Saturday, August 11, 2018

Breaking Ground

With building permit in hand, it's finally time to get my vertical....vertical again! 

I started out the process by emailing the Building Official for the city with my plans and an outline of what I had planned to install, asking for guidance.  Since my antenna is MOSTLY quite small (diameter wise) you could judge that there is no permit required, but with the 40/10m counterpoise loop, it does exceed the diameter rule so the building office required me to get a permit.  They also wanted to see that my home owners included liability for the antenna (which most do), but after my $50 fee, I had my green slip in hand.  

After booking my 811 call - never dig without making sure you'll be away from utility lines - I waited until the authorized work start date rolled around and got to digging.  The GAP instructions call for an 18" wide hole, 3 feet deep.  I had flashbacks of digging this hole at the place in Wylie and I was nervous about it this go around. The soil here is 99% clay about 8" down so it gets really unpleasant to work in quite quickly. Luckily the ground was relatively dry so it was just a matter of scraping and evacuating the hole repeatedly until I hit the magic number.   

The instructions from GAP suggested to use a pipe with PVC pipe over it.  PVC does not bond to concrete so the idea is that you could pull the antenna out of the concrete for maintenance.  I did not try to do this at the last house since I didn't spend enough time thinking about how that worked.  I could not find any PVC at the normal stores that would fit over any mast material but the instructions did suggest cutting the pipe lengthwise to expand it over the mast.  This go around I decided to give it a shot.  Using a standard wood handsaw, I cut the slot down the side of the pipe and hammered it onto my mast (sorry no pictures).  I then wrapped the PVC in shipping plastic - you know the stretchy stuff they wrap furniture in - and got it situated in the hole.  5 bags of quick set concrete mix and she was set.  Then came the time to attempt to pull the mast out... It moved about 2 inches then there was no more movement.  I tried everything to get it to pull out of the concrete but it was not going to happen.  Its no loss, I just had to mount the antenna the same way I did at the last house: put the bracket near the ground, tilt the base into it and then slide it up the mast to the top.  Really not all that difficult having done it several times before.  Someday I'll figure out a way to get some more upward force on the mast to free it from the concrete but not this time.

I completed the installation by installing the 40/10m "radial" loop and spreader arms.  My measurements and planning almost worked the way I wanted.  I was far enough from the fence that the hoop didn't hit anything but my mast was just too short to get the hoop above the fence, and more importantly, above head level.  I can probably find a way to lash up another mast to get the additional elevation I'm after but this will do for now.
Looks a little wonky... guys were too tight!
The last step was to install an 8' ground rod bonded to the pool equipment ground (which in turn is bonded to the panel):

Is it the most elegant solution? No. But it should provide the protection I need.  My only hope is that it passes inspection!

Be looking for operating reports soon!  I'm on the air!

Monday, July 16, 2018


I'll just leave this here... (No corners will be cut!)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Watch this space...

Hey guys!  Just wanted to pop in and give you a little update - we've moved out of the oppressive, anti-ham regime in Wylie to Rowlett, TX, just a few miles South.  I'll have lots of fun stuff to share regarding ham radio soon but lets kick off the reboot of my blog with some pictures!

Our new house's lot is not a bit bigger than the old house, but this one has a POOL!  We've already spent a ton of time out there and we're really looking forward to having a back yard oasis.  When we got the house, the grass in back was insanely long... (pardon the vertical video)

But once I got it all mowed, it looked really good!  

So much better.

As for radio stuff, Rowlett is not the best locale as they limit towers to 40 feet without special permitting but they do allow anything less than 2 meters in diameter to go up without a permit at all, so the plan in the near term is to put the Gap Titan DX back up and then start looking at bringing the hex beam back into action.
As you can see, there's still a lot of room to work for verticals and even a tower near the house.  So that gives you an idea of where we are right now.  I'm looking forward to getting back on the air soon, and I'll be bouncing around on HF with a magnetic loop in the shack for now.  Once I start getting unpacked up there, I'll be back with a new shack tour and more!  Thanks for hanging in and WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Elecraft discontinues the K1 (and KX1?)

