ARRL Sweepstakes CW – Soap Box

Another weekend, another contest. This time it was the ARRL Sweepstakes for CW. I’ve never participated in SS before so it was going to be interesting. Sweepstakes is a US/Canada contest where it’s known for having a long exchange. It consists of a  serial number, class, callsign, check (licensed year) and ARRL section. For this contest I would have to send “123 U NT1K 99 WMA”. That is much longer than the “599 5” sent in CQWW. The exchange is so long as it simulating sending traffic.

Going to try this without a decoder

I wanted to see how well I can do so I turned off the decoder in the K3 and I avoided any software aids. I entered using the unlimited class expecting that I was going to use the skimmer to at least help me get the callsign correct. After struggling with the first couple of contacts, I had enough and fired up decoder. It would take 5 or six contacts before I decided to throw my call out. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to do any additional work. Sometimes I would wait too long and the operator calling CQ would move on. Once the decoder was running, I would only search for loud stations.

Do not ever trust the skimmer/cluster

Depending on the contest, you can use the skimmer and/or cluster to make contesting a bit easier. It’s basically a network where other operators “spot” the callsigns and frequencies of people they just made contact with. If you are connected, it would alert you where other operators are. If you are configured correctly, you can just click on the callsign, your radio will tune to that station and your logbook is already partially filled out. It’s a great way to increase your score because you will be able to easily find multipliers and hopefully work them.  However there is a couple downsides. It will put you into a different class/category where it might be harder to win and the information going over the cluster might not be accurate.

During SSB contests, the cluster is being fed with information provided by the operator. If he/she didn’t hear the callsign correctly, they could easily spot a wrong callsign. Most times it’s an honest mistake but there are times I’ve seen people purposely throw out false spots to laugh at those who blindly follow the cluster. There are some anti-skimmer/cluster contesters who think it’s cheating.

With CW contesting, it’s a different story. There is now software called “skimmers” that will listen to entire CW sections of bands and decode any CW and post it to the network. This almost takes out the human error factor but as I found out this weekend many times, information on skimmer could be just as bad. Things like signal to noise ratio (SNR), QRM, band changes, overdriven signals and even horrible spacing or sending from the operator can confuse the skimmer into giving a bad spot.

There has been many times this weekend where I would see multiple spots on the same frequency with different but similar callsigns. It just goes to show that you should never believe what you see on the cluster! Confirm the call before contacting because it might be wrong call or a dupe.

This wasn’t a serious effort.

I barely know CW and there is no way I can predict the exchange. I guess that’s why some really like this contest. It’s difficult for the new CW operator.
At first I wanted to see what I can do without using the cluster. For every one contact I made, I had to listen to 6 contacts before I know the call and exchange they used. After about a couple contacts, I abandoned using my ear and fired up the decoding software.

I thought I would be relying on the skimmer for the contest but I’ve barely used it. You can’t tell you are working a multiplier until you hear the exchange being sent. What I ended up doing was turning off the skimmer/spotter and clearing out the band map. I would just spin the dial around until I heard a loud CQ. There was so many people on the air that I didn’t have to spin it much. If they acknowledge someone else or I caught it in mid-exchange, I would note the callsign down on my bandmap. If they are a multiplier or a State I needed for Triple play, I would wait. Otherwise I would move on and later go back.
I just spinning until I hear “Dah dit dah dit, dah dah dit dah  (CQ) or “dit dit dit, dit dit dit” (SS) or “Dah, dit dit dah” (TU).

Improvements from other CW contests

I have been practicing code more and more and I must say it showed. I didn’t have to depend on the decoder as much but I would like to do a contest where I didn’t have load it up. I would like to run for change.

Claimed score


Claiming 14,616 points. I wish I committed more time. I wanted to do a clean sweep and work multiple needed states for triple play.

It was a great time, the K3 and the serial keying worked without issue and now I can’t wait for CQWW CW contest.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K


BAC Contest – SoapBox

This past weekend was The Gentleman’s Radio Society’s  BAC contest.
BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Content. This contest was centered around drinking and points are awarded if you are drinking a beverage that contains Alcohol. What makes this contest truly unique is that you can work the same operators again if you switched styles of drink (from beer to vodka for example). This contest takes place the week after CQWW and I consider it to be a fun and enjoyable contest.

Some of the members of The Gentleman’s Radio Society went up to contest station K1TTT to operate during the event as WA1J. I figured it would be fun to give it a try. Got myself some beers, went up to the shack thinking I was just going to contact WA1J but I ended up running on 20m.

I didn’t operate hardcore contest style. I was giving out honest reports, getting peoples names and even chatting it up a bit. I am not a fan of ragchewing but this contest was the perfect excuse to keep people moving along. Most of the contacts were unaware of the contest and they chuckled when told about it. I got a lot of “That’s my type of contest” from operators.

