Monthly Archives: January 2017

ARRL “The Doctor is In” Podcasts

Highly recommend checking out the ARRL “The Doctor is In” podcasts covering various technical questions and issues by Steve Ford and Joel Hallas. These come in about 20 minute each but are very well done and very informative. Joe Bob says “check it out”.

CW Progress

I am on lesson 6 of the CW Academy course. We meet twice a week online via Skype. Our sixth meeting will be tomorrow evening. So far I have learned to recognize 17 characters of the alphabet. I learned two additional ones to complete my name and call sign. We have covered 6 out of ten numerical digits plus a question mark. I am finding my progress to be quite good in learning individual characters and in sending with these characters. We are learning at a 20 WPM rate. I can read a bit slower than I can send and I often need to hear it a few times to get it right. We are concentrating on doing head copy. Overall this is good progress  compared to trying this alone. Expect to have the whole alphabet and numbers down in two more weeks. Will be practicing basic QSO’s after that.

Noise Raises its Ugly Head

I am seeing some weird noise on mainly the low bands here with the new vertical antenna. It is fairly broadband and the rig’s noise blanker seems to effectively null it but I would like to track down the source.The weird part is that is seems to go away on it’s own during daylight hours and return in the evening. I haven’t been able to track a specific time yet. I suspect somethjing here in the shack is causing the problem. I walked around the property yesterday with a battery powered receiver and I see the noise coming from the wall around my workstation. I suspect a bad patch cable as this has caused problems before and I did add some patch cables that may be a bit dodgy.

Testing proceeds on the 30 foot Vertical

I setup the travel mast as before with 30 ft of #16 wire strung up vertically. This time I connected it to a 4:1 balun and added 12, 16 ft radials layed out on the grass. Where there is little space I just wrapped and folded the radials to fit the available space. It is located about 20 feet from the house. This is a temporary rig to evaluate its performance versus the end feed version. Right now I am running 1W WSPR on the 20m band. Here is the 24 hour performance:

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This worked out to 108 unique spots…not enough to make the challenge board but still respectable. Will complete these next 24 houyrs at 00:00 UTC and then switch to 40m for two days. I’ll then do the same with the end fed match box.

New Antenna Shootout in the Works

We are sinking into the low period of the sun cycle and the bands have been reflecting the changes. 12m and 10m are largely closed these days. 15m opens sporadically. 17m is ok during the day but isn’t what it was a few months ago. 40m and 20m are the workhorses these days so I am looking at getting an antenna up that will help run on those bands in particular. I was very enthused by the results on WSPR on 20m of the end fed vertical. I am looking at making this a bit more permanent. I have an S9V31+ that has been gathering dust since I bought it. My plan is to set it up here at the QTH. The thing I am going to be evaluating is whether to run it as an end fed or a 1/4 wave vertical with radials. The only reason I am considering the end fed version is that I don’t have a lot of room for radials thanks to some landscaping and pavers in the backyard. I have setup the travel mast again as an end fed vertical using the Ultimax 100 matchbox. I am running WSPR on it over the next few days on various bands to collect some data. I’ll then lay some short radials and run the same length as a 1/4 wave vertical with a 4:1 balun.I expect very similar performance but the data will tell the tale.Whatever works best will be how I configure the S9V31+.

I ran some SSB contacts with it this afternoon on 20m with some good signals reports coming from Nebraska. Also running A vs B against my horizontal end fed was showing about a 2-3 S unit difference in the noise floor with the vertical. I’ll be working to evaluate that as well.

SDRplay and a Long wire Antenna

I tried some experiments today with along wire antenna for the SDRplay. I wanted to see if a length of wire through the 9:1 balun would make a reception difference. I strung up about 25 feet of wire up about 10 feet outside. Best I can tell the current setup with the discone is still better. I would have to try a a larger gauge wire and more of it.

BTW, found that using an Arrow staple gun in reverse can have a painful and unpleasant consequence.

Buddistick Repaired

Fixed the homemade Buddistick but the trusty Sunpack 5200D tripod finally failed fully. I have a spare but really need to make an adapter that will allow me to use the pan head 1/4″-20 screw and some how mount a 3/4″ piece of PVC pipe. Will think this one through a bit.

Testing of the 40m Loop Continues

Here is a plot of my 24hr 1W WSPR signal using the 40m Magnetic Loop Antenna:

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Next up tested PSK31 and JT65 with 20-30W of power. I made two solid contacts within 380 mi of the QTH which somewhat verifies the NVIS aspect I’d hoped for. I made some additional solid contacts on JT65 including to Guatemala and Cuba. The jury is still out on SSB though. I tried the Daytime Texas Traffic Net on 7.285 this morning and while I closed a contact with Net Control in Amarillo, Texas I was weak and I know there was some transmit problems on my side as the antenna was not tuned with precision. I’ll try again soon with the antenna tuned for 7.285 Mhz. The antenna held up well through the night and through a very windy day here at the QTH in South Texas.It swings around a bit so I may setup a “guy” wire to help position it. It has been largely oriented East-West. I should also note that it is about 2 S units quieter when compared to my main end-fed antenna.  So far so good!

UPDATE 1/11/2017: Made a 100W SSB contact to the Daytime Texas Traffic net. This time I tuned the antenna to a 1.42 SWR at the net frequency of 7.285Mhz. SWR behaved while transmitting and the net control copied my signal without issue. Net control was just east of Dallas in Kaufman, TX. 

40m Magnetic Loop Antenna with Modifications 

Here is the final version of my 40m magnetic loop antenna using my homebrew hi-voltage variable capacitor. As I mentioned yesterday, I fixed an issue with the variable capacitor feed screw. Today I set it up outside handing from a tree as before. The difference is that the capacitor is now at the 3 o’clock position to facilitate tuning without a ladder. This moves the feed point to the 9 o’clock position. No changes were made to the pvc supports as I merely change the position. I read a 1.31 SWR at 7.039 MHz with am fully engaged. I am running 1W WSPR on it now and will report results tomorrow. Here is what it looks like in operation:

Modification to Hi-voltage Capacitor

Made a modification to the High Voltage capacitor today. I added a washer to keep the captive nut on. Seems to work well.

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I am ready for my next field test of the 40m loop. This time the cap will be at the 9 o’clock position with the toroid at the 3 o’clock position.