Friday, November 6, 2015

Back at the Helm

Well it’s now nearly 8 months since my unlucky experience and I have to say at last I’m beginning to feel fully back to normal.
The tiredness has gone and my brain seems to be reasonably engaged (the XYL would probably disagree with that!) and the CW seems to be coming back although I am suffering with what I would call CW block which is a more common problem of fear of sending. I just force myself on air and once I’m actually sending the fear goes away. The other problem I have is when I'm tired things seem to go backwards in the CW dept and I have to learn to be very patient, sometimes I have good days and sometimes bad.

The bands are not that good at the moment and I’m limited to the European stations, I haven’t heard the States for a while now which is rather disappointing. But I 've kept on the low bands for most of the time trying to build up speed with the local community.

Sometimes I look at the kit I have and feel I really do have too much, especially in the transceiver department! Kenwood TS 570 with SP23 speaker, Elecraft K2 and various kits all lie about used every so often but not nearly enough. Then there’s what I call the battleship, the Yaesu FT2000D which now I have got used to, a fine radio with excellent DSP capabilities and is a good rig for my CW antics and a lovely speaker, the Palstar SP30H. I must admit when I bought it I was going for its little sister the SP30, but the shop offered a large discount if I paid a little extra for the 30H and I’m very pleased I did, such a bass sounding speaker SSB sounds like FM radio all the time, brilliant!

I’m not a contester more quick CW contact, chat and move on, exploring the bands and seeing what’s about each day. I like to spread across the bands in my search even doing a bit of short wave listening, if you never tried its great fun.

Unfortunately with the recovery  I have had to return to work and am now back full time which is creating less time for the radio work. But I must be grateful for my health and do the Radio hobby when the time is right.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Club Field Weekend

The local club, CARA (Cheltenham Amateur Radio Association) has a field day coming up over the UK bank holiday which is the 28th August 2015. We will be on air for most of the weekend so there will be lots of different things to try out. This is quite good for me because I can really get down to practising some CW and it’s literally just down from the house and so the take off point is some 700’ above sea level which is very good and we won’t just be having local contacts we should be transmitting out all over the place! 

I'm bringing my Rock mites that I haven’t used for a while and some antennas that have been laying in my shed doing nothing. There’s a twenty and a  forty metre antenna and I’ve got the old 50 Mhz antenna somewhere so we should have some fun, especially as some members are staying up all night to see who they can contact. So anybody across the pond look out for the club call sign GB5BK or my call sign M0AUW over that weekend for a good chat! Or maybe you like to set a sked ....Gives a shout!

Friday, July 10, 2015

CW Frustrations

The annoying thing about having my stroke is waiting for your morse code to come back up to a reasonable standard.

 At the moment reading morse is very difficult, the brain is just not working on all cylinders which is most annoying. Imagine that you know a language fluently, but you have now lost the ability to interpret it? That's what has happened to me with the morse, I used to be able to work eighteen words a minute no problem, but now I'm struggling to hit ten! 

The problem is I can't translate the letters fast enough I track one letter and second later I've written it down but by that time the sender has sent three more letters! Then you get very annoyed and you don't concentrate so you lose the conversation.

 It's getting better slowly and in time I'll be fine but very frustrating it's taking so long but it's a good judge of where you are in the recovery process. Mentally I'm still struggling but physically I'm doing well, I cycled my first ten miler the other day which shows the strength is coming back, hopefully I will be doing a twenty miler in the near future. 

I've gone berserk with new morse keys, I got a lovely old Admiralty NATO key and I have ordered a Spark hand key from Bengali but it won't be ready until mid July, but I can wait I'm not exactly busy at the moment! Most days I practise on the computer listening to G4FON or "Just Learn Morse Code" I generally do about 15/20 minutes a day to keep me in check for when the fog finally clears from the head.

