K0GKJ – Just Another Ham
The New QTH – A Floating Shack

Feb
21

The new “shack” is a monster Pelican (1550). You could drive a tank over this baby, and it’d just ask for more…

cooking club boat radio portable ops 043 cooking club boat radio portable ops 044

Two key building blocks – the trusty old Icom 706MkIIG and my new LDG Z-11Pro2 tuner. In QRP mode, both of these draw practically no juice, but I want a meter just to monitor current usage…

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My first foray into the world of Anderson Power Poles for DC distribution. I even got the deluxe ratchet crimper from West Mountain Radio – what a tool…

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Courtesy of the swap tables at Hamcation, picked up a 7AH (that’s 7,000 mAH, kids) sealed lead acid battery (tested like new) for fifteen bucks. Need to find another one of these as I have room for it in the case…

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Notice the two elastic bands whose ends are hot-glued into the case’s lid for logbook, atlas, radio cheat sheet, etc….

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With a few of the right tools, I took over the kitchen counter and

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loaded up the case with nylon web straps, some elastic straps and radio and speaker brackets with a generous few dollops from the hot glue gun, not wanting to fix things down too permanently until I see how this “pack job” works out, this rig’s ripe for ratification…

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So clockwise from front left:

  • radio and auto-tuner,
  • cables ‘n fuses,
  • battery charger and Power Cube for DC distribution atop the charger,
  • battery (strapped in place, but easily removable – can be charged in place, or if near 110VAC, charger will keep it floatin’ while operatin’),
  • external speaker for the radio,
  • hand mic and,
  • WWII “knee key” folded up above? This key unfolds and clamps onto my right thigh for a little CW action.
  • I’m still trying to figure out how to pack the ‘bug’ while keeping it safe… we’ll see… I’ve really taken to the ole Vibroplex Original !

There’s still plenty of room for my Rigblaster (for digital modes like PSK),

The new portable vertical (extends from six feet to thirty-three feet – a nice quarter wave at 40 meters – on top of a heavy duty three foot tripod):

antenna 001

but I felt I needed some radials.

After some research, I decided on elevated (sorta) radials – not exactly half wavelength off the ground (more like half a meter up), but likely to perform better with fewer up versus down. And if I get lazy and just lay ‘em on the ground, I can do a comparison test (anecdotally only, of course – a real study takes too much time away from being on the air).

Enter radial (speaker) wire…

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and my radial wire dispenser…

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Thought I’d label them before I got too confused…cooking club boat radio portable ops 006 

Good thing… now which one was this again? Oh yeah, the 34 foot 40 meter radial that will also serve 15 meters as a 3rd harmonic…

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3/4” PVC “spikes” sharpened at the bottom and drilled near the top to receive the outboard end of each radial. Drive these babies into the ground, slanted away from the tripod, fanning out around and keeps the wires taught…

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Notice the fancy figure-8 (“stopper”) knot keeping each radial’s end where it oughta be… I used insulated wire – less chance of detuning with age and moisture. Won’t matter if I lay ‘em on the ground, of course.

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All twelve radials, wrapped around their travelin’ stakes

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and the full set huggin’ the tripod… 3 bungied bundles – one for each band…

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In addition to the three foot tripod for this stick, I also have a five footer from which I’ll hang my copper tube slim-jim for a little VHF gain (if I’m in the mood).

Can’t wait to deploy my new portable suitcase station and sticks !

73 dit dit

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Feb
16
View Just Part of the Haul from Frigid Fun in Orlando

Aside from the ooggling endless ham-related merchandise at the Central Florida Fairgrounds this weekend, the array of which was incredible, I thoroughly enjoyed lots of eyeball QSOs (face-to-face meetings) with some really interesting folks. And it was a hoot monitoring all the VHF channels that were buzzing with activity in the hotel room all night long after walking maybe a hundred miles during each day.   

OK, so it was rainy, cold, brutally windy, particularly on Friday. This meant that the outdoor vendors (“tailgaters”) who could be convinced to pull up a corner of the tarps covering their merchandise for the few hard-core masochist shoppers (like myself) who were out there braving the elements, sometimes found themselves accepting offers they might otherwise have declined (good deals!). Fortunately, the rain departed the area before Saturday morning. That meant Saturday was CROWDED. Sunday was great, though, so I consider Friday afternoon and Sunday morning the “sweet spots”.   

