which might prove an interesting experiment. But until I get the replacement collar there is little I can do, so for the moment I just have to wait.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Magnetic Loops

Time for another antenna project I think, but what to build?
Rummaging around the shed in the garden I noticed I have two 12' copper pipes roughly 1/2 inch diameter that have been sitting doing nothing for a number of years. Since they are not needed for plumbing I’m sure I can put them to good use.
I was thinking about making a small magnetic loop antenna, the measurements seem pretty straight forward  but at the moment I have little knowledge about what variable capacitor will be required and how it’s all connected up. I guess it’s a matter of searching the net and see what I can find.
A quick search has revealed a lot of theory but nothing substantial on building. I prefer something with pictures and an easy explanation to all the “geeky stuff” (not that I’m against it) it’s just I like to see everything laid out in front of me and easy to follow.
If I could build a reasonably small antenna hopefully that would fit in the attic it could turn out to be a fun experiment. Anybody who has details or knows of a website with fairly easy instructions I would be “mucho grateful” if they could let me know. In the meantime I can get on and figure out what band I want to use and see about measuring up the copper pipes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

K2 Update Sunspots and Other Hobbies

Well it's been a while since I last wrote so I thought I'd better give an update with regard to what's happening in M0AUW radio land!

I've been playing a lot with the K2 getting to understand the different filter settings and the manual ATU settings. Setting up the correct filter settings is really important and can alter the operators outlook on how they perceive this wonderful radio. Mucking up the settings can make the receiver sound dull and noisy and you have to be very patient and thorough otherwise you may start wondering why everyone is saying it's such a good rig, when you find it, well, just ordinary!

But once you have spent the time getting everything right it really is a good little transceiver, the receive quality is outstanding certainly matching the old FT1000 MP V although I have to be honest for day to day use I still prefer the FT, I find it much simpler to work, probably because I don't have to mess about with manually adjusting the ATU.

I've learnt that it's not always good to have the preamp turned on, it does tend to raise the background noise. Finding a weak signal and then using the filters can bring up the signal without the need for the preamp, it is really down to just lots of practise and playing with different settings.

Contacts have been good but the DX has been appalling when you take in to consideration that this is meant to be the peak of the cycle, some days there's just nothing going on with regard to DX, unless of course you have a massive yagi sitting on your tower out in the garden! The cobweb is no slouch when it comes to DX nor is the 30m vertical I have but lately it's just been dead which is very disappointing. However I get by and am happy to be contacting various stations in and around Europe with the occassional DX thrown in.

I watched a very good programme on the BBC last night all about the sun It explained about sun spots and radiation patterns and also discussed about a much longer cycle (the 300 year cycle) and the possibilities that we maybe approaching another of these, one of their reasons being the change in the weather conditions over recent years, all very interesting stuff and well worth a view.

Thinking ahead I will definitely be upgrading the K2 to SSB and I have a contact who has the spare option so hopefully we can do a deal and I can install over the winter which will give me something to do.

In the meantime besides the radios I have other things to play with and am in the process of building a touring bicycle for my future attempt at riding the "end to end" run which is John O'Groats in Scotland to Lands Ends down in Cornwall, some 1000 odd miles riding.

I'm quite a keen cyclist not by any means a gung ho speedster but happy to do a 2 hour ride round the Cotswolds on a Sunday morning which keeps me reasonably fit. The plan would be to cycle approximately 50 or 60 miles a day and take in the scenery of the English countryside at a reasonably steady pace.

But like all things it's finding the time (at least 10 free days) to carry out this little jaunt and working out where to stay and what route to take, maybe next year or possibly when retirement is looming!

What would be be even more fun it to do the cycle ride and have a mobile attachment on the bike, hmm could prove interesting!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Friends Mad Cycle Ride

This  is a completely separate issue but a good friend of mine who has recently retired has taken on the challenge of cycling from John O'Groats to Lands Ends. 

This is a well known cycle route that mad Englishmen take either because they are very keen cyclists or completely nuts, I think my friend is the nutty one! 

Anyway read his blog, it is very funny!
Kierean Whelan's Bike Ride

Sunday, May 5, 2013

K2/100 Completed

The KPA100 is now completed and after thorough testing I’m glad to report I’m getting 115 watts out of the K2

I have to admit towards the end of the build I was beginning to get a bit tired, I’d taken a lot on but it has been worth it, to build a pristine K2/100 in the such a short period of time cannot be bad. 
I’ve had some ups and downs especially with the PLL oscillator testing which really threw me, but I’ve fulfilled my ambition which was to build my ultimate kit.  

