Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Second Reversible Beverage Installed

Today we had un-seasonably fine weather so I felt I had to take advantage of it and run out the wire for the second Reversible Beverage. I had purchased 1,000 feet of the WD-1A two-conductor wire and planned to pretty much duplicate the very successful first installation of a 60°/240° Beverage pair. Since my grandsons were out of school, I enlisted their help. After a trip to Subway for lunch, we trekked over the hill and attached the wire to the Beverage "Hub" tree. We then started off on a heading of 160° (the Reverse direction will be 340°) and began stringing out the Beverage wire. Using the same "extension" handle for a paint roller that was used before, we lifted the wire over any available branches to keep it high enough that the deer could pass under it.

The boys were a great help. One carried the ground rod and the ax (used to drive in the ground rod) and the other the spool of wire letting it run over his shoulder as he walked so I could place it above the branches. After awhile the boys would swap jobs and we would have a "water break." We had taken both my cell phone and a FRS radio that allowed them to keep in communication with "Nana" back at the house.

As we were nearing the end of the spool, Owen, who was on point at the time, said "Grandpa, there's a cliff here!" Well, that decided where we ended the Beverage. I'm guessing we were 850 to 900 feet from the Beverage Hub. The ground slopped very steeply down at that point and we chose to install the transformer and ground rod at the brink of the "cliff." In the photo you can see Grant (6 years old) on the Left and Owen (8 years old) on the right and the transformer in a plastic Zip-Loc bag hanging from the tree.

As we started back we ran into one of our neighbors and his 6-year old daughter out walking their dog in the woods and we decided to walk back to their house and then up the street to where we started. In doing that I did not have time to hook up the transformer at the feed end so I'll not be able to test the Beverage yet.

The boys were a great help to me and a good "safety" feature. Grandpa tripped over a branch at one point and sprawled on the ground (no injuries) but it was good to know that they were there in case I really did run into a problem.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Feature of Logger32 - Show LoTW User

The current version of Logger32 (3.29.1) has a great New Feature. This feature will add a colored highlight to spots in the BandMap and the DX Spots Window to indicate stations who are known to be LoTW Users. As you can see in the photo of my 160-M BandMap at the left, spots from LZ2ZG, YL2SM, RA4LW, DL6ZXG, and UYØZG all are proceeded by a Green Highlight square. That tells you quickly that these stations are LoTW Users. WOW! Previously if you connected to certain Telnet servers, LoTW Users were indicated by a small "+" sign in the comment field. This was sometimes difficult to see and did not stand out in any way.

Here is the description of this feature from the Logger32 Help file:

Show LotW User

Logger32 has the capability of recognising a DX spot station who is known to use LotW (See also the section entitled Dx Spot Window). A colored highlight to the left of the DX callsign in the BandMap windows indicates a station that uses LotW. This menu item enables that option. Note that each bandmap carries this option separately.

Information for setting the highlight color and the uploading of the necessary LotW user data is given in the section entitled DX Spot WIndow

All you need to do is to download the LoTW Users file to your computer and then enable the display of the "Highlight" in the various windows (BandMap, DX Spots Window, and Monitor Windows.) Here are the Logger32 Help instructions for downloading the file:
To download the latest list of LoTW users, Right click on the DX Spot Window, Left Click SETUP | LOAD LOTW USERS FILE. Click on the “Download from the Internet” button to collect the txt file and follow this with the “Save data” button. This will create a new database LotWUser32 in the default Logger32 directory.
Once you have that file on your computer, you only need to enable the display of the Highlight in the various windows. The Help file tells you how to do it:
To enable/disable LoTW User highlights on the DX Spot Window, right click on the DX Spot Window, then left click SETUP | APPEARANCE | SHOW LOTW USER

To enable/disable LoTW highlights on the Band Map Windows, Click CONFIG | SHOW LOTW USER
I have been hoping the Logger32 crew would implement a feature like this and now that I have it, I can't believe I could ever get by without it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update Logger32 for the New PJ Countries

Logger32 has come out with a new Country / Prefix database that is updated to include the four new PJ Entities. You can download the new ZIP'd file from HERE. Click on the last file in the list called "Latest Country Files for Logger32 Version 3.28" and save the file. You will need to extract the 15 files from this ZIP archive to your Logger32 directory. There is also a "ReadMe" file that gives specific instructions on how to install the files. If you do not have Logger32 Version 3.28, now is the time to upgrade to it before you install the new Country / Prefix database. If your version is earlier than 3.27 and you don't want to Export then Import your entire log, you can go HERE and download each individual version upgrade and do them one at a time to bring your version current. Make sure you backup your log first! In addition to the two buttons on the Menu Bar called "Zip Databases and Logbook" and "Zip User Files", I also pull down File | Export Logs and choose ADIF. This lets me save the entire logbook as an ADIF file in case something happens to the one I'm working on.

