Sunday, January 28, 2024

Clipperton Island Confirmed on 6-M


What a THRILL to get this entity confirmed on 6-M.  I spent a fair amount of my time on Clipperton (FOØXX) in 1985 trying to make even a single 6-M QSO.  We set schedules with California KW stations to no avail.  Not a single Magic Band QSO was made in our 8 day operation of 30,958 QSO's.  (Click on any image to see it larger.)

W8TN as FOØXX from Clipperton in 1985

This year's TX5S operation made a total of 226 QSO's on 6-M including EME.
In 2013 TX5K made 329 QSO's on 6-M including 56 on EME by W7GJ. 

In 2000 FOØAAA made 139 QSO's on 6-M.

In 1992 FOØCI made 279 QSO's on 6-M.

Those four Clipperton Island operations may have produced all the Magic Band contacts EVER made on 6-M with Clipperton Island - 973 QSO's!  A RARE QSL indeed.

This contact now gives me confirmations on 10-Bands and 3-Modes with Clipperton Island.  Maybe someone will operate 2-M EME from there in the near future?

And, to make this contact even more memorable, I worked ZL7DX, Chatham Island, less than one hour before I worked Clipperton Island.  WOOF!  Some days the Magic Band is truly MAGIC!

These LoTW confirmations bring me to 157 All-Time Entities confirmed on 6-M.  WOW!  I never dreamed of reaching such a level on 50 MHz.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

QSL'ing Tips & Tricks - Hint #4 - Bypassing Postal Thieves

 A series of "Tips and Tricks" for obtaining a QSL when normal means fail.

If you need to acquire a QSL from a DX station via the postal service, this method can have its own risks.  Mail delivery in foreign countries is not always the best of services and those who handle the mail are not always the most trustworthy.

Your envelope could just never get delivered - go missing in transit - or the contents of your envelope may not arrive.  Some nefarious person can "tamper" with your envelope and
     A.  Remove the money you included
     B.  Remove the SAE you included.
     C.  Or, just "take" the entire envelope for themselves.

It seems that when a foreign ham gets a lot of mail from overseas, the "bad guys" in the postal system will begin to recognize that these mailings many times contain U.S. dollars.  Thus they actively look for those envelopes and take the contents (or the entire envelope) for themselves.  Being aware of this you can take steps to "disguise" your envelope and prevent pilferage.

Never put callsigns on the envelope.  This is a dead giveaway!  Personally I like to print my envelopes so the text can be as clear as possible to the machines and people who sort the mail along the way.  I also like to capitalize the name of the country to make it stand out.  (You can click on any image here to see it in a larger size.)

For my SAE (Return Envelope) I like to spell out my country AND put in the normal abbreviation for it:

VERY IMPORTANT:  Never allow your dollars to be seen through the envelope even if it is held up to a strong light.  I like to fold my dollars in half and insert one end of them in the Return Envelope and then slide my QSL up under the Return Envelope flap over the dollars to further conceal the money.  I also press the folds down well to make the envelope as thin as possible.  HINT:  Use the nicest bills you can find.  Torn, dirty, or even heavily wrinkled bills can not be exchanged in some countries.  I have even purchased 100 Brand New bills from my bank for this purpose. 

However, all those tricks may just not be enough.  If you find a DX station who posts that his mail is being stolen or that envelopes arrive without money, there is another step that has been proven to work several times.  Make the envelope look like it is a business communication which contains a "bill" and not money.  I created a fake invoice in Microsoft Word with the word "INVOICE" large and Bold so that it would show through the envelope.  I inserted it in a business size envelope from my defunct business to make it appear even more real.  In every instance where I have used this trick - it has worked.  The money and QSL's arrived at the DX station and I received my return QSL from him.

If even the "Fake Invoice" trick fails, you can still ask the DX station for a PayPal address where you can send him the money to pay for him sending you a QSL.  LoTW has helped immensely to remove the problems of getting paper QSL's by mail but sometimes this is what you need to do in order to obtain that elusive confirmation!

Monday, October 23, 2023

QSL'ing Tips & Tricks - Hint #3 - QSL Cards

 A series of "Tips and Tricks" for obtaining a QSL when normal means fail.

Why would anyone even go to the trouble of getting a QSL card from any DX station they work?  One of the main reasons is that a confirmation of a QSO is essential to many awards.  Logbook of the World (LoTW) has made a major impact on confirmation of contacts but not every station uploads their logs to LoTW.  That leaves a "written" confirmation (QSL card) as the method needed to apply that contact toward many awards.  And, collecting QSL's from rare DX stations is FUN!  Looking back through a stack of attractive and informative QSL's allows you to remember those contacts and educates you, your family and friends about the interesting places around the world which you have contacted.

You can view many different QSL's from all 340 Current DXCC entities from 1920 to the present on the K8CX QSL Museum.  In addition to QSL's, the K8CX Museum contains Sound Clips, Photos from the Dayton Hamvention, Tributes to Ham Operators, and several other interesting items.  Check out the Table of Contents for all that info.

An important first step in filling out your own QSL is to make certain the DATE is understandable to anyone in any country around the world.  If you put the date down as "10/12/2023" does that mean October 12 or December 10?  American usage calls for a month/day/year date format, the United Kingdom and much of Europe use a day/month/year format, and most countries in Asia use the year/month/day format.  Confusion!  Putting the date in the wrong format can result in the dreaded "Not in Log" result.  Make sure you either spell out the Month or create columns on your QSL that leave no doubt as to the date of the QSO:

It should go without saying that you need to write out your QSL information in a legible manner.  Always think that your QSL is being viewed by someone for whom English is NOT their primary language.  PRINT everything as clearly as possible.  Better yet, use your Logging program to either print the QSO information directly onto the QSL Card or onto an adhesive label.  This is not difficult to do and provides the clearest way to put all the necessary information onto your QSL.  (The pre-printed information on my QSL in the image below has been grayed out to better show the QSO information I printed onto the blank QSL with my own computer & printer.  Click on any image to see it larger.)

