Thursday, 23 April 2020

Doublet update

I finished the support post and here is a photo.  It keeps the center of the antenna at about 25' and out of the weeping willow branches.  The wire actually runs north-south.  I am looking south in this picture and the wire goes over that tree just to the left of the support that you can see in the distance.  The near end of the antenna goes over my head to my TV tower behind me.  I installed 2 guy ropes at the top of the 2nd 2x2 to give the antenna more stability because it gets extremely windy here.  It's surprising what you can throw together with what's on hand.  It was only a few hose clamps that I needed to get.

I am happy with the antenna except for 20M which I will install a dipole for.  Incidentally, last night before the support was installed I had a 40M DX QSO with Italy with 5W.  I was very pleased considering the conditions and the band.

Doublet Up and more to come

On Saturday I installed my doublet and the center hangs down to about 23' above the ground.  It's heavy over a long run so it does sag some.  I have decided to prepare my center support to take some of the load off and also to provide me with another use.  More on that later.

I tested my doublet with my tuner and found a very good match on 40, 17 and 15 and a reasonable match on 30, 12 and 10.  I could not match on 20M.  I made some contacts and was pleased with the flexibility I now have across the bands...except 20M.  I thought the issue was the length of my feedline so I trimmed 8' from it and still it behaved about the same.  Someone suggested that the length of the antenna may need some trimming.    I lowered the antenna and trimmed 2' off each end and raised it back up again.  The bands that were reasonable improved slightly in the SWR department but 20M stayed unacceptable.  Rather than fart around with this doublet to get something "reasonable" at the expense of the other bands I decided that I would prefer a tuned antenna for 20M so that I can get back to doing some QRPp work eventually.  I have decided to make a single 20M dipole and support it from the antenna support I plan to install.

In the QRP tradition I want this support to do the job with low expense and also with what I have on hand which is challenging.  I have wood.  I have a patio umbrella stand that anchors with patio stones in the NPM (non-penetrating mount) fashion since I'm not quite ready to dig and bury a 6"x6" or 4"x4" post as a base anchor point just yet.  I have a pulley and I have a 20' fiberglass Wonderpole with the tip broken off.  Originally I was going to use just the top section of this rod as I explained I was going to do in my post Still a Bit Chilly but I have changed my plan a bit to use the whole thing.  The only thing I am missing to get this support up are some hose clamps and some paracord.  I used up all the cord I had on the weekend so I will place an order at the local hardware store for a curbside pickup.

I am using two eight foot 2x2s end to end for the support and then I will strap the Wonderpole to it at the top.  This will give me close to 30' of support.  I may be able to get away with no guys at all, since the Wonderpole is light.   Just below the doublet I will attach a pulley and install a dipole for 20M.  The paracord attached to the legs will give me some added support.  Joining the 2 wood 2x2s end to end is a challenge and here is what I have come up with.

I ripped some 1x8 down to about 2" wide which is the same width as the main support pieces. the pieces are about 2' long.  I sandwich the support pieces at the joints and secured with some screws, wire and hose clamps.  The photos show wire I used but this won't be strong enough.  I don't have any fencing wire or I would use that and hose clamps are easily removed and adjusted.

I have strapped the support pole to the umbrella stand and will add the Wonderpole to it hopefully today,

More to come
Cheers de Scott ve3vvf

Friday, 17 April 2020

Antenna Launch Success

I lowered my random wire antenna this week so that I could make the length a little less random.  I added 8' to it to help avoid half wavelengths on multiple bands by using a chart I found on this website.  The chart at the bottom shows you the wire lengths to avoid depending on which bands you plan to use.  You can visit the page for an explanation of the chart but basically you want to choose a length where the fewest amount of colour bars are present.  I chose somewhere just above 135'.