I've been out of the QRP loop for a while as my operating has waned in the last year or so but happened to run across an article on the blog of K4SWL,  His post includes a note from Wayne, N6KR, on the fate of the K1:
We should have made a formal announcement here. Yes, we discontinued it because certain parts are hard to come by now, making it no longer cost effective for us to manufacture.
It was a great product for us, and I used mine for years, taking it on many trips. I thought of it as a “Sierra on Steroids” at the time (referring to an earlier design I did for the NorCal QRP Club). But we’ve moved on to more versatile field radios, including the KX2 and KX3.
This news meets me with mixed feelings.  The K1 is the radio that started Elecraft - well technically it existed before Elecraft even.  To see it go certainly strengthens the signals we've been seeing from Elecraft for several years now, since the introduction of the K3.  I certainly hope that they continue to offer piece-part kits as long as it is possible. 

However, I will admit, I am no raving fan of the K1 as a radio - I have built one and I did not find it to perform very well with a fairly drifty VFO and weak filtering.  For the price, it is too much toy and not enough radio.  Still, it was one of the first kits many hams have had the pleasure of putting on the air so I can see the draw. 

Now Tom's blog noted that the KX1 was also on the chopping block but I did not see any evidence of this on Elecraft's site, as they are still selling the KX1 from stock, but I have not gone in and researched if there was further discussion in the thread Wayne posted on.  In my opinion, the KX1 is far superior in performance and operation to the K1 and it would be a shame to see it go from the list of offerings. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Amazon Prime Day deals

With Prime Day live now on Amazon, there's a couple deals for Baofeng radios available now:

And this one will be available at 9:54 AM Central time:

There's tons of other deals that may be helpful for hams but these are the only transceivers for sale that I know of. If I find something else, I'll be sure to post it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Amazon Prime Day is on now!

Amazon is doing its yearly "Prime Day" aka black Friday for Amazon.  They have a number of deals lined up for your favorite Chinese VHF/UHF transceivers popping up over the next 24 hours so be sure to jump on!  Use my referral link to help me continue bringing quality content to the blog!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Contemplating Remote Ops

Well, it's been quite a while since my last post, and unfortunately there's not much good news to report.  The city council decision to deny my request for ANY antenna has stood and I think I've given up pursuing any kind of external antenna at the current QTH.  We love our house and it will suck to move again but luckily with the way the market is, we still stand to make a fair bit when we do sell.  That said, we'll still be stuck here for another year until we can avoid capital gains taxes from selling.  All the better, values will continue to rise so that helps ease the pain some.

I have been able to do some operating in the meantime.  N3BBQ lent me his MFJ magnetic loop antenna and I've had that in the attic for a few months.  When it works, it works pretty well, and I've had several QSOs on it but nothing spectacular by any means.  Most of the time when I turn the radio on and tune around, either the noise level is too high to bother or I just don't hear a thing so my motivation to actually get on has been quite low.

I did toy with the idea of remote operation and actually setup RFCforb with KG6EYC out in CA and made a few contacts using his station.  It worked surprisingly well but I don't want to tie up his station and it was quite clunky to operate from macOS which is my preferred OS for my radio stuff.

So right now I've got to decide if I want to limit the majority of my operation to contests at N3BBQ (which are actually really good) or if I want to invest in the Remote Ham Radio infrastructure.  I've spoken with the guys at RHR a few times at Dayton and their system looks really neat.  The whole thing is based on the web so you can run the station from ANY operating system, and even the demo videos all show macOS, so that would be a good fit for me.

The system cost is not terrible at $99 per year plus a per-minute charge depending on the remote station you chose - beams and power cost more.  If you don't plan on doing contesting from the remote stations, the cost is pretty nominal, although its hard to estimate how much operating I'd do.  As a CW operator, I might have some difficulty enjoying operating without a real key.  The default way to send CW with RHR is by keyboard input in the web form.  I've tried this when I was practicing >40wpm with the QRQ guys but it really does not interest me very much.  There is a way to incorporate an entire "real radio" feel to the RHR experience though, with an Elecraft K3/0 mini.  The K3/0 even adds a local sidetone, RX audio and everything, just like you're sitting right at the remote radio.  This seems like a very viable option for me, aside from the $700 price tag for the K3/0.  Comparing to Elecraft's other offerings, such as the KX2, $700 seems a little steep for a faceplate and a USB controller.  That said, its the only way to get that tight connection to the radio operation.

So what do you guys think?  Should I spring for RHR and see how it goes?  I really wish they'd offer a monthly option so I didn't have to do a whole year at a time, I don't like that much commitment.