Tag Archives: ham shack

General Update

I have been pretty busy lately and have only had short periods of time where I can play radio these past few weeks.

I managed to get the 20m EFHW antenna out as a vertical again last weekend and ran on 45W for about an hour. Had some really good contacts and one short rag-chew. I trimmed the antenna a bit more and got the resonance point into the voice part of the band. This antenna is really working well.

The portable station worked well on a partly cloudy day. I used the 52W foladable panel on this outing and it just kept up with the consumption of the rig. Direct sunlight is definitely a plus.

The 60W foldable panel may have a problem. I am only getting a little over 12V in full sunlight. I will need to check the wiring as I seem to recall it was much higher before.

I setup the Raspberry PI WSPR station on my desk with a short antenna and ran it for 24 hours. My base HF receiver was able to pick up the signal and provide decodes but no other station was able to copy it. I think my next attempt will be connecting it to the Magnetic Loop on 20m. I’ll have to dig around for a suitable cable adapter but I a pretty sure I have one handy in the shack.

Most of my contacts have been using JT-65 and JT-9 on 80m, 40m, 20m, 17m and 10m. The 10m contacts I got lucky with to South America. 17m has been pretty decent to Europe in the mid-morning hours.40m is decent to Australia in the early morning just before dawn (hey, I am an early riser). Most of the activity centers around 40m and 20m.

I adjusted the programming on my DMR radio per instructions that Joe, N5JLR, provided me. No issues with this at all.

I have not worked on the HSMM gear, the 40m NVIS Loop or upgrading my window feed panel due to time. The sun continues to slow up its activity for this cycle. Getting used to working 20m and below and looking at antennas that will be me do just that.


WSPR Provides Insight into Band Conditions

I have been running WSPR using my main HF antenna and the IC-7100 the last few days on mainly 40m and 20m. I have noticed that at 2W on 40m I can make contacts to Australia, New Zealand and Japan around dawn on JT65. It is fairly easy to correlate WSPR with JT modes as the S/N thresholds are fairly similar. 20m has been tricky as there have not been many DX openings indicated by WSPR. Most of the openings have been towards Europe in the late evening. What is also clear is that these openings don’t necessarily mean the band is open to other modes even at higher power levels.

The 40m Magnetic Loop Update

Sat down last night and started to work on the 40m Magnetic loop antenna. I have had the parts for this for a while but have not gotten around to building it yet. I hit a snag right off the bat. I had bought a 25ft piece of terminated RG-213 but when I unwound it found that it was closer to 28ft.That put the diameter at closer to 9 feet in diameter rather than 8ft. Of course I have no connectors to shorten the cable handy…sigh. OK, so now if I have to reduce the size of the cable I am thinking a making the loop about 6 feet in diameter. This will give me a bandwidth of 12kHz and an efficiency of 32%. I will need a cap capable of 2kV to mange 25W. Since the antenna is fixed for use at 40m The cap only has to be in the range of 60pF or so. I have ordered the connectors and will shelve this again until I can cut down the coax. This will give me time to think of the cap solution.

And Now for Something Completely Different…


Back on the Air!

Over a month has gone by since my last contact on HF. I have been out of town on business travel followed by a week of vacation in Arizona and New Mexico. Missed Field Day…but had a lot of fun seeing the Grand Canyon! Tonight, I warmed up the Icom 7100 and made some Canada Day SSB contacts and ran a bit of JT65 and JT9 on 20m and 40m. Feels good to be making some log entries again! The Fourth of July is coming up fast and I will be trying some QRP contacts from South Padre using the magnetic loop antenna. Hopefully, I will be working on some of my projects next week. I have the parts to build out my solar generator box and am ready finish my 40m NVIS loop. Propagation is looking grim these days and I am starting to think of ways to up my game on 80m, 40m and 20m.

WSPR tests My Magnetic Loop Antenna

We had a discussion at our club meeting this morning that got me thinking about how to do some antenna testing using WSPR. Turns out I had the cables needed to control my FT-817ND and run WSPR with my mag loop antenna. I have been underwhelmed by the loops performance on 40m and the design spreadsheet indicates that my efficiency is quite low on that band. This is why I am working on building a larger 40m loop.

I setup the magloop this afternoon and ran WSPR on 40m with 5W out. The only station that could hear me was N5CEY, Cliff just up the road from me in the Los Fresnos area. He could not hear me on the lower power levels. This pretty much confirms that the loop doesn’t do well on 40m.

