Since I got my first HF station up at my house, I’ve only used the G5RV (Both Jr. and fullsize) and the 10M dipole in my attic which is surrounded by aluminum siding. With these antennas I’ve been able to make thousands of contacts. I’ve manged to get basic DXCC and WAS awards. Even though a lot of people harp on the G5RV, it provided me countless hours of contacts and I think it was well worth putting up. I would still suggest the G5RV or its variants to others.
However I think I pushed the G5RV as far as it could go. The antenna has since stretched. More ladderline is laying on the ground. New entities are getting harder and harder and there are bands I haven’t really explored. 10 Meters on my G5RV hasn’t been really good to me and the dipole wasn’t going to cut it since it was basically surrounded by aluminum. I was also starting to get bored. I would only hop on to see if I can work a DX expedition or random JT-65 contacts. I needed an upgrade.
My first solution was to get a multiband vertical. In 2011 I purchased a used Butternut HF9V at a local hamfest. In 2013 I finally buried some coax and installed the antenna with a bunch of radials.
Upon getting it on the air, I found that it wasn’t really a performer. In a lot of cases, the G5RV was much better. The HF9V didn’t really give me the “WOW” factor I was looking for. But it work so it stays in my backyard. I needed something better. I needed a beam.
What Beam Should I Get?
That was one of the many questions I was asking myself. I didn’t want anything massive or anything that would require a large tower or rotor. I kept focusing on a Hex Beam type antenna, log periodic or a 3el tri-band antenna like the Mosley TA-33jr or Cushcraft A3S. I ended up going back and forth between the K4KIO type hex beam or TA-33.
The Hex Beam offers more coverage. It’s possible to get 20 through 6 meter coverage which includes the WARC bands. That’s 6 bands. In simple terms, it’s basically a 2 element beam with the elements folded in such a way that it still works. There is a claim 5dbi (or 2.95 dbd) gain. The claimed F/B (Front to Back) varies from approx 25db to 30db depending on the band. So in theory with perfect conditions and zero loss, if the antenna was fed with 100W, it would radiate around 192 watts. The hex beam would also attenuate signals from the back of the beam by 27db. This allows you to hear signals better in the direction it’s pointed in.
The TA-33jr can only really be used on 20, 15 and 10 meters. The antenna could be adapted for other bands with the addition of the WARC kit. The TA-33jr has anywhere from 5.8 to 8.0 dbd or claimed gain (or 7.95 to 10.15 dbi gain) and has a claimed front to back ratio of 20db. So once again, in theory with perfect conditions and zero loss, if the antenna was fed with 100W it would radiate anywhere from around 380w (on 20M) to around 631w (on 10M) and would also attenuate signals from the back of the beam by 20db
These comparisons are based from figures provided by manufacturers. That doesn’t mean that is how the antenna will perform in real world conditions. Things like height about ground, the type of ground, coupling to nearby antennas or other thanks and losses from coax and connectors play a major role in the performance and efficiency of the antenna.
On paper, the TA-33jr offers more gain on 10, 15 and 20 and looks easier to assemble but the multi band hex type beam has a better front to back (F/B) and offers more gain on the WARC bands. The TA-33 types of antennas have been in use much longer than the Hex type. If you were purchasing a beam on a small budget, the TA-33 type of beam would be much cheaper on the used market because they have been in use for decades (at least 50 years). I’ve seen TA-33 in decent shape for as low as $100.
How am I going to Mount The Beam?
No matter what I decide, I would need to mount the antenna to something. My first option was to obtain a tower and have it bracketed to my house at about 70′ in height. However that did not meet XYL approval because of possible guy wires in the yard and I want to keep my neighbors happy. Since a bracketed tower is out of the question, my next best bet was a roof mounted tower. My house at the peak is approx 40 feet above the ground level. With a 9ft roof tower and decent mast, I could get my beam 50 feet above the ground. So a roof tower it was.
I priced out a new Hex Beam from K4KIO, 9.5′ Tower from Glenn Martin, A new Rotor and Rotor Controller (Yaesu G-450), Mast, thrust bearing and cables. The price tag totaled almost $2,000. That is something I can not afford. However I was able to find a used TA-33, 5ft tower and rotor for much cheaper locally. I ended up purchasing the TA-33 package over the hexbeam. I am losing out on the WARC bands but the price made up for the loss.
A Pile Of Aluminum
Upon receiving the antenna, I noticed right away it’s not a TA-33 that I thought I was getting. The Boom is 2 inches in diameter and longer than the TA-33jr. After a little bit of investigation, I found that the antenna is a CL-33 or a TA-33 Classic. The CL-33 is 6ft longer and provides slightly more gain and slightly higher F/B ratio compared to the TA-33jr. I was trying to go as small as possible but since I already have the beam, it will have to do.
The tower and thrust bearing was in great shape but the rotor appears to seen better days. The terminals were rusty and the rotor would “struggle” in certain areas when turning it without an antenna attached. I need to restore the rotor.
I stripped the rotor down and found a group of really rusty ball bearings. I soda blasted and powder coated the case, ordered new ball bearings, new brake parts and a new style connector. After some cleaning and re-wiring, the rotor is good as new.
The antenna was taken apart and traps were checked for debris and broken parts
For the most part the traps were clean but some of the coils had cracks and even chunks of plastic missing. I ended up filling the cracks and voids with epoxy. Worst case is that I would have to get replacement traps. Being such a well-known antenna, it’s little easier to find parts.
