Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hawaii Calling!

Listening on 20 meters at 6.45 GMT this morning I hear the usual Europeans and Russians doing their morning rounds. Then quite by chance I hear at first what I think is an American station.

Tuning in further to investigate, I reckon its west coast, but then I hear the call KH6CW Hawaii! Coming in beautifully at 5/9, the operator was named Harry and was having great conversations with lots of EU stations. I thought about diving in for a QSO but having just risen out of bed and not yet had my breakfast and being half asleep, I wasn't in my QSO mode!

But it just goes to show when the bands seem dead up pops something interesting and out of the blue!

 
Distance 11,716 Km !

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The New Tilt Over Mast Arrives

Fresh from Scotland, MM0CUG Gary arrived with his brother and my tilt over mast. He does monthly deliveries all over the county including Northern Ireland, dropping different masts off from his trailer, quite a tiring task I suspect, but they seem to enjoy it. Like a typical cottage industry it has taken off as word has spread about the quality and workmanship of the masts or towers they provide.

When they arrived they couldn't have been more helpful in the setting up and positioning of the mast and can honestly say they were exceptional and went out of their way to help!

 
The mast in place at low level, it can raise up to 35 feet
 
You should be able to see a telephone line passing through the middle of the picture.
I found the first time when raising the 17 moxon that it was very close and looking from certain angles I thought it was going to touch. 
 
It turns out I have about 3" to clear from the tip of the moxon to the wire, bit close to say the least, but at least it does clear. That's the biggest antenna I have, so I should be OK for all the others. I wouldn't mind too much, but I don't even use the telephone wire, as it's all underground fibre optics now!! 


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rebuilding the Homebrew Hexbeam Antenna

So Clint's M0FHN Hexbeam antenna has arrived and at last I had some time to inspect it properly. It's very well built and interestingly he used an aluminium tube for a centre post, using extra coax as the ground. Because of this, the antenna is quite heavy, 15/16kg about 34lbs and that's not including the rotator, I'm not sure with the weight it will go on my new tilt over mast, it may be too heavy.



So what I thought I do is keep the aluminium centre post all in tact as it already has the element connected and is well weatherproofed, keep the reflector elements as well, store them all away. 
I'll remove the base plate, take the glass fibre spacer poles and the support cables which are all roughly measured out and I can adjust if needs be, use those in conjunction with a new lighter centre post made out of some thick fibre glass pole I had left over from making the 17 meter moxon.

I still have some 14 gauge wire left over from my Cobweb days and I'll use that for the new elements. This will give me valuable experience in building a Hexbeam and apart from the glass fibre spacer poles (which can easily be replaced) and I still have another spare Hex antenna.

I started on the centre pole yesterday and have been following K4KIO 's site on building the G3TXQ broadband hex, but adapting where I need to. The measurements for the centre post are the same and I have now drilled and fitted the wire terminals bolts. I've also fitted the top cap and a large bolt to take all the support cords.
 
The centre post
 
 
The wire terminals bolts are a little bit tricky to fit, but using a long piece of wire folded over attached to the bolt, you can fit them threw each drilled hole. These terminals will all need to be waterproofed with either hot glue or waterproof liquid tape. It's essential that everything is thoroughly protected from the weather or else the SWR can be effected.
 
 
The PVC cap is off another project and together with a bit of waterproof tape and glue it is wedged on to the top of the fibre glass pole. Again I will make sure it's tightly fitted by pouring some more hot glue underneath it. This has to be a good fit as it will hold all the support cords.
 
I've ordered some ring connectors for the elements and have completed measuring the 20m element directors and reflector, only six more bands to do! By the time I've done the measuring and cutting hopefully the ring connectors will have arrived and I can fit them.
 
 When weighing the original centre post which was 15lbs, the new centre post is coming in at 3lbs, but I've yet to add the coax connectors for each band. Fingers crossed it will be virtually half the weight of the original centre post, which would considerably lessen the weight of the whole antenna.
 
(A few days later):
Ok the base plate and spreader arms have been attached, they were all previously measured out so I had no real problems there. I've also added the support cords so the basic shape is now in place. I must admit it's bigger than I thought, so the idea of fitting in a small sized garden puzzles me slightly!
 
I've measured out the wire elements and as I only target 20, 17,15 and 12 meters at the moment, I'm just adding these I might add 10 and 6 later.
More to follow hopefully over the weekend.
 
 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning / Improving Your CW

I've been practising my CW again in the vain attempt to get back up to a reasonable speed of about 18 wpm. This was roughly the figure I was clawing up to when I had my stroke back in 2015.