Once you have Logger32 Version 3.28 with the latest Country / Prefix database files installed, you will need to CHANGE any contacts you made with any of the PJ entities. They will be shown as DELETED countries and you need to follow these steps to change those QSO's:

1. Right-Click on the QSO
2. Choose "Edit Country Information"
3. Choose the proper New Entity
4. Click on "Apply"

The first time you do this, you will get the "Change Country" pop-up window shown at the right. Click on the heading "Prefix" to put the Entities in Prefix order and that will make it very easy to change all subsequent QSO's. As you can see in this graphic, I am changing the country for a QSO with PJ2T. It is currently logged as "Netherlands Antilles (deleted 10-Oct-2010 0400Z" as highlighted in yellow. All I need to do is to left-click on the PJ2 listing for Curacao and then click on Apply. Simple.

Also, once you click on Apply, the country name may NOT update on the logbook screen. Simply click on the NEXT QSO you want to change and the last one will immediately be updated.

Don't forget to pull down Tools | Database Maintenance and choose "Recalculate statistics" to bring all the stats in your logbook current. Any subsequent QSO's with any of the new PJ's should show up in the logbook correctly. If you track IOTA you will probably need to change those to the correct IOTA numbers which I think only applies to PJ2 contacts with Curacao which is now IOTA #SA-099.

The result of this is that your Worked and Confirmed totals will have been reduced by two (if you had previously worked both PJ entities) and your totals will increase by up to four depending on how many of the New PJ's you have worked.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beverage Improvements

Yesterday I got up early (for me) and showed up at Tim's (KC8UHE) QTH to help him get ready to install his KD9SV Reversible Beverage. I had purchase the same system for myself at Dayton and Tim wanted to also install one as his QTH does not allow him to put up many long antennas. Using a "Reversible Beverage" means you can cover two directions with one run of wire.

It took us about 2 hours to measure out 330-feet of the WD-1A Military Wire (two conductor) and drill through the foundation of his house to run a new RG-6 coax. I had purchased 1,000 feet of flooded RG-6 cable from DX Engineering at Dayton so we had plenty. (Flooded style cables have the distinct advantage of automatically sealing small accidental cuts or lacerations of the jacket. Flooding also prevents shield contamination and can be direct-buried.) When we left Tim's house, the new Beverage feedline had been run from the shack to the support post in his front yard, connectors installed, and the 330-feet of wire was ready to be strung up after his yard gets mowed for the last time.

After we "fueled up" at Bob Evan's restaurant, we tackled my Beverage project. First we ran FOUR cables through the PVC pipes under the back yard and up into the shack. These were: a control cable for a tower mounted antenna switch (future use), the control wire for the Ameritron RCS-8V remote antenna switch for my new Beverage Farm ($149.95 from R&L), the flooded RG-6 feedline for the Beverage Farm and a 12/2 w/ground AC wire. The AC wire we ran up into the main electrical panel in the garage and I'll connect it to a GFCI circuit breaker and then install an outlet box at the tower. This will allow me to use power equipment at (and on) the tower without running 150-feet of extension cords over the hill.

Then came the hard part, running all those wires down over the hill. Tim (thankfully!) did all the hard work there. Soon we had the cables in place and it was time to start hooking things up. In the photo at the right you can see that I mounted the Ameritron remote coax switch to the tree which will serve as the "HUB" for the Beverage Farm. All the Beverages will radiate from this point. This tree is about 200-feet from the shack and something like 80 or 90-feet from the tower.

Above the Ameritron switch you can see where two Beverages are tied to the tree with Dacron line. The upper one is the starting point for the new Reversible Beverage and the lower one is my existing single wire one. The single wire one runs off at about 45° and I plan to move it to about 20°. The new Reversible Beverage will run at 60° and the reverse direction will be 240° which should be good for eastern Australia, New Zealand and southern pacific islands like Pitcairn and Ducie.

On the left you can see the control boxes in the shack. The lower box is the Ameritron control box that switches the different antennas at the Beverage Hub. I can select any one of 5 antennas from the shack by turning the switch. One modification had to be made to the switch and that was to allow the relays to automatically switch in a 75-ohm termination for the unused direction of the Reversible Beverage. Since I could not find 75-ohm resistors at Radio Shack, I had to parallel two 150-ohm ones. (The "Shack" did not even have 150-ohm resistors in stock so I had to buy a 100 piece "assortment" to get the 4 150-ohm resistors I needed!)

On the top you can see the KD9SV DXpedition receive antenna switch with pre-amp and front-end saver. The feedline coming from the Beverage Hub switch runs through a KD9SV Common Mode Choke to isolate common mode signals that may be picked up on the shield of the Beverage feedline and keep them from affecting the noise floor of the receiver. This receive antenna switch would, by itself, let me switch between 4 receive antennas but you would need to run a feedline for each antenna. The box also contains a receive pre-amp with adjustable gain. And, it has a "front-end saver" to prevent blowing out the receiver's front-end by picking up large signals from my transmitted signal (and other sources.)

Using RG-6 cable for the Beverage feedline was great! Compression fittings are quickly installed (much faster than UHF or RCA connectors.) All the KD9SV Products and the WD-1A Beverage wire were obtained from Radioware & Radio Bookstore. Click on any photos in this post to see them larger and click on any link to see the described product or web site. Use your BACK button to return to this page.

