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Sunday, June 4, 2017

QRP in the Park .... 2017

I had a nice time at the park today ... sat in the shade, sipped on my Pepsi, and worked MD, ME and NY on 20 meter CW using my KX3 running about 5 watts. Signals were perfectly readable, typically S5-6.

Essex Park here in Rochester, MN (and most any other place with a shaded picnic table) is my summer shack. During the winter I can play with boat anchors in the basement but operating HF QRP during the summer lets me get out to the park and away from neighborhood static/noise. I can also put up a higher antenna than in my own yard.

What's this like? Take a look at this youtube video: I'm ten years older, I've added feedline to the antenna, the rig has changed and the brand of pop has changed but Essex Park still has the same tall trees, picnic tables and shade.

Now, where's that second Pepsi?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Novice Rig Roundup

The Novice Rig Roundup is an nine day operating event "where radio amateurs contact stations using vintage ham radio equipment from the early era of the Novice license."

I ended up putting 6 transmitters and 7 receivers on the air, everything from a 6AG7/Regen combo to a Drake B Line. It was great to get these guys on the air. Now that they are out of mothballs I'm looking forward to putting them all on the air on a more regular basis. Next year? That 75A4 and CE 20A should make a nice CW station.

To find out more take a look at NRR website at

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest Recap

I've wrapped up another LC ...
... certainly not a barn burning score but I did get two of my vintage stations on the air. 

On Saturday, January 14, I ran my Utah Jr driving push-pull TZ20s at about 35 watts output. While only a 3-4 x power increase over my Wednesday 6J5-6L6 rig, I did find it easier to make contacts.  Was the power the difference or propagation or noise or weekday vs weekend participation or something else? I can't tell based on only this one contest.

Winter includes two AWA CW Contests, the Classic Exchange, and the Novice Rig Roundup. Each of these gives me a chance to get my old gear on the air. I haven't decided yet if I'll be in the CX or not but the NRR is relaxed enough to fit my non-contest operating style. I'm starting to think about which of my rigs will get operating space and time in this event.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

AWA LC CW Contest

Right now we are in the middle of the AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest. See

Last Wednesday evening I used my early 40s homebrew pair, a 6J5-6L6 transmitter (1940) and a simple superhet (1941). Results were disappointing. A high noise level here, limited operating time, and, possibly, low activity level resulted in only three contacts and 36 points.

Tonight I plan to move to my HRO Sr and Utah Jr driving a TZ-20 amplifier. Compared to many of the rigs I put on the air this one is QRO running 70 watts input and about 35 watts output.
I've configured my mid 30s operating positions so that the TZ-20 amplifier can be shared between the Utah Jr/HRO Sr and my 1934 "CW Jr"/FB7.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

ARRL Straight Key Night

This afternoon I got on the air for the ARRL Straight Key Night (SKN). The receiver this year was my improved Simple Superhet . Along with it I used my 6J6-6L6 transmitter running about 10 watts to my winter vertical (with the Christmas lights still hanging off of it). Straight Key Night, as the name implies encourages the use of straight keys. I put away my keyer and used a military surplus J-37 mounted on a bakelite "I" base.

As usual my QSO count was not very high, in fact only one, NI9Y, but I enjoyed the QSO. Getting 70-80 year old technology on the air, even for one QSO, brings with it a lot of satisfaction.
Click here

Up next in my winter operating event schedule is the AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest.  I'll probably use this station for at least part of this contest.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

AWA BK 1929 QSO Party Recap

The AWA Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party wrapped up a week ago. Unfortunately I had a fairly small window of opportunity here for operating. I did make 5 contacts, though. All in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Listening to my signal on my 75A4 I thought it sounded pretty good with just a hint of a musical tone due to antenna sway. Certainly it was up to 1929 standards but with enough personality to be recognized on today's ham bands.

Click here

Now I'll start working on my station for the AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest. See

Thursday, December 15, 2016

AWA Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party

Last weekend and this coming weekend was the AWA Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party. For this event only transmitters of 1929 (or earlier) design/technology are allowed. I try to participate every year. See .

This year I again started out trying to get my Hull Hartley to sound reasonable on 80 and 40. See Somehow since 2009 something has changed giving my Hartley a raw AC buzz and some signal drift. Swapping out parts/tubes and cleaning all of the contacts did not help. As a final effort I moved the entire station away from the shack outside wall (nearest the antenna). It still drifted and had a  T7 to T8 went back on the shelf and down came my trusty TNT.