I found it very satisfying to have many longstanding technical questions finally answered (radials associated with verticals, operational attributes of bugs versus keys, the true meaning of life, etc.), some by characters who are now legends in the ham radio world.   

I did burn up more cash than was even outrageously reasonable, and now poor Kay, my way-too-understanding YL,  is trying to make heads or tails out of a fistful of receipts cryptically scratched at the swap tables to the schmuck with the cash, debit & credit cards (me).   

Yup, I’m battling one helluva financial hangover this morning. Worth it? We’ll see, but it sure was a lot of fun. In the pics below, you can see at least a portion of my haul, and don’t I just look like I’m ready for a radio safari? Shoulda worn my pith helmet, but opted for my call sign hat and deep bush vest instead…  

I toured a robustly outfitted emergency communications vehicle, emcomm being one of my passions. Check out this privately owned communications center, complete with commercial FM broadcast capability to get the word out to civilians after the FM stations get blown away, along with half a dozen operating positions on VHF, HF, Marine & microwave, all separated from each other on the spectrum by notch filters and unique frequency assignments – one well thought-out (and funded) truck:   

View Sponsored by Agencies But a Private Affair

I bought a few books, mostly other small stuff, but also more than a few spendier items.   

These include my first Vibroplex ‘bug’. a.k.a., semi-automatic Morse code key (see nauseating detail on this item originally manufactured in 1962 and described enthusiasticslly in an earlier post – included in the album below after partial clean up), also a SWEET brand new Vibroplex Iambic Deluxe (silver with the red paddles below) and some cool portable operating equipment, like a hyper-portable 33 foot Eagle One vertical HF (10-80 meter) multi-band (with tuner) antenna and tripod, an ultra-portable tuner (the reknowned LDG Z11 Pro II), etc.   

View Portable Ops Antenna, Tuner and New Keys

Right now I’m contemplating how to cut up a 500 foot spool of wire I bought into a radial system for the vertical. Sounds like tuned elevated radials are the way to go. I’m thinking four each for:   

  • the 40 meter band, whose third harmonic will also resonate on 15 meter (34′ long each),
  • 20 meters (17′ long each),
  • 10 meters (8½’ long each),
  • I’ll also lay out just one radial for 80 meters as it needs to be 66 feet long at ¼λ (gulp!), but at least to pay homage to some balance in nature at those lower freq’s. We’ll see if the LDG autotuner can load up the vertical with any efficiency at all with this set up. I can always add more radials this long, but let’s see how much of a hassle just one is and how well it works.

I’m just using one insulated speaker wire conductor for each radial, crimped and soldered to a ring terminal.   

I’ll tuck two radials into each ring terminal, connect them to the antenna tripod with a few hose clamps(which will be electrically connected to RF ground) before they all hit my 4:1 (voltage) balun, the other side of which will connect to the antenna “radiator” (the vertical 33′ element). The other end of this balun will connect to my tuner via (unbalanced) coax and then the coax feedline to the rig.   

Spreading these radials out, well, radially, out from the antenna’s base a foot or three off the ground (their outer ends insulated and suspended from chunks of sharpened PVC pipes driven into the ground) should keep them at least marginally tuned and elevated (so fewer radials will yield most of the benefit of a far larger number of detuned ground-huggers).   

At least that’s the theory popular these days in the literature.  All I care is that I make a pantload of contacts, not whether I’m losing 0.2 dB to cookin’ earth worms or not.   

Technically, these radials are supposed to be at least a quarter wavelength off the ground to truly minimize near-field losses to Mother Earth and to optimize launching an RF signal outward and upward, but hey, everything is a compromise. This way I can spend just 15 minutes setting up the antenna system and 2 hours operating instead of the other way around. So I don’t score a QSO with JA country. Don’t know anybody in Tokyo (yet) anyhow! 🙂   

My next task will be to organize all this wire in such a way that it’s easy to deploy and “undeploy” for the next time.   

Now its high time I compile all the bad news ($) and face the music. Oh well. Life is short. Now where is that last darn receipt? That’s what Kay gets for sending me to a big ham show all by myself for an entire weekend! 

 In parallel to getting the portable station “to go”, I’ll keep sloggin’ away on the boat QTH, which will present some installation challenges that I also look forward to!  

