Small Fun CW Project

Ever since I got licensed as a ham radio operator, I have only used CW during the testing portion of the my license and really never used it again. More out of laziness, but I see that there are many operators who are making some great contacts and I have been wanting to get back into myself. I used to have a straight key which I gave to a friend of mine before leaving Florida. I used that straight key while learning code initially and had a great time with it. Another ham who has been SK for quite a while now gave me the Heathkit CW Paddles which double as a training keyer and a working radio keyer.

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I just saw someone on Facebook who said the following “Learn the Ancient Language of the Ascended  Master” hahaha…Awesome stuff, so I am doing something about it. I did some research on how ham radio operators built there own keys and paddles and found some great ideas, so this past weekend, I decided to build my own straight key. Now there ended up being an alpha 1 and beta 1 release this weekend. As a ham radio operator, we can usually build things that we use from pretty much anything in the garage. That is the case with this project. The alpha 1, as shown below, worked but had no tension on the key handle, so there were some issues with using it as intended. The design use a bracket that I found the garage which I drill through and attached to two brackets for support. The back of the keyer has a standard screw with the washed which is where the shield or black wire would connect and is used to adjust the spacing on the key. Under the front is another screw where the positive lead would connect for the cable going to the radio. The handle is just something that had laying around. Keep in mind that you can use anything to build a homebrew keyer as they are just an on / off switch which will key the radio.

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Now a few hams gave me some ideas on how to improve my design. Some mentioned using springs while others mentioned using magnets. While I didn’t have any springs around, the use of magnets intrigued me. I was told that some keyer companies are going to magnets now which I found interesting. I looked around my garage and found a could of old cabinet door magnets which I knew I would not use for anything and pulled the magnets from the casing. Now the important part of this is to make sure that you turn the magents to where they repel each others. The need to be strong enough to keep the keyer handle in the air. As you can see above, the alpha release, is sitting on the front screw. If you look at the picture below, the handle is now in the air enough to allow for a cleaner key down. I attached one magnet to the board and the other to the botton of the handle part of the keyer. This helped so much more and is more comfortable. Now it is time to attach a contact screw and the cabling.

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73 to All,

Tim

KF4BZT

CQ CQ CQ Dxpedition Station TX7G

logo

From the station QRZ Page – “Jared (N7SMI), Grant (KZ1W), Keith (VE7KW), and Don (VE7DS) will be active from Hatiheu Village, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands (OC-027) as TX7G October 18-26, 2014. QRV on 80-10m, CW, SSB, and RTTY with high power to verticals right on the beach. We’ll also be on the air for the CQ WW SSB contest (Zone 31).”

During the past week or so, I had the pleasure of working my first DXpedition station and my first split DX station. There are some ham operators that will tell you that you need a large station with large antennas and amplifiers to make the best contacts. I am here to tell you that this statement is wrong, some of the time. I have a Kenwood TS-400 (100 Watts) and an Icom IC-756Pro (100 Watts) using an experimental fan dipole and and MFJ vertical. With 100 watts, I made the contact. All you need is patience and an ear to hear the pileup.

This was a great eperience and I look forward to more stations in the future. Thanks to Ray (K4RDE) helping me with some issues that I was having with my station and pointing me to trying this station. It took me about 1/2 hour to get through the pileup but I was able to make it.

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Here is the confirmation on their web site that I made it to their club log book….wooohoooo!!!!!!!

TX7G

KF4BZT has worked TX7G on 1 out of 19 band slots

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I took the following map from their web site to show where this station is working from.

QSO with:KF4BZT
Distance: 6181km [LP: 33819km]
Bearing: 233° [LP: 53°]

map

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To see what these guys are all about, you can visit their web site below.

http://tx7g.com/

Window Panel Release 1.1

Hey all,

This is a short posting as I did not take pictures of the Version 1.1 release of my Windows Panel. The additions to the panel included a ground connection to established a ground from inside and outside. This connects my radios and antenna tuner to my ground system outside. Much easier to connect and operate. The second item that was added, which I have not used yet are two lug connections for attaching a wire antenna to the panel which will connect to the Auto Antenna tuner. I have not used this portion yet but hoping to do it someday.

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Items Needed:

– Dremel

– A dremel router bit or a burr bit

– Package of 1/2″ threaded rod, located in most screw shelves in hardware stores

– Package of 1/2″ lock washers

– Package of 1/2″ flat washers

– Package of 1/2″ wing nuts (Makes for easy install and removal of ground cables and wiring)

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Each lug to include the wire antenna and ground include three sections of threaded rod, two lock washers for each threaded rod, two flat washers for each threaded rod, and two wing nuts, one on each side. This installation was done the same way as the coax feed throughs in Version 1.0 using the dremel tool and a dremel router bit or a burr bit to drill through and open the hole for each threaded rod. This was a fast and easy process. Once the holes were opened, I cut the rod to about 2 to 3 inches each and pushed each of them into place, securing them with a lock washer, flat washer, and nut on each side of the panel.

