Monthly Archives: September 2017

20m Hamstick for Balcony Operating

I discussed a 20m vertical using a hamstick for balcony operation. I put this together this afternoon and ran some tests. Here is a view of the antenna attached to a lawn chair about four feet off the ground.


The antenna performed well on receive against the 1/4 wave vertical but WSPR results were not to good. No stations heard my signal even up to 5W. Not sure if the band conditions were a factor. The only contact I made was to Costa Rica on SSB so it’s does work! The stinger was adjusted to 36″ and the SWR was below 2:1 across the band.

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More on the 20m Vertical Beam

The vertical beam is definitely directional. Unfortunately, I have no way to measure the gain. What I have noticed is that when I run this antenna on JT-65 I see much stronger reports from the direction the beam is pointed to versus the backside. Same goes with WSPR results. The antenna is also receiving well based on yesterdays WSPR challenge results as well.

I did some A/B switching between the beam and the 20m vertical while running JT-65. The beam sees signals coming in from Europe (very weak just above the noise floor). These disappear entirely when switching in the vertical. This could make a very nice antenna for next field day as it is easy to setup and from my QTH would cover much of the US my pointing due north.

Here is a picture of the antenna deployed in my backyard:

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These pictures show how everything is connected:

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At the feedpoint I have the homebrew 1:1 current balun. Each vertical element has two 18 foot radials laying on the ground. The two radial sets are connected by an 18.7″ ft wire. Pretty simple really.

A 20m Vertical Beam

JP1QEC developed a portable 20m vertical beam he calls the “Garden Beam Antenna“. I built one this afternoon and have it pointed towards Europe. Construction is stratightfoward. I used a fishing pole to first make a 20m 1/4 wave vertical. It has two ground radials that are about 18 feet long. A third radial extends 18.7 feet from the driven element in the direction opposite where you want the main energy to go. This is connected to two more 18 ft radials and the vertical reflector element also mounted on a fishing pole. I ended up with a very flat SWR of 1.6 across the entire 20m band. I suspect that there needs to be some tweaking to optimize the pattern but I am seeing some directionality based on signal reports from making some JT-65 contacts. The beam is pointed on a bearing of about 40°. I get strong reports from stations in the northeast while stations on the west coast are copying my signals considerably weaker. I made several SSB contacts with most reporting 59+. I’ll be testing the configuration in some more depth over the next few days and comparing with EZNEC results.

The Hardware Store 40m Magnetic Loop Antenna

A while back, I wrote up and submitted some info to QST antenna design competition on my 40m Magnetic Loop antenna. The contest is over so I am now publishing the write up on this site on the Projects page. The direct link to the file is here.

The write up details the design and construction of both the 40m Loop antenna and its High Voltage capacitor made from Copper tubing. Nearly the entire antenna can be made from parts gathered at your local building supply store. Hope some of you find this Useful!

Operating During Current Increased Solar Activity

I just wanted to document some observations I made during the current solar activity. Solar flux index was in the 120 range today with the sunspot number around 79. A CME slammed into the Earth’s atmosphere around 23:00 Zulu generated by an X class solar flare day before yesterday. The K index jumped to 8 indicated a major geomagnetic storm/blackout.

There was quite of bit of activity here. I made an SSB contact with a ZL station who was a strong 59 on 20m. Also made a strong 59 with an HI station. I heard ZS3D very clearly tonight on 40m but he did not copy my signal. 20m was open well after dark. So even with disturbance in the geomagnetic field, communications across several bands was open to DX.

Update 9/8/2017: 40m band was wiped out locally early this morning. No DX to Asia and few stations showing up on JT-65. Noise did not appear to be loud but very broadbanded and deep. Now at 16:45 Zulu the K index is at 8 indicating a severe storm. SFI is at 123 and the SSN is at 94. 80m and 40m is completely dead now. Some light traffic on 20m. 17m and above are dead now.

Here Comes the Sun…

After months of declining solar activity, our sun suddenly perked up. Today we had a solar flux index of 132 and a sunspot number of 122! These numbers are close to what we were seeing at the cycle maximum in 2014. Surprising activity and a X class solar flare and associated CME. 20m and 15m were noticeably stronger today on SSB. Made some good DX into the EU.

Ham Shack Changes – Part II

Configured a Pelican case to carry the FT-450D and an MFJ-4230MVP 12V power supply along with the microphone and assorted cables. The case has two “levels” so there was plenty of room. I plan to use the FT-450D portable with antennas that can be matched with the internal 3:1 tuner. So this is my FT-450D “go-kit”:

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I have a QRP version of this with the FT-817ND in another case. There is also a smaller case now which holds the Netbook and cables needs to connect either rig for digital modes. I have one more smaller pelican case to configure for solar charged portable operation with the LiFePo batteries.