73 dit dit

Feb
13

This is only the second time I’ve attended what I believe is Florida’s largest annual hamfest, and so far, I haven’t ever been disappointed, torrential downpour and low 50s temps notwithstanding! And this is just day 1 (of 3)!

I’m very proud of one of my newest acquisitions – a 1962 vintage Vibroplex Original ‘bug’ with 3.5″ base and an ‘L’ damper (don’t ask – I’ll tell you below!), serial number 226473. After getting it back to my hotel room, my first high priority task (after devouring a great salmon dinner downstairs), was to identify this baby. Not only could the gentleman at the swap meet table not tell me anything about this bug, he couldn’t speak at all, so I paid my money (cash, of course, but I’m sure it will become reported income 🙂 ).

Before we go any further, you need to watch this short video, or you’ll become befuddled by what follows if you’re not already familiar with bugs (in the Morse Code sense). The bug in this video is also the model I lust after, not the one that I bought today (pics below)… Notice how each speed change is preceded by a series of the letter V (di-di-di-dah, di-di-di-dah). That’s to calibrate the operator’s fist to the change in the rate of speed that dits are generated. Cool beans…

You’ll also notice that these babies wanna scream faster than many folks can generate (or copy) code, especially when learning to use the bug. There’s even a less-traditional device that you can attach to the bug’s arm to slow it down, called a Vari-Speed. Gotta have one! 

Fortunately, there are dedicated aficionados of Vibroplex bugs, The exhaustive six year study of Vibroplex key history compiled by John, WW7P, and additional info offered by KN6W revealed much of the history behind this unit, as well as some 3,000 others. I intend to follow this particular bug’s lineage, but that will take more than a few hours downrange from its discovery.

To know how to use a bug is an art form in and of itself, but to know how to use a bug well, and at speed, is to be admired.

Now that last statement is the real trick. First, you gotta know the code. Second, you should know how to use a straight key (manually depressing a ‘telegraph key’ with downward pressure to generate dots and dashes (di-dits and dah-dahs, for you CW mavens) one by one, holding the key down longer for dahs than for dits, and ensuring the appropriate duration of silence between them by letting up on the key. Third, you should know how to use a ‘paddle’ (usually something called an iambic paddle), that is a more automated key, if you will. Press the dual paddle affair to one side, to generate one or more dahs. If you hold the paddle (to the right in my case), it will continue to generate dahs until those cows are home and in the barn, or until you release your sidways pressure on the paddle. Push it to the opposite side (left, in my case), and it will automatically generate dits with the appropriate silent interval between each one, until you once again, release your gentle, but insistent sideways pressure.

NOW we come to the ‘bug’. This is considered a SEMI-automatic device where you still use sideways pressure, but there are two key (no pun intended) differences between the iambic paddle and the bug. The first difference is that dahs and the silence between them (and dits) are generated manually like the straight key, but with sideways pressure, not downward pressure. While dits are automatically generated, this is accomplished mechanically, and not electronically via a dampened pendulum affair. Quite elegant in its simplicity, and heavily patented in its day!

These things really are functional works of art, and when you hear a key on the air, the sound and rhythm is something to behold (and easily recognize). A good ‘fist’ with a bug is to be admired indeed. Plus, the mechanical ‘clacking’ experienced by the operator is a reminder of history all by itself. Music!

And the entire topic of these bugs is to scratch the surface of a passionate sub-culture of operators and collectors deeply devoted to these amazing but somewhat silly devices!

Maybe that’s why I, like a very few others, are drawn to them, like I’m drawn to Morse code in general, and celestial navigation with a sextant and the Inuit style of kayaking with a hand-carved West Greenland paddle. I guess practiced determination born of obscurity breeds a satisfying depth of fascination and satisfaction. 

This particular bug was dirty and dull, but in fine shape behind its crudely fashioned price tag on a piece of masking tape. All the thumb screws turn easily, the metal is not pitted, and while the label plate is dull and tarnished, it is not scratched, and the original serial number is easily read. It should clean up handsomely (yup, another project), and that distinctive logo will be gleaming just hours after returning home and my metal polish is within reach! Although, I’m told the complete detailed cleaning, if executed properly, will take significantly longer (aw shucks).