I lowered the antenna and added the length of wire to it and I was hoping to get it anchored higher in the tree with the newly purchased fishing reel and slingshot from Canadian Tire (Curbside pickup, of course) so I let the support rope come all the way down.  Bad Idea.  I was quite disappointed at the lack of punch this slingshot gave me.  The wind was also working against me.  I tried a few times and from a few different angles but it just wasn't working.  What I ended up doing was using the fishing reel attached to a screwdriver stuck in the ground (thanks Michael, ve3wmb) aimed at the tree top and I created a sling with a piece of broken brick and 6' of para cord.  I tied the fishing line to the brick also and then I rapidly started spinning the rock in an overhand fashion (think David and Goliath) and let the rope go at just the right time for it to sail towards the top of the tree taking the end of the fishing line with it.  This really did the trick.  It took a few tries before I was happy with the placement and height but once it was there I let the weight of the brick bring it to ground level where I detached the brick from the fishing line and tied a new rope to the fishing line and pulled it back up the tree and over the branch and down to me.  I wrapped some tape around it to help keep it from getting snagged in a notch or branch. I could then attach the antenna to it.  I pulled it up using the antenna rope and it was perfect.  I was very happy.  I seemingly bought a slingshot for nothing but you just never know.

Once my Random wire was back up it was time to get the rope in place for the doublet I plan to put up on Saturday.  Now that I had the method down pat it only took 2 tries to get the fishing line over the top of the tree my doublet support rope will be draped over.  Now on Saturday (tomorrow) I will lower the random wire because the doublet will pass over top of the low end of the random wire.  I'll attach the other support end of the doublet to my TV tower at 40' and once up I can raise the random wire again and I will have 2 antennas all band doublet that I will use from 10-40M and an 80M end fed once I get the final toroid from QRPGuys in the mail, whenever that is.

I'm excited to try this doublet fed with balanced window line and the QRPGuys MultiZ tuner.  I'm hoping for a better match than I was getting on the random wire.  I will know tomorrow and there is also the QRPTTF (To The Field) "contest" all day tomorrow.  I say "contest" with quotes because it's low pressure which is right up my alley.  The theme this year is OPERATE FROM HOME.  Do not go out to parks etc but just go out in the yard instead because of the COVID-19 isolation rules currently in place.

That's all for now,
Cheers es 72/73

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

NAQCC April Sprint

So I'm not a contester at all.  That requires operating skill, dedication and time to commit to the contests.  The NAQCC monthly sprints, on the other hand, are low stress, fun, short and did I say fun?

I have wanted to take part many times over the years but either didn't have the right band antenna or a good setup...or so I thought.  With the COVID-19 lock down of sorts I have had more time on the radio which has given me more confidence on the radio.  As well, I listened to the Podcast on the NAQCC and their contest sprints.  I've had a member number (1967) for years but just never used it.  It was time.  I looked on the NAQCC site this morning to see when the next sprint was and it was tonight!  I have a 130' random wire and my little tuner that will put me on 40 and 20...just not 80.  Those are the 3 bands the sprint runs on.

The toughest part, once it got going at 20:30 Eastern time, was dealing with the congestion.  It took a bit to learn to find a signal and focus on it alone and ignore all the others around you/it.  It makes me wish I had the narrow CW filter in my FT-817.  Anyway, 20M wasn't very good but 40 was full.  My plan was to stay for an hour and take what I got and be happy.  I didn't really feel the need to call CQ NA because I could just dial around and find others calling.  The sprint runs generally between 7.030 - 7.045.  All in all I made 6 QSOs and didn't stumble too much through them.  I was pleased with my effort and results.  The total points score was 144 after multipliers for using a Straight Key and the SPC multipliers.  I know many get dozens of Qs in the log but this was about me getting more airtime.  I used one of the popular loggers called the NAQCC Sprint Logger which was created by Ron Bower, AC2C.  It worked well when I went to enter my contacts after the fact and I was able to do a report that I cut and paste into the log submission page of the NAQCC.  It was painless.  This was a great experience and I hope to take part again next month.

