Mobile HF Install Update – Kenwood TS-480SAT

Since my mobile HF install, I was inclined to get an HF rig that was a bit more ‘portable’. I realized that the 590SG is a pleasure to operate directly from the radio itself. Operating the radio through my laptop, would have been cumbersome and unsafe. I have no doubt that a radio control software program probably isn’t the best thing to be operating while mobile. This would essentially prohibit me from ever operating while actually mobile in the truck. So I took a recent trip to Ham Radio Outlet in Plano, TX and planned on using their radios on display to finalize my choice of mobile HF rig.

I pretty much narrowed it down to the Kenwood TS-480SAT or the Yaesu FT-891. The TS480HX would’ve required rewiring, and I prefer having an inboard tuner in case when I’m operating stationary mobile HF I decide to use a multiband antenna that requires a tuner of some sort. I sat down to play with both radios, and immediately noticed that the audio was a tad bit clearer on the Yaesu, but not to the point to where I would say that it’s ‘better’. Actually, some may prefer the AF DSP found in these radios to IF DSP. As K0BG points out on his website, Kenwood has ironed out most of the issues found in earlier radios that contained AF DSP, thus resulting in a great radio. The menus within the Yaesu usually required entering 2-3 menus to change common things like filters, notch, mode, etc. The 480 was very much like my 590, in that most of your commonly used buttons for operating are found directly on the faceplate. This is a huge plus in my book especially when in a mobile environment. Ease of use & ergonomics are just as important to me as the radio architecture. The speaker was also found on the base unit of the 891, whereas the 480 has the speaker on the head unit, albeit facing rearwards, there is a headphone port directly on the head unit for easy attachment to headphones or an external communications speaker. I actually found the audio to be more than acceptable, even with my truck on & running.

The 480 faceplate – a work of art!

I ultimately ended up picking the Kenwood TS-480SAT. The only thing that pushed me over the edge was actually operating the radio hands on. There is no amount of internet research that can replace hands on experience, although I do understand a lot of folks don’t have easy access to ham radio stores! I’m sure both radios are stellar performers, but after 45 minutes of operating them, I was without a doubt, interested in the 480. (I even dabbled with the Icom 7100 a bit – had to give Icom a chance!)

Different strokes for different folks though… I think the 891 will probably appeal to prior Yaesu owners that don’t necessarily have a need for VHF/UHF in an all in one radio. I actually prefer the separation of HF & VHF/UHF in my radios, though some prefer the opposite! Some hams have even noted a few bugs in the radio for digital modes, which probably happens with new radios that enter the market. Hopefully a firmware fix will fix those issues for the Yaesu owners! The faceplate components just felt sub-par on the Yaesu compared to the Kenwood. The Yaesu faceplate is much smaller though, so if your limited on space in a smaller vehicle, the 891 might be a better option, size wise it reminds me of the 857d, but the 891 is actually a smidge smaller and half a pound lighter!

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The Yaesu FT-891

 

 

 

Initially I thought about titling this blog post Yaesu FT-891 vs. Kenwood TS-480SAT, but to be fair, I’ve come to realize that those kinds of comparisons only confuse the potential radio buyer! This is why I needed hands on. As you’ve probably encountered, you’ll encounter folks who love/hate the particular rig your looking at – point being – get your fingers on one and use it! Don’t take my word for it 😛

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590SG back in the shack next to his little brother the TM-V71A

 

Since the 590SG went back into my home shack, I had to make the hard decision to sell my Flex 3000. I was more interested in having mobile HF & having the 590SG as my primary rig. I would like to keep all of them, but to be honest, i’ve realized that i’m actually one of those guys who likes knobs and buttons! The Flex 3000 really made me realize that, which is a shame because the Flex is such a powerful little SDR transceiver. To add to the mix, I kept having PC problems with my Windows machine, if it wasn’t one problem, it was another. I think maybe I’ve held onto this PC a bit too long… 7 years… not too old… but still upgraded. Maybe one day when I’m retired i’ll start one of those vast ham radio collections, but not today OM!