After repairs I cleaned all the aluminum with scouring pads and applied an Anti Oxidation grease that will prevent the sections of elements from sticking to each other. I also applied anti-seize lubricant on clamps and other things.
I did a test fit to make sure everything is working and bolting correctly to the tower. You will notice a different rotor.
I have went with a Yaesu G-450 rotor because it was almost new and got it for much less. You will see WRTC spray painted on the rotor. It was used during the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) here in New England. It’s not as heavy-duty compared to the Ham IV but I feel more safe using it.
There was only one concern I had with the tower and that was protecting the thrust bearing. I didn’t want rain, snow and ice to build up around the TB so I designed and fabricated a cone to slip over the TB shedding away anything from above.
Now it’s time to test the boom mounted to the mast
So far so good. The only concern I had was that the cone now provides a great home for hornets. I guess we’ll see.
The tower and antenna are now ready to be mounted on the roof.
Hurry Up And Wait… Now Hurry Up!
Now we have to get the tower mounted to my roof. I decided the best course of action is to mount the tower towards the rear of my house. That will allow the beam to clear a near-by tree and it makes it less visible from the street. Two trees in the front of my house hides the tower and beam quite well. I might provide some signal problems but we’ll see. I planned on using 10″ carriage bolts going through the roof into my attic and brace it using 2×4’s and a metal channel spanning over multiple rafters. I designed everything in CAD and put it through stress analysis. According to the results, it looks good.
Here is the problem. I don’t like going up on my roof. When I installed my X510, I almost fell off the roof and sort of been scared since. I don’t have the proper equipment to go up on my roof safely. the 10:12 pitch takes a toll on me. I am also stubborn and have a “do it yourself” attitude so I put the project off. It was planned to be put up in April before the New England QSO Party, but it’s now November and I still don’t have a tower on the roof.
I needed some roof work done before it got real cold outside. I had to hire a roofer to install venting and asked if he could install the tower at the same time.
Thankfully he agreed and there is now a tower on the roof. Ignore my leaning diamond X510. It could have been prevented from leaning if I used a couple of self tapping screws. Due to the weather and hourly cost of the roofer, I decided not to install the antenna on the same day. Let the neighbors sort of get used to the tower on top.
From inside my attic, I braced the antenna using 2X4’s and a large metal U channel covering 5 rafters. Very sturdy.
I Wanted To Get It On The Air
There is an upcoming 10M contest in December that my local club is involved in. I wanted to participate and I know my G5RV, HF9V or my 10M dipole wasn’t going to perform. I finally folded and contacted members from my local club to come help me install the antenna. A lot of people responded and on cold windy Sunday in December, a bunch of people came to my house to help install the beam.
A Major thanks to Ed, KB1NWH for staying up on my roof for hours.
We removed the Diamond X510 as it would be in the way and decided to assemble the beam on the roof since the tower isn’t tall. We then installed the boom, each element and then the Diamond X3200. I didn’t want the X510 on the mast as it’s a much larger antenna.
Finally. I now have a beam! There is still cable work to be done but everyone was able to leave in just a few hours. I was on the air just after noon.
I would like to thank Ed (KB1NWH), Jim (KK1W), Steve (N1SR), Frandy (N1FJ) and Dave (AA1YW) for taking time out of their life to help me get an antenna on the air.
What’s the difference?
I never had a beam before and I have no clue how one would perform at my house. I hooked my radio up to a A/B switch so I can switch between the G5RV and the Beam. The bands were not great when I finally got on the air but I was able to hear a lot of West Coast stations on 20M. I had a real hard time getting my signal out west and was amazed to see the difference. Stations that were S2 on the G5RV were coming in S8-9 on the beam. The front to back ratio was okay. I was pointed to EU and hearing a Texas station at the same time. When pointed to EU the Texas station was S7 and when I turned the beam toward the Texas station, he became a S9+. I will have to do more comparisons.
Here is a quick and dirty A/B video I did for a Fellow redditor. I should have found a week station but that will be for another video. I just wanted to show the obvious difference in antennas.
Having the beam on the air for the ARRL 10M contest was great. I have never participated in it and felt the beam proved to work quite well. 10 meters was open to Europe both Saturday and Sunday morning. I did about 100,000 points which is not bad considering I operated only 10 hours using low power (Around 100W) and was not using spotting assistance. I knew I would not win SOHP so the amp stayed off.
I should have done a beam much sooner. Or maybe I shouldn’t. Starting off on wires provided a challenge. With the wires I was able to make contact with a lot of operators and even won some awards and contests. Now that I have a beam, hopefully it opens up the door to even more contacts with those ham radio operators around the world. My signal will now be a little bit stronger and I will be able to hear farther away. Getting the beam on the air has renewed my interest in actually getting on the air.
Thank for reading,
Jeffrey Bail (NT1K)
It appears that the International Space Station (ISS) was transmitting slow scan television (SSTV) off and on for the past couple of days. The Russian ARISS team was transmitting images commemorating the 80th birthday of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to orbit earth. It was being transmitting from the Russian service module using only 5 watts of power. I wanted to see if I can get one of these images on my own. They were using 145.800Mhz as the downlink frequency so at least I have the radio for it.
It was advertise that they were going to be transmitting on December 20th starting around 12:40z and will end around 21:30z . So from about 7:40am to 4:30pm locally which is almost a 9hr run. Due to its orbit, it only allows me a couple of chances to receive the transmissions
Due to work schedule, I was not going to make the 17:17z pass so I concentrated at 18:52 because the elevation would put the ISS right over my house instead scanning the horizon. It was my best chance.