Interestingly after two and a bit years I finally feel that I have got to the position that I have now recovered as much as I am going to. My memory is never likely to be the same as it was and certain things are a wee bit slower than they were, but you also have to take in to consideration that you are getting older so things will naturally slow anyway.

I definitely feel CW helped me in my aid to mental recovery and in a way continues to do so. That's one of the reasons why I've kept practising. I use a piece of software called Morsecat which uses the Farnsworth method. You can character set your preferences, speed up, change intervals and create your own QSO's.

 

I can safely do 14 wpm at the moment with no mistakes but as my old teacher used to say, "push yourself, if you can do a certain number safely your finding it too easy!" So I'm trying 16 and seeing how I go, should prove interesting!

One of my pet hates is operators trying to prove they can send fast when obviously can't. A good operator can make the key sound like a musical instrument and if you listen even at speeds you are not used to, you'll start to pick out certain tunes. Things like RST or QTH TNX TEMP all have their individual tunes which you can easily pick out.
But there's nothing worse than hearing someone sending at speed with incorrect spacing and not sending correct timings on their tones.

But the biggest success to learning good CW is without doubt practise. Can't say it enough, practise practise practise! Even after you pass your morse exams keep it up or just do loads of QSO's. Some old boy said to me a long time ago, "try and do at least 5 QSO's a day to start with and I guarantee you'll soon become an accomplished operator!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Hexbeam Antenna Arrives

It arrived this morning by courier, well packed by Clint M0FHN. Weighing at a good 16kg it's quite heavy and I'll probably have to make some adjustments as my old AR-40 light weight rotator might struggle, but we can wait and see.

As I thought the antenna has been well built and if Clint is right in length of time it has been up on a tower at his QTH, then it's in good condition for 2 years sitting on a pole out in the elements!

 
The first thing I have to do is reduce the size of the bottom pole, Clint had a cage and rotator, (I have no cage) so, I can reduce weight by shortening the lower pole. Then I must study G3TXQ website and see how easy it is to put together. But there is no rush, my tilt over mast won't be coming till at least next week so I can study at leisure! Better to take my time and get things right or rushing along and making mistakes!

Monday, May 1, 2017

KSB2 Upgrade for K2

I have finally got round to purchasing a KSB2 SSB upgrade for my K2! Since I bought and built it all those years ago now, I've been meaning to actually get an SSB option but just never got round to it. Maybe the pull of CW was just too strong, or maybe the hassle of buying from across the pond and having to pay out an extra £30 duty tax was putting me off.

I don't know, but finally I ordered the option 2 weeks ago and it turned up in the post on Saturday. Since it was the UK bank holiday weekend I figured I do the bulk of the building now and finish it over a couple of evening during the week.

So off I went forgetting that two years later after a stroke and the hands and eyes combination is not the same as it used to be.  So I was slowed down with that handicap but I did usual couple of an hours work, then have a rest for 20 minutes and carry on. Soldering is definitely an art which takes a while to master, but after a few hours practise I was back up and running.

By Monday evening I had soldered the bulk of the  capacitors, diodes, transistors and resistors. I was amazed that I only did two mistakes which thankfully I picked up on virtually straight away, I still have the toroid's to wind and a few components to add but the main work has been done.

 
Sitting on my old 1970s anti static disc, the bulk of the work has been done.

One thing which proved invaluable to me was my magnifying lenses headset which the XYL bought me as a Christmas present a few years ago!  It has without doubt proved its worth, so if your like me and the eyes are going and you like a bit of soldering, modelling, or another hobby where the eyes are needed, get a pair of these!


Hopefully I'll have the KSB2  installed and working by the end of the week and then my attention should be turning towards a service on the Hexbeam which should have arrived by then and preparing for the tilt over mast which should be appearing during the middle of the month.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Hexbeam Antenna

At last I found a reasonable priced Hexbeam antenna. Although a homebrew copy of the G3TXQ version, I checked out the pictures and could see that Clint M0FHN knows how to build a good antenna and I'm happy to have bought it. I'm picking it up next week and hopefully will have it already to be set up on the new tilt over mast.

Besides covering the usual 6, 10,12,15 and 20m, Clint cleverly put in a 40m rotated dipole which means if successful at my QTH I could remove the cobweb and the W3DZZ inverted which would please the XYL!

 
With all the reports and reviews from places like Eham, I've been hankering after one of these antennas for sometime, but the MW0JZE commercial Hexbeam has been inundated with orders and he has halted the ordering on his website due to such high demand.
 
