Category Archives: Homebrew

Much Goings On

This first couple of months here have been busy. Building furniture, meeting new people, getting involved in the local radio scene. Trying to build the station up for HF operations.

Ham radio can be a lot of fun even as a solo practitioner, by that I mean working on your own projects. But the fun really kicks in when you are part of the larger community. There are opportunities to engage with fellow hobbyists and the community at large.

KBARA

The local radio club is the Klamath Basin Amateur Radio Association. I started off with the group as a VE for one of the clubs exam sessions and then a couple of events with the group, the Crater Lake Rim Run,  and a Safety Fair. We also had a work party up at two of the clubs repeater sites, Hogsback Mountain and Plum Ridge. The folks are very nice and I have been making a lot of solid radio contacts. Several of the members have been very encouraging in my EmComm endeavors.

The folks are very nice and I have been having a lot of fun. Several of the members have been very encouraging with my EmComm endeavors.

The Community

CERT

I have been in communication with the Klamath County CERT group for a while and have been to one of the meetings, with another one tomorrow night.

Some of the KBARA folks are members of CERT as well so I’m not walking in blind or friendless.

I have turned in my County Volunteer paperwork and I’m just waiting to hear back. So, I’m not a member of the team yet, but things were looking good after the last meeting. We shall see.

NTS

I have wanted to get involved with NTS for a long time. In August I got in touch with the Section Traffic Manager to find out what I needed to do to get a local net going. After a few exchanged emails I started checking in regularly with two of the big Section nets that cover the whole state and several surrounding states, Beaver State Net, and Oregon Emergency Net.

After checking in to BSN and OEN for a couple of weeks I set up a local net, the Klamath Basin Traffic Net. Things are still very new and there hasn’t been much of a response yet, but that’s fine. It’s giving me time to work into it all.

I have had several opportunities to handle traffic from the net and I will start originating traffic once I work out a couple of issues in the station.

Skywarn™

I was hoping to get involved with Skywarn™ but the National Weather Service rep from Medford indicated that the local weather isn’t  that big a deal and the amateur radio presence in this area isn’t active or needed.  Without any support or interest from the served agency, there really aren’t many opportunities to serve. So, I guess I’ll just leave it at that for now.

The Station

There has been a lot going on with the station as well. After a couple of weeks of working the BSN and OEN with my low power, 5 watts, Yaesu FT-817 on the MFJ-1982LP end-fed antenna it was clear that I needed a bit more power to participate in nets, especially when the propagation conditions are bad.

I also needed to do something about the low power Baofeng UV-5R+ handheld transceiver I was using as a base station if I was going to be running a local net.

QYT KT-8900D

The mobile radio I have been using in the truck works very well, so it made sense to use the same radio for the base. This bumped me from a 5 watt HT up to 25 watts. The local net is running on a club repeater, and we do have a backup repeater as well and both have emergency power so 25 watts is fine for making contact throughout much of the southern part of the county.

The club has plans to link with other repeaters so we will have coverage throughout the county and beyond.

Diamond X50A

The homebrew J-Pole I was using would be okay, but it was limited to the 2 meter band and some of the repeaters in the area are in the 70 centemeter band. I needed something with a wider bandwidth and dual-band. Enter the X50A.

It was a simple task to swap out the twin-lead J-Pole antenna, which is now ready for my go kit, and put the X50 in its place. The X50 is also a commonly used antenna for amateur repeaters so it is reliable and can handle more power than I am putting through it.

ICOM IC-718

I mentioned the need for more power on HF. The solution that presented itself was an ICOM IC-718 that one of the club members wasn’t using and was willing to sell. The radio is rated to 100 watts which

The radio is rated to 100 watts, which has been helpful, though the last month band conditions have been crap making 5 watts nearly impossible and even at 100 it’s been difficult.

Initially, I only had the MFJ-1982LP antenna for HF that would cover 80 meters. The LP stands for Low Power, it can only handle 30 watts so when I first started using it I had to keep the power down low making it only a little better than the Yaesu FT-817.

Hy-Gain AV-18VS

The AV18VS is a nifty multi-band antenna that covers 10-80 meters. It uses a manually adjusted inductor to tune the various bands. Since the coil is at the base of the antenna, it’s not practical to get it way up in the air. In fact, it is intended to be used 3-5 feet above the ground. I have mine set at a little over 5 feet but it has a really good ground right under it.