It was an interesting contest and hopefully it gains popularity.

My score ended up being… Not sure? I am not even sure how many contacts I’ve made.  I want to say around 50 or so. It doesn’t matter because it was a fun time talking with those around the US.

Maybe you will be on the air next year?

Thanks for reading,


CQWW SSB 2015 Extended SoapBox

CQ World Wide Contest for SSB was just this past weekend. For those who are unaware, it’s basically the largest Phone contest of the year and it’s the un-official kickoff to the contest season. Now that I have a beam, I wanted to play and put an honest effort in making as many contacts as possible. I want to put in a serious effort and help my local contesting club but the real motive is to get all time new DX contacts and increase my DXCC per band counts.

Getting Ready

If you want to do well with any contest, preparation is important. You want to make sure your station and antennas are in working order, you want to make sure all your software is working and up to date and you want to have a good idea of what band to be on and when throughout the contest.

In the weeks prior my CL-33 has not been behaving and I was seeing 7.0SWR across 10, 15, and 20. I am thinking water got into something because it happened right after a bad rain storm. I wanted to get on the roof to clean and reseal all the connections but now there is some mental block about getting on my own roof. Thankfully the SWR returned back to around 1.0 the week of the contest.

Thinking the beam was toast, I revisited my Butternut HF9V that I’ve basically never used. I switched between that and the G5RV using the heathkit SA-2060 tuner I had.  I never liked the butternut as the G5RV seemed to out perform it almost every time. I tried adding more radials during the summer and even tried re-tuning without much difference. I’ve been planning to add Inverted V antennas for 80 and 40, I purchase a used B&W Coaxial 5 position switch to replace the 2 position switch that was switching my beam or the tuner. I took the butternut off the SA-2060 and fed it directly to the new switch. There was a major difference to where the Butternut was just as good, if not better than the G5RV.

For this contest I will be using the CL-33, Butternut Vertical and my G5RV dipole.

A couple days before the contest I went to VOACAP to get an idea of what band to be on and when. Since I now have a directional antenna, I have to also think about when and where I need to point it in order to utilize my rates.

Running as SOAB (A) HP

I decided to run SOAB (A) HP which means Single Operator, All band, (A)ssisted, High Power.  Depending on the contest, you have a choice which class you want to enter. Sometimes it’s wise to pick a class that the big guns won’t use or one that no one uses. I know for a fact that I won’t win ANY of the classes that I would try out for. Even though I think I have a great station, in this contest it’s menial compared to others in the area. I cared more about DX contacts than points so I wanted to use the amplifier and make use of the spotting network to assist me in making contacts.

Let the games begin!

Contest starts at 00:00z which is 8pm ET. I was able to help out my local club with a VE session and had enough time to get on when the contest starts. I didn’t follow my own advice and my station was not setup for contesting. I had to find and plug in the headset and configure N1MM+ for the new contest. I ended up starting late.

Problems right out of the gate

Soon as I transmitted on 20m, bye bye N1MM. RF is getting into my computer and it was nasty. Things were typing itself and my computer was making restart attempts. I immediately suspected the keyboard. I unplugged the keyboard and sure enough my computer RFI went away. My expensive (to me) DAS mechanical keyboard is not ham radio friendly. I plugged in my backup keyboard and sure enough, windows decided to take forever to install the driver. I ended up using a PS/2 keyboard and had to restart the computer.  I ended up starting almost an hour late. This is why you should prepare your station before the contest.

Things are getting better

Once my computer issues were fixed, I was back on the air.  10m was closed for me and 20 and 15m were meh. 40 meters seemed to have all the action so I was fighting the contest with the G5RV and vert. Not a good way to start but at least I am making contacts.


Here is a view of 40m about 2 hours into the contest. I have my SDR taping the IF stage of the K3 and I use it as a pan adapter. It gives me an idea of what the band is like. I can cycle through the bands and stop on the most active one for contacts.

I made as many contacts on 40m as possible. I decided to give 80m a try and wasn’t able to make many contacts. I can hear a lot of stations but even with 500w, they couldn’t hear me. I ended up giving up the fight and went to be around 1am ET (5z).

I ended the night with about 50,000pts.  I was sort of bummed out about it and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to break my 300k I made in 2011 before I lost power due to a really bad snow storm.

A New Day

After waking up, getting some much needed food and coffee in the system, I went back to station and thankfully the bands were open. I spent the morning working as many mults and double mults as possible and then circled the bands for contacts. I was depending more on the cluster but as time went on, I started to use the dial.


15 meters seem to be the place for me. I spent a good part of my day on 15 spinning to SA and EU and sometimes out West/North.

