Category Archives: Amature Radio

Still looking for my voice…

After nearly a decade you would think I’d have found my voice for this blog. Having changed the focus so many times doesn’t help much I suppose. Personal blog, business blog, aviation focus, woodworking focus, I mean, really… how many times have I twisted this thing into something I needed/wanted at the moment? I’ve lost count.

I don’t know if I will ever know what my blog voice is. I do know, I need to write more frequently if I ever want to find that voice. March 28th, 2018 is marked down on the calendar as my 10th Blogaversary. The family and I have a lot of big changes in our lives taking place between now and March. I am hopeful that I will at least have a whisper if not a voice by then.

Big changes? First and foremost, we are moving. Not just across town, to another state. I say this because I have always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. 50 years and the only time I wasn’t living in the area was a six month period I lived and worked on a job-site in Stockton, less than two hours from here. In fact, the family and I have been living in the same apartment for over 21 years.

Beginning July 1st, we will be in transition to our new-to-us house in Klamath Falls, Oregon. New town, new state, new house, new jobs; big changes. I haven’t lived in a house in 40 years, Tammy hasn’t lived in a house in almost 30. I am very excited about these changes. We want to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle and getting out of the multi-million populated urban sprawl and moving to a city of fewer than thirty-thousand people is a great start. We will be looking for our forever-homestead after we get up to KF and have had a chance to get to know the area.

Another change for us is the earnest desire to get outdoors and go do things. Sightsee, hike, canoe, just get out in nature, which will be interesting since none of us have lived in an area it snows, or rains a lot. It will take some time to acclimate to the area and its weather.

So you can see, there will be a lot of subject matter potential for the blog and writing in general. I am not making any commitments right now, but I would like to see myself post at least 500 words at least once a week. That seems like a reasonable goal. I am also looking forward to more interesting photographic subject matter to be included in the posts.

Along with all of the changes in lifestyle and location, we are hoping to make a few changes internally. With all of the out-and-about, we will be working on getting more physically fit, and tuning into the new, smaller, less frantic world around us. One of the reasons I don’t go out much anymore is the crush of people everywhere we go. I have to tune out so much background noise just to get from point A to point B. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming.

When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people in urban areas seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming. The density of it all accelerates the environments natural selection, adaptations, and migrations. An interesting idea for a sociology hypothesis… later.

My only regular outing is going to Volunteer Examiner sessions for Amateur Radio license exams on the first and third Saturday of the month. On more than a few occasions, I have not left the property we manage between VE sessions. If I don’t need something or have been asked to help someone, I would rather just stay on-site. My current density adaptation is to isolate/insulate when possible.

Not healthy, physically or otherwise. Socializing has followed the same lines, aside from the internet, I only see the folks at VE, or chat with other hams on the radio. Radio will still be my main social outlet, but I am looking forward to participating in things with actual people, not just internet friends or disembodied voices.

Any way you slice it, there are some big changes in store for our family. I for one am looking forward to some change with open eyes, mind, and arms. Klamath Falls… bring it on!

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Here’s to new adventures

The bag is empty, no cats here. Our move to Klamath Falls is now eminent!

Last week we put down a deposit on a nice little 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in the Altamont area of Klamath Falls. The original plan was to live in town for a couple of years while we build on the property we purchased back in June 2016. Over the course of the weekend, there was a rollercoaster of ups and downs emotionally but in the end, we were very happy with the results of the weekend.

The property we bought in 2016 is not going to be a good fit, but we have worked out the details and it looks like we won’t loose any money, or very little at any rate. We still have the capital we invested over the year to invest in another property a little farther down the road. Once we get established in KF we will start looking for a property for our forever homestead.

Back in April, we made the commitment to set some target dates for moving and finding work. The advantage of setting those dates was having targets to aim at. With a target in sight, we started packing the non-essentials early on to distribute the chore of packing. Last weekend we planned to go up to KF and look at a couple of rental properties with the hope of at least getting to know some of the realtors and property owners in the area. Actually finding a place was only secondary.

