This is Scout and he was becoming a pest, as he does when he needs some exercise. I decided we both needed a nice long hike on the Batona Trail in Wharton State Forest. Since all my antennas are down at home, and most of my gear is over at the new place, taking the first module of my go-kit would give me the chance to do some field operating.
We stopped after a few miles and took a break. Here is the first module of my modular go-kit perched on a log. The radio is a Yaesu FT-817ND with a Miracle Ducker TL antenna and 33' counterpoise attached to the radio ground stud. It was getting late so I only had about half an hour of radio time available, so I was unsuccessful making any contacts. This was my first long hike with the Maxpedition Sitka pack, it was pretty heavily loaded at 18 lbs, but remained very comfortable for the whole hike (about 6 miles). Next hike will have to happen earlier in the day so I have more time to stop and operate.
Here is some video of some attempted contacts on 20 CW (my favorite mode).
For more information on my modular go-kit click on these links:
The realtor said to me "John, if you really want to sell your house, all this ham radio... err... stuff has to disappear". My wife and I are going to purchase my mother's house and I don't fancy becoming an absentee landlord so I have been dismantling the radio shack, the basement, the antennas, and my antenna tower. My Dad helped me install the tower in December of 1987 and has been up until today; for the first time in 25 years I'm completely off the air at my house. That's the bitter part, the sweet is the 50' Glen Martin aluminum tower at the new house. The new install needs some service work, new cables, and lightning protection but it will be a huge upgrade when completed. Watch the video above to see the tower being lowered and loaded onto a trailer to it's happy new home.
Well, I'm about 4 months late but here is the finished Red Hot Norcal 20. Purchased in 1999 and completed in 2012. The rig spent several months on the shelf because I got very frustrated chasing down a problem with the mute circuit which was absolutely vexing. When I had cooled off enough to think rationally, I posted a help request to the QRP-TECH group on Yahoo. Steve "Snort Rosin" Smith pointed me in the right direction (thanks for the e-mail!). I also downloaded the Spring 1999 issue of Norcal's QRPp journal (which they have thoughtfully posted on their website) that has the theory of operation of the rig. Ultimately I had a bad 2N3906 transistor on the TX +12 circuit along with the wrong resistor at location R99. R98 and R99 make a voltage divider that biases the base of transistor Q21 so that the +5 VDC from pin 5 of the TiCK keyer chip (U9) will turn off Q21. When Q21 turns off, it removes power from certain parts of the receiver circuit thereby muting it so the transmitter doesn't overload the receiver when in transmit mode. The bad 2N3906 (Q20) revealed itself when I was probing it's collector and found that the voltage went negative during transmit rather than going to +12 VDC.
Several more evening sessions had the radio completed but now I had a new problem, the receiver was deaf as a post! It turns out that when I was winding and installing T2, I got the primary / secondary leads mixed up so the signals were not getting out of the bandpass filter. That was very easy to correct but I took the opportunity to rewind both T1 and T2 to make a neater job of it.
Overall, it was a really fun radio to build, aside from the rework I had to do (which was my own fault). Hopefully one day very soon 20 meters will be open when I'm home to operate and I can get that first contact with the Red Hot Norcal 20 in my logbook.
With the cooler weather finally upon us I've had time to turn my attention to the Red Hot 20 project. I'm coming up on the 50% completion point and am currently working on the receiver section. The VFO, Audio Frequency Annunciator (AFA), and keyer have been assembled and function tested; happily the magic smoke stayed in all the components on power up.
For all those who may not be familiar with the dark arts as relates to electronics, all these devices run on magic smoke and when you do something to cause the release of said magic smoke the device will no longer function. ;-)
One of the really nice things about this kit is the way the designer, Dave Fifield AD6A, thought about the builder. The radio goes together in stages with power-up and performance checks along the way so there are no surprises when the rig is finished, you know it will work. I had a small solder bridge on the pads of the switch that controls the keyer which caused it to stay in command mode and I was easily able to find the problem and fix it because there were so few components on the board, it made troubleshooting a breeze.
When I get to the receiver alignment portion of assembly, I intend to produce a YouTube video of the procedure to aid others who might be building this rig or happened to acquire an already built one. I'm going to use an audio spectrum analyser program on my Mac to set the BFO sideband and check the filter shape. I learned this technique building several Elecraft K2s and once you understand the concept it works very, very well. Unfortunately I don't currently own a calibrated signal generator, it would be nice to check to see if the Minimum Discernable Signal (MDS) in my built unit is as good as the radio's specification (-135 dbm which puts this rig's receiver in the same class as an Elecraft K2).
One great piece of news, Doug Hendricks KI6DS, proprietor of Hendricks QRP Kits has purchased the assets of Red Hot Radio:
December 1, 2011I am pleased to announce that Hendricks QRPKits has purchased Red Hot Radio Company, owned by David Fifield, AD6A. With this purchase, I now have the exclusive rights to produce and sell all of the Red Hot Radio Kits, including the Red Hot 40, the Red Hot 20, and the SMK-1. Red Hot Radio produced some of the highest quality kits for several years, but was closed due to Dave not having the time to run the company because of his day job. Now, those kits will again be available. The first kit that I will bring back online is the Red Hot 40, and it is available for shipping now. There are 35 kits in the first run, all on 40 meters. The next kit will be the SMK-1 which will be available in about a month. I encourage you to go to the website, www.qrpkits.com and check out the manual for the Red Hot 40. The kit will sell for $250 plus shipping and handling. And the kit is in stock and available for immediate shipping.
If I can manage my time well, there is a possibility that the Red Hot 20 will be completed in time for the G-QRP club's "Winter Sports" activity. It's a non-contest that runs from Christmas to New Years to encourage QRP ops to get on the air; with the current level of sunspot activity working Europe on 20 meters QRP should be easily achievable.
I went kayaking yesterday with my friend Bill and decided to bring my Kenwood TH-D72 APRS radio along for the trip. My usual rule is never bring anything in the boat you can't afford to lose, but I was making an informed exception here. I really like the D72, it performs well, has a built in GPS receiver, and the user interface is very straight forward. Unlike the Yaesu VX-8DR, the Kenwood is not water-proof so I used an AquaPac vinyl bag made for marine handhelds to try and protect it. My inadequacies in kayak handling were revealed in stark relief once we got out of Corson's Inlet and out in the Atlantic Ocean. I flipped the borrowed sit-on-top kayak on multiple occasions when hit by 2-3 foot waves in the surf zone. The AquaPac has a lanyard attached to it which I clipped to the boat, and it did not let so much as a molecule of sea water touch the radio. Kayaking in the surf is pretty physically demanding, by the time I was done I felt like I went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. At one point my buddy Bill noted that I had been towing the floating D72 behind my boat "like a buoy" for about a half mile. I was that tired, only thinking about the next paddle stroke. Tiredness aside, it was an awesome day and I really want to do it again!
Here is the track recorded on APRS.fi, it doesn't look like much but it represents about 5 hours of paddling.
Erika and I went down to Cape May today for a kayak eco-tour, which was excellent. Our guide was a PhD candidate biologist (who is defending his dissertation next month...good luck buddy!) and he was very knowledgable and chatty so I learned a lot about the salt marsh ecosystem. I provided comic relief by unintentionally stepping backward off the boat launch and going for an unplanned swim. Fortunately, the cameras had already been put away so that comedy went undocumented. After the kayak adventure we went to Cape May Point State Park so my wife could spend some (planned) time in the water. The concrete structure in the background is the remains of an artillery battery from World War 2. Along with the shore battery across the bay at Fort Miles in Lewes, Delaware (now Cape Henlopen State Park) they guarded the approach to the bay and ultimately, the Delaware river.
Erika loves the beach, me not so much, but I did arrange alternate entertainment by bringing some radio gear and operating from the beach while she was in the water. I was using an FT-817ND transceiver and a Buddipole antenna (configured as a vertical dipole) along with a small solar panel to keep the radio charged. Murphy also tagged along, much to my chagrin. I set the Buddipole up for 20 meters according to the tuning guide in the manual but could not get the resonance point below 15.5 MHz. Tomorrow's project involves using my antenna analyzer to characterize the BuddiPole for my favorite frequencies and creating a tuning chart. Why the voltage regulator from the solar panel to the radio wouldn't work is a complete mystery; when I got home I tested the unit and all associated cables and everything was performing beautifully. Thirdly, my go-box is waaayyy too heavy, slogging across the sand with it was more of a workout than I cared to endure outside of the gym. We stopped at a store on the way home and I got a new camera bag for my DSLR and repurposed the old bag as my new 817 ops bag. I shed a lot of contingency items and stuck with the basics, with a considerable reduction in mass. It would have been nicer if the propagation on 20 meters had cooperated, but there was a lot of fading (QSB) and I was unsuccessful making any contacts using SSB. Next beach trip I'll use CW, hopefully with better results.
My ham radio passions are CW, QRP, Emergency Communications, Packet Radio, and home brew construction. I currently serve as Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) for the ARRL Southern New Jersey section.
Having received the benefit of growing up with a father who was deeply involved in Amateur Radio, I learned a lot of it by osmosis. My Dad died in 2009, the call I now hold was his.