At around 1:00pm, I made sure everything is in working order. The equipment I was going to use was a Radio Shack police scanner, Elk antenna, my laptop with a USB sound card, audio patch cable and the software MMSSTV. At around 1:30 I took everything to the much colder outside and setup shop. Now that I think back, I should have also setup my home 2M using the vertical antenna on my roof to decode as well.
I stated waving the antenna around at 1:50 and finally around 2pm is when I started hearing the ISS. If you want, you can watch the following video. Please ignore everything wrong. I thought of recording it last second and would have at least not wear my work clothes.
Once I locked onto the ISS, It was already too late. The ISS was already transmitting an image. But I was able to decode the majority of the image
That’s not bad. All I am missing is the RS0ISS header which is the callsign used by the Russians on the space station.
I had a blast doing this. It was really fun and I hope NASA and Roscosmos would do more things like this in the future. It could really encourage people to join into the amateur radio community.
Last week word got around that the website QRZnow.com (No relation to QRZ.com) was stealing content and bandwidth from other hams and making a profit from the work of others. They have been doing it for awhile but people finally had enough and started complain publicly in mass. There have been threads on Reddit.com’s amateur radio subreddit (forum) as well as activity on Twitter and G+. Content creators who’s work was taken from them were speaking up. I even came out hiatus to make a post about this situation because my work was stolen as well.
I honestly thought it wasn’t going to end well. The staff over at QRZnow.com have not said a word and they we’re actively deleting evidence, comments and mentions of content theft on their websites and social media streams. They even locked down their twitter account so @QRZnow mentions about content theft would not show up on their feed. I thought they were going to keep business as usual and steal content while denying everything.
They are not the only ones
I just want to make it known that QRZnow.com is not the only site stealing content from other amateur radio related websites for profit. There are many more but it seems that QRZnow.com was the most popular.
It appears QRZnow.com has changed their ways… For now.
Even though the staff at QRZnow.com remains quiet about the situation, they have started to change their ways. Instead of stealing content word for word, stealing bandwidth and stealing images, they have captured and posted a low res screen shot and also posted a link to the source. That means the reader, if interested has to visit the source for more information. This a change in the right direction. There is still room for improvement on their end but it’s much better than stealing content. They still get advertising income and the source gets more traffic. It’s more a win-win for all.
However, due to the lack of communication from QRZnow, I am not sure if these are permanent changes. Who knows, after everything dies down, they might revert back to the way they used to do things. Even though it’s wrong, they might go back to what worked for them. They also might find some other ways to make a quick dollar from the hard work of other hams. I’m not sure what the future holds. I hope the staff at QRZnow.com have learned from this and can’t just take other people’s hard work and attempt to make profit.
It could be a good site
QRZnow.com could be a really good site. It could post interesting information and drive traffic to those site and create attention and awareness. It could be the place to go to see what other ham radio operators are doing. Due to the massive amounts of amateur radio related websites, we do need a website that brings attention to some of these websites, articles and projects.
They should take notes and learn from how hackaday.com does it. They’ve managed to become a very popular aggregate for the DIY electronic and maker. It drives a ton a traffic to websites, articles and projects that otherwise wouldn’t see much attention.
Hopefully everything works out and it benefits all who are involved. That’s all I hope for.
Thanks for reading,
(UPDATES SINCE 12/2/2014, PLEASE READ BOTTOM)
Let me start off by saying that I put hundreds of hours and a lot of money into my website. At this point in time, you don’t see advertisements on my website nor do I solicit money from my readers. This site was never created with the intentions of making any sort of profit. I wasn’t thinking about money. I just wanted a place to show all my adventures in amateur radio. Maybe someday I will come up with something that will change amateur radio for the better but I doubt that will ever happen. I think of NT1K.com as more of an online journal than anything. I’m glad people are reading.
Approximately one month ago I was browsing my G+ account when I saw the 3D illustration of the 3 element tape measure yagi that I made. I was thinking, “Oh great, someone is sharing my website”. Upon a closer look, I saw that it was a link to a different website, QRZnow.com (not to be confused with QRZ.com)
When I clicked on the link, I was amazed to see that my entire article including pictures and video were posted to the site. My entire article was taken word-for-word, grammar mistakes and all and posted on their site. They didn’t even bother to re-upload the images to their servers. They were stealing my bandwidth which I pay for. And to make it even worse, there was no mentions or links to my website other than my images that were marked with NT1K.com. This is strike three in my book.
I’ve seen my work on many other websites before and it never really bothered me because they were going about it the right way for the most part. They didn’t steal my entire article and they placed a link citing the source. If the reader wanted more information, there was incentive to click on the link to the source to receive more information. It’s sort of a win-win for both parties involved. Even though I don’t think it’s exactly fair, they get income and I get more visitors to my site. There are some well known news aggregator websites such as hackaday.com that give snippits of articles/projects with some input from the author. It gives the viewer the option to go to the source and check it out for themselves. It brings attention to the article/project while hackaday makes a little money. However QRZNow.com does not give the reader incentive to go to source website because they took the entire article and/or content. Why would someone click on the link to the source when they already have all the information from the source in front of their eyes.
