Monday, May 1, 2017

Final Mods to the EA4TX ARS-USB Controller

Final Mods to EA4TX Box
If you read my previous post about Modifying the EA4TX ARS-USB Rotor Controller you will have seen where I added a connector to the controller box so that I could connect some remote switches for adjusting the rotors while standing at the base of the tower.  In doing that I had acquired FIVE SETS of Aviation Plugs (Male and Female) which have 6-conductors each for a very reasonable price.  I used one set for the Remote Switches.  But, while modifying the Elevation Rotor control box (so it could be controlled by the EA4TX ARS-USB), I decided to go ahead and use another set of those connectors to allow me to easily set up or move the components of the station.  I removed the grommet which was already installed for the J2 cables and quickly placed one of the 6-conductor jacks in its place.  (It fit perfectly!) I also drilled and punched another hole for one more jack that will be used to interconnect the inclinometer cable.

My EA4TX ARS-USB was purchased with a cable to connect to the Yaesu G800-DXA azimuth rotor.  That cable came already installed by EA4TX and it is the white cable that exits the controller at the J1 hole which you can see at the bottom of the image to the left. (Click on any image to see it larger.)

The red/white/green wires at the top right of the circuit board go to the Elevation Rotor control box.  The red wire brings the 29 VDC from the elevation rotor controller and the white and green wires allow the relays in the EA4TX unit to connect that voltage to the UP and DOWN circuits for controlling the elevation rotor.  The blue/yellow wires at the bottom right go to the inclinometer and provide feedback from it for the elevation angle of the antennas.

Inclinometer
Also today I wired the inclinometer to the cable which runs out to the tower and wired the plug to the other end to connect to the EA4TX unit.  Then I powered on the EA4TX ARS-USB unit for the first time and checked out the inclinometer.  It WORKS!  I can move the inclinometer and watch the Elevation reading on the EA4TX smoothly change.  Now I need to fabricate a small bracket to mount it to the fiberglass cross-boom.

I chose to go with the inclinometer because I felt my old elevation rotor might not have a good potentiometer for read-back of the elevation angle.  And, it was possible that I might have to use a satellite (TVRO) jack screw for my elevation system and would need the inclinometer for that.  You can see an image of the inclinometer on the right.

Finally, I connected the Yaesu G800-DXA azimuth rotor to the EA4TX ARS-USB controller.  The feedback of the rotor position worked correctly and when I rotated the Yaesu, the azimuth position could be seen changing on the EA4TX unit.  I was also able to push the buttons on the front of the EA4TX controller and cause the Yaesu to rotate.  That is what this box will do (under computer control) when the system is being used. 

Today yielded several SUCCESSES in the 2-M EME Project process.  Step-by-step I continue to move forward.  Some of the additional project goals which are included in the total project are:  1.  Checking/Testing each component part as I complete it.  2.  Labeling of all cables, wires, etc. so there is no confusion at a later time. 

This was helpful yesterday as it was one of those "1 step forward and 3 steps backwards" days for me.  I wasted a good bit of time unsuccessfully searching my junk box locations for a couple of parts that I know I have but so far have eluded me.  Then I proceeded to finish up the wiring of the EA4TX ARS-USB controller and when wiring a small 6-pin plug to the wires coming from the elevation rotor control box, I wired the UP and DOWN buttons to the wrong pins.  Of course, I did not realize that until I had completed wiring the connector including heat shrink and all.  Then, I had to take it apart and do it again!  Plus, I had done such a NICE job on it too!  At least the "Checking/Testing" portion of my work was successful in finding my error and I was able to fix it while everything was still on the bench.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Elevation Rotor Adventure

My original plans for my 2-M EME station were to use things that I already had on-hand.  Well, that was a good "plan" but sometimes those plans don't always work out.  I had a TailTwister rotor which I had planned to use as an azimuth rotor.  However, the Hazer which I bought did not come with a rotor plate to accommodate a TailTwister.  It would have cost an additional $69.00 to purchase that mounting plate.  But before I purchased it, I became aware that the tailtwister was not a good rotor for EME use because of its braking system.  When the rotor stops rotating, the wedge brake seats into one of 60 segments spaced 6° apart.  That severely limits the pointing accuracy of the rotor.  Depending on exactly when the brake is engaged, I could be as much as 9° off the exact angle I needed to be pointed directly at the moon.  Since I was only planning a 2 antenna system, I did not feel I could give up that accuracy.  I need everything in my system to work as well as it possibly can.  So, I scrapped the idea of using the Hy-Gain TailTwister (T2X) and bought a new Yaesu G800-DXA for the azimuth rotor. 

Interconnects to EA4TX ARS-USB
Wiring Diagram for G-550
Still, from my prior days on EME and satellites, I had an abundance of elevation rotors.  I actually had THREE KenPro KR-500 elevation rotors so I felt I had that base covered.  But, Mr. Murphy reared his ugly head and the first two (and best of the three) elevation rotors failed to rotate on the bench!

Bummer!  But in looking at the facts, these rotors were 35-40 years old so it was not unreasonable that they failed to work.  And, considering their age, did I want to hinge the success of this project on that old a piece of equipment?

Still, I did not really want to put more money into this project than necessary.  In looking at all the usual websites, I found none used but I did discover that I could save $125 by buying only the motor and not the control box for a new Yaesu G-550 elevation rotor from R&L Electronics.  As they are located in Hamilton, OH, I had the new rotor the next day and it was quickly on the bench and ready to be tested with one of the control boxes I had from the KenPro rotors.

Of course, I then ran into a snag.  The KenPro motors had an 8-screw terminal block for connecting the wires to the motor and the new Yaesu had a nice 7-pin round connector.  That connector did NOT come with the motor I had purchased.  But, now Mr. Murphy threw me a bone in the fact that Yaesu uses the same connector on both the G800-DXA and the G-550 rotors and I had received just such a connector with the new G800-DXA.  It was surplus to my needs because I had purchased a Jetstream rotor cable which came with that connector already installed!

Modifications to Control Box
In looking at the schematics of the KenPro and Yaesu control boxes I noticed that the KenPro had a 70 uF capacitor wired across the motor windings but the Yaesu had a 100 uF capacitor actually inside the rotor motor housing.  I decided to simply lift the connections off one side of the 70 uF capacitor in my control box to remove it from the circuit since the new rotor motor already had the capacitor inside it.  At the same time, I drilled a hole in the rear of the control box, installed a grommet, and wired a cable that connected to the 29 VAC of the control box and the UP and DOWN connections to the rotor motor.  This will provide the interconnection to the EA4TX ARS-USB control box to allow it to control the elevation rotor.  You can see a photo of my modifications on the right.  Click on any photo to see a larger image. 