There’s no question if you want a bit of a challenge and something to do during those long winter evenings this is a great kit to build. You have excellent instructions and the knowledge of back up from both Elecraft and the forums should you run in to any difficulties.

Problems associated with these or any kits are normally self administered, e.g. cold solders, soldering bridges or missed components. Rarely do you get a component failure and if by chance you do, Elecraft will simply ship out another to you.

The instructions are extremely good but you must follow them carefully, you cannot jump ahead or miss out pages; you will find yourself open to mistakes which take forever to find and then repair.

I have only one correction in the instructions, that is to include the connectors P3 and P6 in the original build of the K2. These small two pin connectors are  used for connections to the KPA100, they would not effect the K2 if added before hand and it would mean you don't have to remove the bottom cover of the K2, which can be a difficult process.
It’s a real shame when you see the light at the end of the tunnel then you realise you have to open up the K2 bottom cover just to add two pins!

I'm not sure whether to add the SSB option in the near future, knowing me I suspect I probably will, also at some stage I will need an automatic antenna tuner, the SWR on the K2 is very sensitive and using a manual ATU is proving interesting to say the least!

Well I'm at the stage now where I'm going to enjoy my new toy, I will use the K2 as my main radio for the next month, just to get used to it and to see how good it really is. 

I must admit looking at the shack now I'm beginning to build up quite a few pieces of kit. Not sure what my next project will be but I suspect some kind of antenna, I have a nice rotator sitting in my shed doing nothing, maybe I should attach it to a moxon or a yagi!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

KAF2 Installed in to the K2

I’ve now completed the installation of the KAF2 in to the K2 and what a difference on receive, I was pretty impressed with the standard set up but by activating the KAF2 the background noise literally melts away.
I have the optional CW filters fitted to my Yaesu FT1000 MP V and it is extremely good at fishing out those quiet stations hidden by QRM or some other interference, but the K2 matches up and in certain circumstances beats it hands down.
It’s not necessarily the filters, it’s the background noise, with the KAF2 installed in the K2 there simply is none!
Attempting a simple test I matched both radios to a fairly strong 30m CW signal with all the filters switched in. I have to be honest I was amazed at the difference.
The background noise on the Mk 5 was certainly louder although clarity of the CW station was good, it was just you had that what I can only describe as a fish bowl echo to deal with.
The K2 did not have the fish bowl echo; it was just very quiet with excellent clarity, even more incredible was that I could reduce the filters on the K2 and it still beat the FT for clarity and background hiss. No question the K2 wins that particular department.
What's interesting is I can remember when I first bought the FT1000 MP V and being so impressed by the receive capabilities, especially against the old FT 990 I had at the time.  The MP V is a fine radio and I must admit I didn't think its receiver would be beaten by a kit radio costing quarter of the price. Still, I wouldn't sell or swap my FT for anything, the K2 may beat it on receive but that's about it!
The KPA 100 is now under construction and I’ve now reached the first alignment procedure, no big issues yet, but now I have to start connecting the amp up to the K2 and start doing some testing, so things may liven up! Once the alignment has been completed I can start winding the toroid’s and hopefully begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A footnote to my K2 receiver opinions, I've just come off air an hour after writing the earlier post:
I had a QSO with JA4FKX/QRP (Nan, near Osaka) he was transmitting 5 watts using a Yagi. I heard him closing with an Italian station and I thought "what the hell, let's give it a try" So I called him on the K2 with 5 watts going through the cobweb. He came back giving me a 549!  
Distance between us: 9602 kilometers or 5966 miles. 
Don't you just love amateur radio!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rework Eliminator and KAF2

The audio filter KAF2 has now been completed but not yet installed. 

The kit was fairly easy to build and only took me a day to finish. Besides the KAF2 I have also built the Rework Eliminator which alleviates the pain of removing components from the K2 when installing the various options, it’s a sort of plug in and play which a lot of K2 owners recommend for obvious reasons. 
You simply break off the required circuit and plug it in to the area the option will sit within the K2, this acts as a cover until you are ready to install the option kit in to the circuit. This means when you purchase an extra option you do not have to unsolder any pieces of kit, you can just remove the eliminator and install your new option at will without the hassle of any soldering, a very simple but vital piece of kit. 