Where to have your QSL's printed?  There are dozens of printers who will print QSL cards for you and you can even print them yourself.  (See my Hint #1 Post HERE for a way to print your own.)  For several years I have been using UX5UO Print to print my QSL's.  Gennady is located in the Ukraine and appears to still be in business even with the current Russian war.  As of October 2023, 21,972 unique callsigns from 320 DXCC countries have already been printed by "UX5UO print".  You can get 1,000 Luxury cards printed with Full Color on the front and single color on the back for less than $85 including shipping!  Below are my current QSL's which were printed by UX5UO from photos I provided.  You can see the rear of one of the QSL's above - the grayed out area.

You do not need fancy QSL's but you do need at least a basic one to be able to send for the QSL's you want to collect.  I have worked four New Ones on 6-M in the last 3 days and TWO of them are NOT on LoTW!  Therefore, I need to send my QSL to them or request their card via OQSL (more on that method later.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

QSL'ing Tips & Tricks - Hint #2 - Using Email

A series of "Tips and Tricks" for obtaining a QSL when normal means fail.

Often you "think" you had a good QSO but it never shows up on LoTW or on the Online Log for the station you think you worked.  If it is for a New One (on a particular Band or Mode) or even an All-Time New One (ATNO) then working a bit to secure a confirmation for that contact is warranted.

If it is a DX'pedition, you really need to immediately try to work the DX on that same Band or Mode for an "Insurance Contact."  That way if your initial QSO can not be confirmed, you have a 2nd chance with the insurance contact.

A good first step to acquiring the confirmation is to send an email to the station you worked - or to the QSL Manager.  You can usually find the email address on under the callsign of the DX station you worked.  Or, if the DX has a Manager, look at the Manager's address for his email.

ALWAYS be polite in your email.  Never make statements like "You busted my call!" or "Why did you not put me in your log?"  Being polite always pays off.

Make the subject line descriptive of what you want.  Something like "4L4DX QSL Question from W8TN" will tell the DX or the Manager what you are seeking.

In the body of your email, keep it "short and sweet."  Describe why you think you had a valid QSO for which you are seeking a QSL.  For a WSJT-X contact, you might include something like this:

I have a question about a QSO I believe I completed with 4L4DX on 17-M FT8 back on May 30, 2023.  I am writing because this QSO does not show in Club Log.

Below are all the pertinent items I have in my ALL.TXT file:

230530_031930    18.100 Tx FT8      0  0.0  506 4L4DX W8TN EM98
230530_031945    18.100 Rx FT8      1  0.2 2012 W8TN 4L4DX -17
230530_032000    18.100 Tx FT8      0  0.0  506 4L4DX W8TN R+01
230530_032115    18.100 Rx FT8     -9  0.2 2012 W8TN 4L4DX RRR
If it was an SSB/CW/RTTY QSO, you could say something like this:
Dear Mr. Jones,

I sent my QSL with $2 U.S. and a self-addressed envelope to the following address on 05/05/2014 (05-May-2014):

Esmond Jones
P.O. Box 10868

As of 02/11/2015 (02-November-2015) I have not received a QSL from 8R1AK.  Did my envelope/QSL/$$ get lost in the mail?  Do I need to send again?

QSO info:
05-March-2014 (05/03/2014)
2209 GMT
12-M (24.950 MHz)

This is my only 8R QSO on 12-M.  Thank you for your consideration.
Finally, keep track of these emails you send.  Make a note in your log as to when you sent an email or make a "Label" or "Folder" in your SENT email folder for "QSL Questions" and put these emails there.  That makes it easy to look back and note if you have not received a response after a reasonable time.  This will allow you to follow up with another email or try to contact someone else.

For reference, both the above examples were successful.  The QSL Manager agreed that I had a valid QSO and saw to it that my QSO with 4L4DX was placed in the online log.  And for 8R1AK, I did receive the paper QSL a few months after sending this email.

Update WSJT-X to the Latest CTY.dat File

 The following quote is from:

Have you ever wondered how all of the various types of amateur radio software, e.g. N1MM and DX Cluster nodes, keep up to date with the plethora of changes that occur to a simple list of countries and prefixes? These changes take place almost daily and getting it right can be vital for contest point scoring and award tracking so you need to log the correct information.

Which DXCC entity is GB4CTY located in this week? It could be any of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Island, Guernsey or Jersey.

What about G3YPP/NHS. Surely the /N places him stateside.

It would be a remarkable feat if every single program was updated individually by their development teams every time a prefix or entity changed or a new Special Event Station was activated.

Fortunately, most logger and contest software makes use of cty.dat files which have been kept updated by Jim Reisert, AD1C as a labour of love for many, many years. Known as country files, full details can be seen on Jim’s website here: Country Files

This is from:

The WSJT-X User Guide states, “WSJT-X includes a built-in cty.dat file containing DXCC prefix information. Updated files can be downloaded from the Amateur Radio Country Files website when required. If an updated cty.dat is present in the logs folder and readable, it will be used in preference to the built-in one.”

Starting with Version 2.7, you can update the country file from within the program. In Settings, click on the Colors tab and you’ll find the information at the bottom of the window.

WSJT-X pull down File | Settings... | Colors tab

This update process simply can not be any more painless.  Doing this assures that your WSJT-X decodes are identified as the correct country.  And, if you use supplemental programs like JTAlert or GridTracker, they can give you audible or text/email alerts for those decodes you need.

Monday, October 16, 2023

QSL'ing Tips & Tricks - Hint #1 - Blank QSL

A series of "Tips and Tricks" for obtaining a QSL when normal means fail.  