Once the rotor cable arrived from The Wireman it was time to connect everything up and see if the system worked.  Yesterday I wired the 7-pin connector (only 6-pins are used) to one end of the rotor cable and tinned the leads on the other end to screw onto the KenPro control box.  SUCCESS - It WORKS!  I now have a working Elevation Rotor and the control box is wired to connect to the EA4TX ARS-USB control system (once I clean the dust off it!)

This is a big step forward in the EME project because now I can mount the Elevaton Rotor on a short mast above the Azimuth Rotor and begin to install the antenna parts.  Just nine days ago I received my fiberglass/aluminum cross-boom, antenna boom supports, Rear Splitter mounting kit with 2.5m long rearward boom, and the cables to run between the antennas and the power divider.  Interestingly these parts were shipped from InnovAntennas in Great Britain just TWO days before!  The box was an 8-foot 4-inch long by 6-1/2-inch diameter round cardboard tube.  It was picked up in Hockley, Great Britain by FedEx on April 18th and delivered to my door at 1:24 p.m. on April 20th!  UNBELIEVABLE!  I simply could not believe the speed of that shipment!

So, with the Elevation Rotor piece of the EME project puzzle now working, the project can move forward - hopefully with some speed now! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

EME Tower Construction Progresses

OH, to be young again!  I can remember doing station construction projects about 40 years ago and today, there is simply no way I can manage to do things at that level.  Surprised?  Not really, but when my 14 and 15 year old grandsons "help" me, Grandpa sure notices his deficiencies!

This week 15 year-old Owen and 14 year-old Grant came to my QTH for three straight days while they were on Spring Break.  They were really eager to help Grandpa with his EME station construction project.  AND, Grandpa was extremely glad to have their help!!!  A lot of what they helped me do were things they had never done before.  Plus, they did things that they had never even SEEN anyone do before!

The boys are now big enough to wear my tower climbing safety gear so they got some very valuable experience in tower construction.  On the right you can see Grant pulling up and placing the Hazer cage at the top of the tower.  (Click on any image to see it larger.)  This was his first time actually working at height and he was a little unsure about whether he could reach up above the top of the tower to place the Hazer cage.  So, he secured the cage to the top of the tower and his brother, Owen, gave it a try.

On the left you can see Owen placing the Hazer cage over the top of the tower.  He then descended the tower allowing the cage to follow him down to the ground.  Since I had purchased the Hazer used, it came already assembled.  Otherwise I suppose I could have built the cage "around" the tower at the bottom and this operation would not have been needed.

Now that the Hazer was in place at the bottom of the tower, we needed to raise the top (and last) tower section into its place.  Grant was eager to get this job so he went up the tower and first pulled up and bolted into place the Gin Pole.  He had never seen this device used before so it was a great learning experience.  Once the Gin Pole was there, Grandpa pulled the top tower section up to Grant.  You can see on the right a photo of when that section reached him.  Even though he had no experience with stacking tower, it took Grant very little time to position the three legs from the top section onto the existing tower and squeeze them together so that they mated with each other.  SUCCESS!  We now had the tower complete.  And, I have completed the basic training of my new "Tower Crew" for all future tower projects!

Before the top section of tower was raised, we needed to construct a Pulley Block for the Hazer winch wire.  This mounts at the top of the tower and provides the point where the Hazer Pulley is attached.  This did not come with my used Hazer so Owen cut and drilled a piece of C-Channel for attachment of the pulley and the U-bolts to attach to the tower legs. (See photo on left.)

We then attached the Pulley Block to the top tower section before it was raised.  On the right you can see a photo of the mounted Pulley Block that I took after the tower was erected.

At this point the boys had to go home sooner than we expected.  Unfortunately, this left Grandpa to climb the tower, pull up the winch cable, thread it through the pulley and drop it to the ground through the center of the tower, put the last three bolts in the leg joints, remove the Gin Pole, wind up the rope, and put everything away.  WHEW!  That was a LONG two hours of work that the grandsons could have done in about 30 minutes.

The next day Owen and Grant arrived here at 6:50 a.m. (they had arrived at 7:00 a.m. the day before) ready and willing to get on with the project.  However, it took Grandpa a couple of hours to shake the sleep out of his eyes and get to the point where I could get started myself.  If anyone can bottle this type of youthful energy - I'll buy it by the case.

To finish up from our Day 1 projects, Owen drilled two holes for a second U-bolt in the new winch bracket for mounting it to the tower.  We then had 100-feet of new winch cable to attach.  Since the tower is only 28-feet tall it turned out we only needed 50-feet.  So, Owen got the Dremel tool and he cut the cable in half.  That leaves me with a spare 50-feet of cable if something happens to the cable that is now in place.  On the left you can see the winch installed on the tower with the Hazer cage above it.

Now we needed to make an excursion under the house.  I have a hole in the wall behind my ham equipment and all my antenna cables enter the hamshack from underneath the house through holes in the sole plate (two 2x4's) inside the wall.  The boys and I packed up all the gear we needed (large power drill, long bits, head lamps, extension cord, drop light, drinks, etc.) and we began a 75-foot crawl under the house.   The grandsons remembered being in there (what they used to call the "cave") when they were younger but they said it was really MUCH smaller now!  Thank goodness Grandpa had knee pads!  The ground under the plastic moisture barrier is NOT soft and smooth!

We had some difficulty as the original holes were drilled from the top down before the wall was dry-walled.  That wall sits on top of a steel I-beam so our options for drilling were limited.  I ended up drilling at a steep angle a half dozen 3/4-inch holes to make a very ragged opening.  I think I managed to do that without damaging any of the cables that were already in place.  We had also carried with us the azimuth rotor control cable, the RX feedline (LMR400-UF) and a 500-foot roll of 4-conductor shielded cable.  We then ran those up through one of the previously drilled holes into the shack.

After crawling back out of the "cave", we installed the azimuth rotor on the Hazer, connected the cable to the rotor and to the control box inside, and ran through the calibration process.  An issue was discovered that I will need to find an answer for before using the rotor.  As the rotor was being rotated clockwise, it reached a point about 120° where it jumped up to a fast speed for about 45° then reversed to the point where it started and repeated that fast back and forth motion a couple of times before resuming the clockwise rotation.

After dinner the grandsons decided they wanted to try climbing the big Rohn 45G tower down over the hill.  Both went up the 85-foot tower and were amazed at how much better the climbing felt on the bigger tower (the EME tower is Rohn 25G.)  The photo at the right shows Owen at about the 50-foot level.

The boys decided to stay the night with us so we had a great time relaxing that evening.  We watched part of a movie until Owen decided he needed to hit the sack.  Grant just feel asleep on the couch!