It uses a manually adjusted inductor to tune the various bands. Since the coil is at the base of the antenna, it’s not practical to get it way up in the air. In fact, it is intended to be used 3-5 feet above the ground. I have mine set at a little over 5 feet but it has a really good ground right under it. In fact, it is intended to be used 3-5 feet above the ground. I have mine set at a little over 5 feet but it has a really good ground right under it.

It will likely be less convenient when the weather turns and we start to get snow. I plan on building some kind of hat to keep the snow off. I am still thinking that through.

Mobile

I have been running mobiles since July. I installed a QYT KT-8900D, a Midland MXT400 GMRS, and Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB CB when we first moved. Noone up here uses CB, but there is a lot of ham and GMRS traffic so I ended up pulling the CB.

I had always intended to install permanent mount antennas but it wasn’t practical at the time, which worked out well since I am driving a different vehicle than I started out with.

After getting the new (to me) truck in July I mounted a shelf that replaces the visors, the Vertically Driven Products Shelf-It. This works out great for holding radios and other stuff. We used to install these in all of the tow trucks when I drove tow.

I don’t use the visors, and with them mounted on the Shelf-It it’s hard to see traffic lights, so I just left the visors off.

Yesterday I finally got around to installing the NMO mounts in the roof of the truck. I installed three, one for the QYT KT-8900D, one for the Midland MXT400 GMRS, and a third possibility for the Yaesu FT-817 so I have a mobile HF rig. The only mobile HF antenna I have right now is for 6 and 10 meters. The nice thing about NMO antenna mounts is that they are easy to cap off and use later.

Below are some pics of the NMO installation.

Having the mag mounts on the roof with feedlines crushed through the window gap is just ugly, not to mention it does horrible things to the feedline.

Construction always starts with a bit of demolition. In this case dropping the headliner. I only needed to pull down one side so that’s what I did. It required pulling the Shelf-It out and removing the door trim pieces around the entire door as well as one coat hook and the cab light.

Here I have the back mount installed already and you can see the two 3/4″ holes for the other two.

It looks like quite the mess, but it’s really pretty simple. The white jar on the left is Chemplex silicone grease to coat the weather seals on the connectors and antennas or caps. Clockwise, the punch tool with a box open-end wrench and Allen wrench cuts the holes, in the large bag is a mount with cable just like the one just to its right. The small bags and black cap in the center are covers for the mounts when no antenna is attached. On the rag are needle-nose and slip-joint pliers to tighten the mount down. The brass disk is the installed NMO mount.

Three antennas installed. The front left is the dual-band ham antenna. The one on the right is for GMRS. The stubby one in the center is also a dual-band ham antenna I wanted to check out, a little performance comparison. The NMO mounts are much cleaner than the old mag mounts. I can still use the CB or any other radio that I can get an antenna with an NMO base. My CB antenna does. The advantage is I can move antennas or radios easily.

My apologies for the blurry picture, the camera kept focusing on the near headliner. The radio on the left is the QYT KT-8900D and the one on the right is the Midland MXT400 GMRS. The mics and cords stow on the shelf and there is plenty of room for more radios. I used the holes in the headliner from the visor clips for cables coming out, power on the left just behind the GMRS radio and antenna cables just to the left of the center hump.

Things Upcoming… too much to go into, how about some keywords.

Pi TNCs plural, radio go box, more homebrew antennas, homebrew filter cavities for a repeater, much more digital mode…

Until next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

The Move Is Done

Well, sort of…

We are here in Klamath Falls, Oregon now. We started the move July 1st and I was making runs all July. The old place was officially vacated July 31st. August was the slow unpacking of boxes and the beginning of several furniture building projects. I have built 6 bookcases; 2 of them 40 inches tall, the other 4, 70 inches tall.

I still have a number of things to build like the DVD cabinets that will hold our 1000ish movies and TV shows. I also have a lot of storage containers to build, think apothecaries drawers. Lot’s and lot’s of them.

You can see why I haven’t posted in a while. I have made some upgrades to the shack, well the mobile, the shack is looking rather minuscule right now.

I have absolutely no bench space for shop stuff or electronics. The station is occupying a puny 1 sq.ft. space across 2 shelves, but, I actually have an HF antenna outside! The MFJ-1982LP endfed is up. The feed point is about 15 feet up on the mast my 2m roll-up J-Pole is attached to and the rest of the antenna is supported by 2 31 foot Jackite poles and 20 feet up into the Ponderosa Pine in our front yard.

