Operating Notes – 4/14/10

In no particular order, here are some notes from my recent operations, such as they are:

  • Operating without guilt. Monday night, I finally finished preparing my tax returns. Now, I can operate without feeling guilty that I’m putting it off.
  • Operating without power. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been QRP. I had to send my IC-746PRO in for service, so I’ve been using my Elecraft KX-1 exclusively.
        It’s been interesting. Thanks to good band conditions, most of the contacts have been quite solid. This evening, I even received a 599 signal report.
        I’ve even mad a couple of DX contacts: FM5LD and CT1JOP. The CT1JOP QSO even qualifies me for the “1000 Mile per Watt” award. Of course, it helped that he has a 40m beam. He should really get the credit for the award.
  • Another QSO of note. A couple of nights ago, I worked N4NAB. His QSL, should I be fortunate enough to get it, will go into my collection of QSL cards from stations whose call signs spell words.
  • What went wrong with the IC-746PRO? In case you’re wondering what went wrong with the IC-746PRO, the problem is with the antenna tuner. For some reason, it decided it didn’t want to tune my dipole on the lower 100 kHz of 40m, even though that’s where the SWR is lowest (<1.5:1). My guess is that one of the relays went out. The display backlight had also started acting funny, so I’ve requested that they look at that as well.
  • Forza Begali! I love my Begali paddle, but in the last year or so, I’d been having trouble with the contacts. I tried various ways to clean the contacts, but to no avail. About a month ago I e-mailed Begali, described my problem, and even offered to bring it to Dayton to have them take a look at it.
        Bruna, Piero’s daughter, offered to send me a contact cleaner that she thought would cure the problem. I was expecting some kind of cleaning fluid, but what arrived was what looked like a strip of brown plastic.
        Whatever it is, it worked like a charm. I’m now having no problems at all with the contacts, and it’s a real joy to use again.
  • Another QSO of note. My third QSO of the night was with Tim, W3TIM. He was running a 250 mW Tuna Tin into a 730-ft. doublet antenna, tuned with a homebrew, balanced line tuner (see below).
    W3TIM Antenna Tuner

    W3TIM uses this antenna tuner to tune a 730-ft. doublet antenna.

    He obviously doesn’t need that much tuner for that little Tuna Tin transceiver. We swapped some e-mail after our QSO, and I asked him about it. He confessed to being a broadcast engineer, and noted that that’s how they build them at broadcast installations. He guesstimates that it will handle 5 kW. In addition, he has an old Gates BC transmitter that he uses on 160m AM, where he runs considerably more power than 250 mW.

Hear George Dobbs, G3RJV, Webcast

This via Ian, G3ZHI, via the HamRadioHelpGroup Yahoo Group. I’ve heard G3RJV talk at Dayton, and he is a very interesting speaker…..Dan

Hear a talk on QRP by Rev. George Dobbs, G3RJV. The talk was given on Sunday, 11th APRIL 2010 at the Enniskillen Amateur Radio Show, run by the Lough Erne Amateur Radio Club at the Share Holiday Village, Lisnaskea, Northern Ireland.

To view the talk,

  • go to www.batc.org.uk,
  • go to BATC TV streamer, then
  • go to film archive.

These webcasts are examples of the wide variety of services offered by BATC to the amateur radio community. These include an excellent magazine. New members are very welcome. Cyber membership, magazine by email, costs as little as £4.00 on-line. Membership gives individuals and clubs access to the BATC streamer allowing live webcasts from your shack or from a radio club display, talk or meeting.

The Michigan QRP Club is What the Hobby is All About

Saturday morning, I had the good fortune to have breakfast with members of the Michigan QRP Club.

I’d always meant to get to one of their monthly breakfasts (held the first Saturday of each month), but they normally take place in Flint, which is about an hour away. Only when they decided to hold one here in Ann Arbor did I actually make it. Now, I’m sorry I didn’t make one earlier. A great time was had by all.

One aspect of the breakfast that I enjoyed was the “show and tell.” One of the things that sets most QRPers apart is that they’re builders, and the breakfast gives them a chance to show off their handiwork. This Saturday, there was a fellow who had built a sideswiper key and another who brought in his end-fed, halfwave antenna tuner. A couple of other folks also brought in things they’d been working on, but I don’t remember them.

After eating, there was the “junk box swap.” Everyone brings stuff from their junk boxes to swap for stuff from others’ junk boxes. I brought some GE222 light bulbs that I doubt I’ll ever use, some relays, and a bunch of pots. In return, I got some crimp terminals, a bunch of 10 uF electrolytics, and a half dozen or so panel-mount BNC connectors. Everyone was very generous, and I felt a little guilty about leaving with more than I brought.