By the time we got all the above done it was after 4:30 p.m. and I knew my tired old body could not walk 880-feet out through the thick underbrush to help Tim string the Reversible Beverage wire. So, we made our way back to the house and called it quits. all that is left it to run the wire and put a ground rod in at the end. Everything else is done. Then, we can move the original single wire Beverage and later I can install any others pretty easy since the infra-structure of the remote antenna switch is now in place.


On Tuesday morning, 19-Oct-2010, Tim, KC8UHE, came to my QTH and we ran the wire out for the Reversible Beverage. WOW, what a hike that was. We already had the wire connected at the Beverage Hub so we went down over the hill to that point and began running the wire on a heading of 60°. I would take a compass reading and pick out a landmark for Tim to walk toward. We would both then head in that direction placing the wire over tree limbs where possible or over branches. At the landmark we would take another heading and move on. The Beverage Hub is about 60-feet in elevation lower than the shack. As we walked out the Beverage line, the elevation was constantly moving down. In fact, after crossing over a small ravine, we reached a small "cliff" where I walked about 50 yards horizontally to get over the "cliff" but Tim went right down the slope.

We reached a 4-wheeler trail which I knew from the prior Beverage installation was about 500 feet from the Hub and we still had nearly half the wire left. My guess is that this road is over 250 feet below the level of my shack. We then crossed a dry creek and started uphill. At one point we reached a tree-fall where several trees were down and it was really slow-going to get through that jumble of tree limbs with the wire. We were now on the up-slope of the next ridge over from my ridge and came close to reaching the very top of it!

Finally, we ran out of wire and installed the Beverage Termination transformer (see photo at left, click to enlarge, use your BACK button to return.) You can see the transformer tied to the tree and the Beverage wire is at an insulator about 9 feet up. You can see the ground wire going down to a 4-foot ground rod at the base of the tree.

It was a beautiful day and very nice there in the woods. I would have stayed there a couple of hours as it was just so peaceful. But, we needed to get back to the house and that meant moving back down the last slope and then UPHILL all the way to the shack. It was quite an exercise for the old broken leg but we got it done in just over 2 hours.

I should have had about 950 feet of wire on the reel so it's definitely one "long" wire! I have only tested the Beverage on some AM stations and have found that on some it makes a HUGE difference. I'm waiting now for VQ9LA to come on the air and see if I can hear him! I'll also be up early tomorrow to listen for the South Pacific. This is going to be FUN!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Monitor" Band Map for Logger32

In reading through the manual for the Logger32 logging program I came across a rather neat feature. The "BandMap" which displays cluster spots for the particular band your radio is tuned to, has a "Monitor" feature. This allows you to pop-up 1 or 2 separate BandMap windows which you can configure to watch the spots on a particular band or ALL bands at once! The advantages I see for this is that you can have a BandMap window that constantly monitors 6-M for any activity even though your radio is tuned to another band. Then, if something is spotted on 6-M, you will see it instantly in the "Monitor" window. If you configure the Monitor BandMap to watch ALL frequencies, then you can spot the color coding for countries you may need on a particular band or mode that may appear while you are working on another band. I see this as a HUGE improvement to the normal BandMap which simply tracks the band your radio is tuned to.

On the left you can see a Monitor BandMap that has been set to display spots on 6-M. By the BLUE color code I can tell that there are FOUR stations spotted which I need on 6-M. If I "mouse-over" the spots I can see who made the spot and be able to tell if it's possible for me to work them. Of course, if I had my cluster set to one that only displayed NA spotters, then I could forgo that step. (Click on any photo to see it larger then use your BACK button to return to this page.)

The Monitor portion of the BandMap allows you to select up to two separate BandMaps to monitor other bands. If you add a "GEN" band to your ADIFBands.txt file and configure it under Tools | Setup Bands & Modes, then you can display a BandMap like the one shown at the right. This shows ALL the spots that come in from 0.003 to 30.0 MHz. Again, by looking at the BLUE color coded spots, I can see there are two New Ones available for me on 17-M. This feature prevents me from having to step my radio through all the bands just to locate those spots that are New Ones for me. Another great reason to use this feature.

The two Monitor BandMaps can be accessed from your normal BandMap window by pulling down the "Monitor" menu bar and selecting Monitor No. 1 or No. 2. Then in the Monitor window that pops-up you can pull down "Band" from the menu and choose the band you want to monitor. You can click on spots in the Monitor window just the same as in the normal BandMap window and your radio will QSY to that frequency and mode. Search for "The Band Map" in the Logger32 Help File to see all the features of the BandMaps including the Monitor BandMaps.

The Logger32 Help File gives instructions on how to set up the program for the "General" BandMap feature. Search the Help File for "Tips Tricks and Troubleshooting" and scroll down to item No. 2.2. I've copied that section below with one modification - you need to restart Logger32 after you make the changes in order for the program to recognize them.  NOTE: the "bandmode table" is found on the Menu Bar under Tools | Setup Bands & Modes.

