Current balun

For the time-being, I've decided to leave the D-56 in the air. It still works FB on the other bands, and, judging from the 60 QSOs I made in the 10-m contest, the 10-m dipole works FB as well.

I did, however, order a current balun kit from Palomar Engineers. Recall that I have RFI issues on the low bands. I worked around it by ignoring the rig interface connection during Sweepstakes, but I'd really rather not do that for the upcoming RTTY Roundup since, you know, the computer is a key part of modern RTTY.

Anyway, that should be here in time for me to build it and get it installed. If it cures the RFI issues, I'll be ahead of the game even if that trap is broken.


ARRL 10 m Contest, continued

Sunday, the Sporadic-E propagation gods smiled on us. Even managed some short runs.

I know it was Es because at one point I could work stations in W7 or Georgia - nowhere else.



Class: SO SSB LP
Operating Time (hrs): 8

Band QSOs Mults
SSB: 60 25
Total: 60 25 Total Score = 3,000

Club: Oklahoma DX Association


Nada Friday, not much Saturday, Sunday the Sporadic E gods smiled on us ...


ARRL 10 m Contest

Started Friday night. Didn't hear a thing when I tuned through a couple of times.

Sat at the radio this morning for a couple of hours and heard two stations, a WØ and a PY. Worked them both, but that's it so far.

Last year, there was a big Sporadic-E opening and I worked about 70 stations, mostly US. This year, nada, at least not here.

And of course, with the worldwide shortage of sunspots, normal propagation isn't there at all.


Antenna saga, part 42

Got an offer of a B&W broad-banded, folded dipole. Took the offer but changed my mind and re-installed the D-56 with the broken trap.

I emailed the vendor and have heard exactly nothing from him or the manufacturer.

Not sure where I'm going from here. The D-52 works great on 40 and 80, but I need 15 and 20, as well, and I'm running out of convenient trees. :-)

No one else seems to make a straight, 80-10, trap dipole.

Alpha Delta Communications has a 80-40 model with parallel wires for 10 and 20 (15 is a harmonic of 40 even if it's not on the D-52) but I'm not sure I want to experiment - that D-56 just worked on 5 bands (before the trap went).


No happy

Got the Spi-Ro D-52 the other day. It got to 60 F here today, so I left work early and put it up, as always with a ton of help from Spouse.

The D-56 cover 5 bands with 6 traps and is 82' long. The D-52 is said to cover 5 bands with 2 traps and is 105' long.

The D-56 was easy enough to explain - inner traps made it look like a 10-m dipole, next set like a 20-m dipole, third set like a 15/40-m dipole and on 80 m, no traps were visible.

But how would that work with only 2 traps?

So far, not so good. Dips are as follows:


3.84 1.2:1
7.24 1.6:1
15.00 3.8:1
22.7 2.3:1
32.65 2.7:1

Kindly note that only two of those are within the amateur bands. :-(

There are tuning instructions which, interestingly, only mention 40 and 80 for the D-52.

I'll see if I can do anything by adjusting element length but the ol' D-56 might end up back in the air ... or I'll buy/make something for 15/20.


More on 10 m

I was NCS for the local 10-m net tonight. By all accounts, the new 10-m slopey dipole works into town a lot better than the D-56 did.

Given that we're only about 8 radio miles east of the center of town you wouldn't think that there'd be much difference between a (roughly) NW-SE dipole and an N-S dipole ... but there clearly is.

Since the D-56 is still up, I could do A/B comparisons. Only two stations were better on the old antenna, one of which is only about 1/2 mile due south of me.

Interesting all around.

The new D-52 (5 bands, 2 traps, and about 23' longer than the D-56) has been ordered and should be here any day now. That, too, should be interesting.


10 meters

So I had this old homebrew 10-m dipole. Been meaning to put it up for ages. Measured it up today and found that it was a little short (meaning its sweet spot would be a little high). Looked at the copper and decided to replace it. The wire I used was the very thin multi-strand stuff that Radio Shack sells/used to sell in a SWL longwire kit. I still had a bunch so I decided to take 35' or so, fold it in half, and twist it together. Tinned up the middle of the result, snipped it, and then attached it to the balun. Almost made it to short again (memo to self: cut them 1 foot longer than required!).

According to the borrowed SWR analyzer I have, the deepest part of the dip is around 28.400. That's excellent ... except that the SWR is 1.8:1. That's not bad and I don't even need the tuner for that, but it should be a lot closer to 1:1.

Anyway, I tuned through the band and heard a strong signal about 28.400. Called him and was 59 ... in Tucson. Seems like there was a bit of a Sporadic-E opening this afternoon. Heard a couple other stations, but only worked the W7.