The Michigan QRP Club is what ham radio is all about. I had so much fun at breakfast that I joined the club! It’s only $10/year ($12 for new members for the first year), and that includes a quarterly newsletter. They also sponsor several CW sprints each year.

I’m looking forward to going to breakfast again sometime soon, meeting more members, and showing off some of my projects. If you’re in Michigan, you might want to consider joining, too.

New 80m QRP Kit

John, K5JS, posted this to the qrp-l.org mailing list yesterday:

The Arizona ScQRPions are delighted to announce a new 80m QRP CW transceiver kit for 2010! This new transceiver is the creation of Dan Tayloe (N7VE) and kitted by the ScQRPions with invaluable assistance from Doug Hendricks (KI6DS) of QRPKITS.

This kit was first seen in August 2009 at the Fort Tuthill, Arizona, CactusCon 2009 conference in a presentation by Dan on the design and use of distributed active RC filters in receivers. Additional bands will be available later in the spring from QRPKITS.

The present design hardly resembles its simple Unichip+ origin as Dan includes one of his patented low noise mixers and distributed filtering throughout the transceiver to produce one of the best sounding DC receivers anywhere. The transmitter produces a clean 2.5 watts output using a pair of BS-170 FETs as the final amplifier and uses a rock solid VFO covering up to 80KHz of 80m centered where you want it. Complete specifications, pictures, schematics, board layouts, prototypes, Dan’s CactusCon2009 presentation and slides, and other information is now available at the new user’s group email list.

For the rest of the story and to see what you get for your $50+shipping, go to http://www.azscqrpions.org/Introduction_to_FT80.htm. You will also find a link to the user’s email list on this page. The new Fort Tuthill FT80 transceiver should be available about the end of January 2010 in a run limited to 100 kits.

Winter is here and this will be a great little project to introduce you to the magic of 80m QRP!!

Looks like a great kit to me!

Operating from “Up North”

When people in southern Michigan want to get away from it all, they go “up north,” which means the northern part of Michigan’s lower penninsula and Michigan’s upper penninsula. For at least the last ten years, my family—including my brothers and sisters (but mostly my sisters, and their kids and now grandkids)—have been renting a set of cottages on Elk Lake.

For the last three years, I’ve been taking my Elecraft KX-1 and operating from up there. I have a really idyllic operating location. I operate from the screened-in porch of one of the cottages. From my operating position, I have a great view of the lake.

This year was the best in terms of amateur radio, anyway. The first year, I used the 28-ft. random wire vertical antenna described in the Elecraft manual. It loaded up just fine, but I had trouble making contacts with it.

Last year, I used the portable dipole I made with 30-ga. wire and twisted pair feedline. This antenna definitely works better than the 28-ft. vertical, but I still had trouble making solid contacts.

This year, I used the same antenna, and had much better success. For example, where last year, my contacts were mostly short ones with mediocre signal reports, this year’s contacts were much longer with generally good to very good signal reports. For example, the very first contact I made was with W3ANX. He gave me a 579 signal report, and we talked for 40 minutes. One of my other contacts lasted for 30 minutes.

I attribute this mostly to band conditions. When band conditions are poor, low-power signals tend to drift in and out of the noise, making copy rough. When band conditions are good, low-power signals stay above the noise and are easier to copy. When your signal is easier to copy, station you’re in contact with stay with you longer, and longer contacts, in my opinion, are more enjoyable, than short ones.

Another thing I noticed is that I heard stations that I never hear from home. Part of it is the difference in location, but it’s probably also due to the difference in antenna pattern. What I take away from this is that it’s probably a good idea to have more than one antenna per band, if you can swing it. Having two or more antennas with different antenna patters will allow you to talk to more people than if have just one antenna.

I also learned that my iPod earbuds have more output than the earbuds I had been using. While lately I’ve been using an amplified speaker on the output of my KX-1, when I pulled it out of my toolbox, I found that I’d forgotten to turn it off last time and the battery was dead. Not having a ready source of 9-V batteries, I plugged in the earbuds. Then, just for kicks, I decided to try my iPod earbuds. They were noticeably louder, so I used them exclusively.

All in all, it was a great vacation. The scenery was beautiful, weather was mostly nice, the food was great (we take turns preparing dinner), and the company fantastic. Add in the good band conditions, and you have an almost ideal vacation.

Hams Added to the QRP Hall of Fame

Hank, K8DD reports from Dayton:

The following people have been inducted into QRP-ARCI QRP Hall of Fame 2009

Hans Summers, G0UPL
This man is an inspiration to many QRP home builders said Rev George
Dobbs. He has produced a whole series of novel and innovative designs
for the QRP constructor.

Another said “He is an Elmer in the finest tradition of the term”

His “Pound Shop” radio articles let to a flurry of UK QRPers building
something from almost nothing Perhaps his greatest contribution has
been promoting QRSS equipment using simple circuits and very
reproducible ideas His novel ideas for simple QRSS beacons have been
taken up my QRPers worldwide.