The next morning we decided to finish the exit method for the cables from under the house.  It was simplest to just bring them through an existing vent hole.  That hole is covered with an automatic vent cover.  Grant and I took it apart and we each worked on one half to cut a hole in the cover to pass a 2-inch (I.D.) piece of PVC.  You can see a photo of the finished vent cover modification on the left.

We then un-spooled the piece of 7/8-inch Andrew Heliax, routed it through the modified vent cover, and Owen pulled it under the house.  He then managed to push it up through the ragged hole I had cut the day before and Grant pulled it through the hole in the wall and brought it out behind the operating table.  Just having these boys to get down on the floor under my desk and fish these cables out through the hole in the wall is worth BIG money!  Grandpa's knees are not what they used to be.

While we were starting to fish the Heliax under the house a very strong storm front moved through unexpectedly.  It caught us off-guard and we had to dry off the tools after quickly moving them to the back porch.  Once the rain passed, Owen helped me measure out two 100-foot lengths of the 4-conductor shielded cable, marking both ends of each with colored tape for identification.  Grant made a speed run through the crawl space and fed those wires up through the wall.  That completed the running of 6 of the 9 cables that must be run under the house.  Only the elevation rotor control cable, a 12 VDC and 28 VDC cable now need to be run to complete the cabling under the house.

Those three days of help from my grandsons has helped me to complete the major parts of the tower construction process.  I can finish most of the rest of the project on my own since the infra-structure is now in place.  Many thanks to Owen and Grant for giving me three days of their Spring Break to get all this work done.  They are the BEST!

Modifying the EA4TX ARS-USB Rotor Controller

The EA4TX ARS-USB Rotor Controller will handle the job of automatically keeping the antennas pointed at the moon.  However, there are times when I will need to manually point them.  For instance, when I need to bring the antennas down (to hide them from the neighbors!) or when I am installing or otherwise working on the antenna system.  It would be difficult to run inside the shack and move the antennas a little then go back outside to see if it was enough.  And, with the tower being right next to the house, the potential for having the antennas hit the roof or a vent pipe is large.

I felt that if I could control the antenna rotors from the base of the tower, I would solve this problem.  That meant a set of switches to control (UP, DOWN, EAST, and WEST) movement of the array which needed to be wired to the EA4TX Rotor Controller.  I found the perfect set of switches on eBay (see my Post Pointing my EME Antennas at the Moon.)

Now I needed to find a way to connect those switches to the EA4TX Rotor Controller.  A short email to Pablo, EA4TX, gave me a quick reply with the points where I could connect the switches.  It seems there was a insulation-displacement contact (IDC) connector on the LCD circuit board that would do the job.  This IDC connector (also known as insulation-piercing contact) was something I had never worked with.  But in looking around the wonderful Internet I learned about them and found a place where I could order a couple (along with a short piece of ribbon cable that could be installed in the IDC.)  Cost was only $0.58 each and $0.32 per foot for the ribbon cable.  Turns out it was from a company where I already had another item I needed to order so shipping was not an issue.  (See the IDC connector in the photo on upper-left. Click on any photo for a larger image.)

To make the installation clean, I needed a 5-conductor connector to mount on the back panel of the EA4TX Controller.  Again, eBay came to the rescue!  I found a set of FIVE SETS of Aviation Plugs (Male and Female) that have 6-conductors (more than I need) for a total cost of $8.30 including shipping.  These are similar to an 8-pin microphone plug and measure 11mm or 0.43 inches in diameter (for the portion that will go through the back panel of the EA4TX Controller.)  (See photo on the right.)

Now all that was required was for me to connect a short piece of ribbon cable to the IDC connector and wire it to the female 6-conductor panel-mount connector.  But, since I had never worked with those connectors before, it was back to the ubiquitous Internet for instructions and I quickly found  a YouTube video that told me everything I needed.  Now that those connections have been made, I can run the 5-conductor cable to the base of the tower and connect it to the fancy Rain Proof Hoist Crane Pendant and I will be able to manually control the antennas from the base of the tower.  Excellent!

Of course, those switches will not function when the EA4TX Rotor Controller is turned off so I have no worries about someone messing with the antennas when I am not here.

On the left you can see the modification I made to the EA4TX Rotor Controller to add the ability to remotely control the antennas from the base of the tower.  The IDC connector is on the top right and I labeled it with the word "Top" as there is no keying to make sure it is connected properly.  It connects to the LCD Circuit Board and passes down and across the bottom of the EA4TX Controller box to the rear panel where it connects to the 6-pin Female chassis mounted connector.  Later the cable from the Remote Switches will plug into this connector.

The bottom portion of the image shows the rear panel with the pass-through grommets for the cables to connect to the Azimuth and Elevation rotors (as well as the cable for the inclinometer.) Also you can see the new 6-pin connector I added for the Remote Switches.

This modification of the EA4TX Rotor Controller took me just a couple of hours and will (in my opinion) greatly enhance my ability to utilize the controller to move my antennas.  I am very happy with how it turned out.

The wires in the ribbon cable between the 6-conductor Female chassis mounted connector and the CN_KBD IDC connector on the LCD Circuit Board are connected in this order:

Pin 1 to CN_KBD-2: +5Vdc (common)
Pin 2 to CN_KBD-4: Manual Left/CCW control.
Pin 3 to CN_KBD-6: Manual Right/CW control.
Pin 4 to CN_KBD-8: Manual Down control.
Pin 5 to CN_KBD-10: Manual Up control.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pointing my EME Antennas at the Moon

EA4TX ARS-USB Rotor Controller
Once you have the 2-M antennas in the air, you need to figure out how to rotate them to track the moon.  Back in the early 1980's when I was first on 2-M EME, it was a major thing to know where the moon was at any particular point in time.  Remember, there were NO Smartphones and NO Internet at that time - yep, it was the "Dark Ages." 

At first, I had to use the Nautical Almanac to find the Greenwich Hour Angle (GHA) and use that to calculate BY HAND the moon's position.  After a short time I acquired a printed copy of a BASIC computer program from Lance, WA1JXN/7, (now W7GJ), which was written for his Apple II home computer.  I converted that to Commodore BASIC and typed it into my Commodore Pet 2001 home computer.  I could now print out the Azimuth and Elevation headings for the moon.  This was done in increments of 10 minutes.  Then, to track the moon I had to manually turn the two rotors to the headings shown on the printout and then remember to keep incrementing the rotors as the moon moved.  I also needed to watch the clock and manually switch from receive to transmit at the end of each period.  Often I was not sure the antennas were on the moon so I ran out in the yard and eyeballed it.  It was a lot of work!