HK0 was on today, too, down on 20 m, but I really couldn't hear the guy. HUGE pileup. Would have been #125.


Yep, need a new antenna

Well, actually, it still works from 80 - 15, and I do have a 10-m dipole ready to put up.

Last night on the local 10-m net, I managed to tune up OK before the net, and even chatted briefly with some locals, pre-net. It's a roll-call net (though we take check-ins as well) and when it was my turn, I launched into a monologue.

About a minute or 2 in, clink, off went the tuner. A ha. I was able to tune up again, but I kept transmissions short after that.

I gather that there is a heat sensor or something in the ATU of the IC-746Pro that kicks it off if it's working too hard. Evidently, 8.5:1 SWR is too much for it to digest, at least for very long.

What I'd really like to do is replace the D-56 with the D-52. Same 80-10 coverage, but with only 2 traps. About 23 extra feet of copper, but I have the trees to do that. Problem is, Spi-Ro Manufacturing seems to have gone out of business.

BULLETIN!! Just checked the site and it's been updated with an eBay store link. Great - I might be able to order the antenna after all!


Might need a new skywire

Well, I might have blown a trap on the 5-band Trap Dipole. It's a 15-year-old Spi-Ro D-56 and, pending confirmation tonight, it appears one of the 10-m traps has died. The SWR was never flat across all of 10 meters, but it was never > 6:1 over any of it that I recall. If I recheck and it really is that high on 10, I may not even be able to check in on the local weekly 10-m net. As the immortal Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, "Well it just goes to show you, it's always something." I'll spare you the rest.



Found a neat feedline loss calculator. Took it for a spin using numbers from my upgraded 5-band trap dipole coax. I was always under the impression that the quality of coax, mainly the loss figures, didn't really matter a whole lot at HF. Above 100 MHz, sure, and especially above 400 MHz (for the scanners), but not below 30 MHz.


RG8X 110' 9913 60'
f (MHz) W @ antenna W @ antenna Increase in power @ antenna (W)
28.4 62.6 90.6 28.0
21.2 66.8 91.9 25.1
14.2 72.0 93.3 21.3
7.2 79.3 95.2 15.9
3.6 84.9 96.6 11.7

I assumed 1.5:1 SWR, though I haven't made specific measurements - the dipole is closer to resonant on 15 m (don't need the tuner) than it is on 10 or 80 m (definitely need the tuner), but 1.5 is probably close to an average.

But man, a 28 W improvement on the local Wednesday night 10-m net? Wow.

So this really does change things w/r/t the RFI situation.


One Newfie short of a Sweep

I really wanted a Clean Sweep in this year's November Sweepstakes. It's the 75th running of the contest (or 75th anniversary of the first running, I guess), and the League is giving away whisk brooms to stations that work all 80 ARRL and RAC sections. And, unlike the Clean Sweep mugs (a special version of that this year, too), all you need do is submit a log showing that worked them all and the Contest Branch will send you one.

I missed by one: NL - Newfoundland and Labrador.

What's worse is that I heard a VO1 and tried to work him. He got my prefix but couldn't get the full call and he invited me to try later. Like an idiot, I didn't.

I had big RFI problems, especially on the low bands. Certainly worse than last year. Around the time we got the WARC dipole up, I replaced the 110' of RG8X on the D-56 with 60 or so feet of Belden 9913. It was pointed out to me that this did change the RF in the radio room.

The biggest issue was with the level converter. The converter, a repurposed "ADMS" cable from my Yaesu HT, lets the logging program control the radio. Radio is TTL and the rest of the serial world is RS-232 - the converter makes the transition. The latest Icom rig has a USB connection, wonder of wonders, so this oddity will soon be a thing of the past.

What would happen was that the software would lose the connection with the radio. Even while not transmitting sometimes. That it would happen while receiving leads me to believe that it's not entirely an RFI issue, but RFI is certainly the bulk of it.

Worse, I'm still getting into the POTS and DSL. Spouse reset the DSL modem 4 times before finally giving up. I also worked into the TV audio and the FM broadcast radio. No points for that - I checked.

So, I need to solve that. My station ground is not bonded to the house electrical ground and this may be an issue.

Anyway, I elected to forge ahead without getting the band/mode/freq data from the radio directly. Not a big problem, in the grand scheme of things, I guess.

The upside to this weekend is that I broke my personal contest and SS records by a lot! 511 QSOs and 79 (of 80) sections. Previous best SS score from home was 333x77 (2007 SS SSB) and previous best number of QSOs ever was 449 (2006 RTTY RU).

