Tag: Antennas

Monthly QRP Outing

Monthly QRP Outing

Every month the Lake Wales Amateur Radio Club has their QRP outing. It is normally at Crystal Lake Park in Lake Wales. This month was no exception. It was a really good turnout as well. 10 of my fellow hams showed up and we had 6 radios set up.

One of the goals of the monthly outing is to test new set ups you may have and this month I had one. I bought a SpiderBeam 12m (40′) push up pole. I’ve had an end fed half wave antenna for quite some time now but have not been able to use it since at the State Parks and other places I go you are not allowed to use the trees for supports. This gave me the opportunity to test my new set up.

My drive on mount consists of a 3 foot 2×12 with a floor flange and 1″ pipe, 3 feet long. I used hose clamps to mount the SpiderBeam to the pole and a bent piece of stiff wire to hold the antenna end. Instead of driving on the board I put it under a picnic table, pushed up the pole, and it worked great! I made 15 CW contacts, most of them DX on 15 meters. Since the CQ WW contest was going on, that helped quite a bit.

I can use this set-up at the State Parks and not worry about having to tie the antenna to anything. Also, if I have continued success I may sell my Buddipole system since I won’t be using it anymore. I prefer the EFHW antenna and it performs much better. I do not need a tuner on 10/20/40 meters and the KX3’s internal tuner matched the wire on 15 and 30 meters. Best part, I didn’t have to drop and raise the antenna to make band adjustments!

AE4RM Station during 2017 CQ WW

Also, since it was CQ WW weekend, I set a goal of 100 contacts. I’m not a big contester and I only operate an hour of so at a time so 100 contacts on a weekend is a lot for me. Especially since I am operating on the KX3 (I did go up to 10 watts). I also used a new logging program, Skookum Logger. It is for the Mac and worked great. It may not have all the bells and whistles of N1MM+ but I would say it is very comparable to N3FJP’s logging program. I’m still learning it but it has a lot of great features and interfaced with the KX3 and my WinKeyer with no issues at all.

Overall, it was a good ham radio weekend.

My New R-9 Antenna

My New R-9 Antenna

The R-9 Antenna

IMG_2203The R-9 Antenna by Cushcraft or similar is something I have been looking at since I got back into amateur radio. I’ve always heard verticals are good for working DX because they have a lower takeoff angle. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unhappy at all about my Alpha Antenna DX-CC fan dipole. Its got me my DXCC in a year with casually working stations. Yet, I still wanted to try a vertical but since the DXCC worked so well I could never justify the $700 price (including guying kit) plus shipping. I also did not want all the radials in the ground – not an issue with the R-9.

I May Need an Intervention…

How many of you constantly browse the classifies on QRZ or QTH? I admit it. I do. There should be a 12-step group for us that are always looking for a deal.  I’m always looking for that thing I cannot do without. Procrastinate. Then find someone else has bought it.

Not this time. I saw that R-9 for a fraction of the price of what they go for. I thought it was one of those “too good to be true” scenarios and may had been a scam (lots of those on QRZ). I did my homework on the seller, got more pictures, and sure enough it was a great deal so I bought it.

Installation – Houston We Have a Problem

FYI – This is at least a two person job to install. Three would be better. The antenna is very top heavy and you really need someone to help steady it when you work on mounting it.

The R-9 has not been a disappointment. It was relatively easy to set up. I already had a 10′ post I could mount it on so that part was not an issue. Although, I did have to make 3 trips to Crowder Bros Ace Hardware for some screws, nuts and clamps that were missing. The original owner must had lost them when he took it down. We did run into one problem. Tuning it on 40 and 80 meters.

40 and 80 meters on this antenna, unlike the rest of the antenna, uses coils with taps for tuning and is connected to the rest of the antenna by a wire and clamp.  I ended up taking the antenna down 3 times because 40 and 80 would not tune. After the second time we took it down I vowed we’d only take it down one more time. I started researching why this would happen. Then I got the August QST magazine. Guess what is reviewed in that issue. You got it, the R-9 and the writer had the same issue I did. He said his clamp that connected the 40 and 80 sections was missing. That got me thinking my issue had to be in the same area.

I took down the antenna for the third and last time. I spent time checking for cold solder joints, loose screws, and anything else that could be the issue. I finally really cranked down tightening the clamp and voila! The SWR fell right into place. I took the advice of the QST article and tuned the antenna 200k lower than I wanted as his resonance point went up when he raised his antenna.

We got the antenna up and it all worked. The resonance point on 40 and 80 are still a little higher than I’d like but well within an area I can work with. If I take it down again, I’ll adjust the taps but it is going to stay right where it is for now.

How Does it Work?

OK, you heard all about how it was putting it together but how does it work? To be honest, I have not been able to do a good A/B comparison yet between the R-9 and the DX-CC but I can tell you this. I had no problems working Australia on 40 meters on Saturday with the R-9. I’ve also worked many local and other DX stations with it. I have noticed the R-9 is a little bit noisier than the DX-CC but that is to be expected in a vertical.

What I do have that I did not have before is an antenna that is resonant on 6m, 12m, 15m, 17m and 30m. I’ve not worked a lot of stations on those bands yet but I’m sure there will be a difference since more power will be going to the antenna now.

Final Thought

My final thoughts on the R-9. Although it says it only needs the same area as a child’s sandbox once set up you need at least a 40 foot area to lay it down on saw horses to set it up and tilt it onto the mast. Also, at 31′ tall on a 10′ mast the guying kit is not an option. Let me repeat that, THE GUYING KIT IS NOT AN OPTION. You need it, in fact, I think Cushcraft should make that part of the antenna kit.

