Monday, September 30, 2013

A Mobile Station, QRPper and Two Frenchmen!

Wow!  I can't believe it has has been over a week since I have played radio.  On this, the last day of September, I just had to get out.  The weather here in Kansas was awesome - 75 deg, sunny and a light wind.

After getting setup, I heard a very faint CQ on 20 meters....

AK4JA (the QRPper) - Bob was calling CQ and was very faint, but readable.  He was in Georgia.  After reading his QRZ profile, he is a dedicated QRP addict, just like me.  I had a bit of trouble copying him, but I believe he said he was running 200 MW!  Thanks for the nice contact Bob!

Still on 20 meters....

N7IV/M (the mobile station) - Joe was calling CQ and was nice and strong here.  He was calling from Minot, ND (which might be a new state for me) - he was running 200 watts from a TS 480 into a Hustler vertical antenna on rear fender.  I believe he said he was on a long bike ride (but my CW skills were having a hard time keeping up :) ).  He thought my lunch time activities sounded amazing - and I agree!  However, I think bicycle mobile sounds even better!

Now it was time to hit my favorite band for DX - 17 meters...

F8EMH (the first Frenchman) - Flo was calling CQ and after a couple of calls I was finally able to work him.  He gave me a 229 - so he has good ears.  He was 579 here and sounded great.  Looking at the map, he looks to live in the northern part of France, really close to the border.

F8AAN (the second Frenchman)  - David was also calling CQ at the bottom of 17 meters.  It took a few calls for him to hear me, but we finally connected.  He also had great ears giving me a 419 - he was 599 in here.  He lives in the western part of France, almost on the coast it appears.

So after a week away, things were still just as fun!  Today brought some interesting contacts, and some fun DX to boot.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Italy & QRPer with a Mag Loop

I thought I might get skunked today!  The bands seemed pretty dead - and the wind was blowing 20-25 mph!

I finally did have two QSO's....

IK2CIO - Vini was calling CQ from Italy.  Tried several times and got a 599 report from him - which I suspect was more of a contest style report - but still fun none the less!  I worked Vini on 17 meters.

I didn't hear any other action, so I called CQ on 20 meters at 14.061.  A very weak station replied....

AJ8P - Jeff returned my CQ from Sherrodsville, OH.  He was very weak, and then someone started calling CQ really close to us.  If I cranked up the filter, I would lose him - so just had to suffer through it.  Jeff said he was running 2 watts.

After I got back to work, I had an email from Jeff.  He sent me this picture and said he was using the Mag Loop inside!  This just makes me want to get one of my loops working so I can start having some radio fun from the comfort of my home.

From checking out Jeff's QRZ page, he has a couple nice QRP rigs on his page - worth a visit.

After working Jeff, it was time to head back to the office - another fun day with the radio!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Working Ireland on a special day...

Today I went to my usual spot in the local park.  I didn't hear a bunch of activity, but I kept tuning up and down the band on 17 meters primarily.

I heard a station calling and working guys contest style.  It took me about 5 times to get the call right, since it was so long and he was sending pretty fast.

The call was EI13CLAN - a special event station in Ireland!  What made this really special is because of this...

My father-in-law passed away suddenly in June - exactly 3 months ago today.  Mike was a very proud Irish Catholic.  He had a trip to Ireland planned for August - which he was never able to take.  Mike had been on my mind all day, and then to work a station in Ireland - WOW!  Mike would have loved hearing this story.  I

It kindof made me wonder if he had a hand in helping my signals fly through the air to Ireland! :)

If you work EI13CLAN enough, you get this special certificate - I will be happy with a QSL card as soon as they update the Clublog so I can order one.

After working EI13CLAN I also worked....

K2WO - On 20 meters I worked George - we were both very weak.  He was in Florida.

K4NMN - Henry was in Virginia Beach - He was 559 and he gave me a 569.  Nice contact!

WA2LOT - On 17 meters I worked Mark.  I was very weak - 449 so that is about all we exchanged.

So that wraps up a pretty special day!  These lunch time sessions are just so much fun - and will even be more so as the weather cools down.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cuba! CO8LY...

Man is it ever hot here in Kansas!  Today it was 93 when I exited the car to setup the antenna.  Can't wait for those cool fall days to arrive!

