June 28, 2017
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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.
- 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.
- The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
- SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
- Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
- 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.
June 22, 2017
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I completed the linked EFHW later yesterday afternoon and tuned the 15m, 17m & 20m bands. I removed about 6″ of wire to tune 15m, 2″ to tune 17m and about 3″ to tune 20m. The antenna is deployed vertically on a SOTAbeams Travel pole up 30 feet. I am using a TV mast tripod as a base. In the field I would lash the mast to a fence post or other similar support.
I tested the antenna on my base rig at 100W and made three easy SSB contacts. Two of these were EU DX contacts. I left it tuned for 20m and ran WSPR for the last 12 hours. Here is the map:
This works out to 112 unique heard spots with 66 unique heard by spots when running 1/2W. Looks like the antenna is a winner for Field Day! Only thing I will likely try today is adding a 1:1 choke as I am seeing the SWR swing a bit on SSB transmit.
June 21, 2017
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I purchased the following for $1 at Home Depot yesterday to form links for the EFHW I plan to use for Field Day:
These are buckles to make paracord bracelets. Here is how the resulting link looks like using these, a couple of cable ties and a pair of Anderson Power Poles:
I have made initial wire cuts for 15m, 17m, 20m and 40m. I also cut 1/10 wavelength counterpoise wires for each band. I have also prepped the Travel Mast and the TV Tripod so I will hopefully setup later this afternoon (when it cools off a bit) and tune the wires. I’ll run 15m-20m as a vertical and 40m as an inverted V.
The only other prep I am working on today is I’ve taken the solar generator box I built last year and set it up outside with the two 15W panels to charge them up.
Update: Just did the calculations on the 40m inverted V and found that I probably don’t have enough space to lay that out in the backyard due to obstacles. Will configure the first half as a vertical and then the remaining half as a sloper which I’ll aim towards the north and terminate 4 feet off the ground. Only need a radius of about 16ft. A quick run on EZNEC show the following pattern:
June 18, 2017
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I was pondering what I would do for a Field Day antenna after yesterday’s debacle with the Homebrew Buddipole and military mast. It just hit me a few minutes ago. I’ll run the EFHW antenna as a vertical on 20m and 15m. It is a proven performer and it is resonant thus no tuner needed. I’ll use the TV Mast tripod Cliff gave me to support it during the contest on the SOTABeams Travel mast. What I will do this week is set that up and cut some links for 15m, 20m and possibly even 40m. Will be much more manageable as a vertical. I have 5 days to work out the details. Tomorrow morning I’ll put put the battery packs and solar panels to top off the charge. This should work!
June 17, 2017
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I took out the military poles and tripod today for the first time with the intent of getting the homebrew Buddipole up around 30 ft. The mast itself works pretty well with the tripod hub. I mounted the Buddipole on top as I have before with the painters pole except this time I replaced the thread adapter with a 3/4″ PVC pipe adapter and used a length of pipe to fit inside the mast section. I guyed it near the top. I sent it up and it promptly got swung around in the wind and tangled in a tree. After twisting and turning awhile I got it clear and up to 28 ft then tied off the guys. I left the last section off as I did not have enough coax to get it in the shack.
Started operating on SSB and made a strong 59 contact into Arizona then noticed that my SWR was swinging around. Looked outside and saw that one half of the dipole was swinging into more of a v-beam. Moments later it fell off completely. Doh!
The section landed cleanly and did no damage but I had to take the whole thing down. Guy lines get tangled, the aluminum mast sections are burning hot to the touch and my temper starts flaring. Did I mention it’s 97 degrees outside with 51% humidity?
So I carefully sort out the guy lines, move the tripod a few feet away from the tree and place a wedge in to keep it from swinging as much. Sent it up again and adjusted the guy lines. Went back inside the shack and hooked up the SWR meter. It started a sweep and was looking good when I heard a SNAP and the meter SWR reading went full scale. I looked out the window and sure enough the half of the dipole fell again. On inspection I was not so lucky as I broke the whip off at the base. Doh!
So thus ends my Field Day Preps today.I am goign to use something much simpler next week. Either the Homebrew Buddistick which I have used before, an end fed vertical up about 30 feet or a 1/4 wave vertical for 20m with four ground radials. The Buddipole is going to be limited to lower heights using the painters pole. If I had more time I’d try an inverted V for 20m using the Spiderbeam mast.
June 13, 2017
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I was going to try and adjust the loading coils on the homebrew Buddipole but after reviewing the SWR plots in more detail I have decided against this. The resonance point is on the high end of the band but I’ll be operating mainly voice. The SWR is below 1.6 across the band and the reactance is within ±3 Ohms of the resonance point. Better to leave it alone at this point.