73,

Tim

KF4BZT

Icom to MFJ Antenna Tuner Cable

While at Belton Hamfest a year ago, I purchased an MFJ 994 Auto Antenna Tuner which is 600 Watts SSB and 600 CW and can be used with all HF equipment. There are two main ways to use this tuner, manual and auto. The manual way of using the antenna tuner can be a little bit of a pain but works just fine once you get used to how it works. The auto tuner side works real well if you use a cable between your radio and tuner.

From the manual – “The MFJ-5124I interface cable provides power and control signals between an most radios and the MFJ automatic tuner. For use with the Icom Radios, Push and hold the radio’s [TUNER] button for two seconds to start the tuning process. Push [TUNER] quickly to bypass the tuner.

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Below shows the parts and tools that I used to create this simple cable to allow the Icom IC-756Pro to control the MFJ-994. I was able to find the connector that I needed at Radio Shack (2740224) –  4-Position – Male Interlocking Connector. I had a 3.5 mm male stereo connector and female power connector at home. I brought out the meter to do ohm testing of the wires which came in handy.

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So I started with figuring out which wires need to go where and the manual shows which pins are used for which purpose.

Pin 1 (Key) connects to the Tip of 3.5 mm Stereo Phone Plug.
Pin 2 (Start) connects to the Ring of 3.5 mm Stereo Phone Plug.
Pin 3 (+13.8V) connects to the Center Pin of Power Plug.
Pin 4 (Ground) connects to the Sleeves of both 3.5 mm Stereo Phone Plug and Power Plug.

I stripped the two sets of wires and used the meter to find which ends went to which part of the plugs. The 4 pin plug came with four pins which can be crimped on the ends of the wires making the install much easier that I thought.

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The first set of wires that I added were for the power connection. Pin 3 – Center power plug and Pin 4 – Sleeve of power plug. All you need to do is crimp the pins to the wire and push them into the holes. You should feel a slight snap once the pins are in correctly. Once the power leads were in place, I added the Pin 1 – Connects to 3.5mm Tip and Pin 2 – Connects to 3.5mm Ring to the top two holes of the 4 pin connector. So from the arrow on top, the holes go in order from 1, 2, 3 to 4.

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Once the cable was built, it was time to test it out. Make sure that the Radio and the Auto Tuner are powered off. The black power cable plugs into the 12V power connector on the Auto Antenna Tuner and the grey cable plugs into the Radio interface Connector of the Auto Antenna Tuner. The 4 pin connector that we built plugs into the female connector on the back of the Icom Radio. Now, use the following to power up and use the new cabled Auto Tuner.

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The following came from the MFJ AutoTuner manual:

Connections
1. Insert the 3.5 mm stereo phone plug into the tuner’s RADIO INTERFACE jack.
2. Insert the 2.1 x 5.5 mm coaxial power plug into the tuner’s POWER jack.
3. Important: Make sure the DC power to the radio has been turned off. The radio does not fuse the DC power to the tuner, and damage to the radio can occur if the interface’s power connection comes in contact with ground.
4. Connect the 4-pin molex connector to the mating 4-pin molex connector, marked as TUNER, on the back of the Icom radio.
5. Push the [POWER] button on the tuner to the in position and then power on the radio.
6. Some Icom radios, such as the IC-706, automatically check to see if an external antenna tuner is connected during power on. For other Icom radios, such as the IC-718, the Tuner Type menu in the radio menu system must be enabled. Refer to your radio’s operating manual for accessing the menu system and preparing the AH-4 antenna tuner operation. Use IC-718 as an example:
a. Push [PWR] for 1 second to turn power off.
b. While pushing and holding [SET], push [PWR] to turn power on.
c. Push [UP] or [DN] one or more times to select TUNER.
d. Rotate the Main Dial to select “4” for AH-4 antenna tuner.
e. Push [PWR] for one second to turn power off.
f. Push [PWR] to turn power on again.
Operation
The operation of the MFJ-5124I radio interface is similar to the operation of the AH-3 or AH-4 described in the Icom radio’s operating manual.
1. Push and hold the [TUNER] button on the radio for one or two seconds to initiate automatic tuning process. The radio will automatically switch to CW mode, transmit a 10-watt carrier, and start the tuning process. When the tuning process is completed, the radio will stop transmitting, return to its previous mode and power setting.
2. Push the [TUNER] button on the radio quickly to bypass the tuner or to cancel tuning in progress. Note the [TUNE] button on the tuner will also key the Icom radio interface.