All my work listed on my page is licensed “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs” . That means I allow others to use my content as long as they give appropriate credit, can’t use it for commercial purposes and they can’t edit/transform the material and redistribute. QRZnow.com has basically broke the license agreement by not giving appropriate credit and they’re using my article for commercial purposes by collecting revenue from advertisements.
Am I the original designer of the tape measure yagi? Nope. A lot (not all) of my articles are from projects that I’ve seen from others. I was interested in the project and documented my experiences with it and if possible, improve on either the design or how it’s presented with up-to-date parts lists and blueprints.
After looking into QRZnow, it became very clear that they are harvesting content by taking content/information from other websites, blogs and social media websites. It appears there is not one thing original in their content and it’s all copy and paste. Even though some articles on QRZnow have a links to the source, There is no incentive for their readers to go to source because QRZnow has completely copied the material giving no reason.
What’s Being Done About It?
I’ve attempted to e-mail the webmaster asking to have my article removed. All I received is a generic “Thank you” message. Nothing else. At that time I didn’t pursued it much further. I also mentioned my issue on an online amateur radio chatroom where it caught the attention of some other hams that took more issue to it than I. After seeing more and more content being shared from QRZnow in the /r/amateurradio subreddit that I’m quite active in and help moderate, , a fellow moderator took it upon himself to make as many people know about what QRZnow.com is doing. He did some research and gathered many examples and created a thread stating what QRZnow.com is doing. It caught the attention of some facebook users and a lot of those on twitter. Since then, other content creators came forward and claimed that QRZnow.com stole their material as well.
Instead of trying to remedy the situation, QRZnow.com decided to cover it up by deleting the articles on their site that were used as examples in the Reddit thread. They’ve also deleted any mention of content theft on their social media streams and even locked down their twitter account so any mentions of theft will not be displayed in their feed. Then they tried to attack the reddit thread by reporting it stating that it was “attacking my site with false accusations”. Since this article was written, they are still taking content from others. I am assuming that they still doing it without permission. Even though it appears they are linking to the source, they are still taking the content in its entirety giving their readers no reason to visit the source.
It shows that they don’t care. That’s what bothers me. They have over 60,000 followers on facebook and is most likely making a good deal of money from advertising on their website. They are profiting from the hard work of fellow hams
I’m not calling for QRZnow,com to be shut down (yet). I just want them to change their ways. Give their readers some incentive to actually go to source so the person who actually did the work can benefit. That can be done easily by not re-posting entire articles. Give a portion of the article and then give a link to the source. If it was done with a “Click-Through” type of platform, both QRZnow.com and the original author would benefit. They would get to advertise and the original author would get more attention. A part of me thinks they will never do that because it involves more work than CTRL-C and CTRL-V. I hope I’m proved wrong.
In most cases, I’ll support any site that is trying to help promote amateur radio. Even more so if the people behind it are not trying to make a profit from it. But if they are stealing the works of others and they are making a profit from it, I think they should not be supported.
Sorry for the rant but I felt this needed to be said.
UPDATE 12/2/2014, PLEASE READ
At this point in time, We’ve heard nothing from the staff at QRZnow.com. However they’ve made changes on their website since this article and the threads on reddit were posted. They have stopped directly taking articles word for word. They now grab low res screenshots of the source and give the reader much more incentive to visit the source. They have also unlocked their twitter account so it’s now public again.
Since we’ve not heard from QRZnow.com, I have no clue if these changes are going to be permanent or if they are going to revert back to what they’re used to doing after everything settles down. There are still rumors that they are taking and posting photos without permission or credit on Facebook and other social media sites they run. Due to the uncertainty of the future, I am leaving the above article up. QRZnow.com appears to be changing their ways but they are not the only site that is guilty of stealing content from other hams for the sake of profit.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “hate” QRZnow.com, I think it could be a really good source of information and a great way to promote other ham radio related websites as well as amateur radio in general. At the same time they get to collect money from their ads (there could be less ads). There is still a ton of room for improvement and hopefully they work at it as long as they don’t steal content and bandwidth from others.
So I am putting my pitchfork away… for now.
It’s been a couple weeks since field day (FD) and I finally got around to writing something about my experience. For the past 4 years I’ve been doing field day with one of the local ham clubs. My first year I was a digital station and then for the past 3 years I’ve been the 40M SSB station in a 5 (or) 6A setup. The HCRA puts on an impressive field day with 50′ portable towers, beams and wire antennas. It’s amazing to see a lot of the area hams come together and work for this one weekend. It’s something that I look forward to doing every year since before I was ever licensed.
In my first year running the 40M SSB station, I treated it like a contest even though it’s not really a contest. After looking back it, I treated some people very poorly because either they weren’t making contacts fast enough, calling long when there was a pileup and other things. Field day is meant to attract people to operating, not scare them away. So for the past couple of years, I made sure that other people got to operate with as little pressure as possible. It’s about having fun and not the rates of contact. The only time I would jump on the air is if there was no operators available and only then would I try to beat any personal goals.
This year was much better and felt that it was one of the best field days I’ve been a part of. Everyone seemed to leave happy and one potential ham had a great time racking up over 100 contacts. He went from being almost afraid and hesitant, to running on a frequency and holding his own.
The Icing on the cake however was making contact with the ISS. During field day Astronaut Gregory Weiseman (KF5LKT) was using the NA1SS callsign making contacts on 2M. The first pass of the ISS was approx 20M into field day. Kiley (K2KHA) managed to make contact with the ISS using the club call but we were informed that the contact didn’t count for as a SAT contact for field day so on the next pass we we’re going to line up and use our own callsigns. I lost track of time and was on the air when the next pass came. I looked up and saw people making contact so I jumped out of my seat and ran over.