(I’ll be taking the Flex to an upcoming hamfest, but the ad is up on QRZ for anyone that’s interested. It’s actually still under Flex’s precertified warranty, it’s also a late 2013 model, which is when they stopped making them. I’m including $50 worth of XLR microphone cables with the radio. $900USD shipped. Please contact me if interested)

73

K5ACL

 

 

High Altitude Balloon Tracking

This weekend I had the chance to checkout a high altitude balloon launch after noticing the following post over on the Reddit Amateur Radio Group:

“The Baylor Amateur Radio club has been working with Josh Ward, a Baylor Staff member and balloon enthusiast, to develop a payload for a balloon launch. The payload includes 4 go pro cameras, a cross band repeater, APRS tracking and a plethora of environmental sensors. It is our goal to reach 90,000 feet which would provide great coverage for the repeater. The launch is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow (November 26) at around 10am central from Comanche Texas. The exact time of the launch will depend on the local conditions and cloud cover and could be anywhere between 10am and 12n . The predicted track of the balloon has it going over the south side of with a predicted burst near Hwy 6 east of the loop. Those interested in live updates can subscribe to the remind.com system by going to

https://www.remind.com/join/starduster

Payload Details:

Repeater Info

Up: 146.540

Down: 445.550

PL 123.0


APRS:

Balloon – WA5BU-11


Chase: (simplex 147.555)

KK5KN-9 – Pat

N5WON-9 – Jacob

If you have a moment and are so inclined we would encourage you to listen in or follow us using APRS.

73’s de WA5BU”


I jumped on this opportunity because this is a project I’d like to complete one day! I hopped on my Kenwood TM-V71A and fired up my i-Gate using AGW Packet Engine & APRSIS32, but was unable to hear any packets coming from the balloon :(. I was able to track the balloons progress & the chasers throughout the event. The user interface on APRSIS32 is just so easy to use & very interactive, definitely my fav APRS software!


I tried reaching the input on the repeater, but was unable, heard they were using Baofengs on the input? Hey… I understand, gotta keep the cost down on these I’m sure. Imagine a dmr radio up there! Ha! I was able to pickup the output frequency throughout almost the whole event, albeit when it started to spin, issues popped up.

Josh Ward sent out the following images:


Apparently the balloon reached over 99,000 feet! Thats nuts! There were GoPro’s on board, APRS capability, Repeater coverage, environmental sensors, all packaged in this unit. I was able to spot one of Josh’ previous launches through the Waco Tribune: Waco ‘geek’ gets rare view of Earth with near space balloon launch. His first project was funded through Kickstarter – how cool is that!?

I was able to make simplex contact with AK4CM in San Antonio. When I first fired up the rig, I forgot to enter the PL tone for the repeater input & Cameron who was a bit north of San Antonio on a hill attempting to make contact with the balloon, heard me call out on 146.540. So thanks Cameron! All in all it was fun to track & listen to the qso’s going on through the repeater output, hopefully one day I can attend the launch of one of these things, better yet, track one! Hey, if this is as close as I can get to being a storm tracker, i’ll take it! 😛

Big thanks to Josh Ward & the Baylor Amateur Radio Club, for including the amateur radio community in such an event! Hopefully there are more cool pics & video coming! Here is his balloon launch in 2014:

 

73

K5ACL

Toyota Tacoma Mobile HF Install

Since the acquiring of my Flex 3000, (which i’m still learning how to master BTW), a radio which is just about capable of the same things my 590SG is capable of, albeit some different filters and such, I started to get the itch for mobile HF! After many hours of paralysis analysis, going through other Tacoma owners past experiences, reading over K0BG’s website, and thumbing through hundreds of pictures of other hams mobile installs, I finally had a plan in mind.

My goal was to add HF capability to my 2013 Toyota Tacoma, & enhance the existing VHF/UHF radio setup in the truck. Surprisingly the 590SG is compact enough IMHO for a nice mobile install, however someone with a smaller vehicle might not have the luxury of so much space. I rarely use the access cab except to throw junk in, so why not utilize it better?