Recently a friend told me he was trying to obtain a QSL for a contact that was several years old.  He had sent his QSL + SASE to the QSL Manager but the manager replied with a note saying he recently had downsized, moved, and no longer had any blank QSL's.  The manager DID state he had uploaded the logs of the DX station to the QRZ Logbook and my friend's contact WAS listed there.  However, since he had no blank QSL cards, he was unable to confirm the contact.

My method of solving such a problem is to send some BLANK QSL cards to the QSL Manager.  I learned this trick from Steve, KØCS, (now a SK) several decades ago.  YI1BGD in Iraq came on the air in the late 1970's and Steve worked them for an ATNO but could not get a QSL.  So, he had 100 QSL cards professionally printed and he airmailed them to Iraq.  He then sent his QSL + SAE +$5 EVERY MONTH for a year until he got it confirmed.  Unfortunately it was not with one of the QSL's he had printed!  Still, I learned from that trick and have used it on a few occasions to secure a QSL for a needed State or Grid. 

To help my friend get the QSL he needed I found a website where you can quickly design a Blank QSL.  The site will produce a PDF file which you can use to print on your own printer or at a local print shop.  Then you just send the Blank QSL's to the QSL Manager and ask him to fill one out.  Here is the website I used: QSL Card Creator. You can make just a very simple, basic QSL or get creative by adding graphics.  Below is the Blank QSL I created for my friend.  It took about 5 minutes to do this.

I gave my friend 6 of these Blank QSL's (which I printed on some card stock) to send to the QSL Manager.  I will post back here his results.

BONUS HINT: You can use this method to print Blank QSL's for yourself to confirm contacts you may have made while portable - like Field Day or POTA.


The A35TR QSL Manager DID respond by filling out one of the blank QSL's and he returned it to my friend.  The Blank QSL preparation was well worth the minimum effort it took in order to receive a confirmation for a New One which had seemed impossible to get confirmed in a normal manner.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Configure JTAlert to Send Text Msg or Email User Alerts

JTAlert has the ability to alert the user (you) by playing an audible message for Wanted States, New DXCC, New Zone, New Grid, or several other decodes you want to be notified about when it decodes a callsign matching one of your "Needs."  This feature has garnered me several New Ones on 6-M (both DXCC's and Grids) by playing an audio message of "Wanted Call," "New Country," "New State," "New Grid," or any of a dozen or so other alerts.  This feature is wonderful as long as you are close enough to your computer to hear that audible alert from your computer's speakers. 

But what about when you are too far away to hear that alert?  To solve that problem Bill, WTØDX, has written a procedure to allow JTAlert to send a Text Message and/or an Email in addition to that audible alert using JTAlert's User Alert feature.  Zowie!  I would say this procedure is the "Bee's Knees" but you have to be "of a certain age" to understand that phrase!  Maybe I should call it "Lit", or "Dope" or "Fire" to be more current in my slang.  In any event, I think this is Absolutely AWESOME!

I  was lucky to be a "Beta Tester" for this procedure.  My findings were that "Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of creating folders and working with text files should be able to follow this procedure with no problems." It took me exactly 1 hour to complete the procedure AND record 2 pages of notes at the same time.  I did already have a Gmail account with 2-Step Verification enabled so that gave me a bit of a head start.

The procedure is contained in a 19-page PDF file.  It is that long because it has a LOT of screenshots to make each step easy to follow.  An overview of the procedure is:

- Create Gmail email account (optional if you already have a Gmail account you want to use)
- Enable 2-Step Verification for the account
- Generate an Application Password for that account
- Edit the Send Alert file and save as a batch file
- Download CMail application
- Store Send Alert batch file and CMail application in a folder
- Configure JTAlert
- Test

You can download the PDF file plus two text files (Send Alert.txt and CMail test.txt) which are described in the procedure, as a ZIP file from this link:  JTAlert User Alert Files.  UnZIP that file then follow the procedure in the PDF file.

Below are screenshots of an email and a text message created by this procedure.  I had left my radio receiving on 17-M and JTAlert decoded 4L7T which would be a New One for me.  It then sent me the email and text messages shown below.  (I missed working 4L7T because I was on the mower and did not hear my phone ding!)

4L7T Email + Text Message

The latest version of JTAlert is 2.60.10 available HERE.  My version is 2.60.5 (Build date: 7-Feburary-2023) and this procedure worked just fine with my older version.

Combine the above procedure to alert you to needed callsigns which your own station copies with the HamAlert feature which will send you a text message when a needed entity is spotted on the Cluster or reported to PSKReporter, and you have covered all the bases.  Here is a Post detailing the HamAlert notification feature: DX Spots that "Only YOU Need on Your Phone.

UPDATE RE Verizon Wireless:

For those of you with Verizon Wireless, please read the following article regarding a new "feature" to disable email to text messages. 

If you have turned off email to text "spam" messages, then you will not receive the alerts.  (Thanks to Jim KC4HW for pointing this out).

73 Bill WT0DX

Monday, June 5, 2023

Messi & Paoloni Coax Presentation

Samples of Messi & Paoloni Coax
At the June 3, 2023, meeting of the West Virginia DX Association (WVDXA) I made a presentation about Messi & Paoloni Coax Cables and the M&P connectors.  I have been using M&P coax for a few years now and am AMAZED at their quality and performance.  On my last order I asked Christian Messi to send me a sample or two of M&P cables and I would show them off to some local radio clubs.  Well, he sent me NINE (9) samples!  WOOF!

So that meant I had to put them together in a way that would show off their characteristics.  I decided to mount them on a display board with the names of each cable above.  You can click on the image above to see it in a larger size.

During the meeting I was given time to describe the Messi & Paoloni cable and connector lines.  Most of those in attendance were not familiar with the brand.  In addition to the above display, I had prepared a handout which was distributed to all those attending.  Click Here to download that handout in PDF format.  Obviously I am a "fan" of M&P products and do not hesitate to recommend them.