MoonSked Sked Maker Window
Boy, have things changed now!!  The home computer now will calculate the position of the moon every SECOND.  It will send that information over USB to the EA4TX ARS-USB Rotor Controller (shown at the upper right.  Click on any photo to see it larger.)  That device is connected to the Azimuth Rotor Control Box and the Elevation Rotor Control Box.  As the moon moves, the ARS-USB will turn the rotors automatically.

EA4TX Graphical Interface
The program that I use to track the moon is MoonSked by GM4JJJ. Not only will it track the moon in realtime but it will calculate a suitable date/time for setting schedules with other stations (the Sked Maker window is shown at the left), it will create a sky map showing the moon's location (to help determine when the moon is in a favorable location), it will search a database of EME stations for a partial call, and it will display a World Map with the moon's ground-track shown.  But, one of the coolest things (in my opinion) is that it will ONLY send the tracking information during transmit (TX) periods!  That way any potential noise being generated by the rotors will not affect the receiver.
 
Remote Ant. Control
The EA4TX Rotor Controller has a small graphical interface for displaying the antenna positions (shown at the right.)  And, with this interface you can control the rotors by using the mouse or by pressing the buttons on the front panel.

All the above will automate the pointing of the antennas and let me concentrate on the actual operation of the MAP65 software to make the EME QSO's.  When you think about operating moon-bounce for hours at a time, the ability to have the antennas continuously track the moon is huge!  Sometimes I think back to the days when I had to actually calculate the moon's position by hand and later from a printout made by my home computer, and compared to that, this is heaven!

One final thing I wanted to have was someway to control the pointing of the antennas from outside the house.  The antennas are mounted on a Hazer tram system and the tower is right next to the house.  When raising and lowering the Hazer, someone needs to manually rotate the antennas (especially the Elevation rotor) to make sure the antennas do not hit the house or the ground as the Hazer is raised or lowered.  I was planning on building a box to mount at the base of the tower with four switches (UP, DOWN, LEFT, and RIGHT) and wire them to the EA4TX Rotor Controller.  While looking on eBay for some suitable small switches, I found the Rain Proof Hoist Crane Pendant shown at the left.  WOW!  Was this exactly what I needed or what?  This item was New and would be shipped to me from Hong Kong.  The price?  Trust me - you will NOT believe it!  Including shipping I paid a whopping $8.15 for this!  WOWZER!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The EME Tower has been Planted!

Gravel for Drainage
Build the Form
Once my grandsons had finished the digging of the hole for my new tower (see the "O&G Tower Construction Crew" Post), it was time to call Mr. Concrete (aka, Tim, K8RRT) and get the tower firmly planted in the ground.  Working around everyone's schedules and the weather, it turned out that Sunday, April 2, 2017, was THE DAY!

I picked up the grandsons and then we picked up Tim plus his wheelbarrow and concrete finishing tools.  After a brief stop for fuel for the workers (Tudors Biscuit World) we were ready to begin the job.  My grandsons, Owen and Grant, had no real experience working with concrete so this was a learning experience for them.  Mr. Concrete had mucho experience so he was appointed as the Job Boss!

Lay Down the Tarp
Tim was very good about telling the boys everything he was doing and, most importantly, the WHY of what he was doing.  I am sure they leaned quite a bit that day.  Not just about concrete but even some tricks about sawing wood with a hand saw.  Tim was really impressed by how well the boys listened so it was a really great crew all around.

Pour the Concrete
I took on the role of "Stupidvisor" and Chief Gopher!  Anyone needs something and W8TN is your man to go and get it.  We only had one major issue develop and that was my choice of where to locate the tower in the hole.  Tim noticed that if we put it there, the Hazer that would eventually carry the antennas up and down the tower would not be able to clear the gutter on the house.  WHEW!  I am sure glad he spotted that one!
Just Add Water

You can click on any of the images here to see them larger.

We first put a couple of inches of gravel in the hole to allow water (that WILL accumulate in the tower legs) to drain out.  To make sure the tower did not sink in the gravel and get plugged by dirt, we suspended the tower by using a small rake under a couple of rungs to hold it at a particular height.  We tied three light lines to the tower and staked them to make sure the tower did not topple while we were working.  Another 3 inches or so of gravel was added and then it was time to add the concrete.

We had previously purchased eleven 80-pound bags of Quickrete.  When the smoke cleared, we had about 15 pounds left over.  I get credit for measuring the hole and calculating how much concrete would be required (plus, just maybe a little luck?)

Once the concrete job was finished, Evelyn prepared a great hot dog lunch that all enjoyed immensely!  My recollection is that the entire job took about 4 hours including correcting our (my) mistakes.  We then cleaned up our tools and the grandsons asked could they please mow the yard?  WOW!  They are at an age where that stuff is fun for them. 

After I took everyone home, I came back and spent a couple of hours doing the final cleanup work including putting the tools back where they belong.  The next two days were miserable for me!  I was sore in places I did not even know I had!  All I did was "fetch and carry" and that did not include lugging 80-pound bags of Quickrete.  Could I really be that out of shape?  DUH!

"The Crew" is DONE!
The Base is Now Planted
Over the next few days I kept the concrete moist to prevent it from cracking by drying out too fast.  Now all that we need to do is to install the Hazer and add the top section of the tower.  Then, it's time for ANTENNAS!

I am very grateful for the help of ALL the crew (and my wonderful wife!)  Without everyone pulling together this would not have taken place in such a relatively short length of time.





Friday, March 31, 2017

W8TN's 2-M EME Project

My last post was about my grandsons digging the hole for my new tower.  Why do I need a new tower?  Well, I'm building a moonbounce (EME or Earth-Moon-Earth) station for 2-M and need a place to mount the antennas.  This project has been in the planning stages for over 3 years now.  About 14 months ago I started to get serious and placed the order for one antenna.  Delays in shipping that antenna led to me adding a second antenna to the order and the 2 antennas were received from England on July 5th last year.  I chose the InnovAntenna 13el 144MHz LFA yagis as about the longest I could reasonably put up at my QTH.  Each antenna has 16.12 dBi Gain at 144.100 MHz on an 8.003m (3.85 λ or 26.26 foot) boom.  Two of them spaced 4m apart horizontally should give 19.05 dBi (16.9 dBd) total gain. This amount of antenna gain coupled to a 1,000 watt amplifier should give me a modest moonbounce station using WSJT software.  I will, of course, be limited to a single polarity and thus subject to dealing with Faraday Rotation but I should be able to work dozens if not hundreds of stations off the moon.