While I was acquiring everything, I decided to do a quick precheck on the truck to see how difficult this project was going to be, surprisingly, the Tacoma is very accommodating to ham radio operators! Everywhere I looked there was a spot to route a cable and a clamp to hold it there, there was even a port with a rubber boot already right where I needed the coax to come up and connect with the radio! Not all installs will go that easy for sure… but if you happen to have a Tacoma, rest assured that you’ll have plenty of room to route your cables and get a nice clean install in the process!

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During the pre-check I noticed my battery was starting to show signs of needing replacing. It was always spewing/corroding/needing filled, and a bit harder to crank so I decided to replace it. The heat is pretty brutal on batteries here in Texas, I chose to go with an Optima yellow top, specifically because i’ll like to operate several hours at a time with the engine off, putting this ‘deep cycle’ battery through plenty of use. Some say the red-top may have been a better option because it provides more juice in shorter spurts basically, but I decided to go with a yellow top for my application. This will be a specific requirement to each hams own station, so your requirements may be different! By no means do you need to go out and buy a new battery, if yours is good, go with it! I really wanted to switch to an ‘AGM sealed-type’ battery.

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I installed the power wire harness (12 AWG) – red & black separate wires with a black pvc sheath encasing both wires. Inline fuse was included on the positive only cable at the battery (25 amps). This power cable was attached neatly to the battery using terminals with a strong mechanical crimp, protected by 3M electrical tape. Zip ties are your friend in a project like this, the power harness was secured all along the length of my factory wiring harness.

The previous terminals were super corroded, so I grabbed a battery terminal cleaner kit, and polished these babies right back up. Keep all that grime & corrosion that drips off the terminals off the battery & off your vehicle by placing an old towel or paper towels under the terminals as you clean them. Toyota already gave me ample space to route the power cord through near where the main wiring harness enters the firewall through a rubber grommet.

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Once through, on the Anderson Powerpoles went! This would eventually be connected to a RigRunner 4005H that I was using in my shack. I will just hard tie my stuff in my shack directly to my power supply for the time being with terminals! I’m glad that I had this rig runner, I can’t imagine having ran power cables for every device. Not only do they provide for a super clean install, but allow easy connection of any other 12v peripherals you might have powerpoles on, just be sure not to exceed the power rating of your fuse. My 590SG uses at peak power around 20.5 amps (about 1.5 on receive only). The FTM400DR around 13 amps (about .5 on receive). My main power harness as you’ll remember earlier has a 25 amp fuse in it.

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After reviewing some other hams’ experiences with a low cost mobile HF antenna that would get the job done and not break the bank, I stumbled across an antenna called a Wolf River Coils Silver Bullet. The antenna looks homebrew, but rest assured, it’s well made. A machine lathe grinds a 1/64″ groove into the side of the PVC – deep enough to set the coil, but shallow enough to maintain the structural integrity of the PVC. The coil is also wound amazingly tight on there, it has to be as there’s a stainless steel clip that slides up and down as you need to adjust the antenna. At $60, I think the price is a steal, and for someone just getting into mobile HF, it was a no-brainer. I have no doubt that eventually i’ll want to upgrade one day, but what appealed to me about this antenna was that it would work out as an excellent portable ops antenna – especially paired with an MFJ-1979 16.5′ telescoping whip! Would make for a pretty efficient 1/4 wave portable vertical antenna on 80-10 meters, (i’ve heard of guys using it on all bands actually – but 80-10 is what the manufacturer advertises). It’s rated for a maximum of 400 watts, but only for short bursts, a 100 watt setup should be no problem for this guy. If you want more info, just check them out here: Wolf River Coils Silver Bullet 1000.

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I acquired my antenna mount from REP Design. Specifically their Toyota-Trac mount that fits perfectly into the existing track system installed into my rear bed. This thing is a beast. So well built. I can see this mount lasting a long time, but I needed to be sure to ground this thing to the existing trac which was metal, and the body panel behind. I chose to replace the bolts that Toyota used in the trac where I connected to it with stainless hardware with some anti-seeze because the Toyota bolts had a black powder coat over them.