Night Time Asia

Up until now, I had a very hard time working ASIA. I almost NEVER hear anything in Asia. I would be lucky to hear Japan every once in awhile but this night was different. Not only did I make Japan contacts, I also made contact with China, Singapore, Asiatic Russia and even heard South Korea.  I was a very happy ham radio operator.

Things are looking better!

Even though I walked away to spend some time playing with the kids and doing some work around the house, I crushed my 2011 record. I was now in “contest mode” where that was all I thinking about. Once I started struggling on 40m, I went to bed hoping conditions will stay the same for sunday.

I went to bed with 700,000pts. I now had dreams of making my first ever 1,000,000pts from home.

10 Meters was alive and business was a booming

I missed grayline but after my Sunday Morning coffee and Bagel, I went back on the air to find 10, 15 and 20 booming with activity. 40m was booming but I was hearing mostly the big guns working people that I couldn’t even hear. After clearing out any possible mults I went to work at my rate. I was clicking and spinning as fast as I can. If I couldn’t establish contact in two tries, I moved on unless it was a multiplier or much needed DXCC entity.  Western Sahara (S0S) took a good hour to break.


10 meter was just amazing. People were complaining about 10m band conditions a week prior but by looking at the above spectrum, 700Khz were packed with stations. I spent a good part of my day on 10 and 15.

15m open to Japan

Towards the end of the contest, 15 meters opened up to Japan. When everyone was on 40, I was still on 15 working as many Japan Stations as possible. My rates suffered but I was having to much fun working areas I never worked before. I’ve exceeded my goals so now it’s just working mults and needed DX.

I will say that the K3 with the 1.8KHz filter worked like a charm. However the best option for the K3 was the Digital Voice Keyer. I control the DVK using CAT commands through N1MM and it made contesting much easier. I can still talk after the contest!

The fun must come to an end.

I went back to 40m for the last 5min of the contest and watched my pan adapter to see the entire spectrum that was alive with signals fade out to just a few. I am sure the ragchewers and net participants jumped for joy but I was also jumping with joy. It’s done. I can return to life.

Claimed Scores


I ended up with over 1.25 million points. I wanted to stop at 1 million but when I reached it, I had around 890 contacts and I started concentrating at making at least 1,000 contacts. Too bad I wasn’t focusing on countries worked because I would have pushed harder to get 3 or 4 band DXCC instead of putting around towards the end.

It felt great. I’ve broke many personal records and now I’ve set the bar high when it comes to future contests. I also felt like I am finally helping out the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) in which I was logging for. I often feel intimidated by the YCCC members due to the massive score submissions and their station. Even though every point counts, 50k or even 100k appears to be small potatoes to them. I know I can run with the best of them on phone, but I don’t have station to prove it. This year was an improvement for sure.

Lessons learned

No matter what I do, I try to walk away with learning something. Even though I participated in many contests, I am still learning and being reminded about things I forgot about or don’t care about.  I need to work on antennas for 80, 40 and maybe even 160 meter. The solar cycle is not going to improve and if I want to maintain 1 million points, I need improve my antenna situation.

Due to my property size, I am looking at some options. I think I could get away with a double L antenna for 80/160. However I feel I might end up with inverted V dipoles. I also need to complete my 300′ receive beverage antenna that is looking at Europe. I may even upgrade to a reverse-able beverage so I can hear SA better as well.

I was reminded to make sure my station is in COMPLETE working order. CQ World Wide CW is a month away and I need to make sure my homebrew winkeyer can do the job. I

Overall thoughts

It was fun and thanks for reading my Soapbox. Scores have been submitted to CQ and YCCC and logs have been uploaded to LoTW and Clublog. Now I  get to see what LoTW confirmations come through. So far two new DXCC contacts and a ton of band confirmations. Well worth getting on the air.

  • Jeff (NT1K)

Op-Ed: My Open Letter To The FCC

Dear FCC,

Due to recent changes with vanity callsigns fees, There will be an increase of applications for cancelled 1X2 and 2X1 callsigns (N1ZZ NZ1Z for example) and other vanities now that it’s free to apply. It’s already difficult to obtain the short 1X2 or 2X1 callsigns. With the recent changes, it will make it much harder. Currently any licensed amateur with the appropriate class can apply for these short callsigns no matter what district they are located in. If multiple applications are submitted for a recently available call, the application is put in competition with the others and an application is chosen at random to receive the call. I would like to suggest that if there is a competition for a callsign, those who applied in the same district as the requested call have preference over those who are applying that reside outside the district.