One major reason for choosing the LFA (Loop Fed Array) antenna is that it has been specifically designed to reduce the amount of noise that is normally received off the back and sides of the antenna.  The tight, highly suppressed pattern and closed loop fed system ensure everything from rain static to man-made noise are heavily reduced.  This is pretty much an essential feature of an antenna that is trying to hear the super-weak signals being reflected back from the moon.  It has a really excellent G/T figure (-1.33dB @ 144.100MHz) showing it is hearing very little from the rear and sides of the antenna.

To the left you can see the current block diagram of my 2-M EME station.  It has evolved as this project has progressed.  Click on any photos to see a larger image.

I started out planning for an extremely simple configuration that would just allow me to make the occasional EME QSO.  But, as planning progressed, I kept adding features to make it the most efficient and productive station I could manage.  To that end, I added the EA4TX Antenna Controller that when connected to software on my computer will automatically keep the antennas always pointed at the moon without the need for me to manually adjust the rotors.  I then added the BG7TBL GPS Disciplined Oscillator that will take signals from the GPS satellites and produce a highly accurate 10 MHz reference signal for my Elecraft K3S to ensure it is precisely on frequency.  This is very important with WSJT signals so I felt this would be something that would remove the necessity of my needing to manually insure the frequency accuracy of the radio.

Everything else in the system was chosen to keep the signal losses as low as possible.  Toward that end the preamp will be located as near as possible to the antennas.  The preamp will be directly connected to the T/R relay with a right-angle, double-male N-connector.  All control lines will be shielded.  All computer lines will have ferrites installed on them.  Low loss cables will be used throughout the system including 7/8-inch Heliax for the TX feedline.  The antennas are mounted right outside the shack to keep feedline losses to a minimum.  Using just two antennas is not going to make me a Big Gun.  But, if I can make those two antennas and the rest of the station perform to their maximum ability, I will do well.

I then decided to add the FUNcube Dongle to the system to allow me to see all the stations which I am able to hear who are bouncing off the moon at any particular time without the need to tune around for them or set schedules to work them!  Unlike HF, you usually can not "hear" the signals from the moon but the computer can.  However, it needs for you to be pretty close to the frequency of the signal in order for the computer to decode it.  The FUNcube Dongle is a SDR (Software Defined Radio) just the size of a USB Thumb Drive.  It can listen to a range of frequencies and decode (using the MAP65 software) all the stations in that range of frequencies at once.  You can think of it as acting like the CW Skimmer of moonbounce.  On the right you can see an image of one of the output screens in MAP65 when I ran it and used a sample file for testing.  You can see that it shows the frequency of each station along with what they were transmitting.  I am so excited to give this a try on real live EME signals!

One other very important part of this 2-M EME station is a good low-noise preamp.  To take full advantage of that item it needs to be mounted as close to the antennas as possible.  I purchased a couple of these preamps from WA2ODO and on the left you can see the Noise Figure Meter printout from the best of these two preamps.  Putting such a low-noise preamp right at the antennas will help to keep the system noise figure as low as possible. 

As I continue to progress with this project I will Post articles here on my Blog about various aspects of what I'm doing.  Hopefully, before long I will be able to post the images of my first EME QSO's in a LONG time.  I was on 2-M moonbounce back in the 1980's but only made about a half dozen QSO's with CW.  It was huge fun but I'm expecting this new incarnation to be an order of magnitude better!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

O&G Tower Construction Crew

Moving the Landscaping Stone
Yesterday school was out in Putnam County.  About a week before, my 14 year old grandson, Owen, asked if he and his 12 year old brother, Grant, could spend the night with Evelyn and me on Monday night.  We, of course, said YES.  Then he said, maybe they could dig the hole for my new tower.  DUH!  Free labor?  SURE!

So, the pair showed up Monday after school and we had a lot of fun that evening.  The next day, they were up about 0630 local time, ready to get out there and DIG!  Temperatures were in the high 30's at that time and only made it up to the middle 40's for the day!

I managed to put them off for a bit until I woke up enough by having them eat breakfast and hunt up the tools we would need.  They didn't actually start with the hole project until about 8:50 a.m.  By 11 a.m. they were DONE!  Just over 2 hours and all they had to work with were a couple of shovels and a maul that they used to break some of the rock.  That also included putting together a couple of Rohn 25G tower sections and standing them up to see where the hole needed to be in order to clear the gutter.

On Monday I actually went to Bosley Rentals in Cross Lanes to see about renting a jackhammer because I knew that the land here was mostly rock.  I had no idea those two youngsters would be able to actually dig a 2'x2'x2' hole without the need for a jackhammer or explosives!  I was SURE this would turn out to be a real PITA before the hole could be completed.  As it turned out, there was a fair amount of sandstone and some blue colored rock.  They could sometimes force a shovel under one end of a piece and pry it up.  If not, a couple of swings with the maul would break the rock into smaller pieces.

Grant Really Gets Into His Work
The first step was to remove the landscaping stone and the landscape fabric that were already in place.  In the photo on the upper left, you can see Grant throwing a shovel-full of the stone over one of my wife's nice bushes.  We did not actually have to remove any bushes but we did do a little judicious trimming on one.  Click on any photo to see a larger image.

On the right you can see that Grant really "got into his work" by going headfirst into the hole to loosen up some of the rock near the bottom.  Neither of these boys are afraid of dirt!  Nor are they afraid of hard work.  They actually look forward to doing things with their hands.  They love to work on engines and constantly are checking the oil in my 4-wheeler and coming up with jobs that we can do around here.  In fact, a couple of months ago over Christmas break, they actually re-grouted my shower!
O&G Tower Construction Crew

There was not much space to work so one of them would shovel and the other would carry the dirt away (over the hill) then they would swap jobs.  They took a break or two to go ride my 4-wheeler (they consider that to be BIG fun!) I don't think either of them broke a big sweat.

After they cleaned things up, I took them to lunch at Wendy's (yep, Grandpa is a Big-Spender) and we ate with Tim, K8RRT, and Steve, WW8RT.  After a nourishing 4 for $4 lunch, we drove to Home Depot and loaded ELEVEN 80-pound bags of Quickrete plus three 40 pound bags of gravel into the van.  The ride home with an extra 1,000 pounds in the back of my van was interesting.  If we hit a bump, the rear tires would rub in the wheel wells.  Twice when we had to go up a steeper than normal slope in the road, the trailer hitch drug a bit.  At home, we loaded the Quickrete and gravel onto the 4-wheeler and moved it around to the back porch where it could be covered with a tarp and kept out of the rain ready to be mixed and poured soon.

This even turned into a bit of an archeological "dig" in that they found some metal twist ties, the end that had been cut off a tube of caulking, something that looked to them like Fools Gold, and a crushed Coke can.  No money was found and the "Gold" was not real.