My only problem was that the Eliminator turned up late and I was well in to the build of the K2, so I thought better to wait until I’d completed the radio before installing, just means I have to dismantle the main box again and have a play on the circuit boards , but I think I can live with that

Monday, April 22, 2013

K2 Completed

Well the K2 was completed on Sunday afternoon virtually one month to the day from first receiving it in the post.
By Sunday evening I’d had my first QSO with a French station F3MB (Jean in Bordeaux) who gave me a good 589 report. 

 Safely positioned in the Shack!
The building of the transmitter went a lot easier than the receiver but I still had a few issues along the way. Sunday morning on the first power test I thought I might have a serious problem as it was only pushing out half a watt no matter what power output I was selecting, something was not quite right.

A quick search on the Elecraft K2 forum and I had the information for a basic power trace of the problem and within the first couple of power checks with the DMM I found a cold solder joint on one of the transistors. A quick touch of solder and a few more checks which produced no further issues I put the K2 back together and hit the tune button, all was well and I was getting good power out in to the dummy load.

My only concern is that I'm having to use a manual ATU which is a bit of a pain when trying to remember each tune and load settings for the different bands. So its either invest in the K2 auto ATU or buy myself something like an LDG auto ATU, well see what happens.

Looking good next to the old OHR 100A

Now I’ve got the two other options to build; the 100 watt PA and the audio filter which hopefully won’t take me too long. I’ve also got the chance to buy the SSB, 20 watt ATU, and 160 meter option from my fellow K2 builder down the road from me. The SSB and 160 might suit but the 20w ATU wont be much use.
I'll see, I may well be "elecraft'd" out by the time I've built the PA and filter!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Success Alignment 2 Completed at Last

After two weeks of having my PLL oscillator problems I finally cracked it and thankfully the “Alignment test part 2” is now completed. I have to give a huge thanks to Don Wilhelm from the K2 forum, without his help I would still be tearing out what little hair I have! 

As usual with these things it was something small, a resistor or to be precise a resistor network that wasn’t playing ball. After replacing various components we narrowed it down to this resistor pak and in the end I replaced the pak for two separate 10k resistors as suggested by Don and it worked. 

From removing and replacing the pak a number of times I managed to damage one of the patches off the PCB but thankfully it wasn’t required so I was extremely lucky. 

 The PLL oscillating area is the top right of the PCB, you can see in the picture below where I've replaced the resistor pak with two 10k single resistors, that finally did the trick and got it running. You can see the 6th patch is damaged but luckily is now not used.

 I must admit I was beginning to lose hope and my confidence was getting low, I really thought I wasn’t going to get the old K2 working. It’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together and you realise you are not  a solder wavering madman who mucked everything up. 

The good news is I have had a listen to 40 meters CW and the radio sounds great, the filters are really good and first impressions are that it needs a slight tweak here and there but all in all it’s a very good receiver.

Monday, April 15, 2013

K2 PLL Issues But I'm Getting There!

The problem with alignment continues but the good news is that as I go along checking each part, measuring the capacitance or the resistance I'm getting to know how everything works. 

The interesting fact now appearing to me is I'm no longer scared of this kit, it's actually quite fun to learn and slowly understand how each individual part works in conjunction with another.

I think I know the problem with the PLL testing, for K2 owners its D17 one of the varactors. At the moment when I switch to PLL testing I get a good 12099.00 Khz reading and when pressing the plus button it stays as it should, but when pressing the minus button it drops to 00.450KHz , way out. 

So I kept plugging away trying to find the problem and by chance found with the DMM probe that if I touched D17 instead of the one good reading of 12099 it reverted to 00.450 so that both plus and minus was then out. By touching D17 again I got the 12099 back up. Definitely a varactor problem and a new one has been ordered and I suspect once replaced should hopefully fix the issue. 

You find yourself checking your soldering, (is it any good and up to spec?) are there any bridges? Have you made some gigantic cock up somewhere? And all your confidence vanishes as the hours go by and you find yourself getting nowhere and even dare I say think about giving up!

But then you realise that hundreds of kit builders have gone through the process where somewhere along the line they've come across a problem and find themselves scratching their heads wondering what the hell to do.

Inevitably it something simple like one component that refuses to play or a simple soldering issue and once its rectified, bingo, the kit works and you wonder what all the fuss was about! 

A friend of mine who has just completed his K2 took 18 months and had various issues, he is I might add is a true experienced home-brew builder, having built many transceivers and other more complicated pieces of kit and I dare say was building other kits along with the K2 (hence the 18 months). 

Yet he had similar PLL problem besides others issues. An interesting thing he said to me was that he knew builders who had lot less experience and had sailed through the kit with absolutely no problems. It's the luck of the draw.

