Lessons from WAE

I’ve been working steadily to get the equipment and antenna needed for a busy fall contest season.  This weekend I participated in the WAE contest.  I made some observations that I think will help future efforts

  • I like the stacked monitors, one atop each other versus monitors side by side
  • Always have extra amplifier fuses and backup tubes
  • Use the N1MM available mults and Qs window.  I like it much, much better than using just the bandmap
  • Do more on 80m and 15m.  I have easy, in-expensive solutions for 15m – but for 80m?  My plan is an inverted-L –  we’ll see.

 

 

Planning for the Fall Contest Season

The longer COVID has gone on, the only thing that has become clearer is that there is no clear end game in sight. I fully expect to be in some lockdown this winter, coupled with no travel (personal or professional), that leaves a lot of time for radio.

As such my own ham plans have continued to evolve.

I’ve begun working on the set-up in earnest.  The hardware will be two IC-7300 radios running N1MM.   It’s going to take two months to get everything in place and get the gear here.

Below, you can see the beginning.  I’ve got a 36″ x 80″  table with a 12″ riser measuring 20″ x 48″.    On the back of the table,  I have copper pipe serving as a bus bar.  The power supplies are going to move off the main table to a small table just off to the left of the main table.  I’ve pulled the table out from against the wall by 18″ giving me just enough room to squeeze back there.

On the antenna side,  my plan is pretty straightforward.

Radio A (left) will be a multiplier radio, fully automated with N1MM:
AL-811 Amplifier
43′ Vertical with MFJ-998RT Remore Tuner

Radio B (right) will be the run radio, fully automated with N1MM
Expert1.3K-FA Amplifier
160m:  Inverted Vee
80m:  Inverted Vee (or maybe Inverted L)
40m:  Delta Loop
EU:  20m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  15m, 3 ELE Beam
EU:  10m, 3 ELE Beam

 

IMG_2927

One of the pleasures of FT8

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about FT8 is the ability to work smaller stations around the world.  In contesting parlance, these are second tier stations – stations that aren’t necessarily running big power and big antennas.

It’s been a lot of fun on FT8 to work, for example,  more SVs and TAs than ever before.  Guys running 100w with a balcony or rooftop antenna in Athens or Istanbul are workable.

Last night on 30m, I had a great “deep Russia” run on 30m.  Check it out:

2020-05-01,01:43:30,2020-05-01,01:44:45,UA9JLL,MP23,10.137300,FT8,-08,-14,,,
2020-05-01,01:49:30,2020-05-01,01:50:45,UA9LL,MO27,10.137300,FT8,-08,-17,,,
2020-05-01,01:52:00,2020-05-01,01:53:15,RA4LY,LO44,10.137300,FT8,-12,-06,,,
2020-05-01,01:53:45,2020-05-01,01:55:15,R1QA,KO99,10.137300,FT8,-10,-12,,,
2020-05-01,01:56:15,2020-05-01,01:57:15,UA4HJ,LO43,10.137300,FT8,-11,-10,,,
2020-05-01,01:59:00,2020-05-01,02:00:15,KE6PLA,DM04,10.137300,FT8,-08,-11,,,
2020-05-01,02:01:15,2020-05-01,02:02:15,RA9WAN,,10.137300,FT8,-09,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:02:45,2020-05-01,02:05:15,KD4IE,EL98,10.137300,FT8,-08,-19,,,
2020-05-01,02:07:30,2020-05-01,02:10:15,W6JCH,DM13,10.137300,FT8,-07,-09,,,
2020-05-01,02:15:45,2020-05-01,02:17:15,VE7UM,CN89,10.137300,FT8,-17,-16,,,
2020-05-01,02:19:45,2020-05-01,02:20:45,UA4CCH,LO21,10.137300,FT8,-07,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:27:15,2020-05-01,02:30:14,RW0AR,NO66,10.137300,FT8,-23,-20,,,
2020-05-01,02:30:45,2020-05-01,02:31:45,AD0WX,EM48,10.137300,FT8,-02,-03,,,
2020-05-01,02:32:30,2020-05-01,02:33:45,UA6HJT,LN14,10.137300,FT8,-16,-18,,,
2020-05-01,02:37:45,2020-05-01,02:38:45,RK4R,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-15,,,
2020-05-01,02:39:45,2020-05-01,02:40:45,R4IK,,10.137300,FT8,-06,-13,,,
2020-05-01,02:42:00,2020-05-01,02:42:45,R2DRE,,10.137300,FT8,-05,-17,,,
2020-05-01,02:43:30,2020-05-01,02:44:45,RK7C,LN05,10.137300,FT8,+00,-14,,,
2020-05-01,02:51:30,2020-05-01,03:58:01,RK4PH,LO45,10.137300,FT8,-13,-14,,,