2.1 How can I setup a Bandmap to show all HF spots? With the introduction of the monitor bandmaps you can set up one of the windows so as to watch all the HF bands at once.
1. Open up your ADIFBands.txt file in a text editor and edit in a new line at the bottom to read GEN (for General)
2. In your bandmode table make an entry to cover the full range of your radio (I set the lower freq to 0.003 and the upper freq to 30.0) and give the line a band name of GEN.
NOTE: Close out Logger32 now and restart it for it to recognize these changes.
3. Select the band GEN in the bandmap and it will show all the spots as they come in.
You can also use the ZOOM facility in this bandmap (see the help file) and just show (say) 40m to 15m if you so wish.

Here is more of a "Cookbook" description of those instructions:

1. Find your Logger32 directory (usually C:\Logger32) using Windows Explorer. 
2. Double-click the file "ADIFBands.txt" and if asked, open it in "Notepad."
3. At the bottom of the current list, add an entry for "GEN" and SAVE that file.
4. In Logger32, under "Tools", choose "Setup Bands & Modes".
5. At the bottom of the list, enter "GEN" under Band, ".003000" for Lower freq.,
     and "30.000000" for Upper freq.  Set Stats to "N", Radio # to "1" and both
     Rotor columns to "0".  Now click on "Apply."
6. Close out Logger32.  Then start Logger32 again and select GEN in any additional
     Bandmap (not the one that is locked to the band of your radio.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

KC8UHE is Now a Big DAWG!

Tim, KC8UHE, has detailed on the WVDXA Reflector his desire to replace his TA-33 (10, 15, & 20-M yagi which also did have a 17-M dipole conversion kit) with something bigger that would give him some decent gain on 17-M and 12-M. After weighing the pros and cons of many antennas, he decided upon a Mosley Pro-57B which has a 24-foot boom as compared to the 14-foot boom of his TA-33. It also adds coverage of 12-M and 17-M. In addition, I was able to re-acquire my old CushCraft 2-L 40-M beam and Charlie, N8RR, modified it into a full-size 2-L 30-M beam. It turned out to have a 15-foot boom and the reflector was just over 50-feet! WOOF! That's a BIG antenna. Charlie computer modeled the antenna both as to the dimensions and for the height it was going to be placed over Tim's terrain. The graphs look great - this puppy should really play.

What made the project really come together was an acquaintance of Tim's who has a bucket (boom) truck. He agreed to come and do the installation for Tim. This was going to be a snap! (Or so we thought!)

The truck showed up at 8 a.m. with Tim's friend, Joe, and his helper, Paul. Charlie, N8RR, Dwight, KC8WDT, Tim, KC8UHE, and I were there ready to go as well. I brought a couple of lawn chairs for Charlie and I as we really didn't expect to have to do much.

First the guys lifted up the 21-foot, Schedule 80 mast and dropped it down into the tower to rest on a board. Then they lifted up a tower section and placed it atop Tim's 37-foot tower making the top of the tower now 47-feet. We had already installed a Top Plate and Accessory Shelf (for the Rotor) on this section. Next they hooked up the winch from Tim's Hazer through a pulley at the top of the tower and used that to winch up the mast. That was a GREAT idea!

Next, the 2-L, 30-M beam was carried aloft on the bucket and quickly attached to the mast. Boy, it just doesn't get any better than this. Charlie and I in our lawn chairs watching the bucket truck effortlessly lift that monster antenna to the top of the tower - AWESOME! You can see in the photo above how things looked at this point. (Click on any photo to see it larger then use your BACK button to return to this page.)

Now we carried the 7-L Mosley (about 100 pounds) to the bucket and it was ready to be lifted and put in place. Once it was secured to the mast, the mast would be winched up until it was high enough to clear the Rotor and the Mosley would be secured. Everything was going GREAT! The weather all week had been bad but today the sky was clear, it was not too warm or too humid, everything was right with the world.

But, lurking just around the corner was Mr. Edsel Murphy! As the guys began to lift the Pro-57B with the bucket truck, suddenly a hydraulic hose let go and hydraulic fluid began to pour out of the boom. People scurried around to shut off the truck and to try and catch the fluid. Tim's friend, Joe, tried to exit the bucket which was about 10-feet in the air and got his pants caught on the Pro57-B and was hanging upside down for a minute. He got down OK but the bucket truck was dead in the water.

So, I jumped in the van and rushed to my house to pick up my gin pole, rope, climbing belt, etc. Tim ordered Pizza for everyone and when I got back they were ready to continue the project the old-fashioned way - rope, gin pole, and muscle power!

With no other visits from Mr. Murphy the rest of the installation went well. By 3 p.m. Tim had now upgraded his antenna farm from a Little Pistol to that of a Big DAWG! The bucket truck was not removed until Monday evening and Tim and I finished the guying Monday night (he used Phillystran a non-conductive guy cable.)