Once I turned the radio on I opened SOTA Goat on my iPhone to see where the SOTA activators were.  I noticed one of them was calling CQ on 12 meters.  I had never even listened on 12 meters, so I thought I would give it a go.

I couldn't hear the SOTA activator, but I did here...

CO8LY - map from QRZ
CO8LY:  I heard Eduardo calling CQ with no takers and he was LOUD.  So I gave him a shot and he came back with a 599 report.  From the map on QRZ it looks like Eduardo was near the "infamous" Guantanamo Bay.

The bands were slightly strange today, a little up and down by there just not too many stations on.

I called CQ on 20 meters near the QRP watering hole.....

WB3GCK - from QRZ
WB3GCK/P: Craig was working portable from Duck, NC.  Duck, NC is on the eastern most part of NC - and looks to be a popular resort area.  He was VERY quiet - and judging from his picture on QRZ he was probably QRP.  He gave me a 559 and I gave him a 339.  We kept it short since he was so quiet.  Craig has a nice page with lots of operating stories and other projects.  You should really check it out here:  He is definitely a QRPer!

Called CQ some more and...

N3RSD: Frank came back with 559 reports both ways.  He was in Wilmington, DE.  We exchanged SKCC numbers and called it day.  I always feel bad exchanging SKCC numbers when I am using the keyer - should I?

One other interesting thing... I was tuning around at 18.100 and heard W4BVH/BCN Tampa FL - I will have to check this out and let him know I heard it!

Another fun and successful QRP lunch time portable outing!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spending More Time in a QSO

Lately I have been doing a lot of hit and run contacts - either with DX stations or SOTA Activators.  I can copy pretty fast in these quick exchanges.  However, I have noticed that my speed has slipped a bit when in a normal QSO.

So today I decided that I would start having at least one QSO that was a bit more of a rag chew each time I operate.  Today I had two!

Here is the run down for today (15 meters seemed pretty dead, and so did 17 meters)...

KE7GKM - I heard Bob calling CQ on 20 meters and gave him a call.  He was in Boise, ID.  He was running a K2 at 5 watts into a dipole.  This was a nice 2xQRP QSO.

Then I took a look at SOTA Goat and noticed several activators....

W4EON - Eric was on Mill Mountain, VA - W4V/HB-023 - he had good ears since he gave me a 449 and I gave him a 559 on 20 meters.

WA7JTM - Peter was on Baker Butte, AZ - W7A/AE-035 - RST of 559 both ways.

N7CW - Bud was on West Spruce Mountain, AZ - W7A/AW-202 - it sounded like he was running a nice little pile up!  579 exchanges both ways.

Still had a bit of time, so I tuned down 20 meters and heard....

KF7YHB - Wyatt was calling CQ with a nice clean fist.  His QRZ page says he sometimes uses a "cootie key" - I wonder if he was today??  We had a nice long QSO which was really enjoyable - the speed was perfect and Wyatt had a great fist and signal!

On another note, I hope to make some more progress on the Mag Loop antenna this weekend - get it mounted and tuned up and hopefully make a QSO!  We are heading to the Kansas State Fair on Sunday to see one of my sons friends and our neice and nephew - so that should be a fun day!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

France, Germany, Sweden PLUS SOTA Chasing! YEE HAA!

After reading Larrys post this morning about 15 meters being open, I thought I would check that band out first today when I arrived at the park for some lunch time portable operation.  It has been a week since I have been on the air, so I was itching to get back to some CW.

Sure enough, right off the bat I had success...

DL4MO - I heard Loy finishing a QSO and when they wrapped it up I gave him a call.  He came right back to me with a 449 report - he was 599 here in Kansas.  Interesting thing is this was more than a quick report and "see ya" - I don't think he could believe I was at 5 watts - he had me repeat my power after I sent it to him.  Loy lives in Germany - a new country for me.  His location is almost smack dab in the middle of the country.

SM5CAK - I heard Lars calling CQ and gave him a call - he was booming in here at 599, he gave me a 559.  Lars lives in Motola, Sweden - looking at Google Earth, it looks like a beautiful area.

I didn't hear anyone else that was not in a QSO or very strong, so I decided to throw out a CQ on 15 meters...

F5RQQ - Jean-Marc is located in France.  We exchanged a quick report, he sent me 549 and I sent him 599.  Nice quick contact.

With 40 minutes left of my lunch hour, I decided to chase me some SOTA Activators...

K7SO - Sat was on W5N/PW-012 in New Mexico.  I worked him on 30 meters - he was booming in here at a 599 and I got a 549.

NM5S - Alan was on the same peak with K7SO but he was working 40 meters.  He gave me a 539 and I sent him 579.

KE5AKL - Mike was on W5N/SS-001 - Wheeler Peak, which is the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,167 ft.  I found this panaroma photo of the peak at Wikipedia - pretty cool shot.

Panorama of Wheeler Peak, NM - KE5AKL was here when I worked him!
With so many quick contacts, I still had about 8 minutes before I had to tear down, and I spun the dial on 20 meters looking for a CQ....

NK6X/4 - Bill was sending almost to fast for me, but I enjoyed it!  Sometimes it is good to be pushed.  He was in Dallas, GA, which appears to be part of metro Atlanta - I didn't even know there was a Dallas, GA.  We had a nice QSO for the rest of my lunch hour, but I was having problems with the KX3 key.  Sometimes, it just will not send the dits and dahs when you push the arm.  Not sure what the deal is!

FUN FUN day today!  Thanks to all those that worked me!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Magnetic Loop Construction - Part 1

So I got a little time over the weekend to make some progress on my magnetic loop antenna.  I constructed this antenna from 1" copper pipe in a square shape with 90 degree elbow.  The loop is 30" square.

At this time it will be rockbound on 20 meters, centered around 14.060 - so the bandwidth will be very limited.  I want to do this so that I can do some testing before I go all out and convert it into a multi-band loop, which will hopefully work on 20-10 meters (with maybe 30 if I am lucky).

Making the Coax Stub Capacitor
So what I did was take a piece for RG-213 coax and cut it about 30" long.  Then on one end I removed about 2 1/2" of the shield and pulled the braid away from the core.  I taped it all up really well with multiple wraps of electrical tape, leaving about 1/2" of braid and 1/2" of conductor (sticking out of core).

After sanding the copper to a nice shine, I took some stainless steel hose clamps and clamped the braid to one side of the loop and the center conductor to the other side.

This piece of coax becomes the capacitor which will be used to tune the loop to the desired frequency.  Right now it is longer than needed so it will resonate well below the 20 meter band.

The Feed Loop
I then took some RG-8 and made the feed loop.  For my loop size the feed loop is about 1/5th the circumference of the main loop - so about 24".  I added a bit for the coax connector.  I decided on a shielded Faraday loop after reading that they are quieter on the mag loop email list.

To construct this loop I formed the circle and soldered the center conductor to the braid at the bottom of the circle.  Then at the top of the circle I removed about a 1/2" of the braid only.  I taped up all connections and exposed braid, etc.

Initial Tuning
I quickly taped the Faraday loop to the main loop with some painters tape because I wanted to see how it looked just sitting on the bench.  Before I do the final tuning I will hang the loop on the wall of my garage - its final home.  I was just excited to see where it was resonant!

So I hooked up the antenna analyzer and started a slow sweep from 20 meters down looking for the SWR dip.  THERE IT WAS SWR 1.2 @ 11.131 MHZ - clear as day!

Next Steps
The next thing I am going to do is mount the loop to a piece of 1x wood and then mount that on the wall at its final location.  Loops are sensitive to their surroundings, so you always want to tune them at the location they will be when completed.

Then with the analyzer connected I will start cutting 1" chunks off the coax until I get close to 14 MHZ - the final tuning will be done by sliding the braid up and down the core to get the frequency exactly where I want it.

Once it is operational I will spend some time testing with the Reverse Beacon Network and making contacts.  If it works well, ultimately I will construct a butterfly capacitor for tuning and build an Arduino stepper motor controller so that it can be remotely tuned from the shack.

I can't wait to see how it works and if the noise floor is substantially lower than using my Portable QRP Vertical.

If you would like to construct something similar (although he shows a Gamma Match for the feeding) you should check out W2BRI's pages - great instructions with pictures to make everything easy.