So there's that. :-)

Turns out that calling CQ instead of doing "S&P" (search and pounce - tune around and call other stations that are calling CQ) is way more efficient. Not only that, but the multipliers call you instead of you hunting them down. I hope no one else learns of this secret!!!

I've never believed that my home station was capable of holding a frequency and doing a run, but apparently that's not the case. On 40 and 80 it stands to reason since few stations run anything other than wires or a vertical. Sure, some folks have beams or rotatable dipoles for 40 and even 80, but they usually also run 1500 W and thus aren't in the "Low Power" classes. But I was able to make a run on 15 yesterday, too. On 15 (and 10 and 20), lots of stations have Yagis. I don't; I have a dipole.

Pretty cool that I could hold a frequency -- on 15, even! -- long enough to get a run going. I'll be trying this for upcoming contests you can be sure.


Card Checking

Dropping off my cards at the DXCC Card Checker's house Saturday. He checks the cards to make sure that I have what I say I have on the submission paperwork and then sends in my application. This saves me the trouble of sending 100+ cards off to Newington and paying for postage both ways.

The logging software I use, DXLab's DXKeeper, keeps track of all my QSOs, obviously, but it also tracks awards. I tell it what my DXing objectives are, then tell it to create my DXCC submission.

I did that and it came up with 166 QSOs that I can submit for DXCC credit. I'll end up with 100 entities, which will get me the Mixed award, with the rest going towards the various mode and band awards.

I'm doing my inital submission with cards, no LoTW credits. Once I get my initial certificate, I'll do another electronic submission of the other credits. Actually, I'll probably wait until I have enough credits for another award (say, 15 m).

Only took 15 years. :-)



Seems like the local club is a bit thin on DXCC members. By my count, only four, two of whom are at the top of the Honor Roll. I know that there are two others with cards ready to check, me being one of them. Still, 6 out of nearly 100 members doesn't seem like enough.

I wonder how many have WAS or WAC? The ARRL (and IARU) don't have an online list of folks who hold those, so I can't tell. Need to do a survey of the club, I guess.

I keep threatening to do some kind of QSL/BURO/Awards presentation. Maybe my goal should be to get as many people working on awards as I can.

WAC is easy - 6 QSOs and you're done. EA8 and CT3 count for AF (which is a continent!). KH6 counts for OC. NA, SA, and EU are a dime a dozen. The tough one, at this point in the cycle, is AS, though I've heard bunches of JAs on 20, 17 and 15 lately.


Cluster Effect

I've been making casual contacts of late, which I haven't done in years. I guess it's because I got the WARC dipole back up and 17 m is a pretty calm band, relatively speaking.

I've been doing the QSOs the real way, tuning around and answering CQs. Today, I answered a GI station that was calling and had a nice chat with Victor in Omagh. My PC is set up for logging, etc, via DXLab Suite, and I noticed that he hadn't been spotted. He seemed to be interested in working more stations, so I spotted him.

Never fails. Next time he finished up, he had a small pile-up.

I've done that a few times now and it amuses me no end. If you can watch the cluster for spots, you can post spots, too. Sheesh.


Conduit update

Spouse did some gardening today.

And some fishing.


Oh, yeah. The WARC dipole

Forgot to post this.

To recap, [spouse] and I got *one* end of the WARC trap dipole (30-12 m)
over the Walnut tree but then I kept losing weights and breaking
monofilament trying to shoot over the Sycamore (doesn't help that
there is a Blackjack Oak in the way). Grr.

Went to Atwoods yesterday and got some 20-lb-test line and [spouse]
picked up some fairly big washers to use as weights today.

Got home a little early and started shooting again. *Finally* got the
monofilament over the tree and hauled up the support rope, then guided
the dipole over the in-the-way Blackjack Oak and into the air. Phew.
Coax was already attached from the other day.

It's windy, as you may have noticed, and I see that the Sycamore moves
a whole lot more than the trees that the 5-band-trap is over (a
different Blackjack Oak and a different Walnut). We left a little
slack to see how it's going to settle. With the other antenna, there
is hardly any movement and I've tightened it up maybe three times
since it went up in 2006.

So I come inside and turn on the IC725. I set the *manual* tuner to
bypass to check out the bands. Nearly flat on all three!! Whoo hoo!

Hey. Is that a station I hear on 18.235? Sure enough ... worked
VK9DWX (Willis Is) on the first try.

Yes, I am having fun - why do you ask??? :-)

Thanks to [spouse] - couldn't have done it alone.