Not only did I discuss the varieties of coax which M&P supplies but I also spent a little time describing their excellent line of connectors.  I focused on the UHF-EVO improvement to the standard PL-259.

W8TN Making the Presentation
At least one person there was so impressed he said he was planning to replace all of his station coax soon and would be replacing all of them with M&P products!  So, that was a good result.  If anyone has any specific questions about M&P coax and connectors, just contact me at your convenience.  And, I am available to make this presentation to your local radio club if requested.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

ZC4RH - British Military Bases, Cyprus - 2-M EME

Today I received a QSL for my QSO with ZC4RH on 2-M EME!  This is my 63rd Country confirmed on 2-M EME with one more worked but not confirmed (VK.)  (Click on any image to see it larger.)

Chris, PA2CHR, Jos, PA3FYC, and Dave, ZC4RH, set up and operated an EME station on three VHF bands in November 2022 from an extremely rare location.  The British Bases on Cyprus occupy only about 98 square miles so it's quite small.  This operation took at least a year of planning, on-site visits, pre-shipment of all equipment by UPS/DHL, and loads of preparation.  Many difficulties had to be overcome but the final result was a huge success.

The ZC4RH operation ended with: 144 MHz:  213 QSO's    /     432 MHz:    54  QSO's   /    1296 MHz:   32  QSO's

For 2-M the ZC4RH station consisted of: FT857, SSPA, LNA and 2 x 10/10 ele x-pol yagis (16 dBd).  My own 800-watts and 2 x 14/14 XPOL InnovAntennas was sufficient to finally make the QSO - just moments before their MoonSet on the final day of 2-M operation.


I am just SO excited to have added this very, very rare entity to my list of countries worked and confirmed via 2-M EME!  Opportunities to work such stations come along seldom so to check this one off is a HUGE satisfaction to me. My sincere THANKS to Chris, Jos, and Dave for all their efforts in making this happen!

Previously I have worked Chris, PA2CHR, and Jos, PA3FYC, from TD9FYC (2018) and VP2EMB (2019) as both New Countries for me.  I'm anxiously waiting to see where they go next!

Monday, January 23, 2023

DX Spots that "Only YOU Need" on Your Phone

Chasing DX on 6-M is always challenging.  The propagation is not very predictable and stations can appear only for moments before disappearing - never to be heard again.  I have long searched for a way to be notified when there was an opening that "might" allow me to add a new country to my totals.  Early on my push was to just reach the 100 entity level for 6-M DXCC.  My quest took 37 years and 10 months on the band before DXCC was achieved.  Still, mine was the first 6-M DXCC in West Virginia and only the 739th award issued worldwide.  During a lot of my pursuit there were very few countries who authorized operation on 50 MHz.  And, most major manufacturers did not include that band in their radios. (Plus, FT8 did not exist!)

Very early on there was a net on 28.885 MHz which alerted folks to openings around the country.  In 1989 it alerted me to an opening for KG6DX on Guam.  That opening lasted less than 90 seconds for me but gave me a New Country. Sometime in the late 1990's, I joined with several of my 6-M DX'ing friends all over the country, and created a telephone alerting network to let others know when an opening was happening.  I kept and distributed a list of calls, names, phone numbers, XYL's name (in case she answered the phone), and a listing of the prefixes that person Did NOT Need.  Below is a snippet of a later copy of this list (click on any image to see it larger):

One tool I also used was to put a "Baby Monitor" at the radio, let the radio scan the lower part of the band, and take the monitor with me when I was out of the shack.   In later years I set up Logger32 to send a text message to my phone when Telnet posted a spot for a New One for me.

Most recently I have been using JTAlert to announce NEW COUNTRY or NEW GRID over the computer speakers when my station copied a New One.  This has been very helpful and alerted me to the fact that I was copying China while I was on the back porch grilling burgers!

But if I depend on only being alerted when my station actually copies a New One, I may not make it to the radio in time to score a QSO because the openings are so short.  Over the years I have missed many New Ones because I did not have the radio turned on, I was at the store or otherwise unaware of an opening, or multiple other reasons.  In reality you can not sit at the radio all day waiting for the propagation gods to favor your location.  But, as we know, (per K4OM) the way to succeed on 6-M (or most bands) takes your "Butt in the Chair!"

The trick is an "Early Warning" system.  Something that would tell me that a country I need is being heard or spotted "somewhere near me."  Call it my 6-M DEW Line.  I think I may have found that!  It is HamAlert which is a is system that allows you to get notifications when a desired station appears on the DX cluster, the Reverse Beacon Network, SOTAwatch, POTA, or PSK Reporter. You only need to sign up for a HamAlert account (free), load the HamAlert app on your phone, and enter "Triggers" to tell the system when you want to receive an alert. AWESOME!  As you can see below, HamAlert processed over 13 MILLION spots and sent over 218 THOUSAND Alerts just TODAY!

You can set up the parameters (Triggers, Limits, Destinations, etc.) on the online HamAlert page.  Under "Destinations" I chose the HamAlert app on my iPhone as where the alerts would be sent and chose "Morse" for the sound.  I made no changes from the defaults on the "Limits" page.  On the "Triggers" page, I set up a Trigger for 6m and attempted to load my Club Log records into the "DXCC" condition.  Unfortunately after the upload, HamAlert only had 104 entities for me on 6-M instead of the 143 it should have had.  So, I ended up editing the DXCC list manually for the 197 entities I have not worked.  NOTE: Do not take too long editing your list without SAVEing it as you can be logged out of HamAlert and will have to start over.  (This is the voice of experience talking!)

