Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#219 DXCC Sri Lanka

While measuring the inverted L on my analyzer - I noticed 4S7NE has been lurking around 17m for the past half hour.  17m propagation was decent.  Pointing the beam at him increased the signal level 3 s units.

Inverted L antenna

With about a 70 ft radiator (intentionally cut long to be able to prune later and with 460 feet of radials, I have the following results.

It looks like I have to prune it to move the sweet spot 100 Hz to the right for the dip to occur at 3627 Hz which gives me a range of 3500 Hz to 3740 for a 2:1 bandwidth.  It looks like 30m will be OK with this pruning as the 30 meter portion of the band is small and relatively broad banded.  This assumes a velocity factor of 0.66 for RG-213 which checks out to a precision dummy load.

These are the only bands which will be resonant.  It looks like 17m, 12m and and 10m are tuneable - with 10 m in the phone portion only.  See full sweep below:

I plan to lay down another 1000 feet of radials to improve gain about 1 dB over what I have now and improve radiation efficiency.  I will prune it after laying down the radials..

Velocity Factor of Common Coaxial Cables

1/2 HARD.81
7/8 HARD.81
LDF all ver.88

Sunday, December 29, 2013

#218 DXCC Botswana - A25CE

Worked this one barefoot on the hexbeam on 17m CW.  This was in between cutting radials for the inverted L.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All Relays Now Clicking

I did not realize how load realize how loud relays are compared to when they did not make sound at all.

The Culprit

See the differences between soldered and unsoldered pins.  How did I ever miss this the first time?  This has been the source of all my woes the last two days.  Jim Garland and Dave Trainor have been trying to help me troubleshoot why my RF Path does not seem to work.  We found that the relays were not switching globally either in the RF switch box or the master controller.  The set of pins in the center are from U-204.  The pins from U-203 below it are shiny and well soldered.

Merry Christmas everyone reading my blog.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

#217 DXCC Chagos Islands VQ9JC

This came as a tip from WM4AA and I have him to thank for this one.  As he states from his QRZ page:

Hello from the "Footprint to Freedom"!

I am the Radio Electronics Officer (REO) for the USNS Sgt William R Button, which is a pre-positioning ship stationed at Diego Garcia, or "DGar" as we sometimes call it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Station Pro 2 - Microcontroller Board and Rear Panel Board Complete

Other than a snafu with a missing IN4005 diode, ready for assembly and initial tests.  Here are a couple of views of the boards assembled to the rear panel.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#216 DXCC Vatican City HV4NAC

Got lucky on this one - as the station was only calling for about 15 minutes.  Turned on the amp and tried to place the VFO B on the last station making the QSO - voila - with 1000 watts got him.  This DXCC is an elusive one as he only transmits a few minutes at a time.

Station Pro 2 Main Circuit Board Complete

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#215 DXCC Sri Lanka 4S7VG

I was working on the station pro main circuit board when I sat down and looked at the cluster and saw Sri Lanka on 15m. There was a small pileup and he was working simplex.  I was lucky to have gotten him with the beam pointed over the poles.  It took 600 watts or so to make the contact.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Progress on the Station Pro 2

The front panel is almost done.  I am somewhat stalled by a missing electrolytic capacitor that is back ordered from Mouser.  All I need to do now is to terminate the microphone, key, and headphone jacks into the front panel PCB and insert the programmable integrated circuit.  Here is a picture below in its anticipated position in the operating table.  I will also need to solder the LEDs to the front panel circuit board

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#214 DXCC Republic of Korea DS2XUM

I was having a QSO with N0TR when a Philippines station DU2US popped up on the cluster on 15m.  I QSY'd to the frequency and he was very faint.  I had been trying to work the South Korean station with no luck on 17m.  I went back to where the South Korean station was on 17m and this time he was stronger.  He only a few callers and I waited my turn.  I called him and he answered with a signal report.  I thankedhim and gave him his althouh I was not completely sure he copied me.  I checked in Clublog and he confirmed our contact there.  He also uploads to LOTW.

12/13 Update:  He just confirmed me in LOTW

Build a Beverage Antenna - by Joe WD0M

The following is a re-print from  WD0M's website

Beverage Antennas
for the Low Bands
- a RECEIVE ONLY Antenna
The Beverage antenna is an "ancient" antenna, named after the gentleman who discovered it. Essentially, it is a VERY LONG antenna, typically placed at a level of 10 feet or less above ground. The Beverage antenna is referred to as a "wave" antenna, and is directional, if terminated with a resistor, in the direction it is aimed.

Since I could have small animals wandering through, placing it at a height where the critters could end up wearing it wouldn't improve their demeanor, nor reception on the low bands. I discovered that when placed ON THE GROUND, it is known as a "snake" antenna. And that is what I did. That flies in the face of most antenna concepts, where higher is better. But I'll be darned if it doesn't WORK!