The elongated paddle below is where the thumb of my right hand rests (I’m not willing to embed the additional layer of complexity to learn this beast by throwing my natural right brain (left hand) into the mix, however!). With rightside pressure, the thumb sets the pendulum in motion, creating one or more dits ‘automatically’ (until the spring-loaded pendulum dampens to a continuous dah – fortunately, no CW character requires that many dits). Applying pressure to the left using the smaller paddle creates a continuous tone, so one must release the key between each dah. Yup, a tricky dribble.   

Here’s my new bug posing for the lens:

That small horizontal U-shaped affair is the spring that causes the thinner portion of the arm to wiggle back and forth to create dits.

The speed at which dits are automatically (and mechanically) generated are controlled somewhat by the location of two counterweights. See them below, held in place with thumb screws on top… the farther forward one or both weights are located, the slower the dits generated.

and that famous logo…

They say it can take years to become an accomplished fist with a bug. Oh well ! No time like the present, right?

I scored some other cool stuff at the show today, but that can come later, along with the description of other delightful acquisitions yet to be made. Right now I’m basking in the light of the little red bug on the logo of my new forty-eight year young Vibroplex bug – hopefully only the first of many – well, at least several!

73 dit dit

Feb
11

Well, kids, I’m finally getting my act together on the boat QTH. The antenna, feedline conduit and mast are now completely uninstalled at the condo, so until I get the boat equipment up and running, my only opportunity to get on the air is in the car and with my HT (handheld transceiver), meaning VHF (line-of-sight) only – no HF (long range) – unacceptable!

Turns out I’m only going to need one backstay insulator to ensure one of my two backstays (wire from the top of the mast to the deck at the stern, or back of the boat) is insulated from the rest of the rig. At the bottom end, it’s already isolated, so I got the best insulator I could find, made by Hayn Marine. It’s the only one that has a failsafe backup if the insulating material should ever fail. Since that backstay can be under significant stress, this is how you ensure a portion of the boat’s rigging is both an excellent antenna and strong structural member.

 Next, I needed to find some high voltage wire to connect the backstay (antenna) to my Icom AH-4 antenna coupler (tuner). I’ve had this tuner for years, and worked great in my station up north with a G5RV di-pole.

The advantage of this tuner is that I already have it, and it will tune 6M (50 Mhz).

The disdvantage (over the marine version, the AT-140) is that it only handles up to 120 Watts. This is fine for my ham radio as it only puts out 100 Watts, but most marine SSB (single side band) HF radios put out 150 Watts. Ideally, I’d like to use this tuner for both radios when I finally spring the cash for a marine SSB. We’ll see.

But back to the high voltage wire, this is needed since an end-fed wire, like a backstay antenna, can develop very high voltages at the people end (the cockpit of the boat). Two issues:

  1. gotta be able to handle up to 15,000 volts, and
  2. gotta protect folks that might be inclined to touch the backstay (antenna) while transmitting (ouch!)

You know how anything associated with the word, “marine” automatically commands a premium price? Well, instead of seeking to source this high voltage wire (designated GTO-15) from a marine radio supply house, I found some on ebay for cheap!

Turns out this is exactly the same wire used to connect high voltage sources to neon signs. Also called ‘tesla’ wire (tesla is actually a term used to define magnetic flux density or magnetic induction). An HF radio antenna inducing RF (radio frequency) fields in and about a people-occupied space (near-field effect with the capability of inducing RF burns, for you hams) needs heavily insulated wire capable of handling almost the same type of voltage and induced fields of a neon sign.

The best part? Tesla wire is a LOT cheaper than marine GTO-15, and it’s exactly the same thing!

Next, I needed copper “foil” (strapping) to connect the antenna tuner to the RF grounding shoe on the bottom of the boat.

Why copper foil? Well, copper is an excellent conductor, and flat 3″ wide foil is used since at RF frequencies, current tends to travel on the surface of a conductor, not inside (as you hams all know), and the more surface area, the lower the impedance of that conductor (a good thing). OK, so I have another cheapskate story about buying RF Ground copper foil… did I get it from a radio supply house? Nope. Got it from a roofing company.

And not just ‘cuz I’m a cheapskate, but I like to be nonconventional, and it makes for an interesting story, which is almost worth more than the cost savings.

As you may know, roofers use copper for various purposes, and they tend to use heavier stuff than the radio supply houses sell. Why is this important? Well, if you put copper strap into a corrosive salt water boat bilge, and its less than 10 to 15 mil thick, the stuff will actually tend to dissolve on you over time! Roofers use stuff called 16 ounce copper and up. The 16 oz stuff is 22 mil thick, and I can get the 22 mil stuff from a roofing supply house for the same or less than what I’d pay for 10 mil stuff ! Not a bad deal, considering how costly copper is.