Here I am making contact with the ISS.
(Credit to: Matt Williams, W2MDW)
You can see that I am still in field day mode and didn’t understand how Sat/ISS contacts are made but it still counts. We all lined up to make contact before the pass was lost.
After doing some portable operations with the KX3, I felt that having something smaller and lighter would allow my pack to get smaller and smaller. The only problem is that there is nothing smaller than the KX3 that is comparable unless you get a CW only rig. I decided to get the MTR (Mountain Topper Radio) that was developed by Steve Weber (KD1JV). It’s a 2.5-5W QRP CW rig that gives you the options for two bands.
The problem is that the MTR kits are produced and sold in small quantities with high demand. I’ve learned that Steve developed a version 2 of the MTR (3 bands) and had a pre-sale. Even though he gave out the wrong URL, people managed to figure out the correct URL and sold out within hours. I found out a tad too late and ended up having my money refunded.
I was a little bummed out. I was very excited that I might get this kit. I’ve never worked with surface mount devices and the CW only aspect of the rig would sort of force me to actually learn CW. After making my disappointment known, a local ham mentioned that he had an unbuilt kit from the orginal run that he might be willing to sell to me. Making fun of him didn’t help but I think the fact that I might learn CW might have compelled him to sell me his kit.
What did I just do?
Once I got my hands on the kit and took it home I inspected it (what ham doesn’t when they get a new toy?). That’s when I saw the components I’ll be dealing with. Very tiny resistors, capacitors and IC’s. The toroids were tiny and were not wounded. Everything is so… small. I have built ham radio related kits before but they were all through hole meaning that the parts like the resistors and IC’s had legs and pins the fit into the holes. They were large enough to where I can easily work with them.
I am not prepared for surface mount work. My soldering iron is this $10 Radio Shack 35W fixed iron. I knew it was not ideal for SMT as I have tried and failed using that iron. I need to learn how to solder surface mount and I need the proper gear to do it with. I’ve learned over the years that working with the correct tools makes the job much easier.
New Tools In The Shack
I’ve learned the hard way many times over that having the proper tools can make things a lot easier. I feel that I have everything needed for the job except for a soldering iron. I looking at the sub $40 Chinese type irons but I stopped myself from purchasing one. I wanted an iron that can last me for many years so I ended up purchasing a Hakko 888D soldering iron. At around $100 I felt that it was worth the purchase.
The Build. Day One!
Soon as I got the iron in, I went straight to work. Following the assembly guide I started with the IC’s and the MCU. I felt that you are starting with the hardest part of the job by soldering small SMT IC chips with small leads and small gaps. I avoided installing the MCU and DDS chips until the other ICs were installed. Once all the IC’s were installed, I used a jewelers loop and checked my connections. The MCU was crooked a bit and thought it was still good so I kept chugging along. I installed the resistors on the bottom of the board and called it a night.
My working area. You’ll see the board with solder, tweezers, assembly manual, solder, 10X Jewelers loop, desk lamp with magnifying glass and my new soldering iron. When I purchased the soldering iron, I also purchased different sized and shaped tips.
The Build. Day Two
Next day I got back from work and installed everything else. It wasn’t really bad as I thought. The soldering Iron was tight in some places but it appeared everything went quite well.
Here is a close up of my soldering. It could be better but I would say not too bad considering I’ve never done SMT work before.
Power On Time.
I didn’t want to wire up the power, headphones or anything else because I was going to design a case but in order to make sure it worked. I needed to wire it up. Soon as I hooked up the battery… Nothing! It did’t lite up, It didn’t beep. The only thing I notice was a slight noise in the headphones. Sounded like the noise of when you turn something on.
What Went Wrong?
As panic starts to set in, I was worried that I now have a nice new expensive brick on my hands. All that time, energy and money spent on the kit and tools needed seemed be wasted. Out came the jewelers loop and soldering iron. I double checked every connection. Then I took out the multimeter and followed the troubleshooting guide in the manual and started checking voltages coming out of the regulators. Everything was checking out. The only thing I see is that the MCU was a little bit crooked.
I tried re-soldering the MCU but it proved to be very difficult. I used solder wick and suction tools that did not help, the chip would not move for me. For me the only choice was to remove the MCU. But how? After some internet searching I decided to use enameled wire and snake it under the chip where the leads meet the chip. I then touched the soldering iron to the leads and slowly pulled the chip off.
Using that method allowed to me to remove the chip, but in the process I damaged the MCU. The above images is not representative of my soldering work. It was more of a panic move and I just wanted to get the chip off without damaging the pads or board. The pads were in great shape and I’m just lucky nothing else happened.
Dealing With Steve Weber
Well it’s obvious the chip will need to be replaced. There are two options available. Beg steve for a new chip or purchase the MCU and flash it using a MSP Launchpad. I almost went the latter because Steve just released V2 and I am sure he was busy dealing with that and life in general but I decided to e-mail him anyways.
Dealing with Steve was a pleasure. I know these radios is not his full time job but he replied within a reasonable time and he was willing to send out a pre-programmed chip for my version of the MTR. Since I was having him sending me stuff, I purchased a case because the price he was asking was more than fair.
Now that I have the new MCU, I promptly installed it. This time I quadruple check to make sure the chip was aligned properly before soldering. It went much better.