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I found these braided grounding straps @ O’Reilly Auto Parts. I have some braid, but none with terminals, nor the tool to install them, so thought this was the next best option. You can even tin the end of some braided strap & drill a hole through it, but I thought this would look cleaner. I will eventually replace these long braided straps with shorter & wider straps from Georgia Copper

 

I decided to go with a custom shelf for my access cab. I never have passengers sit in the rear, but I did have to get rid of my sub/amp combo back there, I don’t need to expose my radios to the constant vibration coming from a subwoofer speaker, lol! My shelf was specifically measured for my radios, but if you want the measurements, just let me know, i’ll scrounge them up! I found some recycled black speaker box carpet @ Pep Boys, it was a 3’x6′ sheet for $14.99, I have plenty leftover for a future project? 🙂 I’m not the best at carpeting, but I basically just cut out a pattern, and started folding back. The outer corners were easy, the inner corners were tricky, so I just tacked in a little piece in there! Flipped over, you’d never know it was such a crappy job!

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I basically removed the rear seatbelts, cut two holes in the board, and I tried to find two M12x1.5 bolts, but none of the stores around here carried them, and the existing bolts from the seatbelt harnesses couldn’t be removed, so I used two skinnier bolts with a washer/nut combo to bolt the rear of the shelf down to where the seatbelts were and tightened everything down (not super tight).

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I was just going to strap the radio down using some rubber straps initially, but figured it’d be a good investment to purchase the mobile bracket for the 590SG. Which is the Kenwood MB-430M2. More info on this bracket can also be found in your 590’s instruction manual. This bracket is bolted to the shelf with short 1/2″ screws. This mounting bracket can be mounted either way on the 590 (top or bottom for your convenience!), & to top it all off, the radio will then be held down to two tie downs w/ a rubber strap. I figured all of this protection would be enough for my truck. You don’t want this thing becoming a projectile in an accident. The FTM-400DR’s base is mounted directly next to the 590, with easy access to the SD card if need be. (Note the DIY mic extension kit – RJ12 cable w/ RJ45 coupler w/ ferrite). There was barely enough room to install the RigRunner on the end, but I decided to squeeze it on there anyways. I thought about putting all the electrical inside one of the enclosed compartments in the rear, but again, wanted to minimize any drilling, and I think this worked out pretty good.

I bonded the hood to the right front quarter panel:

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Then the exhaust to the frame:

img_2777 As you can see, the Tacoma had an open spot with a nut welded to the frame here, so I removed the powder coating from the head of the nut, and bonded the terminal here for the exhaust and ran the other end of the strap to the exhaust flange bolts and just put a flange nut over it.

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After initial testing (as seen in the above measurement on 40 meters), I was interested in getting my Z, R & X values as close as possible to where they were supposed to be. These initial numbers were promising to me! I decided to add an extra wide (4ga) ground strap between the antenna mount and a piece of metal inside the bed that was connected directly with the frame & bumper below.

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I did wear off the protective coating where these contact points are so i’ll need to weather protect them really good, else they’ll just oxidize & present problems. I put the analyzer back on…

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Darn time change… gets dark so quick now! New scans were showing even more promising numbers:

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I couldn’t get higher than 17meters with a 102″ whip. Not to worry, i have the MFJ-1979 telescopic whip that’ll give me those other bands, and allow for more efficient operation on lower bands by allowing me to use less of the coil. Basically the more coil you use, the narrower your bandwidth gets, so get as much vertical as you can!

Finished up mounting the HF radio in the truck once the antenna was good:

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It was time for my first contact! It was a nice clear night so I just pulled down to the end of the street where a little cul-de-sac is…

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N5CFB, Jon, a friend of mine in Buda, TX, was kind enough to help me do my first test on 40 meters tonight (even though the band was experiencing lots of static crashes due to local thunderstorms that had just moved out of the area). I told him to meet me at 7.260 which is where the Silver Bullet was tuned for with the analyzer. I heard Jon call out & sure enough, he heard me! Well i’ll let you watch the video, but it was so pleasing to know that it was working! It was no DX contact, but it was working 🙂 Thank you Jon!

If there was one thing I walked away with during this project, that’s to take your time. Don’t get in a rush & take shortcuts. Remember your attempting to use your vehicle as a ground plane for bands up to 80 meters with an antenna like this! The idea with such a small HF antenna is to make it as efficient as possible. To me it’s amazing that it even works. One part antenna theory, one part black magic… 😛 Now I can take HF with me everywhere!