For example a 1×2 or 2×1 callsign that has a number 1 in call becomes available and multiple people apply for it. Currently someone located within the 6th district can apply and possibly obtain the call while someone who is located in the 1st district can lose out. I feel that it should be assigned to someone within the district since they are currently living within it. If there were no applications in competition from anyone within the district as the callsign became available, then it should be up for grabs by anyone regardless of district.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Bail – NT1K

Before I got NT1K, I applied for a couple 1X2 callsigns that are in my District, I also have fellow operators doing the same thing. However most applications are awarded to those outside of district. It was upsetting to find out that I lost out on a callsign to someone located in a different call area. It’s also upsetting to lose out on a callsign that was awarded to someone who already has a short callsign. It’s even more upsetting when they have a short callsign and live in different district. I’m just asking that those located within the call area or district have preference if there is competing applications.  If no one within the district applied than it go to whomever applies first.

This is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,


My Yaesu FT-840 “Project”

After the K3, I had no real intentions of obtaining another HF rig. But when a deal comes by, I couldn’t resist jumping on it. There was an SK estate sale that I found out through another ham. However the estate was not located near by so everything had to be shipped. Among the items, the Yaesu FT-840 stuck out at me as the perfect HF for someone who is getting involved in the hobby. The guy was asking for reasonable offers. I didn’t want some commercial seller to swipe it. Since I had no need for the radio, I put in a low bid and sure enough it was accepted.

The horrors of buying before trying

Since the price was so tempting, I made a foolish mistake of buying the radio without seeing a picture of the radio, without asking questions and placing my trust in people I don’t know. I’ve done this a couple times in the past and thankfully I never had a problem. This time wasn’t the case.

When I received the radio, it didn’t look good. Knobs were bent and there was a giant dent in the corner. The dented corner had some very shiny metal expose with no rust/oxidation. However the box it was shipped in was in excellent condition. It led me to believe that the radio was dropped just prior to shipment. There was also a missing part. I’ve contacted the middle man explaining what happened and that’s when I’ve learned that other shipments from the estate were just as bad, if not worse than my radio. According to the middle man, the handler of the estate didn’t seem to care and that I would have to take it up with the shipper’s insurance company. I wasn’t even close to being happy with the situation.


Mic Gain / PWR adjustment pots after some attempt at strightening. Still rubbed and was bent so I had to strip it to the chassis

I’ve learned from this though. I will never jump on anything until I am certain that I am getting what exactly I want. Even if the deal seems too good to be true, It’s better to pass up the unknown rather than getting stuck with an expensive brick. I guess I am keeping the radio

Fixing the unknown

Soon as I started tearing into the FT-840, It started to look promising. The front panel chassis was bent and thought I can strip it down and straighten everything out. I was able to do just that. While I was in there, I cleaned everything I could and replaced the internal battery. When I thought I was finished, everything went back together nicely and now all the knobs move smoothly. the VFO wasn’t sticking and it looked much better than when it came in. I thought I was done. But once again, I was wrong.

Who needs ALC?

While checking power output, I found that when I went the SSB modes, the ALC meter was showing  either almost nothing or full scale with only a minor adjustment to the pot. I thought something was wrong with the mic at first but it turned out to be okay. Once again I contacted the middle man and was informed that the seller was aware of the issue but didn’t think anything of it. So now on SSB, I will either be barely heard or my signal will be overdriven. It made me more angry knowing that seller was aware.

I ended up tracing it to the pot that controlled the mic gain being faulty. It was also the same pot / knob that was damaged during shipping. With a DMM I checked the resistance while adjusting the pot. There wasn’t a consistent change throughout the adjustment. The service manuals were online and I was able to find the part numbers of the pot

 The hunt for the dual pot

Pulling the number from the pot itself found many hits online. However the part sources didn’t have any in stock and were not planning to put them in stock unless there was a 10,000pc minimum order. I thought I was out of luck and called Yaesu USA in California and contacted their parts dept as a last resort. Sure enough they had them in stock. They had the pots and they had the sub assembly.  I must say that it was wonderful dealing with Yaesu. The parts were here in just a couple days.

It’s FIXED!!! YESSSS! Or so I thought.

The pot was easy to replace and I thought the radio was finally fixed. I turned on the radio and I am now able to adjust the mic gain to where I am no longer over driving the ALC while outputting the proper wattage. I was happy! Until I heard it.

What’s going on now? 

While playing around with the radio I noticed something weird. I would tune into a conversation and while I was listening, I would notice the conversation start to move around and sound off frequency. OH WHAT NOW!!! Now I am back to being angry. Thinking something was up with the oscillator, I left the radio on and took a walk with the family. Upon return I notice the drifting was no longer happening, That led me to believe that the changes in temperature both in the air and in the case caused the drifting to happen. It would drift up to 400hz. The new operator in me never had a radio without some kind of controlled LO so I never had to deal with drift.