The radios are all performing as they should but conditions have not been that good, mostly European stations but it's enough to keep me in absorbed with the hobby. Antenna wise I'm playing about and doing the usual running repairs to keep me occupied I think I am going to have to start planning another antenna build to keep the brain active, any suggestions? I quite fancy something for 160m but keeping it fairly small and low key.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

50 HMz

Keeping up with the amateur fraternity is quite a business these days, I notice on the new FT 2000 D I have 50 MHz or 6M availability, I've never used 6M before so it might fun but first I've got to build an antenna. What to build? Something quick and easy, probably a 5/8 vertical I think! I've got some old aluminium  tubing somewhere about, it's an old vertical I had for 18 meters I suspect I'll be able to re arrange length and add a ground plane of some sort to make a 50 MHz antenna. It be interesting to see how the take off point is for 6 meters around here I'm told it's quite good!

Well its up and running and results are not too bad lots of Europeans but I need to get to know the band to find out more information. The picture is showing the antenna low, normally when in use I raise the pole to around twenty feet.

The cobweb is now progressing I changed my mind and am going to complete the G3TXQ version as the G3TPW has given me lots of problems its early complete the but the measurements may be out and after the first SWR readings I gave up I don't need the hassle when I feel like I do! So far I have completed two of the elements 20 and 18 and am awaiting further speaker cable and have started on the frame there's no doubt I didn't get the frame quite right for the G3TPW so I've gone back to the basics and re-read my own description of how I did it (far easier!) I  couldn't understand how I managed the fibreglass poles to sit in the clamps and not be crushed before, then I realised they sat in their own metal sheaths!

Still a fair way to go yet but if I can get the cobweb  performing like the other I'll be well pleased! I've got the poles to sort whether to use the fibreglass ones or the old lightweight wooden ones. 
Then there's finishing off the elements I should think that will take me a few days.

I haven't a clue what to do with it when I finished perhaps I may sell it see what happens I could always start a cobweb business!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Toy

I think this Stroke recovery  thing has effected me more than I thought!
Gone is the FT 1000 MP Mk V and in comes the FT 2000 D, better receive capability and 200 watts of power. Getting used to the DSP facility is tricky and will take some time but I'm confident I'll get there. I also have managed to pick up a kenwood TS 570D for a good price off Ebay so I'm doing well at the moment! Now all I need do is sell the FT 1000 MP Mk v (I already have a bid), and build and raise the cobweb antenna and I'll be happy. Lots selling on Flea-bay at the moment, an auto ATU, an old VHF handheld and the filters for the FT 1000. Got to get some money up to offset the  FT 2000 D.

The new FT 2000D

My Morse is gradually improving as the days go by so far I've managed one small QSO with a German station who was very kind and slowed right down for me.This was on The TS 570 which is proving a good back up while I wait to learn about the FT 2000 D. I did think about keeping the FT 1000 MP but I thought it might be too exuberant! And I need some money to offset the price of the FT 2000. The Kenwood will suffice for coming months then I 'll have a think and see what else is about!

The New Looking Shack!

My walking is coming on well and I can now walk with the dogs again which is good news. I can walk about a couple of miles now which isn't bad considering what I've been through. The other noticeable difference since having the stroke and recovering is my CW which is coming along nicely but my writing,  I can't keep up and my receive is suffering for it I need so I need to practice my writing and also do some more  receive work. The Cobweb is coming along slowly I'm having trouble getting some spare parts. You may know the kit I bought is not that good and I have reverted back to my design which needs more parts from eBay.The actual poles I ordered are very good but too thin for my design so I am changing back to light weight wooden design I originally had ( why buy some poles if you have decent wooden ones?)Ah well time flies when you having fun more updates later.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Update for May

I’ve had a life changing experience since I last wrote. On 30th March I had a stroke - luckily my wife came back from walking our dogs just in time and managed to call an ambulance which got me got me straight to the hospital very quickly. They gave me a clot busting drug and after a very scary first day or two, I have made a remarkable recovery so far. Evidently I had a brain stem stroke which is quite serious and lock down syndrome which means total paralysis; I could only move my eyes which was quite strange, but luckily a doctor noticed this and was able to communicate with me so at least I was aware what was happening. After various stages in different wards at Hospital I eventually ended up on the stroke ward at the General Hospital where I was well cared for.