The Universe was smiling on us and we found a great little house with nice neighbors and a great property owner to boot. So, we came home renters for the first time in over 20 years. It’s been a very long time since either of us has lived in a house and nearly as long since we rented. Anyway, you look at it, we are in for an adventure.

Once we got home, the Universe continued to smile as we purchased a trailer kit and a bunch of accessories and paying several hundred dollars less than expected. I also was able to round up everything I needed in short order. The trailer is a lot like the one I purchased as a kit about 25 years ago after coming back to the area from rebuilding a house in Stockton. The assembly was about what I remembered with only a few changes. I got the entire frame up and structurally completed in two days. One more day and I should have it road ready with all of the electrical.

Next week I plan on wrapping up the electrical and getting started on the box which should only take a day or two. The good news is, I don’t need to have the trailer finished until June 30th. Come the first of July I will begin making trips up to the house. We will be all moved up by August first, which is good since that is when we need to be out of our apartment.

One of the things I am very much looking forward to is having a good radio antenna up for HF radio. I am also looking forward to having some room for woodworking projects. Who knows, I may even get to an aircraft build some time soon. I don’t know how all of these things are going to work out, but I am confident we will move forward in our goals.

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

September?

Okay, I confess, I have been one lazy blogger this year. There are a number of reasons for the lack of posting, but a lack of things to post about is not one of them. Trying to finding my voice for this blog is the main reason I haven’t been posting much. Another is that we have been flying under the radar on some personal matters.

Let’s begin with the former, shall we?

Voice

A blog must have a distinct voice of its own for it to be ‘successful.’ At least that’s what I have heard. In part, I guess my dilemma is that I’m not sure what I want the blog to be, how to gauge success, or what I would even consider that to be.

As the name FlyBoyJon implies, I am a pilot and the early intent for the site was to chronicle the journey of an adventure pilot. Something that I work on for several years was a series of adventure flights. Sadly those plans fell through and with them the aviation adventures I had intended to blog about.

Over time life has impinged on my flying to such a point that it has now bee quite some time since I took to the skies. This is something that nags at me far more than I often let on. There is nothing sadder than a grounded pilot.

Itching to get back in the air I had begun an experimental aircraft build project. Once again life stepped in. I ended up going back to school to get my FAA mechanics license and a degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology. A good thing to be sure, but it made me seriously rethink my choice in aircraft for the experimental build. Something I do plan on getting back too.

Further keeping me from aviation posts here was the decision to separate my personal aviation from business aviation. I added a domain for my professional aviation work. And once again life has a way of changing plans. My professional aviation pursuits have also been tabled for the time being.

By now I bet this is sounding rather whiny, it is to me. Believe it or not, I’m not complaining. It’s just the way things have gone down. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not loaded with disposable cash so some things just have to wait and I’m okay with that.

A long-time interest that resurfaced during mechanic school was amateur radio. I finally got my ham license and rose through the licenses and started volunteering as an examiner for license tests. Ham radio is a specific, narrowly focused interest though and it required another blog, and domain all its own. I also ended up getting a commercial radio license with hopes of it being of use in my aviation pursuits.

My wife and I also have a personal site. For a long time, it was a personal journal and email site, then a genealogy site, and later back to just an email host. Now it is our online business site.

We currently have five domains with three active sites. The two inactive ones being for commercial interests. With all of these domains and sites and not much going on in my aviation world I just didn’t know what to do with this site. So I’m back to Voice. What is the voice for this site?

Land ho!

As to the second matter, flying under the radar… That has to do with our future planning. All things tallied up, there is no way in hell we will ever be able to retire if we stay in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. That’s like 10 counties of no-way-in-hell.