So I got three 10 foot sections of 3″ wide strap, soldered together (by an expert) into a contiguous 30 foot strap, for less than $80 !  That’s a lot of copper, and maybe a bit overkill, but will last at least two lifetimes. Hopefully, I won’t need all thirty feet, but I’ll have it on hand.

Here is an interesting article if you’re interested in reading about the traditional installation of a marine SSB rig on a boat. It is a little different than a shoreside QTH, but in a salt water environment, you’ll never find a better counterpoise than good ole Mother Ocean!

73

Gene

K0GKJ

Jan
17

Well, kids, even the 2 meter slim jim (and especially the feedline) must go. I was literally SHOCKED by the intensity of at least one neighbor’s reaction (even though he had never uttered a single word to me personally, he nevertheless felt unabashed at flogging my feedline installation in a public forum).

So be it.

I’m now turning all my energy toward moving the QTH to my own little sacrosanct ship in the harbor. No antenna CC&Rs down there, plus it puts my HF antenna (long wire) that much closer to that wonderful salt water counterpoise. Combined with the masthead marine VHF antenna providing double duty for ham 2 meter, 220 & 440 (including APRS), good to go!

Next month I’ll be able to afford backstay insulators, copper foil and GTO-15 high voltage wire. Then up she goes! Movin the IC746 to the pilothouse, along with my AH-4 tuner, a desk mic, the iambic paddle and my favorite straight key. Yup, then life will be good again, radio boys ‘n girls.

Years past, I have used e-QSL, but found that less than satisfying. So I’ve just received my first hard copy QSL cards (from www.cheapqsls.com):

 

(sorry ’bout the lousy pic – too lazy to go back and take another – you get the idea – nothin’ fancy, just the basics, but was good fun mailing out a few today, especially the CWs!).

Went to a hamfest in Ft Myers yesterday. Saw an interesting t-shirt there:  “Without CW, its just CB!”

My favorite was, “My wife says if I transmit one more time, she’s leaving me… Over.”

Besides the customary bits ‘n pieces for the junk drawer, got a terrific deal on a motor drive Meade telescope for the XYL’s bday, and got a chance to play with the HT, including en route:

One mobile antenna farm in the parking lot was particularly impressive (notice the TarHeel HF antenna in the foreground – not displayed is a HUGE capacitance hat up top):

This guy (or gal)’s gotta be single or married to a ham:

73 dit dit

Jan
12

Well, after the hex beam came down (being shipped to the next proud owner – in Missouri), I was left antenna-less, so until the feedline conduit comes down, I experimented with a “quarter wire” (quarter wavelength ground plane vertical whose magnet mount I stuck to the top of a steel air conditioner compressor:

Made a few contacts in Punta Gorda (ten miles or so away), but weak and noisy. So I had homebrewed a slim jim copper tube antenna whose design is supposed to sport some gain (not a ground plane like the wire, but rather a tuned stub that I tuned to minimum SWR with my antenna analyzer).

Tied the SJ to my old HF feedline instead of the quarter wire, and now am talking to folks 30 miles away simplex (no repeaters). Huzzah!

Still playin’ around, but seems to be a good design with lower noise and longer range on these (line-of-sight) frequencies.

No good, obviously, for anything longer range than that, but one step at a time, as they say. Not bad for an antenna that’s only a few inches wide and just a tad over four feet long.  

 

I continue to investigate equipment that will allow me to relocate my primary QTH to my boat – things like backstay insulators (allows me to convert one of the wires that holds up the forty-two foot mast – 54 feet AGL) into a long-wire antenna), copper foil (which connects the antenna to the tuner to the grounding shoe on the hull, i.e., the RF ground), lengths of 450Ω twin lead that will serve to enhance my counterpoise to better launch signals, big honkin’ fused power leads to the batteries, etc. Then, of course, installing all this stuff is tricky and time-consuming so as to avoid nasty RFI on the marine electronics (unacceptable when this stuff helps navigate the ship to avoid hostile waters, grounding, sinking, and all that undesirable stuff)!