The waiting time was just too long for me and I was actually thinking of ordering something else, like a small Yagi, but quite by chance came across Clint's homebrew Hexbeam advert.


 
The way the antenna has been made shows me Clint has done a professional job especially the using the strong flex weave wire and the insulation for the centre pole. He was telling me he followed the G3TXQ instructions and since he built it he's been having good results and reports. The antenna is only a couple of years old, so I reckon with a bit of TLC its got a few years yet!
 
He's only selling because he got an offer to buy a new antenna which was just too good to miss out on.
 
 
 Writing about G3TXQ Steve Hunt, I've just heard he's in hospital with a tumour in his back. Poor old Steve , what rotten luck, here's hoping he recovers quickly! Although we have never met I have chatted via forums and of course built his version of the Cobweb antenna and am hoping to have some excellent times with this his version of the Hexbeam.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

First Part of the Tilt Over Mast Arrives


Typical, I seem to be going through a patch of bad luck! the TGM MQ-2 antenna deal has fallen through. The seller had a local buyer and obviously went with him as packing and preparing from Scotland down south would have cost him time and money, so I can sort of understand that.

So I'm on the lookout for either a mini beam or light weight Yagi. But I can wait, I've said to myself there's no rush, take your time, see what deals are about or come up, something is eventually bound to happen.

The base sleeve for my new tilt over mast has arrived and I can now go ahead and prepare by finishing off the 1 metre square hole. Talk about hard ground in my paddock, all rocks hardly any soil, so digging is a case of using a sharp metal pole about 5 foot long and a pick and shovel! After that it should become a little easier with just keeping the sleeve upright and true, then just cementing in, ready for when the main mast arrives.

 
This is what the finished product should look like
 

and this is where I am in the process of laying in the sleeve!

 
If I get the cement finished like the top picture it will be a miracle, but hopefully it will be near as damn it! The good thing is as the ground is like rock I don't have to be too accurate, its bedded in a good 450mm so far and I reckon with a top up it will be fine. I'll then cover it over with some top soil so the XYL won't complain too much and we should be OK. Hopefully it will make a big difference to raising and lowering antennas.
 
The finished product!

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Dual Beam Pro Antenna and New MQ-2 Antenna

I purchased the Dual Beam Pro antenna and set it up on my temporary 20 foot mast. It took me only an hour to build and I was quickly checking the SWR. However you really have to use an internal or external ATU for all bands (certainly for 40m).
Living out in the middle of nowhere I’m at an advantage that I don’t have any built up areas nearby to obscure the antenna and I get a good take off point for 360 degrees. That said, you tend to forget that my other antennas like the cobweb and the Hustler 6BTV are in an ideal location and behave accordingly, so when you put up something like a pro beam antenna it’s up against stiff competition
It’s quiet and certainly you get good reception on all bands, tuning up was OK except for 40 meters where you need to manually tune but then it did work. Signal reports in to Europe where good and I was regularly getting 5/7 to 5/9.
But when comparing with the cobweb or Hustler it was roughly similar or slightly down. £250 is a lot of money for this antenna but I can see why someone would be happy with it living in a built up area where conditions were not ideal, but if you are living in an area where you’re already getting a good signal, this does not boost like a Yagi or a proper beam antenna like the Moxon.
So after having it up on my temporary mast for most of one day I decided to take it down and sell it. Not because I don’t like it, but simply because it was not what I was expecting, maybe I was a little naive, but that’s the lesson learnt. I’m definitely going for a mini beam antenna, which I should have done before, but sometimes you have to go through hoops and jumps before you get to your end target!
So a few days later I find what I'm looking for a TGM MQ-2 antenna, similar to the MQ-1 but with the WARC bands. These are pretty much the main bands I use so I'm fairly happy with the result. The only issue is the antenna is presently up in Scotland so I'm having to wait while the seller packs it all up and I can go ahead and arrange collection. But my mast has still not arrived yet so I'm happy to wait for the moment.

 


The TGM MQ-2 Antenna
On another matter, looking at my stats for this Blog I see I've reached the 100,000 lookups! I like to say a big thanks to all my readers from literally all over the World, I hope that you've enjoyed the read and in some cases it has either been useful or helpful towards this great hobby of ours!


Monday, March 27, 2017

Winch Update

Well I tested the winch over the weekend and things were not so good. I could raise fairly well but the pole was always lifting and swaying at a horizontal angle, plus the bottom attachment of the pole was getting caught.