However, he is now happily singing its praises and telling me what a superb rig the K2 is and that I will get there in the end and no doubt I will, but it will not take me 18 months I can assure you!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

K2 Alignment Testing Begins

The build with the K2 continues on and I am now at the second alignment testing stage. With the front and control boards completed I’ve reached halfway through the RF board with most of the components for the receiver now fitted.
The alignment testing consists of a number of actions to prove all is working correctly, these are the 4MHz ref oscillator, RF alignment, AGC threshold and IF filter alignment.
Sadly though I’m stuck on the oscillator test and am unable to get signals within the approved spec.  Searching the K2 forums this is a well-known problem and normally means some soldering/bridging issues or a component problem or perhaps a component misplacement.
So at the moment I’m running checks within the oscillator circuit searching for what may be at fault. One thing I did suspect was the toroid’s which have the correct windings (I've double checked), but don't seem to have a decent amount of tinning on them and I suspect I will have to remove and re-tin. I've never had the issue of toroid winding, in fact I find it quite therapeutic although hand winding five of them in one afternoon does tend to cut your fingers up!

I think with a bit of time and patience I’ll get there, normally with problems like this it’s some minor issue that the builder has missed and when the problem is found you can never believe that such a small error could cause the issue.
The good news is that the forum provides plenty of support and talks you through each check in detail so you are bound to find the cause in the end. Also by chance a fellow ham just down the road is building a K2 so if needs be we can get together to discuss. 

Hopefully in the next post I'll have moved on and perhaps start to see light at the end of the tunnel!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

K2 Smoke Test Completed

Well I’ve done the initial smoke test and thankfully all is working, but I had a few issues along the way. 

 Note the egg box in the background, an ideal area for placing parts
Naturally when you get your kit you are very keen to get going and build as quickly as possible, the simple rule you must follow is to take your time and check every component as you go along. You must check it’s the correct item, and when installed is soldered correctly with no bridges.
I did the classic of installing a component (the socket for U1 a large chip) and missed one solder point. Naturally I thought I had checked, but obviously no doubt due to haste I missed it.
 Consequently I carried on and installed the LED Backlight assembly and the LCD over the socket, so two separate items were covering this costly mistake. On the first smoke test I got no LED backlight or LCD readout.
It took me a whole morning to find the problem and then I had the difficult task of creating an opening to raise the LCD followed by removal of the back light to actually get to the problem which then took only seconds to fix, a simple solder.
It felt more like a surgical operation rather than a repair. Mistakes are bound to happen, but the morale of the story when building this kit is check, check and double check! 

 With initial testing done the main board has now to be completed with RX and TX components
However, all is now well and with the smoke test completed I can continue on but at a slightly slower pace.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

K2 Front Panel Completed

The front panel is now completed and so far the build is going well, a few minor issues where there have been some solder dry joints and bridges but nothing major. With the Easter break upon us I’ve had a few work free days so that I have managed to make a good start and things are progressing nicely and hopefully I’m ahead of schedule.

My old vinyl record disc anti static mat makes and Ideal building pad and attached to my anti static wrist band I happily work away with the radio playing some background rock music and drinking vast amounts of coffee! 

I picked up an interesting tip for checking dry joint which is to hold up a bright torch behind the PCB board and check each joint; pinpricks of light will appear if the solder is dry or incomplete.

 Resistance tests on each completed PCB board were a little worrying as my experience with a DMM is not great but a quick lesson on the web got me started and the tests were not as bad as I thought. 

 It’s noticeable that if I work too long I make silly errors, so I must pace myself and remember that mistakes can happen when you have been over doing it!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

K2 Build Begins

Inventory completed, I’ve cracked on and made a start on the Control board which is the first of the three PCB boards that have to be completed. 

So far so good with no initial problems, I’m using some thinner solder wire than previous builds and it definitely makes a difference, I only wish I’d done this for the OHR100. 

I’ve managed to install all the capacitors, resistors, diodes and begun work installing the transistors. Hopefully by tomorrow I should have the Control board completed.

I've managed to take over the conservatory at the back of the house which is a small well lit room  and ideal for building purposes as it's out the way and I can leave everything in place knowing it wont be disturbed. With the radio turned up I am left to my own devices and can happily solder away!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

K2 Arrives

Finally I have my hands on the K2 kit!
It’s taken a long time but at last the kit arrived in this morning’s post. I’ve already had a quick peek and begun the inventory checks. There's a lot to check but everything is so neatly placed in the box it’s almost a shame to unpack it. I love how each individual packet is labelled with a note of who packed it, it’s a real nice touch.
 Not so neat now as I've had a good rummage.