73

Wishing you the very best in DX.

K5ACL

 

Fan Dipole Troubles -Fail?


This is definitely a learn by doing hobby! If there’s one thing I learned this past week, it’s that not all antennas are going to work out the way you want them to! Especially multi-band antennas. Maybe I shouldn’t call my project a fail, maybe a lesson learned? I finally completed the Fan Dipole after my FlexWeave wire from The Wireman arrived promptly at my doorstep. I cut all of the lengths to the actual dipole length, not accounting for the length of the copper strip inside of the fan dipole, I wanted to leave the extra for headroom during pruning. So up ‘the beast’ went, I separated the elements best I could, already this thing was starting to look like an eye sore… what was I thinking? It looked a bit neater on the ‘Fence Fan-Dipole’ project over on eHam because his elements were all neatly strung to a fence underneath, but I didn’t have that kind of support underneath & I wanted to keep the elements as far apart from one another as I could.


So I hooked up the analyzer, and the closest to an acceptable SWR that I could immediately find was on 20 meters, at about ‘1.6’. Everything else was way off frequency and SWRs were unacceptable on all but 20. I started with the lowest frequency first, slowly nipping away a couple inches at a time, and rechecking everything, but I was noticing that the resonant frequency wasn’t really changing much as I was nipping away… ok… so what’s going on here… is the antenna possibly seeing a different set of legs as 40? So I looked further up and down the graph on 40m on the analyzer, nope, there was nothing even close. So I nipped a little more away, and kept checking, but I still couldn’t get it to resonate even close to where it should be on 40, it was closer to like 6.900 MHzSo I switched over to the 30m legs just to see if I could get the resonant frequency to change there, well I think it did a little bit, I wasn’t exactly writing everything down like I should have (lesson learned), or taken screen shots which I could have also of done.


I messed around with the legs a bit, trying to get them as high as I could, and I even moved them into different locations, spreading further apart, and sometimes closer together to try everything possible. I came to the possible conclusion that perhaps it was how I had the copper tape inside the PVC that was causing these issues. All of my connections were tight and snug, but after an entire day of trying to get this thing to work… I gave up. I was unable to get it to resonate on 40/30/17/15. The only band I was ok with was 20m which eventually showed a flat swr right near 14.100. I heard that these things were a pain to tune, but had no clue it would be this troublesome! I’m sure if I was able to get the antenna up much higher and had more free space it might be a bit easier, but I like to tune them where they will be deployed.


I’m still stumped. I put my OCF back up for now. It will stay up. That was way too many wires for my liking. Maybe I should have went with a ‘parrallel’ fan dipole and kept all of the elements together like the Alpha Delta fan dipoles are made, I may still try that in due time. I was a bit frustrated to say the least, putting all of that effort, time & money into an antenna that doesn’t work very well. So I decided to treat my OCF a bit and get it up higher & stealth it a bit more! Felt like such a crime to paint this beautiful balun from Balun Designs, but I think it turned out pretty sweet! I like using the high heat grill paint from the big box stores, it dries super quick, leaves a nice matte finish, and is very durable.



Did a quick check on the analyzer, and sure enough, the readings were just about right where they were before, still a little high on 80 (3:1) though. Acceptable for my liking.

A big thank you to F1PWS, IK2WJT, F5TIL, DG7NFX, & LY2VM for the DX this morning! 17 meters was booming into the Central United States while Europe was in their grey line for the evening. Gotta take advantage of those conditions! (still lets me know my antenna is working! :P)

73

K5ACL

One Year on the HF Airwaves!

A year ago today, I received my General Class license at the same place I just volunteered for my first VEC duties! But I want to go even further back to when I was first licensed as a technician, not knowing much about the hobby, I picked up a Yaesu FT-60R from Austin Amateur Radio Supply (sad that this store had to close!) and a Diamond whip antenna to go with it. I even picked up the programming cable & software from RT Systems! But nevertheless, I didn’t know much about repeaters, so pretty much left it on simplex all the time, and as you can imagine, I netted 0 contacts in several months of using it. Frustrated, I threw the HT in my dresser, and gave up on the hobby! I was done with ham radio… or so I thought. I had no clue about websites like eHam, QRZ, Reddit, RadioReference, and all these other huge repositories of information for people that might be interested in ‘Amateur Radio.’ Access to information has definitely gotten easier over the years as the age of the internet has progressed.

