HamEXPO! The Belton, TX Hamfest & updates from the ham shack!

hamexpo

It’s that time of year again, twice a year, ham radio operators from around the state and beyond gather in Belton, TX for one of the states’ biggest hamfests. So if your in Central Texas this weekend, come on down!

I’ll be there with a few friends, this time I’m going to take better pictures & video of the event. Usually there is some eye candy boat anchors in the parking lot, and of course Flex Radio will probably have their display up and running, I can hope & dream can’t I? 😛

Heck the fun starts as soon as you land in the parking lot! As you look out across the horizon you’ll see so many different antenna contraptions on vehicles it looks like something out of a sci-fi movie! It runs Friday & Saturday, i’ll be there early Saturday morning with my buddy Sam, K5JM. We’ll be looking to sell/trade a few odds & ends too.

As far as operating goes, I’ve been monitoring WSPR quite a bit, and remotely controlling my station. I’m listening on as many bands as I can, but was especially surprised to see such distant spots as of late on 630m (MF):

630m092816

You might be surprised what signals you can pickup on your antenna, I was using my OCF for these spots, but I can even pick these up on my vertical. Some hams have even said they’ve had great results on a mini-whip for 630m! It’s all about the signal to noise ratio though… I monitor these stations occasionally to send data to the folks who were granted experimental licenses. Some of the antennas these guys use are just astounding! Not only that but they even homebrew their own amps for 630m! I was pleased to find out that my 590SG is able to ‘listen’ on these bands. I do get some crazy RFI interference on the LF band (2190m) waterfall though, and I’ve yet to hear a station on 2190m, I don’t think I’ve seen a station transmitting yet on that band.

……….

Shifting gears….. when I went to check on my vertical this past weekend I discovered that fireants had taken up a mound around my vertical base, nasty little boogers, the rain usually drives them up into huge mounds here in Texas. They’re hard to kill too, usually requires chemicals that I don’t like sprinkling in my backyard due to pet/child safety. I doused them with a gallon of vinegar, they didn’t budge, so I just blasted the mound away with the water hose, they’ll just build another mound somewhere else. But this is making me realize I should have ‘prepped’ the site around the base a bit more to prevent grass & insects from penetrating, I’ve thought about pouring some gravel around the base but I think this would encourage even more insects. What I really want to build is a flat concrete base of some sort like so:

hustler_base

After I blasted the ants away I decided to show the 12m & 17m modification that I made to my 6BTV a few months back & made a post on:

You can see around the base where I blasted the little guys away. I usually just pull up any grass/weeds that happen to pop up. Round-up is nasty stuff…. I recommend that you don’t use it. Has similar chemicals to what they used in ‘Agent Orange’ in Vietnam. I could have a whole ‘nother discussion on pesticide/herbicide usage, but we’ll keep it ham radio related 😛

The Hustler is my preferred antenna of choice for DX, and it was a great value considering the other multi-band commercial antennas available. I’m still amazed at how far I can get with this antenna, the only downside is having to hoist it up anytime I want to use it, but it takes a mere 3 minutes to prop it up and guy it. I will admit that it has been difficult to tune the traps though, I’ve still yet to be able to get the Hustler to resonate exactly where I want it to on the trap frequencies, I just got it as close as I could!

73

K5ACL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running a 2 meter Net Control

Brandon (KG5CDP) was kind enough to allow me to be net control for our local VHF club here in Austin, TX. I jumped on the chance so I can get some practice in last night, and thought it might be cool to record the net too in the process (even though I messed up a few times, lol)

Our nets are usually around 15-20 people who check in, and the cool thing is that they all bring something unique to the table!

I brought the FTM-400DR in from the truck last night, I also made some fusion contacts after the net which I attempted to record so I could show the audio quality of C4FM, with Jon, N5CFB & Sam, K5JM, we were all able to contact each other on 5 watts simplex, but unfortunately my battery ran out after recording the net :(. Another time maybe…

I think after you’ve done a few nets it gets a bit easier, and its always exciting to hear someone new pop on the repeater! If your in Central Texas and can join in, please do so! Or even through IRLP or EchoLink, just lookup N5OAK.

Hope you enjoy the video…

73 & Happy Friday

K5ACL

Building a 1/4 Wave Ground Plane Antenna for 2 Meters

What do you do when you have a spare SO-239, and some metal rods laying around? Build a 2m ground plane antenna! Why not, I think its about time I build one of the most popular antennas known to hams! . Why in the world would I want to build a 0dB gain antenna? Well just for kicks for starters, but there are also specific applications where a 1/4 Wave GP antenna may be a better option than a 5/8 wave. (or vice versa).