I came home from the other week having stayed there for about 3 weeks and now am having lots of physio etc at home. I've been very lucky and don't have any paralysis but do feel very tired and I'm a bit wobbly on my feet. My speech is improving all the time but does deteriorate when I get tired, so I find it difficult to speak on the radio for long periods of time. It is early days and if I carry on improving as I have been doing I am sure I will make a full recovery before too long. CW is a bit strange I’ve had to stop the local club challenge (locating & contacting the 73 countries that make up the whole of Europe!)as my control of the key both paddle and up & down key has somewhat slowed right down, (5 wpm) which is most annoying!

 I’ve bought myself a new VHF radio as a present for getting better so quickly, it’s a Alinco DR138_H 2 meter transceiver with 60 wtts of power so I can get out from the house quite easily. It’s a very nice radio all for the princely sum of £64 which I reckon is pretty good deal! I’m still learning how to work it, gone are the days of simple instructions, this thing takes quite a while to work especially if you have lost all of your coordination skills!

I’m also on the lookout for a manual ATU for my K2 transceiver, I’m getting annoyed having to alter the LDG auto tuner every time I use the rig at more than 10 watts of power so I figured a manual tuner would be better and I could adjust for accuracy. I know most would find it annoying to have a manual but they seem to be more accurate than the auto ones so I’m going buy one and see.

 I’ve also decided to make another cobweb antenna as a project to keep me occupied for the next few weeks also to improve my coordination skill. I have built two already, so I am quite experienced in making them. Although I wont start from scratch as that would be too difficult, so I have bought a semi built one off EBay and will alter it to my specifications’ my interest in Cobwebs started along time ago and so far I’ve built two  have been the

G3TPW original and the G3TQX and this time I shall have a play  and do my own design changes to get the best out of it and have a bit of fun!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


With the winter season now well upon us I’ve been somewhat quiet on the radio front. There's plenty of jobs around the house and other priorities which sadly meant radio time has been sparse and the hobby has taken a back seat. I am only recently getting back in to the swing of things, firing up the radio first thing in the mornings, seeing what is about and I'm amazed that 10 and 12 are still open most mornings, I would have thought they would be fairly quiet at this time of the year. Now I'm begrudging the fact hat I've missed out on all those possible DX's!

The trouble is the time seems to fly by and before you know it the months have shot past, you suddenly realise that you haven’t been on the radio for quite a while and you start to feel rusty. So I'm making a determined effort to get back on the rig and start transmitting.

However, I have my usual problem of what I call “CW block” where I'm happy to listen but get a ridiculous sensation of foreboding when it comes to transmit and I sit there like a helpless halfwit listening but transmitting nothing.

I actually think it's quite common and you have to force yourself to get back in to the routine. I always remember when I first started in radio I had the same problem as most beginners you are naturally worried that you don't want to make a complete idiot of yourself, so you sort of sit there egging yourself on but never quite having the courage to press the transmit button or hit the CW key!

My local club has organised an event for February which should help with my problem, it is for members to attempt to contact as many European stations as they can within the month, I think there are around 70 different countries so this could prove interesting and more importantly get me back on the road to transmitting.

With the recent gales we have had here in the UK the Cobweb is at half mast. The Hustler becomes my main antenna and does well for dx covering the main bands as well as 30 meters , I also have the W3DZZ which covers 40 and 80 so I am well taken care of even when the Cobweb is placed in the low position. 

The G3TXQ is a very light version of the Cobweb and if the wind blows anything above 50 mph I fear it may well take off and land in one of the nearby fields, so I don’t take any risks and just reduce the height of the mast as soon as the weather changes. 

Anyone heard of the VK2ABQ antenna?

I was listening to someone on 80 the other day talking about this antenna and saying how pleased he was with it. Well I took a look on the net and found Casey Bahr's interesting site and realised that it’s not all that different in build to a Cobweb but it's directional.

A closer look at the antenna show's it is the fundamental design of Fred Canton VK2ABQ and is similar to a hexbeam . I did look at building a hex a while back but I’m concerned about the size, living in area of outstanding beauty you have to be very careful in what you can get away with (heaven knows how I managed it with the cobweb!)