It is difficult to get Tim away from the radio now. He keeps telling me about the New Ones and even All-Time New Ones he has worked just today! Yep, 30-M is going to be owned by KC8UHE.

Oh, the 30-M beam (as predicted by Charlie, N8RR) was 1.0:1 and 50 ohms at the low end of the band and 1.1:1 and 51 ohms at the top end. Yep, it's a KILLER! Tim has already found he can load it on 40-M as he worked KHØ/K3TQ on 40-M CW on his second call Monday morning when he came in from work. The Mosley's SWR graphs all agree with the antenna for each band so that antenna is on-the-nose as well.

Here is a short (6 min.) video showing some of what happened during the Antenna Raising at KC8UHE's QTH. In the final shot you see Tim's QTH from a distance. The hill behind his place is to the South. But his take-off to the NE, N, NW, and W is fantastic.

That was certainly an amazing experience to watch an antenna (and tower section) being installed with a bucket truck. Also, doing it on flat ground without the need to avoid hundreds of tree limbs, made this a walk-in-the-park compared to what others of us have to contend with. GL with the DX, Tim. You have a great station now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Water Proofing Coax Pigtails

Recently I have been helping Tim, KC8UHE, with his "Big Antenna Project." This project entails removing his current HF Tri-bander and 6-L CushCraft 6-M yagi, removing his Hazer system, adding a 10-foot tower section (tower will now be 57-feet), replacing the 1/4-inch galvanized guy wire with Phillystran, replacing his mast with 21-feet of Schedule 80 and building/installing a Mosley Pro-57B at about 50-feet and a full-size 2-L 30-M beam at about 60-feet. Yes, Tim plans to move up a notch or two in his ability to work the elusive DX!

Below you can see a photo taken the day Dwight, KC8WDT, Tim and I completed the construction on the Mosley Pro-57B (with a timely assist from Rick, W8ZT.) Tim's old antennas are still on the tower in the background. In the center is a photo of Charlie, N8RR, holding the 2-L 30-M beam. Charlie took my old CushCraft 2-L 40-M beam and modified it into a full-size 30-M beam. The boom is 16-feet long and the reflector is just over 50-feet - YIKES!

Since Tim's "Big Antenna Project" adds length to his tower, he needed to replace his coax. He has installed a remote antenna switch just under the eave of his back-porch so only one coax needs to run to the radio. Then, individual runs will be made to each antenna. Also, RF Chokes needed to be made for both the Pro-57B and the 2-L 30-M yagi. That's what this post is about. I began constructing the 30-M choke first and wound 12 turns of Belden 8267 (RG-213) on a 6-inch diameter form. This was held in place with ty-raps and Scotch® 88 electrical tape. You can see the completed 30-M choke below on the right. Click on any photo to enlarge it and use your BACK button to return to this page. The RF Choke for the Pro-57B was only 5 turns on a 6-inch diameter form.

The "Big Enemy" of coax and antennas is WATER! You need to go to great lengths to keep any moisture from reaching the coax as it will corrode the wire and destroy the efficiency of the cable. Toward this end and with a view to the fact that I never want to hear "My RF Choke failed because W8TN did not properly keep out the water," I took great pains to see that no moisture could reach into the cable at the point where the braid and the center conductor are separated for attachment to the beams.

Below you can see the beginnings of the process. First you separate the braid from the center conductor. I chose to slide the braid back about an inch which causes it to bloom out. You can then "make a hole" in the braid by just pulling the fine wires aside and then you can fish the center conductor through the hole by bending it. Then smooth out the braid and slip some heat-shrink over it. Now I crimp a couple of ring terminals on both ends and then solder the lugs onto the center conductor and the braid. When soldering I make sure the solder fills up the center of the crimp connector so no moisture can invade at this point. Next I used some self-fusing water proof tape I purchased at Dayton called Rescue Tape®. You pull this tape to twice it's length as you wrap it and this begins the fusing process. I used this tape to wrap the joint where the braid separated from the center conductor.

Remember, the point of this is to keep ANY moisture from getting to the wire. After the Rescue Tape was applied, I tightly wrapped all the pigtail with Scotch® 88 electrical tape. This wrapping was done with some pressure on the tape so that it's width was reduced to about 3/4 of normal and each successive lap over-lapped the prior lap by 1/2. This stretching of the tape forms a very tight seal and in years past, I've had great success with nothing more than 1 or 2 layers of Scotch® 88 tape wrapped in this manner. Some folks would stop here and call it done. However, I wanted to make absolutely these connections literally last a lifetime so I continued.

On the 30-M RF Choke I then coated the entire pigtail with 3M™ Scotchkote™ Electrical Coating. I've used this many times in the past to make certain that the taped joint is completely water proof. I actually let the first coat dry over-night and applied a second coat the next day. While planning on how to do this water proofing properly I found several references by hams on the Internet to their use of Plasti Dip® or Liquid Electrical Tape. I was not able to find the Plasti Dip at Home Depot so I bought a bottle of Gardner Bender's Liquid Electrical Tape. That is what I used to cover the Pro-57B pigtail (see center photo below.)