The benefit of this antenna is that it eliminates or reduces the static and leaves only the signals you're trying to hear , providing a better signal to noise ratio. I use it on 160 - 80 meters exclusively as a receiving antenna. It also improves 40 meter reception, but not nearly as dramatically.

The diagram (right) demonstrates the general layout of a low band Beverage antenna system that may be switched for improved reception in two directions. If you terminate the wire at the end, it will be directional, favoring the signals coming to you from the direction it is pointed.

If you do NOT terminate the antenna, then reception will be from both directions for that particular Beverage wire. Having two Beverage antennas, selectable with a relay, lets you choose the direction you want to listen to.
There are very few "tricks" to putting this antenna together. At the far end (one of mine is aimed toward Europe) of a 275 foot long #14 wire, solder a 470 ohm, 1/2 watt non-inductive (not wire wrapped) resistor to the end of the wire, and then connect it to a good ground system.

An antenna analyzer will let you determine the appropriate terminating resistance (470 ohms is a good start), as well as the exact number of turns of wire on the toroid to provide a 1:1 SWR.

Construct a simple matching transformer consisting of a number 43 or 77 toroid and 12 turns of wire wrapped around it. Leave a tap (bare wire) after the third turn to provide a ground connection for both sides of the transformer. The earth serves as the common "return" for the ground side of the antenna. The transformer matches the 470 ohm impedance of the Beverage antenna to your 50 ohm receiver.
At the receiving end, I attached the ground wire from the toroid to the single point ground rod for my station. After I found out how well the Beverage works to reduce static (QRN), I put in a second Beverage aimed toward the northwest and use a small relay to switch between them. The second Beverage isn't terminated, and I can hear stations to the northwest, as well as stations in Central and South America FAR better than I had imagined with any of the other 160 and 80 meter antennas I'm using.

Final thoughts: This is a RECEIVE ONLY antenna. Don't be too concerned about obtaining a perfect 1:1 SWR - even with a 2:1 or higher SWR, you'll notice very little difference in the received signal strength. I encourage to give it a try and not be too conerned about theory - practical results are what matters.

Since 160 meters is primarily open during the winter, I leave the antennas on the ground until spring arrives - pick them up - and put them back in the fall. Since the "snake" antenna isn't mounted on supports, it's easily moved as well, to give you coverage toward different parts of the world. Give it a try - and have fun!


Improvement to the Hexbeam Base Plate

Here I have added inserts to the plastic base plate of the hex beam.  The inserts are wedges that ensures the take-off angle of the spreaders are correct such that the plane of the wires for each band runs through the right elevation on the centerpost.  U bolts are then what holds down the spreader retainer against the baseplate.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

20 meter DXCC Awarded Through LOTW

Next goal is 40 meter DXCC.  I sent an e mail to the ARRL as to why my DXCC credits for cards that have been approved by the DXCC has not been reflected in LOTW although reflected in the ARRL records at the following link.  At this point I should have 165 DXCC credits.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Station Pro 2 Page Coming Soon

I will soon be starting a page dedicated to the constuction of the W8ZR Station Pro 2.  This device allows the seamless integartion of several transceiver and amplifier combinations and simplifies greatly the intereconnection wiring required between several transceivers and amplifiers.  

Number 119 QRP DXCC Guernsey MU0FAL

Worked Guernsey MU0FAL with 5 watts CW on the Hexbeam on 17m.  This is also a new one on 17m.  The station confirmed the contact in LOTW.  This brings the total confirmations for QRP DX to 89.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

#212 and #213 DXCC Haiti and Gabon and Number 118 QRP-DXCC

TR8CA was working a huge pileup on phone.  He started out simplex and then split and again simplex.  I was able to get through on the third go-around simplex.  I could not not beat the other stations with 500 watts - not getting through the stronger stations.  I re-peaked the Drake L4B for 1000+  watts and finally got through.  The station op Alain speaks French, Spanish , Italian and of course English.  Haiti was a surprise bonus from the contest of a couple of weeks ago HH2/K4NHW.  Both were on 15m

It was good day for radio contacts.  The Hexbeam was working very well.

GI100RSGB - Special event station in Northern Ireland commerating 100 years of RSGB - Radio Society Great Britain.  I called this station twice 20 minutes apart.  Once it was at 1000 watts and the next time at 10 watts.  Both were SSB QSO's.  I was completely readable at 10 watts.  The key is to try to make the call when no one else is calling.

Also picked up St. Lucia and Estonia at 5 watts J6/N9AW and ES4QR.

Picked up the Lakshadweep Dxpedition on a third band on 17m

VU3KPL - India station on 17m

C3IBO - Andorra Station on 17m

Made a couple of phone contacts into England and Wales which were new ones for 17m.