Hopefully I’ll have the inventory done by the end of this week and then I can begin the build. I will adhere to my usual rules, those being to take it slow and steady and check everything as I go along, normally I’m happy doing two hour slots but we will see how it goes. 
 The manual is huge, more like a novel!

I’ll try to take some pictures as I go along, but there are plenty of websites around who describe the build in detail so I won’t be doing a specific build sheet. 
 The start of the inventory check, each bag is unpacked placed in a separate box and ticked off
I’ve also been in touch with Elecraft and ordered the 100 watt PA and the audio filter, (the UK distributor only had the basic kit). 
Obviously more to follow as I progress.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kent Paddle Key

Some good news at last, my Kent key kit arrived and after a fairly simple build is now connected up to the FT 1000MP V. 

The only snag having rarely used a paddle was which way round I should connect the dashes and dots. After watching a few demonstrations on the web I quickly sorted it out, though not before attempting to practice with the dots on the right paddle and the dahs on the left! (I wondered why it didn’t feel right)!

First impressions on tapping away are pretty good, I thought I would really struggle but it actually seems to come reasonably naturally, obviously I’m fairly slow at the moment but speed will come with practice.

I have to admit it's a beautifully crafted piece of kit and looks great sitting in front of the rig. It's quite chunky and  has a good weight so it doesn't slide around even with my clumsy attempts, I'm very pleased with it.

Almost forgot to add the K2 is coming next week
Long story short, the UK Elecraft dealer suddenly has a K2 in stock and by chance when ringing them to inquire about another product they happened to mentioned it. Strange indeed, but hell,I bought it there and then in case I was dreaming and the kit should arrive next week, happy days!

Monday, March 18, 2013

K2 Blues

Well once again my bad luck with overseas purchases has struck. 

At the end of last week I rang the UK Elecraft dealer trying to find out if there was any progress and suffice to say there was no change in my order and consequently no sign of my K2 arriving. 

From what I could gather the kit had not even been ordered and it seems they are much more interested in the K3 KX3 or KX1 orders and certainly don’t stock the K2 kits here in the UK. I'm not even sure if they've ever ordered a K2 for a customer, (I got the impression they didn't like the fact that someone might complain if they made a hash of building it).

Thoroughly disappointed I cancelled the order as I could see that I just wasn’t getting anywhere. The price of the pound against the dollar has recently taken a hit and is not brilliant at the moment so ordering direct from Elecraft is a possibility but may prove costly; I guess I’m going to have to wait. 

The only other option is to see if any come up on Ebay but of course I lose the fun of building the kit, the ideal situation would be something like a partly built kit but I doubt that will happen. 

So unfortunately I just have to accept that I'm going to have to wait a little longer for my K2.
To cheer me up I ordered the Kent twin paddle key kit which should be arriving in the next day or two, hopefully concentrating on the build and learning to use a paddle will take my mind off the K2!
................C'est la vie!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Time For a Switch

Many may be surprised that as an ardent CW fan (I rarely speak on the radio) I’ve never used a paddle key, having stuck with a straight key for nearly 16 years. Actually I tell a lie, I have, but a long time ago when I was first licensed and really it was too early and I was put off by the experience. 

Now that I am tapping away on a daily basis my Morse has moved on and I can quite happily converse at 20 wpm, the trouble is my sending hovers around 18 wpm max and if I try to speed up with a straight key mistakes naturally happen and it get uncomfortable after a few qso's. I could persevere and stretch myself (and sometimes I do), but quite honestly I should have used a paddle some time ago.

I love straight keys having 5 different keys ranging from a very nice “Stillwell”, a Himound, an old Watson and a couple of Czech keys these being the two I use most of the time. But as I said you find yourself limited and I think now the time has come to move to paddles. 

I’ve been watching Ebay to see what’s about and spot any bargains but so far with little luck. I want to start with something fairly moderate like a Kent and see how I get on. Hopefully with time and practice I will switch over fairly easily but it won’t happen overnight, so I must remember to be patient and put in loads of practice. 

Once I’ve bought the paddle I will post up some pictures, any advice on switching from straight to paddle will be greatly received!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

K2 Ordering Issues

When ordering kits and bits from overseas my luck always seems to run out. The OHR 100A took nearly 4 weeks to arrive, evidently it had got lost in the vast empty space of the UK postal and customs service!