Cheers es 72 de Scott ve3vvf,

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Tuner Covers the Bands

I took some time yesterday afternoon on the Good Friday "day off" to try out the QRPGuys Multi Z tuner some more.  I started on 40M, where I didn't have any luck finding a match the other day, and had better luck today.  There's a hi/Lo Z switch and when I switched it to Hi I was able to match 40M quite well.  I even had a QSO with Ron, W3SSF, in Baltimore, MD.  It was turning into a ragchew but had to cut it short because of QRM.  30M tunes alright but I can obtain a better match without the tuner. 20M tuned up nicely and I may have had a brief exchange with 4A60O but he was quick and there were a lot of other callers in the pileup.  I didn't hear my exact call but very similar to mine.  He may have misheard my call because of the QRP.  He did not go in the log.  17, 12, 15 and 10 meters also tuned up will enough but those bands were pretty dead so there were no QSOs to be had.  It was a bit chilly but mostly it was a cool damp very strong wind so I operated from inside the barn.  Even with that my fingers were starting to get a little cold so I packed it in for the afternoon but not before proving to myself that this little tuner will work well for me on this random wire through a LDG 9:1 unun until I can get the doublet in the air.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Little Tuner Helpful

When I built the QRPGuys Multi Z tuner it was so I could use it with the Doublet I plan to put up (once I get a launching method) but then I thought I'd give it a try with my random wire since the Doublet isn't quite there yet.  The random wire is about 125' long, I believe,  and works very well on 30M but that's about it.  I hooked the little unit up via a short run of Co-ax to my LDG 9:1 Unun and I was able to tune it quite well on 20M and on 17M.  40M was not so agreeable and I didn't try 12 or 15 but if I were going to use this antenna and tuner together regularly some adjustments to the wire length would likely be required.  I tuned around 20 for a while and there was a lot of activity and I was getting a little over-zealous trying to reach a Brazilian station and also a few other DX stations but I really should have known better and stuck with something more domestic.  As it was, my battery was down to 10-11v and I knew my FT-817 wasn't even putting out close to 5 watts into a non resonant antenna...during poor conditions.   All that being said I was happy with the tuner and how easy it was to operate by tuning to dim the tuning LED.  As the LED gets dimmer your match is better.  It was super handy and I think I am going to enjoy using it.  Tonight I'll charge my battery and test it again on more bands on the next nice day.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

A Beautiful Day

Saturday was one of the nicest days we have had in quite some time.  The wind was down and the temperatures were in the mid teens.  This was a perfect opportunity to spend some time outdoors.  As the yard dries up there will be a lot to do and being stuck at home will give me no excuse not to get stuff done.  After first doing some raking of twigs from the weeping willow (there are sooooooo many from this sort of tree...especially after a windy winter) I figured it was a perfect opportunity to do some outdoor operating.  I got my lawn chair and collapsible table out and brought out my portable kit.  Everything is still brown but it's better than being white.  I took this panoramic shot.  This summer my plan was to have that old storage shed taken down and removed but with COVID that has fallen down the list of what is important.

The sun was warm and I hooked up to the random wire.  Since 30M is the only band I can work without a tuner that's where I parked myself.  The DX stations I could hear were too weak for them to hear me so I had a couple of QSOs with domestic stations.  The band was fairly active.  I could hear at least one SOTA station and a couple of SKCC stations.  I was unsure of the SOTA exchange.  I was unsure if someone calling CQ SOTA is looking for a SOTA station or they are activating a SOTA station.  With my CW operating confidence (or lack there of) always hanging over my head I avoided the SOTA caller and instead my first call was a 2x QRP with AA9AA in Wisconsin and I always enjoy a 2xQRP...probably one of my favourite contact types.  I also called back to an SKCC station and had a brief QSO where we exchanged SKCC numbers names and Stare/Province.  I was just listening to some of the DitDit podcasts this week and one of them was all about the SKCC.  I've had a SKCC member number for over a decade now but I've never done much with it.  It's nice to be able to have a brief exchange with someone with a shared element.

I'm happy the snow is gone now and the yard is drying up.  I'm going to appreciate the increased radio operating time I'm going to have this spring.  Soon we will be planting the vegetable gardens and getting the flower patches cleaned up.  The perennials are already coming up.

With the warmer weather, as well, is the ability to start practising my bagpipes outdoors.  It's not an activity conducive to indoor practising when it comes to not annoying other people/cats in the house.  Soon, I hope.

*NOTE - I looked up the SOTA details and found that someone calling CQ SOTA is, in fact, activating a summit.  There's a whole community of chasers out there too.

Cheers for now es 72/37
de Scott