To be brutally honest, I have really grown to hate California. The legislature seems to collectively suffer from cranial-sphincter insertion syndrome and has a nasty habit of passing really bad legislation. The urban sprawl has become grossly over-populated, the economy sucks, and it’s just too damn expensive. It has also become very difficult to find any meaningful work here that would make staying viable.

With California not making much sense for us, we decided to look for some rural property in southern Oregon. Back in June, we purchased a two-and-a-half acre lot outside of Bonanza, Oregon, about 30 minutes northeast of Klamath Falls. As crazy as it sounds, we still haven’t made it out to look at the property. We were in KF in May and had planned on working with an agent based in Bonanza. After several ‘scheduling issues,’ we dropped the agent and came home. I wasn’t happy with the outcome of the trip and was feeling frustrated and generally in a funk when we came across this lot and jumped on it.

I had a good feeling about this property and Tammy had an uncharacteristically neutral feeling about the whole thing, almost zen like. When it comes to buying a rural property, that’s about as in sync as I think we could get. Since then we have both been gearing up for the big change physically and emotionally.

So when will we be moving up north? Who knows. We have been paying off the land, which is just that, land. I will need to build the homestead. I do want to get up there fairly soon because I don’t want to be 60 trying to build a house, but we aren’t in a huge rush. We need to bank some materials and resources, most likely find a gig for a year or two, maybe longer, or get really lucky with some online work. We certainly don’t want to try and move or build during the winter so it will be a spring or summer affair in the next year or two.

This kind of planning takes a long time. I had been studying a lot of building, farming, and permaculture subjects for over five years to get to the point where I was ready to make this happen. This has been a long time in the making.

So why haven’t I been blogging any of this? Ther has been too much fluidity in everything involved. We have a gig now and we didn’t want to stir anything up with a potential move and no defined timeline for one. We still don’t have a defined timeline, but we are much closer to having one.

One of the reasons I didn’t start posting in June was that we haven’t been able to get up there and do a land and resource survey of the property. It’s tough to make a building plan without knowing where it is going to be seated especially if you are hoping to work with the land and not forcing the land to your will.

What we have been able to do is to start the weather tracking now that we know where the land is, and follow the seasonal trending. We are also going back into the historical weather record for the area. There is a webcam a few miles from the property, but that is of limited use.

Back to the blog and its voice

So what does this have to do with finding a voice? I’m not sure. I have things to say and it’s usually something of an editorial nature on several somewhat related subjects. Mostly in the theological, sociological realms. Really it comes down to, will this be an editorial or journal, or maybe a hybrid? I honestly don’t know at this point. What I do know is that I want to be writing and this is a good place to do that. For now, I’m going to let things flow and see where it leads.

Until next time,
~Jon

Post 201

Profile PicYesterday was an odd day. I suppose it was odd for many Americans for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of course being the 14th anniversary of 9-11, so I didn’t notice that my post yesterday was my 200th post.

For me September 11th has a strangely linked secondary meaning, it was also the day I started my formal flight-school training in 2003, though technically my first flight was April 22nd, 2003. I only had three flight lessons before deciding to go the professional academy route and the next available start date began five months later on September 11.

I always seem to think about aviation stuff on 9-11. Most of the time it is a sub-conscious shift in thought. I don’t even realize I have been thinking aviation until after my thought have shifted. Yesterday’s post obviously was aviation in theme and I have been mulling around a lot of stuff the last 12 hours or so.

When I notice the post being #200 this morning, it got me thinking of the many firsts I have encountered in the last decade or so; first pilot’s license, first college class taken, first instructors license, first aviation class taught, first mechanic’s license, first college class taught, first college degree, first amateur radio license, and my first VE session.

I’m sure there have been many other firsts along the way, certainly many smaller firsts came about as a result of these, but these in particular are mile-stone moments to me. They are all significant events marking recognized achievements in areas I am passionate about. Aviation, and radio, are things that are deeply embedded in my being. They have been a part of me in some form for much longer than a decade.