Watch this space…

73 de Gene K0GKJ dit dit

Jan
07

Well, gang, the hex beam is off the roof of the ole condo after an amazing few weeks of really good performance, proximity to the metal roof notwithstanding. I’m now looking for a lower profile HF antenna that the neighbors won’t bitch so much about. Saga continues. Could have resisted removal, but we don’t want to create an antagonistic atmosphere with our neighbors (who all live very close!).

Interesting sidebar: I placed an add on QTH.com, ARRL’s online classifieds, and I bet I had a dozen offers to buy this baby in less than twenty-four hours! The first person to say, “I want it” is getting it (thanks Bernard!) and as soon as his check clears, off it goes to Missouri! I’m sure it will provide many years of great performance there as well.

Been a good run, hex nuts, and when I move out of the condo and into a house where I can finally create that beautiful antenna farm, I’ll have another.

Leo, thanks for your terrific support after the sale, and for your guiding hand on the installation.

73 dit dit

Jan
03

The Condo QTH saga continues…

That’s the headline in the soap opera of this covenant-strangled ham. Sucks, to be sure, but not to worry. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. So I move the ‘shack’ to the boat. Could be a whole lot worse!

Yes, the antenna must come down from a terrific roof-top location, thirty-eight feet up AGL and within view of a saltwater shore. If you can imagine, someone said it wasn’t consistent with yadda yadda! Clearly at least two unwashed heathens who were so vociferous that our homeowner’s board had little choice but to rescind its earlier approval. So be it.

I’ve appealed to our board’s sense of common decency to remunerate me for unrecoverable installation expenses that amounted to over $500 out of pocket (not including the antenna, rotator, feedline, control lines, of course, since I hope to at least partially recoup from that $1,000 or so).

Speaking of which, an almost new (installed less than a month) hex beam directional antenna (from K4KIO, of course), covering 20, 17, 15 & 10 meter bands), along with a very nice RCA rotator with remote control and 12 memories, is for sale. $575 firm, not including shipping, which is a heckuva a deal for one of you that has more flexibility over the “sky rights” in your neighborhood than me. See posts below for pics…

I’ve turned to a new direction. My new Yaesu VX-8R needed a little help on VHF (2M) with respect to the altitude of its antenna, so I dug up an SMA-to-SO239 adapter to hook it up to my marine VHF antenna, atop my 54.5 foot sailboat mast (after checking resonant frequency and SWR with my antenna analyzer, and found the SWR to be well within acceptable limits for 2m (below the marine VHF band), hooked it up, and works great!

And this is my view from the boat QTH looking WSW toward Cuba, Central America, etc.

NAnd the nice thing about the QTH being on the boat is an awesome saltwater counterpoise from which to launch an HF signal, and it’s movable! Guess that makes me a mobile HF station (again), once I relocate the ICOM 746 and AH-4 tuner, that is.

73 dit dit

Dec
28

I had a problem.

My apartment is surrounded and divided by twelve+ inch thick steel-reinforced concrete walls, and sandwiched between steel pan and prestressed/reinforced concrete floors and ceilings (we’re on the middle of three floors). In effect, I live in an efficient Farraday Cage! Great for preventing RFI on the neighbor’s toaster oven and resisting storms here in hurricane country, but lousy for RF signal propagation. Might also have an interesting effect on lightening strikes as we’re near the lightening capitol of the U.S., but not sure about that…

Two reasons why I care.

First, indoor HF antennas don’t work – the topic for another story.

Second, and germain to this post, my wireless router doesn’t penetrate those walls well enough for my 2.4 GHZ router to shroud my 75 foot long apartment with an adequate wireless “bubble”. My neighbor, closest to the router, gets a better wireless signal than I do in some of my rooms!

I spotted a clever but simple design that costs virtually nothing to try (the best kind) that appealed to my homebrew antenna DNA. The principle: slide a homebrewed parabolic reflector over each of the two antennas on a Linksys router to direct its RF energy, thereby ostensibly creating about 9dbi of gain!
 
Check it out:
The design and template can be found at www.freeantennas.com. Just print it out to cut the wood scraps into the proper parabolic shape, and apply a little creativity and elbow grease! 
 
Lookin’ down:
 
These crude 2.4 gig parabolic reflectors increased the range of my old wireless router by at least 60%, maybe more. Not bad for less than a buck worth of materials, ALL of which came from various junk shelves ‘n drawers.
 
