I just made my first HF contact!

Holy smokes! I just made my first HF contact! I’m hooked! My patience has paid off! Thank you Chameleon Antenna! More to come on this beautiful antenna!

 

This antenna has out performed every single wire antenna i’ve tried here on my HOA restricted lot!

I was using only 10w!

The details: QSO was with W6KV out of Los Angeles, California at a distance of 1,975 kilometers! Luckily he had a Yagi which he could point in my direction, but a few other folks heard me from Kansas too! So I quickly snagged a few other QSO’s! I was using 10w, but soon increased it to 15w.

Here’s the power specifications for the loop (copied directly from the manual):

Power:
Band Switch in “A” position (5.3 – 7.299 MHz): 10W continuous duty cycle (CW, AM, FM, RTTY), 20W intermittent duty cycle (SSB and SSB-based digital modes)


Band Switch in “B” position (7.3 – 29.7 MHz) Switch Setting: 7W continuous duty cycle (CW, AM, FM, RTTY), 15W intermittent duty cycle (SSB and SSB-based digital modes)

Inside, the antenna does not work so well, I can receive pretty well if I’m close to a window, but transmitting with such low power (10w) I’m not being heard, so looks like placing this antenna outside and away from things helps. When I had it near my window inside (with aluminum framing) it was difficult to reach a low SWR (the manual even says to keep it away from everything!), but when it’s this cold outside in Texas I’m keeping my butt warm! I’ve come to the conclusion that where I live & with all the noise & what not that it’s going to be best if I get out and away from my subdivision to do some work, however that’s going to come at a price. When I’m QRP, I can only use up to 10 watts on my Elecraft transceiver, although this may be great for CW and some digital modes, for SSB, I’ve heard more power is better. So for a new ham, this may be a bit of a challenge. Starting with QRP I’ve heard can be frustrating, but hey, if my first contact was with someone 1,975 kilometers away on this antenna, if I improve my surroundings and conditions it should be easier right? Wishful thinking 🙂  Here’s a few pictures of the antenna:

(Luna approves of the packaging!)

(mounted to an existing camera tripod I had bought off of amazon)

 

(quality dx engineering cable & connectors)

DIY Magnetic Loop Antenna

Operating as a Ham in the city can definitely pose some challenges. I mean, think about it! With the increasing amount of wireless & digital communications found on the airwaves now and all of the interference caused by electromagnetic radiation? Your typical wire antenna in the city just might not cut it! At least mine didn’t! So after hours and hours upon surfing the net, I kept reading about an option called the Magnetic Loop Antenna. So many other hams were swearing by their performance. A few redditors even noted that they were able to work the entire globe on just 5 watts on one of these things! The magnetic loop antenna is able to suppress a lot of the noise coming in, not only due to the narrow bandwidth, but has something to do with the physics of how one of these work. This is also a good option for hams who might be restricted due to living in an apartment, or living in an HOA, or a high rise condo! I stumbled on an article written by KF5CZO (DIY Magnetic Loop Antenna by KF5CZO), hey another KF5! It was destiny to find the article, lol. Here was a very well written article on how to make a DIY MLA (magnetic loop antenna).

Doesn’t look too hard right? Well, i’ll just consider this practice, and if for some reason, it turns out to be a ridiculous failure, I can always rely on companies who have already perfected the process (hence why their product is still sitting on shelves).

Parts list:
1. 1/2 in. soft copper tubing (comes in 10 or 20 ft. pieces usually @ Lowes or Home Depot)
2. 8 ft. 2×3
3. 8 ft. 2×4
4. MDF plywood piece (I had scrap laying around, you can use whatever will form a solid base)
5. 1 variable capacitor (mine has a rating of up to 350pf – generally about 500-600 is what you want if your going to run higher power), purchased from eBay
6. 1 SO-239 chassis mount
7. 1 24″ piece of 10AWG copper wire stranded
8. Electrical Solder & flux (to aid in melting the solder & copper together)
9. Screws
10. 1 ABS enclosure (I like to keep my electronics out of the elements – including the dust in my house)
11. Electrical tape (I use 3M Super 33)
12. 1 small piece of plexi glass to mount your SO239 to.

Tools needed:
1. Soldering gun
2. Drill & bits
3. Saw
4. Tape measure
5. String
6. Clamps
7. Hammer
8. Wire strippers or knife
9. Small propane torch (to melt solder to copper)

These are the items that I used, they can be substituted for whatever you have, or you think might work with this application, please just remember safety first! If you’ve never attempted soldering or constructing something like this, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Usually you’ll have to get two folks to assist while your doing the detailed soldering work up at the variable capacitor, just helps to have an extra set of hands! Adventure starts tonight!

(Edit: I’ve had a few folks email me asking about the instructions from these other hams, here are the links: KF5CZO- http://www.cvarc.org/tech/magnetic_loop_antenna.pdf & KK5JY- http://www.kk5jy.net/magloop/)

Magnetic Loop Continued!

Tonight was the night of the drunken sailor. Seriously. I’ve never cursed so much at an antenna until this loop. I’m not the best at soldering, I used to be really good. Had a lot of practice as a mechanic in the Army. My skills were a little rusty though, and shaky hands didn’t help at all. Patience isn’t my best virtue either. But alas, things are coming along nicely with the loop, below is a pic of where I had to solder some wire tags onto the variable capacitor terminals in order to connect to the ends of the loop:

 

These terminals were so small, the solder kept dripping onto other parts of the chassis, so I had to use electrical tape as a barrier of sorts, and was eventually able to get a decent stick. I have to give it to anyone who can solder detailed work (or even weld for that matter!). In order to connect these wire tags to the ends of the copper loop, i’ll have to hammer flat the ends, and heat the copper up enough so that the solder sticks. My original plan was to use some really thick 8 or 6 gauge copper wire for the conductor loop (the inner loop that will eventually be 1/5 the size of the outside loop), but the wire proved to be too hard to work with, so I decided to go with a 10 AWG stranded copper wire. I’ve read that you need to keep the sizes of the loops similar in order to keep the gamma match as close as possible. 10AWG doesn’t come anywhere near my 1/2″ copper tubing, but it’ll have to do for now. Meanwhile, I’ve been drooling at these other magnetic loops like the MFJ 1786, the Alpha Loop, the Alex Loop, and a few others, most range in price from $299 – $450. But as for someone who is restricted due to HOA these are seeming like a more viable option for me. I’ll see how this loop performs once I finish it, and if I’m satisfied with the results, I’ll just try to improve upon my design, maybe use a larger variable capacitor. Here’s a diagram that I went off of to aid in the connection process:

 

 

I know…. I know… soldering needs practice!

I didn’t want to have the coax running up through the middle of the loop though, so had to put it at the bottom, which resulted in a not so perfect faraday loop:

Here’s a pic of the plastic enclosure i’m using to protect the var. cap:

Here the loop is pretty much finished, i need to redo some poor connections. The connection points are critical as you want to keep the resistance as low as possible.

On a side note…
Have you had a chance to check out RTL.SDR’s yet? I recently decided to upgrade to an SDRplay from the generic RTL.SDR you see below. More to come on that product. But I paired it up with a Diamond Discone Antenna D130J as seen below mounted to the rear of my house:

It’s completely out of view of the street, and seems pretty compact. So far I’ve been able to pickup local repeaters pretty well (2m), but haven’t had much luck on the other bands (it’s supposed to cover 25MHz to -1300MHz). So many bands to listen to but only so much space for antennas! I tried to do some weather image decoding but each time I check the satellite tracker I’ve just missed it!

Good night amateur radio lovers!