I tried various ways to fix it, but unfortunately it proved too difficult. In the end I gave up, I was just about to concrete in when I thought this is pointless it's just not working properly and in future years, I would be raising up and down sometimes on a regular basis for testing antennas. If it wasn't working correctly now, what would it be like in a few months time?

I really needed something more solid, so in the end after much thought I gave it up. It was annoying as I rarely give in, I like to work things out and repair, but something as important as this has to be right. When I retire in the next few years, this will be my main hobby and I will be experimenting with different homebrew antennas, so I want to have a mast that raises and lowers easily which is permanent and more importantly will last.

So reluctantly, I have now ordered a 35 foot professional built mast with two winches one for lifting the mast upright the other to raise. I've already dug out the hole for its sleeve which is 500mm deep and 1m square. The sleeve is coming sometime next week and I can go ahead and get it concreted in ready for the full mast which will be arriving sometime in late April.

Something's you win and something's you lose!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Completion of Tilt Over Mast & An Antenna at Last

Continuing with the building of the homebrew wind up/tilt over mast, I have at last managed to finish the build, but due to the past week of heavy winds not yet tested.

I actually completed on Monday, but on looking at the pulley which was first placed directly below the winch, I felt the angle was too direct and would probably cause some kind of an issue, I think the raised pole would hit the pulley. Suffice to say I bought two steel rectangular plates, cut them to size and fitted so that the pulley came out and away from the scaffold poles, so as to create more of gap between the main pole and the scaffold poles. My geometry has never been much good, but you just know when you get that feeling that something could work better if you redesigned it, and besides it looks better!


I've buried the two upright poles 3 feet in the ground and I'll concrete and ballast when and I'm completely happy it's all working as it should be.


I think it's a reasonable effort and should be OK for some light antenna work, anyway it will save me from further back ache! But I'll do some more testing this weekend.

I took the Moxon down after seeing the rotator swing in the high winds and presumed it was too weak for the 17m Moxon. But in actual fact when fitting the winch I notice some of the nuts attaching the rotator to the aluminium scaffold pole were loose, realising this was the probable cause of the free rotation, doh!  So instead, I have now fitted the 6 element 2m Yagi, I'm going to leave it  for the moment and try out 2 metres this weekend.

After much thinking, reviewing and mulling over, I have finally chosen an new antenna and it's a mix between a beam and an Omni directional, its called a Dual Beam Pro antenna by Pro antennas   It's very light and reasonably unobtrusive so wont annoy the villagers and it has bidirectional characteristics requiring only 180 degrees rotation to cover the globe.

The dual beam pro, interesting shape?

I must admit at first I was all for a mini beam or a Yagi, but after reading the write ups and seeing it has a good score in E-ham reviews. I bit the bullet and purchased it and am now eagerly awaiting it's arrival. I will do a separate review of the antenna at a later date. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hustler 18 and 24Mhz Upgrade

On a past post I told you about my Hustler 6BTV upgrade which I  added the 24Mhz and 18Mhz elements by tapping at the base of the antenna. This is a simple process that literally takes a morning to do and adds two more bands to the antenna.

Just by adding the two elements horizontally each side of the base of the antenna for about a foot and then raising vertically and hanging at the top you have the two extra bands.
Pictures speak louder than words so I've added some for you to see just how easy it is.

The basic set up with the elements on each side of the antenna

A better view of how the elements are spread out from the base

And finally how the tapping was done with a simple screw, easy!

Overall I checked it against the cobweb as the moxon is currently in the lowered mode, it actually seemed quieter with roughly similar SWR readings. I think for some DX work it should be OK.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hustler changes and a Winch system for the Moxon


I’m currently working on upgrading my Hustler vertical antenna 6BTV to incorporate 17 and 24 meters. It’s a fairly easy upgrade, in which you tap in to the base of the antenna and fit the 12 and 24 meter elements. By extending out from the base by about a foot horizontally and then rising vertically parallel to the vertical tube hanging and from the top. I found the best idea was some was to attach some plastic tubing to the top and antenna by some zip cable and it seemed to do the trick.
My other project at the moment is building a winch for the main 30ft mast. Raising and lowering has been a physical effort for me and it can be quite precarious, it's right on the border of my lifting capabilities with the 17 meter Moxon and the rotator. So I decided on a winch system and have been planning for a while (see earlier post).
I was going to purchase one to save the bother of having to build, but the prices are not cheap, so I figured I could do just as well in constructing something just to get a light weight antenna raised to a moderate 30 feet. I was thinking about a pulley at the top of my two scaffolds poles, but I think an easier solution is to put it at the base instead, nothing about the physics more it's just easier to build!
Starting the winch build

It’s just two scaffolds pole about 8ft in length bolted together with a pulley at the base and the winch on a steel plate halfway up the poles. The cable from the winch runs down through the pulley to the base of the attached mast. On winching the base of the mast is pulled inwards towards the scaffold poles rotating and raising the mast. Simple but effective, the only hard bit will be digging out two and half feet of hole and mixing up some concrete!
 