So far 80 and 40 meters have been kind. The net controls have had to work me pretty hard, but I have been getting through. I have been heard as far away as Victoria BC Canada, La Jolla California, Somewhere in Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Not bad for 5 watts.

The power on the base, my Yaesu FT-817ND, needs a boost now that I am putting together a local NTS Net. I need to make the Local to Section hop on HF more reliably and not make control work so hard. The local net will be on one of the club repeaters.

I have also moved forward by getting involved with a local active club, the Klamath Basin Amateur Radio Association. I have already done two events and a VE session with the club since we got up here. Also in the mix is getting started with the Klamath County CERT program.  There is some early work on getting an ARES/RACES group together. All kinds of fun going on.

Once we got up here I started work on the mobile. The Baofeng UV-5RE+ was not cutting it on 2 meters. I upgraded from 5 watts with a crappy little antenna to 25 watts with a QYT KT-9800D dual band mobile radio and an ANLI DC-124H TriBand antenna.  Much better performance. Also in the mobile, I installed a Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB Single Sideband CB and a Midland MXT400 GMRS radio. There is hardly any CB traffic up here, but surprisingly, there is quite a bit of GMRS traffic.

For a 2 meter base, I have been using one of the 5 watt handhelds attached to the homebrew 2 meter twin-lead J-Pole I built a while back. Now that I am getting hooked up with CERT, I think I should pull the J-Pole out of the PVC and use it as a portable roll-up. I also need a little more juice for poor weather conditions so a 2 meter base upgrade was in order. Another QYT KT-9800D mobile radio and a Diamond X50A dual-band base antenna should work nicely for VHF/UHF. Those will be incorporated into the station by the end of the week.

As for the HF side of the station… I need to poke around for something around 100 watts, which will require an antenna upgrade too. The MFJ-1982LP is only rated to 30 watts. As long as I keep the power down I should be able to use it for a while. That will still give me a 6 db power gain over the 5 watts I am pushing now. Anything should help. The section nets are on 80 and 40 meters so I will need an antenna that covers at least 10-80 meters. 100 watts should be more than enough for my needs.

Oh, one other thing, I finally got my Skywarn ID number, now I need to find a net for Skywarn. I haven’t found anything in southeastern Oregon yet. I’ll keep looking.

Anyway, that’s the status update for now. Look for an NTS page to be added to the site soon.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Another successful class

Just a short post today. This weekend I held another Technician license class, and it went great!

Another small and diverse class, best of all everyone passed with flying colors. I really do have a lot of fun doing these; by Sunday evening I am wired, completely exhausted, and absolutely fried mentally, I love every minute of it.

Two more classes in April, one Technician and one General, and that ends my currently posted calendar. I may be adding more classes after a visit from out of state family. We shall see.

In other radio news, I have been busy building dipole antennas. I am up to a 6 meter, 10 meter, and a 20 meter. I will definitely be adding a 40 meter to that soon. I have been looking for steel materials suppliers for 1/4 λ verticals. I want to build individual 70cm, 2m, 6m, and 10m. I think I may have found one. If so I will be working on a vertical array in the near future.

After I get all of the bands covered with basics, I want to start working on directional beams, at least for the main bands. I will wait for a while on these. Down the road, I also want to build some of the more exotic antenna varieties, including multi-bands, and arrays.

Antennas are usually relatively quick builds, which is great. Radio builds tend to take a bit longer. I have a couple of radio projects in limbo at the moment. Once I get some cabling projects finished for digital modes, I will also be getting back to the radio projects.

The build that seems to be taking forever is the Beach 40 project. This one needs to get back on the priority list. I should be able to get back to it this fall.

In VE news… This weekend will be my 54th VE session with the Silicon Valley VE group, something else I truly enjoy doing.

That’s it for now.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from KK6GXG!

It’s been a long year. Some plans played out, others didn’t. In the end, the things that did play out were long time goals. Those that didn’t pan out where short term and are still in the mix for future completion.

On the plus side, I did manage to get a bunch of VE sessions into the schedule this year. 27 so far with one more next Saturday for a year total of 28 sessions. That makes a grand total of 46 since I started as a VE.