I’m a big user of Reddit though, and one day I stumbled across their Amateur Radio group full of guys/gals just like me! A younger crowd as I might call it, a bit more interested in the computer integration/SDR/digital side of things than just simply sparking up a conversation on the radio (nothing wrong with that either!). It immediately sparked an interest in ham radio again, they were talking about things in the group that I had no idea about! Like the HSMM-MESH network which started here in Austin, TX! Oh and how about FlexRadio systems, this up and coming SDR company that was right up the street from me! I just knew I had to get back into the hobby, so I asked a few questions, and a few folks told me that the ‘magic’ really lies in HF. HF? What is this mockery you speak of? High Frequency radio waves! I was told that I can talk to folks on the other side of the world with less power than it takes to charge my cell phone. Wha??? I’m hooked. Where do I sign up? 🙂 So $15, and about a week of cramming later, I was now legally authorized to use the HF airwaves!

It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve netted contacts that I never thought were possible, on nothing more than 100 watts & a wire (or vertical if you want to get technical!) 80% of my contacts have been digital, 20% have been on SSB. I just surpassed the 500 qso mark on LOTW yesterday, and I’m up to 44 states for WAS & I’m now at 36 countries for DXCC! Considering the amount of actual time spent behind the radio, I think I’ve done pretty darn good for my first year! I can’t imagine the amount of contacts that guys that have serious setups can make! I’m still what I like to call a ‘casual’ operator, lol.

As soon as I made my first contact on HF, I was completely hooked. I was no longer bound by the inherent limitations of VHF & UHF. With HF, you never know where or how far your signal is going to be heard, this is what appealed to me and why I opted to go for my General. When there is more mystery in the contact it creates a greater sense of accomplishment IMHO!

I mean seriously… look at this…

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WSPR Results 11-10-2016
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WSPR Results 11-10-2016

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Talk about DX! WSPR may not be a real QSO, but as I tell every ham interested in the hobby, go for what your passionate about! If CW is your thing, then dit dah your way to paradise! Digital? You can probably find me on the airwaves! Ragchew? Plenty of bandwidth on 40 & 80 to go around! I’ve only began to scratch the surface of amateur radio. There are so many different niches within the hobby, it’s almost impossible to get bored!

Thank you to each and every amateur radio operator around the world for making this such a wonderful hobby to be a part of.  I feel truly blessed to make contacts with people all over the world. In such a big place (and a crazy one at times), it really does make the world feel a little bit smaller (and more familiar). Here’s to many more years on the airwaves.

It is my hope & desire to one day make contact with YOU!

May propagation be ever in your favor!

73

K5ACL

The Fan Dipole – A valuable multi-band HF antenna 

It’s time to test a new antenna! The fan dipole. I was considering building a parallel dipole, but I wanted the separation between the elements to ‘hopefully’ help in increasing the bandwidth available & decreasing the tuning interactions between the elements. After reading an article over on eHam: The Fence Fan Dipole (FFD) — A Quick, Easy and Inexpensive Multiband Antenna” by W6HDG, I was instantly interested in building this sturdy looking antenna that would allow multiband operation without any kind of traps, inductance coils, etc. Here’s a shot of Howard’s finished project, quite the antenna!

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W6HDG Fan Dipole
I took many of my ideas from Howard’s project, but changed a few things. Unfortunately I won’t have a fence directly underneath mine to tie my ends off too, they’ll more likely be in a more separated pattern. 

I was glad that I had a 1:1 current balun leftover from DX Engineering. I attempted to sell it a few weeks ago, but had no takers, so instead of a monoband dipole, I could use it just the same on a fan dipole! I was going to paint it black, but paint doesn’t stick to PVC very well, at least over time it doesn’t, so I think i’ll leave it as is. The PVC enclosure will provide complete weatherization for everything inside. I’ll also place silicone on the terminals outside to prevent water/pest intrusion.

This antenna will definitely take two people to tune/trim so I don’t have to take a million trips up and down the ladder! 10 wires seems like a lot though, hopefully I can strategically route them in a way that’s not too obtrusive. I think i’m going to go for a FlexWeave type wire for this so that i’m not constantly untangling wires. I’ll be using a RigExpert AA-30 to test the antenna & a 6′ jumper. Apex will be about 25′ high.

I’m thinking the bands 40/20/17/15/12? Or maybe I should throw out 12, and include 30 in there since I like digital so much, I’ve got a few days to decide while I wait for the wire to come in, so if you have any suggestions, i’m open!

My OCF has been a great performer, but about 40% of the antenna is less than 6 feet off the ground. My hopes were to remove that 40%, but by doing so, I’ll be losing 80m & 6m. Not a big loss in my book since I never get DX on 80, and 6m isn’t a consistent enough band to have a dedicated antenna for it (plus my coax switch has high loss on 50MHz). The loss won’t be missed (I hope). I could have just made a shorter OCF version, which I still may do, if the fan dipole is unsuccessful. Some say resonance isn’t that big of a deal, I beg to differ. I think it’s important to have as effective of a system as you can, especially with my 100 watt operations.

Take a look at the short video I made!

Stay tuned for Part II, just waiting on some wire!

73

K5ACL

The Flex 3000 SDR – new addition to the shack!

If you had to ask me what my favorite niche is in ham radio, that would probably have to be Software Defined Radio! Though, just about everything in ham radio is cool! I don’t think Software Defined Radio is better in anyway compared to conventional superheterodyne radios. It’s the integration with computers, brick wall filtering, panadapters, and the ability to update the transceiver with firmware that usually expands the radios capabilities is what interested me in SDR. I think each has their unique strengths/weaknesses that are specific to every user.

sdrevolution

I can’t express enough excitement through words in how excited I am about the future of Software Defined Radio. Not only more efficient (by removing the mixer hardware chain), but software has gotten to the point to where some powerful things can be done, that could not have been done a decade ago. The cost of ADCs & FPGAs has dropped. Flex is now developing some pretty sweet signature series radios, but their 3000 model is still sold. This is in effect, a replacement for my Elecraft KX3 I sold many months ago. I went through enough paralysis analysis, but found that the 3000 is a great deal in the world of 100w SDRs. It came highly recommended by many others. Although I was a bit concerned that it was ‘older technology,’ the hardware is still top notch stuff, and the software (PowerSDR) is continuously being worked on by KE9NS. My other option I was considering was the Elad FDM Duo, a fine standalone rig in itself. I remember having frustrations with my KX3 & QRP. I still consider myself a new ham, and as you might have read elsewhere, QRP is never recommended for hams just starting out.


So I drove up to FlexRadio Systems, conveniently located in Austin (how cool is that?), and picked up this beauty & met a few folks at Flex. Their storefront isn’t exactly setup for walk-in customers, as I’m sure 99% of their business comes from elsewhere! Their mailroom was pretty busy! When I had mentioned that I was a new ham and coming from RTL.SDR dongles & the SDRplay, the staff there mentioned that those products are indeed generating interest in higher end SDR radios like the Flex series, Anan, Elad, etc. I won’t lie, the fact that FlexRadio was here in Austin did have some bearing on my decision. Not only did I want to support a local company, but a ham radio one to boot!

I’m working on getting everything setup/downloaded, etc. Time to learn PowerSDR! Luckily KE9NS has a pretty neat website with lots of info.! SDR is the future of radio no doubt. Still in its beginning stages I believe, but some pretty big leaps & bounds have been made in the last decade or so. This is unfortunately the only downside to SDR IMHO, is having to set everything up, getting everything talking right on your PC, but hopefully my experience with the SDRPlay & other dongles  has given me a bit of insight to the process!

Oh.. and don’t worry, my 590SG won’t start collecting dust, it’ll get just as much use, if not more, now that I have a 100w rig to take portable with me!


Happy Hump Day!

🙂
73, K5ACL