I think this is what makes FT8 great.  It’s opened up a pretty great world for small stations.  I run simple antennas and low power but I know my signal predictability can reach most corners of the world at certain times on certain frequencies that I could not get too on SSB or CW.

FT8 with an Amplifier?

I’ve really been enjoying FT8 over the last month.  I’ve made a ton of QSOs.  Very fun.

I’ve been running about 5w from an Alinco DX-S8RT into a 43′ Vertical.  The Alinco doesn’t have easily adjusted power out – so it’s either 1w, 5w or about 80w (advertised as 100w).  I recently added a RM Italy HLA-305V amplifier into the mix.  My 5w on 40m is now about 190w. The results have been astounding.  My average CQ response rate on 40m (sample sizes of 500 QSOs in 0000-0400z hours) of stations calling me went from an average of 5 QSOs per hour with 5w to 13 per hour with 190w.

I’m tremendously happy with this station improvement.

Good Ground Systems are Expensive

This article does not constitute advice. Please consult an engineer or professional if you need help.  I read the excellent ARRL book Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur to get my inspiration for the ground system I am going to describe.

I’m using the word ground system for a reason.  I’m trying to accomplish multiple things by improving my station ground system:

  • AC Safety
  • Lightning Protection
  • RF Management

I want to show one diagram from W8JI’s website below.  It’s important because it is a reasonable proxy for what I’m trying to do.  See below.

Background:

  • There is no economical way for my feedlines to come in to the house next to the utility entrance, so my feedline entrance is separate than my utility entrance (where my power comes in).
  • My house’s AC service ground rod is in my basement.

What I decided to do:

  • Currently, I have one master feedline that goes out from my basement shack to a 4 position switch.  Just before the run hits the switch, I pass the run through a UHF-UHF bulkhead box that has a 5′ ground rod beneath it.  The attachment is done with #6 AWG wire.  My 43′ vertical also has 2 x 5′ ground rods beneath it bonded to the radial field of the antenna.  The goal of these ground rods is to keep as much energy away from my house, in the event of lightning hitting an antenna or nearby area.
  • I have three Alpha-Delta lightning Transi-Traps on the feedlines (one spare, one for HF described above, and one for VHF antennas).  The Transi Traps are rated at 2KW and are able to pass DC as I use DC for antenna switching.  These are located at my basement feed-line entrance. Each one has its’ own 5′ foot ground rod.  All the rods are bonded together.  The goal of these is to shunt off transient energy before it gets to the radios.
  • The Transi-Traps entrance point is bonded to the Utility AC service ground rod that is some 40ft away in the basement via #6 AWG wire (even if I brought the feedlines into the utility entrance. The Utility AC service basement ground rod is in a remarkably inconvenient location from both the service entrance and the feedline entrance (and about 50′ further from the antennas than the feedline entrance).
  • I also employ a perimeter ground loop.  The loop is 175′ of #4 AWG Copper wire. It is bonded to both the feedline entrance point and the AC service entrance.  The depth is about 12″. At the AC service entrance, I am using the same path to ground that the phone & internet companies are using to get to the AC service ground rod in the basement, via a small bus bar outside of the house with small gauge wire. The idea here is that based on a lightning strike to the antennas or the power lines without a perimeter ground, I may just be partially diverting the energy.  It’s my Alamo.  I’ve got more to do to beef this up – getting a professional to add heavy gauge access to the AC service ground rod (I have yet to price this out).  Another improvement will be to add more ground rods to the perimeter ground.
  • Each piece of equipment I have with a ground connection is attached to the system (Transceiver,  Power Supply, Antenna Tuner) via a short run of copper braid.  They all run to one point on a 2′ stand-alone copper pipe bus bar where they are firmly secured with hose clamps.  This bus bar is bonded to the run that goes between feedline entry ground and AC service ground.