Another plus was finally building a crystal set. It’s one of those things lots of people build as kids and most builder hams have done them as well. I hadn’t until now. It worked out well and I could hear several stations. In the future, I plan on building different variations and working on fine tuning them.

2017 promises to be an interesting year filled with many new builds, completion of some projects, and a lot of operating.

In the meantime…

Happy Holidays to All

~Jon KK6GXG

 

July? Has it really been that long?

Wow, yes it has in fact been that long.

20151104_161606From a building stand point… nothing new has been going on. I am still working on the Beach 40 and the Bitx 20. The Beach 40 still needs the audio section rebuilt and the Bitx20 needs some troubleshooting . I don’t have the facilities to put up a 20 or 40 meter antenna and since both radios are QRP(p), a good antenna is vital to making any contacts.

20151121_072647From an operators perspective… ya, nothing going on there ether. I need to pull down my Frankenstein/Hill Billy mast because we are having our building painted soon. I have plans for a simpler replacement that should work out fine. I’ll post about that if and or when that happens.

From an experimenters view point…  I have been kind of busy lately. Many of the newer radio projects I have been looking at use micro-controllers and embedded Linux systems. All of which I am totally fine with. There are so many other applications besides radio that I can employ these technologies. The only impediment is getting some play time in with these technologies and getting familiar with there capabilities, use, and programming.

arduinoEarlier this year I picked up some Arduino hardware. I haven’t had much time to work with it yet as the Day Job has been keeping me hopping as well as a lot of stuff in the personal life, nothing bad, just a lot of changes and preparations.

Many projects are done with the Arduino and various shields. Some require a little more direction in the form of an embedded system with a true OS. Enter Raspberry Pi and Raspbian.

rpi3bLast week I added a RPi 3B to the hardware pile and began working with it. Along with the Pi I picked up a copy of Exploring Raspberry Pi: Interfacing to the real world with embedded Linux From Wiley written by Derek Molloy.

Linux doesn’t worry me at all. Many moons ago I was a Solaris 7/8 admin as well as a RedHat 7 admin. The problem is that well over a decade has gone by since I actively worked on those systems. I have been in a Windows only environment for so long my Unix brain has turned to mush. So now I’m re-learning the Unix command line and re-acquainting myself with the Linux directory structure along with some all new unique elements of embedded systems and the Raspbian OS in particular.

With all of the projects piling up and now adding a lot of general computer stuff to the pile, Arduino Sketches, Python, C/C++, and picking up where I left off with Perl, it almost feels like I should go back to school and get credit for all of this work. I could pick up a CS degree with everything on my “tech to learn” plate right now. Add in all of the projects and an engineering degree (EE or ME) isn’t far behind. Thoughts for another time.

Radio specific plans are to read and build along with Crystal Sets to Sideband by Frank W. Harris W0IYE, and then get back to Experimental Methods in RF Design and do the same. I don’t expect to do a lot of operating other than 2 meter until we have the facilities to put up a real antenna, and there is no solid timeline for that.

Life outside radio has taken all of my time lately and I am just now slowly getting back to things. Most of it is general electronics/computer experimentation and adding to the knowledge pool right now.

So in conclusion, no I haven’t been busy, I’ve been too busy.

:-/

hamverseryP.S. Today’s post is brought to you by Hamversary. On this day in 2013 I received my license grant about a week after I walked into the Saratoga Fire Station a non-ham. Since then I have worked my way up to Extra Class, begun teaching license preparation classes to prospective hams, and I have been a Volunteer Examiner for 42 exam sessions, most of them at the Saratoga Fire Station.

I have learned so much in so many ways in this short period of time. Thank you Amateur Radio.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

The BitX 20 & More

The BitX

20160618_120709I was fortunate to recently have been gifted a BitX 20 kit by a friend and fellow VE. The kit came from QRPkits.com some time ago, I believe at least a year or so ago.

My intention was to build it for Field Day 2016. Sadly, while I was well on track to getting the radio built, 2 parts were missing from the kit. BS170 N-Channel MOSFETs to be specific. This put on the breaks for the final assembly and stopped me dead in my tracks with the finish line in sight.

20160624_193754I have the parts waiting for me at Jameco will-call for Monday. Once I get them home, populating the remainder of the circuit board should take about an hour. Then its on to the initial tuning and getting the radio packaged up in its housing.

I will do a full project write-up in the Projects section soon, but for now just an update.

