I usually don’t have the chance to partake in tropo events, but tonight was my lucky night! Just so happened we were holding our Thursday night net with the N5OAK Amateur Radio Club, and afterwards the VHF Tropo Maps started lighting up like crazy! So a bunch of us hopped over to 146.520 tonight, and sure enough, I start hearing stations all the way from Louisiana to the southern tip of Texas! The map only continued to get more intense as the night rolled on.
Only problem during these events is there’s so many stations that popped on during this event, it was hard to hear who was replying to who! I’ve never heard so many people on the National Simplex frequency at once! It was crazy tonight!
I was able to snag 3 QSO’s, with my furthest contact being W3OQ in Brownsville, TX, at almost 300 miles away! Wow! That’s another new record, i’m just on a roll lately! And here I was complaining about HF band conditions lately. Go figure! Everyone was very cordial on .52 and allowed for as many folks to snag as many QSO’s as they could! Very cool. Not too shabby for the antenna I use for FM! Rig used was the TMV71A @ 50 watts. Antenna – Tram 1480. I’ll have to try and hop on more often when I see these events occur!
Big thanks to K5RZQ, W3OQ & KA5LYL for working me!
**Update (about 10 hours later)… the tropo event is still going on!
Anyone get the Field of Dreams reference? 😛 Great movie btw.
Band conditions haven’t been the greatest lately, maybe it’s just me? I’ve had a difficult time making contacts on voice & digi modes for the past few weeks. So I’ve shifted gears a bit, and put my crafty gloves on. I love to build things – always have. If you’re a nerd too, chances are we share this passion. 🙂
There are so many things I want to accomplish this year & so little time! However, there’s one thing in particular that I’m passionate about, and that’s going portable (I’ve been quite inspired by some other hams outdoor activities – VK1AD, WG0AT, KB1HQS, just to name a few!). That means I need a new antennas! Wait what? I just put together this OCF 4 bander for portable use, why do I need more? (More antennas = more fun) 🙂
I’ve noticed the past few times I’ve gone portable just how hard it can be to elevate the feed point for a dipole, worse yet, getting the legs up high enough for the dipole to be effective. Inverted V’s usually suffice, but they are most effective at 1/2 wavelength above ground. Don’t get me wrong, a dipole is a very effective portable antenna, and if you can effectively (and quickly) hoist it up, then go for it! Not only are they cheap & easy to build, they offer good performance & have all the bandwidth you’d ever need. But, I like to have other options, just in case that situation doesn’t always present itself! I also don’t like having to get ‘permission’ from a park office, or land owner to erect a portable antenna, so I’m going vertical! Plus elevating your feed point means carrying another 25 ft or more of coaxial cable, with a vertical, I carry a straight 25′ piece of RG8X or LMR240 so it fits nicely in my rucksack! Though I do have the added weight of the telescoping pole… everything is a trade off!
So what am I going to build? Lots of things as of this point. I’ve gathered tons of ABS plastic boxes up, slowly sourcing quality toroids, and I’ve got tons of hardware that I’ve been collecting over the years. I want to see just how budget friendly I can keep each one, but yet not sacrificing in quality or attention to detail. I’ve seen kits online for about $45 shipped, but I’m certain I can do it cheaper. I’d like to pair my first matchbox, with a telescopic pole of some sort. I spotted u/Prima13 post over in the Reddit Amateur Radio group and this gave me the inspirational boost I needed to get going! Over the past 2 years, I’ve used my Jackite pole so much, that it has become quite worn, and requires special securing when extended so it doesn’t collapse upon itself. I think I got my ‘moneys worth’ though, the poles usually run close to $80 online. Another alternative I’ve been considering is the Spiderpole from Spiderbeam. It’s a 12m (40ft) telescopic pole ($105) with rave reviews from other hams. Apparently a lot stronger, the pole can also be used for small VHF/UHF beams. I wonder if its worth the additional $40? I sure don’t want to be messing with securing joints when I’m out portable.
As a little way of saying thank you to all of my blog followers… Each of these antennas will be given away as I make them/test them/operate them at least once! Wha wha? You heard right! So keep an eye out for future posts on how to get in on this action 😛 I’ll probably pull random names from a pool just to be fair, but I’d like to share the shortwave love :). The only catch is that the winners will shoot me a photo (or better yet – video!) of them operating w/ it!