Window Panel version 1.0

When we moved into our house, I was trying to figure out a way to get my radio gear on the air without drilling through the walls are causing any damage to the house. I remember when I lived in Florida I had a panel that I bought, which had four coax feedthrough adapters. This worked for adding HF and VHF antennas to the shack without doing any drilling. Since I can not find the one that I had, I decided that it is time to build one myself. So here we go!!!

In order to make this work, there are some supplies that were needed. Since I am working with Plexiglass or Flexiglass depending on the product, I picked up a scoring knife which is used to cut through this type of material by scoring an edge a few times then cracking the material from the edge of a table or bench. I added silicone sealant to this project to keep water out of the sections and of course the plexiglass sheet was needed as well. One other item that I picked up at a local ham radio store (Grumpy’s here in San Antonio) were the coax feed through connectors shown below to pull this project together.

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Items Needed:

–  30″ x 36″ .080″ Acrylic Plexiglass Sheet

– 100% Silicone Sealant

– Plastic Cutter

– Something straight like a yard stick, laser level, square, etc.

– Dremel

– Sanding bands to debur and level edges

– A dremel router bit or a burr bit

– In this project small sections of wood for trim

– Tape Measure to measure window for proper fit

– Package of feed through coax connectors

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The first steps that I took were to measure and score the sheet of plexiglass before breaking the section. I came up with a measurement that seemed to work for my needs and you can do this for any size. I was try to make sure that I kept this as low profile as possible and still have access to the ports needed. As shown below, I used the edge of my level to score the sheet of plexiglass as I do not have a straight edge. Keep in mind that this is dangerous and you can cut yourself if not careful. This helped in giving me an edge to work with. As you can see in the second picture I started by slowly scoring the line a little furhter until it was deep enough to break the plexiglass cleanly. You will want to take you time in doing this part of the build to keep the lines straight. I did the same measuring and scoring of the material for three separate sections.

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Here you can see that I moved the scored section to the edge of the table and gently pushed down to separate the new section from the main plexiglass.  This is where the scoring came in handy because it will pull the material out of the groove being made enough to the break it. Once I finish with the first section of plexiglass, I went ahead and tried a temp fit in the window to see how much I needed to take off. This seemed to fit pretty well, for now.

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I took the first one and used it as a template to make the other two. Below, you can see that I placed the first one on top of the sheet and scored the initial lines for the second and third one.

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Once I got each section cut and separated, it was time to make sure that the edges were even so that they are would fit into the window more evenly. I took my dremel and used a sanding band to sand down one side to make it even. By doing one side only, I was able to make this more even quicker without any issues to the sections.


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In the following, it is time to bring the three sections together as one and seal out any potential water issues that may occur. So in order to do this, I ran a bead of sealant down and across each edge as well as adding three even sections down the middle. This will help in sealing this up and keeping each section together better as the plexiglass material is flexible. I did this on each section with about 5 minutes between adding another on top. All of this sat over night to dry.

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Now it is time to add the coax feed through connectors to our plexiglass. This part did not take long, but I would recommend having some washers big enough to fit over those connectors in order to hide any discrepancies in the plexiglass. I used the dremel tool and a dremel router bit or a burr bit to drill through and open the hole for each connector. This was a fast and easy process. Once the holes were opened, I pushed each connector into place and used the nuts that came with them to attach them to the panel.

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Once the panel was complete, I placed it in the window and was able to hook up my HF station to it. This was a cheap way to add feed through connectors without drilling through the walls or doing any other damage, especially when you are renting. If you need any information on this project, by all means, let me know.

73,

Tim

KF4BZT

New Antenna Test

Ok guys, the first antenna test occured yesterday Sep 11 2014. This test ended up unsuccessfully due to satellites being to close to the horizon and the Cubesats that I tried possibly being dead. I’m not giving up on hearing something from this new antenna. 🙂 I am also trying to get my son interested as well. I believe that if he can hearing something, he may show some more interest.

Well today I decided to try again before bad weather comes into the area and I decided to give FO-29 a try I trying tuning to the highest UHF frequency that ISS Detector showed of 435.850 as I thought I should have and was not hearing anything. Hmmm…very odd, maybe I was doing something wrong. I did not think of moving around before the downlinks of 435.900 to 435.800. I put the antenna across the corner of the bed of my truck to adjust the radio and I tuned about 2 to 3 KHz down from where I was and started hearing some noise. I though to myself, this can not be this easy. LOL. I picked up the antenna and pointed about 10% from where I left off and sure enough, I was hearing a CW beacon and SSB voice communications.