A Homebrew Signal Generator/Oscillator

20160622_084953During the BitX build I ran into a small hiccough. The testing at some point calls for the injection of an 11 MHz signal. I would normally use my Lafayette signal generator but for some reason it’s on the fritz so I had to come up with another solution… build an 11 MHz signal generator.

20160622_085219With the crystals in the kit it was easy to build a simple generator with parts on hand and while I only had 1 of the five crystals installed it was easy. By the next testing phase I had installed the remaining 4 crystals. Now I need one for the homebrew SigGen! (click the image for the circuit diagram)

Off to HSC Electronic Supply for some 11 MHz crystals.

This project will also get a write-up in the Projects section soon. This one in in particular has a lot of use in checking unmarked crystals as long as they are between 1 and 20 MHz and is a great foundation piece for beginning builders.

A Homebrew TNC

20160524_145401Before I got started on the BitX I was working on getting my Baofeng 2m/70cm HT on digital. I found a couple of designs for a homebrew TNC and set out to make that work.

Because of the way the PTT key works on the Baofeng I haven’t been able to make the TNC work with the HT but it should work fine with my 40 meter QRPme.com Splinter II and the BitX 20.

A full write-up post is coming on this one too.

Look for all three of these in the Projects section for full details on the builds coming soon.

It’s been a long time since I posted, and most of that time I have been working on non-radio stuff. Now that I am back in the swing of things I have more time for radio stuff so I should be able to post more, and make updates to the Projects pages

As soon as the BitX 20 is up and running I plan on getting the Lafayette working again and get back to the Beach 40 DSB. Another Field Day has slipped through my fingers. I don’t plan on that happening again!

That’s all for now folks, 72, 73, and good night!

~Jon KK6GXG

 

First week of May

First week of may, and ain’t got much to say!

JT65JT9No build projects progressing, not much time OTA, none actually, but I have managed to get some reading in. I picked up a copy of one of the new ARRL books Work The World With JT65 and JT9.

Not bad, a short read, though I must admit, I don’t really see myself using the TJx mode any time soon. It looks like its pretty much a contesting mode. I’m not much interested in contesting until I get more of a station built up, and even then… I dunno.

HighSpeedMultiMediaWith some luck the UPS guy will bring me the also new ARRL book High Speed Multimedia for Amateur Radio book today. I still don’t have a TNC or HF radio up and running, but I do have some spare/old 802.11 units lying around… hmmmmmm…

There could be a project with HSMM on the horizon.

RTTY-PSK32I also have a copy of RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs 2nd Edition on the way which I think will see more action in the near future than anything else. I have a USB/Serial cable and enough toroids and cabling that I might fourgo the TNC a little longer and build an interface myself just to see if I can get it up and running.

The down side is that I will still only be running whatever digital mode on 2 meter FM rather than SSB, but that will get resolved at a later date.

ARRL-VEC VEIn other news, there is another VE session tomorrow (Saturday, May 7, 2016 08:00-10:00) at the Saratoga Fire Station. This session will be my 30th VE session!

Also this month, Maker Faire is here in San Mateo and I will be working both the morning and afternoon VE sessions at the faire. More info is available on the SF Bay Area Maker Faire VE Session website.

One last thing. I’m not going to post it yet, but since we have been planning on relocating, I worked up a new QSL card to reflect the new location. Once we are confirmed with a new QTH and Grid Location I will post a preview of the new card. Speaking of which, if you would like a QSL from my current QTH email me with your address and I will send one out right away.

Oh, one more thing… I am back to studying for my RADAR add-on to my commercial license.

I guess I have been doing stuff.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

2015 Wrap Up

20150222_143627As 2015 comes to a close I just wanted to post a quick Happy Holidays and a note on how much got done this year.

From working on a lot of radio projects on the bench, hanging out with the Bay Area Radio Builders Club, and being privileged to be a Volunteer Examiner at 20  amateur radio exam sessions it has all been a lot of fun and very rewarding.

This month I haven’t posted anything because I have been very busy with the day job, home stuff, and planning for next year. Not to mention the holiday season.

I have several major non-radio projects coming up first and second quarter of 2016 and with any luck a move in Q3 so there will mostly be band noise here on the site in the coming months. I will try to get some radio work in here and there, but it will be sporadic.

If you are interested, I do have several other sites I maintain:

FlyBoyJon is my personal aviation pursuits and other interests. There will be mostly be personal stuff here in the coming months.

