Got My Mojo Workin’, Well Mostly Working, Anyway

Elecraft owners joke about the Elecraft mojo. Sometimes it seems as though the radios are imbued with a certain magic and get through when others don’t.

Here’s an example from yesterday night. I fired up the KX-1 and tuned around for a bit, and after about ten minutes, I heard Derek, WB0TUA, calling CQ. He was S9 on the KX-1 S-meter, so I thought I’d give him a call. He replied, giving me a 589 report! Not bad for a radio running only 3W. And, as it turns out, Derek was running a new K3.

It turns out that we had a lot to talk about, and we had a great contact for more than a half hour. First of all, he was a graduate of the University of Michigan. (Ann Arbor, where I live, is the home of U-M).

Second, he’s a member of the Morse Telegraph Club, a group devoted to the practice of American Morse, the type of Morse Code used on landlines across the U.S. I used to belong to that group, and have it on my list to learn American Morse one of these days.

Now, I get to the part where the mojo didn’t come through for me. After our QSO, I heard a bunch of DX stations calling CQ, most notably RA6EE. RA6EE is located in Cherkessk, which is not very far from the Georgian border. QRZ.Com calculates that he’s about 5,600 miles away.

Alas, no matter how many times I tried, he just couldn’t hear me. I guess I’m going to need a better antenna in addition to that Elecraft mojo.

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.