Misc work

Well, didn't get the 10 m dipole up. Did get some conduit up that will hold the feedline out of spouse's garden, though.

Also got a pulley attached at the 20' level of the push-up pole. That will eventually hold one end of the 10 m dipole (the other end will be over the crown of a Blackjack Oak).

I also measured the height of the 80-10 and 30-12 dipoles. The former is 7.9 m up (26') and the latter is 11.3 m (37' 2"). Both have a little slack, too, so they can probably gain another few cm if I care to tighten. :)

17 m hopping

A little casual operating on 17 m this morning, something I don't do enough.

Worked a 9A, a W1 (mobile) and a CT (International Polar Year special event station).

Straightened up the wahrs behind the operating position yesterday and finally wound some toroids into the computer's speaker leads. No more RFI on 17 at least. Need to test on other bands.

Might put up the other 10 m dipole today, too.


I got the 746 back!

Well, it's back. Instead of sending it to the mothership in Bellevue, Wash, as I did when lightning bit it, I sent it to the ICOM Service Center Michigan. Matt, the tech there (I think he's the proprietor) couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. As they say on eBay, "would do business again!!!!!"

This all started a couple of Wednesday nights ago as I was getting ready for our local 10 m net. Pushed the tune button and got ... nada. Uh, oh. Fiddled a bit more: nada. Called one of the regulars who lives about a mile away. He could hear me, but could tell something was wrong with the transmitter.


Even before I bought the IC-746Pro ($1050 on eBay in 2004, with the PS, which I sold for about $125!), I knew of the dreaded IC746Pro Sudden Death Syndrome. Full details at the link, but suffice it to say, there is an issue with IC-151, "a broadband medium power amplifier IC", and it occasionally pops.

Some folks have hit this within months of buying their radios, so I figure that nearly 4 1/2 years of trouble-free operation is pretty good. As a result, I'm not sore at Icom the way some are.

So, off to Michigan it went.

Talked to the tech after he'd had it a few days and found that repairs to IC-151 were covered under an "extended warranty" and that they'd also do modifications to "increase the transmitter's reliability".


I figured that while the tech had the patient open, I'd see about getting the CR-338 high-stability crystal oscillator installed as well. It's only money, right?

The crystal oven gives the radio a stability of 0.5 ppm versus the stock radio's "< +/-7 ppm" for the first hour and after that, +/-1 ppm. At 3.6 MHz, that's 25 Hz, but at 144 MHz that's over 1 kHz of drift. And I like 2 m SSB DXing. So the tech put one in.

When I talked to him again a few days later and guess what? It wasn't the usual IC-151 issue, but failed transistors in the final amplifier stages. Neither of us had an explanation.

Nonetheless, he applied all the factory modifications to improve reliability (see the link above, many are related to ESD which some hams dispute as the reason for the failures) and had replaced the finals.

So, now it's back in the radio room. Listened to some DX station on 20 m this morning(I think it was RL6-something), but didn't have time to try to bust the pile-up. Tonight. :-)



I'm not sure I heard NK7U on the air last weekend - probably wouldn't have worked them if I did, unless I needed Zone 3 on whichever band they were on (US Qs are zero points in CQ WW).

Anyway, todays's Contester Rate Sheet pointed me at a good write up of NK7U's effort this year.

In the write-up, they mention the "East Coast Wall". No kidding! And from here, the East Coast is right in the way of all those mults in Europe. Bah.

NK7U himself played for the A's (in KC and Oakland), the Angels, and the Red Sox from '67 to '82. I have his QSL card, but I should look to see if I have his baseball card. :-)


I have always kept a paper log.

Not for contests, of course, but for everything else. Well, not 2m FM contacts, for the most part, and certainly not those 2m FM contacts made while portable. But everything else. Contests are logged, first in CT (a backup copy from someone else), and since 2004, N1MM Logger.

All of those paper logs, and all the ADIF files from N1MM, end up in DXLab Suite's DXKeeper.

The DXLab Suite lets me track things like DXCC progress, WAS, and VUCC. But to think of it as a logger that track awards would be a gross miscarriage of justice. There are 7 or 8 different modules in the suite, all of which are independent programs, but all of which function together. It's pretty cool.

Examples of what it does:

  • Logs contacts
  • Tracks award progress and creates submissions
  • Collects DX spots from net-based or packet clusters and announces them by voice
  • Tracks solar reports from WWV and predicts propagation
  • Displays a map of the world and plots logged contacts or DX spots ... or the country you are working
  • Digital interface that will do at least PSK31 (and others - not one I use)
  • Controls your radio via CAT or C-IV
  • Generates and prints QSL labels, envelope labels, or actual QSL cards
  • Discovers QSL routes and managers and enters them in the log
I probably need to do a demo of this program for the local club. It really is a DXLab Suite.