I have a feeling the VK2ABQ may be similar in size to a hexbeam in which case I can’t do it. But I will do some further investigations and see what sort of sizes I can come up with perhaps just a 10, 12, 15 and 18, we’ll see.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hustler 6BTV Installation completed

Well at last the Hustler is up and running but it took a little while. 
I completed my tilt over plate, not the exact quality of DX Engineering but near enough and it does the job which made life easier when I was doing my tuning. 

The tilt plate works with the one bolt at the bottom left, all others are removed and it's hinged so that the antenna just swings over. Finished off with a little bit of a rockery to keep the XYL happy!

As soon as I started testing the antenna with the MFJ 259 I realised whoever had the Hustler previously either had it raised on a mast or used it as a ground base but with limited radials. The readings were all at the low end of the bands if not below, especially the 30 meter trap which was reading 700 kHz down which was way out. Because I have an extensive ground radial system in place I guessed this was why the readings were so low.

So I went through the instruction sheet and followed the process of tuning by adjusting all the tubes but with little effect, obviously this was for minor tuning and not large adjustments which was clearly required. 

Further reading on QRZ and other websites pointed me towards the DX engineering website where there were full instructions on what to do if band readings were all low. The answer is to adjust each trap so that they are placed in to the correct frequency and then finer adjustments are completed by moving the tubes. Evidently this is not unusual and can be due to either due to good soil conditions, near water or a very good radial system. 

So I followed the instructions and adjusted all the traps. Moving each trap is a fairly easy process provided you don’t get too ham fisted and do small adjustments. Initially I thought this might be a little tricky especially if these traps are reasonably new (this is meant to be a 3 month old antenna)!

So imagine my surprise (not!) that all the traps were fairly loose and it was obvious that these had been moved a number of times before. There is absolutely no way this antenna is 3 months old, not even 6, I would guess certainly around a couple of years minimum! 
Anyway after a couple of tries I got the hang of it and suffice to say the bands are back up to their correct frequencies including the 30 meter trap. 

In the shot above there are some guy attachments in place but they are not tightened so everything looks a bit loose, the old 30 meter fibre glass mast is to one side ready to be stored away.

So far I've done some initial testing having had a couple of QSO’s with some local European stations and received good signal reports. Testing against the Cobweb the Hustler is slightly down by a few S points but that’s to be expected as the cobweb is high up and situated in a good position so there’s no real surprise there. It’s early days yet but I shall give the antenna a good work out this week and see how it goes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hustler 6BTV Installation and Alterations

I feel I am becoming the original grumpy old man but sometimes I do feel justified.

The Hustler was delivered yesterday and without going in to too many details, I had questioned the seller about how old the antenna was (a claimed 3 months) but on arrival and inspection it was obvious it was much older. 

There was corrosion and rust and some connections looked very worn, added to the fact that the seller had mysteriously sold a hustler antenna the week before with the exactly the same pictures and description except that one was highlighted as 6 months old, I was naturally suspicious
He assured me it was a different antenna and that a friend of his on seeing he was selling a hustler asked him to sell his, (yeah right)! 

Anyway, grump over and after a thorough inspection check, all parts were duly ticked off and I knew I could work with the antenna. I would however have to give it a good clean and at the same time add a few of my own minor accessories.

Thankfully having a motorbike I have all the metal cleaners you could wish for and I spent most of the day cleaning up each segment and traps, it’s by no means perfect but looks a lot better, I now just need to spray on some Krylon coating to keep it protected.

I also looked in to buying the DX engineering direct coax feed connector and tilt base plate which is supplied via a dealer here in the UK. The coax feeder £27.98 plus postage, the tilt over base plate (are you sitting down) £79.94 plus postage! 
I'm sorry but someone is taking the mick here how does it cost nearly £80 for a metal plate with a few holes in? 

Anyway the coax feeder looked pretty straightforward to build and I'd fabricated one within the morning. The tilt over base plate will take a little longer as I've had to order some aluminium plate but for the price of £6.50 I'm quite happy to wait, as it really doesn't take too long to drill a few holes and cut out some small slots.

This plate for the coax connector was cut from an old aluminium roofing slot I needed to shape one side of the plate to fit round the antenna, drill some holes for the attachment nuts and also drill a hole and fit the actual connector.