The boys even got a short carpentry lesson in how to cut a 2x4 to fit a 24"x26" hole.  They did not know about the fact that two of the sides of that "box" need to overlap the other two sides to provide a place to nail them together.  Call that a good life lesson learned.  They used a measuring tape, carpenter's square and a handsaw to cut the 2x4 into the sizes we needed to frame the hole.

One thing I will say for sure, and this is NOT just a Proud Grandpa talking, these two boys are WORKERS! And, beside the fact that they do so much work around here, I'm very, very glad and proud to know them!  They are growing into a couple of really exceptional adults.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Feature of the 2Tone RTTY Decoder

The 2Tone RTTY Decoder by G3YYD has been upgraded with a new feature.  This new feature is ON by default and in operation and causes 2Tone for look for strings of repeated characters that are at least 6 RTTY characters surrounded by space characters.  2Tone will then enclose those characters in brackets { } so that it will stand out better when you are looking at the received copy.

Version 3.50.294 of Logger32 contains this improvement:
The latest 2Tone RTTY engine has an auto-correlation feature. Support of this feature is added to the Logger32 2Tone windows.

Here is the description from the latest version of 2Tone about this feature:
This version of 2Tone 16.11a introduces a new function. It is an optional function that is enabled by default. It looks for repeated strings of characters surrounded by space characters and are are at least 6 RTTY characters. 2Tone combines the analogue data of the two strings and displays something like this { G3YYD }. The brackets indicating it is a combined version of the 2 strings with a lower probability of error than the single strings on their own. It is all based on statistics so sometimes there will be false matches. Sometimes the {} will not be correct while one of the strings is.

Extract 2Tone.exe to overwrite your current 2Tone.exe.

In setup menu, there are two new items: Repeat Match and Same Reject on.

Repeat match checked (default) will enable the repeated string matching function.

Same Reject on (default unchecked) when checked will surpress the { } output when both input strings are identical. This saves display clutter.

       [NOTE from W8TN: I found the "Same Reject on" feature was CHECKED by default and I had to change it to get the feature to work.]

Internally 2Tone uses auto-correlation of the analogue data to find probable repeats of information. To eliminate potential false positives, the repeated character strings are identical and surrounded with space chacaters plus being at least 6 RTTY characters.

Sent message like " DAVID DAVID " will work but " ED ED " will not - not enough characters . Nor will " DAVID DAVID, " work due to comma at end. " IO92NQ IO92NQ " will work as will " M7T M7T "

This is the way G3YYD describes the new feature in his announcement to the RTTY Contesting Group:
This new version fixes a few minor items but the big one is it will now look for character strings that are repeated and combine the analogue data together to provide an output that has a lower probability of error. To distinguish this synthetic output from what was actually decoded its output is surrounded by curly {} brackets, e.g. { G3YYD }. Occasionally, it will get the matching wrong and give a false output. It is possible to turn this off see the documentation that comes with the upgrade.
In the recent WAE RTTY contest two stations in the UK found that in 4% of their QSOs that this new system saved asking for a repeat. The normal repeat request rate is 8% of QSOs. A 50% reduction is very worthwhile.
It does however require that the sent information is correctly formatted, which it is in most cases. The format required is for the repeated characters to be at least 6 RTTY characters long and surrounded by space characters. Examples of this are, the quotes are for clarity: " G3YYD G3YYD "  or " DAVID DAVID " or " IO92NQ IO92NQ ". However  " ED ED " will not work too short or " DAVID DAVID, " will not work comma after 2nd DAVID. " M7T M7T " will work as the figure shift, letter shift and a space character make it 6 RTTY characters.
It is not just for contest, it also works for everyday QSOs. Just make sure when sending you name, QTH etc to apply the rules as above when setting up the macros.
73 David G3YYD aka M7T in contests

For Logger32 users:
Bob/K4CY has incorporated this feature in Logger32 with an added twist. Logger32 users can opt to convert the   { G3YYD } to G3YYD  . Right click on the 2Tone decode window and check “Underscore corrections/recommendations.”

Below are a couple of screenshots of how this looks.  It was difficult to find any RTTY signals this morning with the CQWWDX CW Contest running so I had to use a pre-recorded sample RTTY file and a YouTube video to get some RTTY signals.

This first one shows the output of 2Tone recognizing a repeated character string (7L4IOU 7L4IOU) and the auto-correlated output is surrounded by curly { 7L4IOU } brackets.  I can see where this might help you notice the callsign better when there is a lot of text displayed on the screen.  Note that in the line above it auto-correlated (176 176) and printed it as { 176 } to show that it had auto-correlated that text string.  [Click on any image to see it larger.]



 But, in trying to get more samples, I found that 2Tone was making many mistakes in identifying a repeated string.  Many times it would print two calls but then put inside the brackets (or underlined in Logger32) a different callsign.  To me, this could lead to more confusion.




In the above example 2Tone prints (GA7RY VA7RQ) as the two strings but auto-correlates that to (VA7RY) which happens to be the correct callsign.  Then it correctly copies (7L4IOU 7L4IOU) and auto-correlates that to (7L4IOU) correctly but also to (UL4IOU) incorrectly.

I guess I will just have to use this feature in the real world for a bit to see how useful it actually is.  If I find it to not be useful, a simple mouse-click can turn it off.

You can download the latest 2Tone program as a ZIP file here:

For those with Logger32, you need to download the latest version of 2Tone (16.11a) as a ZIP file, extract the contents, and copy the “2Tone.exe” and “2Tone.pdf” files into your Logger32 directory.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

2015 Intrepid Spirit Award Recepient - JH1AJT

Zorro - JH1AJT
I just saw a post on N6PSE's Blog titled "The 2015 Intrepid Spirit Award goes to Zorro-JH1AJT." It was posted on April 17, 2016.  You can see the photo of Zorro with his award on the right.  The Blog post states:
"This year’s award goes to a notable Dxer and Dxpeditioner that we have come to respect and admire greatly, Mr. Yasuo “Zorro” Miyazawa-JH1AJT.

This award is to recognize Zorro’s outstanding efforts to activate Eritrea, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Zorro is largely responsible for fulfilling the need for Eritrea, Myanmar and Bangladesh contacts. We recognize Zorro’s unselfish acts to activate these challenging and much needed entities.

We acknowledge Zorro’s pursuit of operating excellence and his quest to activate the rare and often difficult entities. It is for these reasons that we honored him with our Intrepid Spirit Award, presented at the International DX Convention, Visalia, California on April 16th, 2016."

That name rang a big bell in my head.  I remembered having a most intriguing conversation on 10-M SSB while I was driving North on Interstate 77 in Jackson County, WV, with a Japanese ham who had that same name.  I pulled out my Mobile Log and quickly found that QSO.  His QSL was right on top in my Mobile QSL file!  I was correct, I did have a QSO with this same individual way back in 1980!