Wanzer.org is our families burgeoning homesteading site. Here is where I will be posting most frequently as we prepare for the coming relocation.

KK6GXG is my Amateur and Commercial radio site. As you already know. 🙂

Vintage Aero Works is my business website which at present is in the very early stages of development (as is my business).

Ham-U is dedicated to helping people to get there Amateur Radio license and is also in the very early stages of development.

That’s about all for now.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

The Future of Amateur Radio

children are the futureGoing through Yahoo group posts this morning I came across something on the Ham Instructors group that caught my attention, a discussion on the demographics of new hams and whether or not the focus for recruiting should continue to be centered on the idea that children are the future of ham radio.

Many hams, maybe even most hams, share a basic story line. They got interested in radio as a pre-teen or teen, usually exposed to radio by family, friends, or social event. Most drift away from radio as they go through various stages of life when they are swamped with the normal stuff life tends to throw at us all, school, marriage, having kids, career, the usual. Later on as things settle down radio creeps back into their life. Some manage to get licensed during that early exposure, some end up waiting several decades before getting a ticket.

In my opinion, providing the young an opportunity to catch the radio bug is the best bet. They may never actually get an amateur radio license and their attention may turn down many different paths. But the likelyhood of that exposure being beneficial to the amateur radio community down the road in some other form is immense. They would at least have some understanding and appreciation for amateur radio and its benefits to the community at large.

While I think the positions presented in the Yahoo group and associated blog posts K0NR and KB6NU are certainly worth looking into in greater depth, I think there is a more pressing matter that may affect the future of amateur radio.

Why is amateur radio experiencing a huge upswing? Basic statistics show the upswing began in 2008 shortly after the FCC dropped the code requirement for all amateur licenses. Wheather or not that decision was good for the service I will leave alone for now.

My ham path followed a derivation the one I described above. I got interested in radio as a teen back in the 80s but didn’t get my license until I was 46, only in part because of the code requirement. My reasons for finally getting my license were centered on personal emergency preparedness, serving the community, and to have fun experimenting and building RF electronics.

As a Volunteer Examiner I participate in license exam sessions and it seems that the predominant reasons for taking the license exams generally follow along with the age ranges:

Retirees & Pre-retirees are either upgrading an existing  license, had a licence but it expired and are getting back into the hobby, or always wanted to but hadn’t gotten around to it till now. Or you could say, the story we are so familiar with.

20s & 30s seem to be engineering students or engineers, Makers who have projects that require a license, or preppers.

Teens and under seem to either be in a social program like a school club or scouting. A few come from dedicated ham families.

Pretty much what you might expect, but there are a couple that might have an effect on the ham future landscape. Two categories that could pose concern.

I’ll start with Makers. By in large these are folks who embody the early spirit of amateur radio, they like to build stuff. While they bring to the table that early spirit of radio, how many of them participate in the radio community? Are they here because of one project they might need to be licensed for, or are they going to keep renewing their license and play radio alongside other Maker pursuits? Either way, I am glad they are here now. They do indeed advance the science and art of radio. Down the road however the passing interest MakerHam may drop the Ham part altogether.

The other group is of particular interest, preppers. My hats off to them if they actually get licensed, many more don’t. It is common practice for prepper groups to buy cheap Chinese ham-band radios and use them regularly on FRS/GMRS radio frequencies which is illegal, at least when it is not an emergency, but they are much less likely to get busted for that than using amateur frequencies without a callsign.

One thing to consider is the term prepper. There is a massive range of people who consider themselves preppers that covers the entire spectrum from keeping some extra food and water along with a flashlight, first aid kit, and blanket, something we all should have at a minimum by the way, to the massive underground hords and compounds guarded by paramilitary groups.

Another consideration is, do they further the science and art? Do they participate? If so, welcome aboard.

I mention these two groups of people not to place judgement, but rather to ask if they are a part of the ham community. The reason for asking is, what happens if they don’t renew their licenses? There was concern that the ham community was dwindling away, leading to a loss of tribal knowledge. What happens when non-invested license holders don’t see the benefit of keeping an unused license? Or just forget about it?

Amateure radio has been experiencing an unprecidented growth spurt over the last 8 years. We still have two years to go before the early no-code era hams begin to cycle for renewal. I would imagine the first few years after the start of the second ten-year cycle won’t see much of an effect either way, but what happens in 2020? Will we start to see a roll-off?