Materials totaling $517:

  • Transi-Traps.  $55.00 x 3   =  $165.00
  • Ground Rods.  $12.00 x 6 =  $72.00
  • Ground Rod Clamps  $5.00 x 8  = $30.00
  • 100′ of #6 AWG  $75.00
  • 175′ of #4 AWG  $125.00
  • 2′ Copper Pipe Bus Bar  $20.00
  • 30′ of 1/2 inch copper braid  $30.00

 

Houseground-best

Featured

About this site

Hello!

Welcome to my website about my ham radio activities.  I’ve put this website together to help me keep a record of my own ham radio projects and activities.  I’m happy your here, but I’ve primarily written this website for myself.

But I think you could find some of the interesting information. It’s a living, breathing work in progress.

73, Jeff N1SNB

n1snb

Upcoming Contests & Station Work

I’ve been getting the station in gear for a serious effort (by my standards and for my equipment limitations) for the WPX contest.   Reviewing the rules, the focus is pretty simple.  Work anybody, anywhere but there are some special caveats that apply to my situation vis-a-vis making a high score.

  • Focus on Europe on 40m.  I’m the loudest here on this band and can reliably EU and hold a frequency (in any contest except CQ WW DX CW).  These QSOs are worth 6 points.(on 20m they are worth 3).
  • Canadians on 40m/80m/160m. There are lots of easy to work, strong Canadians east of Ontario.  They are worth 4 points.
  • Maximize operating time on 40m for EU (my sunset and their sunrise).  Numerous years of operating have taught me that the final 3 hours of the contest are very important for me on 40m.  The herd has thinned and if conditions are OK, I can put together a good run
  • Maximize operating time on 20m in the late mornings, early afternoons  – I’m at my worst when 20m just opens up.  I don’t have the low angle, high power combination to make this productive.
  • Don’t DX or even chase mults.  I can waste a lot of time in hopeless pileups.  For me, these are pileups on a North-South general path – where my local topography and low power are a losing combination.
  • Related to above,  I saw an idea from a K5ZD Contest University presentation to use VFO/memories of the radio to store stations to revisit while in S & P mode.  See the presentation.

Audio Mixing for a Ham Station

I made a nice enhancement to the station.  I had an old Dunestar audio mixer in my drawer.  It’s a neat little device that takes audio from two radios and then gives you the ability to mix the audio to your liking.  One or the other radio only, both radios and any mix of audio therein.  It’s a holdover from when I was building an SO2R operation.  But right now my plans aren’t for this kind of contest operating.

But – I’ve got another use for it.  I like to listen in on various nets and pileups and watch TV at the same time.  Voila – this mixer is perfect!  Another great application from my RTTY contesting days, is to tune RTTY and watch movies at the same time.

Very useful addition to this station.

dunestar

Ham Radio Club Meetings on Zoom?

I went to the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC)meeting on Zoom.

The meetings are normally in person, in a centrally located spot.  The clubs membership comes from all over England, parts of New York and Quebec.  In the past, getting to a club meeting requires 4 hours of driving.  I think in 15 years, I made it to 5 meetings.

But owing to COVID-19 we did on Zoom.  It was well run by W1UE, the club president. I think the attendees enjoyed it very much.  I think these video conference meetings are an absolutely wonderful medium for large regional clubs.  I hope they continue in the future. It’s great to see everyone and meet without giving up the whole day.

 

 

Station Work – What are your goals?

Being home in quarantine gives one a lot of time to think about future plans for the station.

My plans are coalescing now around a few key ideas I’d like to get done by October:

  • Get as loud as possible.  More contacts = more fun
    • Improve all band vertical with addition of new radials
    • Bring back 20m Delta Loop
    • Bring back DX-LB Dipole for 160-40
    • Purchase all AL-811 amplifier.  I’ve used these before.  They are cheap enough and reliable enough.
    • Get two permanently mounted RCS-4 boxes in the backyard to allow for expansion to 8 antennas:
      • 43′ All band vertical
      • 66′ 80m vertical
      • Phased 40m verticals  NE/SW
      • DX-LB 160-40m Inverted V at 40′  NE/SW
      • 20m/10m Delta Loop at 40′
      • 80m NVIS end fire wire at 8′
    • This is a setup that historically got it done for me back in 2011.
  • Get as automated as possible
    • IC7300 to become main radio and easily works with computer with just a USB cable