Two weeks have passed since I ordered the K2 and still no sign, so I was getting slightly agitated. I emailed the UK Elecraft distributor to enquire of any news, the reply was not good, quote: "Elecraft are out of stock of the K2 at this moment".

Now not that I'm suspicious but I know as do most potential Elecraft Kit owners if I go on to the Elecraft website there is a page all about stock levels, naturally if we have just ordered our new kits we like to see that all things are in order before we pay out are hard earned cash. So on reading the mail from the UK distributor I went to double check, because I distinctly remember when I ordered my K2 I checked the Elecraft website for stock.

Well, someone is telling porky pies because the Elecraft site clearly states K2s are in stock. Hmm, some peeps may call me a pessimistic old git, but my initial feelings is that my order was either mislaid or forgotten, (perhaps I'm wrong), but what's the betting that in approximately two weeks from the date of this post I receive my K2?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

K2 The Wait Continues

Coming up to the 2nd week from ordering the K2 so I’m hoping it should arrive in the next few days, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another week. Sometimes customs are pretty good and things go through quickly and sometimes it can take forever. 

Meantime I’ve been playing with the OHR100-A and getting some pretty good QSOs all over Europe, it really is a great little rig, the receiver is very sensitive and picks up weak signals just as well as my FT1000MP V but of course I have all the filters for the FT and so can narrow everything down. With the OHR100 you’re a little limited but providing the QRM isn’t too bad and using the bandwidth you can have some fun with just 5 watts.

I’ve taken the two meter yagi down, I just wasn’t using it and I could put the rotator to much better use with something like a Hex or another Moxon. Two meters is fairly quiet round here and to be honest I rarely chat on the bands, looking in the log my last conversation on the radio was over two years ago! With the Yagi and the 50MHz inverted V both sitting doing nothing I might just advertise with the local club just to see if anyone wants them or maybe just dismantle them both.

 Re another antenna we’ll see what I can come up with once I’ve done a bit more research. I am limited in what size I can use, having a cobweb, a 30m vertical and an inverted V all up in the garden does clog things up and a great big Hex or Moxon might not go down too well!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

K2 Ordered

The money has been handed over and the K2 order is in, now it's the wait .......possibly a whole 2 weeks! 

To think it was only back in June last year that I started my QRP quest with the little old Rockmites then the OHR100 A,  now I'm ordering the kit I've always wanted. I've feel I've come a long way since June 2012 and am quite ready for the challenge, in fact I'm really looking forward to it. 

All the Elecraft reviews I've read point towards how good the kits are and the great support the company provides. Fingers crossed I wont need too much support but it's nice to know its there should I need it.

In the next few days I'm going to join the K2 build forums and have a good read, naturally once the kit has arrived I will publish how I get on, so obviously watch this space.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

60 meter Band Big Disappointment

I’d built my 60 meter antenna and had hung it up in the silver birch at the end of the garden, all connected up ready to start listening full of anticipation. 

Over the past week I have listened and heard the odd ham but quite honestly I was disappointed, I was hoping for more, no CW at all, nothing all week. As for side band there were a few but enough to count on one hand. 

Then this morning as there was a big competition going on and most of the bands were busy I’d thought I try 5MHz to see what was about, 5.325.00 to be precise. What I heard really astounded me and believe me I’m no saint, the language was colourful to say the least, whoever these two muppets were they were local boys from around Gloucestershire, it wasn’t hard to tell by their extremely thick Gloster accents. 

No call signs naturally, just happy to gossip about various people in their neighbourhood whom obviously they didn’t like and in doing so swear as much as they could. As I said I’m no saint but you don’t swear on the radio, certainly not the language they were using its common sense, something that these idiots were obviously lacking. 

In the end after listening for about 10 minutes in case they gave anything away I gave up and turned the rig off. I’m taking the antenna down, I don’t want to be a part of that, its part of the reason I hardly do side band, give me CW any day. No doubt there will be operators out there saying if you don’t use the band you will lose it, well sorry I won’t be a part of that particular band when there are idiots like that around. Enough said and back I go to CW! 

On a different note I’m almost ready to buy the K2, I rang the UK distributor and at the moment they are waiting for new stock, so I will ring back next week and put my order in. I must admit I was tempted by the Kenwood TS 590 but after serious investigations (mainly through Eham and You Tube) I decided on the K2. Overall the impression is that the RX quality of the K2 is marginally better but of course the winner for me was that you have the pleasure of building the transceiver. 