The antenna core wire was then soldered to the connector core and the other end will then attach to the antenna centre screw

I cleaned up the base then added the completed connector and finally added the ground wire which will be connected up to my radial base. The antenna will be separate from the ground radial plate, hence the ground wire.

The completed item doesn't look too bad and cost me nothing but a mornings work. The base has come up quite well so if I can get the rest of the antenna looking as good I shall be rather pleased.

There's not much else I can do now except carrying on with the clean up and wait for the aluminium plate to arrive to build the tilt over base.
More to follow when I get the ali plate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tidying Up, Refurbishing the Ground Radials and Thoughts Turn to a Hustler 6BTV

Looking over the garden I have a number of antennas dotted around various points and it’s definitely beginning to look rather scruffy and the XYL has started to make some comments! 
This time though I actually agree with her and I really ought to do something about it. Although I love my hobby I don’t want antennas to take over my garden, after all I am very lucky to live in a wonderful location and I don’t want passers-by to think who’s that messy individual ruining this wonderful countryside! 

At the moment In one corner of the garden hanging some 30ft up in the silver birch is my home brew experimental G5RV, it’s in the inverted vee position and has various bits of cord hanging down off the ends and does look very scruffy. 

In the opposite corner is the 30 meter vertical and the old Hygain 18vs, now a 20 meter mono bander, both placed there simply because that’s where I have all the ground radials centred, the 30 meter vertical is a simple wire thread through a fibre glass pole but works very well, the pole is some 25ft high and is white so stands out against the spring foliage which is rather obvious and not exactly stealthy! 

It actually looks quite picturesque but believe me it is a bit of a mess, especially when you go up close and see all the wires hanging everywhere.

Then to the side of the house I have the 40ft mast which has the Cobweb and the W3DZZ. Obviously I cannot use the antennas all at once and really I think the time has come to reduce the number and just concentrate on one particular area of the garden. So I'm going to remove the G5RV, the 30 meter vertical and Hygain and replace with one smaller multiband vertical.  

The Cobweb will stay as it’s my pride and joy and I doubt for the size if any other antenna besides a small Yagi (what's one of them?) would beat it and since the mast and Cobweb are staying I might as well keep the W3DZZ as it's an excellent antenna for the lower bands, this way I will eventually just have 3 antennas that will be used for the all the transceivers. 

While mulling over my antenna dilemma I did a check on the ground radials and the plate needs a good tidy as some of the bolts are looking very rusty and grass and mud is beginning to cover the plate which is not good for the connections, so I've gone ahead and dismantled it and given it a good clean ready for mounting the new multi band antenna. 

Where is the ground radial plate?

So once I had unbolted all the 30 odd wires and cleared away the muck I managed to prise it off the ground and give it a good inspection. Considering it's a home made job it has lasted pretty well and providing I maintain it every few years it should go on for many years to come.

The wires are a bit of a mish mash, some connected together others are separate, I guess because I've added extra as I've gone along. I will add some more as I'm short for 80 meters so whilst they are free of the plate I get busy adding a few extra.

After a good clean the actual plate doesn't look too bad but there are some bolts that will need replacing and I'll need to re-coat them with some protective grease. Then its just a matter of adding a few more radials and putting back in the ground.

All cleaned up and reconnected plus a few extra wires for 80 meters.

.........So what vertical multi band antenna should I get or make? 
To be honest I'm rather tempted with something commercial like a Cushcraft or a Hustler, normally I like to build my own antennas but quite honestly I just fancy a change. 

My Brother in law has a Hustler 6BTV and reckons it’s an excellent vertical, I've had a play on his FT1000D (wonderful radio) and the antenna does bring in some good signals and transmits pretty well especially considering he’s surrounded by telephone and electrical cables and has minimum ground radials. With my location, nearly 1000 ASL plus my ground radials I should see a definite improvement to his set up. Also the Eham reviews are very good for the Hustler but, there is no way I'm paying out over £200 for a new one. 

By chance I happened to be looking in Ebay last night and there as if fate was telling me something was a 6BTV for sale, 3 months old but going for £150. A little high on price but I have to admit I was bitten and so purchased it there and then, (oh Lord what have I done, don't tell the XLY!!)