The first time I did this I was getting a lot of spots from VK's for VK and ZL stations which I need.  But, that was just Too Much Information (TMI) that I could not use.  This was because HamAlert was processing spots from everywhere to generate my alerts.  So, I set a condition where the CQ Zone of the "Spotter of the DX" had to be in the U.S. or Canada (Zone 3, 4, and 5) - see above image.  That stopped the spots completely.  But would it still work the way I wanted?  Since I could see on the Cluster that U.S. stations were working Brazil, I edited the DXCC list so that it showed I needed Brazil.  The alerts started coming in (only from U.S. hams) so I knew I had it working.  Editing the DXCC list to remove Brazil from my "needs" and the PY alerts stopped.

Then, a spot for ZP, Paraguay, appeared!  That was one I need!  But, after rushing to the radio, I did not have propagation.  Still it alerted me to the "possibility" of a ZP in the future.  Below is a screenshot of what appeared on my cell phone.  I received an alert sound in CW and the alert information appeared on my phone's Notification Screen just like other news or weather apps.


As "Sources" I chose spots from the "Cluster" and spots received by "PSKReporter."  That way, if a station copies a country I need but they do not post it to the Cluster, and if they have WSJT-X or JTDX set to send their reception information to PSKReporter - I'll see that spot!  No need to just depend on ONLY stations who choose to spot a station on the Cluster. 

The second night after setting this up my phone started receiving alerts from hams on the West Coast spotting VK and ZL stations.  BINGO!  Just what I wanted.  No alerts "from" VK or ZL hams.  ONLY alerts from those in the U.S.

With the 6-M season just around the corner and the Sunspots ramping up, I have great hopes that this app will assist me in working more New Ones!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Z66X, Rep. of Kosovo, Confirmed on 6-M

Between June 28 and July 4, 2022, Adrian, KO8SCA, Martti, OH2BH, Ville, OH2MM, Driton, Z61DX Enver, Z61EK, and Naim, Z62NS, carried out an activity from the Republic of Kosovo.  Their plan was to concentrate on 6-M to hand out the most recent DXCC entity, Z6, to as many as possible.  Their plan was also to concentrate on stations in the USA and Japan.  They took an Elecraft K3S, an SPE amplifier and a 7-element InnovAntenna (LFA-2) with an 8.9m boom.

Of course, I was primed and ready to try and work them as this would be a New Country for me on the Magic Band.  Day after day I was sitting at the radio with my antenna headed toward Kosovo but no signals were received.  In fact, from what I could see on PSK Reporter, there was no one in the U.S. copying Z66X.  Then on June 30th I saw PSK Reporter spots showing that Z66X was being copied in the USA.  (Click on any image below to see it in a larger size.)

However, the opening seemed to favor the South East part of the country and not me. Note there was 1-1/2 hours between that first spot (on the left) and the ones on the right.  This was good information.  It told me not to give up if an opening seemed to be short lived.

As the days wore on, it seemed that almost no one in the U.S. was working Z66X.  I was there, in the chair, every morning - just in case.  That patience was rewarded on July 3rd when I had my first decode of Z66X:

The bad news is that was a "one and done" decode.  Nothing else was copied from Kosovo for some 2-1/2 hours.  Still, I remembered what had happened three days earlier so I stuck with it.  That effort was rewarded almost 3 hours after my first decode when I again began decoding Z66X.  I began to call and call and after many transmissions, made a good QSO:

There was a lot of jumping up and down and many "YA HOOO"s taking place in my shack after that!  A VERY RARE New One had been added to my 6-M Entities Worked.  Just 16 days later I was rewarded with an LoTW Confirmation and today, a beautiful QSL arrived in the mail:


When I found the following recap on Twitter, it really put into perspective the magnitude of my QSO:


Many have wondered about the delay on publishing the Z66X QSO statistics and log updates for the variety of databases such as ClubLog and LoTW.

The truth is that Martti, OH2BH was diagnosed with COVID following the Z6 trip and he is still suffering of it. The other Z66X team members, Adrian, KO8SCA and Ville, OH2MM have shown no symptoms yet and they are assisting with the log process. In total some 3572 QSOs were made, out of which 44 QSOs on 6M FT8 were made with North America. Please QRX for a few more days for the log update.

Meanwhile, Champ, E21EIC had the entire Siam DX Group present in the temple to talk to Buddha about Martti’s case. The message was loud and clear: “Buddha says that the DX-ers never die!”

You can also delight Martti, OH2BH with your “get well” wishes by email.
73 Al 4L5A

 6-M is always the "Magic Band" but sometimes you have to "make your own magic" with planning, patience, and perseverance!

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Another Cable Order from Messi & Paoloni

As I am getting close to completing my new antenna array (a pair of 14-element InnovAntenna XPOL yagis) I wanted to make sure I had the best possible cable to connect my antennas to my station.  Of course, in my opinion, there is ONLY ONE choice for that - Messi & Paoloni from Italy.  If you visit their website you will see a pop-up showing that you can now purchase their products from GIGAPARTS and BUY TWO WAY RADIOS.  However, since I have made several purchases of custom cables direct from M&P, I chose to do that again.

Instead of buying a standard length of a particular cable, I ordered cables to fit the place where I needed them and, I had their best quality "N-Male" connectors SOLDERED on to the ends of the cable.  Since my station is already using the ULTRAFLEX 10/.400" cables to run from the LNA's to the LinkRF IQ+ dual channel receiver, I chose that same cable for my jumpers from the Power Dividers to the T/R relay.  I also purchased a couple of 3-foot jumpers for use in the shack.

I placed the order on August 31 and received all the cables on September 6, 2022 - less than a week from Italy!  It would have been even sooner but the Labor Day weekend intervened.  Below you can see 2 of the cables I ordered (a 1m and a 4m) complete with the "Test Results" for each cable!  AWESOME!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Custom-Made Driven Element Measuring Tool

In tuning my InnovAntenna LFA 2-M yagis (and later my XPOL antennas) I needed a simple way to measure the Driven Element (DE) dimensions.  The manual for my 2-M antennas says:

Hose clips are ready to place on the driven element sections and need to be loosened to allow the insertion of the end-loop element sections. The loop end sections are easy to identify and once inserted should be tightened to around 0.890m from the inside of the loop section one side, to the inside of the loop section on the other side. This loop will need adjusting once the antenna is complete with the above measurement being the starting point.