I now have a strong WiFi signal down the entire 75 foot length of my apartment/fortress! The only weaker spot is right at the opposite end of a forty-something foot load-bearing (steel-reinforced concrete) wall at least 15 inches thick from the router’s location, but even then, the signal is adequately bouncing around to get a medium-strength signal there too !
 
I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if my neighbor “behind” those reflectors (and down one floor) now finds he’ll have to buy into his own WiFi signal instead of pirating mine (I really don’t mind, but he’s on his own!). That gain obviously came from the backside of these antennas 🙂
 
Amazing! And yes, I do enjoy homebrewing antennas (antennae?), as I’m sure do many of you, but this was so easy, it was almost disappointing in its lack of challenge. I didn’t even need my MFJ269 antenna analyzer – there’s really nothing to analyze and tune as all the modeling and design was a simple “cut ‘n paste”…
 
I did also increase the ‘altitude’ of the router itself by about three feet (top shelf instead of middle shelf) and ‘aimed’ the reflectors down the length of my condo. I’m thinking that helped a bit too. My signal now easily penetrates at least three non-load-bearing (steel studs and sheet rock) walls and one set of sliding glass doors out to our lanai (that’s ‘4 season porch’ to you northerners!) almost twice as far away as its previous effefctive range!
 
Materials:
  • A couple of pieces of scrap wood (sawed out with a skill saw after marking the parabolic shape on each with Mr. Erskine’s template and a piece of old-fashioned carbon paper (yup, lo-tech all the way!). I then took a belt sander, inverted it and clamped to a workbench, and moved the wood over the sander to quickly shape the pieces of wood more precisely to the lines transferred to the wood.
  • Two 8 inch plastic squares cut out of a storage bin lid (a box cutter did the job nicely). This stuff is stiff enough to keep a curve, but soft enough to bend by hand (others have reported used old cookie sheets or other pieces of metal – too ambitious for this lazy sod!)
  • About a yard of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Six small brass screws to screw the foil-lined plastic square (dimensions included on Mr. Erskine’s template).
  • Some spray adhesive (optional) to ensure the foil adhered well to the plastic backing as it was bent to its parabolic curve.

That’s about it. Cool, huh?

I do still need to buy a hard-wired access point for our living room though for connecting the HDTV and Blu-Ray directly to the Internet, and that will come when we switch to from 1 mpbs DSL Internet access to 20 mbps cable Internet access.

Looks right at home in the shack too, doesn’t it?

Right now, at least, I can sit out in the lanai at the other end of the apartment at our dining room table and work on the laptop  if I want to ‘come out of the closet’ (where my Internet access point and radio shack are set up)! So instead of looking at plaster walls, I can watch the palm trees swaying in the sea breeze! Life is indeed sweet.

73

de K0GKJ

dit dit

Dec
27

Well, in spite of the fact that my hexbeam antenna (and feedline conduit) must come down after only having been up for a matter of days, I’m very proud of making some good contacts. My first QSO card at this QTH documenting a solid voice contact with WB7WNF, Raleigh, in Bonney Lake, Washington State. Not bad with the antenna pointing North, not Northwest, and at just 60 watts. Thanks for the card, Raleigh. response in transit soon (as soon as I get new QSO cards printed!).

 

By the way, the new Yaesu VX-8R HT is working out pretty well. I love the APRS (automatic position/packet reporting) feature, and being a quad bander (here in the US) is cool, with great scanning features and wideband FM, although I’m a bit disappointed in its transmit range. I live less than 20 miles from the nearest repeater, and yesterday I found it necessary to climb twenty feet up my sailboat mast at the dock just to be clearly heard from that machine! Oh well, guess I’m just not used to HTs yet. I plan on getting an SMA-to-S)239 adapter so I can hook it up to my marine VHF antenna at the top of my 54 foot mast. That should help!

Even though I have a nice Bencher Iambic paddle, I still like bangin’ on my favorite straight key. Picked it up at a hamfest a couple of years ago. Just says “NYNE” on the back. Can anyone help with identification?

Tried unsuccessfully to hit both the 20M QRP and DX calling freqs this morning. Will try to work with the FISTS Sunday slow chat later today…

I really want to make some CW contacts between now and New Year’s Eve Straight Key night before the hexbeam has to come down (long wire, here I come!). So any help here would be appreciated! Any slow (<15 WPM) CW scheds, anyone?

73

dit dit

de k0gkj