The completed winch, simple but hopefully effective!
To be honest while I have been building the winch, I have noticed the light weight rotator with the Moxon has been playing up in the high winds by slipping at the point of its azimuth. Unfortunately there is no lock, so if I leave it facing SW direction sometimes end up with it facing north, which can get a wee bit confusing!

So it may have to come down at some stage while I put up a smaller Moxon or my 2 meter 6 element Yagi, I think the 17 meter one is slightly too big for the rotator, even in a light wind its seems to slip, which is annoying as it can get quite gusty up here.
This of course puts a downer on my purchasing a mini beam antenna, so I may just have to have another think at what's about and works for me. But I'll try something smaller first to see if that solves the issue.

Monday, March 6, 2017

What Yagi and Tilt Over Mast Designs


Continuation on a mini beam progresses and I’m thinking of purchasing a THF2-e Yagi, a two element tribander for 20, 21 and 10 meters. Reasonably priced at £360, the reviews have been pretty good and I think it would suit my needs. However it’s still early days yet so we’ll wait and see.
Currently the 17m Moxon is sitting in the horizontal position due to high winds. For the past few weeks I have been manually raising and lowering the antenna which can be quite tough, as it’s reasonably heavy with a 25’ scaffold pole, rotator and probably 8 kilos of antenna. So it does add up a bit and can be a bit of a struggle for one person!
I’m trying to design a winch system for a tilt over mast which would incorporate two 8’ scaffold poles positioned close together 2' deep in the ground, similar to what I have now with the main 25' mast between them which rotates with a bolt between all poles.
A winch will be attached to both or one of the poles, with a pulley at the top and winching would then pull the mast in an upward direction therefore saving my back!! All basic stuff but with a bit more planning and thinking should work OK.
Anyway I've already bought a 2500 lbs strain winch off eBay on the cheap and am now looking out for other bits and pieces that I may need. Everything will have to be strong and sturdy so welding as well as bolting will probably be incorporated. This might prove to be an interesting project but I'm sure there will be some good ideas on the web when I give it a good search.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Deciding on a Multi Band Beam Antenna


The trouble is when you start building beam antennas and things go really well you end up wanting more!
Having successfully built the 17 meter Moxon I could go on to build another, like a twenty or a 15 meter version, but where the hell would I put them up. The problem is having had the taste of the db gain you get from such an antenna you wish you could have the same results on other bands. Which provides me with a dilemma?
I have a wonderful radio the Yaesu FTDX9000MP and it deserves the best antenna I can get, but I cannot put up a tower where I live because it’s an area of outstanding beauty and undoubtedly I would be told to remove it. I amazed how I’ve got away with the Cobweb and the Moxon without somebody complaining. So I’m stuck with my 30 odd foot scaffold pole which means I’m limited with weight and size of an antenna one of the reasons I built the Moxon, because it is very light.
I could probably get away with replacing the Moxon with a two element Yagi or something similar to cover the three bands, but again it would have to be light and so I’ve been looking at what’s about and have come across a few that might deal with my problem.
The old favourite, the Hexbeam, a good reasonable antenna and covers all the major bands including six. The Spiderbeam, another lightweight antenna which covers 20,15 and 10 meters or you can get one for the five bands. Lastly something like a Mosley mini-32-A antenna, a lightweight two element mini Yagi which covers the three bands 20,15 and 10. To be honest the Yagi would be my favourite because it looks simple to set up it's very light 6lbs and it’s less complicated that the Hex or Spider, I would cover the other bands 17 and 12 with other antennas.
 
 
 
A mini Mosley beam like the 32-A might work for me!
 
The other issue for me is whether to build or buy? At the moment I have little time available to me to build so I would most likely have to go down the purchase route and my limit would have to be around £400. The entire antennas I’ve mentioned are roughly around that price although the Spiderbeam is a little more expensive at 400 odd Euros. Interestingly the Yagi M-32-A comes out the cheapest but literally by about £10 over the Hex!
We'll just have to wait and see, whatever the outcome it's a hobby at the end of the day, so it's quite a nice dilemma to have!
 