Put a jacket on that LO!

Why should I care about a slight drift? Well if you are into digital modes. If you are into low noise modes like JT65 and WSPR, having a stable LO would be beneficial. There is an TCXO or Temperature controlled oscillator that would help keep drift at bay but it’s not easy to get due to the age of the radio. There are not many 10.48576Mhz TCXOs out there either. So the next best thing is to insulate the LO to keep it from changing temperature drastically. I’ve do stuff similar to icom rigs using cotton balls. It appears FT-840 owners used styrofoam. I guess I will follow suite and make a nice little foam block to protect the sensitive LO.

I took a nice little block of foam, placed it on top of the reference LO and press down a little bit. I would remove the box and hollow out the impression. I kept doing that until the block sat flushed with the PC board. The crystal and trimmer is now shielded from quick changes in temperature. I’ve also adjusted the reference trimmer using WWV to make sure it was close to being on frequency as possible.


Much improvement

The LO insulator is doing it’s job quite well. The radio doesn’t noticeably drift around anymore. Been able to make many contacts with it. Too bad I didn’t have a soundcard interface because I would like to try out WSPR to see what I was getting back from those who could hear.


I think it’s safe to say that the FT-840 is now back in working order. However I may not hang on to it long enough to enjoy it. But I sort of grown attached to it now.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)

SOTA Activation Report: Bare Mountain, Amherst MA (W1/CR-014)

The KX3 isn’t getting much use as I would like. So far I only used it one other time this year while camping in Vermont. I need to get out more so I took advantage of mild day and decided to go out and activate a local mountain. I decided on Bare Mountain located on the Amherst, South Hadley and Granby border here in Western Mass.


Mt Holyoke Range State park had two SOTA summits on the property. I’ve chosen Bare over Mt. Norwottuck because it’s a faster hike even though it’s more rocky. It allowed me to get up the mountain with time to spare to setup the antennas

Bare mountain is approx 1018ft (309m) height in elevation

The Hike

Since I haven’t done any hiking in a long time, the hike up was not great. I was huffing and puffing. The last time I did Bare Mountain, it was covered with snow and ice. I can tell I am out of shape because I felt I hiked up much faster in the wintertime even with the trying to navigate through ice. I really need to get out. I managed to make the


View of the CT river from my operating position.


APRS Track of my activation. I used the Internet Gateway along with my phone to let people know I am at least moving around.

Getting on the air.

Soon as stopped huffing and puffing, I was up and running within a few minutes. I currently use an Elecraft KX3 with the internal Antenna Match, internal batteries and for the antenna I use a G5RV jr supported by a 31ft fiberglass pole. The antenna is setup in an invert V configurations. I secured the ends of the antennas to near-by trees using bungee cords.  The mast was also secured to a smaller tree with elastic cord as well. It allows for a quick setup and everything breaks down to fit into my pack with the exception of the mast that I use as a walking stick.


Once the stations was setup, I found what I thought was a clear frequency and posted it up on SOTAwatch. Sure enough, soon as I sent the spot, someone came on frequency. My QRP signal was not going to compete with a DX station constantly going “Ooooola, OOooooooola”. After a couple more frequencies, I found a nice spot and went on the air.

Here is a video I made of my SOTA experiance.

Contacts Made

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
23:48 14.307 K4MF 59 56 FL
23:49 14.307 KC5CW 59 57.TX
23:50 14.307 NG6R 59 43 CA
23:50 14.307 K1MAZ 59 59 MA
23:50 14.307 KK1W 59 59 MA
23:51 14.307 KK4ASA 59 59 MA
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:55 7.198 KF7MQZ 59 59 NY
23:57 7.198 K2JB 59 59 NC
23:57 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA

Since it’s 0:00z, it’s considered a new day so people get to work me again for an additonal point. However I won’t get credit for it since technically I already activated it the day before even though it was only a couple of minutes.

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
00:01 7.198 KK1W 59 55 MA
00:01 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA
00:02 7.198 K2JB 57 59 NC
00:02 7.198 K1MAZ 55 55 MA
00:03 14.307 KC5CW 59 44 TX
00:04 14.307 K4MF 59 57 FL
00:04 14.307 NG6R 59 32 CA
00:05 14.307 KG5EIU 57 33 TX
00:10 146.520 N1FTP 59 58 MA
00:11 146.520 N1TA 59 59 MA
00:15 146.520 N1IVT 59 59 MA
00:16 146.520 N1FDC 59 59 MA

Not too bad. This was all using AA’s in the KX3 so the power was around 5W. I started getting battery low alarms towards the end of my activation. I’ve since “blew up” my lipo pack so if I keep doing activations, I will get my hands on a battery pack so I can run up to a whopping 12 watts.

Hike Down


View of Hadley, Amherst and UMASS from the summit

There was twilight on top of the summit made me think I can navigate down the mountain before it gets too dark. I was very wrong due to the thick amount of trees that blocked out any possible light. I was almost pitch black with the exception of the street lights at the base of the mountain. However I knew this was possible and packed flashlights and headlamps that made the hike enjoyable. I also used my cheapie HT to talk to locals on the repeater that made the hike feel much faster.

Overall thoughts

I always to learn from anything I do. I’ve learned that I need to get out more (doi!) but I also see the importance of a “Go Bag”. I often don’t plan my SOTA adventures until the last second. Because of other vacations and other portable operations, all my gear was spread around in different places. I’m going to purchase a dedicated pack just for summits on the air. I’m not going to make the typical whacker go-box. I like to pack minimal so it will be just what I need to get on the air. I don’t need the kitchen sink. Funny thing is that I tend to make more QSO’s with the less gear I bring. However self spotting on SOTAwatch does make things a lot easier. I still want to try a SOTA activation without advertising it. I had an excellent time like usual.

Thanks for reading. Hope you like the youtube video.

– Jeff NT1K

This blog/website is 5 years old. Some changes will be made.

This week marks the 5th anniversary of my website. I’ve created this website when I upgraded my license to general as a way to show others my adventures in amateur radio from there. Anything that I’ve done that was worth sharing was put onto this site. That way if anyone asked or I started to brag, I can point them to my website for a more detailed explanation. If others happened to stumble upon it then I  considered it an added bonus.

According to my stats, I’ve received over 300,000 views. Not bad considering it’s a personal amateur radio related blog. However I also did some number crunching. I’ve spent quite a bit of money as well as a ton of time working on this website and it’s content. It was a wake up call that I am spending money on this with no benefit other than possibly helping out other hams. I don’t mind putting in the time but I would like to avoid any more out of pocket costs. There are ways to offset my spending. Don’t worry, I am not going to annoy you with kickstarter or gofundme campaigns nor will I beg for donations. But I have to do something.

There will be advertisements 

I have enabled advertisements on certain youtube videos to get an idea of how things would work. My videos are nothing special and really don’t get many views, I use them to mostly compliment articles on my website. So as expected, I am not seeing any income. Do I care? A little. Otherwise I wouldn’t really be mentioning it. I’ve decided to give advertising a try here on the site since it generates way more traffic. Unless you have adblock installed, you can take a look on the right side of the screen and you will see an advertisement. You will also see one at the end of every post. I am trying to make it as less intrusive as possible but yet still be visible. Even though I resorted to using banner ads, I won’t stoop lower by trying to trick you, split articles onto multiple pages or have annoying pop-ups. If you would like to support this site, all you would need to do is just enjoy and come back. If you are running some form of ad blocking program, consider adding this site to your white list.

The goal is to offset the costs. Not to profit but If I do, I am not going to complain.  It may make me work harder on the site.

Other Changes 

The website needs some slight changes. I’ve made a mistake with wordpress when I created and now I downloaded a theme and modified it to the point where trying apply updates would have made things worse. I should have made a child theme of a popular theme but I was very new to wordpress at the time. This site is no longer mobile friendly and since more and more people are using their phones and tablets, I think it’s time for a change to be more mobile friendly. You will see layout changes in the near future.

Thank You

So far it’s been a fun 5 years in the HF game. I thought I would never participate in the hobby again but upgrading to general and getting HF has changed me. I’ve accomplished so many things, met so many people and had a lot of good times. It’s also great to see people benefit from my articles even though they articles are nothing special. I haven’t re-invented the wheel or found some technological break-thru. A lot of what I write is already all over the web but they are mixed with my opinions. So I am grateful to those who visit and more so to those who follow me on here and other social media platforms such as twitter.  Thanks!

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff (NT1K)

My Amateur Radio Bucket List. What’s Yours?

I’ve been interested in radio/rf every since I laid my eyes on a radio shack catalog when I was a kid. I’ve just always had this attraction to it.
25 years later, I am still into it. I’ve been licensed since 2001 and I’ve upgraded in 2009 and 2011. For some of you, that’s not a long time but I feel it is… for now.
I have accomplished many goals I’ve set in amateur radio. Got my license, got my extra, made DX contacts,  got my VE creds, taught a class, held my own exams, operated at W1AW, operated a large multi-multi contest station, ISS contact and many other things, but there is still so much to do. That’s what’s great about amateur radio. There is just so many possible things you can do within the hobby that it could possibly take a lifetime to achieve. Even though some hams lost their marbles, I think ham radio will keep your mind sharp as long as you put the effort into learning and keep an open mind.