My contemplations of yesterday and today have been not only a pondering of opportunities and ideas. They have been a review of accomplishments, a review of the goals I have set for myself, how they intertwine, and how at several points I allowed myself to be distracted from the task at hand. Looking back from today’s vantage point, many of those delays were actually necessary. Ether to gain non-related skills, take the time for technology to change, or just let some things ruminate.

FrieslandIn many ways it is analogous to the farmer. Working the soil, providing nutrients, and sewing seeds. As the farmer must wait for the seeds to germinate and grow, I have been doing other “chores” waiting for that germination and growth. Stuff around the farm that may not directly relate to that crop, but still important for the overall operation of the farm. Now it’s time to do the finishing. Harvest comes soon, some will be reaped and some let go to seed.

What I really want to be doing as shifted, reformed, and modified, but those basic goals are still the same. The same as they have been for over a decade. Now I am in a much better position to see them through. Now it’s time to refocus on the finishing before harvest and make things happen.

I like it when an analogy comes together.

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Interests In Phase

My last post was full of projects I have been working on all year, an annual wrap-up as it were. If you payed only slight attention to the post you would probably notice that nearly all of the projects were woodworking projects. If you went back to posts and social media of late 2013 and early 2014 you would find that most references were to amateur radio, go back a little further and there was a nearly three-year stretch of mostly aviation mechanic stuff.

What does it all mean? Does this guy flit around from interest to interest and never finish anything or stick with anything? No, and yet sort of.

When you have a wide range of interests it is difficult to work within the scope of all of them at once. Often times projects will spur interest or rekindle interests never pursued when they encompass something “new.” Take radio for example. I have been doing radio stuff since the early 80s. I was into CB back then and later with Search and Rescue that continued. When working in towing I did a lot of auto-electric and radio work. One of the things that got me into CB was a desire to work short wave. What brought radio back into phase for me was aviation.

My personal interests in aviation mechanicing are widely separated, and at the same time not so divergent. My greatest personal interest is in restoration of early aircraft, around 1910-1930. In the latter part of this radio was just making it into aircraft. To work on radios in aviation you need an FCC General Radio Operator License (GROL) as well as FAA approval. As an A&P student I found that while the FAA mandated curriculum lags behind current technology (some stuff from the 40s is still required knowledge) it is still much further ahead of the period I am interested in.

Beyond my personal interests, I need to be marketable as a mechanic to get a job. An A&P mechanic with an FCC GROL with a RADAR endorsement seems to have an advantage to me. To get the commercial licenses it made sence to get an education on the subject matter. I had just finished two years of A&P school and the thought of starting a new major and taking on more student loans seemed like a bad idea. Re-enter amateur radio. Now, 30 years after my initial desire to get  a ham license, I have my Amateur Extra Class license. 

Woodworking also ties into this mix. Hams don’t just talk on the radio, they build them. They build structures to contain them, they build a lot of stuff. Well, some do anyway. It wasn’t just radio that pushed me further into my woodworking zone though.

Back in the early 90s I rebuild my great-uncles house after he passed away. I have been doing odd construction related stuff for years but this was my first big project. I had to learn a lot before starting various trade work, and I did learn a lot and I have put it to good use over the last few decades. I like wood working and construction, it is very satisfying.

So with this back ground of making stuff building my own airplane seemed like a good idea. Many of the early aircraft were wood structures. Even the largest airplane ever built, the Spruce Goose was a wood structure airplane. This is how woodworking got me into aviation maintenance.

By now I bet a few things are clear and some are clear as mud. All of my interests tie together, somehow. Even homesteading ties to my interests. Some more obvious than others.

So, back to interests in phase. The desire to work on projects in various areas of interest all the time is always there. The needs of the time dictate what specific areas need the most attention at that moment. I can keep a few things floating at a time but not everything.