 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

An Un-Expected Pleasure on Saturday Morning

Early Saturday morning, first thing I normally do is switch the radio on. It's typical that you build a new antenna and then the band goes quiet on you! In this case it's the 17 meter Moxon, a few European stations can be heard but that's it.

So I decided to take a look round the lower bands to hear what's going on. 80 meters is the usual local traffic with what I jokingly call the amateurs complaining of pains and politics band! Which can be very entertaining, but today I wasn't in the mood. 

Switching up to 40 meters it was mostly European stuff and moving on to 30 I get something similar, but round 10,124 I hear a feint station calling a CQ which takes my interest, cos it's got that echoey sound of distance and no one has picked up on it yet.

A bit of QSB but I can still just hear it calling, I zero in and get the headphones on,  sure enough there it goes again and still nobody has picked it up, wait a sec that's a ZL station ZL3XDJ. In to action I go, filters on, zero the beat, quick ATU check and put the power up and away I go.

M0AUW K pause, back he comes, it's Brian whom I heard a few days back with very nice CW, It does make a difference when you hear good CW! you appreciate the spaces and clarity especially when its DX stuff and especially when you've had a stroke and your brain is just not quite there!

He gave me a 579 and I was so happy, I had a permanent grin on my face all day!

Friday, February 3, 2017

The W5GI Mystery Antenna

One of the first antennas I built was the W5GI mystery antenna, it makes an excellent antenna as a starter project when first entering the hobby.
 
 




The Mystery antenna covers 80 to 6 meters with low feed point impedance and will work with most radios, with or without an antenna tuner. It is approximately 100 feet long, can handle the legal limit, and is easy and inexpensive to build. It’s similar to a G5RV but a much better performer especially on 20 meters.


The W5GI Mystery antenna, erected at various heights and configurations, is currently being used by thousands of amateurs throughout the world. Feedback from users indicates that the antenna has met or exceeded all performance criteria. The “mystery” part of the antenna comes from the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to model and explain why the antenna works as well as it does. The antenna is especially well suited to hams who are unable to erect towers and rotating arrays. All that’s needed is two vertical supports (trees work well) about 130 feet apart to permit installation of wire antennas at about 25 feet above ground.


 



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Nice Start To The Day

Switching on the FTDX9000MP this morning at around 8am local time, things sounded pretty quiet, so I was  glancing at this months Radcom to see what propagation was about. I must admit things looked pretty grim and I thought I may get a crack at Moscow or a bit further, but it didn't look good.

Using the Hustler antenna I decided to try the 30 meter band and was searching along the band and picked up on a loud Russian station in CW conversation.
I was about to move off to carry on the search when just below the tone of the Russian I could hear a very feint CQ calling.

I didn't get the station name, but he had that echoey sound you sometimes get with distant stations and I felt this needed a further investigation. The Russian finished his chat and then the distant station became a bit clearer, but there was lots of QSB which made things difficult.
This is where the FTDX9000 comes in to its own,I turned the ears up, put in the filters and had a good listen; JF1IRW, yep there it went again definitely calling CQ but at a quicker speed than I'm used to.

Quick as flash I looked at the frequency, move to the dummy load tuned up , noted the time, powered up to 200 watts, held my breath and replied. He picked up on me straight away and came back with a "M0AUW?" I began tapping and that was it, QSO started. I was chuffed to bits, Japan early morning when everything looked bleak. What a great hobby this is, made my day!

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Rotator Question


When I was putting up my 17 meter Moxon the other day, I had to do all the wiring up of the rotator. Obviously the five core cable which is 35 meters long was not cheap; I had to also drill yet another hole in to the outside wall of the shack for this cable to fit through, once connected all up I had to test and then bury the cable so no one was likely to trip over.
This got me thinking surely there was an easier option. Doesn’t anyone sell wireless operated rotators?  You’d think in this day an age that someone would have come up with one. Or am I missing something here?

 
Cable operated rotators?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

40 meter Delta Loop

Here's a nice little project for a 40 meter Delta Loop I found while browsing the web from a German Amateur called Patrick Henry DJ0IP.

It would make an ideal weekend project.





 

CONSTRUCTION DETAILS:

The pole should be about 12m high (minimum 11m). (39’4" to 36’). Higher is better, but then you will have to re-adjust the total length for resonance.

The feedpoint is located in either diagonal side near one corner of the antenna, enabling vertical polarization. This makes the antenna an excellent DX antenna.

The length of the diagonal is not very critical and may be adjusted to help find a better fit in the space available, but the distance from the feedpoint to the top should be one quarter wavelength.

The exact total length will vary depending on ground conditions at your QTH. Begin with 42.7m (137’ 10") and then shorten the horizontal leg to bring the resonance up to the desired frequency.

