Another year, another contact! Updates at NT1K.

Yes, I am still here. Just not as active compared to 2011. Maybe it’s the solar cycle, maybe it’s complacency, maybe it’s that I have other things going on or maybe it’s a combination of the three. I wish I could blame it on the COVID-19 situation but my involvement declined well before it happened.

Many things happened since my last post so I figured I would give anyone who actually follows this blog a bit of an update. There will be separate blog posts of things that I feel I need to go into details over. Here are the updates.

New Radio!

That’s right, I sold off my K3 and purchased a new radio… 2 years ago! Even though I loved my K3, it had to go. There was some things I didn’t like about the K3 and elecraft in general. I purchased my K3 at a weird time.

Even though I was purchasing a brand new radio, I felt like I purchased something that was already outdated. Soon after my purchase they released a synth upgrade and then the K3S. Elecraft wouldn’t cut me a deal on the synth so I wasn’t really happy.

Don’t get me wrong. The elecraft K3 performs really well and is miles better than my YAESU FT-950. Biggest issue with me that the audio was just horrible. As a primary phone (voice) operator. I struggled when it came to contests.

The ergonomics is sub-par when you compare it to the latest and greatest from the “Big Three”. However, that doesn’t really matter during a contest when it’s all about RX.

Hello Flex 6400!

Since I always use the pan-adapter with the K3, I figure I would be more at home with a Software Defined Radio (SDR). At this point, Flex Radio systems is a leader in amateur radio SDR transceivers. It’s a no-brainer!

I’m torn between the 6400 and the 6600. The 6600 offers so much more but my wallet couldn’t support the purchase. The K3 basically tanked in value with the K3S and the K4 around the corner. With my lack of involvment in the hobby, I thought the 6400 was the right choice.

New 2020 station at NT1K
My new 2020/2021 setup for now

I ended up going with the plain 6400. Not the 6400M. I felt that if I wanted knobs and buttons, I could get the Maestro. It’s basically a remote head unit that you would get on some VHF/UHF mobile radios

I will be going into a 2 year detailed review in another blog post. Stay tuned!

New Tower!

That’s right folks, I got a new tower! Well… it’s not really a NEW tower and it’s not really a stationary tower. It’s technically portable in a military sense. I got my hands on AB-577. A Vietnam area “push up” tower that supports microwave horns or camouflage netting.

It’s sought after by hams as a quick way to deploy an antenna tower that can support various configurations of antennas. I could never find wind and load ratings but I’ve seen some massive antennas perched on these towers.

I’ve fell in love with this tower in the mid 1990’s when I was a teen. Back then they were somewhat plentiful. I always wanted one. However, over time they became very scarce and couldn’t really use it on my property. Whenever one became available, I passed to someone else and always regretted it.

I knew a few people that had them and I always bugged them about letting go of theirs. Either I wore one of them down or they realize they are no longer going to use it and offered it to me. Even though it was a bit out of my price range, I didn’t want to let it go.

Somewhat new AB-577
The “New” AB-577

Field Day 2020 is on!

With the newly acquired AB-577, I was desperate to use it. I cleaned it as much as possible and applied a bit of grease where needed. It was ready to go. However, my local club already uses multiple AB-577s and the COVID pandemic was in full tilt so I didn’t think I was going to make use of my new tower.

A small group of hams that I regularly hang out with still wanted to have a non-public field day and I immediately offered up my AB-577 with a tri-band beam. They were understandably hesitant because in the prior year they used wires and the AB-577 can be a pain. However, there were issues with the wire antennas and I’m insistent. It was a go!

The AB-577 checked out. There was an issue with 2 of the 8 tubes. But if you were to install them first, it wasn’t an issue. My big issue was the beam. We were using a Mosely CL-33 . I got my hands on 2 of them for field day. I figured I’ll get at least one functioning beam out of it. Like with anything else, I waited to the last second to get it ready.

broken trap
I am starting to really hate traps!

Field Day 2020 Setup

With everything packed into my small utility trailer, it was go time. On Thursday (the day before FD setup) I dropped off everything at the site so I didn’t have to scramble around in the morning. Since it was going to be a hot and rainy weekend, I just wanted it out of my way.

The next day we started working. The AB-577 went up okay. The biggest pain in the butt was the guy anchors. Since I didn’t have the pound in stakes that normally come with a AB-577, we used screw-in anchors. They are a pain to install. Tower was plumb and ready for an antenna.

The goal was to install the tower with a tri-band (10/15/20) beam and two inverted V dipoles for 40m and 80m. With a triplexor and single band pass filters, we could technically have 5 stations on at the same time. However we planned for 2A QRP using a couple elecraft KX3 radios.

The main antenna didn’t do so well. It wasn’t looking good on the analyzer and I am not sure why. I swore I double checked everything. Other than installing the driven element on top of the boom, I am not sure what else would cause issues. I also brought two 80m antennas and caught that after installation.

Field Day 2020 antenna setup
The AB-577 finally vertical. Has the CL-33 at the top and two wire antennas below. Pool noodles adds +5db

FD 2020 On The Air!