Younger than many of the others in HOF, He offers us a future for
amateur QRP design and home construction

Tony Parks, KB9YIG
The next recipient has brought innovation to the QRP and radio world
by creating and offering specialised kits to the radio community.

More elaborate and expensive versions of his kits have been available
for a while, but with his kits now every ham can have access to an
affordable one. By putting inexpensive, high quality kits in the
hands of experimenters this will advance his technology, as seen by
the activity on the QRP email lists and Yahoo groups.

He has kitted thousands of kits and throughout all of this has had an
incredible attitude and willingness to help other hams.

Martin Jue, K5FLU
A commercial vendor in Ham Radio, While his products benefit amateur
radio in general, his impact on the QRP community is major both in
terms of the products his company produces and his personal
contributions to QRP and to this organisation.

His products are not strictly QRP, but it is clear that QRP has always
been a major focus of his endeavours.

He has been an active supporter of QRP, and QRP ARCI in particular but
not exclusively, as evidenced by his recent collaboration with the
GQRP club’s India project. His donations to QRP in general and QRP
organizations have always been generous and without “strings
attached”.

Last year, he was approached while at Dayton to thank him for his
support of QRP. His first words were, “What can we do to help your
club?”

I could expand his nomination petition to a much greater extent,
citing examples and instances of his contributions to QRP. Many of us
probably have our own supporting experiences, so we really just need
to focus on the fact that this man has indeed touched QRP on an
ongoing basis to our benefit.

Rick Campbell, KK7B
The next induction is for a man who has the ability to convey
complicated material by using simple analogies and practical examples,
allowing his students to more easily learn.

He has also been the designer or involved in the design of several
transverters, receivers and transmitters. He is a well known author
and several of his projects have appeared in print. He continues to
publish articles pertinent to QRP that are easily understood by
average hams

He has been a speaker at FDIM on more than just the one occasion
enlightening and entertaining us all.

QRP Fun

Now here’s a guy who is having fun with ham radio! Check out the:

N1JER Does it Again!

Jeremy, N1JER, hasn’t been a ham long, but he’s really gotten into it in a big way, building kits and homebrewing QRP stuff. His latest creation he calls the “Toilet Paper L-Network Tuner.” The name comes from the material he used for the coil form.

Here’s what he posted to the qrp-l.org mailing list:

I shot a video documenting this project, and have posted some photos.

Overview:

  • Uses the standard L-Network out of the 2008 ARRL handbook, pp. 19.44 and 19.45.
  • Borrows the switched inductance coil idea from KD1JV’s ALT, and KI6DS’s SLT.
  • Uses an air coil formed around a Toilet Paper roll with multiple tap points.

Details:

  • Uses a varicap out of a junk AM/FM radio I found on the street.
  • Uses 1 insulated binding post, and 1 binding post that connects to the chassis for ground.
  • Uses an array of inexpensive switches that are soldered together.
  • I used a formula to have each switch control a coil that is
    progressively smaller. In order from left to right ~7uh, ~4uh, 2uh,
    1uh, and 0.5uh. I didn’t measure the actual values, but did pay strict
    attention to how the coils went on the TP. Each coil can be turned on
    independently so I can have 2+1+0.5 = 3.5uh.
  • Total cost was about $11 USD. (including value of junkbox parts).

In use:

  • Using a 51ft wire with a peak at about 30ft and a 33 ft ground wire.
  • I get a solid dip at 40m. (Tested using KD1JV ‘Tenna Dipper the LED gets very dim, but I don’t know the actual SWR).
  • Using same setup 30m on 20m the LED can go completely out.
  • On 80m there is a very slight dip, but I wouldn’t think good enough to operate.
  • I made one contact with this using my 40m 3w Wilderness SST, ~750 miles.

Have a great day everyone,

Jeremy Chase, N1JER
http://jeremychase.net

A Gnat That Won’t Annoy You

gnatOn one of the QRP mailing lists, there was talk about how minimal you could make a QRP transceiver. Several ideas were tossed around, but then Chris Trask, N7ZWY, nailed it.

The Gnat 1 uses a single 2N2222. The parts list includes values for 80m, 40m, and 30m versions, and the documentation even includes a PCB layout. Kits may also be available soon.

QRPedia: A Repository for QRP Stuff

Jason, NT7S, has started a new website for QRP enthusiasts – QRPedia. Everyone is encouraged to not only check out the resources there, but also to contribute!

Jason notes:

Stephen, VE7NSD, has created a page on his Pixie project. He uploaded some neat photos of his work to go along with his excellent write-up. You’ll also find a PDF of a collection of Pixie articles from SPRAT. While you are there, take a look at the rest of the Wilderness Workbench, as well as the rest of the site.