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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.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

QSOs on a "Poor" Band

Today I was reminded that it never hurts to try.

Earlier this week Beth and I, after looking at the weather forecast and our calendar, decided to find something to do outside today. We finally settled on a day trip and picnic at Great River Bluffs State Park, about an hour east of here and overlooking the Mississippi. We could do a little hiking and then Beth could read while I did a little hamming (Don't all wives pack along a book in case the OM decides to get on the air?).

Great plan, but then I looked at the propagation forecast. Conditions for 20 meters, my favorite band for QRP in the Park was listed as "Poor". Shucks, why bother packing the KX3 along and putting up the antenna if no one will hear me. I was about to leave the rig behind and take my own book. In the end the KX3 did come and Beth and I found an operating/reading position about 600' above the Mississippi. There was shade for Beth and trees I that could get my antenna into without a lot of trouble.

For a poor band 20 was doing pretty good today. WA3GPM (PA) came back to my first CQ before I was even properly settled in my chair. I was expecting to review Reverse Beacon Network hits and instead I had a QSO. Before Beth got her book finished I had also had good QSOs with KB1CL (MA), N7DS (MT) and N1WPU (ME).

Never leave town without your never hurts to try.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

QRP - Houseboat Mobile

For a few days at the end of June we had a family houseboat vacation.

It's been several years since I've operated houseboat mobile. The first was in 1992 operating on Shuswap Lake, BC using a Heathkit HW9 and Hustler Mobile whip antenna.
The second time was in July 1995 operating on Lake Roosevelt, WA using the same HW-9 but with an endfed wire antenna.

This time we were in Voyageurs National Park on the northern Minnesota / Canadian border. I used my KX3 and twin lead fed 20 meter zepp.

For the antenna support I had one of my 16' crappie poles strapped to the upper deck railing. My antenna is 34' long with a 14' feedline. With this support it formed an inverted V sort of antenna with the far end dangling off the end of the boat...a prime example of "any antenna beats none at all". I did manage some QSOs, though, working WG0AT, N6TEM, VE3TLO and KD8DEU.

I had hoped to get on a little for Field Day but June weather in the Upper Midwest tends to be a little unsettled. This June was no exception. On Saturday June 25 we had thunder storms in both the morning and the evening plus we were under a tornado watch that evening.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Two (watts) Fer 20

I'm sorta on a twins kick right now. After building and using my 80/40 meter mid 50s QRP-in-the-Park Twins I looked around the shack and spotted my

Ten-Tec 1056 "Any Band" DC receiver that I had built several years ago for 20 meters. Unfortunately the 1056 is no longer sold by Ten-Tec but Pacific Antenna does sell the TwoFer 2 watt transmitter kit . I should be able to make it into an excellent "twin" for the 1056.

Monday, April 18, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter and 1T4 / 3V4 Regen

I've gotten off to a slow start with my mid 50s QRP-in-the-Park Twins. So far only W3BBO in Erie PA has gotten one of my special QSL cards. Now, though, I'm back from a two week trip and ready to get on the air again.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (On the Air)

I've finished my mid 50s QRP-in-the-Park Twins. Today I put them together and got on the air....unfortunately no responses to my CQs, but my 1 watt signal was getting out.

The Reverse Beacon Network gave me hits as far west as Utah, south into Texas and east to Massachusetts, not real strong but I was copy-able. I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (Wired)

I've finished wiring my new transmitter. To help debug a little I did use three colors of wire; black for the ground and cathode circuits, green for the signal grid and red for the plate and screen circuits. Recommended in the 50s was solid (not stranded) wire and square corners with wires running parallel to the chassis sides. The wiring certainly came out looking better than some of my other projects but lead lengths may be a problem if I try this at higher frequencies.

This transmitter sounds fine and per spec it loads up to about a watt out on 40. I'll need to add more capacity for the pi network to work well on 80.

Fortunately I still have my winter vertical up and tomorrow's forecast is for 8"-12" of snow here in SE Minnesota. I'll have time to be on 40 trying out my 3S4 x 2 - 1T4 / 3V4 Regen station.

Friday, March 18, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (Ready to Wire)

The paint is dry and it looks good. The parts all mounted with no problems. Wiring is next.

Looking at the actual underside vs my drawings it looks a lot tighter than I had imagined...but, fortunately, only half a dozen or so components need to be wired in under the chassis. Most of the wiring is just that, wiring.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (Waiting for Paint to Dry)

Watching paint dry is never fun, especially since this project needs 2 days for the aluminum primer to dry followed by at least a couple of days for the top coat to dry.

I spending this time looking at under-the-chassis wiring and small component placement. With the addition of a solder strip everything is still looking good. One thing this exercise did help me realize, though, is the amount filament related wiring. I'll probably do the filament wiring first and route those wires closest to the chassis.

Friday, March 11, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (Metalwork Done)

A major checkpoint is to be done drilling and punching holes in a nice (unattainable these days) chassis.
I also try to mount the major parts to confirm I don't have any surprises or problems.

Next is to clean up a few burrs and then prime and paint the chassis to match my regen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

3S4 x 2 Transmitter (The Plan)

After building a 1T4/3V4 regen receiver to go with my 3S4 QRP Midget I decided that I needed to rebuild the Midget. What I'm ending up with is more like a Midget on steroids. It still uses two 3S4s in parallel and runs on 90 VDC but it now fits better with the 1T4/3V4 regen. With matching knobs and paint the two will be my mid 50s QRP-in-the-Park Twins.