In general, we seem to be more focused on recruiting rather than retention. Back in the day, the code requirement acted as a filter. People with only a casual interest in amateur radio were less likely to pursue it. While it worked fairly well as such, it also filtered out people interested in radio, just not cw. Now we have no filter at all. The only impediment to getting licensed is $15 and some time studying the relatively small question pool. You can be a Technician class licensee in short order.

In life, most things are more valuable when you have to pay for them, monetarily or by blood, sweat, and tears. Personal commitment to seeing it through establishes the value. This basic principle would indicate that removal of the code requirement and as some would say, lowering the bar on the knowledge test, the sweat equity has been removed or at least lessened thereby the value, at least the perceived value for the licensee.

So now we have several issues to contend with; keeping the number of licensees up, ensuring that they keep their licenses renewed, and keeping some level of commitment to the hobby and community at large.

Frankly, I have no idea how to accomplish any of these. I don’t think we have enough data. Too many things have changed in the hobby in the last decade and we still don’t have any results from what I think may be the most impacting factor, the dropping of the code requirement. In all honesty, I doubt if we can even begin to answer these questions until 2020 and the effects can be quantified.

In the meantime, we should continue to do as we have always done, inspire and encourage the youth, at any age. Encourage fellowship among the community, Elmer whenever possible, maintain the highest personal standards, and reach out and engage the radio community and the general community at large.

The Amateur Radio preservation mantra,
“Engage, Inspire, Encourage, Educate, Participate”

~Jon KK6GXG

Antennas & More

20150507_192446Today was a good antenna day. I finally got the PVC cover on the 40 meter helically-wound antenna I started back in April. I have been using the antenna without the cover as a test antenna next to the bench but it’s time to get it up on the roofline for some actual use.

By “actual use” I am referring to the Beach 40 project that is back in motion now that I have a VXO that pulls more than 1.8 kHz of selectivity. Yay 148 kHz selectivity! Now all I need to do is get the Tx/Rx switching working for the transceiver to be operational.

20140430_131323Another antenna project completed today is the 2 meter twin-lead J-Pole. This one was also waiting for a PVC cover so it could be mounted on a pole. The original design was intended as a portable antenna but the twin-lead J-Pole on any frequency above 50 MHz lends itself well to mounted vertical use, it just needs a housing to keep it in the vertical position.

This little antenna works really well. On numerous occasions I have been unable to ping the local repeaters with my HT with the stock or aftermarket antennas for handhelds. If I attach the twin-lead J-Pole I can actually get out and participate in the nets. With this antenna up in the air at roofline I should have no problems working any of the local repeaters including the packet and Winlink towers.

Speaking of which, I want to get into digital modes once I get the antennas up in the air. I’m not quite up to building a TNC from scratch so I need to save up a hundred and fifty bucks to get digital rolling. Soon…

20151111_145644The other antenna project today was a new-start. When the 2 and 40 meter antennas go up I also plan on attaching a 70 cm half-wave vertical with counterpoise. This one is an experiment. I originally planned on building a 70 cm full-wave twin-lead J-Pole, and I likely still will, but I wanted to see if I could make a vertical with counterpoise that works well. I may even mod this one into a full-wave vertical with half-wave counterpoise radials. Dunno. Like I said, this is an experiment.

Another near-term antenna project, as-of-yet not started, is an aviation band twin-lead J-Pole set up like the 2 meter one. Being a pilot and mechanic, at some point I would like to have either a hangar at a local airport or a small strip at home to work on restorations, so it would make sense to have an AvBand radio in the shop. I have a Vertex Standard (Yaesu) HT for aviation VHF, it just needs an external antenna. I also have a few old radios salvaged from aircraft that would never make it back into an aircraft, but may be suitable for base station operations.

I have a number of other antenna experiment/projects in various configurations, in particular 2 m and 70 cm yagi and/or helical beam antennas suitable for satellite and moon bounce communication. But these are for the future. I also want to build some highly directional antennas for radio orienteering and high-gain narrow-beam antennas for really low power communications.

As for the “More” in the title, once I finish the 40 m transceiver I plan on building a 20 and 10 meter versions. I also have an idea for simple low power beacon transmitters I want to play with. I also want to get set up for QRSS, WSPR, and APRS.

Lots to do. One step at a time.

Till next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG