Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ham Radio on the Batona Trail

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:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A bittersweet day...

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.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


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.

Norcal QRP Club