The thing that I am taking out of this is to never rely on one frequency for the downlink or there may never be anything heard. I was able to track FO-29 for about 2 to 3 minutes before it started fading behind the houses. Another thing that I learned from this is that you do need to think equilateral which means that you can not just rely completely on azimuth or elevation but use the circular rotation as well to compensate for the tumbling of the satellite. Now that weather is coming in, I has to stop early but I will continue to try to pick up more so that I can document what seems to work in this area.

FO-29 Information

http://www.amsat.org/?page_id=1024

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Mode V/U (J) Linear Transponder (Inverting):
Uplink: 145.9000 – 146.0000 MHz SSB/CW
Downlink 435.8000 – 435.9000 MHz SSB/CW

Mode U Beacon:
Downlink 435.7950 MHz CW

Mode U Digitalker (Rarely Used):
Downlink 435.9100 MHz FM

fo29

73’s for now,

Tim

KF4BZT

New Arrow Antenna Arrives

After some issues with the mail, I finally received a package which I am looking forward to using. Thanks Tim Chapman KB7MDF for the awesome product. This is my new Arrow 2 satellite antenna for dual (VHF / UHF) band satellite communications. Below is the URL for the antenna that I ordered.

http://www.arrowantennas.com/arrowii/146-437.html

Upon opening the box, I was impressed with the compact packaging and the size really surprised me as the box fit into one of the larger outside mailboxes. I ordered the split beam boom to make transport of this antenna to the field or ham radio events much easier. Even my tripod that I will use is in a bag just a little larger than the one that I ordered which makes this the ultimate portable satellite package. Per the Arrow Antenna web site this antenna is about 19 Ounces so fairly light to handle. The boom is 3/4″ square at 37 1/2″ Long. which makes for a short boom. The bag is the 26″ Roll Up with sections in it for each part of the antenna. This makes storage much easier.

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After I removed the contents of the bags that came, you can see how everything is separated out. The boom is the far right which included a 2M / 440 duplexer. The duplexer came with the version that I ordered. It is normally sold separately with some models. Next to the boom are the VHF elements which are a set of 3, a director, a driver and a reflector. And right next to the VHF elements are the UHF elements. The UHF elements contain 5 directors, 1 driver and 1 reflector. Each element are separated into two sections with a threaded post to hold them together on the boom. You can also see a look at the bag and how it is made, Very nicely made with plenty of room for this antenna.

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Here is a closeup of the split boom with the duplexer built into the handle. The duplexer can be removed if needed and under the foam handle is also a mount hole for the tripod. I need to figure out how I am going to connect this to my tripod with the duplexer in line as well. If anyone has any ideas, By all means let me know at kf4bzt at gmail dot com.

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Here is a closeup of the VHF elements with the in-line gamma match. I have never used an antenna with a gamma match and these come pretuned so no adjustment should need to be done unless absolutely necessary. You can see the threaded connections which bring these elements together in the boom. Also you can see the a closeup shot of the UHF elements with the gamma match on the driver element. As I mentioned above, this is pre-tuned so no adjustments should need to be made. In this video you can each director attached to each other using the threaded screws. I like the fact that each element on VHF and UHF have red caps to protect the edges and to protect the operator and any one around from being stabbed. 🙂

 

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Here shows the two section boom together with the duplexer in the handle and the each VHF, UHF and radio coax waiting for their connections.

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Here, I have connected the VHF direct, driver and reflector to the boom. You can also see a close up of the gamma match connected on the driver element.

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Below shows the UHF elements that were connected and you can also see the antenna completely assembled. I have attached a shot of the UHF gamma match which is connected to the UHF driver element.wpid-20140910_172256.jpgwpid-20140910_172240.jpg

 

I did some reading from other ham radio operators of possibly how much time it took to assemble the elements because they were not labeled. So I looked at this, and in order to speed things up, if needed, me and my daughter Makayla created element labels and attached them to each element. She wrote down what each label is for which is a great help. You can also see what the elements look like with the labels. Not bad, huh??

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I also ordered the Male SMA Duplexer connector for my Baofeng HT and it works real well.

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And finally, below shows the antenna in its bag and the bag closed up. Like I mentioned earlier, this is nice for moving to the field or any ham radio events. Well, now it is time to test this bad boy out and I will post results as I have them.

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73’s All,

Tim

KF4BZT