I decided to give switching power supplies a go. Figured what the heck, i’m tired of this beast of an Astron when I have to take my radio to portable events, or when i’m just travelling period. Last I lugged it to a beachhouse @ South Padre Island… never again I said! The Astron weighs 26 pounds, the Alinco DM-330FX pictured below? 4! I drilled through review after review trying to find out if it would introduce hash or interference to my SDR waterfall, I found a few reviews, but there were so few online, I wanted to add my own, and with a video to show just how much interference this switching power supply produces. Each SMPS i’ve encountered is just a bit different than the last in the amount of interference it can produce & the spacing of said RFI.
I had such a good experience with a switching power supply built for my Elecraft KX3 by Pro Audio Engineering called the KX33 that I decided to give this one a go. Note that it says ‘Low RFI’ and not Zero RFI (I was never able to detect the interference from the KX33 though). The Alinco DM-330FX produces a slight high pitched sound drifting up and down in frequency, and produces some very slight vertical lines in the SDR waterfall about every 35kHz or so. Nothing too noticeable though, heck it took me forever just to find the lines in the first place! But now I know what to listen & look for when i’m using the Alinco. The noise offset feature does work on this thing, if you’ve never had to use it before, that’s great, you probably just haven’t ran into that small sliver of RFI.
Anywho I made a video on it just to show what i’m talking about, but you’ll note that it’s hard to detect in the video, so I gave this little guy 4 stars over on eHam. 5 still goes to the Astron. It may be a beast, but functionally speaking it’s absolutely quiet.
Astrons usually run quite hot, the Alinco runs much cooler, but has a fan on the back that’s a tad quieter than the fan on my Kenwood TM-V71A. I’ve seen other folks throw a small computer case fan on their Astron, maybe I should give that a go!? I threw an Anderson Powerpole pig tail on the back, and had all the features I need now on one little compact unit. I think for normal base station use, the Astron will probably be my goto power supply because i’m on the waterfall quite a bit, now if i’m just leaving my station in monitor mode (which has been quite a bit lately!) I use the SMPS.
As of late, I’ve been tinkering more with antennas that are easy to deploy, and ones that I might be able to experiment with easier when I eventually take my HF antennas down @ home. A few days ago, I setup a 40 meter wire for this LNR Precision End Fed antenna (the ’10-20-40 MKII’ they call it) I had laying around not being used. I made a 30 meter wire today and figured I could test it with the WSPRlite since it already does 20 & 30 meters (still need to build a low pass filter kit for it!)
I threw it up in the most haphazardly way possible, dangling in my backyard, with the first 10 feet of the antenna underneath my back porch to provide cover for the WSPRlite & battery. I really wasn’t expecting much with 200mW and the way I had it setup, with 12 feet of RG8X just coiled up on my concrete back porch. On days like this though… I’m reminded that the ionosphere occasionally cooperates, and some amazing things are possible!
Set a new record today for distance being heard & power level used. 16,648 kilometers on 200mW! That’s 51,724 miles per watt! Holy smokes! K1JT (Joe Taylor) has really made an amazing software! I need to dial the power down even further to see what else is possible. Thanks to VK6XT too for spotting me!
I know end feds aren’t the most efficient antennas, but this sparked my interest in longwires again. I have a few toroids on order now! Can’t wait to see what I can come up with for an end fed! Though the LNR end fed doesn’t have a spot for a counterpoise, I’ve been looking for something like the below, possibly homebrewed, maybe a washer of some sort, to be able to connect a counterpoise wire to the shield of the coax:
I’m not sure if the above would work, but it’s worth a shot. My Chameleon end fed had a spot for a counterpoise wire on it, and I worked some real DX with that antenna. I think the major advantage with a counterpoise terminal is the ability to use the length of coax that you need to get connected to your shack, as opposed to using a specific length of coax for a counterpoise, plus you can install a ‘field’ of counterpoise as opposed to a single coax line.
That was the exact response I got from a ham whom I had just met about a year ago during my first NPOTA outing. I had brought my HyEndFed (Classic 4 bander – 100 watts) & my Chameleon F Loop out to Lyndon B. Johnson National Park to attempt an NPOTA activation, and as I was setting up, there was another radio group there having a get together and a gentleman walked up and asked me where the other half of the HyEndFed was! I had to explain to him the sort of wizardry & trickery (well I’m sure its a bit scientific – let me be creative here) that was occurring inside of the ‘transmatch box’ at the end of the antenna where the feed point was. He was absolutely baffled! I was shocked to say the least, a guy that’s been a ham for 20 years that’s never heard of the End-Fed antenna? I’m guessing this particular ham doesn’t hang out much online, if he did, he would most certainly see them mentioned as their popularity is ever so increasing (probably due to the influx of people to the cities). If you don’t think the ‘end-fed’ antenna is a popular one, go checkout how many views my End-Fed Configuration poll has over on eHam!