According to the manual for my 2-M antennas above, the DE loop sections should initially be set to around 0.890m from the inside of the loop section on one side, to the inside of the loop section on the other side.  I found it really difficult to measure this distance across the square boom while I was trying to adjust them.  So, I measured the width of the boom at 38mm and deducted that from the 890mm total distance (890 - 38 = 852mm).  Dividing that by two gives 426mm from the inside of the DE to the closest side of the square boom.  

The solution thus became obvious.  Since the antenna boom is square, a tool could be built to measure from the closest side of the boom to the inside of the DE loop.  So I took a short length of 1/2" X 1/2" wooden molding and taped a printout of a millimeter scale to it.  The printout of the mm scale was not 100% accurate but I decided it would serve perfectly as a "relative" measuring tool.  That is, if I measure one Driven Element at 426mm according to this tool, I could measure another to 426mm and they would be the same.  It would not matter if the distance was actually 427mm.  Just being able to adjust the corners of each DE loop to be the same distance and then adjust the DE loop on the other side of the boom to be the same was my goal.  I positioned the printout on the wooden stick so that the "Ø" on the printout was exactly 300mm from the far end.  That made it easy to adjust the DE's to the initial setting of 426mm (just add 300mm to the scale reading) and then move the DE's in easily repeatable amounts.  (Click on any image to view a larger size.)

Custon-Made Driven Element Measuring Tool

All I had to do was to place the end of the wooden stick on the side of the square boom and then measure to the inside of the DE using the scale on the measuring tool.

DE Measuring Tool in Use

Once I tightened the hose clamp (Jubilee Clip in the U.K.) on one end of a DE, it was extremely easy to move the measuring tool to the other end, adjust it to the same measurement and then tighten that hose clamp.  This made the adjustable portion of that DE square to the boom.  Then I just used the same measurement on the tool to set the DE on the other side of the boom.  Simple!  I sure wish I had thought of this back in 2017 when I was trying to adjust my 13-L antennas!

And, after I posted the above, Carlos, WD6Y made a similar tool for 70cm:

Sunday, June 27, 2021

FINALLY the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna is UP!

8-L at 95'AGL Through the Trees on Rohn 45
This project has been a long time coming.  In July 2015 the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna yagi arrived from Great Britain.  I had spoken to Justin Johnson, GØKSC, at the Dayton Hamvention in May and placed the order.  But it was not until August that I was able to construct it.  Check THIS Blog Post for those details.

The build took place at the QTH of my good friend, Tim, K8RRT, because he had much more available room than me.  Once the antenna was built, I raised it to about 39-feet on Tim's Rohn 45G tower to proceed with tuning the antenna.  Check THIS Blog Post for the details on the antenna tuning.

Once I had the new antenna at my QTH, I was not able to get it up on the tower immediately.  My tower is located in the woods behind my house (down over the hill.)  The base is located about 35 feet below the level of the house and it is quite difficult to get to and work around. Still, as Lance, W7GJ, was about to operate a 6-M EME DX'pedition from V6M, the Federated States of Micronesia, I felt the burning need to try and work him even if the antenna was not atop the big tower.  So as any reasonable ham would do, I erected the antenna temporarily in my front yard!  Check THIS Blog Post for the temporary installation details.  This did not please the Homeowner's Association but the really good news is that I WAS HEARD by Lance!  I was  not able to complete the QSO but still, it was 1/2 of a 6-M EME QSO in my book!

I still could not find a way to get the antenna up onto the tall tower.  It lay on the patio for the next 3 years. But in the summer of 2018 I really wanted to join in on all the DX fun (it had been 4 years since I worked a New One on the Magic Band) - and, I hoped to just maybe work a Japanese station on 50 MHz.  So, I took down the EME antennas from the short tower at the house and put up the 6-M antenna. See a photo on the Photo Link below.

In the 3 weeks the antenna was on the EME tower, I managed to work ELEVEN New Ones bringing my 6-M total to 121.  This certainly proved to me the value of this antenna.  However, it had to come down before it was damaged.  I had just "roped" it to the side of the EME tower and any windy day or a thunderstorm threatened to damage the antenna.  Still, it had proved its worth!

Move forward three more years to the present and I finally decided that I was just not going to be physically able to work on my 85-foot tower myself.  So, I contracted with a firm who has done a lot of antenna work for local hams.  I had them remove the damaged 4-L SteppIR and the 12-foot mast that supported it.  Then they pulled up the new 15-foot mast (See THIS Post for info on the new mast,) the 1-5/8" Heliax, and then pulled up the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna to it's new location at 95-feet AGL.  

It took a week to complete this project.  You can Click HERE for Photos of this project.  Click on the "i" within the circle to read a description of each photo.  Then click on the first photo to move through all the images in a larger size.  Also, Click HERE for Video (less than 6 minutes) which is a compilation of several shorter videos shot while the antenna was being pulled up from ground level to its final resting place.

Day #1 of the project was me with my grandsons, Owen and Grant, clearing the area, putting together the sections of the beam, me breaking the balun!, and the need for me to make TWO trips up and down the hill.  WHEW!

Day #2 had Joe Beam and his crew come and remove the 4-L SteppIR antenna.  Thank goodness the grandsons, Owen and Grant were also here to help take apart that monster.  I only had to make one trip up and down the hill and don't think I had another one in me.  After accidentally breaking the balun, I followed the advice of Charlie, N8RR, and managed to re-build the balun with a new piece of coax plus using the 25 ferrite toroids from the damaged balun.  You can see the result of that re-build on the above Photo Link.