Adjust total length by adjusting the length of the horizontal wire. (Easiest way).

The horizontal leg of the antenna on the bottom should be 2 to 3m high (6’6" to 9’10") high enough for humans and animals to walk under. Changes to the height will require adjusting overall length.

The insulator shown directly on the pole at the 2m level is for mechanical reasons. Secure the insulator to the pole, and then pass the horizontal leg through the insulator, reducing sag in the horizontal leg.

The insulator in the horizontal leg near the left is an option for convenience. It enables easy adjustment for resonance by removing or adding wire. For disassembly, disconnect one side from the insulator and then roll the antenna as a single wire. Each time I changed my QTH, I had to re-adjust the length of the jumper. I just let the jumper wire hang down. For permanent use, you may leave this out.

The antenna will have an impedance between 90Ω and 100Ω. A quarter wavelength matching stub of 75 Ohm coax will provide a good match to 50Ω. RG-59 is good enough for about 500w.  If you want to run more power use RG-11

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Repairing the K2

So after diagnosing the problem with the K2 after I had inadvertently wrecked it by transmitting with the FT9000 when the K2 was switched on! I now had to fix the issue.

After a thorough inspection, the problem seemed to be that two PA transistors had blown and so using Don Wilhelm's advice to purchase the K2PAKIT from Elecraft - (that kit has matched PA transistors plus  replacements for Q11 and Q13 both PA2222a), I set to work removing the suspect parts.

Q11 and one of the PA transistors had definitely blown big style and no wonder there was a bang from rig when I tried to transmit. I couldn't see any other issue and I would double check when putting everything back together a by simple series of voltage tests.

Q11 blown to smithereens!
 
 
The blown PA Transistor (the one on the right!)

After a good clean up I carefully read Don's excellent instructions.
"Install Q11 and Q13 first, then check the voltage at the base solder pads for Q7 and Q8.  It must be zero during receive.  Then do a TUNE and measure the PA transistor base solder pad voltage.  If it is not in the  range of 0.60 to 0.64 volts, investigate the resistors in the Q11/Q13  circuit. Only after those checks should you install Q7 and Q8. That should get the base K2 working".

The K2PAKIT finally arrived from Elecraft and I could begin the repair. Removing the old parts proved difficult to say the least, patients and a steady hand is required using the copper flex to remove the old solder. I used an old needle to make sure the holes in the circuit board were back to their correct size, (a little tip I picked a long time ago!) finally without damaging the circuit board I managed to remove all suspect parts. Replacing them was just a case of referring from the manual to make sure everything was correctly placed.

 
You can see where the PA transistors should go right in the centre of the picture, 3 holes in a row,

Unfortunately one of the smaller transistors (Q13) got damaged so I had to replace, which took another few days to order. But finally with much perseverance I got there in the end and after reading up in the manual and following Don's instructions to the letter, everything fitted back together. A quick test with a multi meter all looked good and I switched on, it was working perfectly.
I'm going to keep it as a QRP without the 100 watts, I hardly ever used more than 10 watts anyway so I might as well keep it as the original QRP Rig!

Friday, January 6, 2017

17M Moxon Update

Having built the 17m Meter Moxon and tested the antenna I am very pleased with the results.
Attaching to a 35 foot mast with a rotator however was touching its limits. The mast is in fact one standard 30 foot with a 5ft section added and a smaller section housing the rotator. Normally the mast is held by a large nut and bolt between two smaller lengths of scaffold pole that have been buried two feet in to the ground, therefore providing a clamp to the main pole that can then swivel up and down.

Once in place I can clamp with another nut and bolt that slips in at the bottom, locking the whole thing in place, it worked fine for my 10 meter Moxon but this is a bigger beast.

The problem is that combined weights of the rotator, antenna and cables puts the 35 foot mast at its limit. As I raise it bends quite dramatically and although it does settle when at full height I can't take the risk of keeping it in that position.

So I am going to have to reduce the height of the mast by 5ft i.e. remove the added section, this should strengthen the pole, its just slightly shorter, the attachment is added by a simple scaffold clamp, but the clamp does provide some weakness to the overall mast.

I can live with a 5 foot reduction so long as I know its safe! So at the moment the antenna is lying low with work to reduce the pole on-going. The cable for the rotator arrived the other day and I have already unwound and laid it out, connected to the rotator and it is now awaiting me to insert through one of the walls in to the shack.

 
The antenna and pole resting!
 