This coming weekend I plan to be on 80 with my  210 x 2 TNT running 10 watts in and about 3 watts out. The receiver will be my KX3 with PX3 panadapter. I've given up on using a vintage receiver for the BK. 80 meter noise is pretty loud here. I need all the help I can get to hear anyone. Visible in the photo besides my TNT transmitter and KX3 receiver with PX3 panadapter is the backside of my regulated HV power supply. The wood box visible in the near left encloses my 2.5/7.5 V filament supply. In the milk crate is a QRP watt meter and Triplet milliampere meter. Notice that I have a shaft extension on my TNT transmitter. This rig is sensitive to hand capacity. Moving my hand close to the normal tuning knob changes the transmitter frequency making it difficult to zero beat another station without this extension.

Friday, December 9, 2016

More on my 20 meter Endfed Zepp

I've always been a little worried about feed line loss in my portable antenna /  20 meter Endfed Zepp.

TV twin lead does have more loss then lots of other feed lines that may be used but it is light and we're talking about less than 15 feet of the stuff here. Estimates I've found on the web show .5 - 1 dB loss per 100' for dry, clean, matched TV twin lead. The loss for 15' then comes out around .1 dB. Since my intended use of this antenna is temporary QRP-in-th-Park sort of operating, keeping the twin lead clean and dry should not be a problem. If it's raining, I just QRT, packup and go home.

Loss due to mismatch at the antenna is the other issue. See K5DVW's Nov 2006 QST article posted at Assuming that the EFHW wire presents a 3000 ohm load to the 300 ohm feedline then the SWR is about 10:1. Extrapolating off the left edge of K5DVW's figure 1 chart leads me to conclude that this 10:1 feedline mismatch adds another .5 dB loss for about.6 dB total. Feedline loss for 30' of RG-58 (about the most I'd want to carry any distance) feeding a matched dipole at 14MHz is .4-.5 dB.

It appears that the feedline loss difference between 15' of twin lead feeding an EFHW wire and 30' of coax feeding a dipole is negligible.

My classic 20 meter endfed zepp antenna with quarter wavelength feed does require a tuner. While in theory the feedline could be trimmed and stubbed to present a 50 ohm load to the transmitter (see ) it is sensitive to antenna configuration and adjacent objects. A tuner of some sort is required to take care of the variable mismatch, but, since it is close to 50 ohms, the tuner does not need to be "wide range".

So based on my observations for this antenna -
- Some sort of tuner is required (built into many QRP rigs these days)
- Feedline loss is essentially same as coax
- Allows flexible deployment (Vee, L, vertical, sloper)
- No ground (or radial or conterpoise) requirement
- Light weight
- Entire antenna system is off the ground
- Usually requires only one support
- Optimized for one band but usually can be tuned as a random length end wire for other bands

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Day Power Supply

After Thanksgiving Dinner this year I took the opportunity to make progress on the power supply for my 1939 transmitter.

I completed the  500 VDC and 7.5 VAC sections needed for the amplifier.  PSU Designer II indicated that I needed to allow for almost 2000 volts across each of the diodes in the bridge rectifier. I ended up using two 1000 PIV diodes in series for each leg of the bridge. This is a boat anchor power supply with silicon hidden under the chassis. It needed some glow. I added a type 80 rectifier connected only to 5 VAC so that it would look right. After all, real radios need to glow in the dark.

Eventually I'll add components to power the oscillator/buffer stage including 250 VDC, 150 VDC and 2.5 VAC. In the meantime I can drive the amplifier with either my Utah Jr or Meissner Signal Shifter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

50 Years

Today I pulled my novice license out of the file. It reads "effective date: 09-23-66". Wow I've been hamming for 50 years...well, not quite. I also pulled my novice logbook out of the desk drawer.
It shows my first RF to the antenna was on Oct 16, but no answer to my CQ. Vance, W6ZZL, then got on using my equipment to show that I was getting out. He worked WN6UBL. It was almost 2 weeks before I had an actual contact. I worked WN7EQS on October 28.

It was a fun year as a novice but I couldn't quite master 13 WPM. I ended up with a technician license on 2 mtrs for a few months until I was able to upgrade and get back on HF.

I thought it would be appropriate to have a "50 Years of Ham Radio" QSL card to  go along with all of this. A few minutes with a graphics program and a quick order to Walmart got me what I was looking for.