I still have a list of things I would like to do in Amateur Radio. Here they are in order of most importance.

  • Learn Morse Code – Ever since I upgraded, I wanted to learn Morse Code. Even though I am a “Dittless wonder” according to some, I understand the importance of CW. I do a lot more with CW than phone. It would especially help out in multimode contest where CW contacts are worth more points. But knowing that my CW signal will travel farther than my phone signal is why I really want to learn. This is extremely important to where I am spending more time learning CW than being on the air at this moment in time.
  • Phone EME contact – I’ve always wanted to bounce a signal off the moon. It would be much better if I can bounce my voice off the moon and get a reply. I have really never dabbled in the VHF/UHF spectrum other than hopping on a repeater here and there and participating in a VHF contest or two. There is a chance where this is possible since there is an array close by.
  • Win a major contest – I’ve always wanted to win a major contest. Sure that is easily said than done but it would be great to get a plaque from participating in a major contest. However I doubt it would be from my home. Maybe I can sweet talk a near-by big gun station for just one contest. I would like to win it solo under my callsign.  However learning CW and being able to contest with it is key.  This is reserved for later in life.
  • Build an SSB transceiver – Even though some harp on the AM’er on 80m, I am amazed that a lot of them are talking on homebrew equipment with studio sounding quality to their signal. That is some talent considering we’re now living in a consumer age where everything is software based and on proprietary IC chips that fit on the surface area of a postage stamp. I would like to build my own rig from scratch. I don’t care if it’s someone elses plans, I just want to build my own rig. I want to know what exactly every component is doing and why it’s there.  If I were to start now, the MiniMA radio would be perfect.
  • DXpedition – Also reserved for later in life. I would love to take my equipment and run off to an island or a semi rare spot to do an DXpedition. Be on the other side of a major pileup for a change. So far the biggest pileup I’ve ever had was for W1AW/1 (MA) and I had an absolute blast doing it. I would love to be part of a team but I just don’t have the time or money to make it happen.
  • Aeronautical mobile on HF – I would love to be able to do HF from an airplane high up in the sky just once. That is very difficult but I just wonder what the traffic would be like on the frequency. How packed would it be? I do have an option to try it on VHF so I will try to take advantage of it.

That’s about it really. I am sure many other things will come up as technology improves and my interests change. DXCC honor roll and other awards should be up there but at this point in time, they don’t really seem important to me. After getting DXCC basic, chasing paper sort of went downhill.

Thanks for reading. What is on your bucket list?

–  Jeff NT1K

IARU HF 2015 Contest: Soapbox

Even though Field Day was a few weeks ago, I am still “exhausted” from it. There is really not much motivation for me to get on the air after. Usually my station is still in pieces but for some reason I wanted to particiate in the IARU HF contest. Ealier in the week I manged to get my station back together and chased stations on the cluster to make sure I was back where I was before Field Day.

I am currently trying to put an honest effort into learning CW which will be another article. I wanted to use the IARU contest to see how well I can contest with my limited CW knowledge. It’s a perfect contest for those who are trying to learn CW for the purpose of contesting. Other than the HQ stations, the exchanges are short and somewhat simple, the logging software (N1MM+) already gives you an idea of the exchange is going to be. All you have to do is listen.

I was looking forward to the contest all week but the weather in my area was very excellent. I couldn’t resist going outside and playing with the family so the contest became an afterthought. I would go on here and there when I got tired from doing work outside in the sun.

Getting on the Air

Even with the amp and beam, there is still no way I was going to “run” or call CQ and hold a frequency. The 20 meter band seemed really packed so it was the band of choice for me during the contest. Nice propagation to Europe so I took advantage of it. Since I was doing this very casual, I depended on the use of the cluster to find stations/mults. I didn’t really spin the dial. Even thought it puts me into a different category, I didn’t mind.

Where’s the cold?

Weather is warming up here in New England and it was predicted to be around 90F degrees today. I decided that having the central air would be a nice. However a few hours into the running the AC, I noticed the air coming out of the vents were warm. Uh ohhhhhh. Contest was now put on hold. After doing some troubleshooting, I narrowed it down to the AC condensor/compressor. Soon as I removed the panel, I saw this.

2015-07-12 10.22.51

The capacitor that helps run the fan and compressor decided to go out in a blaze of glory.  Thankfully it was easy to spot… Oh well. Opened the windows and took out the fans. I consider AC to be a luxury, even though I love it, I can deal without.

Not much contesting

With the nice day and the AC kicking the bucket (for now), I didn’t get much air time. CW was slow for me because I listening to the operator make exchanges with other operators to make sure I have it correct before sending out my call. I hope to improve on that.


It appears I made a 127 contacts and got a score of 24.5K.  Nothing to be proud of but it’s better than nothing and I will most likely get a bunch of LoTW confirmations on CW which I badly need.

