Category Archives: HF Portable

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.

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.

A 20m Vertical Dipole…(I am a glutton for punishment)…

Here in South Texas you hear a lot about the Canicula. July 14 through August 24th is considered to be the hottest part of the year. It’s 94° F here today but when you add the 54% humidity we get a heat index of 106° F. So naturally I choose today to play with a new antenna!

I built a vertical dipole for 20m today using two Workman Hamsticks. I thought this would be fairly easy as I didn’t have to get it too far off the ground. More on that later…

I read that one ham had pretty good luck with the stinger set at 38″ so I set that as a starting point. I set it up vertically on a painters pole with the bottom stinger about a foot off the ground and found the SWR minimum was in the 13.5 Mhz range. I shortend the stingers and the SWR went down to the 13 Mhz range. I played with this for some time until the whole mess collapsed in the breeze. Arrrgh!

I came inside and after re-hydrating played around with the antenna again. Nothing I did seemsed to work in getting it to tune in the 14m band. I got it back to the original configuration and ventured outside again. I set it up as before and the SWR was in the 13.5Mhz range again. This time I guyed the painters pole and sent it up a few feet. The SWR started going down with the minimum frequency going up into the 20m band…Aha! I raised it up so the feed point was about 15 to 16 ft off the ground. This put the end of the stinger at about 8 feet.  Now the SWR response looked good with 2:1 or less across most of the 20m band.

Inside again now I started to tune around and found the SWR swinging again. Suspected Common Mode Currents again so went outside and lowered the antenna to 8 feet, redressed the coax so that it comes out away from the feed point at 90° for about three feet. Now everything is working out fine. I made an SSB contact to Chile and to Guatemala right off.

So here is what I learned today:

  1. It is too hot in South Texas in August to play with antennas…wait till early morning or very late in the afternoon next time.
  2. A vertical dipole needs to be a few feet off the ground to tune properly
  3. It is vitally important that the coax feed line in a vertical dipole come out at at 90° angle for several feet to avoid common mode currents.

Here is a view of the antenna:

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Here is the SWR plot:

20m dipole vert

Will run 1W WSPR for 24 hours and compare data with the 1/4 Wave vertical.

 

 

First QSO’s from South Padre Island

Setup the end fed antenna on the 3rd floor condo balcony this afternoon. This time I had about 10 feet of wire hanging off the end with the remaining 20ft aligned with the telescoping fishing pole at a 45° angle. Radio, tuner and amp were configured as before. Band conditions were generally bad. SFI of 68 with a sunspot number of zero. That being said I did manage four QSO’s over about an hour and a half. Two were on 20m and two were on 10m. Most copied me at between 55 and 57. So it works! Here is the rig on the coffee table:

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Here is the antenna deployed on the balcony:

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First Beachside Setup

Got started a bit late last night but managed to set up the beachside balcony station. I wrapped 30 feet of wire around the fishing pole and attached the end fed matchbox. I strung the coax around the balancing floor. The “mast” is self supporting in a nearly vertical orientation. I set up the FT-817ND with the tuner and amplifier set for 45w out.

The 20m band tuned right up but the band was quite dead by the late night evening. I moved to 40m and found a bit more activity but no contacts were made. The noise floor was surprisingly low on 40m considering there was lightning visible offshore. No contacts were made although I did pick up Roberto I2VRN with a solid 59. Could not bust the pileup.

All this being said will try this setup again this afternoon and try and scare up a QSO.

To the Beach!

Taking the FT-817 to South Padre Island today. I don’t have the artificial ground yet but will try without it. I can try two antennas. The first is the end fed antenna with a 9:1 matchbox. Will try and wind 30 ft of wire on the 26 foot pole. I’ll have to run with a tuner and spread out the coax on the floor of the balcony. May also run a wire down about 20 feet as a counterpoise. Next choice is a vertical 20m dipole. For that I’ll run a 16 ft wire vertical and another hanging from the balcony and use a 1:1 current balun. I am on the third floor of a wood and brick structure and an about 150 yards from the Gulf of Mexico.

Homebrew Artificial Ground

I will be operating on a third floor condo by the beach at South Padre Island, Texas soon and am thinking through the antenna. I have clear space above the balcony so a temporary vertical is certainly feasible using the new 7.2m crappie poles I just got in from Ebay. The problem is that I can’t really set up a decent ground system. An end fed vertical comes to mind but would need at least 30 ft of coax snaking around the balcony. Ground radials are out as are elevated radials. A vertical dipole would be feasible either with wire or perhaps a pair of ham sticks. Issue may be keeping the lower half coming in contact with folks in the lower balconies.

I’ll likely work out a vertical dipole but I am thinking of using an artificial ground with an end fed vertical. I have some plans for such a unit and may convert a unused manual MFG tuner to that purpose. Will scope out the site today and see what is feasible.

Update: 7/24/2017 Found a used MFJ artificial ground unit on eBay and won a low ball bid. Will try that with the end fed antenna and some counterpoise wire. 

Post Field Day Report

I got a late start to field day this year due to a late breaking family commitment. Our club tried to setup at the local weather station but cancelled operations due to a large noise source crashing the bands at that location.

I started operating about 19:30 UTC. I started at 5W on SSB but over the first hour only made one contact. The band conditions were not good on 20m with lots of QRM and QSB. I added the amplifier and started to work on 45W. My power draw was significantly higher but my Q rate increased. The solar panel kept up with the power consumption even though there was quite a bit of cloudiness. I continued to operate on 20m until dusk when I switched to 40m. Overall I made 60 Phone contacts over the course of about 8 hours. My score this year will be lower even with more Q’s due to the higher power I ran. I did not get a chance to run digital.

What worked:

  1. Digital logging – netbook needed one charge cycle during this period. The 12V to 18V DC-DC converter was running at abou 2.2A during the charging cycle. I used a 7Ahr for this through a spare Solar Charge controller. I am going to look at a tablet for next year.
  2. The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
  3. SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
  4. Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
  5. Tube Tarp came in real handy as shade. Luckily no rain on Saturday. I’ll do better with the depolyment next time as I figured out how to guy it better.

What did not work so good:

  1. Can’t run digital mode while using an amp. The amp uses the ACC port on the radio but provides no pass through. I am looking at how I can accomplish this for next time.
  2. I don’t have the battery budget to run 45W phone for 24 hours. I figure I would have run out of power after about 12 hours. Partly cloudy day didn’t help.
  3. Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
  4. Calling CQ consumes a lot of power. Need to refactor the power budget.

So I figure my score this year for 60 SSB QSO’s + bonus points for emergency power will work out to 310 for my 1B station. I am convinced now that I have to finish learning CW so that next year I can run 5W on CW and up my point count. A more directional antenna would be nice but a portable beam antenna remains elusive. For some reason I seemed to be doing better with stations in California than on the more densely populated east coast.

In summary, A great afternoon of outdoor radio fun and already looking forward to next year.