Tuesday 20 October 2020

Moving shacks

 I don't really have a 'shack' of sorts as most hams do.  I operate from my yard close to where my antennas are.  During the inclement months I would go into my small barn and operate from a small table and chair.  I have a small space heater to take the edge off when it's -30C and that has served me well.  The problem with my barn is that I share it with raccoons and squirrels.  It is an unwinnable battle with the current state of the barn and access points the critters have to its interior.  I'm not terribly upset that they are there.  They don't cause me any other grief...they do not get into my garbage or anything like that.

I also had an old decrepit large shed/building which raccoons lived under and I could store some things in but the doors wouldn't shut properly and the roof was rotting.  It needed to come down.  I tackled the task which ended up being much more work than I had anticipated.  It took two 20 yard dumpsters and two 40 yard dumpsters to take care of it all.  It took me months to deal with this very well built shed.  Now that it's gone I am having a new, but significantly smaller, pre-made 10' x 14' shed delivered from Pine Grove Sheds in Alexandria, Ontario, just 20 minutes away.  This shed will be located on the opposite side of the yard from the barn and I wondered if I could use this new shed as a new operating position or shack.  It will be protected from the elements and the raccoons and I am excited at the prospect.  I was thinking of putting a vertical antenna up as I had originally thought I would also keep the old operating position in the barn until I went in the other day and saw raccoon poop on my table.  I'm done with the barn.  I will move my antennas to new trees and have a new permanent shack.  This will allow me to leave things there without fear of rodent destruction.  I am getting excited at the prospect of this new locale.  I will post pictures once it arrives in a few weeks.

When I was thinking of putting up a random wire vertical I did a lot of youtubing and reading and I learned a lot about the differences between the EFHW and the random wire antenna.  I learned more about 9:1 ununs and their proper application as compared to the 49:1 auto transformer used in EFHW antennas.  I really enjoy when these concepts that I didn't quite fully understand become more clear to me.  I had been trying to use a 9:1 unun for my 80M antenna at 1/2 wavelength.  I had purchased a EFHW 80M mini tuner that plays the role of tuner and matching transformer but a part was incorrect in the bag and had been waiting for its replacement.  I didn't understand why the unun was giving me an "ok" match but not a great one.  I made some contacts but the SWR on the FT-817 was still fairly high.  Now I understand the difference between the 2 antenna types better and the need for the 49:1 transformer and that the 9:1 just wasn't going to cut it.  Once the proper toroid arrives and I finish the 80M EFHW tuner the 9:1 can be put away until the next time I decide to put up a vertical or random wire antenna....with a proper counterpoise.

Cheers for now,

Scott ve3vvf

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Colaisde na Gàidhlig

 On a non-radio related topic, I have been spending more time this summer interested in my Scottish heritage.  My family, on my mother's side, comes from Scotland with a hint of Wales and Ireland thrown in for good measure.  My family comes from Nova Scotia and is chock full of MacDonalds, Masons, MacIntoshs, Frasers and Smiths.  In the north-eastern part of Nova Scotia there is a large portion of the population with Scottish ancestry and many had Gaelic spoken in their homes until very recently.  Cape Breton Island is part of Nova Scotia slightly to the north-east.  Nowadays it is connected by the Canso Causeway but before its construction in the early 1950s the Scottish culture was thriving on this little island. Even now there are homes where Gaelic is spoken.  The music and culture that was brought from Scotland hundreds of years ago is still celebrated and, to a certain extent, lived.

In Cape Breton there is a college called The Gaelic College whose purpose is to promote and spread the culture so it is not lost.  This week I begin Beginner Level 1 of Gaelic language.  It is a 28 week course offered through Zoom classes with exercises and group work and 1 on 1 practise with class mates.  I am very excited to begin learning.  I had been using the site Duolingo for a month or 2 to learn and I did learn a lot of the basics but it isn't the same as proper instruction from a real person.

I will post my progress.

Tapadh leibh (Thank you)

Scott 72/73

Monday 14 September 2020

Summer's gone already

 Summertime is not a big operating time for me these days but as the weather gets cooler I start to think of antennas and what I need to do before the snow flies.  I had put up the doublet in the spring and it ran just touching the weeping willow tree because that was the path between my 2 supports.  The antenna got tangled up with the tree and I was not pleased with using the tuner each time I moved on the band or changed bands.  Some bands worked well and others not so much.  I decided to rethink my options.  I had put up an end fed wire for 40 and that was fine with the little tuner I built but I decided to drop it and put up a tuned dipole instead.  The end fed is a compromise and I wanted to do a fan dipole using the window line.  I made one with 40 on top and 17 underneath.  This antenna doesn't interfere with any trees and I reused my center support from the doublet making this antenna slightly inverted V-ish.  Now I have the 2 fan dipoles (20/30) and (17/40) and my EFHW for 80 which I am still not completely pleased with but I have it and will use it this winter.  It works and I make QSOs and that is what counts.

I plan on taking part in more NAQCC monthly sprints this winter and they use 20/40/80 which I now have covered.  I am not a contester but these are low pressure and I really enjoy having 2x QRP QSOs.  The days are getting cooler and my operating position (a lawn chair and card table in the barn next to the window) is ready for me.  The raccoons will soon be coming home to find winter homes and I hope to seal up their access to the barn but it is a challenge as they can be pretty crafty.  They stay on the second floor and don't bother my stuff but I'd rather not have them but that's what you get when you live rurally...that and the red squirrels.

I have  had a couple of QSOs this past weekend but I am still busy with other jobs and not had a lot of time to operate.  Soon enough, I hope.

Cheers es 72/73 -- Scott  

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 up...an 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 Ditdit.fm 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,