The ‘Longwire’ has some unique characteristics that I really like, such as being broadbanded, easy to deploy, easy to packup, and there are probably a hundred different configurations they can be put in. My favorite though tends to be the classic ‘Sloper’ with the feed point located on the ground. This can sometimes help if there are any nulls towards the horizon on say a full wave end fed. The end fed can be easily assembled according to the popular EFHW design from EARCHI, or you can buy one from many different antenna makers. I’ve experimented mainly with ones from LNR EndFedz, Chameleon, & HyEndFed. I’m going to continue my use of longwires because, as many of you, I’m in a tight situation on a city lot. (That’s hopefully changing soon though! Move is forthcoming and on the horizon!). There are end feds with no counterpoise terminal (which use the coax as your counterpoise), and there are those with, that allow the attachment of counterpoise wires). My experience has led me to believe that the counterpoise terminal is useful to have so you can at least have the option of diverting the current away from the coax shield. In a way, to me anyways, an End Fed that has the counterpoise terminal becomes sort of a vertical, but I think unless you have a proper radial field underneath, using just one or even a few counterpoise wires, keeps it classified as an end fed(?). Suppose it would also depend on the configuration, and I’ve usually never been able to get anything over 30 feet vertical.
The only longwire I have to play with anymore is the LNR EndFedz 10-20-40 (pictured above). Its original wire with loading coil has since been destroyed, which I’m glad, because the loading coil was too heavy for a telescopic pole to hold up, and it always got snagged and bunched up in the trees. Over on LNR’s website though, they’re nice enough to let you know that alternate lengths of wire will work with this matchbox! Awesome! Since this antenna is only rated for 25 watts, I want it to be as efficient as possible. I’ll primarily be using this antenna to compare it to other wire antennas, and even the loop! Why? These are all popular antennas among folks who live in situations like I do, so I want to do as much fiddling, tweaking, experimenting, and crazy science projects that I can with antennas like these! Even if one day I do put up a beam (its inevitable you know!), i’ll never stray from wire antennas, because its important to show folks new to the hobby that you can easily work distances upto 5,000 miles with a wire antenna. The longwire is no exception, if installed correctly…. by that I mean using either the correct length of coax as a counterpoise or by attaching counterpoise wires to your feedpoint. I’ve never had issues in a 100 watt setup using an average length of 50 feet of coax with common mode current, some say 75′ is best, others suggest less. It’s a good thing I have many different lengths to experiment with! Longwires are also popular with SDR folks, imagine how portable a small SDR unit & a longwire is with a laptop? Would make for a really neat setup to experiment with ‘RF noise’ and experimenting with how far away you have to get away from all the madness to drop your noise level!
I happened to have some leftover bare flexweave wire laying around from the OCF I made for Winter Field Day, around 65′ long, I threw a terminal connector on the wire, a wire ferrule on the end with a DX Engineering insulator (these things are great!) and connected it to the LNR matchbox.
Threw it up in an Inverted V with the 31′ Jackite Pole – and immediately attained excellent results on 40 meters – no trimming! 15 meters was also acceptable, with an SWR of 1.5.
The numbers were a tad higher on 20 meters. With an SWR of 2.3 and |Z| of 91 ohms. Though it was a bit more broadbanded in the 20 meter portion, these numbers aren’t too horrible, I may just end up nipping just a bit off the wire to see if I can get 20 meters more in line. I have so much leftover wire from projects, literally a garbage bag full of wire! Rather than toss the scrap, I’m going to make a perfect length for each band, unless I can find lengths that work perfect in more than one band! I’m using the University of Delaware Website “Random Wire Antenna Lengths” as a reference.