Did I mention that AA6YQ distributes it free? You still have to pay Bill Gates to run it, but otherwise, nothing.

As for always keeping a paper log ... I kept one of stations heard on the AM broadcast band when I was a kid and later, of stations I'd talked to on CB.


10-77, Manhattan Box 471, fire is at 200 E 15th St, corner 3rd Ave, K.

All hands working, K.

Extra Engine, extra Truck special-called, K.



The Amateur Amateur

KBØH is my favorite columnist on ARRL.org. This month's topic? Zombies!


Interesting article on RFI

Best of all, it pins the blame where it belongs: Part 15.



Sweepstakes is next

Next contest I plan to play in is the ARRL November Sweepstakes. The CW part is next weekend, and then 'phone is two weeks later. I don't see me doing the CW weekend, but you never know (the only time I did CW Sweeps was in 1994!).

Unlike CQ WW, SS is only a 30-hour contest and further, stations can only operate 24 of those 30 hours. CQ WW is 48 hours. If you want a high score, you have to "stay in the chair". I'm not so good at that, especially if I'm not making a lot of QSOs (i.e. propagation isn't favorable). RTTY 'tests are better as my station seems to do better (on all bands) with that mode versus 'phone.

My goal this year, as it is every year, is to get a Clean Sweep by working all 80 ARRL/RAC sections. Haven't done that from home yet but am extra motivated this year since this year the League is giving away Clean Sweep brooms ...

I'm done

                    CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Class: SOSB(A)/15 LP
Operating Time (hrs): 12

Band QSOs Zones Countries
80: 4 1 2
40: 1 1 1
20: 1 1 1
15: 66 18 37
Total: 72 21 41 Total Score = 9,075


746 is in the shop so had a different radio without an ATU. No boom mic/foot
switch either. Took a while to get the hang of it. A couple New Ones, though.

Posted using 3830 Score Submittal Forms at: http://www.hornucopia.com/3830score/


Another new one - TO4X. That's 124 worked.

Edit: No it's not. Apparently, I've worked FS already. But VP2V is new.


Number 123!

Single Op Assisted

Decided to engage the cluster, which moves me from Single Op to Single Op Assisted.

I don't have the same power as a real SOA station, but since I'm really only in this for new countries (none yet, though I have heard HB0 and GD, both of which I need) and new CQ Zones, what the heck.

With 34 Qs, I'm not headed for a certificate let alone a Top Ten box. :-)


Ha. D4C, Cape Verde Islands. That gives me "WAC" for the contest, despite less than 30 QSOs (pretty dismal, actually).

Zone 14

Fifteen is open again this morning (I gave up on the low bands last night). G, GW, EI, CT. Also 8P in Zone 8 and a VE2 in Zone 2.


Low bands

Well, the high bands are pretty well gone (not that 10 was open). On 40, most stations work split, with the European stations down well below 7100 and the US stations above 7125. Its not hard to work split, but it's generally hard, for me at least, to make Qs on 40.

Below that, on 75/80, it's a little better, as the bands in the different ITU regions line up, so not as much, or no, split. Not getting out here, either.

Hear an EA8 calling, but he doesn't hear me. Too bad - that would give me all continents even though I've only made 18 QSOs!


Well, things got better, later. Fifteen opened up around 2200z and I was able to work ZL, PY, a couple KH6s, HI, and a couple of JAs (!).

About an hour later (just now), I got Jim, on Raratonga (E5/s). I've worked him before and QSLed him direct. He sent back a nice card, of course, but also a coin from the Cook Islands. Very classy. :)

I miss my 746

I'll write it up another time, but I blew up my IC746Pro the other week. It won't be back until next week and CQ WW SSB is now. Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, I'm using a radio that's better than the IC725 that we also have ...

Unfortunately, the borrowed radio, while including DSP filtering, has no auto tuner. Apparently, I miss the 746's AT. A lot. I have an MFJ Versa Tuner II, but trying to get the trap dipole tuned up is much harder than I remember. The other odd thing is that the tuner's SWR meter reads differently than the one in the borrowed radio. I don't know if the tuner is "too low" or the radio is "too high", but if the radio thinks it's more than 1.7 or 2.0:1, it backs off the power. Oh, and I only have the hand mic and don't have the adapters to use my Heil BM-10 headset. I miss that, too!

So, not having fun. Four countries in the log so far (can't work Ks for points other than Zone mults).

Ah, well.