I did add a couple of cable ties to the arm to allow me to better control the antenna swinging in the wind. I am working to build another 1:1 current balun which I will replace the BNC to binding post adapter I am runing now. It will be interesting to see if adding this balun will change the SWR curve. Here are the current curves:
Hopefully I can retest the deployment of this antenna this weekend perhaps at 20 ft and with luck maybe at 30 feet on the military mast.
June 4, 2017
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I have two more weekends to prep for 2017 ARRL Field Day. Next weekend I plan to test the Homebrew buddistick on 20m WSPR and compare to the 20m Buddipole I tested last week. I need to complete a 1:1 current balun for both of these antennas. I am also reconfiguring my go-kits. I have a case for solar power generation, another to carry gear for digital ops, and yet another for the FT-817ND and other equipment. I have also sourced a “tarp tent” which I hope to test next weekend as well. Just missing a field portable chair and table at this point. Need the shade and will need plenty of water as well.
My plan now is to run solar powered battery operation from start of the event on Saturday, run 20m & 15m through the day then switch to 40m once the sunsets and operate till the late evening. I will not likely operate on Sunday at all. I plan to start with SSB and switch to digital PSK31 if band conditions limit QRP SSB operation.
June 4, 2017
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I reconfigured what has become my main antenna, the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. This is still a temporary installation but I am growing increasingly happy with the results I am getting. I frankly can’t remember the last time I used the horizontal end fed. I have had to roll up the radials on occasion to mow the yard and have not yet deployed my permanent radials. Currently I am using the 30 foot travel mast from SOTAbeams to support the vertical wire and have four 27 foot radials deployed. I am using my homebrew 1:1 current balun at the feedpoint and running to the shack with 50 ft of RG-8X.
If I get the chance I’ll start operating around 6:30 am local time on 40m JT-65. I can usually snag several contacts in Japan with the occasional contact into Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines. The action is over by about 7:30am local time as the band closes quickly after sunrise.
Saturday afternoon, I was checking the bands and came across a strong VK station on 17m SSB. We exchanged signals reports in the 54 to 55 range. I moved over to JT-65 and found that there was DX activity including another VK contact. Today Sunday I am finding about the same conditions, great 40m propagation to the far east in the early morning and some light DX into Europe & South America on 17m in the late afternoon.
May 29, 2017
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We had some much needed rain at the QTH last night. I had taken down to work on the Homebrew Buddipole early last evening but left the 40m vertical in place. The storm blew through at about 4am and dropped over an inch and a half of rain with gusty winds up to 25 Mph. My wife went outside early this morning and came in to tell me we had debris in the back yard and oh by the way your antenna is bent. Doh!
Went outside expecting the worst. I have heard stories of fiberglass tubes breaking off in high winds. I was relieved to find that the antenna was indeed bent near the top, but only because the vertical wire had blow into and tangled into a tree branch holding it over. I shook it loose and it popped back vertical instantly. Three sections had telescoped back in near the base so after pulling them back out I am back in business. This SOTABeams travel mast has taken some real abuse!
May 28, 2017
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The Homebrew Buddistick and the Magnetic Loop antenna both require mounting on a camera tripod. Up to now I had been using a tripod without the pan head and inserting the 3/4″ PVC pipe with a pressure fit. This worked OK for awhile but eventually the tripod fitting pulled out and the tripod was ruined. I have been thinking for some time about how to make an adapter that would fit the standard tripod pan head and allow me to mount the antenna. A trip to Home Depot this afternoon yielded a solution. I built a mount with these four components:
- 2″ Pipe PVC cap – These have a flat cap surface
- 2″ to 3/4″ PVC pipe adapter
- 2″ PVC pipe coupling
- A 1/4″-20 threaded insert.
Building this was simple enough. First drill an 11/16″ hole in the middle of the pipe cap. Then using a 6mm hex key drive the 1/4-20 insert into the pipe cap until it is flush. Here is the cap mounted on the tripod:
To complete this adapter install the coupling along with the 3/4″ adapter and it will be ready to mount the antenna. Here is the finished adapter mounted on the tripod:
I finished this just in time as I need it to start testing the Homebrew Buddistick as I’d like to compare it’s WSPR performance to the Homebrew Buddipole.
UPDATE 6/13/2017: This turned into a fail. I tested this mount on the mag loop antenna and the weight and balance was too much for the tripod head. The clamp mechanism snapped and rendered the head useless. I removed the head and and am back to using it as before, i.e. with the pvc pipe jammed onto the tripod vertical post.