I'm making several changes from the original QRP Midget. Since I wanted to run this transmitter and my regen from the same power supply I'm rewiring the filaments for 1.5 VDC rather than 6 VDC. Next, the QRP Midget directly heated 3S4 cathodes require a floating filament supply in order to be keyed. I couldn't share the filament supply between the regen and the transmitter. My fix is to key the 90 V B+ line. I have a WWII key with totally enclosed contacts so I won't find myself across 90V to ground sometime. Next I added an antenna loading control. Given the parts I had and the mid 50s sort of design a pi network made the most sense. Dip and load pi network tuning works best with a plate current meter so I also added that. Finally, I saw no need for the QRP Midget DPDT power switch. I left it out completely. I'll just disconnect the filament supply instead. The original QRP Midget fit in a small Bud minibox. Mine will require a 4x6 chassis.

I've found all of the parts and
laid out the chassis. Next step is to drill...I'm committed then.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016 Novice Rig Roundup Wrapup

The 2016 Novice Rig Roundup ended last night.
It was neat to hear rigs on the air that I haven't heard in a long time. The NRR also gave me a reason to put my own tube gear on the air. Too often it is easier to sit down, flip on the KX3 and have a QSO. During the NRR, faced with 20 knobs and two meters spread between the 75A4 and Eico 720, I couldn't help but feel master of my universe. There was always one knob more that can be tweaked.

Next year I'll be certain to also have my NC303 / Ranger II combo on the air and, maybe, my Drake B Line.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Novice Rig Roundup

I got my novice ticket in 1966 so this year marks, for me, 50 years of ham radio. Back then I had an Eico 720 and a military surplus BC342. 

Last night and today I've been able to participate in the Novice Rig Roundup. This is a week long chance to use and hear vintage novice rigs on the air. It runs for another two days.

For this year's NRR I'm running an Eico 720 at 60 watts and a 75A4. My winter vertical loads up fine on 80, 40 and 15 so I'm having a great time.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TNT (and Hartley) Notes

Recently I pulled two early draft papers out of my files that, I believe, were written by W2SN in the early 80s.  One was "The Saga of the TNT Transmitter" and the other was "Additional Notes on Self-Excited Oscillators". I posted these at  and   .

The 1986 Callbook lists W2SN as Vernon Clifford, Amityville, NY. He got into ham radio in the early 30s using a TNT transmitter. Almost 50 years later he decided to build an exact replica of his first rig. Finished, it looked good but when he put it on the air he got a T7 report with a bad chirp. In these two papers he details what he tried (and learned) as he attempted to clean up his signal.

Most of us have had a much better experience with the TNT transmitter than W2SN but I've heard some pretty crummy signals also. There is no doubt that the TNT circuit can misbehave with no one "silver bullet" fix but W2SN tried a lot of fixes and nothing seemed to work.  My TNT transmitter certainly sounds better on 80 than on 40. Perhaps most of W2SN's testing was on 40 or, heaven forbid, 20. He also never showed the layout of his transmitter. Perhaps there was a basic problem there.

W2SN does make several points beyond the typical TNT transmitter construction/setup instructions to look at including:
  • Try DC versus AC on the filaments
  • If AC filaments, check that the center tap resistor is centered
  • Bypass and/or choke the power and keying leads to minimize stray pickup
  • Don't use a wood (or wood filler) grid coil form
  • Insure a well filtered and stiff B+ supply
  • Tune the antenna network to minimize RF in the shack 
  •  Insure a good station ground to minimize RF in the shack
 W2SN also identified these potential issues. Comments?
  • The value of the grid leak
  • The value of the filament bypass capacitors
  • Bad feedback stability due to changing tube grid-plate capacitance
W2SN's final solution was to use a Hartley. In his case he needed to take this drastic measure. This solution does not necessarily apply to all of us.

My TNT transmitter shows some (if not all) of the same problems that W2SN saw on 40 mtrs but sounds fine on 80. Next fall I'll look at some of the areas that W2SN mentioned to see if I can get a better signal on 40.

( Have you seen a polished version of these articles? If so, please let me know.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

2016 AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest (Epilog)

Well, company, schedule conflicts and QRN really cut into my LC
time/score this year. I couldn't get on much and I didn't hear many stations when I did. I ended up working only KA0AAM, W2TAC, AA9DH and KB0ROB.

Still, I did get two of my vintage stations out of mothballs and on the air. That certainly counts for a gold (ok, maybe, bronze) star in my log.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest

The "LC" is now only a week away. Over the past few weeks I've been playing with various transmitters and receivers to decide which I'm going to use. Two that I've been working with are a Push-Pull 6L6 transmitter and my version of the 1941 Beginner's Receiver.

This evening I put this pair on 40 mtrs and had a nice QSO with K2UPI in Bridgeport, NY. The signal reports were 569 both ways. This receiver and transmitter worked well together. I'll certainly use them during the LC.

Next I'll make certain my HRO Sr and Utah Jr are working well so that I can use them also, probably on 80.

Addendum, 1/11/2016. This evening I worked Jerry, W1ZB, in Andover, MA on 80 using the HRO Sr and Utah Jr at 15 watts... I'm ready to LC.