Here’s the antenna modeling for both:

quartervsfiveeighths

As you can see, the 5/8 wave has about 3 dB of gain as it shoots more of your signal out towards the horizon but has sharper & deeper nulls than the GP. Well if its further, then it must be better! Not exactly… You may be missing out on signals that the 1/4 wave could be picking up! So there are advantages/disadvantages to both, really depends on what application your going to be using it for. You really need to experiment with both types over an extended period of time to get an accurate picture of what would work better. Everyone’s shack is different from the next, and unless your on completely flat ground for miles and miles, the choice may not be so clear!

My primary VHF/UHF antenna is a Tram 1480, which has 2 – 5/8λ elements for 2 meters & 4 – 5/8λ elements for 70cm. These stacked ‘in-phase’ elements really pancake your signal pattern on the horizon, so I’m very interested to see how a normal GP antenna will function compared to all the others I’ve used up until now!

Moving on to the measurements (obtained from Buxcomm’s GP Antenna Calculator)

gpmeasure

So we’ll make the radials just a tad longer, about 20 3/16″ to make up for the loop we’ll make to attach to the SO-239. The ARRL antenna book has a few different options for this type of antenna. I opted to try using a copper plate under the radials (they suggested aluminum) I had laying around. I noticed as soon as I started attaching the radials to the SO-239 that this wasn’t going to be that sturdy, so I wanted to add the plate for added stability and to give it some rigidity. This did add some weight to the antenna though, so it needed 1 1/2″O.D. pvc pipe to hold it up sturdy.

For mounting purposes, you can get really creative with these things, or you can simply stick this on top of a piece of PVC pipe, and run your coax out through a “T” connection before the pipe hits the ground to protect your coax (or just cut 3/4″ hole in the PVC).

The metal rods I used were just a little too thick for the SO-239, so I had to grind down the main feed pole down to a point, no grinder here, so used a dremel, worked great! I also had to use self-tapping screws as I never have the hardware to install  SO-239’s properly:

Bending the end of the radials where they attach to the SO-239 was pretty tough, pretty sure this is stainless steel, and even using needle nose pliers wouldn’t work, I had to get really creative in making those loops at the end, to include using a hammer! I’m sure if you were using a coat hanger, which has much softer metal to work with, it’d be easier. So I tinned the end of the vertical monopole and soldered it to the SO-239, but noticed that even after being soldered that the connection point was not strong enough for my liking, a bird could fly into this thing and break it off, lol! Really weak! So I gooped a BUNCH of epoxy on top of the SO-239 mount, probably way too much, but at least its weather protected now!

I put the antenna at the edge of the table to bend the radials down to 45 degrees (estimated here!):

First confirmed contact on a random CQ on 146.52 was KE5AST – using only 8 watts, 50 feet of RG213U & my Baofeng GT3TP with an SO-239 to SMA adapter! So definitely not the best setup!

ke5ast

Nothing to rave about, but 14 miles on an HT? That’s not bad! Scott did have to bump his power up to 40 watts so I could hear him, but he said I was completely readable & full quieting! SWR was virtually flat all across the 2m band using my bridge meter.

GP’s also have a low footprint, so if your in an HOA situation this might work a bit more stealthy than some of the commercially available options out there due to those types having a large fiberglass mast that’s quite visible. A simple antenna like this made out of thin elements, would be harder to see from a distance.

If I did it all over again, I’d probably try it without the plate to reduce weight. I don’t think the plate adds anything that the radials don’t other than providing a more stable surface to attached stuff to, and perhaps even attach a mounting bracket of some kind perhaps?

Want to thank YouTube User Wizardsof12 for the inspiration & a great YouTube video on building one of these! Checkout his video:

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the results & will most likely use this for field days, & possibly use it as a dedicated APRS antenna.

73 & Happy Tinkering!
K5ACL

 

JT-65 with WSJT-X/JT-Bridge & Kenwood TS-590SG

Greetings Amateur Radio Operators,

Finally had some free time last night to make this short vid on one of my favorite digital modes, JT-65! I’m using WSJT-X, JT-Bridge, & of course my Kenwood TS-590SG. Antenna we were using was the 137′ OCF.

JT-65 is one of those modes that can really get your signal out there! Even with compromise antennas, I’ve worked the world! From Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, the list goes on! The bands weren’t too crowded last night, and I’m also testing out a new USB microphone, the Blue Snowball.  Please enjoy the video, like, comment, subscribe:

 

73,

K5ACL

Freeware SDR Software Poll

waterfall

(EDIT: POLL IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS TO ALL WHO VOTED!)

Please take a moment and take my poll!

What is your favorite freeware SDR software of choice?

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D6XL7NB

I use quite a few personally, but which one in your arsenal is the one you fire up for some serious SWL or Panadapter use?

Remember, this applies to ‘freeware’ SDR software only.

Update: Well 5 days in, the most popular appears to be SDR Console, close second is HDSDR, then lagging behind in last is SDR#.

pandapater
(I was always curious as to where the word ‘panadapter’ came from!