With the weekend upon us, I did some final testing I was getting an SWR of 1:2 at 17.185 and a 1:9 at what I wanted at 18.068 right across the band. So it needed a bit of a trim. What I found out later was because I was using pvc covered wire (in fact it was 42 strand speaker cable at around a millimetre width) I inputted the millimetre width within the Moxon calculation, I should have allowed for the PVC cover, so in future this has been noted as I wouldn't mind attempting another Moxon at some stage.
 
 
Further testing with the pole at rest
 
Anyway I trimmed using the 17.185 as a template, When completed I had shortened the director by 150mm and taken 50mm off the  reflector. This brought the SWR to 1:3 at 18.100, so all was well in the end, just a bit of give and take. The height is now 25 Foot and doesn't seem to be a great difference performance wise, only it feels and is a lot safer to put up and stay up!
 
You can definitely hear the difference when rotating, your up against the cobweb, which is not weak but there's certainly a 3/4 db improvement with the Moxon.
 
 
 
The completed antenna
 

It's taken roughly a week to construct, but it's been good fun and if your looking for a quick project I highly recommend having a go with a Moxon.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How to Blow Up Your K2 in One Easy Lesson!

OK, my own dumb fault, Friday morning playing with the K2 just getting some QRP work done and I had come off the air with German station feeling quite pleased with myself. I decided to  listen to a  different frequency 18Mhz on the FT 9000MP to see if the newly built Moxon would pick any thing up at a height of about 15 feet.

Forgetting completely about the K2 still being on, I hear a Russian station on 18Mhz via the FT 9000 and think blimey the Moxon is working even at that height! I decide to reply, so tune the FT for 40 watts and hit the CW key.

BANG goes the K2! First reaction Jesus I've blown it up! Panicking I quickly carry out some checks, Switch off, this particular rig is fitted with K2/100 (100 watt kit), so I'm really worried I've damaged that particular option. I switch back on, I can still receive OK, all bands OK, transmit tone is still there but no transmit output, what have I blown?

I start to take the K2 apart trying desperately to remember how its all put together, the manuals come out and I start reading thinking did I really build this radio, it's so complicated, I remove the K2/100, get the top cover off then the sides and finally the underneath, back to the bare bones and then start with the magnifying glass and some bright lighting, looking for anything obvious.

Eventually after combing through various circuit boards I find a PA transistor (Q11) on the main circuit board had been completed shattered, this after finding it remains at the very bottom of the radio. Checking all other PA transistor there's nothing obvious. I check elsewhere, I couldn't find any damage with the K2/100, so fingers crossed, this is the only messed up bit.

 
 
 
No wonder there was a loud bang! 

I contacted the Elecraft  forum and was soon in chat with Don Wilhelm who suggested I get the K2PAKIT which has the PA transistors and also replace two diodes as a precaution in case I've blown something else. He instructs me what I need to check and possibly change.

I've put the radio back together and rebuilt as a the standard transceiver without the K2/100 (I only used about 10 watts maximum anyway) and am awaiting the parts from Elecraft, hopefully it's a small bit of damage and that's it, the cost is around 20 odd dollars, but combined international and import postal duties push it up to nearly $60 so it's a lesson well learned.

There will be more info on the repair when the parts arrive, but just imagine if I had decided to transmit the Ft9000 on 2 or 300 watts instead of just 40, god knows what would have happened to the K2!

Delta Loop Comes Down Moxon Goes UP!

Happy New Year to all, I trust festivities were good?

09.20 UK time on new year's day and already I've had my first QSO of the year. Is there something wrong with me? The XYL thinks there is!

Yesterday the Delta Loop was brought down and I have built a small stand at one end of the scaffolding pole which is attached to a tilt over section for ease of use, so at the moment it is lying on its side. The simple stand is designed for easy maintenance work on any antenna that I fit on that pole. This is now ready to take the newly built 18m Moxon and will be mounted as soon as I have the 5 core cable for the rotator.

The mast at an angle and the Moxon waiting to be transferred!
 
 
The temporary mast will disappear for the moment until another antenna project is in the making, In the meantime the paddock will not resemble a building site (as the XYL states) and normality will return till I get another break off work and it all starts again. The grass has yet to make a real appearance on the new paddock, it didn't help with me installing the stock fence, so I suppose in fairness to the XYL it does look rather a mess at the moment, so much mud!
 

I do want to explore the intricacies of the Hexbeam , but I worry about the size even though one of its sales pitches say it is for the smaller garden. Also whether to make or purchase, I could try and make a slightly smaller version without the 20 meters, we'll have to wait and see what 2017 brings.