We didn’t feel like lowering the triband beam and made use of the ATUs inside the KX3 rigs. The goal was to beat last years score and with the tri-bander acting funny, I didn’t think it was going to be possible. We had one station doing CW and the other station doing FT8 and voice. However, I’m not sure if there was ANY SSB contacts.

I wanted to do the night shift, I went home shortly after FD hoping that I would catch a nap and return at 10pm to make contacts on 40/80 throughout the night. However, home life took over and didn’t make it. I felt bad for the one op that operated throughout most of the night.

NE1C Field Day On The Air
Kx1x doing FT-8 and N1FJ doing CW at Field Day

The on and off rain that we had throughout the weekend was both a blessing and a pain. It broke the 90f+ heat but getting soaked wasn’t fun either.

We ended up making 433 contacts and got 5,190 points as NE1C in WMA for the Hampden County Amateur Radio Association (HCRA) which isn’t that bad. We beat last years score and out of al the submissions from the locals, we had the most contacts and points. I consider that a success even though we could have done better with a functioning antenna on 20, 15 and 10.

Remote Exams

Due to COVID-19 situation, there are many restrictions put into place and I have been unable to host any examinations for new amateur radio licenses and upgrades. It’s a bit of a bummer because I do enjoy hosting examination. I knew the FCC allows remote exams and was hoping that Laurel VEC would allow it but it appears they had no interest. I figured I would help out in any way I could. Thankfully there were a few VECs that stepped up.

I found the Greater LA Amateur Radio Group (GLAARG). They were hosting remote exams and they seem to be doing very well. I was able to get accredited with GLAARG and help out as much as possible at first. The two/three people running the show (Norm, Naomi) were the nicest people and was proud to do exams with them. I was hoping that I could host my own remote exams so that locals could get license.

I ended up stepping back (but not away!) from it as my situation at home and work took over. As much as I love amateur radio and helping others get their license, home and work come first.

No More Free Licenses

When I found out that the FCC was implementing fees for amateur radio applications, it made me angry.

With the combination of free study resources such as “KB6NU No Non-sense Study Guide” and Hamstudy.org along with my free exams, there was absolutely no cost barrier to obtain an amateur radio license.

However due to the RAY-BAUM act, the FCC has to implement FEEs. I am bit annoyed that the ARRL didn’t see this coming and more annoyed that they didn’t do anything until AFTER the FCC suggested the rule change. At first it was $50 application fee. After many letters from hams, the FCC lowered it to $35 but they are still implementing fees.

Even though exams through laurel is still “FREE”, the candidate will have to go to the FCC’s website and pay them directly in order to obtain an amateur radio license. This also goes with any renewals and vanity applications. Admin updates such as address/name changes are free as the FCC wants a current address.

The FCC is also making it so you have to provide a valid e-mail address and you can no longer use a Social Security Number (SSN) on the NCVEC form 605. The candidate will need to create an account on the ULS and obtain an FRN prior to any exam. This can be an issue from anyone underage or for those who don’t really use the internet and/or a computer.

I Did Some Contests!

Not counting Field Day, I did some contests from the QTH. During the summer I installed a remote antenna relay and a 160m inverted L antenna but I didn’t get the vertical part as high as I wanted it. I used it to play in one of the 160m contests. I didn’t get much DX but I had lots of fun.

SmartSDR 160m contest
160 meter contest. Lots of signals. Mostly regional/local.

Also played around in the ARRL 10M contest. I was more focused on recording the contest than trying to make contacts. I use N1MM for contest logging and QSOrder is a popular plugin. Thankfully it supports multiple inputs. However, I am having trouble recording my end of CW contacts as flex doesn’t really import the CW Sidetone as there is a delay.

Other Personal Projects.

After field day that was it. I haven’t really done much involving amateur radio. I gave some presentations to local clubs over zoom about my experiences with the flex radio and obtained the material I needed to make some current chokes, rid some local RFI.

Type 31 Toroids
Some of the iron donuts I got for chokes and RFI suppression.

I plan on make a new set of bandpass filters for the field day crew to replace the ones that I am not sure about.

Band Pass Filters
Filters I made for Field Day. These will be remade and better cases will be fabricated

Since the lockdown and restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 situation. I haven’t been able to host any free radio examinations and haven’t really turned on the radio at my QTH. There is just no interest on my end.

The Future Of NT1K

I haven’t and I don’t think I’ll ever give up with the hobby. It’s been a part of me ever since I got my hands on a Radio Shack catalog. I’m not giving it up that easily. My 2021 goals is to hopefully get my 160M antenna higher and also get antennas up for 80m and 40m. I’m hoping to get 5 band DXCC using LoTW.

As for this blog, I still attract visitors and I still get e-mails from people showing off things they built from prints that I made or projects that I went into detail about. It puts a smile on my face and hope to update a lot of articles.

I let the domain associated with my old callsign lapse thinking it would just go away. Well, I guess it was popular enough to where someone purchased it and then tried offering it back to me at an exaggerated price. Since I had no interest, it now forwards to a very graphic adult site. So if you ended up there by mistake, my apologies.

That’s it for now. Please stay tuned!

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