One of my current goals is to do stuff from various interests more often, mix them up a little more.  I have a tendency to go all-in when phase shifts and one skill becomes more timely than the others. Subsequently, it looks like I’m often distracted by another shiny. If I am truly honest with myself there is a degree of truth to being distracted. Fortunately it is distraction by a subject/project/research that I most likely would have ended up doing anyway.

~FlyBoyJon/KK6GXG/A&P/…

Acceptable Tech Level

Today was a great day. I got up early to head out to the Saratoga Fire Station to take my Amateure radio Extra class exam. I am happy to report that I can now use the temporary callsign KK6GXG/AE, for those not in Ham radio, that means I passed. Needless to say I was stoked to reach this, the highest level of amateure radio licence. Lots of plans are piling up for radio projects on my desk/bench so there will be reports on those to come, this post however, is not about radio.

Water Grinder & MotorAfter the test the wife and I went to the De Anza College Flea Market. I found something I have been looking for for a long time, a sharpening stone (wet stone) grinding wheel. What I had been looking for was a manual, or hand-crank type that can be easily adapted to a foot-treadle or bow-spring drive. The one that I found was attached to a motor via a reduction pulley-and-belt system, though in honesty I didn’t realize how low the reduction was at first.

My initial reaction was to remove the motor and adapt the wet-grinder to a manual power source right off the bat. After looking up the patent info on the motor and seeing what it was originally intended for a story began to emerge on the origins of this particular assemblage.

The board everything is mounted on does not appear to be that old. The dimensions are modern, making the mounting 2 x 12, at oldest, from the 60s. The mounting hardware is a mix of 50s and contemporary. The casting and markings of the wet-grinder suggest that it was cast in the 1920s to 1930s. The patent date of the motor is from 1926. This particular 1/4 HP motor was designed for washing machines of the 20s and 30s. A newer motor was produced after the war and the model and frame numbers on the data plate suggest that this motor was produced in the 30s.

20140607_191708The story I have come up with is that these parts were cobbled together in their current configuration some time the 70s from parts and used regularly for a significant time as such and eventually shelved in a shed where they had been sitting for at least a decade.
I ended up doing a mechanical teardown tonight. I was planning on getting started with the electrical teardown and testing tomorrow. For the most part this was an inspection teardown. I didn’t do any “repair” although I did fill the water reservoir with a rust remover to begin prepping it, and to see if it still holds fluid. I didn’t detect any leaks and we will see if it develops any overnight.

20140607_191718The plan is to deal with the mechanical and electrical as completely separate restorations. The mechanical is the primary because I can still set it up as a manual wet-grinder and begin using it.
I have a number of sharpening projects that need to get done soon and this would be a big help in speeding things up. Once rust is abated I think a couple of coats of iron oxide primer followed up with a couple of coats of oil-based paint should provide a sufficient level of protection.

Once the mechanicals are all taken care of I will spend some time on the electrical motor. At this time I have no information on the motor other than what’s on the data plate.

20140607_114338So why the title “Acceptable Tech Level”? one of the reasons I wanted a manual grinder was to further the off-grid hand tool goals I have been trying to work with. With this particular configuration I can easily swing it over to manual and with the motor most likely being from the 20s-30s it falls into my era of interest in aircraft and is also from around the same time as several of my inherited and acquired hand tools meaning it fits right in with many of my vintage tools. The important part is that it CAN be used with manual power.

Until next time…

☮ ♥ ✈ & 73,
~FlyBoyJon / KK6GXG

Voice Communications

20140518_105456You may have noticed this placard over my shack bench desk. I didn’t have this made for me, I inherited it. It was my mom’s placard, traveling with her throughout her various offices at Amdahl/Fujitsu.

Mom had a long relationship with telecommunications throughout her life. My earliest memories of my mom working were of her plugging the switchboards at an answering service. She made a second career for herself as a bookkeeper for many years but returned to switchboard communications where she stayed the rest of her life. She was a very talented communications operator and supervisor.