When I applied power I jumped for Joy as I saw the LED come to life and the sounds of CW in my headphone. I did some initial testing and then installed the last toroid.
It’s… ALIVE!!! ALIVE!!!
Now that it turns on, it’s time to make the adjustments needed for proper operation. Thankfully I have Acquired the test gear I needed over the years from mostly local hams looking to clean their shack. I have a decent frequency counter, oscilloscope and a station monitor.
The manual found on the Yahoo Groups page provided step by step installation and tuning. It made things a lot easier.
First thing I did was adjusted the reference oscillator frequency to match exactly 10MHz. This was very easy. Just pushing a button until I see 10Mhz on the counter. There are reference points on the board to where you can easily measure things.
Adjusting the LO to find the center of the passband. This was a little tricky because I didn’t fully understand the manual and process. In the tuning mode the MCU sends out a tone and I adjusted it by watching the signal peaking on my scope while counting the steps between the peaks. I then went backwards only half of the steps. Hopefully it was done correctly. For me, this was the hardest part of tuning.
Here I am adjusting the receivers filters. With the station monitor I injected a signal into the MTR through the antenna port and adjust the band capacitors until the signal was at it’s loudest. I did the same thing on the other band. This was quite easy.
Last thing I did was hooked it up to a dummy load and checked for output wattage. Using a variable power supply and a DMM hooked in-line, I’ve sent out a tuning signal and adjusted the power supply until the DMM read 9Vdc with a TX load. I was seeing approx 2.5W which is within spec.
Time to get one the air
Now that it’s built and tested, It’s time to get on the air and see what I can (not) do.
Heh, it’s smaller than my paddle. What’s great about CW is that you don’t have to call CQ over and over again hoping someone would come back to give you a signal report. Just call CQ a couple times and head over to the Reverse Beacon Network where you can see almost in real time where your signal is being heard. There are receivers all over the world scanning the bands for signals.
Here are my results using just a crappy 9V battery. I am pleased to see that not only are stations hearing my signal, but they are on the frequencies that the MTR is tuned to. While I was testing the worst thing happened… Someone replied. I tried very much to work the person. I know the call was a K2 something but that’s all I could make out.
This was my first actual kit that I built, It’s also the first time that I ever worked with tiny surface mount devices and even though I messed up the MCU, it was really fun to build. Soldering SMD seems to be a nightmare but after the first couple of parts, it felt real easy and it felt that I was working much quicker compared to through hole parts. This project is also a big kick in the ass to learn CW because I want to use this rig. I’m all about packing very lite when it comes to SOTA and even though I love the KX3, I feel it would be more of an adventure using the MTR. We’ll see.
Thanks for reading!
I had some time to myself on Saturday (6/14) which is rare so I decided to play a little radio on top of a mountain/hill. I found that when it comes to doing SOTA that ends up being a last minute effort to get my stuff ready. This time I wanted to do a summit that I have never done before. I decided to go to Peaked Mountain located in Hampden/Monson MA. I notified SOTAwatch and local SOTA/Ham facebook groups that I will be out. I find that letting many people know that you’re going to be activating will increase your chances of a successful activation.
Expecting the unknown for both the hike and summit I over packed which is better than not packing that one item you’ll end up needing. The mountain is closer to my QTH then I originally thought which was great. The hike also wasn’t bad. The trails were (now) clearly marked and was able to make it to the summit in 20min or so. My only concern was the rain.
Welded Sign/Box near the summit
Due to the overcast I didn’t have much time to really enjoy the view. I wanted to get on the air as fast as possible in case it was going to rain. However I have a new G5RV jr that I home brewed to replace the crappy G5RV that I was using. I also took along the vertical end fed (EARCHI) as I’ve never used it for SOTA. I wanted to put both up.
Here you can see the G5RV mounted to the Jack Kite 31′ fiberglass pole. I used an eyebolt that is connected to the center insulator and slid it down the mast. I might place some tape at that spot to keep the eyebolt from wearing out the fiberglass tube. Also pictured is the end fed that is attached to the tip of the pole.
Another photo showing my mini G5RV. I made custom insulators using plexiglass that doubles as winders
Here is a photo showing my old G5RV next to my new one.
Here is a shot of the antenna with both antennas attached.
Setup took less than 10Min with most of my time spent untangling wires.
Getting On The Air
After sending out a spot to SOTAwatch and my local SOTA group I was on the air. However no one is coming back. Usually I get people within minutes coming back to my crys of CQ. After about 10min or so, Jim (KK1W) came back to my crys and made my first contact. Other people started to trickle in. After AJ5C and N4LA I heard a couple DX contacts from Romania and England but was un-able to establish contact
My setup with the KX3, Wouxun for VHF and my 9:1 match for the endfed
I tried switching around bands and antennas to make my contacts. I knew I could make contact with KB1RJC and KB1RJD if I went onto 40M and sure enough they were on and waiting (thank you). They made my 4th and 5th contact.
After making a couple more local contacts, I called it a day. I have 7 contacts so I can consider the summit to be officially activated. The sun started to come out and the skys started to clear up a bit and was able to enjoy the view from the mountain top
Views from the top of Peaked Mountain.