DXCC 150 Confirmation Milestone Reached on CW and Mixed

Got my stickers in the mail from the ARRL yesterday.  Confirmations in LOTW plus submitted cards is 163 in mixed mode and 160 on CW.  I have just about 2/3 of all my contacts confirmed.  The accumulaion rate is still on a steep rise - thanks the Drake L4B and the Hexbeam

Friday, December 6, 2013

JT65 Setup and Operations Guide


This is a valuable document to bookmark or print out if you are into JT65 communications protocol.

Number 117 DXCC QRP FJ/DK7LX St. Barthelemy

One of those gimme's at 5 watts - strong signal propagation out of the Carribean.  I worked Saint Lucia last night on 3 watts on phone as well.  FJ/DK7LX was a solid 10 over S9 on the Zs6BKW. Propagation into the Carribean has been great of late.Confirmations for QRP contacts now add up to 88.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Two Way QRP Into St. Lucia and Number 116 QRP DXCC

J6/W4QO was operating with a Buddipole and KX3 in St Lucia.  I worked him with 10 watts and K2 with the Hexbeam.  He was making a lot of contacts with that set-up. I called them again after an operator change.  This time it was J6/W5EXJ.  I called them with 3 watts on the hexbeam and they gave me a 56 RST and I gave them a 57.  Later the band died and every body started dropping off.  They could barely hear a guy calling them with 1 kW on a Steppir.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Number 115 QRP DXCC 5R8IC Madagascar

I saw Madagascar pop up on the cluster.  Turned the VFO to where he was calling and he was surprisingly loud.  I know the routine that when the DX is S9 on the meter he is workable QRP even though he is 9000 miles away.  Sure enough - one call at 5 watts and he came back.  A few minutes later I called him again for an insurance QSO and he answered again.  The op was "running barefoot" on a TS450 and a Hexbeam on 20 meters and operating "holiday style" - that is no online log.  He will also be in LOTW. .  I worked him on the K2 with the dial all the way down to 5 watts and the amp on bypass.  Propagation is still doing its magic.

#211 DXCC Lakshadweep Islands

I have been trying to work this Dxpedition for a few days now.  Today they seemed especially strong on the ZS6BKW multiband dipole.  I had just a few minutes to work them before I had to leave.  I seemed to be having a knack at putting the VFO where the DX is listening today.  It was a little comical though that when he finally called - I was not ready to answer.  I had the keyer programmed to call  but not to answer.  The keyer was in reverse when I tried to answer with the paddle - so that was not too pretty.  I managed to key a 599 5 with the keyer programed to answer for the CQWW DX contest.  He acknowledged my clumsly answer and moved on.  I was running the linear at about 800 watts.

Later in the evening, WM4AA texted me and said he was on 40m and that he just worked him.  I had to turn the audio filters on to reduce the static.  I was able to get him on the second round after working Senegal on 30m.  I QSY'd back down to 40m and turned on the amp.

Got them on a third band 17m on Saturday morning 12/7/2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Officially in the ARRL Record Books for QRP-DXCC

I officially joined the ranks of roughly 533 QRP-DXCC Holders - in the following  link:


Among the ranks listed is John Sweeney W3NP which was one of the few familiar calls - I had worked him 6 times during NAQCC sprints.  He has beaten me every time.  The other is Rick Lloyd AA4W, the Awards Coordinator at NAQCC.  The earliest inductee was from 2002.  The average number of inductees per year is about 45.  It appears to be updated once per year.  It is interesting to compare the numbers on the list with that of the DXCC Honor Roll.  There are close to 3600 names on the Honor Roll - Mixed Category.  I did not actually count them.  There are 200 call signs per page and 18 pages - so it works out to about 3600 names.  The CW list is fewer - only about 1200 call signs.  The digital list is even shorter  - just a single page.  Considering how much "easier" to reach contacts with CW over phone, I am quite surprised it is not the other way around.  QRP DXCC ops are primarily CW operators.  I then have to conclude that there are more SSB ops in the honor roll, operating multi-element beams and running power.

I am sure glad that I achieved QRP-DXCC first before getting an amplifier.  Power can be addicting and it is very difficult to turn that dial down 13.5 dB from 100 watts or even worse turning it down  25 dB from legal limit power.  Turning that dial down 25 dB is equivalent to turning signal strength down by 4 S units.  QRP DXCC hunting well past 100 DXCC is hard work and takes patience on both ends to make the QSO happen.  When propagation is good getting a contact in a heavy pile up is possible.  Otherwise, it is an exercise in futility.  Being a good op is knowing when to quit or search for a more viable contact.  My next goal is perhaps 5 Band DXCC and 5 Band WAS.  I am quite sure honor roll will take some time.

To those that wish to pursue QRP-DXCC after getting the taste of power - good luck and may the odds (propagation) be ever in your favor.