Below you can see my Mobile Log and the QSL.  The QSO is the last one on this page of my log.  Click on either image below to see a larger image.

I have told dozens and dozens of folks over the years about how much I enjoyed that particular QSO.  According to my log it lasted just 13 minutes but it left a lasting impression on me.  Signals were fantastic and I had absolutely no problem copying or understanding anything Zorro said.

This QSO took place from 4:32 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. local time here in WV.  That would have meant it was between 5:32 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. in Japan.  For the middle of September, that was just about 7 minutes past his sunrise.

If only 10-M would come back to the conditions that were in effect at the time I made this QSO!  Still, I will always have this wonderful memory of a really fantastic QSO made nearly 36 years ago.  Thanks, Zorro!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Snap On Split Bead Ferrite Chokes for Noise Reduction

This morning I spent over an hour trying to work a station on 17-M with no luck.  Toward the end of that effort his signal dropped down into the noise and I decided to give up the chase.  As I was shutting down everything I noticed an issue.

I have a small program that runs on my shack computer which communicates with the SPE Expert 2K-FA amplifier over a USB cable.  I can turn the amp ON/OFF, put it into standby, and monitor its front panel display right from the computer.  Today I shut off the amplifier using that program and then when I closed the program itself, I noticed a change in the noise level in my receiver.  It was a small change but, nevertheless, it was there.  I turned the program back on and the noise came back.

Below you can see a screenshot from the Audacity program which is showing the noise from my receiver when switching the program on and off.  The line of numbers at the top beginning with "0.0", "1.0", "2.0" etc. is seconds.  Beginning just after 1.0 seconds until 4.5 seconds and again at 7.0 until 9.5 seconds, you can see the increased noise level when this computer program was running.  The lower noise displays are when the program is not running.



It is not a huge amount of noise, but, it is still there.  Adding just that much noise can at least make it more difficult to copy a weak station even if it does not cover up the station.  Add this little bit of noise to the noise generated by other pieces of equipment in the shack and it all increases the likelihood that you will have difficulty in hearing the weak ones or it could be enough that you don't hear them at all.

It is apparent that when this program is running, it is sending data back and forth to the amplifier along a USB cable that runs behind my radio.  That data stream is being picked up by the receiver as noise.  The noise is still there with the amplifier off.  It is only when the program is closed that the noise goes away.

Recently I purchased some Snap On Split Bead Ferrites from Palomar Engineers (http://palomar-engineers.com/) just for this purpose (image at left.)  I purchased a 25-pack of Mix 31 (1-250 MHz) 1/4-inch diameter snap on split beads for $50 and a 10-pack of Mix 31 (1-250 MHz) 1/2-inch diameter snap on split beads for another $50.  Shipping was $10.
I took one of the 1/4-inch Split Beads and snapped it on the USB cable at the computer end.  (The 1/4-inch ones fit well on Ethernet cables, USB cables, etc. for a 1-turn choke.  The 1/2-inch size will fit RG-8 cables or you can put 3 turns of Ethernet cable through the 1/2-inch ones for more choking if needed.)

Then, using the same settings on the receiver (same bandwidth, same band, same mode, same antenna, etc.) I listened for the noise when turning that program on and off.  The noise could no longer be heard.  Just to make sure I had actually found the problem, I removed the Split Bead Ferrite Choke from the USB cable and - the noise was back!

This problem turned out to have an easy fix which cost me $2.20 and about 1-minute of my time.  I plan to continue adding Ferrite Chokes to the computer cables in the shack, the Cable Modem, and to the feedlines to reduce and/or eliminate any common-mode issues I might have.  All these things add up to keep the noise away from the receiver so it can do its job and pick out that weak DX.  Every little bit helps!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Common-Mode Choke

Today was a MAJOR snow storm.  12" of snow in 10 hours and it is still coming down!  So, with nothing better to do, I decided to get caught up on some old projects that have been hanging around. You can click on any photo to see a larger image.

Looking Out my Front Door

The first project I decided to tackle was to build a couple of Common-mode Chokes for Jimmy, W8JA.  The one I built was 3-1/2 turns through two stacks of four Mix-43 toroids.  These are available from Fair-Rite as Part No. 5943003801.  This choke's impedance should exceed 1-K Ohms from 1.8 to 18 MHz. and dropping to 550 ohms at 30 MHz.  The full description can be found in an April 2006 document called "Common-Mode Chokes" by Chuck Counselman, W1HIS.  You can find it on the Internet.  

It's a pretty simple job to build this choke.  It is just a 36-inch piece of RG8/U type coax passing 4 times through the upper group of four toroids and three times through the bottom four.  My first job was to build a 36-inch piece of coax with PL-259's on each end.  I used Belden 8267 cable.  Below is a photo of one of the connectors after it was soldered to the cable. 


PL-259 Soldered to Cable

Below is a photo of the completed choke.  You can wind the choke through the toroids with the PL-259's already connected.  So, instead of building a 36-inch piece of cable from scratch, you could just purchase one and wind it through the toroids.  I used a couple of Ty-Raps to secure the windings so they did not "un-wind."  An Amphenol PL-258 double-female connector with Teflon insulation is connected to one end to simplify the installation of this choke either at the antenna or at the rig.

Completed Common-Mode Choke
Building the cable from scratch took some time.  I need to improve my method of doing this if I plan to build many more!

Still, I got one project off my "To Do" list today while "snowed-in"!  On to the next!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tempory Installation of the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna LFA-2

New Yard Ornament
Once the antenna was tuned and moved to my QTH, it was time to stick it up and see if I could hear any signals from the Moon!  I'm sure my neighbor's think I've gone completely off the rails (my wife is SURE of it) but I think this looks really cool in the front yard.

 With the help of my wife, Evelyn, and later Tim, K8RRT, I managed to place a 10-foot section of Rohn 25 at a place in the yard where the antenna could see my moonset and be able to turn without hitting the house or the trees.  I put the gin pole at the top of that tower section and once we connected the antenna to the gin pole rope, it was not hard to pull it up to about a height of 15-feet. 
CQ the Moon!

I attached a 168-foot piece of LDF4-50A (1/2-inch Heliax) to the antenna, ran it around the house, across the driveway in front of the garage and in through a window in the spare bedroom and then into the shack.  It was connected directly to the Output of the Alpha 8406 amp with a Double-Male "N" connector.

For a few nights now I've been getting up really early to listen off the moon as it sets in my western horizon.  So far I have not copied any signals but the best two nights of the month are coming up and I have high hopes that I will be able to hear something.  On the right is a photo of the antenna aimed at the setting moon.  Click on any photo to make it larger.