I’d say this was the hardest HF activation I’ve done to date. It was not the hike because that was very nice and easy. It was hard because I am not sure if it was my antennas, location, band conditions or a combination of all three that was making it difficult for communicating. There were also many hikers up on the mountain and I ended having to explain “what that is” many times over which took me away from the radio. Even though I love explaining what my setup is to non-hams, I just wasn’t in the mood but I didn’t want to come off as rude. I love the location and mountain and this location is now on my list of summits to activate next year.
Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K
I’ll be upfront and honest and say that I’m not really a fan of “Emergency Communications” or as the ARRL would like to now call it, “Public Service Communications”. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think that SOME of the people that are involved are using emcomm/skywarn as a way to flex their egos and/or as an outlet to their dreams of being a public safety official such as police, fire or EMT for whatever reason. I don’t want to discourage anyone and there are hams who are really care about their community and help out without getting caught up in the whacker fest. But that’s what’s great about ham radio, there is so many aspects to it that you can dislike an entire aspect but yet still enjoy the hobby overall. Anyways, I’m not hear to harp about emcomm.
Tasting the Skywarn Kool-Aid
I’ve decided to participate in a Skywarn class that was presented by the NWS (National Weather Service) of Taunton MA. I’m not exactly sure exactly why I went. I guess I wanted to see what it was all about and I was able to get out of the house that night so
Like everything else, I arrived to the class early so I got to see who was showing up. I recognized a lot of the people that showed up to the class as local area hams which I was expecting to see. However I also saw a lot of people that I’ve never seen before and I’ve seen a a bunch of new hams which is great to see them being active in parts of the hobby. Hopefully they don’t drink too much of the emcomm kool-aid.
I went to the class expecting that I was going to fall asleep or not be really interested about weather or skywarn because I wasn’t really interested. I was expecting the class to be dull and boring with slides of clouds after clouds with the sleep inducing monotone voice over of the likes of Ben Stein.
However once the class started, I actually became very interested. The hosts were lively and you can see their passion about weather. It wasn’t going to be a snooze fest. I’ve learned quite a bit about weather that applies to more than just skywarn and amateur radio.
A Visit From The Local Media
One person I instantly noticed in attendance was Brain Lapis, the Chief Meteorologist from WWLP TV 22. I’m not sure if he was asked to show or he showed up on his own intuition. Either way it was great to see a local meteorologist in attendance. I gained a little more respect for not only Lapis but for WWLP overall as I didn’t directly notice anyone else from the media there.
I didn’t know but they even did a little story on their newscast about the class
I’m glad I attended. Ham radio reasons aside I’ve learned quite a bit and could apply it to everyday life. When it comes to Amateur Radio and reporting, I was glad to see they weren’t encouraging “storm chasing” and I finally know what information they want compared to what I often hear on the radio during significant weather events.
If you ever plan on reporting to skywarn VIA radio then I would strongly suggest to at least attend a Skywarn class. That way when you make a report, you know it’s a report of information that the NWS actually needs instead of tying up the airwaves with un-wanted information, information that you personally didn’t witness with your own eyes (e.g. Reporting stuff you’ve heard from a police scanner) or the wrong information that could make things worse.
I don’t think I will ever be glued to the radio during weather events but I left the class learning a lot about weather.
If you’re not aware of it by now, the ARRL is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Along with the many things they are doing, they are putting on an ARRL Centennial QSO Party. It’s a year long event where it’s encourage to make contact with as many ARRL members and staff as possible. There are also stations that are allowed the use the W1AW callsign in their state for a week twice during the year. Known as a portable station, it’s possible to obtain worked all states award just by contacting the W1AW/# Stations.
This past week it was Massachusetts, Virginia and Puerto Rico’s turn as W1AW. For Massachusetts, the host was David Robbins (K1TTT) located in Peru MA. K1TTT has what some consider a “Super Contest” station that is designed around contesting. It’s the perfect station to host the W1AW/1 call. Problem is that it’s impossible for Dave to be on multiple bands at the same time for an entire week straight. Dave needed help and asked the local ham community for operators and I jump at the opportunity and put my name on the list. I decided to show up on Friday night (4/12) and stayed until the morning.
I’ve been to K1TTT and operated in contests many times. I was going to treat operating W1AW/1 as how I would do contesting. During pileups I would just make the exchange and work as many stations as possible and during slow times I would be a little more chatty. Soon as I arrived, I was promptly placed on 10m SSB. The band wasn’t really “alive” at the time but I had a constant stream of stations which was really nice. It was a great warm up for prime time operations. Another operator came in and I let him get on 10m SSB and decided to play on 15m SSB where it felt the same. nice steady stream of contacts.
Here Comes The Pileup!
Jim (KK1W) was operating 40M CW and had to return home. I was asked to hop on 40m and do SSB around 7pm EDT (23:00z Friday). I was figuring that it was going to be the same as 10 and 15. I got on, asked if the frequency was clear and starting calling CQ. After the first couple of contacts I was spotted on the cluster. Soon as I was spotted, a huge wave of callsigns which seems like thousands of people were trying to contact me. It was so thick and so loud (20-40+) that I couldn’t even string together two letters of anyone’s suffix to call back “Yankee Bravo station?”. It was the biggest pileup that I ever been on the other side of. I was terrified and excited at the same time. It’s was so much that I wanted to run split but didn’t want to any more bandwidth on a already narrow band. There was pretty much no choice and had to call by numbers. I really didn’t want to but I had to in order to speed things up. So I called 0 through 9 and then asked for QRP stations. As I’ve been a QRP station in a pileup. It’s not fun at all. and figured to give everyone a chance. Even though I was calling by numbers, the pileups were just as bad but tried my best to work everyone as fast as possible. After a few rounds of calling by numbers, I stopped calling by numbers because I understand it can be frustrating waiting for your number to be called. Soon as I said “Anyone Anywhere” the huge rush of calls were just as big and loud as before but I was able to string together some of the callsigns.