I didn’t spend huge amounts of time at the answering service growing up, but I was there enough to learn about tip & ring, how switchboards worked, the old cord-boards, and what the miles of wire behind them were for. I was lucky I suppose, there was a phone company technician swinging lines fairly often while I was there. In some small way I think that experience influenced my desire to go work for the phone company, which I did for a short time.

20140512_170250Looking at mom’s placard this morning I got a little nostalgic and started thinking about how I have been involved in communications, at least peripherally, as long as I can remember. In some way it seems as though I inherited more than just the placard. Communications seems to run through our veins.

As it turns out mom wasn’t the only family member in communications. My grandfather Robert was in communications while in the Navy during WWII. My great-uncle Allan was a signalman in the Navy as well during the war (WWII.) Allan also worked for a military aviation contractor working with navigation and avionics equipment after his hitch ended. These two related fields seem to be hereditary in my family. Robert had some connection to aviation as well, but the details are sketchy.

I never met my grandfather or spent any time with my great-uncle when he was alive. I found out about their experiences with communications and aviation while doing genealogy work after my mom passed in 2006. Like so many other vets, they didn’t talk about these experiences with their families.

Radio and aviation have always been comfortable places for me. I feel good doing these things. Even when I am frustrated or stumped, I can always figure things out and learn new skills. There are vast communities to get involved with for both, but they also provide space for solitary practitioners looking for some alone time. Both fields also seem to interact easily and many skill sets translate from one to the other well. Both also are very broad in scope, they have many sub-sets of interest to keep an interested party busy with a seemingly infinite variety of new things to learn and do. I am very grateful to be a part of both fields and I look forward to years of continued participation and sharing in both of these communities.

☮ ♥ ✈ & 73,
~FlyBoyJon / KK6GXG

CW Oscillator

The shack/radio bench is rapidly evolving. I have been working on several radio projects, most of which have been relatively small. The most recent project is a CW (Morse Code) practice oscillator. It allows me to practice sending code while I learn.

I had built a transistor based oscillator which worked okay but the tone wasn’t that stable, or loud enough to be that useful. I had a drawn up a simple transistor amplifier that I planned on adding to the circuit board, but the design is still less that optimal from a stability standpoint
After building the transistor version I decided to try an IC (integrated circuit) based oscillator. The tone quality, stability, and volume are much better than the transistor type. I built the oscillator on a breadboard to test the circuit out and make sure everything was in working order.

After checking everything out I started laying it out on paper the way I would actually wire it all together on a proto-board.

Everything worked great so I was ready to get to the next phase of the project, building the housing for the whole thing
The plan for the case was to build a wooden box with as much of a vintage (read steampunkish) look to it so it was time to move operations from the shack/radio bench down to the workshop.

First up was to design a basic box. I chose Douglas fir for the frame pieces and mahogany plywood for the panels.

Since I was going for the steampunk look, brass, lots of brass. Everything was stuff I had around the shop so there was no waiting. More importantly, I have lots of the stuff so I can experiment a little.

 

The box was all hand cut and assembled. Everything is held together with glue though I did use brass pin nails for accent. The brass speaker grill doubles as a retainer for the analog acoustic speaker. I didn’t want to use the cheap plastic one in the project. The sound just isn’t the same as the paper speaker.

The other end panel was going to just be wood and nails, but I decided to go with an accent that would double as a way to open the panel. This panel needs to be removable because the battery is on this end. I went with a key hole on a whim, it just looked right. It was a bugger to hand file the whole plate but I think it’s worth it.
The box took two days to plan, cut out all of the materials and to assemble. The brass work was done the second day as well. It took a third day to apply the several coats of linseed oil that I used for the finish.

Once the box was all done and the finish was dried it was time, on the fourth day now, to plan out exactly how I was going to install the guts.

I know this was not a very thoroughly planned project. I planned out the electronics pretty well, but the case, well that was very much an on-the-fly thing.