Day #3 started with "Marvin" of Joe's crew climbing and "limbing" a bunch of trees to give enough room for the antenna to go up and to later rotate.  Due to the physical exercise of the previous days, I was not able to make it outside until noon except to greet the crew upon arrival.  After the Aleve(tm) kicked in, I went out and made one more trip over the hill to help with pulling up the 8-L 6-M beam.  Owen ran the tag line and both of Joe's crew were on the tower.  Joe was at the top of the hill running the winch.  You can see a photo of the antenna on its way up on the Photo Link above.

Day #4 "Marvin" and "Paul" came to trim one more tree and to pull up the 1-5/8" Heliax.  It was a "Good News - Bad News" kind of day.

My Grandson Owen and I rolled out the 190-feet (or so) of 1-5/8" Heliax with "Paul" from Joe Beam's crew holding the end which had the 7/16" DIN connector which Tim and I had installed.  Click HERE for details on that.  This would be the end at the top of the tower.  We had to use nearly all the neighbor's yard clear to the street for the cable to unroll the entire length of cable.

Right away Paul hooked up the pull rope and using the winch, pulled the Heliax up to the top of the tower.  "Marvin" was up on the tower to secure the cable.  This went VERY fast!  I can not imagine trying to haul this cable up by hand.  It weighs 0.72 pounds per foot so the 140-feet or so that we used today weighs about 100 pounds.

At this point Paul went up the tower to attach the "hangers" to secure the Heliax to the tower plus carry the weight of that cable.  Marvin started climbing a tree that had to be cut back and began working on that.  Owen took off to the doctor because he picked up a serious case of poison ivy or poison oak when he was here on Day #3.  He ended up with a steroid shot and is feeling somewhat better.

I then began installing the female N-Connector on the 1/2-inch Heliax which runs under the back yard and into the shack.  Just to make sure this system would play, I put a small amount of my blood onto my work!  Before I finished that connector, my grandson, Grant, showed up and he helped me saw off about 42 feet of the 1-5/8-inch Heliax which was surplus to this installation and then helped me use the Commscope-Andrew Easiax Automated Prep Tool (CPT-158U) to prepare this big feedline for the connector installation.  That went quite well and the big Heliax now has a 7/16" DIN connector on the shack end as well as the antenna end.
At this point, Joe Beam showed up just as his crew was finishing and packing up.  Grant left to go do other things.  After Joe and his crew left, I finished the connector installation on the 1/2-inch Heliax and connected the 1/2" to the 1-5/8" cables with a 10-foot jumper of 1/2" SureFlex Heliax with an N-Male on one end and a 7/16" DIN Male on the other.  

I then taped Ziploc bags over each of the connector joints - just in case.  As it turned out, as I was picking up my tools, it started to rain!  Not a lot but it was enough to make me glad I had covered my butt so to speak.  I will apply a more permanent weatherproofing solution to those joints at a later time.

I quickly hooked up the new antenna and did an SWR check.  Things looked REALLY good.  Remember my antenna was tuned for the low end of the band for SSB and CW but my tuner will adjust the SWR at 50.313 to 1:1 so, no worries!

Logger32 Beam Heading
50.100   1.1:1
50.150   1.2:1
50.200   1.3:1
50.250   1.3:1
50.300   1.4:1

Now here is where the Bad News comes in. Just after checking out the SWR, I found my rotor did not rotate.  That was a huge BUMMER!  I was trying to hear the K8MMM beacon and went to rotate the antenna a little to the West and the rotor controller gave me an "E 1" error message.  At this point I called it quits for the day.  But when I came back later, I found that the rotor would rotate just fine in the ClockWise direction but not at all in the CCW direction.  Possibly that was just an issue with the CW wire between the controller and the rotor.  I also found that I had picked up two ticks on my left leg.  Thankfully neither one infected me with any "tick-borne" diseases.

On Monday, "Paul" came to help figure out the rotor issue.  He climbed the tower checking the rotor cable as he went and found no problems.  Where the cable attaches to the pigtail coming out of the rotor I had used a pair of "Trailer Plugs."  Paul found some corrosion there and by plugging/unplugging the connections plus a little cleaning of the pins, the rotor now turns just fine.  As you can see in the image on the right, my M2 Orion RC2800PX rotor controller interfaces just fine with Logger32 to tell me where the antenna is pointed and to allow me to quickly and easily rotate the antenna.  Click HERE for a 20-second video of this feature in action.

I think this installation will play very well.  There is approximately 262-feet of feedline from the antenna to the radio including all jumpers.  The combination of 1-5/8" and 1/2" Heliax pieces should result in a total feedline loss of 1.35 dB which includes an allowance of 0.50 dB loss for 10 connectors (0.05 dB per connector.)

On June 26, 2021, just 5 days after installing the antenna the above station was decoded. This 9K2NO (Kuwait) entity would be a New One for me (No. 124 on 6-M) but propagation did not last long enough for a QSO.  I think at this point I will say this antenna project was definitely worth the effort!  Bring on the 6-M DX!!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

1-5/8" Heliax Feedline & Mast for 6-M Beam Installation

Progress continues to be made on the 2021 Antenna Project to put the 8-L InnovAntennas 6-M yagi (11.7m, or 38.4-foot boom) up on top of my 85-foot tower.  

On May 24, 2021, Grandson Owen drove me to Metals Depot in Winchester, KY, with a trailer, to pick up the new mast - a 15-foot length of 1-1/2" Schedule 80, A500 Uncoated Steel Pipe, 1.90" O.D. x .200" wall x 1.50" I.D. (T511280 Structural Steel Pipe.)  I had to go with this 1.9" O.D. pipe over a 2-inch O.D. mast because of the size of the top section of my tower.  On the right you can see the photo of the new mast on the trailer.  The inset shows a close-up of the end of the mast.  To prevent the mast from rusting, grandsons Owen and Grant have sanded, primed and painted the mast as it was uncoated when I bought it.  (Click on any photo to see a larger image.)