UPDATE:   Lance, W7GJ, had traveled to the Federated States of Micronesia to operate a 1-man 6-M EME DX'pedition as V6M. He managed to operate for 3 days before his amp went up in flames! Bummer!  The best EME conditions were just starting when his amp died so he could have worked many more stations if the amp stayed working.  It failed because of voltage spikes on the poor AC mains at his QTH.  He managed to work 37 stations and said he could have doubled that number if the amp had not failed.

     I listened for him and other stations for the first 3 days of his operation with no luck hearing anyone.  Then, as my moon was setting on August 29th, I decided to at least call him.  His procedure is to email each day and post the completed QSO's plus a list of stations he has heard.  I knew I would not be able to work him (unless things improved with better conditions) but I was hopeful that he would report hearing me.  I only transmitted for 42 minutes (actual key-down was 48 seconds out of each 2 minute period.)

     Below is the important portion of his email report for that day:

Anyway, on August 29 during the NA moonset, I worked W1JJ, W7JW, W3UUM, W7UT, and KR7O. I also copied K4PI, K7CW, K7RWT, N3CXV, N3XX, N5DG, N8JX, VE1JF, W3XO, W6XU, and W8TN.

     WOOOO, HOOOO!!!!  My little single antenna 6-M station was actually heard in Micronesia!

     A couple of days later I ran a sked with a station in Michigan and he copied me as well.  However, I just am not able to hear the other stations.  Obviously I have something not right in my receive setup (either the radio or the computer) which needs to be worked out before I can make EME QSO's.  Still, the fact that these relatively small stations have heard me is proof that it may be possible in the future.

     I have now taken down the antenna from the front yard.  It would have come down at the same time anyway but the Homeowner's Association did make a visit here on Sunday because one of my nice neighbor's filed a complaint.  After that visit, Evelyn told me to just keep it up as long as I want in the front yard!  Love that gal!

Building the Coax Cables for the 6-M Station

W5SWL Connectors
Trying to keep the total feedline loss to a minimum, I decided to use LMR-600 to connect the radio to the amp, LDF4-50A (1/2-inch) Heliax and AVA7-50 (1-5/8-inch) Heliax to connect the amplifier to the top of the tower and FSJ4-50B (1/2-inch) SuperFlex as the rotor loop to connect to the antenna.  The LMR-600 has a loss of 0.5 dB per 100 feet, the LDF4-50A is 0.463 dB per 100 feet, the AVA7-50 is 0.137 dB per 100 feet and the FSJ4-50B is 0.724 dB per 100 feet.  My calculations indicate that I should have a TOTAL feedline loss of 0.821 dB between the transceiver and the connection to the balun at the antenna.   This includes an approximate 0.0025 dB of insertion loss for each connector at 50.1 MHz.

The first cable I built was using the LMR-600.  It is the cable to go between the UHF antenna connector of the K-3 transceiver and the "N" INPUT connector of the amplifier.  I purchased the connectors (one UHF male and one "N" male) from W5SWL on eBay.  You can see a photo of the two connectors on the right.  They were really inexpensive ($6.95 each) and look to be VERY well made.  The Times Microwave TC-600-UMC UHF male connector for LMR-600 costs $64.95 at The Antenna Farm so these W5SWL connectors saved me a LOT of money!

Center Pin Soldered on UHF Connector
The first step was to convert the dimensions given by W5SWL for the connector installation from decimal inches to fractional inches (as I did not have a decimal ruler - Hi!)  Once that was done, I proceeded to cut the end of the LMR-600 cable to the proper length.  This cable is much stiffer than RG-213 with a solid center conductor (copper-clad aluminum) nearly 3/16" in diameter.  Cutting it was a little more difficult than usual but not bad.  Combing back the braid was routine but when I tried to tin the center conductor, I ran into a problem.  I apparently applied too much heat (although I thought I was being careful) and the center conductor melted right through the foam dielectric.  On my second attempt, I only soldered one side of the center conductor at a time and let it cool in between heat applications.  I then tinned the inside of the center pin to make it even easier to attach the two together.  This method seemed to work well as I just heated the center pin with the soldering iron (holding it with needle nose pliers) and pushed it onto the center conductor.  A little more heat and a touch of solder was applied to the pin and it was securely attached.  Screwing the connector body together was a snap.  It worked just like a normal clamp-on "N" connector.  Then I added some heat shrink and a label to finish the installation.

Finished UHF Male Connector
I proceeded to install the "N" male connector on the other end of the cable.  As I always seem to have trouble installing "N" connectors, this one did not disappoint!  It took two tries to get the dimensions correct to allow the center pin to extend the proper distance inside the connector.  But, I got it done.  Click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

The next cable to be constructed was the FSJ4-50B (1/2-inch) SuperFlex jumper from the amplifier to the LDF4-50A (1/2-inch) Heliax that runs from the shack to where it can connect to the 1-5/8-inch Heliax.  I purchased a pair of Andrew F4PNMV2-HC N Male connectors on eBay that were NIB (New in Box) for $27.10 delivered. 

Prepped End of SuperFlex
Here Mr. Murphy reared his ugly head!  Years ago while assembling a 4-bay array of 432 yagis for EME (Moonbounce), I purchased the Andrew prep tool for the LDF4-50A 1/2-inch Heliax.   Unfortunately, that tool will NOT work on SuperFlex which has different dimensions.  BUMMER!  It took me about 3 hours to put on the first connector and I was really stressed doing it.  I tried to find someone who had the right tool to no avail so I had to claw my way through the second connector installation without the proper tools.  Since I had learned some things in my first few failed attempts, this time it only took about 1-1/2 hours (along with Evelyn's help) to install the second connector.  On the left below you can see the cable prepped and ready for the connector to be installed.  On the right is the finished connector with heat shrink installed.  It makes for a nice finished connector.
Installed "N" Male on SuperFlex

Later, in setting up my antenna on a temporary basis, I needed to install a couple of "N" male connectors on a length of LDF4-50A and - HEY, I had the proper tool.  It only took about 2-1/2 hours to install BOTH connectors and I'm proud to say they are done right!  Running 1,500-watts through that cable has been flawless.

UPDATE - When I went to install the beautiful LMR-600 cable I made above, I became truly depressed!  As I tried to screw the male "N" connector onto the amplifier, it seized up and would not turn.  I could force it to turn with a wrench but it was effectively no longer a working connector!  I am really sure I did nothing to screw up the installation of the connector, it is just that the money I saved with the W5SWL connectors turned out to be a false savings.  Now I'll have to purchase a REAL Times Microwave "N" male connector and cut the bad one off then install the one I should have put on to begin with.  Live and learn!