Any way, back to the timeline, with all of the case work done it was time to relocate back to the shack.
Back in the shack I worked out the bugs in case design, well, I developed the work-arounds for the issues that arose from the case design. What can I say, one of the reasons I am doing this project is for a learning experience and I have learned a few things about project design, and project housing design in particular.

There are several things I would do differently if I were to do this project again. One would be to reconsider trying to stick mostly with hand tools. I could have saved myself a ton of time had I built the frame using my router.
I could have routed a single channel strip on the router and just cut the pieces and mitered it all together.

Another change would be to use tiny screws to hold the panels in. I would have had much better access while installing the guts.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Lessons well learned and worth learning.

Below is a short video of the oscillator in operation.

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

I’m a multi-bench kind of guy

20140317_142358While I was in A&P school almost everything I posted was, of course, aviation related. Since I graduated a lot of my time has been spent working with wood. One of the biggest projects, literally, was a new woodworking bench using traditional joinery and oak draw-bore pegs to tightly secure it all together. (later I added a crochet at the left front that was attached with 2 lag bolts which constitute all of the metal on the bench)

But wood isn’t everything. Back in October I took my first Amature Radio license test and earned my Technician class license, last month I took the General class exam and earned my General class license. I’m used to doing computer hardware work and in the past I did a little electronics work so I was familiar with some of the stuff involved in radio, but not a lot.

20140518_130113Back in the 80s I was into CB radio. Later in life when I was working in the towing industry I did a lot of electrical work on our tow trucks which included the radios, and of course, installing my own car stereos since I could drive. These other activities made me a little familiar with Ham radio, but only in a very cursory way. What pushed me to finally do what I had wanted to do for decades was learning more about aircraft radios in A&P school.

Now my “electronics bench” is shifting from computers to radio. I have some basic electrical diagnostic tools and a full compliment of basic hand tools, but I am lacking in some of the basic radio diagnostics and bench-tools. As with woodworking and other trades, what better place to cut your teeth than making some of your own tools.

Dummy Load
Dummy Load

This week on my radio projects list I had one bench tool, a dummy load. For those who may not know, a dummy load is what you would connect a radio transmitter to, instead of an antenna, to conduct a variety of bench tests, usually power output related. Not having a load while transmitting, an antenna or dummy attached, a radio can burn out; basically you are generating a lot of “power” but not giving it anywhere to go. While testing you don’t want to connect an antenna because you would be transmitting all of your tests on-air wasting air-time and occupying a frequency someone else could be using for communication.

So thats why a dummy load, now for the what. A dummy load is used to dissipate RF energy, that would otherwise be radiating from an antenna as radio waves. The load can be dissipated through a resistive material as heat instead of radio signals.

20140430_131228An easy way to accomplish this is to use a resistor with relatively low resistance and that can also handle high power loads. Another criteria is that it shouldn’t radiate, or leak, spurious signals.

That last part becomes tricky because you can’t use resistors that are made from coiled wire, normally the kind used in high power applications because the coils inside the resistors will generate inductive fields. Another more practical way is to use a bunch of lower wattage resistors in parallel so the wattage is accumulated and the resistance kept low.

A trick that can be used to help in the dissipation of heat from the resistors is to submerge the resistor package in a fluid medium that will help dissipate the heat generated by the resistors making them more efficient. The trick with this is to use a medium that has a high flash point so you don’t accidentally start a fire. This is called a “wet dummy load.” It is recommended that transformer oil is used; this is what utility companies use for the same purpose in their large power transformers. Unfortunately this stuff is very expensive. The last time I checked it was $2,300 for a 55 gal drum, about $42 a gallon if you could find it in anything less than 5 gallons. Fortunately there is an alternate, mineral oil, which is pretty close.

So what’s in store next you may ask… A field strength meter is on the list for next week. With any luck I will be able to get out and do some shopping for that project in the next day or two.

That’s all for now, and 73
~FlyBoyJon / KK6GXG