Overall, I am very happy with this antenna. I’m glad I bought it and would again.

Shhhh… I’m WSPRing

Shhhh… I’m WSPRing

When I’m waiting for my KX3 to get fixed under warranty at Elecraft (the’ve had it 10 days so far, but I’m not bitter), I acquired a K2 and a very good price. I mentioned it on my last entry. I’ve found out it is an older one and I’m going to send it to Don Wilhelm once I get my KX3 back. He updates K2s to the latest and greatest at a fraction of the price of Elecraft. It will be equivalent to the current K2s once he is done. He’ll also be able to fix the low output on 20 meters I found I have.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing a lot with the digital modes. The new FT8 is really cool and fast. I like it a lot better then JT65. It only takes 1:15 – 1:30 to complete the average exchange as opposed to 5 minutes with JT65. It also has a neat feature called auto sequence that will actually complete the QSO for you instead of you just sitting there watching paint dry waiting the minute for each exchange (15 seconds in the case of FT8). You really seem to need it in FT8 because the exchanges go so fast.

The mode I”ve really been playing with is WSPR. That stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporting. It basically beacons out a signal at low power for 2 minutes, then listens for 6 minutes in 2 minute increments for signals. You then go the the WSPR website and can look and see who has heard your signal and whose you have heard plotting nicely on a map. What you see above is where my signal has been heard this morning on 40 meters. All throughout the USA and all the way to Australia!

What WSPR is really good for is seeing how band conditions are and how your antennas are working. I currently have 2 antennas – a fan dipole up 30 feet in an inverted V and a Cushcraft R9 Vertical. I can compare where the two antennas have been heard using WSPR to see which is the best to reach a particular area.

Why don’t you give FT8 and WSPR a try, I think you will like them.

AE4RM Shack and Antenna Upgrades

AE4RM Shack and Antenna Upgrades

I moved the shack back into the garage office where I originally had it.  I had moved it into the house but I just didn’t have the room I needed.  I also felt like I was making too much noise for everyone. So, I’m back where it all began. 

I love my Alpha-Antennas DX-CC antenna. I’ve made almost 2000 contacts in 2 years with it and got my DXCC with it. In fact, I plan on adding 8 feet to the tower I have it on. Yet, I’d like to get up a few more antennas to play with.  First, I’m going to put up a long wire antenna. I have around 100 foot of wire, a balun, and a mast and a tree. I’d like to see what it can do. 

Next, I’ve had an unbelievable opportunity to get a Cushcraft R9 antenna.  It’s a 31′ vertical that need no radials. I have a 9′ mast I can put it on and the room for guy ropes. I’ve known verticals are better for DX in some cases because of the lower take-off angle. So, I’d like to see if it’s true. 

Finally, I have another piece of equipment that should be here this week. A KXPA-100 with tuner. This will get me back up 100 amps and help breaking through some of the pileups my 15 amps can’t get through. I’ll write about it when I get it. 

I should have the antennas up in the next few weeks and the amp soon. I can’t wait. I’ll be out tree trimming soon to get ready for the antennas. 

Local Park Activations Planned

Local Park Activations Planned

This week I plan on activating 4 parks and hopefully getting 10 contacts at each one. Monday or Tuesday I plan on going back to Alafia River State Park. I’ve been there once and did my first activation there but I only got nine contacts and need 10 to make it “official.” I also want to go through another complete set-up with no pressure of getting to other parks again.

Then, later in the week I plan a three park run – Colt Creek, Fort Foster and Hillsborough River State Parks. It is 80 miles round trip so if I get an early start I should be able to do it. Once again, there is no pressure, this is just a personal goal in preparation for activating parks further away.

I’m planning a Space Coast run, if the stars align, for July. I plan on working 3 parks the first day and 3-4 parks the second day. It’s about 30 mins from park a to b. Another 30 mins from park b to c, and so on, so this is doable and a good challenge for me. It’s far enough away where I have to be prepped and have everything I need but close enough where I can get home in 2-3 hours if needed (or someone come to me).

I’ve also added another tool to my arsenal. I have a mag mount and Hamstick antennas for 20, 30 and 40 meters so if I go to a place that is not “ham friendly” I should be able to at least operate from my truck.

Here goes nothing…..

Working on a plan

Working on a plan

My activity on the radio has been limited lately. This is due to many reasons – health, poor band conditions, and family commitments – just to name a few. I’ve been doing a lot of listening the last few days and made a few contacts.

 

IMG_2128

What I have done is start my Parks on the Air (POTA) plan. I found out that there are 84 parks within 100 miles of my QTH and 25 miles from my moms house! See all the stars on the map? Those are the parks. That is a lot I can activate without driving far. Now, some of them are wildlife preserves and actual islands that I may not be able to get to (especially the islands since I don’t have a boat) but that is still a lot.

There is some special POTA awards called the Warthog, Rhino and Cheetah. That is for operating 2,3 and 5 parks in a 24-hour period. Looking at the map, there is no reason I should not be able to get these awards.

I also have decided that I will most likely stay overnight at a hotel when working the east coast of Florida. I’ll invite the family and they can hang out at the beech when I work the parks. I figure to work the multiple parks in a few days and not drive back and forth, staying at a hotel, will cost the same as the gas money and wear and tear on the truck.

I’ve also tuned up the 20, 30 and 40 meter verticals on the mag mount on my truck. I did that since some of the locations I may not be able to set up an antenna and have to work from the parking lot. Some of the sites are museums so I defiantly cannot set up my BuddiPole there.  This way I can pop the mag mount on the top of the truck with the right antenna and hopefully get my 10 contacts.

Hope to see you in the logbook soon!