When I switched to 20m I was being heard all the way up into Canada on 1/2 Watt. This was also pretty consistent. I will try this again tonight and see if the band conditions after dark help this out. Meanwhile I am collecting some interesting data that I can use to compare against the new 40m loop when I have it finished.

This was also the first time I ran digital modes on the FT-817ND and this went pretty smoothly. The rigs programming cable also works for CAT rig control and I was using the original USB sound interface I bought to go along with the FT-450D. No issues except that the receive audio looks to be on the high side.

Update 5/22/2016: I ran the FT-817ND on 5W 40m WSPR from about 5pm through 7am. The results were quite different from what I noticed initially. I had considerably more spots during the night including one from Spain. The receive portion seems to work much better as well as I had numerous spots in Europe:

wspr map

This is consistent with what I would expect from decent band opening on 40m during nighttime hours. This leads me to think that the loop as is would work considerably better than I thought during nighttime conditions.

BTW, did I mention the loop was operating indoors?

Testing Toroid Magnetic Loop Coupling

I am planning on feeding the 40m NVIS Magnetic loop antenna with a Toroid configured as a transformer. I ordered and received some FT140-43 and FT240-43 toroids off of eBay this week and decided to try and match my existing loop as a test. The trick is to determine the proper number of wire turns to get a good match. For me this was trial and error. I started with about 8 turns of #14 insulated solid wire on the small FT140-43 core. I’d run a sweep with the antenna analyzer and remove turns until the SWR dropped to close to 1:1. For this configuration it worked out to 4 turns. Here is what is looks like as I tested it:

Photo Apr 09, 5 11 15 PMPhoto Apr 09, 5 47 30 PM

Here are the SWR plots. First up is the Faraday coax loop I have been using on 20m:

loop20mfaraday Custom

Here is the plot with the toroid also on 20m:

loop20mtoroidsolid4 Custom

Very Reasonable agreement.

Here are the SWR plots for 17 & 15m:

loop17mtoroidsolid Customloop15mtoroidsolid Custom

The good news is this works!

Given the current design of my portable mag loop I may continue to use the coax coupling loop. I would have to change the way the loop is held up to accommodate the toroid. This will not be a problem with the 40m loop as I will feed it on the bottom as the capacitor section will be on the top. I’ll likely also change to an easier to work with wire gauge to get the windings tighter on the core. That #14 wire is pretty stiff and hard to work with. I tried some stranded speaker wire and it is hard to get it to stay put. Once I get some better wire I’ll try the larger core and see if there are any differences. Meanwhile, I have gathered up the rest of the parts for the 40m loop and hope to start building it yet this weekend.


My Ever Evolving Ham Shack…

I broke down this week and bought an ICOM 7100 rig this week. I have it installed with an A/B switch to the Yaesu FT-450D so that I can use both (though not at the same time). As usual, any changes to my shack wiring has caused issues with RFI. I have resolved most of these except I am noticing my HRD logbook locks up occasionally. This is a sweet rig. I have tested it on SSB on the HF bands and got the internal sound card modes working with PSK31 and JT65/JT9. It has some neat DSP features on Phone that really work. The automatic Notch filter seems to work on most birdies and the noise reduction works quite well. Still learning many of the features and doing some A vs B comparisons with the Yaesu. It has DSTAR built in so I will be trying to play with the local DSTAR repeater. Also looking forward to try and do some satellite work with it as well.


I asked Cliff, KF5INZ, for one of his Easy Digi interfaces for my FT-2900R so that I can work the weekly digital VHF net. Cliff makes these interfaces in Los Fresnos and ships them globally. I picked it up from him at the CHARRO meeting last Saturday and will likely start getting it setup in time for Wednesdays net. The 7100 has this capability built in but I will likely be using the Yaesu for for this purpose.



Still thinking about a gain antenna…

Looking to try a vertical Moxon for 20m or 17m.

Holiday Project Update

Managed to finish rewiring some of the shack for shorter cable runs and lower RFI. The shorter cables are especially handy on the FT-817ND. I can now neatly accommodate any combination of radio, amp, tuner and SWR meter. It is crazy windy out here today so I will likely wait until next week and setup the Buddistick and run the FT-817ND at 45 watts portable.

The APRS cable project has been de;ayed by the lack of a correct cable for the radio. The correct cable should arrive on Tuesday so I will wrap that project up then.

Been rethinking the 20m-10m portable beam project and am doing some EZNEC modeling. The issues I am looking at revolve around a portable 20m 2 element yagi that I can only raise up to about 20ft versus vertical buddisticks.