I’m going for the basic 15 watts first and see how it goes, I’m really looking forward to building this rig, after all it’s taken 3 RockMites and one OHR 100A to get to this point. More updates will follow once I have the kit.

Friday, February 8, 2013

W3DZZ Trap Service and 5MHZ Dipole

Since I’ve serviced the G3TPW Cobweb and completed the G3TXQ, I decided I might as well check the traps on the W3DZZ antenna and re-tune if necessary. Also I’ve successfully applied for the 5Mhz so I need to make up an antenna for that band. 

The W3DZZ has been up for a number of years and is a really good antenna for 40 and 80 meters. The 40m was originally set for the CW portion of the band and 80m set to 3.700MHz for some listening and the odd rag chew. 

The antenna was made from instructions I found off the web, a piece written by GM0ONX. I was that impressed I actually contacted him to say what a great antenna it was and how easy to build. He very kindly replied and informed me that it was literally built in a day and by chance he managed to get it published in Practical Wireless!

My particular W3DZZ uses the coax traps which were very easy to build and seem to work really well. GM0ONX's design is very easy to follow and simple to construct and if you're starting out this is an excellent way to get in to trap antennas.

You will require an antenna analyzer to tune up the traps

Recently I've noticed that the SWR has been reading quite high and I've been repeatedly having to tune up. So it was definitely time for a service; I removed both traps and did a quick check with the MFJ 259, the SWR was showing 1:1 at around 6.800MHz and it also looked like the coax on the tubing had slipped slightly and just needed some re-adjusting. 

It was just a matter of removing the electrical tape and adjusting the coax, then gently trimming the 40 meter portion until I got a good reading of 1:1 at 7.0030MHz, I also lengthened the 80 meter portion by 6" each end to drop the peak to around the CW part of the band. Once both bands were set with the correct trim it was just a case of re-taping the coax traps up and making sure everything was waterproof.

 Multi coloured trap (adds a bit of colour to the garden)!

Now SWR readings are good at 1:0 for 7.030 and 1:1 for 3.0550, it's funny how once all connected back up you'd swear the receive signals sound much better!

The 60 meters antenna will be an inverted Vee and I’m using the 1:1 ugly balun I made some weeks ago, (see previous posts), I’ve roughly trimmed it up and once I have it raised up in the silver birch at the end of the garden will do the final trim with the MFJ 259b.

The 5MHZ dipole complete with 1:1 ugly balun ready to be mounted in the silver birch tree, the red tag reminds me which is the positive end!

Having the MFJ 259b for measuring my home brew antennas does make building a lot easier. Another accessory you can buy (for some stupid sum of money) is the loop coupler for measuring traps and coils, my Brother in law has one which I borrowed when I first built the W3DZZ. 

 However, as he was away this week I realised I’d be stuck for doing the trap measuring. There was no way I was going to buy one , so I decided to have ago at making it, after all it couldn't be too difficult.

 Thankfully I had a 100 watt soldering gun and all it took was some reasonably thick copper wire and a male to male 259 connector and a simple case of soldering one end of the wire to the centre pin and the other to the outside ring. I've probably made the ring a bit too big, but hey the traps fitted fine for testing so it works and cost me nothing!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Both Cobwebs Now Up and Running

Well after much playing about with tuning and trimming, I finally got the G3TPW Cobweb back up on the mast yesterday evening.
After my initial tuning the other day I had to dismantle the antenna as the weather was proving very bad, so yesterday by the time I had re-assembled and started up the tuning process the morning had passed quickly by. Finally with a bit more trimming completed, I climbed the ladder with antenna in hand and clamped it in to place.
I switched on the MFJ 259 and did some checks, the SWR was all over the place, I had a problem, something was definitely not right and after a quick check of all the coax cables, I had to make the decision to bring the antenna back down, and so I clambered back up the ladder and removed the antenna.
I spent most of the afternoon with the terminal box open trying to figure out what the problem was, I knew it was shorting somewhere but in the end I had to go through each connection to find the short. Eventually I found the problem, it turned out to be one of the 12 meter elements had split at the join to the choc block causing one of the U connections to short and all it needed was re-stripping. Then it was just a case of re waterproofing the box, sealing up and mounting back on the mast.
Dusk was fast approaching when I clambered back up the ladder and attached the cobweb back on the mast, I quickly said a prayer and did my checks on the MFJ and thankfully all proved OK. 

Finally back on the mast!