Finally, as you can see in the far right photo, I again wrapped the entire pigtail with Scotch® 88 electrical tape. This is necessary as the Scotchkote™ can become brittle and flake off due to Ultra Violet light. The RF Chokes are now ready to be attached to their respective antennas. Using heat shrink, soldered ring lugs, self-fusing Rescue Tape®, liquid electrical tape (or Scotchkote™), and TWO layers of Scotch® 88 electrical tape might be considered a bit over-kill but I'm now willing to bet some serious coin that these pigtails will NEVER see any moisture. But considering that you are now paying more than $1 a foot for good coax, it makes sense to take some time and effort to protect your investment so that it lasts as long as possible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bring Me a Japan on 6-M

OK, everyone else is having all the fun by working Japan on 6-M and I've been left out in the cold. Yesterday Charlie, N8RR, worked his first JA and I'm jealous! So today at about noon I cracked open the box containing a M2 6M7JHV antenna. I had to make a couple of trips over the hill to retrieve the short tower and the coax from my 80-M wire vertical so today has been a "heavy" work day on the leg. By 6 p.m. I had assembled it by myself and, with the help of my wife, Evelyn, I got it installed on a short portable tower in the front yard. She was not too pleased with that but I told her it would be temporary.
The antenna is fixed on Japan so I hope I can snag one of those fellows in the next day or two. If not, I'll move it to the back yard and try to work the C5 (Gambia) which is coming on soon. I have the Commander Amp warmed up and the K-3 is tuned up so now bring me a JA - please?

UPDATE: Well, no Japan was worked during the Short-Path Summer Solstice Propagation (SSSP) period with the new antenna. However, the antenna shown above in the front yard was moved around to the back patio and on July 4th, I managed to get in on some excellent multi-hop Es and worked THREE New Ones - SV1DH (Greece), T77C (San Marino) and EA6SX (Balearic Islands.) That brings me up to 105 Countries Worked on 6-M. WOOF! What a rush! Obviously the fast and temporary installation of the 6M7JHV was a huge success!

But, it seems there is always a high and then a low. On the evening of July 20th we had quite a storm blow through. I felt the antenna on the temporary tower would be safe since it was now located behind the house and as such, out of the wind. NOT! As you can see from the photo at right (click on photo to enlarge) the wind whipped around and toppled the tower and antenna. I'm just lucky that when the 2-inch fiberglass mast smashed into the bedroom door glass, it did not break. Now I need to order some replacement elements from M2 before I can install the antenna on the big tower. One element is completely broken off and two are bent too far to try to straighten. But, it DID get me THREE New Ones, so I'm still a happy camper!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UPDATE to EME Experiment

Two weeks ago when we listened to EME signals from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, I said I had no photos of Hal, W8HC, because he shot most of the pictures. As it turned out, Rick, W8ZT, sent me a couple of photos he had taken and one clearly shows the Halster sitting at the rig! This was the first time either Hal or Rick had heard signals reflected from the moon!

On the day after Rick and Hal were here, I set the equipment back up by myself and had very good copy on KP4AO for quite some time. They ran CW a lot longer that day and I spent quite a bit of time calling them. Unfortunately, no QSO resulted. But, it certainly was great fun. I'm sure they will do this again and maybe I'll have better luck at that time.

On this second day of listening to KP4AO via EME, I shot a little video so everyone could hear the quality of the EME signals on this day. You can view the 2 minute video by clicking on this link to YouTube. This was not the best I heard them but it is representative of the average quality of the signal.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What a Day of Therapy!

Today has been probably the greatest single day of working out since I began therapy for my broken leg. It started easy enough with a visit to the eye doctor. He dilated my eyes so I when I left his office I was wearing sunglasses and squinting. But, I felt good and the day promised to be a real summer-type day so I started on a project. Last week I had picked up a pallet at Home Depot (for FREE!) that I planned to use as a platform at the base of my tower. I needed something there that would let me sit down and lay out my tools while I installed coax connectors and the like.

The pallet I got was a very heavy duty one that measured 4-ft. by 4-ft. So today I went back to Home Depot and picked up two 2-ft. x 4-ft. pieces of 3/8-inch plywood, some screws, paint, four concrete blocks and other sundries. Back home I screwed the plywood to the top of the pallet then mixed some sand (for traction) into the paint and painted all that I could with up to 3 coats of paint. I used the entire quart of paint.

After the 87° temperature, strong sun and the wind had dried the pallet, I proceeded to carry the concrete blocks over the hill to the tower. Those of you who have made that trip can relate to the difficulty of that operation. It took FOUR trips as I had to BACK down the hill and lift the blocks a couple of feet at a time. I was just not stable enough on my feet on that hill to try carrying them. (Actually, I had two full size and 2 half-size blocks and I did carry the smaller ones for part of the trip.) Then came the fun part. The pallet probably weighs in the neighborhood of 50 pounds and carrying it was possible only for short distances on level ground. I ended up "rolling" it end over end down the hill. Evelyn stood at the top of the hill and watched as I rolled the pallet to make sure I didn't get into any trouble.