Here I am on 15M SSB. I was making that crabby face on purpose as a joke but it doesn’t look so at all .
(photo courtesy of James, WD1S)
High QSO Rates
After ditching calling by numbers and dealing with what seemed to be the never ending pileup for some time, My ears got used to it and now I’m able to pick out callsigns from the sea a little bit easier. Since it’s likely that I’ll never get this many people wanting to make contact with me ever again and that I’m using a station that is pretty much optimized for contesting, I wanted to see what I can really do. Now it’s my time to shine. Haven’t confirmed it yet but I recall seeing between 220-260 QSO per hour rates at times. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t contest that often. I could have gone faster. Since this is a QSO party and not a contest to likes of CQWW, I wanted to at least make some exchanges other than 59 with people. Even though people on the frequency knew I was W1AW/1 in Massachusetts, I made sure to repeat the call and state I was in (since there are 2 other W1AW portable stations on the air) as much as possible. I also made comments about nice signals and nice audio, I exchanged my name and thanked as many people as possible for waiting. Other than calling by numbers, I tried as much as possible to avoid doing the things that annoy me when I am in the pileup trying to contact that wanted station.
After The Storm
Things started to die down. it was getting easier and easier. Then I looked at the clock. It was 2am. I was on 40m SSB for at least 6 hours straight. Time flew by really really fast. Even though I was sore (mostly from work) and my voice was shot, I had a really fun time. That sit down and work stations non stop is thrilling to me and wish I could do that type of operating from my home. I wish I could do it more often without getting trouble at home for doing so. I ended up going to bed around 3am at K1TTT.
Wake and Shake.
I woke up in pain at around 6am. With only a 3 hour nap, I went back to the station to get as many QSOs as possible before I had to return home by noon. I was hoping 20M would be open to europe but wasn’t hearing much on 20, 15 or 10 so I went back on to 40m. I made sure to call QRZ a bunch of times and to make sure the frequency is clear as always. This time I wanted to work DX so I went lower into the band to work those outside of the USA. The pileups weren’t as bad and I was able to work a bunch of Australian and Japanese stations.
Very blurry image of some of the ops that were there. NJ1F, N1RR and WM1K pictured
After an hour of so of operating. I was told to QSY because there is a net starting up on frequency. I informed the net that I’ve been on frequency for the past hour and kept making contacts. Without any care they started jamming me with CW, tuning carriers and running their net right on the same frequency that I’ve been already using. I held back every ounce of energy to start yelling at these people. It’s like they never heard of a VFO knob. They don’t own the frequency and really shows the class that these so called “Experienced” operators showed. These are also the same people that think No-Coders are ruining HF. Since I’m using the W1AW call, I did not want to create any type of issue so I simply turned the station over to a CW operator.
Other than that one incident, things went very well. I was excepting for some operators to give me their entire life story right in the middle of gigantic pileup, or yelling at me because I didn’t call them or their area. But for the most part, everyone played nice and I hope I did as well. I also viewed the cluster and only saw a couple things but oh well. I’ve noticed with ham radio that it’s next to impossible to please every person.
As always I try to walk away with learning something along the way. Since I never operated a beam before and mostly used vertical and wire antennas, I thought pointing the beam 90 degrees would get me into Europe
I honestly thought that this is how it should be. Thanks to a little help from N1RR, I’ve learned that I was WAY wrong.
That’s how I should be looking beam headings. Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to take advantage of that and apply it to my own directional antenna.
I also now truly understand what DXpedition and other rare station operators go through when they are on the air. Seeing the amount of QSOs that these operators can make with the short time on the air is impressive. I busted my chops and didn’t get close to the rates from the ops on these DXpeditions. Maybe… Just maybe if I had a “Big Gun” station and the right location, with think I could get close. A G5RV in the side of a hill isn’t going to cut it.
More photos and results can be found over at K1TTT.net for the entire W1AW/1 MA event
QSO Per Band Breakdown for NT1K
- 80M – 2
- 40M – 652
- 20M – 6
- 15 M – 248
- 10M – 87
- 6M – 4
Total amount of QSO’s : 999 (I couldn’t have made just one more!!!)
Highest QSO Rate: 2014-04-12 0029Z – 17.0 per minute (1 minute(s)), 1020 per hour by NT1K
QSO’s per hour break down for NT1K
Starting 2014-04-11 @ 21:00z
21z – 1
00z – 79
01z – 117
02z – 149 (Contact approx every 20 seconds)
03z – 137
05z – 26
06z – 43
07z – 1
10z – 28
11z – 36
12z – 51
14z – 5
Ending – 2014-04-12 @ 1400Z
Dave (K1TTT) and myself on 6 and 2M during the morning. Lots of CW that I couldn’t do.
Even though I was tired and in pain for most of Saturday, I had fun. It was exciting, I got to operate a nice station, met some nice people and enjoyed my short time there. I wish I could go back and operate as W1AW/1 but I was lucky enough to get out and play during prime time Friday night. There is always W100AW that I can hopefully operate before June. Thanks to all who stood by and to those who worked me on 40M SSB.
– Jeff, NT1K