This LNR matchbox is advertised to cover from 60 meters to 10 meters. Would definitely be a great option to explore the 60 meter band as well, considering I have no antenna for that band (though my LDG KT-100 will tune my Hustler 6BTV for 60m). I have since sold my other end-feds capable of 100w or more, but now I’ve got the itch to build one with one (or more) attachments for counterpoise wires. Usually the fun part is finding the housing unit, and I’ve got some ideas in mind other than your typical plastic boxes from Home Depot or Lowes. Sometimes I wish I had a 3D printer! Oh the things I would make!
So don’t dismiss this antenna! Still a great option – and I know of radio ops that use them and get DX on a DAILY basis! Though I quickly started noticing, that as I started to add that ‘other half’ of the antenna that guy was talking about, it resulted in a bit better performance. But not so great that I would permanently discount the longwire, just like i’ll never discount the magnetic loop antenna, each antenna has its place and application. Deploying a dipole, or OCF, or any other wire antenna that requires multiple attachment points can be daunting sometimes especially in a portable situation, worse yet if you have nothing to attach to. With a simple telescoping pole, you can be in business with an end fed!
More to come on experimenting with longwires! I’m only limited by the amount of wire I have – (which is about 2,000 feet!) Say What?!
I just wanted to share this excellent service, called Slack, which is an online messaging platform that works across multiple platforms & devices seamlessly! Our club was looking for a better way to keep in touch, and what better way than real-time!
Lets face it… we can’t always be on the repeater, or monitoring (lurking as some call it) to see what’s going on, but we do like to keep in touch and abreast of what’s going on in the club, so our VP, KG5CDP, Brandon, decided to introduce Slack to the club, and boy am I glad he did! Sure, there’s Facebook, Twitter, and all other kinds of social platforms, but we wanted one specifically for our club, and that’s what we got with Slack! We’re able to invite members by their email address & they join in on the conversation…
In our Slack account we have several channels within, some devoted to propagation alerts, signing up for the Thursday night net we hold every Thursday @ 8pm, and even a channel devoted to our new DMR repeater that’s up and coming. It’s nice to be able to periodically check in throughout the day and see what folks are upto. Homebrew projects are a regular occurrence within the group, and it’s so cool to see what folks are building! Slack is absolutely free. Microsoft is even trying to compete with their setup because it worked so well. Seamless integration across everything is what drove us to it.
It’s a great way for clubs/groups to keep in touch. If you’ve been out for awhile, Slack will archive upto 10,000 messages (I think) for you to go back and catch up on anything. Communication within a club is key to its success IMHO, plus I’ve had lots of fun with Slack, almost more so than any other social platform!
I have never been able to transmit on the 160 meter band. As I hear it, it’s referenced as the ‘Gentleman’s Band’. So I just had to see what the fuss was all about! I’ve been able to ‘listen’ on 160m, but the LDG KT-100 tuner I use, would not tune the 137′ OCF or the 6BTV I had for ANY portion of the 160 meter band. It usually caps out around a 10:1 SWR.
There was no way I was going to be able to add anymore, take away, or make any adjustments to my OCF, so after a bit of research I discovered that there are a few methods other radio ops have used to get a very small slice of the 160m band on a Hustler vertical.
Now this is on my 6BTV (6-band trap vertical), I’m not sure if this would work for the 5BTV or the 4BTV but I don’t see why it wouldn’t, your measurements would just be different (or any other type of similar vertical for that matter!). This entails simply inserting a piece of stranded copper wire in place of the whip that’s on the antenna now to make the antenna a resonant length ‘somewhere’ in the 160 meter band!
I’m sure the problem for most folks would probably be elevating that other end, especially if you didn’t have a two story house you could attach it to, or a tree nearby, but I remembered that I have this nifty 31′ Jackite Pole that I haven’t used in awhile… Could I possibly attach one end to the tip of the jackite, and stretch it out to form an inverted-L of sorts? Let’s find out!
Why 160? Simply put, why not? That’s another portion of the spectrum that I need to exercise my right to transmit on! I hear 160 meters can offer some pretty cool propagation characteristics & even surprise you at times, so figured I’d start to experiment with it a bit! (I’m not sure how else I could transmit on 160 on such a small city lot, so I feel very fortunate that this worked). I initially started out with way too long a piece of wire, somewhere around 22-23′ to be safe, but eventually trimmed it down to 17 feet 10 inches which is a bit shorter than I’ve seen other guys use, took me several tries with the antenna analyzer to get it just right.