It was fun, can’t wait for CQWW now that I have some aluminum in the air.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K

K3 and Beam: 6 months update

At the end of 2014 two major upgrades took place in my shack. First was a new Elecraft K3 to replace the Yaesu FT-950. The reason I got the K3 was because I wanted a new radio that was easier to use and had better filtering/options. The other major upgrade was that I’ve added a 3 element tri-band yagi to my antenna farm. This is my first ever HF directional antenna.

I decided on the major upgrade because Amateur Radio is basically the only hobby that I’m active in. I’ve felt that I got the most out of my radio and especially my G5RV. There was no more enthusiasm to get on the air anymore. I never went a week without turning on the radio but I noticed I was slipping away from getting on the air. Nothing was exciting me other than a contest here and there and field day.

K3 6 Months In


I made a joke when I purchased the K3 that Elecraft will release the K4 not far after I purchased my K3. The reason I made this joke is that Kenwood came out with the TS-590S soon after I purchased my FT-950 and I knew the TS-590s was a better radio for the price. Sure enough a couple months after I purchased the K3, they release a new synth board that makes the K3 better and is now standard on the K3. Then in May, elecraft releases the K3S which is even better. Another punch to gut. I wasn’t really happy to be honest.


Compared to the FT-950, I am having a much better time with the K3. There is some things I missed about the FT-950 but with what the K3 has to offer, it made me not look back. The K3 is much easier to use. I can easily adjust power, DSP settings, filtering and even have the radio perform a custom set of functions with just a push of a button. With my two “Custom” buttons I am able to cycle through different TX EQ profiles and easily switch between my headset and my front panel mic.

I also want to believe that the narrower filters I’ve installed made NEQP more enjoyable. I was able to test the difference between the 2.7Khz filter and the 1.8Khz filter with a packed 40m band and there is a difference. During the QSO party I took the 1.8Khz out (through software) and did some comparisons using the 2.7Khz filter at 1.8Khz. To the ear there was some differences, Adjacent signals on the 1.8Khz were not as pronounced as the the 2.7Khz turned down.

So even though there is the new K3S, my K3 was still worth the purchase. I just wish it felt and looked better to use but it doesn’t matter during a major contest when you need a radio that will not only work but it will work well.

3 Element Yagi 6 Months In

Up until I installed the beam, I never really used directional antennas.  The only time I ever used directional antennas were at K1TTT and W1AW. Those stations are pretty much optimized and there is no way I could compare to my home setup. So for the past 5 years I’ve been active on HF, all my contacts from home were using a G5RV or G5RV jr.

I was used to the wire antennas and basically told myself  “that’s it!”. I thought it would be only antenna I will ever use. It has served me well but I knew I could do better. But what are my options considering I live in a semi urban area with a 150ft steep hill directly behind my house? Of course I wanted 70ft+ tower with at least a tri-bander (20/15/10m) stacked on top of a 40m Beam but that wasn’t going to happen. The wife wanted no guy wires and the cost of red tape,  pouring a base, tower and other stuff exceeded what I can really afford. I thought it was out of the question but someone suggested a roof tower and it seemed to be the only logical choice. I have a very tall house which would put the antenna at least 40ft up in the air. Thankfully someone local was moving and wanted to get rid of his roof tower and antenna. I ended up with a 4.5ft tower and a Mosley CL-33 (Classic 33).


Why didn’t I get a beam sooner?

There was an instant major difference. I was able to play in the ARRL 10m contest that year and did quite well. I never really liked 10m because it was never open to me. Now that I have an antenna for 10m, it proved to be an enjoyable band. On 20m and 15m, this antenna is excellent. Of couse it’s better than my G5RV but having the beam really opened things up. It’s easier to navigate pileups and I have increased the amount of DX contacts I am making drastically. Contesting is much easier and even rag chewing is easier. I mostly rag chew with newer ops and most of them are on wires like I was and being able to do some of the heavy lifting on my end has made contacting newer ops much better.

Overall thoughts

Should you drink the Elecraft Kool-Aid? That depends. As much I joke around, I wouldn’t suggest the K3(S) to a casual operator. I wouldn’t suggest it to the guy who doesn’t contest and just gets on the air every once in awhile to make an occasional DX contact or rag chew. The Kenwood TS-590SG is a really excellent radio packed full of options for considerably less. The money you would save could be put into your antenna which is just as import, if not more important than the radio.

But if you’re into contesting, I would suggest the K3(S).

With the antenna, I’ve always suggested to people to just get (or make) an antenna that could get you on the air. But that has since changed. I would strongly suggest a beam but I know not everyone can have one. Just make due with what you can do.

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff