Tag Archives: Amateur radio

Slow Update

Well It’s been busy, or I have.

Last time I was here I was heading to our local hamfest the next day. We went, my friend and I and we made our way around the tables. Plenty of old boat anchors holding the tables down, cardboard boxes of cables and odd devices. I like thrift stores and yard sales for finding that hidden gem and here it is a concentration of used goodies but you dont have to wade through paintings of tigers, baby clothes and other fashion violations to find the gem.

BUT….

Most of the stuff even at a hamfest In reality and even though glazed over geek-electronic eyes is still mostly junk. Or, maybe not. I get a certain type of marketing anxiety when I look at used goods, piles, boxes and items that are not self explanatory. I see the guy with the box of odd items and I can identify a few, theres a balun, a matching network but what is that other item? Is it a vhf linear amp, a transverter of some sort? It is a big aluminum heatsinked box with a price tag of $35 on it. I can bet these guys would be loading up a lot less to take home at the end of the day if they organized their items. Few 3×5 cards to tell you what it is. Unpack the stuff and put those oil stained cardboard boxes you took from the shelves in your garage and put them under the table. Can you tell I have been a exhibitor/vendor at a few trade shows in my life? All I can say is why bring the stuff if you don’t actively sell it? Even the most introverted can get a sharpie and some 3×5 cards together the night before.

So back to what I found…

I was looking for a tuner and possibly an amp for my 2meter HT to use out of my house. I found this SST T-4 Ultra Tuner for $10, I took it thinking I found half of my solution.

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In very good condition, no box or manual. I have not yet been able to find a manual online but the operation is pretty straight forward. I did find a couple other models on ebay made by SST and found another interesting bit of info on SST:

“SST tuners and SST records were basically the same company, Black Flag( the LA punk band) founder and guitarist Greg Ginn was a ham radio buff and electronics builder before he picked up a guitar and became a early 80′s punk rock icon. Solid State Tuners basically morphed into SST records when vinyl records of his band ended up out selling his radio electronics and he gave music a full time career run. Good luck finding old SST electronics cheap…..Black Flag fans have been snatching them up and even having Greg Ginn autograph them.” This was from KB6NU’s page HERE

I kept walking around the tables and spotted on top of its original box a MFJ-941D that the guy was asking $45 for. I hit my smartphone ebay app and found they were going for a bit more there I offered him $40 and he took it. I have read about this series of tuners and seems like guys  are all pretty happy. My intention was to get one of MFJ’s newer models but this was a score in my opinion, complete with manual.

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I figured I could always turn the SSST tuner I just picked up for more than $10 or keep as a backup since it was only $10. The tuner has been a big improvement even right off before I cleaned up my antenna feed(more on that later).  I am currently waiting on a box of resistors to arrive so I can build a appropriate dummy load for my setup.

I walked around some more scouting a key and a vhf amp or mobile radio with a little more power. I found a few but pretty beat up and little proud of from the price they were asking. I came upon a guy with a TPL 70watt 2meter/vhf/FM/SSB linear amp for $25 and I walked away with it for $20

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You can also see a Workman CX-3 antenna switch. If you ever get a chance to buy one of these, DONT. unless of course you like brittle cold solder joints, and a slightly bent rotary switch shaft. They cost about $12 and if you look at like you are just buying the hardware and it is a kit you must re-solder then it’s not a bad deal. For those that think just buying one and hooking it up should be aware to open it up and heat up some joints.

I came away with a couple adapters and small coax patch cables, all in all a good haul.

-KG7FDJ


I Like Blue

I didn’t really like the yellowish backlight on my VHF/UHF SWR Meter so I opened it up and grabbed a blue LED to replace it with. I added a small toggle switch as well so I can power the backlight off without having to unplug the power from the back.

It had 12volts already coming in from a power supply so I had to find the right resistor to use on the LED. It is a basic formula:

To calculate the resistor needed for a simple LED circuit, simply take the voltage drop away from the source voltage then use Ohm’s Law.

  • Es is the source voltage, measured in volts (V)
  • Eled is the voltage drop across the LED, measured in volts (V)
  • Iled is the current through the LED, measured in Amperes (Amps/A)
  • R is the resistance, measured in Ohms (Ω)

so..  R=(Es – Eled) / iled

If you don’t want to bother with that you can go HERE

I needed a 560 Ohm resistor to make my LED work on 12volts

I just like the blue backlight!

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Wish I had a little smaller switch to use but it gets the job done.

-KG7FDJ


HAMFEST TOMORROW!

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I am hoping to find a decent deal on an Antenna Tuner there and other goodies! Be nice to win that raffle as well but it will all be fun going to my first Hamfest.

-KG7FDJ


Arduino!!!!!!!!!

Well I got a gift in the mail from my Father-in-law an Arduino Starter kit!

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Uno board, USB cable, Parts, book and a breadboard!!

I downloaded the IDE and started building and getting familiar with the c code.

Built through the book fast doing the basic projects that teach you the fundamentals and coding structure.

Digital Hour Glass:

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Talking to the LCD display with the code:

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One book is definitely on my list to buy “Ham Radio for Arduino and PICAXE”

I am addicted already, what a great little platform for electronic experiments. The internet is full of projects and resources More on Arduino later.

-KG7FDJ


HF Radios

Looking around for a decent High Frequency Multiband transceiver isn’t an easy task if you are new to amatuer radio and a frugal shopper. I watched Craigslist and Ebay for a couple weeks before narrowing my options down.

I learned a few things along the way as well. One of the first radios I found was local on Craigslist and the add said it had 11 meters on it. I looked up the model a Yaesu FT-101E. According to the specs it had ability to listen to 11 meters but needed to be modified in order to transmit on 11meters. Now for those who don’t know 11meter is the CB radio band. Not a HAM band and what I learned in reading about radios that had been modified is that they are not FCC legal. This is an old tube radio and for some reason my romance with old radios of my youth drew me in to look at older radios first. Not the best idea. I emailed the guy and we talked back and forth until I asked if the 11meter mod had been installed to make it transmit, in this email I had happened to change my signature to include my callsign. No reply.

I wondered if my question and callsign made the communication stop. As I type this the radio is still listed on Craigslist for sale.

There are horror stories out there of so called modded radios that look like the work of a 3 year old with a soldering iron. I had to ask myself why I wanted an older radio like this, all tubes, no frequency counter, more likely to need work now or in the future. I am sure there are plenty of “boat anchors” making QSO’s daily but not the best idea for a guy starting out.

It appeared to me the best options for me based on reliability, ease of use(learning curve) and mostly price the 80-90’s solid state stuff was what I should be looking at. I checked out Kenwoods, Icoms etc. I had narrowed down to a couple on Ebay.  Had to look careful and really read descriptions so many “work great except on 40 and 80 meters”  Or ads that say “tested” but as you read on tested means they put power to it and the meter lights lit up.

Well to cut to the chase I found an ICOM IC-740 for a good price and took it.  It has the optional power supply in it, the FM, all the filters for cw and passband. even came with the stock Mic.

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I picked up a 10meter Dipole from DR.Dipole as well.

I set it all up, put the center of my dipole 17.5′ in the air as an inverted V. Got inside and my swr was over 3:1 according to the radio. Whoa! this is no good, I am suspicious of my long run of RG58 making things whacky. I rolled the power back and was able to keep it around 2:1 at 45watts. I ran up to Radioshack the next day and grabbed their SWR meter to see how close it was to one on radio. It was fairly close so I called out on 28.400 and listened. Now I know it is a terrible time of year for 10 and 12meters but a guy has to try. I tuned and listened on 40/80 and 160 meters was able to pull in a few to listen to. Heard a lot of cw on 20 and 40 meters. But no QSO’s for me. I can see right off the need to learn morse code again.

I have not had a chance yet get the dipole down and do some trimming or repositioning, I have been looking at antenna tuners and I want my dipole as close as possible without a tuner but I can see life will go a lot more easy with one. I happen to get the MFJ catalog recently and I like a few of their tuners.

I have been reading up on Baluns and the use with tuners, not totally sure if I am going down the right road trying to use a tuner as opposed to directing my attention at the physical antenna. It is 10meter 1/2 wave Dipole and after measuring it seems as if it should work just fine. So I will be trying a different feedline f coax to see if it helps but I still want to get a tuner if not for this situation but for other antennas and the other bands.

-KG7FDJ


First Radio

A couple days before I took my test I had also received my first radio. To start off I wanted to get on the 2Meter band being as I could talk phone right away with a Technician’s license and I would be more likely to make contacts on local repeaters than trying on 10meter sideband right off. I was skeptical at spending too much right away as I didn’t know enough about what was to be had out there without a further education.

So after reading quite a bit on forums and reviews I decide to give the very affordable BaoFeng UV5R+ a shot.

It is a tidy little Handheld with most the features you need or would want. Programmable via cable or keypad, scans frequencies or memory channels and even has a flashlight and a decent Fm broadcast radio.

I found the best price on Amazon  I picked up an programming cable, Mic and a TRAM model 1185 mobile dual band antenna for my Jeep. This is a lot of radio for 40 bucks is all I can say. 2Meters, 70CM bands. Can be used as police scanner, FMRS and MURS radio.

The stock software leaves a lot to be desired so I downloaded CHIRP and it works very well. I can load up repeaters from various sources and save the image of the radio etc. On my recent honeymoon through the Olympic Peninsula here in Washington State I was able to load up my radio with repeaters based on the counties I was going to be driving through.

I use this mostly at home with an outside antenna. Radioshack is among the many places you can get an adapter for this radio to connect to a PL-259. I built a couple different groundplane antennas that I have used to participate in a few local area Nets. I do have a little bit a trouble hitting all the repeaters which I thought was due to coax loss but a few tries in the car and just out in the yard with stock antenna I still feel a bit under powered.  I run into a lot of I can hear them but they can not hear me. I am keeping my eyes out for a mobile with a little more power or a linear amp.

I had picked up a Daiwa CN-103L SWR/Power meter from a friend and both of the antennas I have made tuned up nicely, so I will connect to the repeaters I can until I get a few more vhf/uhf watts under my belt.

-KG7FDJ


Who Is KG7FDJ?

ImageAt 47 Years old I have a small story to tell, I will skip all the I was born stuff and just condense it to I grew up in Catholic family, in a small neighborhood looking at most of my world like it was an episode of The Andy griffin Show. I was always active in scouts from cub to boy scouts and that and my dad led me to the fascinating world of electronics.

In 4th grade I was old enough to graduate from Weblos to Boy Scouts and the troop I was involved in was where I met one of my life long friends who entered the world of electronics with me and still to this day works in the industry and the hobby. The Christmas after I joined the troop I received a Radio Shack 150 in 1 Experimenters kit. I had already worn in the reputation for liking to tear things apart and like most boys I could be entertained for hours with batteries, a flashlight and a dc motor. I fired up that Radio shack experimenters kit and built my first crystal radio. I had a bedroom in the basement that my dad had remodeled years before for my older brothers. He had built a nice desk and wrap around counter that hid the water meter, this was still back when the meter man had to read the meter in the house so it had a little trap door to lift to see the digits. For though it provided a great earth ground connection for my crystal radio. I spent countless evenings listening to skipped am radio stations from all over, constantly tuning as the station faded away. The seed was planted, within months most of the parts were torn of the experimenters board and made into various projects.

My friend in scouts too had started playing with circuits and was showing a greater aptitude than me already. My dad took me one day up to bunch of storage units where a guy was selling boxes of circuit boards and parts. I really wasn’t sure why we were there until my dad pointed to some boxes and told me load them into the car. On the way home he gave me the stern “I don’t want to see this all over my workshop”. He had built me my own workbench when I was 6 complete with tools and I was known for migrating his tools to my bench and leaving a mess about. My dad had just loaded me up with tons of parts to desolder from circuit boards and play with, I was in heaven.

The following summer as we uncovered our small above ground pool my friend and I started envisioning little electric boats. We had seen the guys down at the river with the RC hydroplanes, we had both had our share of COX control line planes and spent plenty of time building models and loitering in the local hobby shop. The whole hobby thing was in full motion. We started with Styrofoam and motors powered with propellers from broken rubber power balsa planes. We progressed to cutting water props out of pop cans and JB welding them onto motors. Running around the pool to turn your boat around was getting old and our medium had progressed to balsa wood carved and painted. I don’t remember which one of us it was but we took a cheap radio control car from Woolworths and tore it apart to control the rudder on one of the boats. Remember the early RC cars that only turned when they went in reverse? This was one of those. We both dreamed of ways we could achieve radio control on a 7th graders wages.

That fall at middle school or junior high as we called it then we both got to take an electronics elective class. Our collective proficiency got us into the job of running the class’s parts room where we got to be exposed to more parts than Radio shack had. We learned more, years went by we stayed near the hobbies of electronics. My friend designed circuit boards and still does research and design stuff as a contractor. I went on to 20 years in the bicycle business, some in the computer and IT trades and 10 years in the hobby RC industry.

Now years later I have 2 sons and a beautiful wife that supports all my hobbies and it is the perfect time to return to the things I enjoy and feed my mind a little bit. For years I have thought off and on about getting back into ham radio after playing with it in my early 20’s. I decided recently I knew most of the information for the Technicians test so I got an ARRL book, found practice tests online and went and took the test this last August. I passed and it began my journey of learning a lot of new things in this last month.

The bench has parts on it, the soldering iron is hot, I am tracking my first HF rig shipment to me, talking on 2meter repeaters with handheld and already starting to study for my General License test. Life is good.

-KG7FDJ


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