Talk about a narrow slice of spectrum! If I ever wanted to try this in the voice portion of the band I would certainly have to cut another piece of wire, which I just may do, keep it spooled up and labeled for contest & special events, or maybe my first rag-chew on 160! I figured since it was such a narrow slice, it would be best to stick to digital because that would allow me to make more contacts on the band, as opposed to not being able to move around in the voice portion.
I was afraid the wire and jackite pole would put too much stress on the vertical in any one direction, but there’s barely any pull on the wire, and I’ve since zip tied it to my concrete bucket anchor. The Hustler is also guyed in 4 spots which provides that needed stability. I don’t think this would fair well in high winds, unless you have the pole bolted to the fence or a stationary object somehow.
I immediately hopped on over to the 160m JT frequency (1.838) and proceeded to ‘attempt’ to make some contacts with WSJT-X version 1.7. It was already pitch dark outside by the time I finished with the adjustments. Keeping my fingers crossed I replied to a few CQ’s, first from K5DHY, William, at just over 200 miles away, I figured it was a good start and I’d have a better chance. To my surprise, Will came back to me immediately! I was astonished! I was getting out! Then to W9NED, Paul, up in Indiana, at just over 870 miles away, he also came back to me with a solid report! Thank you guys.
I was also anxious to transmit WSPR on 160 as I know there’s quite a bit of hype around 160 right now due to the low sunspot numbers. Seems every time I hop over to the WSPRnet user group, everyone is talking about 160! I’ve only ever been able to listen on 160 for WSPR and my furthest spot heard on 160 was Hawaii. So I gave the ‘new’ antenna 5 watts of juice from the 590SG, and hoped for the best!
Only stateside spots, but my expectations for 160 weren’t even this high, especially with the numbers presented on the analyzer. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled that I now have access to 160 meters, hopefully with some tweaking, I might be able to improve the efficiency a bit more. The other experiment I want to try one day would be base loading the Hustler for 160 with a coil of some sort, but I imagine that would provide even less performance than this setup.
Adding this wire did result in the loss of 80 meters though, however my LDG KT-100 was able to tune 80 with the added wire, though very inefficient, I think the SWR was around 18 to 1, so that’s the trade off with this setup. There are other methods of adding an additional resonator at the top to keep 80 & add 160, but that comes at a much higher added expense of buying that tubing & resonator. This didn’t cost me a thing except for a spare piece of wire (which I’ve got LOTS of!), and some of my time (wish I had MORE of!). I fold the antenna over when I’m done using it anyways, so switching out the whips & different wires won’t be a problem, if your hustler is permanently deployed, those other options may be of interest to you so you can keep 80 meters. (Hustler also has a resonator for 75 meters).
Ok folks, this one has been a long time coming. Thanks for being so cordial about my first video on the SDRPlay panadapter. I get questions all the time on how to hookup an Sdr to the 590SG. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest to setup. No IF frequencies to convert, no wires to tap, only downside with using the DRV out port on the 590 is you’ll lose half your signal as it’s being split. But SSB is no less intelligible and my digital signals get decoded all the same.
Hoping this will be a more useful guide to those venturing into this hybrid setup.
Yesterday I decided to do some ‘springtime’ maintenance on my Hustler antenna by resealing the coax, tightening all the connections & checking/adjusting with an antenna analyzer. I figured after all that work, I’m going to leave this thing up for a bit! So I took a bit more care this time, and added another guy to the antenna, bringing the count to 4. So glad I did because the antenna doesn’t move an inch now, with 3 guys, it had just a few inches of play at the very top.
Now keep in mind, I modded this antenna by adding a 1/4 wave wire for 12 & 17 meters to the sides of the antenna supported by PVC pipe & some rope. Here’s a shot after I reinstalled all of the guys:
Hopped on over to the WSPR frequencies yesterday with the Kenwood 590SG, and immediately started to receive spots from Europe on 40 meters. What’s even cooler, is waking up the next morning to find spots from Australia & Japan in the log! They usually start rolling in around 4-6am in the morning from the Pacific side, which tells me that if I want to make some phone contacts that way, I’m going to have to alter my operating times a bit!
I was super shocked today to find out that I had received a spot from Reunion Island on 17 meters! Whoa! From FR5ZX! This set a new record for furthest station heard on WSPR. At a total distance of 17,156 kilometers! It appears from Andre’s QRZ page he uses Moxon rectangles. What a treat! Thanks for beaming this way Andre!
I think I may just do some radio operating this weekend! What a great start to my mini vacation! lol