At the tower I used a garden trowel and hammer to notch out a place for the blocks with the smaller ones on the uphill side and the larger ones on the downhill because of the slope. I wanted to make the pallet fairly level and, as it turned out, my first attempt had the slope 1.5° downhill and 1.3° away from the tower. That's a done deal! I still need to shim up one of the downhill blocks about 2 inches to make the pallet stable but it's in place and ready to use now. The sand in the paint (an idea from Rick, W8ZT) gives very good traction.

Bottom line - I now have a very nice, stable, and level place to work on everything at the base of the tower. And, I made a total of SIX trips down and up the hill (in addition to all the stuff at Home Depot, in the garage, painting the pallet, etc.) So, I truly gave the leg a workout today. I may not be able to roll out of bed in the morning, but right now I feel really good about what I got done. You can click on either photo to see a larger image then use your BACK button to return to this page.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

EME Experiment to Hear KP4AO from Arecibo

This weekend a group of hams were operating EME (Moonbounce) using the 1,000 foot diameter radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. They used the call KP4AO. I decided to try and see if we could hear and maybe work them using a single yagi. So, we set up the antenna in a make-shift manner on the patio and proceeded to point it at the moon and listen during the time KP4AO was on the air. We were able to monitor a real-time computer link of the operation and compare it with what we heard. KP4AO made 103 QSO's in about 2-1/2 hours of operation. We copied their SSB signal quite well at times but usually it was pretty much in the noise. When they finally shifted to CW, we were able to hear them very well. We were not able to make a QSO with our kludged together station but we gave it a good try.

Below you can see the K1FO 25-element yagi we used for the Arecibo, Puerto Rico, EME experiment today. The yagi is supported by a mostly fiberglass stepladder and secured to it by a rubber strap and dacron line at the base. The rear of the antenna is supported and raised above the concrete patio by a cardboard box. In the second photo you can see the "manual" method of antenna positioning. As long as we could see the moon, it worked well. But, with the moon so close to the sun today, only a very tiny sliver of a crescent was visible and that could not always be seen. In the photo on the right, you can see our "Target" in the upper right-hand portion of the image. You need to look really close to see it. In this photo the moon had moved away from where we were pointed and a re-positioning needed to be done. (You can click on any photo for a larger image then use your browser's BACK button to return to this page.)

Below are a couple of photos of myself, W8TN, and Rick, W8ZT, operating the station. Rick brought an Icom IC-706 and a 150-watt amplifier. You can see the Bird wattmeter on the chair between us in the first photo. Feedlines were REALLY short so we had essentially no loss to consider.

Hal, W8HC, was the photographer so we have no shots of him but he also spent a good deal of time on the mike and on the key trying for a contact. What a hoot it would have been to hear his call come back from the moon! Maybe next time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A NEW 160-M Antenna for W8TN

After I discovered last Friday that the vertical portion of the 160-M Inverted-L was broken off at the feed point, The Archer, Charlie, N8RR, volunteered to bring his trusty bow and weighted arrow to my QTH and fire a line over one of my trees to erect a NEW Top Band antenna. I then gathered up all the materials last night and this morning Charlie showed up followed by the DX Hunter, Tim, KC8UHE. The three of us managed to make it down the hill without incident and in less than 80 minutes, we were done! Charlie fired his arrow perfectly over the nearest tall tree at such an angle that it not only cleared that tree but one further along and the arrow then fell all the way to the ground. That meant the vertical portion of the Inverted-L would rise almost straight up and then be horizontal at the top - a near textbook installation.

Charlie had fishing line attached to the arrow which he removed and attached to some light line. The fishing line was reeled in and the end of the light line was attached to a piece of Dacron antenna support rope. That was pulled up and over the trees and then it was used to pull up the end of the Inverted-L. Tim and I had cut a 135-foot length of No. 14 stranded copper cable for the antenna. I decided to cut it for 135-feet even though I thought it would end up at 130-feet after trimming the antenna to resonance. I just wanted to make sure I had enough wire in the air before tuning it. Charlie said he thought the antenna should be 130-feet (just what I thought!) and he suggested we go ahead and shorten it by wrapping the last 5-feet back on the end of the antenna. We did that.

I then attached the MFJ-259 antenna analyzer to the feed point and WOOF! - it was resonant at 1.809 MHz. Good enough for government work. Tim then used my chain saw to remove a couple of trees, one of which had fallen on the North set of guy wires. We then gathered up our tools and came topside to check out the antenna with the N8LP Digital Vector RF Wattmeter. You can see the result of that sweep on the Left (click on the photo for a larger image.) The antenna (as measured in the shack) is 1.34:1 at 1.800 MHz, 1.28:1 at 1.820 MHz, 1.57:1 at 1.840 MHz. and 2.0:1 at 1.862 MHz. If I recall correctly, this is even better than the previous Inverted-L.