Thankfully a few years ago I had acquired a length of used 1-5/8” Heliax cable (Commscope-Andrew AVA7-50) which had been removed from a cellphone tower.  Click HERE to see a photo of the Grandsons (Owen & Grant) helping me bring the cable home.  (Yes, they were MUCH younger then!)

The next job was to install connectors on the 1-5/8" Heliax.  These connectors are 7/16 DIN female and each connector is 4 x 2-1/2 inches and weighs 1.7 pounds!  Not your typical PL-259.  You can see an image of one of those connectors on the left.  I had worried about how to install these and recently found that Commscope-Andrew makes a special tool to do this.  Click HERE to see a video of this tool (CPT-158U) in operation.  It is just amazing to me to see how simple it is to use this tool.  After watching that video I decided I just "had" to have that tool for this project.  I found it on eBay (new) for $85 so that was purchased.

Then on June 1, 2021, Tim, K8RRT, came to help me install the first connector.  This will be on the end of the cable that is at the top of the tower.  Once the cable is installed and unrolled to the top of the hill, it will be cut to length and the other connector installed.

On the right you can see me working on prepping the cable to install the 7/16 DIN connector.  Note the red-bordered inset - this is what happens when you fail to wear your gloves!  But, this is a GOOD thing.  As amateur radio lore goes, an antenna will just not work right unless you bleed on it!

I can attest that this method (using the Commscope-Andrew Easiax Automated Prep Tool) is totally the berries!  I have installed connectors many times on 1/2-inch and 7/8-inch Heliax over the last 30+ years and this method beats the dickens out of the old methods!  Cut the Heliax off flush, run the Easiax tool (chucked in a power drill) for 5-10 seconds to remove the outer conductor and trim everything else to size.  Then, use the plastic separator tool to separate the foam from the outer conductor, put the two parts of the connector on the cable, and tighten!  DONE!  You can see the installed connector on the left.

Why did I choose to use such large feedline?  Since the feedpoint of the 6-M beam will be 272-feet from the transceiver/amplifier, I need to minimize the loss in that length of feedline.  For the entire 6-M feedline I will use 46-feet of M&P HYPERFLEX 13/.500" cable to connect the antenna balun to the top of the 1-5/8" Heliax.  Then I will run the Heliax down the side of the tower and up to the top of the hill where my shack is located.  This should take 150-feet of the Heliax.  A 10-foot jumper of 1/2" SureFlex Heliax will connect the 1-5/8" Heliax to the 63-feet of  1/2" Heliax (LDF4-50A) that runs under the back yard, under the house and up to the shack.  A 3-foot jumper of the M&P HYPERFLEX 13/.500" will connect to the amplifier.  

By using these low-loss cables, and taking into account the loss in all the connectors, the loss in 272-feet of feedline should be only 1.36 dB.  Were I to use Belden 8267 (RG-213) cable (an excellent cable), my feedline loss would have increased to 3.95 dB.  Putting 1,500-watts into the Belden RG-213 would result in only 605 watts reaching the antenna.  900-watts would be lost.  By using the above Heliax feedline, the same 1,500-watts at the amplifier would result in 1,097 watts reaching the antenna.  That's an extra 492 watts or 81% increase in power transfer over using the Belden RG-213.  AND, a reciprocal improvement will be seen on received signals.

The next issue was to see if the current antenna rotor would work.  Since the SteppIR antenna had failed some years ago, I disconnected the rotor in order to protect it. This rotor is an M2 Orion 2800 with the RC2800PX controller.  You can see an image of the controller on the right.

First I fished out from behind the operating desk the pigtail from the rotor control box.  It ended in an 8-pin trailer connector and I plugged that trailer connector pigtail into the mating trailer connector on the lightning arrester.  Then I powered on the rotor.  No joy!  I had no directional indication and when I tried to rotate it, I got an "error" message.  Crap!  So, out came the manual and I started to troubleshoot the problem.

Finally, after wasting a couple of hours on the troubleshooting issue, it became aware of the fact that the lightning arrester was not connected to ANYTHING!  The cable to the rotor on the tower WAS NOT CONNECTED to the lightning arrester.  Boy, does that make me feel STUPID!

Now that I knew the issue, I began trying to hook up the rotor cable.  But, I had to now figure out which wire in the rotor cable went to which pin in the lightning arrester.  Rather than destroy a $3,000 rotor, I took my time and triple (or more times) checked my work.  You see, there are 8 wires in the cable going to the rotor.  The first problem was that the colors of those wires do not agree with the manual's "Getting Started" section.  Then I saw that the wires in the rotor cable (which is then connected to a lightning arrester and then connected to an 8-pin Trailer Connector), had even DIFFERENT colors of wire.  The mating trailer connector is then wired to the control box - WITH DIFFERENT COLORS OF WIRE!  What a "cluster" that is!

After I eventually resolved the color code problem, I still did resistance checks on the wire to the rotor JUST TO MAKE SURE I did not fry something. Once I was ready, I turned the antenna 30° and ran over to the window to see that it had indeed moved the antenna.   IT'S ALIVE !!!  WHEW!  What a relief.  Then I moved it back and it rotated the other way.  After working for literally HOURS to get the correct wires connected, my rotor now turns the antenna!  YIPPEE!!!  The problem was that while I HAD made notes of the wires color code when it was installed, my notes were confusing after so many years. It turns out that my notes were correct (color to color.)  If I had just added a little bit of a description, then things would have been so much simpler.  Nevertheless, I can now check off "one more thing" that needed to be done on this project.  Forward, ever forward!