The SWR measurements are now pretty good, they are all set for CW except for 10 meters which I set for 28.500 as I like an occasional rag chew on 10.
14.000 - 1:4
18.070 - 1:0
21.050 - 1:0
24890 - 1:2
28.500 - 1:1
With the G3TXQ cobweb now set up in the attic I am at last ready to do a bit of testing with both cobwebs. Obviously as this antenna is in an enclosed space there is bound to be a difference. The most noticeable being the background noise but that cannot be helped as the attic naturally has bricks and mortar and electrical wiring.
Here is the final SWR reading for the G3TXQ:
14.075 1:5
18.080 1:4
21.073 1:3
24.890 1:1                        
28.015 1:1    
As suspected there is not a lot of difference, but the SWR is slightly higher on the G3TXQ on a couple of bands (most likely because of the attic positioning). I could trim to match the frequency of the G3TPW, but to be honest I couldn't be bothered to get it exactly the same. 

Physically the G3TXQ is far lighter and easier to handle also the tuning is much quicker because you only have one wire for each element. But that said, I do like my G3TPW, it is heavier and chunkier with my larger home made plates and it definitely feels more solid especially with the windy condition we have round here.

It was very apparent when lifting back on to the mast how much heavier it was compared to the G3TXQ, you feel the lighter cobweb would literally blow away in the wind, although that said it's exactly the same build just lighter materials.
The main difference on receiving is of course the background noise but if the G3TXQ was raised outside on my mast I doubt you would know the difference when listening. On transmit I've now used both cobwebs on 20 meters and reports from both are good with the G3TPW showing  slightly stronger RSTs, again no doubt due to due location.

So all in all as suspected there is very little difference, for me I'd go for the G3TPW simply because it feels stronger, but that personal choice from QTH circumstances. It's been fun servicing the old cobweb and building a new one and I hope you have enjoyed the entertainment as I've struggled along. I'm not a technical antenna geek so all this is very basic but hopefully gives you a rough guide to both types of the antenna.

I'll probably remove most of the posts I have regarding the Cobweb antenna and place them on a separate page so that potential builders have all the information together.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the G3TXQ cobweb now, so for the moment it's sitting snugly up in the attic out the way. Currently I'm saving up for either a K2 or a TS590 so I'm tempted to keep the G3TXQ and connect to the new radio, then I'll be spoilt for choice with two cobwebs!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

PYE Radio Restoration

Whilst up in the attic rummaging around for Christmas decorations I came across an old radio/gramophone that had been sitting up there for the past 10 years, before that it had been sitting in the cellar of our previous house, totally unloved! It belonged to my XYL’s father and had been purchased many years ago.

I brought it out of the attic and gave it a good check over; blowing off the dust the on off switch had a small crack and the center cover on the left control was missing, the wooden cabinet was sound but had varnish peeling off, otherwise everything seemed to be there. On the back was inscribed “PYE R32” so I did a bit of investigating on the web

The original web photo

 It seemed the PYE R32 was built in the 1960s and could be bought for the vast sum of 28 guineas a lot of money in those days. It looked like an old valve radio but in fact was a transistor based rig, presumably, transistors were still in their early stages so the R32 was made to look like the reliable valve system. Removing the back cover everything was covered in a thick dust, it was then that the radio instinct took over and I knew I had to get it working! 

I gave the insides a good clean, first with a vacuum cleaner using a small spout and brush and then with small tips of cotton wool buds dipped in electrical cleaning solvent. Gradually the dust came off and it was almost as if the PYE was slowly coming back to life as each layer of dust was removed. 

 Once I felt everything inside was relatively clean I decided to connect a battery and see what would happen. Bingo, it came to life, I tested both the MW and LW ranging up and down each band and all seemed OK, the volume was a bit scratchy but some solvent on the pot soon cured that. The tone worked well and interestingly it had its own little antenna system that could be rotated within the cabinet which was rather neat and worked really well, bringing in European stations when you turned the antenna. 

 So now I knew it worked it only seemed right and fair to restore the cabinet back to its original condition. I decided to tackle the top first as it was definitely the worst effected, I gave it a good coat of paint/vanish stripper and then gently peeled off the remnants, finally I finished off with some serious scrubbing using wire wool. 

Leaving it to dry off for 24hrs I then sanded down the top, cleaned it all up and applied some varnish. Whilst I write this post it’s still drying off but if all is well I will then attack the front and both sides and re-varnish the whole cabinet.

I must admit just with the top done it looks better than the original picture I took off the web, should look brilliant once I've completed the sides, more pictures to follow once it’s all completed.