As we were pulling up the wire, when the insulator on the end of the wire transitioned from vertical to horizontal at the top of the first tree, Tim and I estimated that we only had about 30-feet of wire left. That should mean that close to 100-feet of the antenna is vertical. Boy, oh boy! I can hardly wait for SV5 to show up tonight! He's MINE!

Thanks again to The Archer and the DX Hunter for their fabulous help. I'm really excited about being back on Top Band, if only for the very end of the season.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My First Trip "Over the Hill"

With the weather finally beginning to look like something less than you would find in the Arctic, I felt it was time to give the old broken leg a test and see how it could deal with the "Hill" behind my house. I have not been down to the tower since sometime in June of 2009 (maybe 9 months!) With the 160-M Inverted-L being out of commission, I felt I needed to go and check things out to see what I could do to fix that. And I wanted to see if I could find out what is wrong with the SteppIR. I had noticed a couple of weeks ago that the SteppIR was not functioning properly. Testing from the shack showed that there was no continuity to one of the motors that drives the Reflector. I had thought it might be a broken wire in the control cable and surmised that a deer might have stepped on that cable or a tree fallen on it.

Unfortunately, in checking the exposed cable all the way from the underground PVC pipe at the top of the hill to where it goes up the tower, nothing was found that could cause that problem. Rats! This will not be an easy fix.

But, I did find several other things that were not right. There were 7 or 8 trees or large limbs that have fallen either due to wind or snow this winter. One tree is across the NE guy wires so it needs to be removed SOON! I also found that the 2 elevated radials for the 80-M Vertical that Charlie, N8RR, and Tim, KC8UHE, installed had fallen down. I managed to force my way through the briers and brambles to find a place to tie off those radials. When I got back top-side, I ran a check on the SWR for the 80-M Vertical and it looks very good. See the graph at Right - click on the image for a larger view. The SWR is under 1.5:1 from 3.500 MHz to 3.600 MHz with the best SWR being 1.13:1 at 3.550 MHz. Nice!

I then noticed that one leg of the 80-M Inverted-V was hanging straight down the side of the tower. It seems the tree that fell on the NE guy wires may have pulled the wire for the 80-M Inverted-V out of the end insulator. Thank goodness I had not soldered or otherwise strongly secured that wire or it would have pulled down the entire antenna. I found the rope and end insulator, retrieved them from the fallen tree, re-connected the insulator to the end of the Inverted-V and pulled it up and attached the rope to another tree. Back in the shack I ran a test on the 80-M Inverted-V. See the graph at the Left - click on the image for a larger view. This antenna is under 2.0:1 from 3.765 MHz to 3.950 MHz. Also fine!

One of my main reasons for going over the hill today (in addition to checking the SteppIR control cable, was to see if I could get the 160-M Inverted-L back in operation. That did not happen. What I found was that the vertical portion of that antenna had broken off right at the feed-point. The wire was still secured at the top of the tower but the horizontal top-hat had obviously either come loose at the far end or broken because it was draped in the tree-tops. So, in order to repair that antenna, I need to somehow get another wire either up the tower and out to a tree or just up and over a tree. Maybe Tim or Charlie can bring their bow and arrow and shoot a line over a tree enough to let me at least get back on Top Band before the season is completely over.

All-in-all it was a very good trip. I found that my re-hab of the broken leg has improved to the point where I can get down over the hill and back up. I even climbed up the tower about 3 rungs just to see how that went and it was fine. But, the bad news is that the SteppIR fix is going to be a little more involved. After a long conversation with Tech Support at SteppIR the consensus is that either the control cable has "rubbed" against something on the tower and broken one wire OR a wire has broken at the connection point where the cable attaches to the barrier strip on the boom of the antenna. In any event, it can't be fixed from the ground.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mr. Snow Plow

This has been an especially snowy winter for us. In December I think I spent about 4 HOURS shoveling snow or blowing the powdery snow off the driveway (and doing that with my broken leg and cane was a challenge to say the least!) The leaf blower worked rather well up to about a 3-inch snow fall as long as it was very cold and the snow was dry. However, we did get one snow of a little over 12-inches and that was just too much to shovel. Thankfully my neighbor (the contractor who built our house) came over and plowed the driveway with his 4-wheeler.

Right after that, Tim, KC8UHE, was by the house and mentioned that he had a 4-wheeler that he only used for hunting and now that hunting season was over, I was welcome to borrow it. Tim made that offer on a Wednesday afternoon and we were aware that another big storm was due the next day. So, on Thursday morning I drove to Charleston and bought a snow blade to fit Tim's 4-wheeler. I then picked up our utility trailer and went to Tim's and loaded the 4-wheeler. Back at our house, our son, Darren, KC8QGV, came and installed the blade. It began snowing while he was doing that and by the time the blade was installed we had over an inch and Darren gave it a test drive.

At this point I've used the snow blade 4 times including the 2+ inches of heavy wet snow we had today (see photo - click on photo for larger image.) Twice I've also plowed the driveway for the neighbor on the other side of our house. This tool is totally the "berries." I'm going to have to buy one before Tim needs his back for hunting!